The Buccaneers will be in Carolina Sunday afternoon and as the Bucs got on the plane there was a little extra bounce in their step knowing that the magic is back. Fitz-magic that is.
Fitzpatrick entered the game in the second half and passed for 2 TD’s to bring the Bucs back to tie the game against Cincinnati. The Bengals however drove down the field in the final 59 seconds as the Bengals edged the Bucs 37-34.
The Buccaneers still have the No. 1 offense in the league, avgerging 467 yards a game and have the leagues No. 1 passing attack.
The Bucs are 3-4 and can still get it turned around and possibly sneak into a wild card spot. But there are a few things that they will have to tighten up in order to make that happen.
The turnover margin has to improve and that needs to start against the Panthers. The Bucs are on pace to have the lowest picks by a team in NFL history. The 82 Houston Oilers had 3 picks the entire season and the 82 Colts along with the 2005 Oakland Raiders had 5 picks.
Since the firing of Mike Smith, the Bucs have been playing tighter coverage and are getting their hands on more balls in coverage, but the Bucs are still last in the league in turnover margin at -13.
The Bucs have 1 interception on the season by Justin Evans and have recovered 5 fumbles. Winston had 10 picks in almost 12 quarters of game action while Fitzpatrick has 5 picks through 14 quarters of action.
Along with the overall poor play of the defense this turnover margin is one reason the Bucs are below .500 right now. That will have to change going forward.
The other factor on Sunday is keeping Cam Newton in the pocket. When Newton has gotten out of the pocket he has been able to create plays with his legs as he is the second leading rusher on the team with 309 yards, right behind Christian McCaffrey.
The Bucs should be relatively healthy on the DL for the first time this season. Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry will be back to help anchor the DL.
Kendall Beckwith was back at practice this week but is not expected to see any game action. Adaruis Taylor who played primarily inside had a rough time in the first half of last weeks game as the Bengals ran for 115 yards in the first half. The defense was much better in the second half but Taylor finished with just three tackles.
Ronald Jones is out and it sounds as if he will miss more than just a week. Shaun Wilson has been activated and will take his place in the line-up. Rookie OL Alex Cappa could see his first action of the season as Evan Smith is out this week. Cappa has been inactive all 7 games this season.
This is a game the Bucs can win. The Panthers defense is No. 13 in the league giving up 351 yards a game and this Bucs offense is very explosive.
The Bucs will have no problem putting points on the board.
Defensively, the play of the LB’s will be very instrumental in keeping Cam Newton in check.
This will be the third game of the defense under new DC Mark Duffner. I need to see continued improvement. The play of the DB’s although improved still have to get better, and the play of the LB’s has to be better than it was in Cincinnati.
Look for another high scoring affair and I like the Bucs to finally put 4 quarters together. The offense and defense will compliment one another and the Bucs will end up winning the high scoring affair 38-31.