What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) vs. New England Patriots (2-2)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: 8:35 P.M.
Latest line/over-under: Patriots -5.5/55.5
Why it’s worth watching
This could be the Bucs coming out party. They became one of the league’s true darling teams back before the season began but since then they have fallen off the radar a bit despite their strong start. The fact they have yet to beat a quality opponent and haven’t really caught fire offensively are two of the biggest reasons for that, but a win tonight could make the Bucs the talk of the league again come Friday morning. Granted, a lot of the talk in the wake of a Bucs victory would probably be about the downfall of the Patriots, and rightfully so. Something has gone wrong in New England and no matter where your allegiance lies, it’s worth a look tonight to see if they can rebound and regain their prominence or if they’ve simply lost their mojo.
Key on: third down
The Bucs defense was hard to beat on third down last year. Not so this year. After allowing opponents to convert just 34.4-percent of their third-down tries, the best in the league, in 2016 the Bucs have allowed a conversion rate of 50-percent so far this year. A virtually non-existent pass rush, some far-too soft coverage in the secondary and a sudden inability to take the ball away are the reasons and the situation only got worse down the stretch last week when the Giants converted six of their last eight third-down tries, including one for a touchdown, during the Bucs 25-23 victory. If the Bucs can’t figure out a way to get off the field on third down tonight it’s going to be a long night for the defense and big night for Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The suddenly struggling Patriots defense will go into tonight’s game allowing an average of 456.8 yards per game, the most in the league, and the sixth most by any team through four games since the NFL merger. Believe it or not, they’ve been here before. In 2011, the Patriots went into their fifth game of the season allowing an average of 477.5 yards per game and guess what, they came out just fine. Not only did the Patriots make the playoffs that year, they went to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Giants. That 2011 Patriots team was an anomaly, though. None of the other four teams that started out so horrifically on defense recovered well enough to reach the postseason.
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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