The PewterReport.com staff shares its thoughts on the upcoming Bucs game and pick who we think we win, including a score prediction and a pick-to-click – a Tampa Bay player we think will play really well. Let us know you thoughts and add your prediction in the comment section.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-7) VS. HOUSTON TEXANS (9-5) WHEN:SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 1:00 P.M. ET WHERE: RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM TELEVISION: NFL NETWORK & WMOR-TV PLAY-BY-PLAY: RICH EISEN ANALYSTS: NATE BURLESON & JOE THOMAS SIDELINE: MELISSA STARK BUCS RADIO: 98ROCK, FLAGSHIP STATION (WXTB-97.9 FM) PLAY-BY-PLAY: GENE DECKERHOFF ANALYST: DAVE MOORE SIDELINE: T.J. RIVES
PewterReport.com Publisher/Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Table of Contents
It’s the end of the season and injuries have taken their toll on every team in the NFL, including Houston and Tampa Bay. The Bucs enter this game a bit more banged up than the Texans and that could mean all the difference in this game. The biggest blow for Tampa Bay is of course the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin, who caught five passes for 121 yards last week before a hamstring injury ended his season with two games left. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston still has a slightly fractured thumb, yet he was able to pass for a career-high 458 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win at Detroit – Tampa Bay’s fourth win a row.
And those aren’t the only injured Bucs.
Winning five games in a row will be challenging, as Houston is 9-5 and contending for the AFC South title. The Texans have an explosive vertical passing game, featuring quarterback DeShaun Watson and Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis sprained his ankle in practice on Friday and is questionable for the game. He was expected to be the one to cover Hopkins. Davis is hopeful to play, but won’t be 100 percent.
Left tackle Donovan Smith missed last week’s game with a sprained knee and ankle, and should be able to start. The same goes for center Ryan Jensen, who injured his elbow last week, but finished the game. Both are listed as questionable. If Tampa Bay were at full strength, especially offensively, I would pick the surging Buccaneers, especially at home. But without wide receivers Mike Evans, Scotty Miller and Godwin, Winston’s targets are limited and I am worried we might try to see him suffer from the Superman complex again and try to do too much, which would lead to turnovers.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Texans 26, Bucs 20 Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: ILB Devin White Reynolds’ Season Record: 6-8
PewterReport.com Editor/Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
This season has flown by, and at the same time it feels like it has taken a year to almost complete. To say it has been a roller coaster would be an understatement. Games the Bucs had no business winning earlier in the season, they surprised us. Games we had chalked up as wins, ended up in the “L” column. Trying to figure out this football team has been about as easy as picking all six numbers in the Florida Lottery.
And now a rare Saturday appearance and its is still hard to predict what is going to happen. Quarterback Jameis Winston has been the conductor on this season-long roller coaster but as of late the twists and turns have evened out as the car heads back to the station. 450 yards two weeks in row set an NFL record, and if Winston were to replicate that stat line for three weeks in a row, sign him up long-term. As eye-popping as the numbers have been, the fact the Buccaneers won both of those games is even more impressive. Normally when you see 400-plus yards of passing it comes when a team is way behind and just trying to make the score respectable. This hasn’t been the case the past two weeks.
But with wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both out for the game, getting to that magical 450 yard mark will be nearly impossible, especially if you want to combine it with as win. The Buccaneers still have weapons but not having two Pro Bowl receivers will make this game more difficult to win. It can still happen, but a lot of things will have to go right. The Bucs will need to play virtually turnover-free football, create a number of their own and contain an explosive Texans offense that boasts one of the best receivers in the game in DeAndre Hopkins and an exciting, young quarterback in DeShaun Watson. They will also need to keep up their season-long ability to contain the run by stopping Carlos Hyde.
I do think the Buccaneers keep it close but end up letting the game slip away in the fourth quarter. And honestly, with the injuries the Bucs are facing, combined with the talent of a team playing for the playoffs, there is no shame if they do end up losing this game. At least if they keep it close, which they should.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Texans 28, Bucs 21 Cook’s Pick-To-Click: TE O.J. Howard Cook’s Season Record: 5-9
Earlier this week I talked about why this game — while still very important — would not be considered my “signature game”, as to announce the official turning of the page for the Buccaneers. For such a game, I believe the team has to be a full strength against a good team at home with the playoffs still in the cards (something to look forward to next year). However, all of that to say that if the Bucs can win this one, it will be one of the biggest wins they’ve had in a long, long time.
Jameis Winston may be on a record-breaking hot streak, but he’s about to be without his top two receivers – and two of the top receiver on the planet, as offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich would say – Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. For any quarterback, that would be a major blow. On the other side of the field, Winston will be going up against one of the best in the league in Deshaun Watson. Watson, unlike Winston, will have his top passing target in Deandre Hopkins. How the Bucs defend him with a combination of their young cornerbacks will be a determining factor in this one. Stick Carlton Davis on Hopkins to start to see if his physicality can make things difficult for the All-Pro receiver. That would allow the faster Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting to matchup with the speed of Kenny Still and Will Fuller.
If the Bucs win this game, it will be in ways that they have been uncomfortable with or unsuccessful with for most of the season. They’ll need their run game, a unit that is ranked 27th in the NFL, to carry them and sustain drives. That means much longer carries and handoffs to Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber that go for six or seven yards instead of three or four. This will also be where the rubber meets the road for Arians when it comes to tight ends in his offense. We know that it just is not natural for Arians to emphasize tight ends, but in this one he will have to. He should be thankful that his “fall back” tight ends are guys like Howard and Brate.
In the end, I think that’s where the win or loss will be determined. Can the Bucs utilize their tight ends better than they ever have before? I’ll say they come up just short. But if they do pull it off, the faith in this city for their football team will blossom in ways we haven’t seen in a long time.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Texans 31, Bucs 27 Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: TEs O.J. Howard & Cam Brate Sikkema’s Season Record: 5-9
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Taylor Jenkins
The Houston Texans come to Tampa in Week 16 looking to cool off the red-hot Bucs, winners of their past four games and five of their last six.
The most interesting story line of the day would have been Tampa native Vernon Hargreaves lining up against the Pro Bowl duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, his former teammates. But with Evans and Godwin out of the contest, along with Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay has scrambled to put together a receiving corps behind Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson and the tight end tandem of O.J. Howard and Cam Brate.
While I believe the Bucs offense will lack the explosiveness they’ve become accustomed to, I think that Jameis Winston and the offensive weapons still available to him will allow the offense to remain dangerous enough to keep Tampa Bay in this game.
Tampa Bay’s run game isn’t something, at this point, that can be relied on but it would be a huge help to the injured offense against a defense that’s allowing 113.3 rushing yards per game, good for 19th in the league.
On defense, there’s going to be a huge weight on the shoulders of this Tampa Bay secondary. With DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, the Texans undoubtedly field one of the most talented receiving units in the league. Despite Tampa Bay’s high-scoring offense, with Winston’s penchant for turnovers it will take top-notch play from the young defensive backs, along with a big turnover if possible, for the Bucs to escape with their fifth straight win.
The Bucs come into this game very short handed with injuries all over the roster, especially at wide receiver. It won’t be easy and it may not look pretty, but the Bucs are on a four-game win streak and most importantly, believe in themselves, so I’m taking them to make it five straight.
This will be an interesting challenge for the coaches as much as it is for the players. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will have to find out quickly what his new players do best, and put them in situations where they can best utilize their traits. Ishamel Hyman was brought up to the active roster a week ago, Spencer Schnell is returning after the Bucs cut him at the end of training camp, and Cyril Grayson just signed to the team on Monday. They’ve had a week of practice together now, but Leftwich must find out fast what they can do.
It would be silly to ask Breshad Perriman or Justin Watson to give similar production to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. There’s just no replacing two of the best receivers in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean that the Bucs can’t score points if you put other players in better situations. No quarterback has been hotter than Jameis Winston, and don’t forget, they have very capable tight ends in Cam Brate and O.J. Howard that should see more productions as Winston told them this week that they’re “going to get the rock.” The Bucs will also utilize the running back in the passing game, getting some swing passes to Ronald Jones.
In order for the Bucs to win this game, they’re going to need their best defensive performance of the season and it starts with the defensive line. Rushing after Deshaun Watson is not easy, but it helps that the Bucs have also played against Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson as of late. They’ll need big time games from Shaq Barrett, Vita Vea and the rest of the defensive front to hold off Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. It looks like Carlton Davis will try to guard Hopkins because Bruce Arians likes Davis’ size.
When the chips are down, players tend to step up and I believe that’s what will happen with the Bucs. They know they’re missing a ton of players, so with leadership from the likes of Lavonte David and Jameis Winston, the Bucs elevate their game and overcome the amount of players they’re missing to win the game.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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