February 2, 2023

Bucs Life

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ON THE CLOCK! Week 15 : Bucs vs Bengals

8 min read

IT’S GUT CHECK TIME!

Or maybe it’s just time to check the pulse of this team. Do they still have a heartbeat? Is it still “One Team, One Cause” or are those days long gone? Since returning from Germany, the Buccaneers are 1-2 while averaging a pitiful 13.6 points per game on offense on offense. They can’t score on offense. They can’t get off the field on defense. The injury situation has gone from bad to worse and moved from offense to defense. This team is a mess. But still, they somehow hold a one game lead in the NFC South over the Carolina Panthers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at 6-7, still have a chance at winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in team history and making the playoffs. Whatever that means this season. So with that being said, let’s dive into both of these teams to check out this Week 15 matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-4)

The Bengals are one of the NFL’s hottest teams having won five straight games and seven of their last eight while averaging 28 points per game on offense during that span. Their offense is currently ranked 5th averaging 372 total yards and 26 points per game. The 4th ranked passing offense averages 268 yards through the air, while the 25th ranked rushing offense averages just 104 yards on the ground. Joe Burrow has totaled 3,685 yards, 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while completing 68% of his passes. Joe Mixon leads the team in rushing with 701 yards and 6 touchdowns averaging 4.1 yards per carry. And they have three players with 650+ receiving yards including Tee Higgins (861yds/5tds), Ja’Marr Chase (821yds/7tds) and Tyler Boyd (655yds/4tds), all averaging 13+ yards per catch.

Their 14th ranked defense is allowing 331 total yards and 20 points per game. The 20th ranked passing offense is giving up 220 yards through the air, while the 10th ranked rushing defense is giving up 111 yards per game on the ground. Their leading tackler is linebacker Logan Wilson with 91 tackles this season. Defensive end Sam Hubbard leads the team in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (11). Safety Von Bell leads the team in passes defensed (7) and interceptions (4), with their other safety Jesse Bates III just behind him with 6 and 3 respectively.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

OFFENSE : WR Ja’Marr Chase

Tee Higgins may be leading the Bengals in receiving, but Chase is just 40 yards behind him. Chase also has 12 more targets and 4 more catches in four fewer games. He’s still got that connection with Burrow that they shared in college and it shows week in and week out. With Tampa Bay’s secondary shredded with injuries, Chase could end up having a big day.

DEFENSE : DE Sam Hubbard

He leads the Bengals in sacks and tackles for loss from his left defensive end position. That means that he’ll be matched up with either Josh Wells or Tristan Wirfs who’s coming off of that ankle injury and is still a gametime decision. With Trey Hendrickson out on the other side, Cincy will be relying on Hubbard to get pressure on Tom Brady today.

 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-7)

Historically bad. That’s how this 2022 Buccaneers offense will be remembered. Despite all the playmakers. Despite having “The GOAT” at quarterback. Despite averaging 30 points per game for their two previous seasons. This year’s offense will go down as one of the worst, if not the worst in franchise history. As of right now, they are ranked 18th averaging 339 total yards and 17.2 points per game. It’s the worst scoring offense that Tampa Bay has had in 13 years. That 17.2 points per game is the lowest average by ANY Tom Brady led offense in his 23-year career. They have scored 22 points or less in nine straight games, the longest streak by ANY Tom Brady led offense. Only three teams (Rams, Texans, Broncos) are scoring less points per game than this year’s Bucs. And he’s not getting any help from the last ranked run game, which is averaging just 73 yards per game. That’s 13 yards less than the next worst running team, the LA Chargers (85 yards per game). It’s also the 9th lowest average of ANY NFL team in the modern Super Bowl era.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

Tom Brady now has 3,585 yards, 17 touchdowns and 5 interceptions while completing 66% of his passes. Those numbers are almost half of what his usual totals are 13 games into the season. Leonard Fournette still leads the team in rushing with 524 yards and 3 touchdowns averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Mike Evans still leads the team in receiving with 805 yards and 3 touchdowns. This offense has to get something going at some point. It’s too talented not to. Hopefully, that’ll be this week.

Despite giving up 35 points to the 49ers last week, the Bucs defense is still ranked 8th in the league, allowing 321 total yards and 19.5 points per game. The 5th ranked pass defense is allowing just 195 yards through the air, while the 21st ranked run defense is giving up 125 yards on the ground. They could take another pounding there today, facing the Bengals Joe Mixon WITHOUT run-stopper Vita Vea in the middle. The defense is trying to carve out their own piece of franchise history by being one of the worst defenses in team history at forcing turnovers. They now have just 12 through 13 games this season. Devin White (99) and Lavonte David (95) lead the team in tackles. White is also just one sack behind team leader Vita Vea (6.5) with 5.5 sacks and he leads the team in tackles for loss (8) as well. Carlton Davis III (7) is tied with Jamel Dean for the team lead in passes defensed, while Mike Edwards (2) is tied with Dean for the team lead in interceptions. Unfortunately, Dean has been ruled out for this game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

OFFENSE : WR Mike Evans

He’s due for a big game and I think it’s this week. He’s just 195 yards shy of his 9th straight 1,000 yard season with three games left and I think he’ll get a big chunk of that today. He’s also flirting with his lowest touchdown total since 2017 when he finished with just 5 touchdowns for the year. He only has three right now, but look for him to add a couple more to that total today.

DEFENSE : LB Devin White

He’s another guy that I feel like is in for a big day. He had a terrible game in San Francisco last week where he finished with just 5 tackles. I think he bounces back in a big way today, maybe even creating a turnover or two.

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Right Tackle vs Sam Hubbard

Whether it’s Josh Wells or Tristan Wirfs at less than 100%, whoever is at right tackle for the Bucs today has got to keep Hubbard from wreaking havoc in the backfield. Brady has enough to worry about on Donovan Smith’s side, he doesn’t need to worry about his right side too.

2. Mike Evans vs Eli Apple

When these two ever lineup across from each other, it will be a serious mismatch. Apple doesn’t have the skillset to keep Evans contained, so I’m expecting BIG numbers from “BIG MIKE” today.

3. #2 CB vs Tee Higgins

With Jamel Dean out for this game, someone will have to step up and show they want to be a cornerback. Whether it’s Sean Murphy-Bunting, who looks like a gametime decision right now, or rookie Zyon McCollum, someone has to shutdown the other side of the field opposite Davis.

 

INJURY REPORTS

Buccaneers

The Bucs have four players already ruled “OUT” for this game including outside linebackers Genard Avery (abdominal) and Carl Nassib (pectoral), cornerback Jamel Dean (toe) and defensive tackle Vita Vea (calf). They have six other who are listed as “QUESTIONABLE” and “gametime decisions” including safeties Mike Edwards (hamstring) and Antoine Winfield Jr (ankle), wide receiver Julio Jones (knee), cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadricep), offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle) and outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (hip).

Bengals

Cincinnati is hurting too, although maybe not to the extent of Tampa Bay. They already have three players ruled “OUT” for this game including defensive end Trey Hendrickson (wrist), cornerback Mike Hilton (knee) and tight end Hayden Hurst (calf). Cornerback Jalen Davis (thumb) is listed as “DOUBTFUL” and also in danger of missing the game. They have three more players listed as “QUESTIONABLE” on their final injury report including wide receivers Tee Higgins (hamstring), Tyler Boyd (finger) and Trent Taylor (hamstring).

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. SLOW THE JOE’S!

The Bucs defense has to keep Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon from taking over this game. Period. If they let either of those guys get on a roll, this game will be over since the Bucs offense can’t score more than 17 points.

2. RUN THE DANG BALL!

The best and easiest way to “SLOW THE JOE’S” is to keep the ball out of their hands. The best and easiest way to do that is to run the ball and control the clock. Sustain drives and keep that Bengals offense off the field and the Bucs have a chance at the upset.

3. SCORE POINTS!

If the defense can’t “SLOW THE JOE’S“, then the offense will have to keep pace with one of the top offenses in the league. That means scoring touchdowns instead of field goals in the redzone.

ODDS & ENDS

Odds :  Bengals -3.5/Bucs +3.5 and Over/Under is 44.5 points

WHEN & WHERE TO WATCH

When : Sunday, December 18th @ 4:25p ET

Where : Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida

TV : CBS, NFL+   Radio : 97.9 FM, 98 Rock

WEATHER FORECAST

Low 60’s at kickoff, partly sunny with 0% chance of rain

SCORE PREDICTION

The outcome of this game will depend on which Buccaneers team decides to show up. If it’s the team that wants to win from Weeks 1 and 2 and Germany, then this will be a close competitive game. If it’s the team from almost any other week, then we’ll be looking at another blowout. I’m predicting my score accordingly. The first score shows the result of the BAD Bucs team showing up. The second is if the GOOD Bucs show up. This is either going to be a nail-biter or a heartbreaker for Bucs fans. Whether they win or lose, I’m still not giving this team more than 17 points until they prove that they can score more than that on a consistent basis.

Bengals  26   Bucs  13     OR     Bucs  17   Bengals  16

THE WRAP UP

The Bengals are 3-0 versus NFC South teams this season and Joe Burrow has shredded the other teams to the tune of 987 yards and 7 touchdowns with zero interceptions, while completing a scorching 79% of his passes. The hobbled Bucs defense will have their hands full today. The good news is that they will be getting a few of their injured secondary players back today, which will help. The Buccaneers need this one. They can’t fall two games below .500 with a 6-8 record. Not only would it be demoralizing, but it would give the Carolina Panthers a chance to take over the #1 spot in the division and put the Bucs in danger of missing the playoffs. In a season where they began as heavy favorites to win the entire NFC and go to the Super Bowl, that would be a massive disappointment. At least it would be for Bucs fans. I’m not so sure about the players. They have a chance to show how much they care about winning and want to win right here today. We’ll see which Bucs team shows up or at least see who doesn’t show up today soon enough.

So now that you know everything you need to know about today’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals, there’s just one thing left to say.

CINCINNATI BENGALS, YOUR ASS IS ON THE CLOCK!