What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) vs. New Orleans Saints (11-4)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: 4:25 p.m.
Latest line/Over-under: Buccaneers +6/49
Why you should watch
Dirk Koetter will be back as coach of the Buccaneers in 2018. The way his players have played for him the past month is probably one of the reasons. No, the Bucs haven’t won a game since November but they’ve lost their each of their last three by a field goal and their other December loss came in overtime on the road. That’s a strong indication this team has not quit on Koetter, so it’s worth a look to see if they can finish up with a win. Not only that, but Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has played three of the best games of his career since he came back from his shoulder injury four weeks ago and is back to being worth the price of admission all by himself. Oh, and then there’s that little bit of business regarding the NFC South title. The Saints can clinch it with a victory, but a loss could leave them as a wild-card entrant. This then is yet another chance for the Bucs to derail, even if it’s just a little bit, some team’s playoff hopes.
Key on: Bucs DT Chris Baker
Baker has failed to consistently play at the level the Bucs were hoping he would when they signed him to a three-year, $15.75 million contract last spring. Making matters worse, he seemingly took far too lightly the consequences of the offside penalty he was slapped with on a key third down play in the waning moments of last week’s loss at Carolina. That led to a bit of a row inside the Bucs locker room after the game, which makes you wonder if Baker might be playing for his job today. The Bucs can actually cut ties with Baker after this year and not take a cap hit for it, so this may be Baker’s last chance to prove he’s worth keeping around for another year.
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans needs only 54 yards to become just the third player in NFL history to gain more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four years in the league. Only Randy Moss and A.J. Green have done that previously, so Evans can join a truly select group with what for him would be just a so-so game today. Of course, this has already been something of a so-so season for Evans, who will log the worst statistical season of his career if he is shut down completely today. And that could happen. Evans is likely to be matched against rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The Ohio State rookie who limited Evans to just one catch for 13 yards and provoked Evans into a situation that cost the Bucs wideout a one-game suspension in the first meeting between the two teams has allowed a passer rating of 43.2 into his coverage area this year, the third-best mark in the league among corners, according to Pro Football Focus.
Final injury updates for Bucs and Jaguars Sunday games
As the Buccaneers get set to head to New York to play the Giants and the Jaguars are preparing to host the Steelers Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the injuries in those two games. (Reminder the Dolphins have their bye week for this weekend.)
Here’s a look at the latest:
For the Bucs, there Friday injury report has defensive names littered all over it and the news is not good for some of them.
After we were told by a source that Lavonte David was going to try to play Sunday, he apparently was overruled by the training staff and head coach Dirk Koetter, etc, and the Pro Bowl linebacker will be inactive with his sprained knee. Likewise, Vinny Curry will miss another game at defensive end, his fourth in the last five with a sprained ankle.
It’s the same situation with second year safety Justin Evans, who will miss the game with an injured toe suffered in the game with Washington last week. Defensive end Carl Nassib, who’s been a pleasant find off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season, is questionable with a left elbow injury suffered agains the Redskins, although he was able to practice on Friday.
The Bucs also list their receiver Chris Godwin as questionable with an ankle injury, and another important injury is starting center Ryan Jensen, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. If Jensen is unable to play Sunday, then Ali Marpet, starting at left guard this year, but who played center a lot of 2017, would likely take his place.
The Buccaneers opponents, the Giants, had four players on their injury list this week, but all of them are now slated to play in the game on Sunday.
For the Jaguars match-up, they have two significant injuries to update, starting linebacker Telvin Smith was able to practice this week with his shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, but expected to play against Pittsburgh. There is concern for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with a triceps injury and he is also listed as questionable. Dareus will likely be a game time decision.
Defensive back A.J. Bouye has been bothered by a calf injury, but he is also expected to play after being able to practice Thursday and Friday and listed as questionable. Coach Doug Marrone also announced that tackle Erik Flowers, who left last week’s game with tendonitis in his knee will start on the makeshift Jaguars line.
As we wrote earlier in the week, Jacksonville placed Center Brandon Linder on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in last week’s lost Indianapolis.
The Steelers have no significant injuries, despite Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner both being on the injured list,. They will both be playing on Sunday. Connor was a much bigger concern having been in concussion protocol earlier after suffering one in the win last Thursday night over Carolina.
However, he cleared the protocol and was able to fully practice this week.
Bucs DE Jason Pierre-Paul ready to go get Eli Manning Sunday
It’s one of those juicy subplots that we see all the time now in professional sports. A player gets to go against his old team and show them that maybe they made a mistake and letting him go. In this case on Sunday, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will battle against his old team, the New York Giants. And that means, against a lot of former teammates.
One in specific, quarterback Eli Manning, maybe less than thrilled.
JPP has been one of the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL over the last decade, nevertheless, the Giants elected to trade into the Buccaneers back in March.
So when the organization that you won the Superbowl with in 2011 has decided to move on without you, there’s naturally going to be some questions from the media about you playing against them for the first time. And, you going against their borderline Hall of Fame signal-caller, Manning.
Such was the case Wednesday in the Buccaneers locker room prior to practice:
"It's been checked off since I left there, and I'm pretty sure they know I'm bringing the house down. At the end of the day, it is what it is. I just know once I get there I'm going to be going 100 percent."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 14, 2018
Pierre-Paul has already energized the Bucs pass rush and has eight sacks in the first nine games. This includes a streak of five consecutive games with a sack earlier this season. That is the first time since Simeon rice in 2002 that a Buccaneer had five straight games with a sack in a single season.
And coming into Sunday at The Meadowlands he has 66 1/2 of them in his career and would love nothing better than to take down the leader of the G-Men.
And while the Giants did look better on offense in their Monday night comeback win over the 49ers, it has clearly been a struggle for them to pass protect, specifically, throughout the early part of this season.
Pierre-Paul has to have been salivating watching their offensive line whiff and get run over in game after game.
Further, Buccaneer defenders like pro bowlers Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, plus players like Will gholston Brent Grimes and young safety Justin Evans went against Manning in a Tampa Bay’s win last September against the Giants.
A game that the Buccaneers squeaked out 25-23. A game where is Eli Manning threw it 49 times and wasn’t sacked once by the Buccaneers front seven. That’s a pass rush that was last in the NFL in sacks a year ago.
However, that was 2017. And, circling back to Pierre-Paul, he hopes to change that starting Sunday.
And, while it will be weird for him to dress in the visiting dressing room at MetLife Stadium and stand on the visiting near sidelines, he’s ready to put all of that aside, try to help the Bucs climb off the canvas and get a win in the Big Apple.
What is status of Bucs LB LaVonte David’s injured knee?
It’s been a rough enough last seven games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now comes word that another prominent defender may miss this week’s match-up with the Giants. A report Tuesday afternoon said that linebacker Lavonte David has been diagnosed with a knee sprain and his status is in doubt. That may not be the case, though. More on that in a moment.
Source tells me that Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David has a sprained MCL, jeopardizing his status for Sunday's game against Saquon Barkley and the Giants https://t.co/o1z9kUSbMj
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) November 13, 2018
David was injured in the third quarter of Sunday’s lost to the Redskins, while making a tackle. He was examined underneath the “mysterious blue tent” and was initially diagnosed as being questionable to return to the game. He did return and played in the fourth quarter of the 16-3 loss to Washington.
And, a source with knowledge of David situation told F.F.I. on Monday that David had been examined, and it was not believed to be a serious injury. Further, the source told us that David would wear a knee brace this week in practice and be able to play in the game on Sunday.
The seven year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler is one of the key players on the Buccaneers defense and currently has 71 tackles with nine of them for losses. And he’s being counted on more heavily after Pro Bowl middle linebacker Kwon Alexander tore his ACL in an October game with Cleveland and will miss the rest of the season.
The Bucs have also seen starters in the defensive backfield Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte already placed on injured reserve back in September. Also Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy missed two games with a calf strain and has not looked a hundred percent in the last two games with Carolina and Washington since coming back from the injury.
If David is unable to play or is limited on Sunday, the Bucs will count more heavily on reserve linebacker Devante Bond. Bond has seen more playing time after Alexander’s injury and will be asked to increase his responsibilities in the middle of the Buccaneers defense, as well.
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