I think everyone is excited to see what Mark Duffner will bring to the defense as DC. This will be his first game as the new DC replacing the fired Mike Smith. Duffner will coach from the sideline not the press box.
The Cleveland Browns will be in town and these are not the same old Browns. The Browns are playing much more aggressively on defense and they have the 5th best running attack in the league averaging 137.7 YPG.
The Browns also have one of the most exciting rookies in QB Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has struggled at times especially outside the pocket where his QB rating is 7.5. Tyrod Taylor started the season as the starter for the Browns but was replaced after the Thursday Night game against the Jets.
Mayfield has a much quicker release than Taylor and seems to able to move the team a lot better. Mayfield also has a much better arm than Taylor and although Taylor is know for his running ability, Mayfield has made plays with his feet when he has needed to.
The receiving corp for the Browns has been decimated by injuries as only Jarvis Landry and rookie Antonio Calloway are still contributing from the group that started the season. Look for the Browns to include TE David Njoku to have more of a major role in the offense.
The Browns traded RB Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars yesterday, so look for rookie Nick Chubb to get more playing time as he is averaging 10.8 YPC. The Bucs will also need to keep an eye on Duke Johnson as he is a duel threat out of the backfield both running and catching the ball.
The Bucs defense will need to force Mayfield out of the pocket and get him to move around a bit and force him into some mistakes to have a chance to win this game. Mayfield has thrown 5 picks in three games and been sacked 13 times.
The Bucs DL has to get some pressure on Mayfield, and force hIm into some mistakes. The Bucs are next to last in the NFL with 9 sacks and have only 1 pick on the season. This is a prime opportunity for this defense under Duffner to step up and assert itself.
Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry have been ruled out for this game so we will see a lot more of Vita Vea and hopefully Noah Spence will be able to see some action as he has not even dressed the majority of games this season.
Offensively the Bucs have the No. 2 offense in the league averaging 448 YPG just behind the LA Rams, so it will be a challege for this Browns defense to stop the Bucs offense. The Browns do have 2 potential All-Pro candidates on defense, Myles Garrett the second year DL, and the rookie CB from Ohio State Denzel Ward. Both have played very well this season and Ward has three picks.
The Browns defense is banged a bit as LB Joe Schobert is out for this game as well as DB Terrence Mitchell. Schobert is The QB of the defense and leads the Browns with 49 tackles and is also a key player in stopping the run.
So how do the Bucs beat this Browns team?
Make Baker Mayfield uncomfortable. Get him to move out of the pocket. Force him to make mistakes.
Stop the running game. The Browns will go with the Johnson/Chubb combo in the backfield and the Bucs will need to slow them down considerably to have a chance in this game. Duke Johnson is one of the best dual threats out of the backfield that the Bucs have faced this season, so the LB’s David, Alexander and Taylor are going to have to play extremely well to slow Johnson down.
On offense the Bucs just need continue to play the way they have all season. Winston brings a different feel to the offense but put up 29 points in his first game as starter this season.
Winston uses all of his receivers, so look for Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries to be key components of the offensive game plan.
At some point the Bucs are going to have to get the running game goIng. We saw a glimpse of it last week in Atlanta as Peyton Barber ran for 82 yards on 12 carries. The Bucs will need to continue to run the ball effectively against the Browns this week.
When the final play has been called and the dust has settled I think the Bucs will prevail 31-28. The Bucs will be just good enough on defense to get new DC Mark Duffner a win in his first game as DC.