Nov 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) catches a touchdown pass after getting past Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) in the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, after the Chicago Bears defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a humiliating second half, I tweeted that if New Orleans lost to the Ravens on Monday night, that the Bucs would still be two games back in the NFC South division race.
That statement of fact led to a lot of backlash from angry fans, who at this point just want to get the season over with so the Buccaneers can draft a quarterback and start rebuilding.
I get it.
You don’t want to hear that this team, this awful and frustratingly inconsistent team, has a chance to actually win an NFC South championship for the first time since 2007. It’s an insult to good teams everywhere, and trying to hide the fact that the Bucs are one of the NFL’s worst is like throwing glitter on feces: no matter how it looks, it still stinks.
But with all of that said, the Buccaneers do have a shot at the NFC South, only two games back with five to play, and with the Saints and Falcons having tough games this week.
Still, the Buccaneers have to win for that to matter in the slightest. And well, that’s not something you can ever really count on.
This week, Tampa Bay will come home to take on the Cincinnati Bengals and look to get their first home win this season. The game plan will be simple: run the football. The Bengals’ run defense could be described as sub-par, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be out with a knee injury, making them even weaker in that aspect.
Still, that means the Buccaneers will have to execute in the running game, and quite frankly, that hasn’t happened all season. Bobby Rainey is getting 4.2 yards per carry, but has inexplicably been ignored in recent weeks and shunned to the third spot on the team’s depth chart. Doug Martin and Charles Sims have been sharing carries, and they are averaging 2.8 and 3.0 respectively.
On the offensive side of the ball, Josh McCown is still the starting quarterback for Tampa Bay after single-handedly throwing the game away, with two turnovers on two consecutive offensive plays. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is questionable this week, so expect McCown to be focusing on his outside targets even more than usual. Mike Evans has at least one touchdown in each of his last four games, and he’ll look to continue that streak today. If the Buccaneers want to win, he’ll probably have to reach the endzone a couple of times.
Ultimately, this game will be decided on how Tampa Bay’s defense plays. When the Bengals’ offense shows up, they show up in a big way. Their success usually depends on the consistency of QB Andy Dalton, so the Bucs will probably try and bring a lot of pressure to get him rattled. Still, if these zone coverages leave a lot of room for AJ Green and Mohamed Sanu to catch the football, it will be a long day in Tampa Bay.
The most versatile weapon the Bengals have is RB Giovanni Bernard. Over the past two seasons, he has shown that he can run between the tackles, and be a menace catching passes out of the backfield. If Lavonte David is still sidelined with a hamstring injury, then Tampa Bay might have trouble containing Bernard.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite popular belief, can still play some good football…it just doesn’t happen for 60 minutes. That’s the team’s downfall.
Like clockwork, in the third or fourth quarter, we can count on at least one Josh McCown turnover that will change the tide of the game. And it is not that McCown turns the ball over that we should get upset over, because quite frankly, we have to accept that that’s normal for him. The part that gets me ticked is that even with such an even-keel coach who shows almost no emotion on that sideline, the Buccaneers tend to get too emotional about their mistakes, and then the problems begin to topple over.
It starts with a McCown turnover, then the team gets rattled. Everyone starts pressing, penalty flags pile up, and the offense looks like they’re running in quicksand.
Even if the Buccaneers play well in the first half against the Bengals today, I can’t see them doing it for 60 minutes. The only complete game they’ve played this year was in Washington, and I don’t believe this team has the confidence or the skill to do that again against a tougher team like Cincy.
Final Score: Cincinnati Bengals 38, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17.