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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gameday – Buccaneers out to spoil Packers playoff hopes

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) vs. Green Bay Packers (5-6)

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

When: 1 p.m.

Latest line/Over-under: Buccaneers +2.5/45

 

Why you should watch

 This is not the battle of also-rans that some might think it is. Though the Bucs chances of making the playoffs are shot, the Packers are still in the race. They’re one of a handful of teams with that “In The Hunt’’ designation, so this is a big game for them. That in turn makes it a big game for the Bucs, who have yet to beat a team with a winning record and have yet to prove they were worthy of all the preseason hype they received. A win today won’t necessarily change that but it would show they have the ability to be a playoff contender (albeit a wounded one) on the road, and that would be a decent start. Throw in the return of quarterback Jameis Winston following a three-week layoff due to shoulder soreness, and this one has some plenty of appeal to it, even for Bucs fans.

 

Key on: Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber

 The Bucs will be without lead back Doug Martin, who is nursing a concussion, for this one. That will offer them a chance to take another look at Barber, who has flashed at times this year but has yet to prove he’s the every-down back the Bucs believe he can be. Barber is a powerful inside runner who can break tackles and break off long gainers if the circumstances are right, but keep an eye on him when he’s asked to stay in as a pass protector on passing downs. Martin has yet to allow a single QB pressure this year, according to Pro Football Focus, and that is a skill that often gets overlooked by fans. If Barber hopes to one day unseat Martin as the Bucs lead back he’ll have to prove not only that he can out-run him but that he can out-block him, too.

 

Statistically speaking

 No one should be happier to see Winston back under center than Bucs WR Mike Evans. Evans hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since Winston first re-injured his shoulder in the Bucs loss at Buffalo back in October. The four-game TD drought is tied for the longest for Evans since the end of his second season in 2015, but he has a good chance to end it today, and not just because Winston will be back. Even when he’s in the slot, Evans will likely be matched up regularly against cornerback Damarious Randall, who is allowing an average of 1.23 yards per coverage snap, according to PFF. That ranks 71st among all corners and with Evans averaging 1.78 yards per route run, this looks like a matchup Winston should be able to take advantage of.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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