Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
The Colts are getting some hype after last week’s upset win in Buffalo, a blowout victory on the road against a team that was previously seen by many as the best team in the AFC, and it’s not hard to understand why. In addition to last week’s big win, the Colts have also won six of their past eight games, since an injury plagued 0-3 start, with their two losses both coming in overtime against likely playoff teams in the Titans and Ravens. They also have another one-score loss against a likely playoff team from earlier in the season, when they lost to the Rams by a field goal, and overall, they haven’t lost by double digits since week one.
However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. For one, even with those aforementioned games against the Titans, Ravens, Rams, and Bills, the Colts have still faced one of the easiest schedules in the league, with four of their six wins coming against the Jets, Texans, Jaguars, and Dolphins, who are all among the worst teams in the league. They have also had unsustainable success in the turnover margin, leading the league by a wide margin at +15, in large part due to their easy schedule.
Turnover margin is one of the least predictive metrics in the league and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which are based on more predictive metrics like first down rate and turnover margin, the Colts rank 11th, 26th, 5th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 15th in overall mixed efficiency. The Colts are better than that on offense with quarterback Carson Wentz over the early season injuries that limited him, their two best offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith back from injury, and starting wide receiver TY Hilton back as well, but they still aren’t quite the contender that the public seems to think they are.
The Colts schedule continues to be tougher this week with the Buccaneers coming to town and, even if turnover margins were somewhat predictive, it would be hard to see the Colts having the same sort of success in the turnover battle in this matchup against the Buccaneers as they did in matchups against the worst teams in the league. The Buccaneers have a +5 turnover margin on the year, but, more importantly, they also rank 2nd, 8th, 23rd, and 1st in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively. The Buccaneers are also in a good spot, coming off of a Monday Night Football win by 20+ points, a spot in which teams cover at a 59.9% rate all-time, while the Colts could be a little flat after playing their best game of the season last week and winning in Buffalo in upset fashion.
I am going to be picking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes regardless, but depending on the status of some of Tampa Bay’s questionable players, I may end up betting on them. The Buccaneers will be without guard Ali Marpet, one of the best players in the league at his position, which will be a big absence, but their defense could get defensive tackle Vita Vea back from a one-game absence and cornerback Carlton Davis back from a 6-game absence, which would more than offset the loss of Marpet on offense. For now, I am leaving this as a low confidence pick, but if there is good injury news and the line stays put, I will update this pick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Indianapolis Colts 24
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -3