The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won three of four in the season's second half so far, believe that they are finally playing up to their true capabilities. Now it's time to show that to the home crowd.
After two consecutive dominant road wins in Atlanta and Jacksonville, the 5-7 Buccaneers will return to their home turf in Week 14 for a game against the 6-6 Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. It will be an opportunity for Tampa Bay to record its first three-game winning streak since 2016, and perhaps more importantly a chance to start building a home field advantage. The 2019 Buccaneers are 4-3 on the road but just 1-4 at home, including a loss to Carolina in London that counts as a home game.
Sunday's game in Jacksonville was encouraging as the Buccaneers built a 25-0 lead by halftime and held on for an easy 28-11 victory. A rapidly-improving defense got three early turnovers, all of which turned into touchdowns, and quarterback Jameis Winston led an efficient offense that took advantage of its opportunities.
"We all knew that we were capable of this," said tight end O.J. Howard, who had one of his best games of the season in Jacksonville, with 61 yards on five grabs. "We're finally just all happy to be able to put it together. We all came together and were playing on the same page."
Next up is Indianapolis, which was 5-2 at one point but has now lost four of five to drop to .500, including a 31-17 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. That was a tough decision for the Colts, who saw the 7-5 Titans pass them in the standings for both the AFC South and the wild card race. The Colts have recently dealt with a string of injuries on offense and played Sundays' game without their leading receiver (T.Y. Hilton) and leading rusher (Marlon Mack).
The Colts' visit marks the second of three games against AFC South teams for the Buccaneers in a four-week span, as Houston will also visit in Week 16. The Buccaneers, who lost to the Titans in a close game in Week Eight could prove critical in that division's final outcome. Of course, Tampa Bay is also still clinging to its own admittedly-slim playoff hopes. New Orleans has won the NFC South already but the Bucs are currently 3.5 games behind Minnesota for the second NFC Wild Card spot. The Vikings play the 9-2 Seahawks on Monday night.
The Bucs can't control much of what happens in the final month of the NFC playoff race, but they can take care of their own business.
"We want to finish this thing strong," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "We will add them up at the end and see if it's enough. We want to hopefully get three in a row at home."