This offseason, many believed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had built a dream team. Already laying claim to strong offensive weapons in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, the Bucs added Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, giving them what appeared to be a huge surplus of weapons. Defensively, they weren’t looking too shabby, either. Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and Jason Pierre-Paul formed a high-profile defensive front. Put it all together, and many people believed this was an immediate Super Bowl contender.
And while the Bucs are almost certainly headed for the playoffs this year, they haven’t quite been the behemoth they were expected to be. At times, Brady has looked like he’s done, while Tampa hasn’t been able to keep up with some of the better teams in the NFL.
So what’s going wrong? What’s going right? And do the Lions have any shot this week?
Let’s take a closer look in our Week 16 scouting report.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 season thus far (9-5)
Week 1: Lost to Saints, 23-34
Week 2: Defeated Panthers, 31-17
Week 3: Defeated Broncos, 28-10
Week 4: Defeated Chargers, 38-31
Week 5: Lost to Bears, 19-20
Week 6: Defeated Packers, 38-10
Week 7: Defeated Raiders, 45-20
Week 8: Defeated Giants, 25-23
Week 9: Lost to Saints, 3-38
Week 10: Defeated Panthers, 46-23
Week 11: Lost to Rams, 24-27
Week 12: Lost to Chiefs, 24-27
Week 14: Defeated Vikings, 26-14
Week 15: Defeated Falcons, 31-27
- 7th in points scored (28.6 PPG), 12th in points allowed (22.9 PPG)
- 2nd in DVOA: 5th on offense, 5th on defense, 24th on special teams
If you look at the results of the Buccaneers season thus far, it’s hard to tell if this team is truly a contender in 2020. While they’ve taken care of business against the bad teams this season, having lost only to teams with records .500 or better, they really only have one impressive win on their schedule: that Week 6 trouncing of the Packers. Otherwise, they’ve lost to every other true contender on their schedule: Two losses to the Saints, a loss to the Bears, and back-to-back losses to the Rams and Chiefs.
Of course, the Lions are a bad team, so that doesn’t matter much to this week’s conversation.
There’s something to be said, too, of Tampa’s balance on both sides of the ball. On offense, they’ve got a running back in Ronald Jones II averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and they’ve got Tom Brady and an impressive receiving corps. And while that passing attack may be underperforming compared to expectation, they’re still ranked pretty highly compared to the rest of the league:
- 97.3 passer rating (t-12th)
- 7.2 yards per attempt (t-18th)
- 32 passing touchdowns (t-fourth)
Defensively speaking, they’ve been outstanding, especially against the run. They’re allowing just 77.8 rushing yards per game—nearly 20 yards fewer than any other team—and just 3.4 yards per carry (also first). In the passing game, it’s all about disruption. The team has the fourth most sacks in the NFL (43) and ranks sixth in interceptions (14).
IR: TE O.J. Howard, DT Vita Vea
Current injuries: S Antoine Winfield Jr. (shoulder), LB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee), CB Carlton Davis (groin)
The Buccaneers have been remarkably healthy this year. The loss of Vita Vea has hurt the run defense a bit, but otherwise, they’ve mostly escaped major injury. And just look at their injury report for this week:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 16 Tuesday, estimated injury report is very light, only 3 players listed. pic.twitter.com/Z0MWjeQPxh— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) December 22, 2020
That being said, Winfield and Davis are both starters on this defense, so it could leave their secondary vulnerable on Saturday if they can’t go on the short week.
Biggest strength: Run defense
The Bucs run defense is first in the NFL in just about every important metric. First in yards allowed, first in yards per carry allowed, first in DVOA.
They’ve allowed over 100 rushing yards in just three games this year, while they’ve held opponents below 50 rushing yards five times.
Biggest weakness: Secondary
Literally all four Bucs units rank in the top 10 in terms of DVOA, so this is a bit nitpicky. Carlton Davis—who missed practice on Tuesday—is having a career year with four interceptions and 18(!!) passes defended, but the rest of the Bucs defensive backs are vulnerable. Jamel Dean has just seven passes defended, while Sean Murphy-Bunting has only two.
Vegas line for Sunday: Buccaneers -9.5