TIME TO GO FOR THREE IN A ROW!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) are traveling north, way north, to play the Cleveland Browns (3-7) on Sunday. The Bucs won two straight before heading into their Week 11 bye. The Browns have lost two straight since coming out of their Week 9 bye. Two different streaks for two very different teams. The Buccaneers offense is dependent upon their passing game. The Browns offense is dependent upon their running game. The Buccaneers run defense is ranked 16th, while the Browns pass defense is ranked 15th. Which one of them steps up?
The story for this game could end up being the weather. The forecast for Sunday in Cleveland is a high of 56 with 100% chance of rain and winds between 15-25 mph. High winds and rain mixed with wet, muddy field conditions is not a good combination for the Bucs passing offense. However, it’s right up the Browns alley. It’ll be interesting to see if Tampa Bay can overcome the elements and come out of Cleveland with their third straight win.
The Browns are 3-7 after losing two straight following their Week 9 bye. With their eventual starting quarterback Deshaun Watson serving the final game of his 11-game suspension this week, the Browns will once again be going with NFL journeyman Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. In 10 games this season, he’s totaled 2,398 yards, 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while completing 64% of his passes. They will no doubt be leaning on running back Nick Chubb and their 5th ranked rushing attack averaging 150+ yards per game to control this game. However, they are ranked 4th in total offense averaging 378 total yards and 24 points per game.
The Browns defense is ranked 19th allowing 350 total yards and 27 points per game. Only one team, the Detroit Lions (28.2) is allowing more points per game than Cleveland right now. They’ve given up 30+ points in five of their ten games this season. The Browns are ranked 29th in turnover differential with a -6 in that category. That means two things. They turn it over too much on offense (14) and they don’t force enough turnovers on defense (8).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE : RB Nick Chubb
I went with the obvious choice here. He’s the main focal point of a team that has the 5th ranked rushing offense in the NFL. The Bucs have to stop him and force Jacoby Brissett to beat them through the air if they want to win this game.
DEFENSE : DE Myles Garrett
I know, it’s another obvious pick by me, but it’s the truth. He’s the best passrusher on their team. If the Bucs can stop him from being a gamewrecker, then it gives their offense a better chance to get things going.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs are 5-5 coming out of their Week 11 bye and we’re about to find out if that bye was a good thing or a bad thing. The bye week could’ve been good for the Bucs giving them an extra week to rest some of the veterans and get some of the injured guys healthy. On the other hand, it came at a bad time right in the middle of a 2-game win streak and possibly slowed down any momentum the team might have had going. Sunday’s game against the Browns will answer that question.
Tampa Bay’s prolific offense from the last two years is gone. What was once a top five offense scoring 30 points per game is now ranked 17th averaging just 340 total yards and 18 points per game. They may be 5th in passing offense averaging 270 yards per game, but their rushing attack is dead last ranked 32nd averaging just 70 yards per game.
Their defense is getting back on track after not showing up for a few weeks. They are now 8th allowing just 310 total yards and 18 points per game. Believe it or not, their pass defense has been better and more consistent than their run defense this season giving up just 193 passing yards per game. The Run D that has been in the top five since Todd Bowles took over is currently ranked 16th allowing 117 yards per game. However, those numbers would be much better had they not allowed 189 yards to the Chiefs in Week 4, 151 yards to the Falcons in Week 5, 173 yards to the Panthers in Week 7 and 231 yards to the Ravens in Week 8. Other than that lapse in defense during a stretch where they lost three straight and five of six games, the defense has played pretty well.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
OFFENSE : RB Rachaad White
With Leonard Fournette “doubtful” for this game, rookie running back Rachaad White will likely get his second career start on Sunday. All he did in his first career start was rush for the first 100-yard game of his career. He has a chance for another one going up against the Browns 24th ranked run defense allowing 135 yards per game on the ground.
DEFENSE : DT Logan Hall
With Vita Vea battling a foot injury and possibly being on a snap count on Sunday, Hall could have an opportunity to play more snaps. I really want to see this kid come alive in these last 7 games. No question he’s got the talent and the athleticism, he just needs more plays.
1. Mike Evans vs Martin Emerson Jr.
Browns starting cornerback Greg Newsome is officially “out” for this game, which means Emerson will be thrust into a starting role where he’ll be asked to cover one of the best receivers in football. It’s not a fair fight. If Tom Brady has enough time to throw it and the weather isn’t too bad, it could be a big game for him and his receivers.
2. Bucs D-line vs Nick Chubb
The Bucs have to stop the run in this game. The Browns have the 5th ranked rushing offense in the NFL averaging 151 yards per game. Chubb is a big part of that totaling 923 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The Bucs defense, on the other hand, has allowed an average of just 53 rushing yards per game over their last two games.
3. Tristan Wirfs vs Myles Garrett
Wirfs might be the best right tackle in the NFL right now having gone 354 passblocking snaps without giving up a QB pressure. Garrett is one of the most elite passrushers in the game and has 8.5 sacks in 10 games this season. It should be fun to watch these two battle on Sunday.
The Buccaneers have ruled “OUT” two players with their final injury report, including guard Luke Goedeke (foot) and receiver Russell Gage (hamstring). The only other player is running back Leonard Fournette (hip) who is listed as “DOUBTFUL“, but has now been downgraded to officially “OUT” for this game.. Vita Vea (foot) is listed as “QUESTIONABLE” on the report, but he’s back practicing and should play on Sunday. With Fournette now out, the Bucs have activated Giovanni Bernard to the 53-man roster so he will be available as well.
As long as the Browns final injury report is, they only have one player ruled “OUT” for the game in cornerback Greg Newsome (concussion).
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Control the line of scrimmage!
Establish the run to setup the play action pass on offense and stop the run on defense. That all starts up front in the trenches. It might be rainy and windy too, so that could make the run game even more of an emphasis. Run the football and you control the clock. Control the clock and you have a better chance of controlling the game.
2. Do your job!
No more, no less. Just do your job and trust that the guys beside you will do their’s as well. That’s it.
3. Get the offense going!
This offense has to get rolling. They’ve only scored more than 22 points one time this season and that was against the Chiefs. For a team that averaged about 30 points per game over the last two years, that’s crazy.
ODDS & ENDS
Bucs -3.5/Browns +3.5 & the Over/Under is 42.5 points
WHEN & WHERE
Date : Sunday, November 27
Kickoff : 1pm ET
Where : FirstEnergy Stadium
TV : FOX Radio : 98 Rock/97.9 FM
Around 50 degrees and windy with a 100% chance of rain
The Bucs are hot and the Browns are not. Both of these teams have streaks going. The Bucs would like to keep both of them going. The Browns would prefer to put an end to both. Something has to give here. I think the Bucs keep things rolling in the right direction with their third straight win.
Bucs 23 Browns 13
THE WRAP UP
This game will be a test. Don’t let the Browns 3-7 record fool you into thinking this will be an easy win for the surging Bucs. Four of their seven losses have been by 3 points or less, so they could just as easily be 7-3 and tied with the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North right now. There are plenty of things the Bucs need to overcome to win this game. A top 5 rushing attack. Inclement weather. Poor field conditions. Traveling on the road. Coming off of a bye. The hostile environment of “The Dawg Pound“. It won’t be easy. But it is possible. So now that you know everything you need to know about the Bucs Week 12 matchup this Sunday, there’s only one thing left to say.