HERE WE GO AGAIN!
It’s Round 3 between Tom Brady and the Bucs versus Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s tied 1-1 and this one could be their last meeting, barring a Super Bowl LV rematch in Arizona. Both teams are 2-1 on the season heading into this game, with both teams coming off of close losses.
These are two teams struggling to find their identities right now. The Bucs have been battling injuries to their offense, but their defense has been lights out. The Chiefs are still trying to figure out life after Tyreek. This could be a statement win for either team. For the Bucs, it would be a quality win over one of the best teams in the AFC. For the Chiefs, it would be a strong road win over one of the best teams in the NFC.
Both teams have division matchups next week, the Chiefs with the Raiders and the Bucs with the Falcons. But first, they both have business to take care of Sunday night. It’s a primetime matchup on primetime television right here in Tampa Bay under the lights of Raymond James Stadium. So here’s everything that you might need to know about the Bucs versus the Chiefs in this Week 4 clash of the titans.
Kansas City started the season off with a convincing 44-21 win over the Cardinals (1-2) in Arizona. In Week 2, they beat the Chargers (1-2) 27-24 in a close division game at home. Last week, they lost a close one 20-17 to the Colts (1-1-1) in Indy. The Bucs are the first team they’ve faced with a winning record this season, so it will be a good litmus test for where they are as a team.
So far, Patrick Mahomes has been lighting it up WITHOUT Tyreek Hill in the offense averaging nearly 286 yards per game with 8 touchdowns and just 1 interception. They haven’t been a very balanced offense so far this season. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is their leading rusher with 116 yards (39 ypg), while Travis Kelce (230 yards) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (178 yards) are their leading receivers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE – WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
He’s the biggest offensive threat on this football team right now besides tight end Travis Kelce. The Bucs defense will shut down the Chiefs’ rushing attack and they could get behind early, so Mahomes may be slinging it around quite a bit in this game. If he does, this will be the guy the “Gravediggers” need to keep from going off.
DEFENSE – DE George Karlaftis
With Mike Danna officially out for this game, Karlaftis should get the start at right end. He’ll either be matched up with a Donovan Smith who’s coming off an elbow injury (he’s a gametime decision) or a Brandon Walton who’s coming off of a disappointing performance against the Packers.
Tampa Bay has not been healthy since the start of training camp. Injuries at wide receiver and offensive line have crippled this offense that was supposed to be record-breaking this season. Despite that, they have managed to go 2-1 against the Cowboys, Saints (both on the road) and Packers outscoring them 51-25 in the process. That’s WITHOUT Chris Godwin, Donovan Smith and Julio Jones for most of those games AND without Mike Evans last week due to that bogus suspension. That should tell all the other teams in the NFL that when or maybe if this team ever gets healthy and fields their actual starting offense, they’re in serious trouble. Especially if the defense continues playing this way.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE – WR Julio Jones
Once again, it looks like he’s a “gametime decision” this week. However, so is Chris Godwin. If Jones does play and Godwin is out, he could end up getting plenty of opportunities playing opposite Mike Evans.
DEFENSE – DT Logan Hall
With Akiem Hicks out, he’s getting more snaps and he is taking advantage of them. Last Sunday, the rookie notched his first NFL sack and it was against one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Look for him to keep making more plays as he gets more and more opportunities.
1. Lavonte David vs Travis Kelce
We saw this matchup multiple times in SBLV and David won most of them. This could end up being Antoine Winfield’s assignment as the new nickel safety, but David might be the better fit.
2. Carlton Davis vs JuJu Smith-Schuster
As I said before, Smith-Schuster might be the Chiefs biggest threat on offense after Kelce and he could get plenty of looks on Sunday. Davis doesn’t typically follow the opposing team’s #1 receiver because in Bowles defense, the corners play either the left or right side of the field. However, when JuJu is lined up on Davis’ side, it should be a fun matchup to watch.
3. Luke Goedeke vs Derrick Nnadi
The rookie has been playing pretty well so far this season, but he’ll get tested by another good one on Sunday being lined up across from Nnadi.
The only player officially “OUT” for this game is DT Akiem Hicks (knee). The Bucs have one player listed as “DOUBTFUL“, which is WR Breshad Perriman (knee/hamstring). They have four players listed as “QUESTIONABLE” including WR Russell Gage (hamstring), WR Chris Godwin (hamstring), WR Julio Jones (knee) and LT Donovan Smith (elbow). Apparently, Godwin, Jones and Smith are all going to be gametime decisions.
The Chiefs now have two players officially ruled “OUT” for this game, which are DE Mike Danna (calf) and K Harrison Butker (ankle). The only other players listed on their injury report are all “QUESTIONABLE” and include DE Joshua Kaindoh (illness) and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (abdomen).
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Start fast!
In each game so far this season, the Bucs have gotten off to slow starts on both sides of the ball. The defense has given up 13 of their 25 points on opposing team’s opening drive in those three games. On the other side, the offense has scored just 6 points in the first quarters of their first three games. Both sides need to be better at the start of games and it needs to start Sunday night against the Chiefs.
2. Be consistent!
The offense has been terrible on third down this season. They’re only converting 28.6% of them, which is near the bottom of the league. In fact, only four teams are worse. They have to be better converting first downs and keeping drives alive, not only to start putting more points on the board but to give the defense a little more rest on the sideline.
3. Pressure Patrick!
The last time these two teams met, the Bucs defense was relentless finishing with 3 sacks, 9 QB hits and countless pressures on Mahomes forcing 2 interceptions. He never felt comfortable in the pocket that night and the Bucs need another defensive performance like that one just in case the offense doesn’t deliver.
ODDS & ENDS
Kansas City +1 and Over/Under is 45.5
This is the game. This is where the Buccaneers offense that we were all expecting shows up. They get some key pieces back and they want to give the home fans a good showing after last week’s home loss to Green Bay. They also want to lift everyone’s spirits after dealing with Hurricane Ian over the last few days. The Chiefs score early, but they eventually get shut down and this one becomes a blowout. Bucs win.
Bucs 34 Chiefs 13
THE WRAP UP
This is the first time the Chiefs have been to Tampa since being pummeled by the Bucs in Super Bowl LV. They might come into this game with aspirations of some kind of revenge for that loss. But the Buccaneers have something to play for too. They are playing for all the victims of Hurricane Ian. They are playing for the families that lost loved ones. The families that lost their homes. The families who are still without power. They are playing for everyone who has spent the last three days cleaning up their yards and picking up the pieces of their lives after the storm. They are playing for everyone who needs to escape from the reality of a disaster and just forget about it for a few hours. That’s who they’re playing for and that’s why they’re gonna win.
So now that you know everything you need to know about the Bucs Week 4 matchup on Sunday Night Football, there’s only one thing left to say.