PewterReport.com Publisher and Bucs Beat Writer Scott Reynolds
I joked on this week’s Pewter Nation Podcast that this could essentially be Tampa Bay’s fifth preseason game of the year because the Bucs could be forced to play without its star quarterback, two starting offensive tackles, two starting defensive ends and a starting cornerback due to injuries, and its star wide receiver due to a suspension. The Bucs vs. Jets game could unfortunately have the entertainment quality of a preseason game for Tampa Bay fans without Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Will Gholston, Robert McClain and possibly Donovan Smith and Robert Ayers, too. This game could get ugly for the Bucs in a hurry.

Ryan Fitzpatrick will get his first start for the Bucs after playing in the second halves of games at Arizona and New Orleans. The good news for Tampa Bay’s struggling offense is that the Bucs have scored 40 points in the four quarters Fitzpatrick has played in, while only scoring 36 points in the 12 quarters the injured Winston has played in since the Cardinals game. Rookie Chris Godwin replaces Mike Evans in the lineup, and expect tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard to see the ball plenty of times as the focus for the Jets’ secondary turns to stopping DeSean Jackson.

Head coach and offensive play-caller Dirk Koetter wisely turned to north-south runner Peyton Barber when Doug Martin struggled in New Orleans, carrying the ball eight times for seven yards, which was the worst running performance of his NFL career. Martin doesn’t trust his blocking upfront, and rightfully so, but Barber has a penchant for putting his head down, following his blocks and at least getting a yard or two and making something out of nothing. That puts the Bucs into second-and-8 situations, which are better than second-and-12. Martin will get the start, but expect to see a good deal of Barber, too.

On defense, Tampa Bay will need to stop former Bucs quarterback Josh McCown, who has completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 1,980 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. McCown is also a threat to scramble, so pencil him in for a rushing and passing touchdown on Sunday and he’ll complete 75 percent of his passes because the Bucs don’t have a pass rush. Do you have faith in Will Clarke and Darryl Tapp getting to McCown? No, me neither.

Jets receivers Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse have nearly identical statistics with 31 catches apiece for around 400 yards (Anderson has 483, Kearse has 380) and each has four touchdowns. Cornerback Brent Grimes could return to action this week to replace Robert McClain, who injured a hamstring in practice, with Ryan Smith outside and Vernon Hargreaves remaining in the slot. Smith could get his first career interception off McCown, who is bound to throw one bone-headed pick.

But the player the Bucs need to shut down is former Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who leads the team with 33 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll catch a touchdown on Sunday and do the Captain Morgan pose in the end zone – and not be penalized for it this time.

With Matt Forte out, the Jets will lean on Bilal Powell (390 yards, four TDs) and rookie Elijah McGuire (237 yards, 1 TD) to balance their offense. Powell has a 75-yard run and McGuire has a 69-yard run this year, so the Bucs will need to do a much better job of tackling this week than they showed in last week’s pitiful showing in New Orleans.
Reynolds’ Score Prediction: Jets Win 23-17
Reynolds’ Pick-To-Click: TE Cameron Brate

PewterReport.com Editor and Bucs Beat Writer Mark Cook
Well here we are at 2-6. Yep. And ready to go to 2-7.

As Reynolds mentioned this game does have the feel of a preseason game. No starting quarterback, wide receiver, missing lineman on offense and defense, this game could turn really ugly. The Jet’s aren’t the Eagles or Patriots, however they did beat the Bills last week, something the Buccaneers couldn’t do with all of their regular starters three weeks ago.

We are about to see if this team has in fact already packed it in for 2016. No I don’t mean just if the Bucs lose. Down that many starters, losing this game wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, however I mean what kind of effort will we see? The Bucs paid big money for a backup quarterback for this type of scenario that they hoped would never happen. Will the offense try and rally around Ryan Fitzpatrick?

I also wonder how many Bucs fans will bother to show up. Have the fans checked out on 2017 as well? I get it if many have. This team showed so much promise on paper before the season, and once again the fans have been let down. Sure we all probably had too high of expectations for this team heading into the season, but fans SHOULD have high expectations. Fans have that right. Heck, even Browns and 49er fans went into the season with hope. That is why they are fans.

The crazy thing is, while I don’t expect the Bucs to win on Sunday, it wouldn’t completely shock me if they did either. Regardless of who is in street clothes watching from the sideline, there is a still talent on this team. Former Buc Josh McCown is still under center for the Jets. New York is a 4-5 football team, not an 8-1 football team.

We are past must wins for the Bucs. This isn’t a must win. But it is a must effort. While we can pin a ton of blame on the scheme, the play calling and basic coaching, the players still have a job to do, and if I am the owners I am watching the makeshift combination of starters on both sides of the ball closely. The paycheck on Tuesday they sign is the same as the ones they signed when this team was 2-1. Effort doesn’t take talent. Hustle and want to don’t require a great game plan. Be professional. Come to work and do your job. Even if the person lined up in front of you is better. Show some pride. Who wants to be here next year?

I am going with the Jets, mainly because I just won’t pick the Bucs to win again until they actually do. I expect Doug Martin to have a good game. I believe he sees the writing on the wall. Peyton Barber coming in last week wasn’t because of injury. This team is looking for better play. But Martin has always responded with his back against the wall. Let’s see if he comes out with something to prove on Sunday. And maybe the hype we saw with Chris Godwin in training camp translates into production as he fills in for a suspended Mike Evans. And maybe, just maybe, the offensive line decides to play up to their potential and rallies behind Fitzpatrick who is playing his former team.
Cook’s Score Prediction: Jets Win 28-16
Cook’s Pick-To-Click: RB Doug Martin

PewterReport.com Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema
This week we have a battle of the former quarterbacks as Josh McCown, Bucs quarterback in 2014, faces off against Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets quarterback from 2015-2016, now both on opposite teams.

The offense isn’t going to look pretty for Tampa Bay, but the scoreboard will likely look better with Fitzpatrick under center instead of Jameis Winston – hear me out. Winston was a broken man last week. Whether it was his shoulder, his surroundings, the mental stress he’s clearly put on himself or a combination of all of that, Winston just could not get it done. It seemed like he needed a break mentally as much as physically.

When Fitzpatrick came in for Winston in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals, he actually got the ball moving for some points. The same was said last week in New Orleans when he threw the team’s only touchdown. I expect the same to happen this week. I think Fitzpatrick is going to play an “ugly” style that’s less pretty than what was designed for Winston, but Fitzpatrick is still going to sling it, mistakes or not. That could give the Bucs a better chance than they’ve had the last two weeks, even with no Mike Evans this week. Winston’s been so stressed out that he hasn’t been able to process things, and therefore has played very poorly. Fitzpatrick’s teammates said his calm attitude is one of his best traits. It might be a breath of fresh air this week.

On the flip side, the Bucs will likely be starting Ryan Smith, Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves at the three cornerback positions. Robert McClain returned from his concussion last week, but was downgraded to doubtful this week at practice due to a hamstring injury.

The key matchup on defense, to me, is containing Jets’ wide receiver Robby Anderson. He’s a big-play receiver who can really hurt you down the field. If it were me, I’d stick Smith on him, but we’ll see.

Fitzpatrick is the guy who holds it all in his hands, but, as we say every week, if this team can’t get better at blocking or run stopping, none of these “x-factors” matter. Because they’ve been so poor in both trenches, I simply can’t pick them, even at home against a less talented team. The Bucs will be out-coached again.
Sikkema’s Score Prediction: Jets Win 24-13
Sikkema’s Pick-To-Click: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

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About the Author: Mark Cook

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, the beach and family time.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 mark@pewterreport.com
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3 years ago

Wellit doesn’t take a rocket scientist here as to whoever uses the short passing game over and over will win. Will the Bucs do it? No will the Jets do it? Yes. Okay now for some hope? If Mike Smith decided to bring his DB’s much closer to the LOS and force McCown to throw more than 10-15 yards plus send 5 to rush we win! If Dirk Koetter would throw short and utilize his TE’s and RB, and WR’s come back to the ball in the short game we Win! The sad news is there is really little hope… Read more »

3 years ago

In the words of Clubber Lang, “my prediction….. pain”

3 years ago

I agree that this is a “must effort” week for the team.

Yes, I think many of the fans have already packed it in. There was much hype during the preseason. But, we fans had a right to expect an improvement over last season. That does not seem unreasonable to me.

Go Bucs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 years ago

I’ve been skeptical about this team, staff and organization all year but this is a winnable game and we’ve already lost several other winnable games so I’m betting that we find a way to win this time. If Fitz can limit himself to one turnover at home against a team like the Jets we should win. On the flip side if the team really rolls over and gets handled by the Jets it could (appropriately) cement JL’s fate. What I’m increasingly concerned about is the scouts, had thought we’d be better post Hickey but what if all we can attract… Read more »

3 years ago

I predic