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

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

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: zshapiro12@gmail.com
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seat26
4 years ago

Bucs bring some swagger to the West Coast. Winston has a career day against banged up chargers, Connects to Evans for oneTD, with Evans going over 100 yds. Another to Brate and this time it will not be called back. He runs one in from short yardage, gets some help from Martin wth an additional TD, Add two field goals and Bucs leave San Diego with a big win. 33- 17 Bucs. Defense continues its hot hand with 2 sacks and 2 interceptions along with 2 fumbles one recovered.

Horse
4 years ago

It’s going to be a high scoring game and the Bucs find a way to win. Go Bucs!

Garv
4 years ago

I have no idea what will happen or what the score may be. There is no reason the Bucs cannot win the game if they play as well as they have the last three Sundays. Hoping for another huge win and we are facing the Saints next Sunday on a four game Winning streak with another large and LOUD home crowd.

But seriously? “Predicting” the Bucs will win by one, two or three points? Truth is it’s guessing or we’d all be rich. Well, if the guesses were correct anyway. ;)

chetthevette
4 years ago

I think we win this one. It is very winnable. I’d love to say it will be romp in the park, but I think not. The O Line has to block and the D Line has to rush the passer. Man, this guy is like broken record with these comments about the line. That’s how it is. If the lines can do their job Dougie can have a great day. We have to stop Melvin Gordon above all else on defense. Once you do that Rivers will have to beat us. Make no mistake he can do it. The BUCS… Read more »

Bucnut2
Reply to  chetthevette
4 years ago

I hope you are right

chetthevette
Reply to  Bucnut2
4 years ago

It will be tough for sure. It’s time for them to man up.
GO BUCS

Bucnut2
4 years ago

Unfortunately I think most of are underestimating the Chargers. They play in the toughest division in the NFL. While I am hoping the Bucs win, I have to go with the Chargers, 31-17.

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
4 years ago

5 weeks ago, this isn’t a game I’d have given us a chance to win. Thankfully, we aren’t that team anymore. We SHOULD win this game. Our offense is healthy and clicking on all cylinders. Chargers are down a CB, 2 starting LB’s and allow 275 passing yards a game. Their DL is nothing like what the OL has faced the last 2 weeks. Bosa has talent, but he’s not Cliff Avril. Our offense has the ability to shred this defense with Doug/Rodgers and the passing game. The defense better come to play, because the Chargers will score points. This… Read more »

Naplesfan
Reply to  RootsCrew
4 years ago

It’s possible, certainly, that the Bucs revert to their play in late Sep/Oct … but why should we expect that? There really is no tangible reason to expect a regression.

Like I say below, until the Bucs prove otherwise, they’re playing highly competitive football now and for the last three weeks in a row.

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

I with you on believing in our team. Why be pessimistic? Chargers are better than their record, but so are we. If we lose, we lose. But I have confidence in how the team is playing. I think they believe they should win. Huge difference from last years final games.

dbucfan
4 years ago

If the buccaneers play as they did last week they will win. And I would be surprised if they did not play that well again.

BUC 727
4 years ago

This is going to be a shootout between two gunslingers. I feel the difference will be whether or not Gerald MCcoy brings the pressure up the middle on Rivers to force him out of his comfort zone. If he does that, we will win. I can’t wait….GO BUCS!

scubog
4 years ago

I think the Bucs are as confident a group as we have seen here in quite some time. Might even say they are developing a bit of swagger. The question for me is, how fragile that new “culture” might be. Hopefully they enter this game with a similar intensity level as they did against the Seahawks. Phillip Rivers is a spirited veteran QB, who has had an outstanding individual career albeit on a mediocre team. In my view he has always been sort of an afterthought as compared to other more publicized passers. Make no mistake, this guy won’t give… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  scubog
4 years ago

I think Dirk will keep it on the ground and try to pound the Chargers into submission. It limits Bosa’s impact on the game. Their secondary & linebackers are really suspect, but Dirk wants to be a running team. Especially if we can grab 7-10pt lead. I want to see Jameis unleashed, but that’s probably gonna have to wait until next season.

Naplesfan
Reply to  RootsCrew
4 years ago

I tend to agree, Roots. Especially with both Doug and Jacquizz in the lineup and 100%, and the O-line playing at a high level. That is the recipe for success just about anytime you’re playing on the road with a team that is built like the Bucs.

I see the Bassing passing game being focused mainly on our strength, which is play action passing off the run game.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

damme … “Bucs Passing game” not “Bassing game” … :-)

chetthevette
Reply to  RootsCrew
4 years ago

Good points Root, Nothing would make me happier than watching Doug and Quizz run it down their throats.
Get ready BUCS fans we are about to see a real football game 1970’s style.
Do you think Koetter hasn’t drummed into their heads to keep the foot on the gas, he sure has.
Make no mistake folks Phillip Rivers can destroy us if we are not ready for him.
Here are my big days guys.
Doug
Hargraves
Kwon
GO BUCS

chetthevette
Reply to  scubog
4 years ago

Good call scubog. Hope we are all correct today.
GO BUCS

Naplesfan
4 years ago

I can’t see any reason to pick against the Bucs given the way they’ve been playing the last few weeks, and considering the injury status of key players, and frankly, they’re monsters on the road. I would pick the Bucs over the Cowboys and the Patriots this weekend if either were on the schedule.

Until the Bucs prove differently, they’re playing ball of a quality equal to any other team in the league right now.

Bucs 31-Chargers 27

seat26
4 years ago

What a great game. We got hit again with some bad injuries, with Humphries, Stocker, Shorts. Apparently Stocker reinjured his hang nail. Has that guy ever played two full games in a row ? But seriously, Martin, Brate, and David get scores. and two field goals out of three. Winston played very well. It is getting exciting to be a Buc’s fan. Our defense played inspired football.

cgmaster27
Reply to  seat26
4 years ago

Insane, can’t believe this is really happening. Our defense is playing lights out right now and Jameis is spreading the ball around. A lot of injuries to day though. This game does prove my theory that we need a new rb though. Tired of watching Doug walk off of the field injured. And personally I like Rogers running better anyways. I can’t believe we are in first place in the division this is nuts! go Bucs!

Dustin Romero
Reply to  seat26
4 years ago

But they have to quit waiting to get started so late on both sides of the ball….we have to come out like we did against Seattle or we were really close to being down by 14 right off the bat