Central showdown of two teams in the lead of their respective divisions, the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers provides an interesting measuring stick of sorts for the Bucs. After getting handled decidedly against the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season, is Tampa Bay a true player in the NFC picture at large, or a football team stuck in limbo after Tom Brady’s second retirement (so far!)?
As always, we would never pass up the opportunity to get some intel from the opponent’s perspective. Ahead of this Week 6 matchup between Detroit and Tampa Bay, we called on Evan Wanish from BucsNation.com to give us some sort of understanding about this Bucs team currently in pole position in the NFC South.
Generally speaking, a bye week this early into the season isn’t ideal for a grueling 18-week schedule, but how do you anticipate the Buccaneers benefitting from their early break in their Week 6 matchup with the Lions? Which players needed that time off to get their bodies right?
I do agree that having that early of a bye week can be a disadvantage, however it came at the right time for the Bucs. Starting safety Ryan Neal and wide receiver Mike Evans both exited the game against New Orleans and had there been a Week 5 game, neither may have been able to play.
Other than that, this bye week offers multiple Bucs defenders who have been playing banged up some much needed rest. Devin White, Carlton Davis, Vita Vea, and Jamel Dean have all been battling injuries. Hopefully with the week off they are able to be healthy for the rest of the season.
The Bucs share the best turnover differential in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers (+7) and have the second-most turnovers generated per game (2.5) by their defense.
Which players have played an integral part in the Buccaneers forcing turnovers this season?
That’s a good question and a huge reason as to why they are 3-1 right now. Todd Bowles’ defense has had a strong start and players like Antoine Winfield Jr. have really stepped up. The Bucs also may have found a gem in undrafted free agent Christian Izien, who has two interceptions already.
If the defense is able to continue this pace of turnovers, the Bucs could be tough to beat no matter who the opponent is.
Vita Vea is one of the more underappreciated players in the NFL–the guy is an absolute unit. Give us a sense of how Vea impacts an NFL game on a down-to-down basis, and where/how do the Bucs use him to his best ability?
Vita Vea has gotten off to an impressive start, specifically in the pass rush area. His career high in sacks was set last year at 6.5 sacks but through four games he already has 3.5 sacks. He impacts the game in more ways than one and it’s even a bigger factor now that he’s developed more as a pass rusher. In the run game, good luck running right at him because it probably won’t end too well. Even when he’s not getting pressure or making the run stuff, he takes on double teams and creates mismatches for the other pass rushers.
He’s become a true, three-down player for the Buccaneers and it’s been huge for the defense.
Not many people were expecting this kind of play out of Baker Mayfield, someone many thought was on his way to becoming a journeyman quarterback in the league.
What’s going right for the veteran quarterback, where do you see him improving as he acclimates to this offense, and in what areas have you seen him struggle through four games?
Pretty much everything is going right for Baker Mayfield right now. Part of it is new offensive coordinator Dave Canales working to Mayfield’s strengths, but it’s also the strong supporting cast around him. The offensive line has been better than expected and the weapons the Buccaneers have are still some of the NFL’s best.
That is no slight on Mayfield, though, as his play has been just what the doctor ordered for Tampa Bay. His pocket awareness, as well as decision making thus far, has really benefited the Bucs offense. It’s a small sample size, but so far so good for Baker and the Bucs.
Even with Mike Evans suiting up this weekend, I still do like the matchup that Chris Godwin could get. With all the attention Evans brings, Godwin could find a lot of opportunities in this one. Give me Chris Godwin with over 5.5 receptions as the Buccaneers look to continue to feed him the football.