The Indianapolis Colts will be without star pass rusher DeForest Buckner for their Week 12 matchup with the Tennessee Titans after testing positive for COVID-19, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The defensive tackle was placed on the reserve/COVID list earlier this week, but it was unclear at the time whether he was simply a close contact or if he, in fact, tested positive. If it was the former, there'd be a chance that Buckner could go through the necessary protocols and get cleared before Sunday's matchup. A positive test, however, solidifies that he'll be watching this AFC South head-to-head instead of playing in it.
There's no other way to describe the loss of Buckner other than massive for Indy. The 26-year-old has been a key piece to the Colts front seven since coming over in a trade with the 49ers this offseason. Buckner has 41 tackles this season, 16 quarterback hits, and 2.5 sacks as the centerpiece to their defense.
Not having him will be especially devastating when factoring in the impact that could have on Titans star running back Derrick Henry, who totaled 103 yards on the ground in Tennessee's last meeting with Indy in Nashville.
The Colts head into this pivotal matchup currently in first place in the division and the No. 4 seed in the NFL playoff picture. That said, they are even with Tennessee as both have 7-3 records, and only hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head advantage after defeating them back in Week 10. A win by the Titans here would not only nullify the head-to-head tiebreaker but they would leap over the Colts in the division.
Not having someone as central to their defensive game-plan as Buckner in a game of this magnitude is less than ideal for Frank Reich and company.