What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) vs. New York Giants (0-3)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: 4:05 P.M.
Latest line/over-under: Buccaneers -3/44.5
Why it’s worth watching
A lot of the shine came off the Bucs during their miserable 34-17 loss to the Vikings last week. A chic pick to reach the playoffs prior to the start of the season, the Bucs were overmatched on both sides of the ball against a team they may eventually have to beat out for a wild-card berth. Despite their 0-3 start, the Giants are another team the Bucs may have to contend with for a wild-card berth. That won’t happen if the Giants don’t start winning, of course, so this measures up as a must-win game for New York. It all but measures up as the same for the Bucs. With the Patriots up next on Thursday night the Bucs could be looking at a 1-4 start if they don’t win today so they need this one as badly as the Giants do.
Key on: Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves
Hargreaves had a horrible game last week. Even with Brent Grimes out, the Vikings still threw the ball Hargreaves’ way 10 times, the most of any Bucs defender. He responded poorly, allowing seven catches for 26 yards and a touchdown. Now comes Odell Beckham Jr. The Bucs don’t match up in the secondary very much. They usually keep their corners in place, with Hargreaves on the defensive right side. Beckham lines up all over the place and you have to believe the Giants will try to take further advantage of a young corner who has yet to play with the added aggression and confidence the Bucs are looking for. The Bucs say they see those qualities in practice but Hargreaves has to start bringing them to the field on Sunday.
Whether it’s by design or a result of the poor play of his offensive line, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has had to strike fast with his throws this year. Of Manning’s 117 pass attempts, 87 have been delivered in 2.5 second or less, according to Pro Football Focus. No quarterback in the league has been asked to get rid of the ball that quickly that often, but Manning has done a good job of making plays with what little time he has, completing 67 of those 87 passes for 613 yards, per PFF. That could prove to be a big problem for the Bucs, who were beaten by quick throws consistently a week ago during their loss to the Vikings. A better pass rush but more importantly tighter coverage will be needed for the Bucs to slow things down.
Several Bucs and Jaguars make PFWA All Rookie Team
The Pro Football Writers Association unveiled their 2019 All-Rookie team Tuesday, and there were four state NFL players on the list.
The 2019 PFWA All-Rookie Team and rookie honors: pic.twitter.com/mmHVHWWQFx
— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 14, 2020
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two of their defenders made the 11-person defensive list. First round pick outside linebacker, Devin White, who was named the Rookie of the month by the NFL for both November and December is there. White came on strong in the second half of the season, including scoring two defensive touchdowns on fumble returns down the stretch.
Also on the list was Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting, who’s play improved as the season went on. Murphy-Bunting also recorded a game-clinching interception return for a touchdown against Detroit in December.
For the Jaguars, their first-round pick Josh Allen is also part of the all-defensive unit. Allen recorded 10.5 sacks and had another 11 tackles for loss in his inaugural season in Jacksonville. The PFWAA also placed Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor on their all rookie offensive team. Taylor was solid as a starter on the right side of the Jags line.
Although it’s not surprising is that the writers selected former number one overall pick Kyler Murray of Arizona, as their top rookie quarterback, there was an argument to be made for Jaguars rookie Gardner Minshew at that position.
Minshew won six games as a starter, including leading the Jaguars to three different last-minute victories, which was one more than what Murray had this season despite him having better stats and more starts.
PFWA did not place a Dolphin on any of their all-rookie teams. Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, whom they took in the first round, could have received some consideration as he played solidly this season.
The writers selected defensive end Nick Bosa of the 49ers, not only at their Defensive player of the year, but their overall Rookie of the Year for 2019. They did choose Oakland running back Josh Jacobs, as their offensive Rookie of the Year.
The NFL will announce its own all-rookie teams and Rookies of the year prior to the playing of Super Bowl 54 in Miami next month.
Booger McFarland out of Monday Night Football booth?
Big changes are apparently coming to ESPN Monday Night Football coverage, and it looks as though after two seasons former Buccaneers and Colts player turned broadcaster, Anthony “Booger” McFarland, will be out of the Monday night booth.
First there was a report on Tuesday from New York Post sports media writer, Andrew Marchand, that ESPN was intending to make serious changes, first with the lead producer of Monday Night Football, Jay Rothman.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) January 7, 2020
Rothman, who still has a deal with the network, will apparently be re-assigned and perhaps, to college football.
Marchand theorized that Rohman’s departure on Monday Nights signals significant change, including putting new broadcasters in the booth, as well.
Marchand also wrote that ESPN, which has tried for the last couple of years to hire Super Bowl winning quarterback Peyton Manning to be in the booth may have success this time. That’s because, Manning’s younger brother Eli, who is a free agent, may very well retire at 38 years of age after this past season from the NFL. Peyton Manning hosted a series of lighthearted half hour feature shows this past season on the ESPN+ app.
Next, Marchand wrote about CBS lead analyst and former Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo, who is also slated to be a broadcasting free agent. Marchand said that Romo could be a possibility to enter the Monday Night booth, however, he’s wanting a significant raise from his reported $3 million salary.
And, it seems that CBS, which will have Romo with Jim Nantz on it’s Sunday coverage of the Kansas City- Houston Texans playoff game, will try to keep that tandem together, even if it means paying big for Romo.
A source has told F.F.I. that McFarland has mentioned that he may be moved off of the Monday Night Football broadcast, but that he could be kept with partner Joe Tessitore on a college football package. Marchand also wrote this in his New York Post Tuesday item.
Tessitore previously broadcasted college football for ESPN before landing the Monday Night play-by-play gig two years ago. That’s when the network put Sean McDonough, who had done the play-by-play the previous two years on Mondays himself, back on college football.
So, this would obviously be following a similar pattern.
McFarland, who still lives in Tampa, was previously a studio analyst for the launch of the SEC Network in 2014 and later on Saturday ABC football coverage in 2015 and 16, as well.
2019 was McFarland’s first year full time in the Monday night booth. The previous season he was the “field analyst” riding on a specialized elevated golf cart (shown above) behind one of the team benches.
That was while, Tessitore was joined by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the booth for game analysis. It definitely provided for some awkward moments with Tessitore and Witten not having McFarland with them and the three couldn’t see each other to find out whom should be talking next.
Eventually, at the end of last year, ESPN put McFarland in the booth with Tessitore and Witten, as a try out. Witten then decided to return to play in the NFL this past season with the Cowboys, and ESPN left Tessitore and McFarland together, as its broadcasters for the 50th season of Monday Night Football.
McFarland spent eight seasons in the NFL, and was part of two Superbowl winning teams with the Buccaneers in 2002 and the Colts in 2006. He’s a former #1 draft pick of the Bucs in 1999 out of LSU, and was also, one of several analysts on the ESPN set for their coverage of the 2019 NFL Draft.
McFarland has drawn recent criticism for on air blunders, where he got confused doing a Vikings game late in the year that they had lost the “Minneapolis Miracle” game. However, Minnesota won that playoff game two years ago dramatically in the final seconds vs. the Saints on a Stefon Diggs TD catch and run.
Then, on the larger stage Saturday, and as Marchand referenced in the Post Tuesday, McFarland got confused at the end of the Bills vs. Texans playoff game frantic finish with the Bills driving.
McFarland suggested that the Bills run the ball on the next play to set up a tying field goal (which was 3rd down) and then, hurry to spike the ball-stop the clock. And, that would have obviously been on fourth down ending their possession and chance to tie. The Bills eventually got the clock stopped and kicked the tying field goal for OT.
It’s unclear whether the network would seek another significant name for the Monday booth, if neither Peyton Manning nor Romo are available?
But, if they’re moving both Tessitore and McFarland to college football together for this fall, they may end up swapping spots with longtime ESPN SportsCenter anchor and play-by-play man Steve Levy, and his partner and former NFL quarterback, Brian Griese.
Levy and Griese worked the second half of the Monday Night Football opening week doubleheader this past year, as the Raiders played the Broncos. Levy and Griese have also been the preseason broadcasters for Bronco games the last couple of years with Griese’s natural tie of having quarterbacked in Denver.
It is also believed that ESPN wants to promote former front office executive Louis Riddick, whom they have used as a studio analyst over the last few seasons. Riddick currently serves in that role pregame and post game at the stadiums for Monday Night Football.
ESPN used Riddick in the booth with Levy and Griese for the regular-season game that they did back in September.
ESPN generally announces their broadcast teams for the fall in late April or early May.
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