The Buccaneers return home to the friendly confines of Raymond James Stadium this week for an inter-state matchup with the Miami Dolphins.
The Bucs are coming off an emotionally charged 19-17 win over New England last weekend, the most-watched Sunday Night football game since 2012.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins began the season with high expectations. They were expected to challenge Buffalo for supremacy in the AFC East.
But once again, five weeks into the season, the Dolphins are 1-3. Many Dolphin fans are beginning to think of who may be available in the 2022 NFL draft.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who had shown some improvement and growth in the preseason, is sidelined with fractured ribs. Jacoby Brissett will start this week after an underwhelming performance last week.
The Dolphins did add some weapons for the offense, in wide receiver Jaylen Waddle from Alabama to pair with Davante Parker. Miami also added wide receiver Will Fuller and running back Malcolm Brown.
This week, the Buccaneers got some good news. Coach Bruce Arians said that cornerback Jamel Dean and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul would be ready to play on Sunday.
Richard Sherman, who had only two practices with the Bucs before playing last Sunday night, led the team with seven tackles and one fumble recovery. Sherman admitted after the game that he did not play his best game.
Sherman had a whole week of practice this week, so I’m excited to see what kind of performance we will see from Sherman on Sunday afternoon.
Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting are not close to coming back, according to coach Arians.
This is a game that the Bucs defense should dominate as Miami averages 252 yards a game offensively which ranks 31st in the league.
The Bucs defense, especially the front seven, finally got some pressure on Mac Jones last week, harassing the young quarterback all night and notching four sacks.
The secondary continues to give up a ton of yards, but Arians said that yards are not his concern. His main concern is the number of points the defense is giving up. Arians said the goal for the defense is to give up around 17 points a game or less.
This will be an exciting matchup, the Dolphins passing game vs. the Bucs defense. Miami is 30th in the league in passing offense averaging 173 yards per game. The Bucs pass defense is dead last in the league giving up 327 yards a game.
The Dolphins can’t seem to settle on an offensive line combination and have used four different lineups along the offensive line in the last four games. That has caused Jacoby Brissett to be sacked nine times the previous four games.
On offense, the Bucs will be without one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets Rob Gronkowski for the second consecutive game. Gronkowski is nursing sore ribs and will be out another couple of weeks.
Gio Bernard, who did not play against the Patriots game, could see some action against the Dolphins.
The records keep falling for the Bucs offensive players. Last week, Tom Brady became the NFL’s all-time leading passer against his former team with 80,560 yards. This week it will be receiver Antonio Brown in the spotlight.
Brown needs one catch to notch number 900 for his career. When he does, Brown will become the fastest receiver to reach this milestone in the history of the NFL.
On paper, this is a win for the Bucs. But the Miami defense has played well in spurts this season. Miami head coach Brian Flores knows Tom Brady very well, and Brady knows Brian Flore’s defensive tendencies.
The Bucs offense seemed to get untracked last week as Leonard Fournette ran for 91 yards and the Bucs had 120 yards on the ground as a team. Miami’s run defense is ranked 26th in the league giving up 136 yards a game.
The Bucs have to do a better job in the red zone after going 1/4 against the Patriots. They are 8/16 on the season. The Bucs need to get seven, not three, in those situations.
The Dolphins had not won in Tampa since 1988 when Dan Marino threw for two touchdown passes in a 17-14 win. This game should not be that close.
Bucs will win 31-21 to go 4-1 on the season and maintain first place in the NFC South.