All eyes will be on Tampa Bay on Sunday, when the Bucs host the Bills in a Week 14 battle of Super Bowl favorites. After two consecutive losses, the Bucs are back on track, winning three straight by a combined 40 points. Tampa Bay sits at 9-3 and in complete divisional control with five games left on the schedule.

The Bills haven’t lost back-to-back games all season, but they’ve alternated wins and losses since Week 5. Buffalo’s inconsistency on offense has been puzzling, but their defense remains one of the best in the league. At 7-5, the Bills sit at second place in the AFC East, but remain a favorite to make the Super Bowl. Four of their losses went down to the wire. They’re a much better team than their record indicates.

With a victory, plus Saints and Panthers’ losses, the Bucs will win the NFC South. They’ll know if that crown is on the table by the time kickoff occurs, as their divisional foes play at 1 pm.

Here’s three burning questions heading into Week 14:

1. Can The Bucs Stop The Bills Play-Action Attack?

Bills QB Josh Allen

Bills QB Josh Allen – Photo by: USA Today

The Bills are tied for the fifth-most frequent play-action passing team in the NFL. Josh Allen’s breakout as a quarterback occurred due to this approach, and it remains a strength in 2021. Allen has 15 big-time throws off play-action this season, per PFF. The next closest quarterback has nine. Allen also tends to target a lot of chunk plays off play-action, with an average depth of target of 11.2 yards. That’s second-furthest in the NFL.

If the Bucs are going to have success defensively, they need to stop Buffalo’s play-action attack. This season, play-action heavy quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke have had great games against Todd Bowles’ defense. The Bucs have been good about not allowing splash plays this season, but Buffalo will be a much greater test than they’ve faced since Week 3. Tampa Bay must find ways to create pressure despite play-action, or it will be a long day against Allen and co.

2. Will Tampa Bay’s Pass Rush Finish Plays?

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Giants QB Daniel Jones

Bucs OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Giants QB Daniel Jones – Photo by: USA Today

The Bucs have been good enough at creating pressure this season, but getting quarterbacks to the ground has been an adventure. Almost every quarterback they’ve faced has gotten away from a few point blank sacks, which often leads to big plays. Jason Pierre-Paul and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka have missed a combined 15 tackles, many of them on quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage. Devin White has been the biggest transgressor, with 15 whiffs by himself. At least five of those have been sacks he overran.

When it comes to quarterback elusiveness and strength, Allen is at the top of the list. He’s extremely hard to get on the ground, and if you’re undisciplined in your rush lanes, he’ll get out of the pocket and expose you. Allen can win with his arm and his legs, but he will hold the ball at times. His 2.84 seconds average time to throw is tied for 20th of 29 eligible quarterbacks, per PFF. Allen will give defenses a chance at sacks, but there are few better at eluding them and making plays too.

3. Can The Bucs Stay Patient On Offense?

Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Mike Evans

Bucs QB Tom Brady and WR Mike Evans – Photo by: USA Today

Patience has been a trait that has eluded Bruce Arians for most of his career as a play caller. But with Byron Leftwich and Tom Brady calling more of the in-game shots, the Bucs offense has found a way to dial things back too. Defenses are committing a ton of resources to making the Bucs throw underneath, and the team’s playmakers are obliging. Tampa Bay leads the NFL in yards after catch, and Brady has been careful not to force it deep this season.

Against the Bills, that will be imperative. Buffalo has the league’s top-ranked pass defense, a position they’ve held all season. They allow just 5.7 yards per pass attempt, by far the best mark in the league. In comparison, the Bucs rank sixth in this category – but a whole YARD behind the Bills’ average. Crazy stuff. Buffalo has allowed just 20 pass play of 20+ yards this season, easily the NFL’s best mark.

The Bills haven’t faced an offense like Tampa Bay’s, but they’ve played some good units. Sunday will be the Bucs biggest test of the season on offense. If Tampa Bay can keep the quick passing attack rolling and cut down on drops and route-running mistakes, they’ll move the ball on offense. But if they fall in love with the deep ball, it could be an inefficient day for Leftwich’s group.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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6 months ago

They’re a much better team than their record indicates. Nope, you are what your record says what you are. It’s 100% about getting wins, and there are no style points for close losses. The winning mentality, i.e., the team refuses to lose, is what defines good teams. The Bucs won some close games at the end of last season, and on the road in the playoffs, with their only real buttkicking administered to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl at RayJay. Yet, the Bucs own rings from last season, unlike the Bills or any other team in the NFL. Buffalo… Read more »

6 months ago

Also, the Bills are missing their best corner, Tra’Davious White. It made no difference in last week’s loss to the Pats, since the Pats only passed a grand total of 3 times in the 60 mph winds in Buffalo on Monday night. But now, playing the Bucs in RayJay, the Bills are definitely going to miss their best cover corner. The Bills may well end up looking like a 7-6 team.

6 months ago

Bills are one dimensional. Their O is pass centric and their D is built to stop the pass. Not a great recipe for success against bad weather and/or good teams. But isn’t their O like the Bucs O? Well no, because the difference between the Bucs O and Buffalo is that Brady is far more patient than Allan will use short passes and dump-offs all day. Allan will get impatient and force balls. Also the Bucs O-line is better than the Bills and will gave Brady more time. On D the Bills passing stats are better because of their schedule… Read more »

6 months ago

The key to closing down their QB will be whether Devine White is near 100%. He did not look right last week.