Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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5 Bucs to Watch Against Buffalo

In what could be the toughest matchup of the season, here are some players that could be the difference for the Buccaneers.

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1. QB Tom Brady

While Brady's numbers last week against Atlanta were impressive, he hasn't played the Falcons nearly as much as he's played this week's opponent. In fact, he's played Buffalo 35 times, winning an impressive 32 of those contests. It gives him a .914 win percentage against the Bills, which is the best by any quarterback against a single franchise. His 32 wins are the most, as well since 1950 with a minimum of 20 matchups.

Brady hasn't lost to Buffalo since Week 17 of 2014 and that was when the Patriots had already locked up the #1 seed in the playoffs that year. Brady has scored 70 touchdowns on the Bills and averages 247.7 yards per game with a 97.9 passer rating.

Should Brady throw for at least three touchdowns and 286 or more yards, he will set an NFL record for most in each category against a single opponent.

He's leading the Bucs' top-ranked passing and scoring offense against the Bills' top-ranked overall defense as the NFL's passing leader himself. In fact, the league's passing leader has faced off against the #1 ranked passing defense seven times in Week 14 or later since 1980. Brady has been a part of two of those contests and is a perfect 2-0 in them. The other quarterbacks, including Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, are a collective 0-5 in such games.

Widen the lens and the number one scoring offense has won the last six matchups (including playoffs) against the number one total defense, according to NFL research. This is all to say that the Bucs and Bills are two teams that match up extremely well, with the pair ranked first or second in major offensive and defensive categories. For instance, the Bucs rank first in passing yards per game and passing touchdowns per game where the Bills' defense ranks first defensively in both of those categories.

2. TE Rob Gronkowski

Brady isn't the only one that is hyper familiar with Buffalo. Not only has Gronkowski played the Bills 15 times, but Buffalo is where he considers his hometown. He grew up a huge Bills fan, which may give some insight into why Gronk does so well against them. In those 15 games, Gronkowski has 69 receptions with an average of 15.5 yards per, 12 touchdowns and averages 71.3 receiving yards per game. He has six games with 100 or more receiving yards against Buffalo which is the second-most of any single player against the franchise. He sits just behind Hall of Famer Don Maynard, who had eight.

Though Gronk missed time earlier this season, he still has six games this season with multiple touchdowns. Him and Buffalo's Dawson Knox are two of just four tight ends that have at least six such games. If Gronk has another multi-touchdown game against Buffalo, he'll tie Antonio Gates for the most games with two or more receiving touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history. He could also tie Tony Gonzalez for the most 100+ yard games as a tight end in history should he accomplish that this weekend.

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

3. ILB Lavonte David

David obviously isn't as familiar with this week's interconference opponent as the prior two players but somehow, he goes off against the Bills. In two games against Buffalo, David has amassed an incredible 23 tackles. He added two interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery to that stat line, as well. The last time he played them, which was in 2017 at their place, David flew around for 14 combined tackles, 12 of which were solo. His forced fumble came in that game, too. That means, yes, he had two interceptions in his first-ever matchup against the Bills. That was the first time he faced them at home and ties the most interceptions he's had in a single game.

What's missing from his stat line? A sack. Now that the Bills have a quarterback that can scramble, you might catch David having to deal with Allen as a result. Of course, the Bills do actually design runs for Allen, in which case he's a runner and not a quarterback, which means a tackle beyond the line of scrimmage wouldn't count as a sack. But either way, we could see David getting to the quarterback one way or the other, which is always a welcomed sight.

4. OLB Shaq Barrett

Speaking of getting to the quarterback, Allen is very easily affected by the blitz. Barrett having a big impact in the pass rush could go a long way in slowing the fourth-year quarterback down. Against the blitz, Allen has a 56.3% completion rate, which ranks 27th in the NFL. He averages just 6.0 yards per attempt against it, which ranks 26th in the league. The Bucs blitz at the third-highest clip – 36.3% of dropbacks – and have the ninth-highest sack rate when blitzing at 9.7%.

Translation? Blitz Josh Allen.

Barrett quietly leads the Bucs with 7.5 sacks so far this year. Last game in Atlanta, it was all about the defensive tackles, with Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh both registering multiple quarterback takedowns. Now, I say it's the outside linebackers' turn. Barrett had 2.0 sacks against Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz, who was among the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league at the time. That rings true for Allen as well, who has only taken 19.0 sacks, which is the fourth-fewest in the NFL. That didn't stop Barrett before so hopefully it doesn't stop him this weekend, either.

5. RB Leonard Fournette

We really need to start talking about Fournette more. Not only does he lead the team in rushing yards with 665, but he already has over 1,000 scrimmage yards on the season, proving that he's as true of a dual-threat back as any of them. In fact, Fournette leads all running backs with 58 receptions this year. He's one of just three players league-wide that has over 600 rshing yards and over 50 receptions this year. The others are Pittsburgh's Najee Harris and Los Angeles' Austin Ekeler. The latter two have a reputation for being pass-catching backs, so why doesn't Fournette? His nine scrimmage touchdowns this season are just one shy of his career high set when he was a rookie in Jacksonville in 2017.

Against the Bills this week, Fournette could have another opportunity. Where Buffalo has the top-ranked defense, it's really their pass defense that gives them that edge. They rank 12th in rushing defense, allowing an average of 107.1 yards per game on the ground. We saw last week in extreme weather conditions they couldn't shut down the Patriots' run game despite knowing that's exactly what they were going to do every play. And that's not an exaggeration – quarterback Mac Jones threw it just three times the entire game. If the Bucs can also exploit that, it could go a long way in putting points on the board against a very stingy defense that ranks second in points allowed with an average of just 16.3. Fournette would be the one to lead the way on that.

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