TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-1) VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-2)
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 8:25 P.M. ET
RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM (64,428)
NETWORK TELEVISION: CBS
PLAY-BY-PLAY: JIM NANTZ ANALYST: TONY ROMO SIDELINE: JAY FEELY & TRACY WOLFSON 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 WON VS. N.Y. GIANTS 25-23; NEW ENGLAND LOST VS. CAROLINA, 33-30

PewterReport.com Publisher and Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
Tampa Bay is on a six-game home winning streak and the Bucs are eagerly awaiting their primetime match-up against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. I think Trevor Sikkema did an outstanding job of previewing the game in this week’s Cover 3 column, so I’m going to encourage you to read that as I’m not going to offer much more X’s and O’s analysis here. Instead, I’m going to tell you what I like and don’t like from a match-up standpoint before I make my prediction.

I like the fact that the Bucs found a way to win last week against the New York Giants. Tampa Bay took control of the game early, then lost control before gaining it back in the game’s waning moments. The lesson, of course, is to stomp an opponent when they are down and don’t let up so you don’t have to rally, but I liked how the Bucs stayed calm and remained throughout, and I think they grew up a lot last Sunday. I like that the Bucs feel confident at home and that the crowd has really gotten into the game over the last calendar year since last October.

I like the Bucs’ diversified passing attack and think there is plenty to exploit on the Patriots defense, from matching Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard against New England’s linebackers, and matching Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries against the Patriots secondary. I like that Jacquies Smith returned to help the pass rush and got his feet wet against the Giants. I like that safety T.J. Ward is on the mend and should help out against Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. I Doug Martin’s return and the energy it brings to the team and the Bucs’ ground game.

I don’t like the fact that the Bucs have struggled in primetime nationally televised games and that’s where Tom Brady has thrived for decades. I don’t like the Bucs facing Brady and Bill Belichick after a loss, as New England rarely loses two games in a row. I don’t like that the Patriots have two speed receivers in Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan and the Bucs don’t have any semblance of a pass rush. I don’t like the thought of Brady having all day to throw. I don’t like Tampa Bay not having linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. I don’t like the fact that Nick Folk has missed two extra points and two field goals in three games.

This game may not come down to Brady vs. Jameis Winston, or Belichick, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels vs. Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith. This game could come down to kicker Stephen Gostkowski vs. Folk, and the edge goes to the Patriots.

Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Patriots Win 33-31
Reynolds’ Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston

PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
The young gunslinger vs. the crafty veteran. Jameis Winston vs. Tom Brady. That is the narrative from many, and no question it will be the main story line for many nationally. But as Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter said, it is the Buccaneers versus the Patriots. And while quarterback play will affect the outcome, the team who plays best defensively will most likely be the winner on Thursday night.

The good news for the Bucs is, the Patriots defense has been bad this season. Like worst in the NFL bad. The bad news for the Bucs, the Patriots coaching staff is the best in the business and it is highly unlikely they stay last in the league. With that being said, there will be plenty of opportunities for Tampa Bay’s offense to move the ball. Having Doug Martin back hopefully gives the running game a boost, although Jacquizz Rodgers ran the ball well against the Giants last Sunday. The Bucs receivers and tight ends will find open spaces and with the Patriots defensive line not overly impressive, Winston should have time to find open players.

The Buccaneers defense is better than the Patriots, but most likely are still without star linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. And let’s face it, Brady can make great defenses look average, and does it on a regular basis. I fully expect the Patriots to move the ball up and down the field, but the Bucs will need to tighten up in the red zone and force field goals. Both offenses should be able to move the football, and the defense that can force the most mistakes will come out on top.

Depending on the weather (20 percent chance of rain, windy conditions), this game looks to be a back-and-forth shootout, with both teams racking up the yards. With the home-field advantage I will give the Bucs a slim nod and will say they finish the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record.
Cook’s Score prediction: Bucs win 34-31 
Cook’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston

PewterReport.com Buccaneers Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema
It’s hard to say that a game in Week 5 of the NFL season is the most important game of the year, but it really might be for this Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. The team is sitting at 2-1 right now with two wins at home. A win against the Patriots would bring them to 3-1 and 3-0 at home with an 11 day break before they play a struggling Cardinals team and an erratic Bills team, both on the road. If the Bucs win this game, there’s a real chance they could ride momentum and good health into a possible 5-1 start before the divisional opponents come into play.

But that’s all part of the big “if,” so what has to happen for that “if” to become a “did.”

First off, the Patriots aren’t what you think they are; they’re just not. Their defense is one of the worst in the NFL, they have injuries and commutation issues at every level. They can’t defend the pass and are barely better against the run. On offense, they’re firing on all cylinders, but how sustainable is it? For a team led by Tom Brady, you’d think those chances are better than others, and they are, but if the Pats don’t put up 35 points a game, they’re going to lose, and that’s a tough task for any quarterback.

For the Bucs, we can sit here and talk about certain miss matches of skill players like the Bucs’ athletic tight ends against the Pats’ slower linebackers, or the confused corners against the Bucs’ physical receivers, but in the end, the only thing that matter is Jameis Winston.

Doug Martin’s return could be a crucial emphasis to how this game ends. If he is running well that means less time on the field for Brady and more control for the Bucs. But, the most important box score will be the one next to Winston’s name. If he can keep the completions high, the turnovers down and the ball going to where it needs to, the Bucs could get over the mighty Patriots. Winston hasn’t been great in Thursday Night Football games to this point in his career, but it’s just a random night. he’s played in plenty of big games.

The Bucs need another big game performance from their franchise quarterback on Thursday. It may be the only way they can get it done.
Sikkema’s Score prediction: Bucs win 38-34 
Sikkema’s Pick To Click: QB Jameis Winston

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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, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. 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 [email protected]

16 COMMENTS

  1. I see Jameis getting more comfortable with his new weapons each week. With Doug Martin coming back the offense has a chance to make a huge statement. If the running game is strong and Jameis plays smart I think they win this game.

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  2. What are you guys smoking. Pats don’t lose two games in a row. Not with Brady at quarterback. Buccaneers keep in close for awhile but class tells. Can’t see the Buccaneers linebackers stopping the New England passing game and Brady’s will to win.
    Pats 40-Buccaneers-24. It’s a long season. Once we get our key defensive players healthy, we will come back and win five or six in a row. We’re just too hobbled. Would love to be wrong.

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    • Whew. Defense giving up 40 would not be ideal.

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  3. Huge game. Not only for the team trying to end the first quarter with a winning record since 2011, but also for the overall confidence needed to make the playoffs. Beating upper echelon teams will need to become the norm if we’re ever to win another Super Bowl. It could start tomorrow night.

    I’m hopeful, but also very wary about winning a shootout. Bucs haven’t scored 30 on offense in 13 games. It’s been 10 games since the team scored 30. Brady isn’t likely to turn the ball over, so it looks like it’ll come down to the offense dropping 30+ for us to win. Big test for Dirk & the offense.

    Prediction:
    Pats 34
    Bucs 28

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  4. Predictions are useless. The past does not predict the present or the future. Every game is a thing unto itself. How many predicted the Pats would lose at home to Kansas City? How many predicted the Pat would struggle to win at home to the Texans? How many predicted the Pats would lose at home to Carolina, of all teams?

    Not many, on any of those three games.

    And for the same reason, we cannot predict that the Pats D will struggle again for the fifth time in a row. Just as nobody predicted that the Vikings minus Bradford would produce a career day for their backup, Case Keenum, who was made to look pathetic just the week before.

    This game can literally go either way. It all depends upon who shows up tomorrow night.

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  5. i too am expecting the loss…”it’s the patriots, brady and belichick, etc etc”. I am glad the team almost certainly feels differently. It was almost a generation ago that the big bad 49ers dynasty came to Tampa to take their W and head back west…instead, thanks to a couple guys whose names are now in the ring of honor, they went home with their dynasty effectively over

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  6. At the beginning of the week I would have told you I was picking the Pats, but their defense has performed so poorly I have to think the Bucs will stand the best chance they have had against them in years.

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  7. Lets not forget about the weather which might keep the score lower than what most are thinking. This I believe gives us an additional advantage now that we can run, run, run. I believe we will win because of our running game and the wind will help us more than Brady. Go Bucs!

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  8. Bucs still have their two best players out on Defense. Brady is going to have it easy with no pass rush. Bucs will score points but will not be able to stop Pats. 27-21 Pats

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  9. Its Scott’s turn to walk the plank.
    BUCS WIN
    It is time to kick the Patriots in the teeth. No mercy. They are human and as we have seen can be beat.
    Naplesfan is right, predictions are useless.
    I always pick the BUCS.
    GO BUBCS

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  10. Just for the fun of it … my prediction? …. Bucs win in overtime. Final score? Ya’ got me!

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  11. P.S.
    _________________
    Go Bucs!!!!!!!

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  12. There is some potentially interesting news … Gronkowski is now injured and listed as of yesterday as questionable for tonight’s game. If he does not play, or does not play at 100%, that’s going to have a major impact on the Pats’ offense.

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  13. For tonight’s game honestly I believe there are 2 people who I feel the offensive coaching staff should be grilling… Jon Hoke & Brett Maxie. NE is coming into this game on a very short week of prep to rectify their 32nd ranked pass defense problem and their defensive staff will be looking for a fast/simplistic way to improve in that department before facing our arsenal tonight. I would be asking Hoke & Maxie what type of “quick fixes” can a secondary coach employ to attempt a better product on the field in a fast time frame. Dialed down languages? What type of subtle hand movements? Would you install a base coverage on the back end? With ideas from these two, Koetter will be able to have a game plan to attack NE in multiple ways until we find that one glitch in the matrix that we can continue to exploit them in case somehow Bill has somehow developed a quick fix overnight.

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    • According to ESPN, the Pats haven’t even held a real practice this short week, just a single walk through. It would be very tough to come up with any quick fixes that haven’t even been practiced yet in pads.

      Nothing is impossible, but if there were quick fixes to the Pats D, if any coach in the world had one, it would be Belichick, and it already would have been fixed by Week 5.

      The only option we really have is to plan our defense around what WE do best, and be prepared to make in-game adjustments. It will come down to whomever executes best, which is cliche but true nonetheless.

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      • Complacency, that is what will bring Pats down. Its just the BUCS right?
        As far as I’m concerned this game if we win will make our season. Just like when we smacked down the Chiefs and Seahawks last year. Everyone remembers that right? All the pundits calling for us to lose, screw them.
        GO BUCS

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