Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Carolina Panthers, they should be in good spirits. Carolina is an abysmal 1-4 on the road this year, and Tampa is giving away free tickets to fill the stadium. Here are some keys for Tampa to get back into their winning ways in consecutive weeks for the first time since weeks one and two.
Get the Passing Game Going with Easy Throws for Jameis
Last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Jameis Winston had the second best statistical game of his career. First off, he threw zero interceptions. That certainly helps with the state of the defense, even with their improved display of play in the past few weeks. Last week, Jameis threw for 312 yards with two touchdowns, completing 29 of 38 attempts. As he has for most of his career, he was able to connect with his reliable targets, Mike Evans and Adam Humphries.
Winston connected with each of his favorite targets six times with Evans going for 116 yards and Humphries going for 54, adding a touchdown. This week, he should have another great scheme drawn up by offensive coordinator Todd Monken to put him in a position to succeed. If Jameis can lay off the turnovers again, the Bucs could get consecutive wins for the second time this season.
Move the Ball on the Ground
Two weeks ago, Peyton Barber had his best game of the season against the New York Football Giants. He rushed for over 100 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry on 18 attempts and picked himself up a touchdown. Last week, he was not as effective on 18 carries, picking up only 47 yards. However, he has punched in two touchdowns in as many weeks. Barber is a great tool in the offense and is hard to tackle. The third year back out of Auburn has always had a knack for keeping his legs moving and is emerging as a viable red zone threat for Tampa on the ground.
This helps the offense set up play action in the red zone and should take some pressure off of Jameis and his receiving core as the defense must be wary of Barber and the threat of his newfound nose for the end zone. Not only in the red zone does this help play action, but it helps everywhere.
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Having a balanced offense is a huge key to success across most NFL superpowers, and the Bucs are moving the right way in that respect. Across the league, looking at New Orleans with Kamara, Kansas City with Hunt, the Rams with Gurley, the Steelers with (formerly) Bell and now Conner, the list goes on and on. Another one of those teams is Carolina with their do it all back, Christian McCaffery, which we will now move into.
Defense Must Pressure Newton and force mistakes; Negate Christian McCaffery
The last time these two met back in Week nine, the Panthers offense was able to run circles around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Brent Grimes forgot how to tackle, Carlton Davis got hurdled, and receivers were taking end arounds for 30+ yards. A huge key this week for Tampa to win this game will be a strong defensive front.
Luckily, Lavonte David and Justin Evans should return this week as they practiced on Wednesday. Along with that rookie “bust”, Vita Vea had his coming out party last week. Vea was able to manhandle all-pro left tackle Joe Staley and will look to replicate his performance from last week in which he totaled 3 tackles for losses and a sack.
If Vea can help shore up the run defense in the middle, it would help force Cam Newton to make more plays with his arm through the air. Another Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie who had a fantastic game last week against San Francisco was the fourth-round pick out of Pitt, safety Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead was everywhere last week, total team-high 12 tackles, and he was stuck in man coverage on George Kittle all game.
He rendered Kittle ineffective for much of the game. If the defense can stop the run, hopefully Newton will make a few of his signature boneheaded throws to pair with some of his superhuman play to help this defense out in a week after they got an interception for the first time since week 3. Also, a huge shoutout to Jason Pierre-Paul for breaking the 13 year long double digit sack void left by Simeon Rice!
Keep Kicking the Damn Ball, Cairo!
Bucs fans around the nation should be rejoicing. The kicker’s curse looks to have been lifted. Cairo Santos is here! He hasn’t missed a field goal or extra point, and this should be Week 3 of his streak! If we had Santos earlier this year, the situation could be much different. The Bucs may not have been chasing points in Atlanta, or a few other games… The team could even possibly have a winning record, but hindsight is always 20/20.