The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winners of three in a row and four of their last five, are gearing up for one more road trip in a 2019 season that has included a vast amount of miles traveled. The destination this time is Ford Field in Detroit, where they will take on the Lions, who coincidentally shut the door on the Buccaneers' very slim playoff hopes last weekend by losing in Minnesota.
So the Buccaneers know that this will also be their last road trip of any kind this season, and they have an opportunity to finish their away schedule with a winning record. After recent victories in Atlanta and Jacksonville, Tampa Bay is 4-3 in road games this year, which does not include a Week Six game in London that was technically considered a home contest.
Though those playoff hopes are now officially dashed, Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers are trying to close out with a six-game streak of Ws that would give them a winning record in Arians' first year at the helm. Their opponent, in contrast, has lost six in a row, a streak largely coinciding with the absence of star quarterback Matthew Stafford due to a back injury.
The Buccaneers have had strong finishes before – the 5-2 run to close out Tony Dungy's first year as head coach in 1996 seems particularly analogous – but they've never finished a season with more than three wins in a row. Thus, it is an ambitious goal to run the table for six weeks, but they're halfway there now and could sustain their streak if they continue to get improved play from the secondary and prolific numbers out of their passing attack.
However, the Lions will be no easy mark even if Stafford remains out and rookie David Blough makes his third straight start. Detroit has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, including their own version of the Bucs' Chris Godwin – Kenny Golladay, a 2017 third-round pick having a huge year in his third season, including an NFL-high 10 touchdown catches. Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola all have 50-plus catches and are a difficult trio to keep contained, though the Lions also lost Jones to injured reserve this week.
Detroit's defense has fallen off somewhat from a year ago, when it finished in the top 10 in total defense, pass defense and rush defense and was the fourth-best crew at sacking opposing quarterbacks. However, free agency pickup Trey Flowers has provided a team-high seven sacks along with 15 quarterback pressures. Here's what you need to know to prepare for the Sunday's game as the Bucs hit the road one last time:
GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) at Detroit Lions (3-9-1)
Sunday, December 15, 1:00 p.m. ET
Ford Field (capacity: 64,500)
Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)
TV Broadcast Team: Dick Stockton (play-by-play), Mark Schlereth (analyst), Jen Hale (sideline)
Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station
Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)
ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
The one thing the all-time Buccaneers-Lions series definitely has is volume. The Bucs and Lions faced off 57 times in Tampa Bay's first 43 seasons; Sunday's game will be the 58th meeting and the only team the Buccaneers have faced more often in team history is the Chicago Bears (59). Overall, Detroit leads the series 31-26, including a 16-13 edge in Detroit.
The reason those two teams are at the top of the Bucs' most-played list is obvious: They were all division mates from 1977-2001, a 25-year stretch. Then the NFL realigned in 2002 and the five-team NFC Central became the four-team NFC North, with only the Buccaneers departing to start over in the more geographically accurate NFC South. Despite that split, the Buccaneers and Lions still saw each other frequently in the years that followed. In fact, from 2005-17, the two teams met eight times, with the Lions holding a 5-3 edge in that span. That includes the two most recent meetings, a 24-21 Detroit win in Tampa in 2017 and a 34-17 Lions decision in Detroit in 2014. Tampa Bay's best run in the series spanned that 2002 divisional divorce, with the Bucs winning six of the eight games played between 1999 and 2005.
The Buccaneers and Lions spent most of their shared 25 years in the NFC Central punting the series lead back and forth. The head-to-head record was tied at 5-5 after the first 10 games, 11-11 after the first 22, 15-15 after the first 30, and so on. Detroit did pull away a little bit in the first half of the 1990s by winning five straight, at a time when the great Barry Sanders was often tormenting the Buccaneers, but the aforementioned 1999-2005 run evened things back up a bit.
The most important win for the Buccaneers in the all-time series is one that doesn't count in that series record noted above. It was the 1997 Wild Card game, which happened to be the last game ever played at Tampa/Houlihan's Stadium, with the Bucs moving into the brand-new Raymond James Stadium the next year. Tampa Bay broke a 15-year playoff drought that season by going 10-6 and winning a wild card berth, in a season in which, incredibly, four teams from the "Black and Blue Division" made the playoffs. The Bucs and Lions had split during the regular season but the playoff game in Tampa on December 28 was all Tampa Bay in a 20-10 final that wasn't that close. RB Warrick Dunn and FB Mike Alstott combined for 140 rushing yards and Alstott's 31-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave the Bucs a 20-0 lead that was enough to send them to the next round of the playoffs at the home of yet another NFC Central team, the Green Bay Packers.
Even though that's the only time Tampa Bay and Detroit have met in the postseason, it wasn't the first time they played what was essentially an elimination game. The Buccaneers visited Detroit in the final week of the 1981 regular season, with each team owning an 8-7 record. The winner would take the NFC Central crown and a playoff berth; the loser would be eliminated. The Buccaneers won, 20-17, keyed by an 84-yard Kevin House touchdown catch and a 21-yard fumble return by DT David Logan after a sack by DE Lee Roy Selmon.
The situation was very similar a year later when the Bucs and Lions matched up in Tampa in the penultimate week of the regular season. Due to a players' strike that shaved seven games out of the middle of the season, the Bucs and Lions were each 3-4 with two games to go. Tampa Bay rallied from a 21-6 deficit to win 23-21, then won again the next weekend against Chicago to sneak into the playoffs. This time, however, the Lions also won their last game and made the playoffs, too, at 4-5.
· Buccaneers DL Ndamukong Suh began his career in Detroit as the second-overall pick in the 2010 draft. He played four seasons with the Lions, earning first-team All-Pro honors in three of them.
· Buccaneers DL Patrick O'Connor is also a former Lions draft pick, coming aboard in the seventh round in 2017.
· Tampa Bay WR Breshad Perriman is the son of Brett Perriman, who played the same position for the Lions from 1991-96, catching 428 passes for 5,244 yards and 25 touchdowns in that span.
· Lions CB Rashaan Melvin got his first shot at the NFL in Tampa. An undrafted free agent in 2013, he made the Buccaneers' active roster as a rookie but landed on injured reserve in October before appearing in any regular-season contests. Melvin also made the active roster to start the next season but was waived/injured after two weeks, again not getting into any games.
· Lions QB Matthew Stafford was born in Tampa.
· John Bonamego, who is currently the Lions' special teams coordinator, was Sean Murphy-Bunting's head coach at Central Michigan during Murphy-Bunting's four years in Mount Pleasant (2015-18).
· Tampa Bay S Andrew Adams spent the offseason with the Lions after signing in March following a 2018 season spent mostly with the Buccaneers. When Adams was waived by Detroit in early September, the Buccaneers quickly brought him back.
· Buccaneers Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote is a Detroit native.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
· Tampa Bay:
· Head Coach Bruce Arians
· Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
· Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
· Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
· Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
· Head Coach Matt Patricia
· Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell
· Defensive Coordinator Paul Pasqualoni
· Special Teams Coordinator John Bonamego
KEY 2019 ROSTER ADDITIONS
· OLB Sam Acho (FA)
· OLB Shaquil Barrett (UFA)
· CB Jamel Dean (3rd-round draft pick)
· S Mike Edwards (3rd-round draft pick)k
· K Matt Gay (5th-round draft pick)
· CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (2nd-round draft pick)
· WR Breshad Perriman (UFA)
· P Bradley Pinion (UFA)
· DL Ndamukong Suh (UFA)
· LB Devin White (1st-round draft pick)
· WR Danny Amendola (FA)
· QB David Blough (T-CLE)
· CB Justin Coleman (UFA)
· DE Trey Flowers (UFA)
· S Will Harris (3rd-round draft pick)
· TE T.J. Hockenson* (1st-round draft pick)
· TE Jesse James (UFA)
· RB Ty Johnson (6th-round draft pick)
· RB J.D. McKissic (W-SEA)
· CB Rashaan Melvin (UFA)
· Amani Oruwariye (5th-round draft pick)
· QB Kyle Sloter (FA)
· LB Jahlani Tavai (2nd-round draft pick)
· TE Logan Thomas (FA)
(* On injured reserve.)
ADDITIONAL 2019 CHANGES OF NOTE
· In January, Tampa Bay engineered one of the most significant changes a franchise could make in hiring a new head coach. That man is Bruce Arians, who needed just five years to become the winningest coach in Arizona Cardinals history and who has a history of helping quarterbacks excel. Arians assembled an extremely experienced coaching staff around him, almost all of whom he had worked with in the past.
· One of the coaches Arians brought on was Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, who served under him in the same capacity in Arizona in 2013 and 2014 before becoming the Jets' head coach. Bowles' arrival means the Buccaneers have technically switched to a base 3-4 defense, something the team hadn't identified with since 1990.
· Bowles' defense means certain players were redefined as outside linebackers, inside linebackers and defensive linemen. No matter the position designations, Tampa Bay's defense has assumed a more aggressive approach in terms of blitz frequency and variety and press-man coverage.
· Tampa Bay's offense was prolific in 2018 in terms of yards, especially in the passing attack, and most of its starters return for 2019, so one could have reasonably expected another strong season on that side of the ball. Indeed, the Buccaneers are third in the NFL in scoring through 14 weeks with 29.1 points per game, up from 24.8 in 2018.
· The Buccaneers released CB Vernon Hargreaves on December 12, parting ways with their 2016 first-round pick after three-and-a-half seasons. Tampa Bay's secondary is experiencing a youth movement, with six players from the last two drafts figuring prominently in the mix now.
· When the Lions hired Matt Patricia as their new head coach in 2018 they also retained some of the staff that had been working under previous head coach Jim Caldwell, including offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. That provided continuity for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had performed well in Cooter's offense from 2015-17. However, after a less successful 2018 campaign, the Lions and Cooter mutually agreed to part ways and Patricia brought in Darrell Bevell, who had been the OC in Seattle for seven years (2011-17) and in Minnesota the five seasons prior to that. Bevell's offenses were known for having balance and generally running the ball successfully, something the Lions' offense has been missing for years.
· Detroit made several other changes to their coaching staff in the offseason, including the hiring of former Central Michigan Head Coach John Bonamego to run their special teams. The Lions also hired Kyle Caskey as their new running backs coach.
· Detroit has had to adjust its quarterback depth chart on the fly in the second half of the season, which is usually not a recipe for success. Stafford, who was having his best season yet in several categories, including passer rating (106.0) has been shelved for the past five games with back and hip injuries. Detroit started the season with Josh Johnson as Stafford's backup but then released him in mid-September to sign Jeff Driskel instead. Driskel thus stepped in when Stafford first went down, but then he suffered his own hamstring injury and landed on injured reserve. That meant turning to undrafted rookie David Blough, who the Lions had acquired in a trade with Cleveland on August 30. Quarterbacks Luis Perez, Tom Savage and David Fales were also on the roster at various points in August. With neither Stafford nor Driskel available to back up Blough, the Lions signed QB Kyle Sloter off Arizona's practice squad and added Joe Callahan to their own practice squad.
· On Oct. 22, one week before the NFL's trade deadline, the Lions shipped safety Quandre Diggs, one of their defensive captains, to Seattle for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft (Seattle also gets a 2021 seventh-round pick in the deal). Diggs was a former sixth-round pick himself but he had developed into a productive defensive back, with three picks each in the previous two seasons, although he got off to something of a slow start in 2019.
View some of the top photos from the Buccaneers' Week 15 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.
Life Without Mike – For the first time since Week Nine of the 2017 season, the Buccaneers will likely have to take the field without Mike Evans, the franchise's number-one receiver in virtually every category. Evans actually trails teammate Chris Godwin in yards (1,212-1,157) and touchdown catches (9-8) this year, but the two rank second and third in the NFL in the former category and are both in the top seven in the latter category. On the one hand, the Buccaneers will still have a formidable pass-catching weapon in Godwin with Evans out, but on the other hand the Lions' defense will be able to devote more attention to him in his teammate's absence. Tampa Bay has the NFL's second-most prolific passing attack and will be facing a Detroit defense that has given up the third-most aerial yards this season, but the Bucs' ability to keep the ball moving may depend on how productive such secondary and tertiary targets as Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson and O.J. Howard can be. The good news is that all three of those players, plus running back Dare Ogunbowale and tight end Cam Brate are coming off a game in which they did indeed step up in Evans' absence. In the win over Indianapolis, the Bucs put up another 337 passing yards after Evans left with a hamstring injury, with the five players noted above combining for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
Ailing QBs – As Week 15 began, there were injury concerns for both of the team's usual starting quarterbacks, both of whom have been extremely prolific when on the field this season. Obviously, the Lions have been dealing with the absence of their starter, Stafford, much longer but his absence was felt more acutely last weekend in Minnesota when Blough struggled, throwing two picks and taking five sacks while putting up a 60.9 passer rating. Assuming Stafford remains out this Sunday, Blough is sure to get a third start and the Lions will hope it's more like his relatively impressive debut on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the Bucs' starter, Jameis Winston, is coming off a career-best 456-yard passing day but is potentially dealing with an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand. Winston missed a series in that win over Indianapolis while having his hand X-rayed, but he returned to put up big numbers in the second half. On Monday, Head Coach Bruce Arians said that Winston had swelling in the hand and was going to see a hand specialist. He may be fine by the weekend, but if not Ryan Griffin would make his first NFL start. In fact, Griffin threw his first career regular-season passes in Sunday's game despite being on the Bucs' active roster for most of the last five seasons.
End of the Road – After winning a combined two games away from home in the 2017-18 seasons, the Buccaneers have emerged as road warriors in 2019, with a 4-3 record after recent victories in Atlanta and Jacksonville. (The Week Six loss to Carolina in London is technically considered a home game and was in effect a neutral-site outing.) Two of the Bucs' three road losses this year were an overtime contest in Seattle and a narrow defeat in Tennessee. If Tampa Bay can get a fifth road win on Sunday in Detroit it would give them just their third winning record away from home in the last 13 seasons. It would also be a fourth straight win overall and a third straight road victories, two streaks the team hasn't accomplished since 2016. If the Buccaneers are to have any hope at finishing with a winning record, they'll have to take down the Lions in Ford Field before getting a chance to close out the season with consecutive home games against Houston and Atlanta.
Playing for Patricia? – Matt Patricia is finishing up just his second season at the Lions' helm but the team has a 9-19-1 record under his guidance and consecutive losing seasons can often bring on outside pressure to make a coaching change. The proverbial hot seat, that is. Those suggestions are starting to crop up with the Lions riding a six-game losing streak, such as this one and this one. Others, of course, will preach patience with a coach less than two years into his job, and the injuries to Stafford and a number of other offensive players is worth factoring into the discussion. In the long run, the Lions might be better off with a few more losses down the stretch in order to get a prime spot in the 2020 draft, but the players and coaches will certainly be fighting for every win instead. In fact, it could be powerful motivation for Lions players to know that a strong finish could go a long way towards quieting the "hot seat" talk around their head coach.
Resiliency Breeding Confidence – The Buccaneers are also hoping to finish strong, in their case extending a three-game winning streak as close to six as possible as a springboard into Bruce Arians' second season at the helm. Of the team's four recent wins, Arians is most fond of last Sundays' game against Indianapolis, in which the Bucs overcame a 4-1 turnover deficit and rallied twice from double-digit holes to win with a late fourth-quarter drive. Arians said he appreciated, "the resiliency of the team, the we're-not-quitting. The fact that we are now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs is not going to change anything. We're going to come, we're going to work. We're going to try to win four in a row, five in a row, and then six in a row." The intangible but potentially critical benefit of that win is that the Buccaneers' ability to bounce back from adversity and still expect to win could be the foundation for a team-wide confidence that will in turn pay dividends going forward. If the Buccaneers do experience any more adversity in Sunday's game in Detroit, it will be telling if they are once again able to overcome it.
1. Buccaneers WR Breshad Perriman vs. Lions CB Amani Oruwariye
Veteran Darius Slay is the type of high-level matchup cornerback that teams often use to shadow an opponent's top receiver, and the Lions definitely use him in that capacity. With Mike Evans unlikely to play, that would mean Slay is likely to commit himself to covering Chris Godwin. That should create plenty of battles between Oruwariye, a rookie fifth-rounder who has recently played opposite Slay with Rashaan Melvin out, and either Perriman or Justin Watson, depending upon the offensive formation. Oruwariye will try to prevent Perriman from providing the chunk plays downfield that he has generated aplenty in the last two games. Perriman had eight catches in those games and half of them went for 27 or more yards. Oruwariye is a bigger corner at 6-2 and 205 pounds, which matches up well with Perriman's size. The rookie has made the most of his recent chance to play, notching an interception and two passes defensed and generally drawing praise for his work in the defense.
2. Lions LG Joe Dahl vs. Buccaneers DL Ndamukong Suh
Dahl is another former fifth-round pick of the Lions, in 2016, and he has come into his own in his fourth year as a very effective starter at left guard. The 6-4, 310-pound Dahl has quietly played well in the final season of his rookie contract, but he'll have a tough challenge in Week 15 in Suh and the Buccaneers' powerful defensive interior. Suh, Vita Vea and Will Gholston have been the driving forces in Tampa Bay's top-ranked rush defense, which is giving up just 75.5 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. Buccaneer opponents have tried 74 runs up the middle this year but haven't fared well on those plays, gaining just 2.20 yards per carry, the lowest against any defense in the NFL. If the Buccaneers' defense can slow down Detroit's running game early, as they have against most opponents this year, then the Dahl-Suh battle will be about keeping the Bucs' intense interior pass-rusher away from rookie QB David Blough. Suh has just 1.5 sacks this year but he's recorded 11 QB hits and, according to his head coach, has been playing particularly well down the stretch.
3. Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard vs. Lions S Tracy Walker
According to Football Outsiders, the Lions' defense ranks 26th in coverage of opposing tight ends, specifically, and have given up 50.8 yards per game to that position. That should be music to Howard's ears, as he is working on a strong finish to the season after struggling for much of the year to produce at the expected levels. In the last two games, Howard has caught nine passes for 164 yards and has had several downfield grabs that demonstrated the mismatch problems he can create for smaller and/or slower defenders. Walker is one of the Lions' most active defenders; he leads the team with 82 tackles but also has an interception and five passes defensed. Walker and fellow safety Tavon Wilson may find themselves trying to keep up with Howard down the seams at times on Sunday.
4. Lions WR Danny Amendola vs. Buccaneers CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
The Lions signed Amendola to work out of the slot after he was released by Miami and he has indeed generated good production in that role with 50 catches for 539 yards and a touchdown. That's something he has been doing in the NFL for 11 years, to the tune of 5,223 career receiving yards. One of the very first catches Amendola made as a Lion was a 47-yard TD in the opener in which he started out in the left slot, dragged across the middle and then popped out wide open in the right flat for a short pass that he took all the way to the house. Trying to prevent plays like that will be the Bucs' rapidly-improving rookie corner Sean Murphy-Bunting, who starts on the outside in the base defense but then usually moves into the slot in the nickel. At times, the Bucs have elected to roll their extra coverage help to the outside in such situations, trusting Murphy-Bunting to hold up in one-on-one work. The rookie has very good feet and change of direction skills, which makes him the right type of defender to try to stick with Amendola and his veteran route-running ability.
DNP: Did not participate in practice
LP: Limited participation in practice
FP: Full participation in practice
NL: Not listed
· DL Beau Allen (ankle) – WEDS: NL; THURS: FP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
· G Alex Cappa (elbow) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
· T Demar Dotson (not injury related) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· WR Mike Evans (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
· WR Scotty Miller (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· OLB Anthony Nelson (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Out.
· OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· T Donovan Smith (ankle/knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Doubtful.
· DL Ndamukong Suh (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
· QB Jameis Winston (right thumb/knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
· CB Jamal Agnew (ankle) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· DT John Atkins (illness) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Questionable.
· DE Austin Bryant (hip) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· G Joe Dahl (back/knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
· LB Jarrad Davis (ankle/knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
· DL Da'Shawn Hand (ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; placed on injured reserve.
· DT Damon Harrison (calf/knee/shoulder/rest) – WEDS: FP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Not listed.
· LB Christian Jones (shoulder) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
· P Sam Martin (abdomen) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· CB Rashaan Melvin (ribs) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
· DT A'Shawn Robinson (shoulder) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
· RB Bo Scarbrough (ribs) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Questionable.
· QB Matthew Stafford (hip/back) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
· T Rick Wagner (knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
(Domed stadium) Outside: Mostly cloudy, high of 32, low of 25, 10% chance of rain, 63% humidity, winds out of the WNW at 10 mph.
Head referee: Adrian Hill (10 seasons, first as referee)
· Favorite: Buccaneers (-4.0)
· Over/Under: 46.0
INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS
Points Scored: K Matt Gay, 106
Touchdowns: WR Chris Godwin, 9
Passing Yards: QB Jameis Winston, 4,115
Passer Rating: QB Jameis Winston, 84.9
Rushing Yards: RB Ronald Jones, 518
Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 81
Receiving Yards: WR Chris Godwin, 1,212
Interceptions: CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, 2
Sacks: OLB Shaq Barrett, 15.0
Tackles: LB Lavonte David, 96
Points Scored: K Matt Prater, 95
Touchdowns: WR Kenny Golladay, 10
Passing Yards: QB Matthew Stafford, 2,499
Passer Rating: QB Matthew Stafford, 106.0
Rushing Yards: RB Kerryon Johnson*, 308
Receptions: WR Marvin Jones, 62
Receiving Yards: WR Kenny Golladay, 1,008
Interceptions: CB Darius Slay, 2
Sacks: DE Trey Flowers, 7.0
Tackles: S Tracy Walker, 82
(* On injured reserve.)
TEAM STAT RANKINGS
Scoring Offense: 3rd (29.1 ppg)
Total Offense: 3rd (392.8 ypg)
Passing Offense: 2nd (298.2 ypg)
Rushing Offense: t-24th (94.6 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 4th (22.8)
Third-Down Pct.: 13th (41.0%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 21st (7.95%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 8th (63.3%)
Scoring Defense: 31st (29.3 ppg)
Total Defense: 17th (354.3 ypg)
Passing Defense: 31st (278.8 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 1st (75.5 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 22nd (20.9)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 4th (33.9%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 23rd (6.32%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 14th (55.1%)
Turnover Margin: 28th (-10)
Scoring Offense: 19th (22.1 ppg)
Total Offense: 13th (366.0 ypg)
Passing Offense: 7th (263.2 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 19th (102.8 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 17th (20.5)
Third-Down Pct.: 12th (42.3%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 19th (7.59%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 18th (55.6%)
Scoring Defense: 24th (25.8 ppg)
Total Defense: 29th (394.7 ypg)
Passing Defense: 30th (276.5 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 23rd (118.2 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 30th (22.5)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 28th (44.1%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 29th (5.21%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 29th (61.2%)
Turnover Margin: t-20th (-3)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
· OLB Shaquil Barrett leads the NFL with 15.5 sacks, which is also tied for the second-highest single-season total in Buccaneers history. Barrett could soon be at the top of that list. With one more sack he would move past Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks in 2002) and into a tie for first place second place with Warren Sapp, who set the record at 16.5 in 2000. If Barrett gets 1.5 sacks, he'll have the record on his own.
· Barrett also leads the NFL with six forced fumbles, and the Buccaneers' single-season record is seven, first set by Wally Chambers in 1979 and later matched by Broderick Thomas in 1991 and Stylez G. White in 2007.
· WR Chris Godwin is second in the NFL with 1,212 receiving yards, which is also the ninth-highest single-season total in franchise history. Within his next 100 yards, Godwin could move up four more spots, passing Vincent Jackson (1,224 in 2013), Antonio Bryant (1,248 in 2008), Keyshawn Johnson (1,266 in 2001) and Joey Galloway (1,287 in 2005). Godwin is also just 110 yards shy of passing Mike Evans' 2016 total of 1,321, which is fourth-best in team history.
· As a team, the Buccaneers have generated 378 points this season. If they get 19 more, they will break their single-season record of 396 points, set last year.
· After throwing four touchdown passes last Sunday against the Colts, Jameis Winston is up to 26 on the season, which is tied for second in the NFL. It's also within shouting distance of the team's single-season record, which Winston set at 28 in 2016.
· K Matt Gay scored eight points against the Colts to increase his season total to 106, which is fourth-most in the NFL. That total also matches the Bucs' rookie record for scoring set by Martin Gramatica in 1999, so Gay's next successful kick will give him sole possession of that standard.
· Ndamukong Suh has two fumble-return touchdowns this season, already tying Ronde Barber's 2004 team record. If he manages to get another loose ball into the end zone, Suh would tie the NFL record in that category set by Link Lyman of the Cleveland Bulldogs in 1924.
· Head Coach Bruce Arians on having contributors besides Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in the passing game lately, particularly with Evans now out: "Yeah, I think when people try to take them away, the other guys need to step up, and they did. Jameis [Winston] did a good job of finding those matchups – O.J. [Howard] a few times in Jacksonville and last week. Some of those plays were by design because you know what's happening outside, so you set some stuff up inside. Justin [Watson] jumped in there and did his job. He got a game ball for doing his job."
· Quarterback Jameis Winston on why the Buccaneers have done well in the red zone this year: "I think, one, Coach [Byron] Leftwich has been doing a great job with scheming things up and I think our guys have been doing an excellent job buying in. We've been running the ball [well] down there – we've got a couple of rushing touchdowns in the red zone. That's always important when you can get on the 15-yard line and run the ball in. That's huge. And when you've got guys that know how to get open, that's huge."
· DL Ndamukong Suh on working through frequent double-teams and helping teammates succeed: "It's something I'm used to, something I've always prided myself on, having to be accounted for. Truthfully, I look at it as a sign of respect. At the same time, I've got to continue to find ways to beat double teams and free up my teammates."
· WR Breshad Perriman on how Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have succeeded in having huge years at the same time: "Those two want each other to succeed in every way possible. If you go in that [receiver] room or you're around them, you can feel that. I feel like that's huge, because there's a lot of people out there who want to be the guy. They want to have the most catches, the most targets this weekend and every week. With those two, you don't really get that."
· Arians on Ryan Griffin, who would start at quarterback on Sunday if Jameis Winton can't play: "[It's] like he's never missed a beat, like he's been a starter all year. That's just him. He's a very bright guy, he's extremely accurate, [we had] a very fast-tempo practice – we really didn't miss anything. I think we all have a ton of confidence in him."