The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only three wins on the season, and Sunday’s game represents one of their best remaining chances to add to that total. Greg Schiano and Mark Dominik both have their jobs on the line, and will be hoping the players can deliver a win against the Buffalo Bills to give them some more job security.
So what needs to happen for the Buccaneers to come out ahead of the Bills? Here are my keys to victory for the Bucs.
1. Stop the screen game.
All season long, the Buccaneers have been torched by screen plays and throws to open receivers and backs in the flats. The amount of blitzing the Bucs do on defense leaves them prone to screens and quick throws underneath, and Buffalo is a team that will absolutely dominate the Tampa Bay defense with screens.
C.J. Spiller is incredibly quick and a dynamic playmaker, while Fred Jackson is a reliable receiver who takes what the defense gives him. Neither should be left open in space in the passing game.
2. Contain E.J. Manuel.
The Buccaneers failed to contain Cam Newton in key moments against the Panthers, and cannot afford to do the same against the Bills as well. Manuel is athletic and strong enough to break the pocket and pick up yards on the ground, and that means the Tampa Bay defensive linemen can’t get caught out of position, and can’t be caught on poorly timed stunts and blitzes.
3. Find consistent offense.
The Buccaneers won’t have a 100% healthy Vincent Jackson, and the running game has yet to get off the ground after a dominant display against the hapless Falcons. The Bucs have turned into a boom or bust offense which is awful on third down, and that must change against the Bills.
Buffalo will get the ball and slowly work their way down the field against Tampa Bay, and if the Bucs can’t do the same, they’ll fail to score enough points to beat a somewhat pedestrian Buffalo offense.
4. Block for Mike Glennon.
The Tampa Bay rookie quarterback has struggled under pressure this season, ducking his head and taking sacks instead of keeping his head up and making smart throws. Against a very good front seven for Buffalo, his teammates must help him stay upright and keep a clean pocket.
Glennon will have his chances to spread the ball around, but if he gets spooked in the pocket, he’ll be taken out of his rhythm and be ineffective.
5. Win the “big play” battle.
The Buccaneers aren’t guaranteed a win just by winning the turnover battle. In recent weeks, the Bucs have failed to turn turnovers into points on a regular basis.
But if they manage to win the big play battle, they’ll stand a much better chance of winning. Don’t let Buffalo’s special teams, or speedy offensive weapons break free, and find a way to get a big chunk play on offense via Vincent Jackson or Tiquan Underwood. If the Bucs get more big plays than the Bills, it will go a long way toward earning a win.