The Buffalo Bills will face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this evening in what has the feel of a must-win game for the Bills. Despite sitting at 4-2 and in second place behind the AFC East-leading Miami Dolphins, plenty of people have been asking “What’s wrong with the Bills?” We’ve talked at length about what we think is wrong, and you can read more of my thoughts on that and more by following this link ahead of Buffalo’s game this evening. But given the short amount of time between last Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots and today’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we have some catching up do to with Florida’s NFC team.
This week, Bucs Nation beat writer Evan Wanish joined me to talk Bills-Bucs, where we covered everything from Tampa’s defensive success, thoughts on Baker Mayfield, how best to attack the Bucs on offense and stop their defense, players to keep an eye on, and Tampa Bay’s chances at covering/beating this week’s odds as underdogs in Orchard Park, NY for Thursday Night Football.
1. The Buccaneers have a stout defense, ranking fifth-best in points against (104 points / 17.3 p/g), and they’re really good against the run (575 rushing yards allowed in six games). What’s behind the defense’s success — their best attributes — and what do you believe they’ll leverage to their benefit against the Bills?
Well one of the reasons the Bucs are so good against the run is Vita Vea. He takes up so much space and draws double teams that allow his teammates to clean up behind him.
One thing the Bucs could try and use against the Bills’ offense is the speed of their linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White. Both players could essentially spy Josh Allen and make sure he doesn’t escape the pocket much and when he does, they are there quickly to make the tackle.
2. Baker Mayfield — many believe he’s in the midst of a career resurgence with the Buccaneers. Filling the shoes of one Tom Brady and finding meaningful success at the same time are no small feats. How do Bucs fans feel about Mayfield this season and moving forward — is he seen as just a short-term bridge at the position?
If you would have asked me this question three weeks ago it probably would have been a different answer. Baker Mayfield played well in the first four games of the season, but the previous two games have not been pretty. After a rough showing against the Detroit Lions, Mayfield improved but ultimately came up short including a brutal interception late in the game.
I will do my best to answer your question but the truth is it’s a difficult situation to truly have an answer for. There are many fans who are done with the Mayfield experiment but then there are some that still want to give him a shot. There’s a lot of football left to be played but Mayfield needs to find some positive consistency if he wants to stick around beyond this year.
3. If you were tasked with scheming to stop the Buccaneers on offense and find the best path to overtake their offense, what stands out most to you as each side’s biggest weakness?
Stopping the offense has been a bit simpler this year due to the Buccaneers’ putrid run game. Since they don’t pose much of a threat on the ground, you can sell out to stop the pass. I would stick to a Cover 2 look that prevents Mike Evans from getting anything down the field and then just be able to come up and make tackles when the Bucs dump it off to Godwin or White underneath.
As for the defense, an up-tempo offense has given them trouble, so I would look to do that at times and see how it goes. Getting Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis involved early is pretty important as well. For as good as this Bucs defense has been, they have been pretty bad on third down. Being able to convert third downs against this defense and keep them on the field is a huge key in this one.
4. Since the Bucs and Bills haven’t faced off in a several seasons, rosters for both teams look different. Apart from the household names (and those of fantasy fame), what players should Bills Mafia get to know, and pay attention to — one or more of each of offense and defense — during Thursday Night Football?
On offense, rookie wide receiver Trey Palmer has made some nice plays since being selected by Tampa Bay in the sixth round. With so much attention going to Evans and Godwin, Palmer could be someone to watch on Thursday night. Another player on offense is right tackle Luke Goedeke. After having a rough rookie season, Goedeke has bounced back in a huge way since moving over to right tackle. His development has been huge for the Bucs’ offense.
On defense, 19th overall pick Calijah Kancey just returned after missing a few games and has made an impact. It’s important for Tampa to have Kancey continue to develop along the interior of the defensive line. If all three of these players have good games, the Bucs could definitely make things interesting against Buffalo.
5. This week’s Thursday Night Football national spotlight game, the current odds favor the Buffalo Bills to come out victorious over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 8. As of writing, the Bucs are 8.5-point road dogs. Does the line seem fitting — despite the Bills’ struggles the last three weeks (1-2 three-week record) and now facing what feels like a must-win game — and do you think Tampa Bay will cover/beat the current odds?
I think the line reflects that of a Bucs team that just lost a game they really shouldn’t have. If they had won, it’s probably a bit lower — so 8.5 feels right. As far as the game goes, I just think Buffalo is going to be too much for the Bucs to handle. I don’t believe the Bucs will be able to cover the spread as my prediction is 31-21 Bills.
Thanks again to Evan for taking the time to chat with me about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of tonight’s primetime showdown with the Buffalo Bills. If you’d like to read my responses to Evan’s questions about the Buffalo Bills, head over to Bucs Nation for the companion article (also pinned to the home page of Buffalo Rumblings).