The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play host to the 49ers on Sunday.
With only a few games left, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have Jameis Winston starting on Sunday after his stint on the bench. This season has been a huge disappointment, but there are still a few questions about this team heading into next year. We asked our staff what they are watching for on Sunday.
As we roll into week twelve, the team looks to rebound with Winston starting at quarterback. Throughout the season of quarterback flip flops, there has been some opinions floating around that the team does not put forth as much effort with Winston at quarterback. Something big to watch for this week in a winnable game against the 49ers is effort. Are players running at full speed? Playing through the whistle and pushing themselves? A lack of intensity could be a sign of trouble for two reasons. First, Winston may not have the respect of the locker room, his teammates may not view him as a leader and feel as if he is an issue. Secondly the team, seeing the writing on the wall, may have given up on this staff and Dirk Koetter. Both are indicative of team ready for turnover.
Bonus thing to watch for this week? Ryan Griffin making an appearance as “active”, this week, or at all the remainder of the season. (Baring an injury), it might be a sign that the staff, or even ownership, is ready to move on from one or both quarterback.
The biggest thing I’m watching for on Sunday, is the turnover battle. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has been unable force turnovers and the 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens is a very young and inexperienced quarterback. Mullens has only thrown 61 NFL passes, but was turnover prone in college, throwing 46 interceptions in four seasons. The Buccaneers are currently on pace to have the worst turnover differential in NFL history. They have not recorded a turnover in seven weeks and turn the ball over almost four times per game.
Jameis Winston is back under center this week after he was benched because of his inability to hold onto the ball and make accurate passes. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been in who cares mode for the whole season and his turnovers seem to have increased each week. Winston has to limit his turnovers if he wants to remain on the team for the future. The record for turnover differential in the NFL is -30, the Buccaneers are currently at -23. With six games left the Bucs are on pace for -37. If there is a game remaining on their schedule where the can try and improve, it’s this week. The 49ers have the second worst turnover differential with -15 so they have an opportunity to get at least one this week.
This season is very disappointing, to say the least. The Bucs do this thing where they pull you in (see 2-0 start) Then just absolutely rip your heart out and eat it like the walkers on the television show “The Walking Dead” (see last 8 games). The question is, what should we expect from the Bucs against the 49ers? Honestly, I’m expecting the Bucs to find a new way to lose. I know right, debbie downer. How can I trust this team, when the defense makes every quarterback look like the next coming of (insert any Hall of Fame quarterback).
No matter how many points the offense scores, the defense will let the other team score one more. What I’m most interested in this week, is to see is what the team does when adversity stares them in the face. They have two options, sink or swim. I prefer the swim option. Although playoffs are nearly impossible at this point, this team can somehow find a way to finish 8-8 or 9-7. It will still be very disappointing they didn’t finish with a playoff berth for the 13th straight year, but I’d hate for the fans to sit back and just watch six more losses.
What is this team going to do, sink or swim?
The quarterback position is the most important thing to keep an eye on this Sunday. I know Buccaneer fans are tired of hearing about both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The truth is that Winston has six games left this season to prove that he is the franchise quarterback. The first three years of his career have been inconsistent. He has put himself in a position where he needs to prove that he can limit his turnovers while still being a productive passer. Playing against a San Francisco defense that ranks 27th in the NFL, allowing 26.6 points per game could help. They are also ranked in the middle of the pack in passing yards given up, allowing 242 per game.
On the other side of the ball is rookie quarterback Nick Mullens, who has thrown for at least 250 yards in each of his first two starts to go along with his four touchdown passes. He earned his first career start in week nine after injuries to both Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard. Mullens made the most of his opportunity by carving up the Oakland Raiders’ defense on national television in primetime. After that game, Mullens was awarded the starting quarterback position over Beathard. Mullens will be facing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense which is currently allowing 282.3 passing yards per game and a league high 32.9 points per game.
There is a few things to watch for when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. Let’s begin with the maturation of some of the young Bucs, especially rookie defensive backs Jordan Whitehead and Carlton Davis.The secondary is by far the Bucs weakest unit, but the play of Carlton Davis gives them hope. He has shown flashes that he can become an elite shutdown cornerback. Whitehead has shown flashes of a potential starting strong safety for the Buccaneers with his willingness to deliver big hits and play in man coverage.
Another key thing to watch is the rushing attack of the Buccaneers. After throwing 23 interceptions, the Bucs coaching staff finally found some patience to run the football. They want to take some of the load off of their turnover prone quarterbacks. The Bucs have started trusting Peyton Barber to gain tough yards and create more balance on offense. Don’t forget this offense is ranked number one in the league in total yards and passing yards.
Last but not least, all eyes will be on play of the polarizing, gunslinging quarterback Jameis Winston. His play could help the Bucs decide whether or not to bring him back on his fifth year option. If he’s as productive down the stretch of this season like he was in 2017, he’ll definitely improve his chances of staying.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers still have some important football left to play. While their record will most likely not end up great, there are a few things to keep an eye on. The development of Jameis Winston will be huge. Did the stint on the bench help or hinder him? Like we talked about on the Red Flag podcast, another thing to keep an eye on is the coaching. The Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is most likely on his way out, but his deficiencies might be more obvious on Sunday. The coach on the other sideline is young and forward thinking. Will that be as obvious as we think? Above all, I’m watching the youth of the Buccaneers. It’s well documented that the defense has struggled which I think is partly due to their youth. Will that youth continue to get chances with the next regime? Time will tell.
The key for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday will be pressuring Nick Mullens and forcing rash decisions (PLEASE GET A TURNOVER!!!). He lit the Raiders (no surprise) up for HUGE numbers, but came crashing back to Earth last week with multiple picks. If Jason Pierre Paul and Gerald McCoy can get in the backfield, the Bucs should be able to force some turnovers and take points off the board for the first time since week three. This team is due for an interception or two hopefully, and that should seal a win for Tampa if they can protect the football.