After a thrilling overtime stunner against the Falcons on enemy turf, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be looking for a rare commodity in their world. While the Buccaneers almost lost it in overtime, the defense came through against Atlanta. Now, Tampa is looking for their first back to back victory in what feels like decades.
If you listened to any of the post-win locker room celebrations, Lovie Smith always brings it up. Now, it’s about streaking. This league is built on streaks, and the Bucs are in dire need of a winning streak for once. They’ve proven they’re capable of winning, but now they have to prove consistency. How will they handle the red hot New York Giants in Raymond James?
Offensive Outlook: Touchdown to Mike Evans Times Infinite
One of the biggest struggles for the Giants so far this season has been their inability to create a pass rush. They seem threatening because they’re leading their division and just came within a single point of dropping a fifty-burger on the Saints, but take a step back and think about that. The Giants allowed Drew Brees and the incredibly flawed Saints offense to drop 52 points on them. Before last week, the Saints hadn’t scored more than 31 points in a game.
The Giants are dead last in the league in total yards per game allowed and passing yards per game allowed. Their ranking for rushing is slightly more respectable, but I’d imagine it’s a product of teams knowing they can throw all over them and may need to keep the score high. Meanwhile, similar to New Orleans, the Giants hadn’t scored more than 32 points in a game this season until last week. This leaves the Buccaneers offense with a unique opportunity to make a statement against a shaky defense in a key afternoon game.
The offense, like always, will need to build on the consistency of Doug Martin. The reliability of the run game, and the threat it poses, is as crucial as ever in a game that could be as high-scoring as this one. Jameis Winston will need to take care of the football, and deliver when the time comes. Injuries still mangle the receiving depth, so it will fall again on Mike Evans to lead the pack. Younger threats like Cameron Brate and Donteea Dye will need to complement the threat of Evans and catch their targets.
Defensive Outlook: Force Turnovers, Protect the Red Zone
Eli Manning’s stat-line is deceiving thanks to last week’s mess. It would be impressive to be a veteran with 17 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, but six of those touchdowns came last week. Before squaring off against the defenseless Saints, Eli was 11 touchdowns for 4 interceptions. He’s been relatively safe with the ball, but not untouchable. The defense will need to build on Kwon Alexander’s emotional and game-changing performance last week. With the loss of Clinton McDonald, the pass rush will have to step up now more than ever.
If they allow Eli to pass, they must pick their spots. As Chris of Bucs Brief said so quaintly earlier this week, #YardsAintPoints. Last week, the Buccaneers allowed Matt Ryan to throw for just shy of 400 yards. However, they held the Falcons to a mere 20 points throughout the game. Crucial turnovers, and red zone defense were the difference maker here, and that will ring true again with New York. Eli Manning will hit Odell Beckham Jr. with some impressive throws, and they’ll definitely get yards.
In order to control that, Tampa Bay must make sure those yards don’t turn into touchdowns. Fortunately, the Giants have one of the weakest rushing attacks in the league. This should cut down on the likelihood of the linebackers biting on fakes for fear of massive rushing plays. While they’ve allowed sub-par backs to get yards earlier in the season, this has been improved on in recent games. The defense has made important strides, and they can easily hold Eli in check if they continue that.
Dealin’ With Tha’ X-Factor (Oh, I know you hate the X-Factor, but you ain’t gotta look at me like that)
Last week, the x-factor of the game was easily Kwon Alexander. The rookie made an impact felt all around the league in one of the most emotionally trying moments of his young life, and that momentum fired up the defense like never before. This week, that fire will need to continue, but improved play will be needed from two veterans. Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy are this week’s x-factors. David’s play has been respectable, but not at the level most Bucs fans know he can perform at.
Meanwhile, Gerald McCoy will be leading a line that is without the consistent threat provided by Clinton McDonald. McCoy’s brute force, pass rush, and leadership will be more important than ever to ensure the line doesn’t suffer a significant step backward in performance level. Against a veteran like Eli Manning, McCoy knows the threat he can pose when he gets hot. While the Bucs can contain him, it remains to be seen if they will. Kwon Alexander may be able to continue to play lights out and light a fire under this defense, but McCoy and David need to step their play up as well.
Predictive MVPs: Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander
Score Prediction: Buccaneers win, 31-17.