The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to clinch the NFC South title this weekend but they don't have to wait until the end of the season to know what the postseason feels like. According to multiple Buccaneers players and coaches, this Sunday's game against prime AFC contender Buffalo already feels like a playoff contest.
"I do feel that intensity, for sure," said tight end Rob Gronkowski. "We've got a playoff team coming in, into our house. There's going to be a lot of pressure on the line, but we've got to prepare like any other week. They're a good team, they've got a winning record, they've got a lot of playmakers, they've got a lot of good players on the defensive side of the ball, so it's going to be a pretty intense atmosphere. I would say it's going to be more of like another playoff atmosphere."
Indeed, Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium is one of only two in Week 14 that pits two teams with winning records, the other being the Monday night showcase of the Rams at the Cardinals. Moreover, the Buccaneers-Bills matchup has a chance to significantly affect the playoff races in both conferences. Tampa Bay is trying to wrap up its division and reel in the Cardinals and Packers in the overall NFC race while the Bills are trying to regain control of the AFC East after losing it to the Patriots on Monday night.
"It's a huge game for both teams," said Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians. "Where we're at now, everything is involved with the playoffs and the seeding and everything, plus we don't want to lose at home. They're obviously coming off a really tough loss; they don't want to lose two in a row. It's a big game for both teams."
Even without the postseason implications, Sunday's contest will feature two of the top six scoring teams (Bucs first, Bills sixth), the league's top-scoring offense (Bucs), the league's top-ranked defense (Bills), the second-ranked rush defense (Bucs), the second-ranked scoring defense (Bills), two of the top four teams in scoring differential (Bills first, Bucs fourth) and the top two teams in yardage differential (Bills first, Bucs second).
"We've got a good team coming into town," said Gronkowski. "Big time. We've got to be ready. They play hard football, they play four quarters of football and they bring it. They're going to be prepared. They're going to be coming mentally and physically, they're going to be bringing it. So we've got to study up, we've got to keep our preparation going like we have the last few weeks. We've got to be ready and on our toes, ready to roll from the opening kickoff."
The Buccaneers have won three straight after a brief two-game lull against New Orleans and Washington and are trying to duplicate their extremely hot finish to last season, which ran all the way through Super Bowl LI. The Bucs already won their first game in December and are undefeated in that month since the arrival of Tom Brady. Brady himself is 67-16 all-time as a starter in the month of December.
"I would say we know that we have a playoff-caliber team coming to town, so this is going to be more playoff atmosphere, playoff seed, playoff game," said safety Andrew Adams. "I think everybody's antennas are at an all-time high right now and I think in December we want to play our best football. Despite who's coming in, right now is where we're all trying to click and jell, and we want to be at our best."
The Bills, meanwhile, are trying to round back into the form that took them to a 13-3 record and all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 2020. They have lost three of their last five, surprisingly to the Jaguars in Jacksonville in Week Nine and by a surprisingly large margin in a 41-15 home loss to the Colts in Week 11. The most painful of the three, though was, New England's 14-10 win in Buffalo on Monday night amid such strong winds that the Patriots only threw the ball three times. It appeared as if there had been a long-awaited changing of the guard in the AFC East after last season and the first month of 2021, but now it's the Patriots who have a 1.5-game lead in the division.
The Bills, of course, still have 2020 MVP candidate Josh Allen under center, star receiver Stefon Diggs, a rugged offensive line, a host of talented pass-rushers and one of the best off-ball linebacker duos in the league in Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. They also still have one more game remaining against the Patriots in Week 16 which could present them with an opportunity to take the division lead back. To stay close, though, Buffalo needs a win on Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champions, and that indeed is going to feel like a playoff game.
GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS
Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)
Sunday, December 12, 4:25 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,618)
TV Broadcast Team: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (analyst), Tracy Wolfson (reporter)
Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station
Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (reporter)
ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
The Buccaneers have never won a game in Buffalo and they've notched one victory against the Bills and the last 15 years, and yet their all-time winning percentage against Buffalo, .636, is their best against any NFL opponent.
Buffalo has won two of the last three meetings in the series, both of them at home in what were actually the Bucs' first two trips ever to upstate New York. That has tightened the record up a bit, but Tampa Bay still leads overall, 7-4. The upcoming game between the two teams is in Tampa, of course, and the Bucs are 7-2 all-time when the Bills visit. That is also their best winning percentage in home games against any opponent.
Buffalo won the most recent game in the series, a 30-27 squeaker in Buffalo that saw 27 points scored and two lead changes in the fourth quarter. The Bucs rallied to take a 27-20 lead on touchdown catches from O.J. Howard (his second of the game) and Mike Evans but Bills running back LeSean McCoy knotted it back up on a seven-yard scoring run with 2:28 left in regulation. On the very next play from scrimmage, Bucs receiver Adam Humphries lost a rare fumble and the Bills turned it into a Steven Hauschka 30-yard game-winner with 14 seconds left.
Tampa Bay's most recent win in the series was in 2013 at Raymond James Stadium, with Bobby Rainey kicking of a 27-6 blowout with an 80-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game. Lavonte David had two of the Bucs' four interceptions off quarterback E.J. Manuel.
The Bucs and Bills have met four times since the new scheduling method was introduced in 2002 and set up rotating interconference divisional matchups, but just seven times before that, and never in Tampa. The Buccaneers' random avoidance of the Buffalo area for more than three decades isn't the only oddity in their all-time series with the Bills. Despite playing each other just 10 times, the Bucs and Bills managed to produce a once-in-NFL-history outcome – Tampa Bay's 10-5 win in 1988 is the only NFL game ever to finish in that score.
It actually didn't take long for the Buccaneers and Bills to become acquainted. Tampa Bay entered the league in 1976 as the NFL's 27th franchise; the Bills were born in 1960 as part of the new AFL and became an NFL team during the 1970 merger. Just three games into the Buccaneers' inaugural season, the Bills visited Tampa Stadium to take on one of the league's two expansion teams. At that point, Tampa Bay was still looking for its first point, having been shut out 20-0 by Houston and 23-0 by San Diego.
They got those long-awaited points on a pair of Dave Green field goals in the first quarter, and even held a 9-7 lead over the Bills in the fourth quarter before QB Joe Ferguson (who would end up playing for the Buccaneers a dozen years later) threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to TE Reuben Gant for a 14-9 Buffalo win. As it turned out, that was about as close as the expansion Bucs would come to victory for almost two full seasons.
- Leslie Frazier, the Bills' defensive coordinator, held the same post with the Buccaneers during the 2014-15 seasons.
- Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. is the son of former Bills cornerback Antoine Winfield, a first-round selection in the 1999 draft by Buffalo. The elder Winfield played the first five of his 14 NFL seasons in Buffalo, starting 58 of 72 games and recording 357 tackles and six interceptions.
- Buccaneers cornerback Ross Cockrell first entered the league as a fourth-round draft pick by Buffalo in 2014. He played one season for the Bills, appearing in seven games and recording one tackle.
- Tim Atkins, currently the Buccaneers' defensive quality control coach, was a defensive assistant with the Bills in 2011 and 2012.
- Leonard Johnson began his NFL playing career in Tampa and recently began his NFL coaching career in Buffalo. Johnson, a Bay area native, signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State in 2012. He played three seasons in Tampa, appearing in 48 games with 17 starts and recording five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Johnson is in his second year as a coaching assistant with the Bills, for whom he also played in 2017.
- Buccaneers Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Thaddeus Lewis played quarterback for the Bills in 2013, making five starts and throwing for 1,092 yards and five interceptions.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
- 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 Sean McDermott
- Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll
- Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier
- Special Teams Coordinator Heath Farwell
KEY 2021 ROSTER ADDITIONS
- S Andrew Adams (FA)
- RB Giovani Bernard(FA)
- LB K.J. Britt (fifth-round draft pick)
- WR Jaelon Darden(fourth-round draft pick)
- CB Pierre Desir (FA)
- CB Dee Delaney (FA)
- OL Robert Hainsey (third-round draft pick)
- CB Richard Sherman(FA)
- QB Kyle Trask (second-round draft pick)
- OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (first-round draft pick)
- DE Carlos Basham (2nd-round draft pick)
- RB Matt Breida (UFA)
- T Spencer Brown (3rd-round draft pick)
- T Tommy Doyle (5th-round draft pick)
- P Matt Haack (UFA)
- S Damar Hamlin (6th-round draft pick)
- ·DE Efe Obada (FA)
- DE Gregory Rousseau (1st-round draft pick)
- WR Emmanuel Sanders (FA)
- QB Mitchell Trubisky (UFA)
ADDITIONAL 2021 CHANGES OF NOTE
- While "keeping the band" together on the field for a run at another championship, the Buccaneers also managed to keep their coaching staff almost entirely intact for 2021. The lone departure was Offensive Assistant Antwaan Randle El, who left to coach the receivers on Dan Campbell's staff in Detroit. There were two additions to Arians' staff: Offensive Assistant A.Q. Shipley and Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Thaddeus Lewis.
- Mike Greenberg, who provided invaluable help to Jason Licht in the efforts to keep the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning roster together as the team's director of football administration, was promoted during the offseason to vice president of football administration. Greenberg is entering his 12th year with the team.
- After playing their 2020 home schedule in front of audiences ranging from empty stands to about 25% capacity, the Buccaneers will be at full capacity at Raymond James Stadium in 2021. And we do mean full capacity. The defending champions have already sold out every home game this season; the last time every game at Raymond James Stadium sold out was in 2009.
- The Buccaneers introduced new uniforms in 2020 that were heavily influenced by the look the team had during its first Super Bowl era but also included a brand new alternate set with matching pewter jerseys and pants. That gave the team four combinations last season: pewter on pewter, white on white, white on pewter and red on pewter. The Bucs will use a fifth combination in 2021, with a red jersey over white pants, which they will wear in the Sunday Night Football spotlight at home against the Saints in Week 15.
- The Bills didn't move in 2021 but they are now playing in Highmark Stadium. That was the new name given to their home venue after it had originally opened in 1973 as Rich Stadium. It was later christened Ralph Wilson Stadium, New Era Field and, last year, just Bills Stadium. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield purchased the naming rights in March.
- Buffalo finished the 2020 season with Matt Barkley as their primary backup to quarterback Josh Allen, with Jake Fromm the third option on the practice squad. In the offseason, the Bills brought in a new backup in former Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky after Chicago did not try to re-sign the former second-overall pick. The third option on the practice squad is now Davis Webb.
- The Bills had to make wide receiver John Brown a cap casualty at the end of 2020 after his two seasons and 105 catches in Buffalo, but they quickly and ably filled that hole with another team's cap casualty, signing Emmanuel Sanders two days after he was let go by New Orleans in March. Sanders is third on the team in 2021 with 39 catches.
Clinched Up – The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last year without actually winning the NFC South, which was absolutely fine and would be an acceptable outcome any season. That being said, the Buccaneers came into 2021 very motivated to break the Saints' four-year stranglehold on the South and take home their first division title since 2007. The practical reason is that it would make any subsequent playoff run a little less daunting by starting with a game or two at home, but there's little doubt there is emotional motivation as well. Even if the Buccaneers were confident they would rise to the top of the division in 2021, they probably did not envision clinching the whole thing with a full four games left to play. But that can actually happen this Sunday if the Bucs beat Buffalo and get a little help from the Falcons and Jets. If Atlanta knocks off Carolina and the Jets beat the Saints, the Buccaneers will only need to prevail in their own game to be crowned the division champs. There will be other opportunities to win the division, given that Tampa Bay has a very strong four-game lead over the other three teams, and at some point the Bucs will probably have a chance to clinch without needing any outside help. Still, the sooner the better, as far as Tampa Bay is concerned. Meanwhile, the Bills have dropped to seventh in the AFC race but can still reasonably contend not only for the AFC East title but even for the top overall spot. Both of those things currently belong to the 9-4 Patriots, who have a 1.5-game lead in the division but have to play the Bills again in three weeks. Other than New England, no other team in the AFC has more than a one-game lead on the 7-5 Bills. In fact, 12 of the 16 teams in the AFC have between six and eight wins at the moment. The final five weeks of that conference race promise to be wild and unpredictable, but every game will be important and that makes Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium appointment viewing.
Pass Attacks – Tom Brady is the best quarterback the AFC East has ever known (seeing as how the AFC East is a subset of, you know, all of football), but the division's star passer is now Buffalo's Josh Allen after Brady's move to Florida. Allen has never faced the Buccaneers before, but he did square off against Brady's Patriots as a starter three times in the 2018-19 seasons. Neither quarterback had a particularly remarkable outing in any of those games – no 300-yard outings, none with three or more touchdown passes – but the most important stat belonged to Brady: three wins. Now, this is not a Josh Allen issue – Brady is a remarkable 32-3 in 35 career starts against the Bills. Nor is Allen the same quarterback now that he was in the 2018-19 seasons. The former seventh-overall pick blossomed into a full-fledged star in 2020, throwing for 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns and a 107.2 passer rating and also running for 421 yards and eight scores. Allen's numbers are down a bit from that high in 2021 but still quite good: 268.0 passing yards and 35.2 rushing yards per game and 39 total touchdowns, with a passer rating of 97.5 that ranks third in the AFC. Given the various amounts of upheaval at quarterback for the Saints, Panthers and Jets, Allen is likely the most dangerous field general left on Tampa Bay's schedule and how they handle him will likely determine who comes out on top Sunday. Meanwhile, Brady is very much still the same quarterback he was in 2018 and 2019, if not somehow even better at the age of 44. He leads the NFL in both passing yards (3,771) and touchdown passes (34), and he's coming off his sixth game in 2021 with four or TD throws. Sunday's game figures to be more competitive than a lot of the Patriots-Bills games in which Brady took part over a two-decade span, and the quarterbacks for both teams will certainly be centerstage.
Heating Up Up Front – Tampa Bay's defense produced 17 sacks over the first eight games of the season but now has 15 over just the last four outings, capped by a five-sack outing in the Week 13 win at Atlanta. The contributors to that enhanced pass rush over the past month have been many, not just team sack leader Shaq Barrett but also interior linemen Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh (a combined 5.0 sacks over the past two weeks), reserve outside linebackers Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill and blitzing inside linebacker Devin White. According to Next Gen Stats, two of the Bucs' four best games in terms of pressure rate were in Atlanta last Sunday and against the Giants in Week 11. In addition, all of the last four games rank in the bottom five for the Buccaneers' defense in terms of blitz percentage, which means the team is managing to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks without having to frequently send extra men at the quarterback, which is the best-case scenario for any defense. As noted above, however, the Bills have one of the NFL's best offensive fronts in terms of protecting the passer, so it will be a challenge for the Bucs' pass rushers to keep the needle pointed in the right direction this week.
Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put their original starting trio of cornerbacks – Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting – on the field together last Sunday for the first time since the first quarter of the season opener. And then Dean promptly left the game with a concussion. That obviously puts Dean's availability in doubt for the upcoming game and the third-year corner did not practice to start the week on Wednesday. The Buccaneers have seen a cornerback leave the game due to injury almost literally every game in 2021, which has kept a constant shuffling of contributors going at the position. Now they may be getting a corner back into the rotation soon, though he might not actually play cornerback. Richard Sherman returned to practice on Wednesday and could be activated from injured reserve at any point in the next three weeks, possibly before Sunday's game against the Bills. However, Head Coach Bruce Arians said that Sherman is going to start getting work at safety since it is that position that is suddenly thinner than the cornerback group. With Jordan Whitehead out due to injury and Mike Edwards suspended for two more games, the Buccaneers are down to using versatile corners like Ross Cockrell as their depth at safety. Still, Sherman could be a boost for a secondary that has basically had to cobble together a different lineup from week to week.
All Over the AFC – If the Buccaneers manage to get the win on Sunday, the Bills will at least be able to take solace in one thing: They are probably going to get hot in the weeks that follow. Tampa Bay won at New England in Week Four, sending the Patriots to a 1-3 record, but New England has since won eight of its last nine games. The Buccaneers came home the next week to beat Miami and put the Dolphins at 1-4, but Miami has since ridden a five-game winning streak back into playoff contention. From the Bucs' point of view, however, another win would allow them to remain perfect against AFC opponents, with only a Week 17 game at the New York Jets still looming. The Buccaneers have never completed a season sweep of at least four AFC foes, and that was an even harder hurdle to clear in 2021 with the fifth interconference matchup added to a 17-game schedule. Tampa Bay took care of that extra AFC game in Week 12 with a win at Indianapolis. The only other times the Bucs have finished a season without a loss to an AFC team was in 1978 and 1978, when they only played two interconference games in a season.
1. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin vs. Bills CB Taron Johnson
This is a matchup of two very good players who probably do not get the level of recognition they deserve. Both are middle-round draft picks who have played more like first-rounders early in their careers, and both of their teams have acknowledged that performance on the salary front. Godwin is playing his fifth season on the franchise tag tender while Johnson was rewarded with a lucrative new three-year contract after his third year. Tre'Davious White is the star of the Buffalo secondary, though he is now on injured reserve, but Taron Johnson has emerged as one of the best nickel backs in the entire NFL. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he came into Monday night's game against New England with a negative -25.7% catch-percentage-over-expected rate when targeted, the best by any defensive back in the NFL. Given that the Patriots only threw three passes in that game, Johnson's numbers probably stayed the same. This week, he will see a lot of Chris Godwin, who takes 60% of his snaps out of the slot and is coming off a 15-catch, 143-yard performance in Atlanta that set a new single-game reception record for the Buccaneers. Godwin is the Buccaneers' leading receiver and he's closing in on both 100 catches and 1,000 yards after reaching 82 and 949 last weekend. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Godwin had 13 of those 15 catches in the seams, the most by any player in a game over the last six years. Godwin runs a wide variety of routes with precision and is willing to take hits in order to pick up more yards after the catch.
2. Bills OL Daryl Williams vs. either Buccaneers DL Ndamukong Suh or OLB Shaq Barrett
Whether Williams is more often pitted against Suh or Barrett on Sunday may depend on whether guard Jon Feliciano is activated from injured reserve before the game. The Bills made re-signing Williams an offseason priority because he gave them very strong play at right tackle in 2020, but this year he is also helping with his versatility, starting seven games at right tackle and five at left guard, in part due to injuries to teammates. Feliciano has missed the last five games and Williams has started two of those at right guard. If he's back there again this Sunday, he will see a lot of Suh, who usually lines up on the weak side on the interior line, with Vita Vea on the strong side, and has seen the majority of his action over the right guard. If he moves back to right tackle he'll get a lot of reps against Barrett, who more commonly rushes around the right end of the opposing line. Suh is coming off one of his best games of 2021 with two sacks of Atlanta's Matt Ryan, both killing drives on third downs. Suh also remains one of the main reasons the Buccaneers have the NFL's second-best rush defense and are extremely hard to run against between the tackles. Barrett had his own two-sack game the week before that, which included a momentum-swinging strip-sack in the third quarter. No player in the NFL has executed more strip-sacks since the start of 2019 than Barrett, with 11.
3. Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette vs. Bills LB Matt Milano
Fournette had the Bucs' first 100-yard rushing game of the season and just the third four-touchdown effort in franchise history two weeks ago in Indianapolis. The following Sunday in Atlanta he was held to just 44 rushing yards, but that didn't mean he failed to make a big impact on the game. Fournette scored again on a short pass, caught seven passes overall for 48 yards and was part of a backfield protection effort that allowed Tom Brady throw 51 passes without ever being sacked, and almost without being touched. Two of the reasons that Fournette has clearly taken over as the Bucs' three-down workhorse back are his trustworthy blocking and his ability to pick up yards after the catch in the passing game. He cracked the 1,000 yards from scrimmage mark last Sunday (1,067) and has nine total touchdowns, just one off Mike Evans' lead. Putting up big numbers again and keeping Brady clean will be a tougher task than usual on Sunday due to the presence of Milano, an outstanding coverage linebacker who also has done a good job of invading the backfield this season. According to Next Gen Stats, Milano has 10 quarterback pressures in 2021 to rank third among off-ball linebackers and an excellent 16.7% pressure rate. He has also been perhaps the toughest linebacker to exploit in the passing game this season, allowing just 3.7 yards per target when he's the nearest defender. That is best among all NFL linebackers with at least 25 targets.
4. Bills QB Josh Allen vs. Buccaneers ILB Devin White
Speaking of off-ball linebackers who can be menacing to quarterbacks in the backfield, the Buccaneers also have one of the league's best in Devin White. According to NGS, White has generated a 20.8% pressure rate when blitzing the passer since the start of 2020, the highest in the NFL among all players, not just linebackers. This year, that rate is up to a mind-boggling 22.5% rate. White also lead the team with 100 tackles on the nose and has added 2.0 sacks and three passes defensed. Buffalo's offensive line has allowed the fourth-lowest sack rate this year but White could put a dent in that number and help force Allen into mistakes if he can continue to blitz effectively on Sunday. White may also be a key defender for the Buccaneers when the roles are reversed and Allen is coming out of the backfield to attack the defense with his legs. Allen is the Bills' second-leading rusher with 422 yards, averaging about 35 ground yards per game. It's not just that he's big and fast a talented runner, but that the Bills design running plays for him that the Buccaneers don't see much of against any other opponent. Said Bruce Arians: "He just is so unique in the way they run the ball with him. Their back-side sets, where it's 100 percent pass by any other quarterback, there's a really good chance it's a run with him. Brian Daboll does a hell of a job with those quarterback runs."
DNP: Did not participate in practice
LP: Limited participation in practice
FP: Full participation in practice
NL: Not listed
- WR Jaelon Darden (concussion) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- CB Jamel Dean (concussion) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- DL Will Gholston (wrist/knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
- TE Rob Gronkowski (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
- C Ryan Jensen (ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
- G Ali Marpet (abdomen) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) – WEDS: FP; THURS:FP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
- DL Ndamukong Suh (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
- DL Vita Vea (knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Not listed.
- S Jordan Whitehead (calf) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- WR Cole Beasley (not injury related) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: Removed from report.
- FB Reggie Gilliam (ankle) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP: FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- DT Star Lotulelei (toe) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- DE Efe Obada (hip) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- DT Ed Oliver (chest) – WEDS: NL; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- WR Emmanuel Sanders (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
- TE Tommy Sweeney (hip) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
Cloudy with possible showers, high of 78, low of 60, 20% chance of rain, 70% humidity, winds out of the NNE at 10 mph.
Head referee: Scott Novak (8th season, 3rd as referee)
- Favorite: Buccaneers (-3.0)
- Over/Under: 52.5
INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS
Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 89
Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans, 10
Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 3,771
Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 104.0
Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 665
Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 82
Receiving Yards: WR Chris Godwin, 949
Interceptions: S Mike Edwards, 3
Sacks: OLB Shaquil Barrett, 7.5
Tackles: LB Devin White, 100
Points Scored: K Tyler Bass, 98
Touchdowns: WR Stefon Diggs/TE Dawson Knox, 7
Passing Yards: QB Josh Allen, 3,244
Passer Rating: QB Josh Allen, 97.5
Rushing Yards: RB Devin Singletary, 495
Receptions: WR Stefon Diggs, 71
Receiving Yards: WR Stefon Diggs, 898
Interceptions: S Jordan Poyer, 5
Sacks: DE Mario Addison, 4.0
Tackles: LB Tremaine Edmunds, 69
TEAM STAT RANKINGS
Scoring Offense: 1st (31.4 ppg)
Total Offense: 2nd (403.7 ypg)
Passing Offense: 1st (311.1 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 25th (92.6 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 2nd (24.4)
Third-Down Pct.: 3rd (48.0%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (2.90%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: t-5th (66.7%)
Scoring Defense: 16th (22.5 ppg)
Total Defense: 10th (332.8 ypg)
Passing Defense: 20th (247.5 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 2nd (84.3 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-16th (20.8)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 24th (42.2%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 13th (6.69%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 12th (56.1%)
Turnover Margin: 6th (+8)
Scoring Offense: 6th (28.0 ppg)
Total Offense: 9th (376.0 ypg)
Passing Offense: 8th (259.3 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 13th (116.7 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 6th (22.4)
Third-Down Pct.: 2nd (48.8%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 4th (4.24%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 18th (58.8%)
Scoring Defense: 2nd (16.3 ppg)
Total Defense: 1st (272.3 ypg)
Passing Defense: 1st (165.3 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 12th (107.1 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 1st (16.5)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 3rd (32.0%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 24th (5.66%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-4th (50.0%)
Turnover Margin: t-4th (+9)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- Over the past two seasons, Tom Brady has wrested several all-time NFL passing records out of the clutches of Drew Brees, including most touchdown passes and most passing yards. Now he's coming for another one, needing just 18 more completions to take over the top spot in that category. Drew Brees currently holds the record with 7,142 completions to 7,125 for Brady, who hasn't completed fewer than 20 passes in any game this season.
- Brady is also on the verge of another nice round number, as two more touchdown passes would give him exactly 700 in his career. Meanwhile, if he throws four or more touchdown passes on Sunday, as he has in six games this season already, he would pass Vinny Testaverde (77) for the third most TD tosses in franchise history.
- Tight end Cam Brate broke a tie with Chris Godwin with his three-yard touchdown catch in Atlanta last Sunday. Brate now has 31 touchdowns, which moves him into a different tie with Kevin House for the fifth-most touchdowns and third-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history. Brate could take the fifth spot for himself with one more score and/or Godwin could join the tie at fifth or move past Brate with one or two TDs of his own. One of Godwin's 30 career touchdowns came on a run, so he's a bit farther behind on that list.
- In Week 12, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett recorded two sacks to push his career total as a Buccaneer to 35.0, which moved him past Chidi Ahanotu and into sixth place on the team's all-time sack list. Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who is currently tied with Brad Culpepper for eighth on that list with 33.0 sacks, could also separate himself from Culpepper with one sack against Atlanta and leap over Ahanotu with two.
- After his record-breaking 15-catch, 143-yards outing at Atlanta in Week 13, wide receiver Chris Godwin needs just 51 more yards on Sunday to give him the second 1,000-yard receiving season of his career. He would become just the sixth player in team history to accomplish that feat more than once.
- The next pass that tight end Rob Gronkowski catches will be the 600th of his career, making him the fifth tight end in NFL history to hit that mark.
- Head Coach Bruce Arians on if a potentially windy day at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday would impact his decision-making during the game: "It really depends on the quarterback's warmups. For me, [it's] the history of going out there with the quarterback and watching him throw in all four corners, and which way is it going and which way it is moving. I've never been on a team where we could run the ball that many times and win, so you still had to throw the damn thing. Yeah, it's according to your quarterback."
- Wide receiver Mike Evans on playing against the Bills: "Buffalo's tough. They're a tough team in the AFC. They were a few plays away from the AFC Championship. We could have played them in the Super Bowl last year. They're a really good team coming off a tough loss in a windy game against New England. We're expecting their best and we're looking forward to putting out our best."
- Tight end Rob Gronkowski on how long it took him to gain Tom Brady's trust when Gronkowski first arrived in New England: "It took a while. It wasn't like I walked in when I was a rookie and we had it down. I would say [it took] about a year. He saw the potential [in me with] the page I can be on. At the beginning, we were up and down. It was basically like I was up and down because he knew what he wanted out of me and I didn't totally understand everything. I would say [it took] about a year. By the end of my rookie year, we had that connection going and we followed up with it big time in the offseason after my first year. From there on out from my second year in the league, we were kind of on the same page and just working on it year-in and year-out."
- Safety Andrew Adams on what makes Bills quarterback Josh Allen difficult to defend: "He has a very strong arm, and he has good legs, so he can run. Also, they call designed run plays for him, so that's something that adds a tool to his arsenal. Then he throws off his back foot [too], so all of those things – his speed along with his arm make him very dangerous."
- Guard Ali Marpet on the Bucs' skill-position players playing tough and fighting for extra yards: "It's awesome. When you have your skill guys falling forward and getting extra yards, it helps you bury the opponent. You feel like you're imposing your will. When "Lenny" [Leonard Fournette] or Chris [Godwin] or Gronk are falling forward, we have guys getting extra yards, it's really cool to see. Especially, if you can help them push the pile a little bit, it feels like you're imposing your will a little bit."