Bruce Arians has said on a couple of occasions this week that this game coming against the Houston Texans on Saturday will be a good measuring stick to see how the Bucs measure up against one of the better teams in the AFC.
The Texans are 9-5 and have a one game lead on Tennessee in the AFC South. The Texans with a win on Saturday will win the division title.
The Buccaneers are the most banged up at any point this season. Wide receiver Chris Godwin will miss this weeks game as will Mike Evans who was placed on IR this week. Scotty Miller the Bucs rookie receiver is also out this week.
Defensive linemen Beau Allen along with tight end Tanner Hudson have also been ruled out for the game.
Carlton Davis, Demar Dotson, and Jameis Winston are questionable. Winston who has been throwing tennis balls all week and will wait until Friday to throw a football, the same routine as he had last week in preparation for the Detroit game.
Defensive back Jordan Whitehead was also placed on IR and is done for the season.
Breshad Perriman coming off the best game of his NFL career will be the number one target of Jameis Winston. Perriman developed some good chemistry in the win against the Lions especially on the deep ball catching five balls for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
Justin Watson and newly signed track star Cyril Grayson will round out the Bucs receiving corp along with Ishmael Hyman.
Tight end OJ Howard has been a bigger part of the offense the last few games along with Cameron Brate, and that should be the case on Saturday.
The Bucs running game has been mediocre all season, but they have had success with Barber, Jones, and Ogunbowale catching the ball out of the backfield.
Although the Texans are making a playoff push, their defense is giving up 266 passing yards a game and overall the Texans defense ranks 27th in the league. Winston has passed for over 900 yards the last two games with eight touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown.
The Bucs defense will have to be at their best to contain Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson who can hurt you with his arm and legs.
Watson has 33 touchdowns on the season 26 passing and seven rushing.
Watson has an All-Pro receiver in DeAndre Hopkins As part of his offensive arsenal. Hopkins has 99 catches for 1,142 yards. Add in Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, and this Bucs secondary will have their hands full trying to keep this offense in check.
Vernon Hargreaves will make his return to Tampa as a cornerback for the Texans, Bryan Anger who was the Buccaneers punter last season also returns as a member of the Texans.
The Texans have a decent running game with Carlos Hyde making a big impact this season. Hyde went over the 1,000 yard mark last week, the first 1,000 yard season of his career and is averaging 4.6 yards a carry.
Buccaneer linebacker Shaquill Barrett with his next sack will become the all-time single season Buccaneer sack leader. Barrett is tied with Warren Sapp with 16.5 sacks.
The Bucs have won four in a row rebounding nicely from the 2-6 record at the mid-point of the season and are now 7-7.
The Texans have a lot to play for. The Bucs are playing for pride. There has been no quit in this Buccaneer team even as the goal of making the playoffs went from slim to none as the teams ahead of them in the standings kept winning.
The big key for the Bucs to win this game is to contain Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson. Keep Watson in the pocket, keep the pressure on him and make his uncomfortable. Get him moving around.
Offensively for the Bucs to win this game, Jameis Winston will need to use a variety of his receivers just like he did last week in Detroit he threw threw to 11 different receivers in the Bucs win.
The Bucs are ready for the challenge. Houston is missing one of their best defensive players in JJ Watt. The Bucs are missing a ton of firepower on offense.
The offense showed last week that the receivers that haven’t gotten a ton of playing time are ready to step up and be playmakers for the Bucs.
Bucs win a close one 24-23 as Jameis Winston will show everyone that he deserves another season in Tampa.