The Bucs prepare for the New Orleans Saints to come to town Sunday and they know that the top defensive priority will be trying to contain the league’s most productive receiver, Michael Thomas.
Thomas is currently leading every important reception and yardage category and is even on pace to break a couple of NFL records. And with Drew Brees back from his thumb injury, Todd Bowles’ Tampa Bay defense had better be up to the challenge.
Thomas currently sits atop NFL receivers in receptions (86), yards with 1,027 and yards-per-game 114.1. He also leads with 52 receptions for first downs and has been targeted 10 or more times in seven of New Orleans’ nine games. That also leads the league.
Needless to say, the Saints will try to establish him at Raymond James Stadium early and Brees will look to go to him ,especially on third down and in the Red Zone, often.
As for the Buccaneers secondary, they’ve already had a shake up earlier this week by releasing former #1 pick Vernon Hargreaves. It should be pointed out that Hargreaves was the guy that was primarily trying to cover Thomas, unsuccessfully, in the first matchup in New Orleans last month.
Thomas had 11 catches (photo above) for a season-high 182 yards and season-high 16.5 average per catch with two scores all mostly against Hargreaves in New Orleans 31 – 24 victory. Plus, it should be pointed out that those throws were also from backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who finished with four touchdowns on the day in the divisional win.
Now, because of Hargreaves’ release, it looks as though the Buccaneers may be putting one of their two rookie defensive backs, Jamel Dean or Sean Murphy-Bunting on Thomas for at least some of this game.
Dean was exposed in the lost to Seattle, where Russell Wilson and the Seahawks pass attack picked on him for big play after big play in Seattle’s 40 – 34 overtime win. However, the rookie out of Auburn redeemed himself last week with a couple of pass breakups and a crucial fourth-quarter interception of Kyler Murray in the Bucs 30 – 27 come-from-behind win over the Cardinals.
Back to the Saints. They are smarting off of a 26 – 9 loss to Atlanta, where they were kept out of the end zone by the Falcons defensive scheme. Part of their success was with six sacks of Drew Brees and mixing up their coverage of Thomas and the rest of the receivers. Now, Thomas still got 13 catches for 152 yards, but New Orleans could not figure out Atlanta, especially after getting into plus territory.
You would have to think that Sean Payton and Drew Brees have studied what the Falcons did and are ready for whatever the Bucs may be trying to throw at the Saints.
Critically, the pass rush and harassing of Brees is something to Tampa Bay will look to utilize with the likes of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul getting after him. Pierre-Paul did not play in the first matchup, while still recovering from a fractured neck. But, he has already been a force in his first three games back this season.
Barrett leads the NFL currently with the 11.5 sacks through 9 games.
Back to the Pro Bowler Thomas. The Buccaneers may choose to try to double-team him with some safety help to neutralize his downfield effectiveness.
Still, it may be the best strategy to let Thomas get an occasional catch or two, but try to contain the other receivers and harass Breezy enough, just like the Falcons did last Sunday in the Superdome, to get yourself a victory.
Fantasy Football “Start/Sit” for Florida players Week 14
Everyone’s favorite time of year has arrived, that is if you had a good season. The fantasy playoffs are here, and if you made it, chances are some Florida players helped get there.
This week the Buccaneers will host the reeling Colts. The Jaguars will host the under-performing Chargers, and the Dolphins travel to play the ever-disappointing Jets.
The Buccaneers will entertain the Colts, who have the 13th overall defense. The Colts are 1-4 in their last five games and desperately need a win. Last week, they were torched on the ground by Titans RB Derick Henry. However, this was the first 100-yard rusher against the Colts this season.
The Bucs again surprised fantasy players last week, when Ronald Jones was benched in the first half for not picking up a blitz. This led to Peyton Barber scoring two touchdowns, while Jones had zero points. The Colts have surrendered two passing touchdowns in each of their last three games. Last week the Tampa Bay offense didn’t have to do nearly as much as usual.
This week, expect the Bucs vertical passing to be back throwing the ball at least 35 times. With a stout run defense, Jameis Winston will need to be at the top of his game in a big test for this Bucs team.
The Jaguars offense has been rough through the air with Nick Foles back. Now, Foles is back on the bench in favor of rookie, Gardner Minshew. The Chargers come into town with the 4th ranked pass defense, but let Drew Lock and Cortland Sutton connect for 74 yards and two touchdowns. The Chargers own the 18th ranked rush defense, and that is music to the ears of Leonard Fournette.
It has been a rough couple of weeks for the running back facing some stout run defenses. This weekend look for Fournette to get back on track. With the return of Minshew means the D.J. Chark becomes even more attractive. Chark was still the top guy with Foles in, but he and Minshew have a good connection.
The Dolphins are coming off one of the stunners of the year beating the Eagles in a 37-31 shootout. This week they set their sights on the Jets, who just gave the Bengals their first win. The Jets have the leagues’ best-run defense, which is usually significant. However, the Dolphins can’t run the ball effectively at all.
That means Ryan Fitzpatrick will be throwing a lot against the 19th ranked pass defense.
Last week Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker destroyed the Eagles secondary. This week they will have all the opportunities to do the same thing to the Jets. With the tight end position a mess, Mike Gesicki is an option again, who has scored in two straight games.
Colts Kicker Adam Vinateri out for Bucs game
The Colts are traveling to Tampa Bay but will likely take on the Bucs without their future Hall of Fame Kicker, Adam Vinatieri.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2019
Before the matchup last week against the Titans, Vinatieri had began to experience a bit of pain in his left knee, the leg he plants to kick with his right leg. He told reporters that the pain began to increase through the week which led him to be placed on the Colt’s injury report for the first time this season.
Later Friday afternoon, Indy made Vinatieri’s “out” status official:
Per Coach Reich, RB Marlon Mack and WR Parris Campbell are expected to play Sunday.
More on who's in and who's out for #INDvsTB:
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 6, 2019
Vinatieri who is currently the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, has struggled to be consistent this season and has made a career-low 68% of his field goal attempts. He’s cost the Colt’s a couple of games in his missed eight field goals and six extra points.
Colts head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that Vinatieri saw some doctors and got scans to figure out the severity of the problem. From there, they’ll consult with doctors and make a decision, which could potentially end his career. He’s currently sitting at 599 made FGs in his 24 seasons, just one shy of the 600 mark.
Earlier this week, Indianapolis secured rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers and the 45 year old Pro Bowler had said on Thursday that if he got the go ahead from everyone, he’d take the field on Sunday.
“Docs and trainers and everybody will put their two cents in and we’ll see if we can go,” Vinatieri said. “If I can go, I’ll go.”
Obviously, he did not get good news, and that means the rookie McLaughlin is in to kick at Raymond James Stadium.
The Colts are looking to stay in the race for the AFC wild card spot, in a similar situation as the Bucs, so this Sunday (and really every Sunday from here on out) is a do or die for both teams.
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