Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-6) Sunday, December 4, 2016, 4:25 P.M. ET
Qualcomm Stadium (70,000) Network Television: FOX Play-By-Play: Sam Rosen Analysts: David Diehl Sideline: Holly Sonders Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM) Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives Last Game: Tampa Bay Won vs. Seattle, 14-5; San Diego Won at Houston, 21-13
After three consecutive wins, including two over consensus Top 10 teams, the Chiefs and Seahawks, the 6-5 Bucs take their momentum out west to face the 5-6 Chargers in San Diego.
Thriving offensively behind another All-Pro campaign from Philip Rivers and the emergence of running back Melvin Gordon, the Chargers have won four of their last six, including victories over Denver, Atlanta and Houston. All six of their losses have been by one score or less.
Turnovers are key for the Bucs defense, as Rivers’ has thrown 10 of his 12 interceptions this season in losing efforts. Good news for Tampa Bay, cornerback Brent Grimes has picked off the Charger’s QB more than any other player, with four to his name in as many meetings. Behind fierce pass rush and blanket coverage in the secondary, the Bucs have taken the ball away nine times during their win streak.
The Chargers offense has gained over 340 yards in each of the past three weeks, including 483 against the Titans. The Bucs defense has held opponents to less than 340 yards the past three games, including 278 against the Seahawks. All eyes will be on the Bucs front four and their ability to sustain pressure, as well as Tampa Bay’s secondary that will be without Chris Conte (chest) in San Diego.
Offensively, Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and company will look to continue their success against the NFL’s 20th ranked defense, one that’s surrendering an average of 271 yards through the air. Along the Chargers’ defensive line, though, is first-round pick Joey Bosa, who has 4.5 sacks in just six games. Donovan Smith and/or Demar Dotson will have their work cut out.
Winston, sporting a 103.5 passer rating since Week 10, has been taking care of the football while Doug Martin has seen his production increase every game since returning three weeks ago. The Bucs hope to have Jacquizz Rodgers (foot) available, complimenting a backfield that will run behind the original five linemen for the second straight game.
A win this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium – Bucs fans second favorite venue – would turn an impressive win streak into a full-on race for the division with a home playoff game in sight. These are exciting times for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. See if the Pewter Report staff thinks the team will be 7-5 when it returns home.
PewterReport.com Publisher & Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds Can the Bucs win their fourth straight game? Do you know how difficult of a feat that is in the NFL? I would be inclined to pick the Chargers just because they are at home, and despite the team’s 5-6 record, they have not lost a game by more than eight points all season. But given the fact that Tampa Bay has some sort of road mojo and is 4-1 away from Raymond James Stadium, combined with the fact that several key Chargers are banged up, I’m picking the Bucs in a close victory.
Starting linebackers Jerry Attaochu and Jatavis Brown are out, and that will undoubtedly help running back Doug Martin. Starting cornerback Brandon Flowers is also out, which could mean a big day for secondary receivers Adam Humphries, Russell Shepard, Cecil Shorts and Freddie Martino.
On the other side of the field, wide receiver Mike Evans, who is the league leader for touchdown catches with 10, is going up against cornerback Casey Hayward, whose 16 pass breakups and six interceptions led all NFL defenders this year. The winner of this marquee match-up could go a long way in determining the winner on Sunday.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is hard to sack due to the Chargers’ big offensive line and the fact that he gets rid of the ball so quickly. The key for Tampa Bay’s defense will be to prevent San Diego from taking a lead into the fourth quarter as the Bucs are undefeated (6-0) when leading or tied entering the final 15 minutes of regulation. Getting at least two sacks and two turnovers will be a must for the Bucs to prevail. Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Bucs win 27-23 Reynolds’ Pick To Click: RB Doug Martin
PewterReport.com Editor and Chief & Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook I stated last week in the prediction column that after the Seattle game we would know who this Buccaneers team is. Well now we know. I also wrote that if the Bucs beat Seattle, there wasn’t a team I wouldn’t say they couldn’t beat. That includes the Chargers.
Will it be a dominating blowout? No, I expect it to be slugfest, with each offense capitalizing on the other’s defensive injuries. While Chris Conte had taken his share of abuse this season, and at times rightfully so, I am concerned about him not playing this week. Like a good baseball team, football teams like to be strong up the middle as well. Without Conte, who has been dependable as of late, the Bucs defense is weaker and could be vulnerable to some big plays via the ground or the air.
The good news is, the Bucs offense has the opportunity to have a big game as well. The Chargers are far from being the Seahawks defense and aren’t nearly as physical. If the Bucs keep a fairly clean pocket for Jameis Winston, look for Tampa Bay to rack up a ton of yards and Doug Martin to have his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season.
A slugfest, with each team giving each other their best shot all game long, it will come down to the quarterback who makes the least mistakes and who can deliver in the end. I am going with No. 3 against the grizzled vet. Cook’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 31-30 Cook’s Pick To Click: Doug Martin
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Eric Horchy The Bucs are in the thick of the playoff hunt and all five remaining games come against teams in similar situations. The first of those challenges comes with a West Coast trip Sunday in San Diego.
Might as well get this part out of the way quick: The Bucs haven’t won four straight since 2012’s 7-9 team. By 7:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, they’ll have matched that feat. Winning five in a row hasn’t happened since the magical 2002-03 Super Bowl season, but that will have to wait until 2017 if they don’t take care of business in San Diego.
Aside from last year’s 4-12 campaign, the Chargers have been one of those teams that lives in the territory of seven to nine wins for years. Quarterback Philip Rivers always leads an offense that needs to be respected, he has a premier running back lining up behind him in Melvin Gordon, and an under-the-radar receiver lined up on the outside in Tyrell Williams.
Rivers and San Diego (5-6) have been held to fewer than 20 points just once this season – a 27-19 Week 8 loss at Denver. Most of those points are set up by Rivers and the Chargers’ fifth-ranked passing attack, which will be attacking an improving Bucs defense that will play without starting strong safety Chris Conte for the first time this season.
Speaking of injuries, Bucs fans exasperated by dings and dents should check out San Diego’s situation. The Chargers have 16 – sixteen – players placed on injured reserve. Eight other players appeared on this week’s injury report, including starting cornerback Brandon Flowers (questionable with a concussion), starting inside linebacker Jatavis Brown (questionable with a knee ailment), top receiver Williams (questionable with a shoulder issue) and second-leading receiver Dontrelle Inman (probable with a concussion).
The Bucs took advantage of Seattle’s depleted rostered last week and will do the same in sunny southern California. Another 14-5, defensive struggle probably isn’t in the offing Sunday. But after being held below 20 points for two straight weeks, this relatively healthy Bucs offense is itching to cut loose. Horchy’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 34-27 Horchy’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston
PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Writer Zach Shapiro
The Bucs offense’ held itself back from an even bigger win last Sunday with inopportune penalties and a couple late turnovers. Sunday, if Jameis Winston can protect the football this offense will be hard to stop, especially for San Diego’s 26th ranked pass-defense.
I expect the Bucs to try to establish the run early – with Jacquizz Rodgers back to take some of the load off of Martin – but eventually take over offensively behind Winston and Mike Evans. Going out west is always tough, but there’s no reason at this point to bet against the thriving duo. Seattle and Kansas City have more experienced and star power in their secondary than San Diego.
Defensively, Tampa Bay has set a high bar as of late but stats suggest this Sunday will provide a real challenge. The Chargers come in with the fifth-ranked offense, and Philip Rivers’ MVP case is just the tip of the iceberg. Melvin Gordon has emerged as one of the NFL’s dangerous backs, while Asante Cleveland and Travis Benjamin are solid receivers. Future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates is also just three TDs away from setting the all-time mark for a tight end, making the 36-year old pro a bit more prone for a big game.
It starts up front for Tampa Bay defensively. Will Noah Spence continue to make splash plays, along with unlikely contributor Ryan Russell? I believe the former is just starting to hit his stride, and along with Robert Ayers, is finally giving Gerald McCoy support from the edge. Until the D-Line breaks their momentum, I foresee them adding a few more sacks to Rivers’ 26, while pressuring him throughout the game.
If that prediction holds true – and it’s a bold one, considering the Chargers’ offensive success and 3-2 record at home – then I expect one or two critical takeaways and a Bucs win. Shapiro’s Score Prediction: Bucs win 23-17 Shapiro’s Pick To Click: DE Noah Spence
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.