Two state NFL teams are in action with one finally back at home and the other in the heartland of America. This as the Bucs will play host to the Cardinals and the Dolphins will take on the Colts in Indianapolis.
First, in the early game in Tampa, it is the first time in seven weeks that the Buccaneers have played a game at Raymond James Stadium. In the interim, they have been in five different cities including in Europe (London) to play games away from home. In that time, Tampa Bay has gone on 1-4, including losing their last four games.
So, off of last week’s tough overtime loss to the Seahawks, which dropped their record to 2 – 6, it is not an over-exaggeration the Buccaneers season is now on the line with today’s game and next week’s game at home against the Saints.
As we wrote earlier this week, the Buccaneers pass-catching tandem of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin continue to be at the top of the league in terms of production. They will have a chance to feast on what has been a mostly bad Arizona pass defense. However, the Cardinals have welcome back Pro Bowl defensive back Patrick Peterson, recently off of a six-game league suspension for a PED violation.
Arizona comes in with first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and number one overall pick quarterback Kyler Murray, who has actually played well at times. The game also features Bucs first-year coach Bruce Arians going against his old team, as he led the Cardinals to the playoffs on two occasions earlier this decade.
Meanwhile for the Dolphins, they will try to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since the middle of last season, when they take on Indianapolis later Sunday afternoon.
The Colts will be without starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has played very well for them this season but suffered a sprained knee in the Steelers game last week and did not return. The Colts will go with backup Brian Hoyer in this one at home.
Miami is dealing with an significant injury themselves as one of their top receivers rookie free agent Preston Wilson suffered a torn ACL in the first half of last week’s win over the Jets. The NFL also suspended running back Mark Walton for four games earlier this week for his multiple off field arrest this past offseason.
That means that second-year running back Kalen Ballage and rookie Myles Gaskin will get a much stronger look for the next few weeks running the ball.
This game will also put to the test with the Dolphins are truly trying to win games or not, in the second half of the year and damage their draft position after an 0-7 start.
Miami has held a double-digit lead in the first half of each of the last two games and put the Jets away at home for their first victory of the season last week by creating turnovers and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick playing well
Saints bounce back for impressive win over Bucs
The Bucs were hoping to make it back-to-back wins, as the first place Saints came limping to town Sunday. But in the end, the same mistakes that have plagued them throughout the first nine games of the season came to the forefront again, and New Orleans rebounded to beat them decisively 34 – 17.
Drew Brees (above) bounced back from a poor game last week in a 26-9 loss to Atlanta to throw for three touchdowns, and the Saints defense collected four interceptions on Bucs QB Jameis Winston in the victory.
New Orleans jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on a pair of Will Lutz field goals, the second of which was set up when Winston passed to O.J. Howard and it bounced off of his hands deflecting into the air and was picked off by linebacker Demario Davis.
One play later, Brees found Michael Thomas, the league’s leading receiver in receptions and yards per game, but was somehow wide open with a 16 yard score and a 13-0 lead. The Saints, who had their six-game winning streak snapped a week ago, stayed on the gas and when Brees found tight end Jared Cook for a leaping 3 yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone, it was 20 – 0.
The Bucs 32nd ranked pass defense looked the part for a lot of Sunday, as well.
Meanwhile, Winston and the Tampa Bay offense finally got on the board, when RB Peyton Barber concluded a seven play 75 yard drive with a 6 yard touchdown to trim the lead to 20 – 7. Then, the Bucs were moving the ball late in the first half for another possible score, but Winston was intercepted on another deflected pass by DB Vaughn Bell. And, the Saints took a 13-point lead to the locker room.
In second half leading 20 – 10 New Orleans extended the lead with an 10 play 75 yard drive that culminated, when Brees found Ted Ginn wide open at the goal line from 6 yards out to make it a 17 point advantage.
The Bucs continue to fight, got a WR Chris Godwin 30 yard catch and run TD and got the ball back down 10 points.
Driving out to midfield, Tampa Bay looked like they had a 4th down conversion with 11 minutes to go in the game, when Winston completed a slant pass to Mike Evans. However, the referees called offensive pass interference and Coach Bruce Arians challenged the play. The New York replay command center agreed with the officials that it was interference and at the call stood.
So, that erased a Bucs first down and put the offense in a fourth and long. The Bucs decided to punt after the controversial penalty.
The Buccaneers defense held and got the ball back, but after getting a quick first down, Winston was picked off for the third time in the game. This time by Marcus Williams, who raced 55 yards for the pick six touchdown and basically, the clinching score.
Winston did finish with 313 yard passing, but with four more interceptions, he still leads the NFL with 18 picks through 10 games.
As for the Saints, they clearly got their swagger back on the road after scoring only nine points at a home last week. New Orleans completes the season sweep of Tampa Bay with the victory and looks to stay in the hunt for a first weekend bye in the NFL playoffs with a now 8 – 2 record.
The Buccaneers are now 3 – 7 and headed towards what is apparently going to be a fifth losing season in their last 6 years and their 10th in their last 12 seasons overall.
And, the questions will only continue to mount about the franchise keeping Winston beyond this season. He is not signed to a long-term deal and his record is now 7 – 22 in his last 29 games he’s started in last three seasons.
Saints bad injury news is good for Bucs- Evans matchup
As the Bucs get set the host of first place Saints Sunday, Tampa Bay has caught a break with a key injury in New Orleans secondary. This after the Saints have already ruled out defensive back Marshon Lattimore due to a hamstring injury.
Coach Sean Payton informed the media after Saints practice that Lattimore, who left last week’s game with Atlanta with the injury, will not be able to suit up, specifically to go one-on-one against Bucs WR Mike Evans.
And, former first round pick Lattimore has usually gotten the better of the head-to-head matchups over the past three seasons (above) with Evans. This would include the game in New Orleans earlier this year, when the Saints/Lattimore held Evans without a reception for the first time in over four seasons.
However, Evans has been coming on since then, including back-to-back games against the Titans and the Seahawks where he had over 175 five yards receiving and two touchdowns in each. A week ago, the former number one pick finished with four catches for 82 yards in the Bucs 30 – 27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
New Orleans may likely put former #1 pick Eli Apple on Evans, now, for much of the game.
Payton also ruled out starting offensive guard Andrus Peat due to a fractured forearm, which further complicates a run game with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray that has yet to get on track this season.
Meanwhile for Tampa Bay, they will be without pass rusher Carl Nassib for the second straight game due to a groin injury and Coach Bruce Arians also told the media that defensive back M.J. Stewart will not play due to an injured knee.
The Buccaneers secondary is in flux after releasing former number 1 pick Vernon Hargreaves earlier in the week but it is expected that rookies Sean Murphy Bunting and Jamel Dean will see action in Hargreaves is place against Drew Brees in the high-powered Saints offense. Dean had the critical interception of Kyler Murray late in the game last week, which led to the Bucs eventually game winning TD drive.
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