The Buccaneers head to Nashville for a matchup with the underachieving Tennessee Titans. The Bucs are 2-4 with their slim playoff hopes hanging by a thread and are facing their first must win game of the season.
The Bucs are on a two game losing streak and have lost three out of their last four and needing a win in the worst way. Lose this game and any chance of making the post-season is gone.
The Titans are 3-4 and believe that they are better than their record indicates. A win for the Titans and they are back in the race for the division lead.
The Bucs according to coach Arians did not make any major changes in personal outside of wide receiver Bobo Wilson, and linebacker Davonte Bond getting cut. When practiced resumed on Tuesday Arians said they worked more on some of the areas they have struggled in then actually game planning for Tennessee.
The Bucs will have three players out for this game. Offensive linemen Alex Cappa, linebacker Jack Cichy, and tight end OJ Howard.
The Howard injury is very interesting in the fact that his name has been thrown out as a Buccaneer that could be moved before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Rumors persist that various teams including the Patriots have contacted the Bucs about the availability of OJ Howard.
The fact that this Howard injury appeared out of nowhere is puzzling.
Jason Pierre-Paul has been activated and will be able to play Sunday against the Titans. I would not expect a heavy workload, but just having him in the locker room and on the field should be a boost for this defense.
There is talk that both teams will move on from their respective quarterbacks in 2020 and move in another direction.
The Titans look as if they have already made that decision as Ryan Tannehill has replaced Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback. Tannehill passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns in the 23-20 win over the Chargers last week.
While Jameis Winston has the confidence of the coaching staff after that poor performance in London against the Panthers, the margin for error is getting smaller by the game for Winston.
The Bucs defense has been the best in the NFL against the run allowing 70 yards a game, but is the worst in the league in pass defense as they are giving up 305 yards a game.
The Titans are one of the most physical teams in the league and it will be interesting to see if the Bucs can match the physicality of the Titans on both lines of scrimmage.
Offensively, the Titans have struggled as Mariota had just one 300 yard game this season prior to being benched as the offense has averaged just 304 yards per game. With Tannehill under center, the Titans generated 403 yards of offense against the Chargers last week.
The Titans have a good back in Derrick Henry that the defense will need to pay attention to. Henry is a big back at 247 pounds and averages 3.7 yards a carry.
Henry will pose another threat in the passing game as he is one of the best on the screen pass.
The Titans leading receiver is rookie AJ Brown from Ole Miss.
Brown has 20 caches for 337 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans also have Corey Davis, and ex-Buccaneer Adam Humphries as their top receivers. Humphries leads the Titans with 25 catches for 229 yards.
Tight end Delanie Walker is another one of those tight ends that is more of impact player in the passing game than as a blocker. Walker has 21 catches and two touchdowns on the season.
The Bucs offense ranks fourth in scoring at 28 points per game and averaging 367 yards of offense per game. The Titans have had a bend but don’t break defense as they have not allowed a team to score over 20 points this season.
This is a winnable game for the Bucs but will not be easy. It will be interesting to watch a stingy Titan defense go up against a Bucs offense that can score points in a hurry.
The Bucs defense will be able to keep Derick Henry in check in the running game, the key will be how they defend Henry on those screen passes.
Todd Bowles and his pass defense will show improvement this week against an offensively challenged Titans team.
Bruce Arians has a good history of making his teams much better after the bye week and I think that trend will continue this year.
Bucs will begin to turn the season around this week and beat the Titans 24-21.