What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) vs. Buffalo Bills (3-2)
Where: New Era Field, Orchard Park, New York
When: 1 p.m. ET
Latest line/Over-under: Buccaneers +3/44.5
Why you should watch
We’re going to find out what the Buccaneers are made of today. They’re coming one of those losses – that 38-33 pasting at the hands of the Cardinals – that as former coach Lovie Smith used to say, leaves a scar. Good teams don’t let losses like that define them or their season, though. Good teams bounce back and show the rest of the league that was an anomaly. Whether that was the case for the Bucs or not is hard to tell. They have yet to play to their talent level on either side of the ball this year, at least not consistently. Throw in the concern that still lingers regarding Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston’s sore right shoulder and the fact the Bills are a pretty good team and this game should give us a good gauge as to who these Bucs really are.
Key on: Buccaneers CB Vernon Hargreaves
It’s way too soon to say that Hargreaves has already reached a crossroads in his career. Right? He’s a cornerback, after all, and no matter how good a cornerback you are in college, the adjustment to the NFL takes some time. Hargreaves has had plenty of time, though, to learn the nuances of the position and we’re really not seeing a lot of progress. The player the Bucs are seeing on Sundays right now looks a lot like the player the Bucs saw in the first few game he ever played as a rookie last year. For whatever reason, Hargreaves is still playing far too soft and seemingly far too scared to make an impact and that has to change. The Bucs don’t have a lot of depth at corner but you have to wonder how much longer they’ll continue to put up with the most exploited cornerback in the league.
You look at the raw numbers and you get the feeling the connection between Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and new deep threat DeSean Jackson hasn’t been all that good. Jackson, after all, has caught just 17 passes (fourth on the team) for 287 yards (tied for 38th in the league). The folks at Pro Football Focus look deeper into numbers than most, though, and they’ve determined that the Bucs are actually getting very close to what they wanted from Jackson. Of those 287 yards he’s gained, 131 have come on throws that sailed 20 or more yards downfield. That’s 11th best in the league right now. Sure, the Bucs would like to see Winston connect with Jackson a little more often but the connection they have so far has actually been pretty good and with Mike Evans likely to be matched against E.J. Gaines today, there’s a chance Winston and Jackson could make a big impact today.