TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (1-1) VS. NEW YORK GIANTS (0-3)
Sunday, September 24, 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 P.M. CT)
Raymond James Stadium (64,428)
NETWORK TV: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Kenny Albert ANALYSTS: Ronde Barber & Tiki Barber SIDELINE: Kristina Pink BUCS RADIO: 98Rock, Flagship Station (WXTB-97.9 FM)
PLAY-BY-PLAY: Gene Deckerhoff ANALYST: Dave Moore SIDELINE: T.J. Rives
LAST GAME: Tampa Bay lost at Minnesota 34-17; N.Y. Giants lost at Philadelphia, 27-24
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Having both star linebackers Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and Lavonte David (ankle) out for the Giants game is a nightmare scenario for defensive coordinator Mike Smith. There is a pretty decent chance that this game could be chess vs. checkers with the experienced Eli Manning going head-to-head with rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith in terms of the pre-snap calls and checks at the line of scrimmage, and that’s not ideal for Tampa Bay. New York will also want to get speedy rookie tight end Evan Engram matched up with Beckwith vertically in pass coverage as they see that as a favorable matchup.
The Bucs defense is bolstered by the return of defensive tackle Chris Baker and cornerback Brent Grimes and they will help with the pass rush and pass coverage, respectively. Because Grimes plays left cornerback and Vernon Hargreaves III plays on the right side, look for Giants head coach and play-caller Bob McAdoo to try to get Odell Beckham, Jr. matched up against the second-year Bucs cornerback as much as possible. Tampa Bay can’t sleep on Brandon Marshall or Sterling Shepard, either, as both Giants receivers are capable of big days.
Getting to Manning will be key for the Bucs’ pass rush as the Giants offensive line has surrendered eight sacks this season already. Robert Ayers, Jr. is excited to play his former team and needs to come alive against left tackle Erik Flowers. At age 31, Ayers has looked like a shell of his former self so far this year and if he can’t get sacks against Flowers it could be a sign that he doesn’t have a lot left in the tank. The Bucs have just one sack in 78 pass attempts this year and need to have a multiple sack game.
On offense, Tampa Bay has to take advantage of the fact that New York has the worst run defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 153.3 yards per game. After Jameis Winston threw three picks last week in a loss at Minnesota, expect head coach Dirk Koetter to come out and have his offensive line, Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber pound the rock against the Giants in a game plan that will be reminiscent of last year’s win at Carolina on Monday Night Football. If the Bucs get their running game going that will only make Winston’s play-action passes to Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, who has plenty of experience playing against the Giants from his days in Washington and Philadelphia, even more potent.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 24-23
Reynolds’ Pick-to-click: DE Robert Ayers, Jr
PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
How do the Bucs respond to early season adversity? A blow out loss? Significant injuries? A team coming in that is very hungry and desperate for a win? There really is no such thing as a must win in September, but this one is pretty darn important. For both teams.
We could sit here all day long and look at this matchup and that matchup, but the bottom line is the team that doesn’t turn the ball over will most likely win the game. Bucs get four turnovers against the Bears and win easily. The Bucs give up three turnovers against Minnesota and get crushed.
This game will come down to the quarterbacks. If Winston can avoid the momentum changing turnovers, and the Bucs defense can come up with a couple of their own, then Tampa Bay should win the game. It is pretty simple. But what if both teams stay turnover free? Then it is time for Winston take this team on his back and play like the franchise quarterback many think he can be. It’s time. No more excuses about being young. No more excuses about not having weapons. This offense hasn’t exploded in quite a while, and with a running game that isn’t particularly efficient, Winston has to be the catalyst. That is what great quarterbacks have to do.
Of course the Bucs need to pressure Manning. Of course the Bucs need to establish the run. Of course the Bucs need to contain the talented cast of Giants’ receivers. But are you gambling that all three will happen? I’m not. So this one is on the offense. Go score points. Lots of them.
Cook’s Score prediction: Bucs win 31-28
Cook’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema
I am surprised that the New York Giants are still winless here in Week 4. But, to quote a once Buccaneers head coach, “stats are for losers,” or, in this case, a team’s numerical record. The Giants are better than an 0-3 team; you know it; I know it. But, the real question here isn’t whether or not the Giants are better than their record, it’s whether or not they’re better than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On paper, there are some fun match ups in store for Sunday. Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans once again gets a good test going up against New York’s Janoris Jenkins, one of the top cover cornerbacks in the league. All-Pro safety Landon Collins will likely be the one to help guard both of the Bucs tight ends. Plus, prized free agent pass rusher from a few years ago, Olivier Vernon, and his running mate Jason Pierre-Paul, will get to go up against Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson. Throw in the fact that you have one of the best wide receiver in the world for New York, Odell Beckham Jr., going up against a Buccaneers secondary that got absolutely torched last week, and there you have a few of the tipping points for the game.
But, none of those, are the most crucial, to me. The most crucial match up is when the stoppable force meets the moveable object (and, yes, I said that wrong on purpose) when the Bucs lackluster pass rush meets the Giants’ swiss cheese pass protection. Simply put: the Bucs have to get pressure on Eli Manning , and more importantly, they have to get sacks this game – yes, more than one. This is the week to do it. If they can’t do it this week, it’ll be a bad sign for the rest of the season. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is going to continue to dominate. He has every week. But, it’s about the guys around him to capitalize on the havoc he creates to finish plays. So far no one has. Robert Ayers, Noah Spence, William Gholston, and maybe even Devante Bond or Jacquies Smith; someone has to get to Manning.
Throw in the fact that Tampa Bay will likely be missing their two star players in the middle of their defense, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. Pass rush is the only way.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Giants win
Sikkema’s Pick-to-click: Noah Spence