The Indianapolis Colts will battle the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South lead without playmaking defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.
Buckner, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, tested positive and will not play Sunday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
It was unclear earlier in the week whether Buckner had tested positive for COVID-19 or was placed on the reserve list as a high-risk close contact. Rapoport's report closes the door on any chances of Buckner possibly being cleared by Sunday. A player who tests positive for COVID-19 can't return to the team until at least 10 days after the start of symptoms, per league protocol.
The loss is a massive blow to the Colts' sturdy defense as it prepares to slow Derrick Henry and the Titans offense. Buckner has generated 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, one safety, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble as a key cog in the middle of the defense. More than counting stats, Buckner's presence crumbles pockets and commands attention, freeing up others to make plays.
The winner of Sunday afternoon's Colts-Titans rematch will take the lead in the AFC South. An Indy victory would mean a season sweep for the Colts over their division rival.