Welcome back to our four-part preview of the Buccaneers’ 2013 season schedule. Today we take a look at the last four opponents the Bucs will face in the upcoming season, and provide in-depth look at the teams the Buccaneers will face next year, and see how well the team from Tampa Bay matches up.
We’ve reached the end of the regular season, and predicting how these games will go becomes tougher and tougher. By this point in the season, injuries and surprises will have totally ruined a lot of experts’ predictions, so we’ll try to evaluate these matchups as well as we can considering the uncertainty of late season games.
Week 14: versus the Buffalo Bills
The Buccaneers will host the Bills in a game that will serve as a tune up for a tough three game stretch to end the season. The Bills are a bit of a wild card, with EJ Manuel and Kevin Kolb likely to have found their places on the Bills QB depth chart by week 14. Depending on which man is under center with the dangerous CJ Spiller in the backfield, this team is tough to figure out. There’s not a ton of talent, but there’s enough to give the Buccaneers a scare. The defense has some decent names, as well, but there’s really nothing proven about the Bills at the moment.
The Buccaneers will need to contain Spiller, and Stevie Johnson, to keep the Buffalo offense under control. On defense, the Bills have some talent at every level, but Mario Williams serves as one of the biggest threats, and must be contained by the Buccaneer offense before he can get to Josh Freeman.
Week 15: versus the San Francisco 49ers
This is a huge matchup for the Buccaneers, who will face a team certain to be one of the NFL’s best as they make a final push for a playoff spot, or fight for wins and pride to finish the season. The 49ers are deep and talented in almost every facet of the game, with a dynamic athlete in Colin Kaepernick at QB, and a stable of running backs led by the veteran Frank Gore. The 49ers lack a strong group of wide receivers, but they do have Vernon Davis, who is one of the best tight ends in the league when he’s focused and healthy. The offensive line is strong, led by tackle Joe Staley.
The defense is also very skilled, with linebackers Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman leading the charge, and Aldon Smith causing mayhem as a pass rusher. The defensive backfield is a bit thinner with Dashon Goldson moving to Tampa Bay, but Donte Whitner still leads a group of DBs who are good enough to capitalize on mistakes caused by pressure from the front seven.
The Buccaneers will need to find ways to score against a strong defense, which likely means exploiting the questionable corners and young free safety Eric Reid. On defense, the Buccaneers must keep contain on Kaepernick, not allowing him to find gaps and run for huge gains. Mark Barron will need to be sure he covers Vernon Davis well, as he could be a top target for the times Kaepernick chooses to throw the football.
Week 16: at the Saint Louis Rams
The Rams will face the Buccaneers in week 16 for the second straight season, and this time they’ll be bringing along dynamic rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin to go with the offense that the Buccaneers allowed big plays to last December. Sam Bradford no longer has Steven Jackson behind him, and by week 16 it’s almost impossible to predict which Rams’ runner will get the bulk of the carries. St. Louis did add tight end Jared Cook, who is a big play threat but isn’t consistent.
On defense, the Rams feature a formidable pair of corners in Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan. Alec Ogletree adds to a fairly impressive linebacking corps, and Chris Long anchors a strong defensive line across from Robert Quinn.
The Buccaneers made some key mistakes that allowed the Rams to jump out to a large lead last season. Avoiding mistakes and staying consistent on offense are keys to defeating a formidable Rams team. There is no glaring weakness to be found in St. Louis, but they also lack in superstars, so the Buccaneers will have a chance to outperform them in a key road game that could have huge playoff implications.
Week 17: at the New Orleans Saints
This game could have huge playoff implications, as the Saints figure to be improved over last year, when they struggled to put together consistent offense from week-to-week and had an absolutely awful defense. The Buccaneers will have to head to the Superdome, which is not the best place to play such a critical game, and hope to come away with a positive result. We’ve already discussed this matchup earlier, so be sure to look back at that article for more thoughts on this pivotal game.