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