TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-3) AT BUFFALO BILLS (3-2)
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22ND, 1:00 P.M. ET
NEW ERA FIELD (71,870)
NETWORK TELEVISION: FOX
PLAY-BY-PLAY: CHRIS MYERS ANALYST: DARYL JOHNSTON SIDELINE: LAURA OKMIN 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 ARIZONA, 38-33; BUFFALO LOST AT CINCINNATI, 20-16


PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds

I’ve been wrong a lot lately, and I hope I’m wrong again for the Bucs’ sake. Before I get into my prediction, let’s review. I was wrong in thinking that having 10 days to prepare for Arizona and wanting some payback against a Cardinals team that thrashed them 40-7 last year would motivate Tampa Bay to get a victory in the desert. Instead, they came out flat and soft in the first half en route to a 38-33 loss. I was wrong for picking the Bucs to win last week.

I was also wrong in thinking that because quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t practice on Wednesday and Thursday that he wouldn’t play or start on Sunday against Buffalo. Winston fully participated on Friday and was named the starter by Dirk Koetter for the Bills game immediately after practice.

But just because Winston is the starter doesn’t automatically mean Tampa Bay is going to win in Buffalo. Winston and the Bucs have struggled mightily on the road, going 0-4 in their last four road games dating back to last year when they suffered defeats at Dallas and New Orleans before losing this year at Minnesota and at Arizona. In those last four road gams, Winston is a combined 73-of-120 (60.8 percent) for 913 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. Winston has thrown at least two interceptions in his last four road games except for Arizona due to the fact that he left with a shoulder injury in the first quarter.

I don’t like the Bucs’ current mojo on the road, and I don’t like the fact that Buffalo is 2-0 at home this year with wins over the Jets and the Broncos. This is a Bills team that beat the Falcons in Atlanta, 23-17, and its only two losses – at Carolina and at Cincinnati – have come from a combined 10 points. New head coach Sean McDermott has the Bills defense flying around the field and creating turnovers, while the offense does enough to win low-scoring games with quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy, who is a threat to run or catch the ball on all three downs.

Having Buffalo tight end Charles Clay out with an injury helps Tampa Bay, as does the return of Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, who could be charged with the responsibility of spying Taylor to make sure he can’t scramble for first downs. The Bucs defense wants to keep Taylor in the pocket, but at the same time, he’s completing 62.3 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and just two interceptions. In order for the Bucs to win they will have to greatly improve on third downs on both sides of the ball, rush for over 120 yards and win the turnover battle. Given their recent history, I’m not convinced they will do that. I hope I’m wrong – again.

Reynolds’ Prediction: Bills Win 23-17
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: CB Brent Grimes

PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Stats are for losers someone once said. Perhaps that is true, but your record is your record. And right now this is as much of a must win game as you can possibly have six games into an NFL season. If the Bucs lost to Buffalo drop to 2-4, forget about it, no playoffs this year. Right now there are seven teams ahead of the Bucs record wise, that AREN’T division leaders. Talk about an uphill climb if you don’t win on Sunday.

Having Jameis Winston back will help give the Bucs a chance to win. Talent wise the Bucs should win. On the outside it looks like one of those ugly type games that won’t be the most entertaining to watch. And that is okay. The Bucs don’t get extra points for style wins. Right now they just need a win. Any possible way they can get it. All the obvious things are true. Tampa Bay needs to run the ball, eliminate turnovers and the defense has to stop the run blah, blah blah. What needs to happen is this team to man up and prove they want to compete for a playoff spot. Last week the Bucs defense looks as uninterested as I have seen them in long time. It is okay to get beat by a better team, but the Cardinals are not 31-0 better.

Their manhood was challenged last week, and in the second half they responded somewhat. The Bucs need to come out on Sunday and pop the Bills in the mouth from the first snap until there clock expires.Over and over and over again. If they do that and lose, you can live with it, but last week’s performance made me question how much heart this team has. Which is disappointing because they came into the game 2-2 not 2-10.

While we can judge the coaching staff on a million different things, how this team responds to last week to me will be as telling as anything about Dirk Koetter and his staff. The good news is, I think they respond.
Cook’s Prediction: Bucs Win 24-23
Cook’s Pick To Click: RB Doug Martin

PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Trevor Sikkema
Jameis Winston is good to go; that’s the good news. That bad news is that even with Winston this team hasn’t been nearly what it should be. Former player and now ESPN analysts, Louis Riddick, said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of if not the most disappointing team in the NFL, and he’s not wrong.  On the surface, a 2-3 record isn’t anything catastrophic, but when you look at the details, the Bucs have handled the two teams they were suppose to handle and mightily struggled against what most would consider playoff caliber teams.

I don’t want to call a game in Week 7 a “must win” for a team barely below .500, but, as defensive coordinator Mike Smith says, there’s only 16 of these games – every one means a lot. If Tampa drops to 2-4, it will be three weeks, at best, before they can get back on the right track to a playoff birth.

Despite Buffalo’s record of 3-2 record, they are a pretty beatable team. What’s been the key to their success has been turnovers and lack thereof. They have eight takeaways on the defensive side while only having two turnovers on the offensive end. This is the sign of a good football team, but that kind of ratio normally can’t be consistent. So, it being five games in for them means a cool down could be coming (since there is so luck involved in turnovers).

Getting linebacker Kwon Alexander back is key for the Buccaneers because it allows them to hone in on Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s running ability. With most of the projected defensive starters back alongside Alexander, I think the Bucs are in a good position to contain Taylor. From there, it’s about coverage. The big question here is whether or not Smith will get more aggressive as a defensive coordinator with his coverage calls like we finally saw him do in the second half of the Cardinals game. The Bucs need to start out like that.

But, the biggest factor here is Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter – more specifically, play caller Dirk Koetter. This offense doesn’t have any more time to warm up; the season is already almost half way over. The Buccaneers have to remember how they dominated early drives in the preseason and bring that into the regular season. They need to make things simple and effective. The Bills have a good run defense, and the Bucs clearly don’t like to run the ball like other teams do (or they should), so, whether we like it or not, this game is all about what happens with Winston’s arm.

I’m no longer worried about the shoulder, but it’s time for Winston to start fast and finish fast. If h does, they can win. If they fall behind again, you’re tempting a turnover heavy defense to do what they’ve done best.

Sikkema’s Prediction: Bucs win 28-24
Sikkema’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Rut
Rut
4 years ago

This is a turn the corner game for the Bucs. I don’t think many people would pick them to win this game. We got our ass handed to us last week, and let me tell you because I was at that game- this team was lethargic in the sidelines. They did not want to be there. The one positive was even out of the game, Winston almost never sat down. He was right there on the sideline with the coaches the whole game. You better believe he’s ready to play this week. He’s hungry for a W. This is a… Read more »

Jlog
Jlog
Reply to  Rut
4 years ago

Will if Fitz plays like Winston on one of his better games that’s going to be the case. Winston is more consistent than Fitz though. Winston is also more accurate and turns the ball over less.

Jlog
Jlog
Reply to  Jlog
4 years ago

That was meant as a reply to Bucnut2 comment below.

Bucnut2
Bucnut2
4 years ago

I think the Bucs win this one, but disagree that Winston playing makes much of a difference. The Bucs look like the same team to me with either Fitz or JW under center. The difference in this game will be ALL of the weapons the Bucs have. So far this season the bucs offense has under performed it’s talent level which is either on Winston or Koetter. I think we make enough plays to win this one and then finish the season 8-8 and in the cellar again. Average QB and very questionable coaching have doomed this season.

Horse
Horse
4 years ago

It’s one thing to have a sprained shoulder joint, it’s another thing to get hit on it. I would not have played Winston and gave him another week to heal the joint/shoulder area. Jameis is such a competitor and fearless; we could lose him for the season. I’m concerned about our Defense and Alexander will probably be rusty; still I’m going to go with hope. Bucs win one in a squeaker with some luck. GO BUCS!

surferdudes
4 years ago

There’s only 16 games in the season, every player in the NFL has some kind of hurt. Ronnie Lott cut off part of his finger to return to a game. Maybe we’ve been giving players more then enough time to heal, Kwon, I don’t know. What I do know is this team seems Charmin soft. Jameis is a warrior, an inaccurate warrior at times, but one none the less. Let’s hope his fight can carry the day for us.

Garv
Garv
4 years ago

I “predict” a win puts the disaster in Arizona behind them. It would set up a nice home game against the NFC South Panthers and give the Buccaneers a chance to get over .500 and to e 1-0 in the South. A loss and the dreams of the playoffs are over. Done. Expecting a 2-4 team that can’t win on the road to go the necessary 8-2 the rest of the way to possibly get in is a pipe dream. So here it is. And the message board posters deciding on who can play and who cannot because of injuries?… Read more »