The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won all five of their home games this year, and they’ll look to make it a perfect six-for-six when the Buffalo Bills roll into town on Sunday. The Bucs are 9-3 and look poised to defend last year’s Super Bowl title. The Bills, on the other hand, entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations only to find themselves clawing for a Wild Card spot at present.
If Buffalo is going to pull off a huge victory on the road this week, they’ll need to vanquish a familiar foe, albeit one whom they’ll face for the first time in his new duds. Here are the Buccaneers the Bills will need to stop this weekend.
QB Tom Brady
How is this guy still as good as he is? At 44 years old, most people have shown at least some sort of decline in their athletic ability, yet Brady keeps squaring up to Father Time and punching him squarely in the nose. The greatest of all time leads the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing attempts, and completed passes this year. He’s fourth in quarterback rating. He’s an absolute machine. The Bills will need to force some turnovers, and Brady has thrown ten interceptions thus far this year. Buffalo will also need to generate some pressure, preferably with their front four, to hurry Brady; however, he has been sacked on a league-low 2.7 percent of his drop backs this year. Look for the Bucs to test young CB Dane Jackson, who will have the misfortune of slowing either Mike Evans or Chris Godwin this week.
RB Leonard Fournette
The Bucs have an elite passing attack, and the Bills have an elite passing defense. That would point towards a possible stalemate; however, the Bills are without top corner Tre’Davious White. That could give Tampa Bay a bit of an edge in the passing game, but the Bills have also struggled with physical running backs at times this year. Leonard Fournette is averaging 4.4 yards per rush this season, and he’s scored seven rushing touchdowns, as well. He’s also second on the team in receptions, having hauled in 58 passes on the year. After the Bills allowed the New England Patriots to gain a total of 222 rushing yards last week, the Bucs will probably test Buffalo’s front early. Granted, we know that the Bills did a better job than some have given them credit for last week, but the perception is out there that the team can’t defend physical runners. They’ll have to prove that perception wrong this week.
WR Mike Evans
Speaking of physical players, the Bills often have trouble with big, strong wideouts even with a healthy Tre’Davious White. That’s not an encouraging sign for this week, as Evans is one of the biggest, strongest receivers in the league. At 6’5” and 231 lbs, Evans is significantly bigger and stronger than both Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson. While Evans trails Chris Godwin in both receptions (82 to 57) and receiving yards (949 to 794) by a fairly wide margin, I think he’s the bigger threat for a huge game on Sunday. After a week off from pass defending, the Bills’ corners are going to be put in as difficult a situation as they could possibly face.
DT Ndamukong Suh
Speaking of physical players the Bills tend not to handle well, Buffalo’s interior offensive line has been bull-rushed, dominated, manhandled—whatever descriptor you’d like to choose—repeatedly this year. Suh is one of the league’s best interior pass rushers, and he’s coming off a performance where he notched two sacks and four tackles against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Suh has six sacks and 13 quarterback hits this year. In Tampa’s last five games, Suh has five sacks and eight quarterback hits. He’s hit his stride at the perfect time for the Bucs, but the worst possible time for Buffalo.
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
Okay, I basically want to watch him because we kind of have the same name. But it’s more than that, too, as the Buccaneers have dealt with injuries in the secondary all season long, leaving Murphy-Bunting as the top option in the back end. Tampa has a dominant front-seven, but if the Bills can protect quarterback Josh Allen, there are weaknesses to exploit in the secondary. Tampa is No. 20 against the pass this year, and while that’s partially driven by injuries in the secondary, it’s also a product of the fact that they are so consistently ahead of teams that they have to throw to stay in the game. No team has faced more passing attempts (478) than the Bucs this year. Murphy-Bunting missed eight games with a dislocated elbow. He’s only managed two pass breakups on the year, allowing 17 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season.