The Buccaneers, still trying to lock their second consecutive NFC South title, will host another hot team and one of the best young quarterbacks in the game Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals bring their 9-4 record to Tampa, tied with Baltimore for first place in the AFC North. The Bengals started the season 0-2 and hot rock bottom with that Monday Night beat down in Cleveland 32-13.
Since then, the Bengals have reeled off five straight wins and are looking just as strong as the Super Bowl team from last season.
One position that the Bengals improved was the offensive line. After being sacked 70 times last season (including playoffs), the Bengals went out and added guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras during free agency.
The Bengals then went out and signed La’el Collins. Although Joe burrow has been sacked 35 times this season, Burrow has been sacked just nine times in the last five games. A remarkable improvement.
With Carl Nassib out nursing a pectoral injury and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka a game-time decision, it will be difficult to get pressure on Burrow off the edge.
In addition to Burrow, the Bengals have a three-headed monster on offense, which can make life miserable for opposing defenses with Jamar Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon.
Burrow and Jamar Chase created magic at LSU with their championship run in 2019, and they are now making that same magic happen at the NFL level.
Although missing four games this season, Chase still has 64 catches for 856 yards and seven touchdowns.
Joe Mixon is Cincinnati’s Swiss army knife running the ball with authority and contributing to the passing game with 36 catches and two touchdowns.
Mixon can go quickly from first gear to third gear. He is also adept at running between tackles and can quickly get to the edge. With the Buccaneers struggling to stop Christian McCaffrey last week in San Francisco, I’m not optimistic that the Bucs’ defense will be able to slow down Joe Mixon.
The Bengals will be looking to complete a sweep of the NFC South. The Bengals are 3-0 against the division, and Joe Burrow has lit up the opposing defenses of the NFC South with 987 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The Buccaneers are still banged up and not close to being 100 percent healthy. Three defensive backs, Antoine Winfield, Jr., Mike Edwards, and Sean Murphy-Bunting, will all be game-time decisions.
The injuries to Edwards and Winfield have forced safeties Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan to play every single snap the last two weeks.
In addition, Vita Vea, Carl Nassib, and Jamel Dean are all for the Buccaneers on Sunday.
With Wirfs out on the offensive line, Josh Wells will start in his place for the second week in a row. Despite having the worst season of his eight-year career, left tackle Donovan Smith will remain the starter because the Bucs have no better options at left tackle.
Bowles says that Smith’s mistakes are fixable, but he has got to play better. “You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. It’s costing us,” Bowles said.
This is going to be a challenging game for the Buccaneers to win. They have a very limited pass rush from the outside, with three of their top-four edge rusher sidelined with injuries. With nose tackle Vita Vea out as well, it’s going to be hard to get pressure on Joe Burrow.
I don’t see a way that the Bucs will win this game. Their offense is so bland it looks like a preseason offense. The defense has problems defending all-purpose backs like Joe Mixon. Last week against San Francisco, Christian McCaffrey had 209 yards of offense.
The Buccaneers have a razor-thin one-game lead in the NFC South and could be tied for the division lead after this weekend’s games.
The Bengals win 28-7. The Buccaneers will fall to 6-8 with three games remaining.
With the Buccaneers not inclined to make any major changes offensively,