Gameday: Bucs look to rise to occasion hosting Seahawks

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Tampa, FL —

What’s At Stake?

The Bucs have been trying to regain respect and relevancy from their brethren across the NFL for longer than the Clinton’s have been trying to regain control of the White House. Much like the Clinton’s, though, the Bucs somehow manage to lose their grip on those objectives every time they have them within their grasp. Perhaps this time will be different. In the wake of their 19-17 upset of the then-AFC-leading Chiefs on the road last week, the Bucs have a chance to regain all they’ve been fighting for today. All they have to do is bear the Seahawks. No easy task there, that’s for sure, but if they can pull it off the rest of the league will have to stand up and take notice of the Bucs because they will suddenly be a contender not only in the wild card race but they could have a share of first place in the NFC South. Talk about big games. For the Bucs at least, this is one of the biggest in recent franchise memory.

Key matchup

The one-on-one battle between Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has all the makings of a heavyweight fight. Because Sherman will not only test Evans skill set but his emotional makeup, all eyes will be on the game within the game that goes on between these two standouts. That’s why the most important matchup of the day may prove to be the one fought between what’s left of the Bucs receiving corps and everyone else in the Seahawks secondary. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has done a very good job this year of distributing the ball to a variety of weapons. His ability to quickly give up on Evans as a target when he losses to Sherman will likely prove critical to the Bucs cause today. If Winston can ignore Evans when he has to and hit him when the opportunity presents itself, then the Bucs will have a much better chance of scoring a second straight upset victory.

Statistically speaking

When Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones stood back, read the play and timed his leap perfectly enough to bat down Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston’s pass for Adam Humphries midway through the second quarter of the Bucs victory at Kansas City last week, it marked the ninth time this year that Winston has had a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. That’s the seventh-most denials in the league, according to ProFootballFocus, and we mention it here because passes batted down at the line of scrimmage could prove to be a big issue for Winston today against the Seahawks. The reason is that Seattle defensive tackle Jarran Reed specializes in batting the ball down at the line, having done so three times this year. The Bucs expect to have left guard Kevin Pamphile back for this game and it’s a good thing, too, because the Bucs are going to need someone to neutralize Reed to give their passing game a chance.

He said it

“He’s the guy that makes our offense go. All you’ve got to do is look at all the tape from last year. We spin a lot of stuff off of how he plays and it was great to have him out there, even though he wasn’t breaking as many long ones as maybe we’re used to seeing. But I think that will come as he plays more and that makes everybody else around him better. We’ve had to play more guys than we would’ve liked to this year, but as I said, we’re happy that we’re getting healthier.” – Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on running back Doug Martin and the Bucs running attack.

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