The 5-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 3-7 Cleveland Browns will battle on Sunday, November 27 at FirstEnergy Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. ET, as two teams heading in opposite directions will collide in Week 12. Consecutive wins to the defending Super Bowl champion Rams and Seahawks have given the Bucs sole possession of the NFC South. Conversely, the Browns are riding a two-game losing streak and have dropped six of their previous seven games. Cleveland, whose offense is predicated on running the football, has struggled to do so as of late. On Sunday afternoon, the Browns will look to reverse course against the Bucs' surging defense. There are many matchups and individual performances that could weigh heavily on the outcome of the Bucs-Browns clash in Week 12. Here is an in-depth look at five Buccaneers to observe this weekend.
Carlton Davis III
The Week 12 matchup will feature several headliners, including Amari Cooper for the Browns. Since the offseason trade that sent Cooper to Cleveland, the four-time Pro Bowl veteran has impressed. He leads the team with 50 catches for 698 yards and seven touchdowns. Through 11 weeks, Cooper has posted five games with at least 70 receiving yards and a receiving score. With nuanced route-running, Cooper is productive against any coverage. With subtle moves in his route tree, Cooper can make defenders lean/take the bait, before breaking in the opposite direction. He consistently makes himself available to the quarterback with quickness out of breaks to create separation. As a top-tier wide receiver in the NFL who is used interchangeably on both sides of the formation, Cooper will go head-to-head with Carlton Davis III on Sunday. Davis, the Bucs' multi-faceted corner is effective in both man and zone coverage, aiming to shut down premier receivers week-after-week. He effectively jams and blankets receivers, strengthening the Bucs' secondary. Davis will need a stellar showing at FirstEnergy Stadium in locking down No. 2.
Opponents have consistently accumulated season-high rushing outputs against the Browns in 2022, including the Falcons, Chargers and Dolphins. The Browns' defense has surrendered an average of 135.1 yards-per-game on the ground (23rd). This week could provide additional opportunities for Rachaad White and the Buccaneers on the ground. White eclipsed the 100-yard marker for the first time in his career against the Seahawks in Week 11, quickly hitting holes. He runs with great tempo, setting up blockers before bursting through seams. With balance and body control, White can shake defenders with a slippery running style. He sparked a complementary offensive attack in Germany and with the status of Leonard Fournette in question with a hip pointer, White could have an increased load on Sunday in Cleveland. His production would open up the play-action game, giving Tom Brady additional time to scan the field for deep throws.
Bucs' Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs has faced many elite edge rushers and on Sunday, he faces one of the league's best in Browns' defensive end Myles Garrett. The Browns line Garrett up on both sides to keep offenses off-balance, meaning Wirfs will see a heavy dose of No. 95. Garrett, a former first-round draft pick in 2017, is the Browns' all-time sack leader (67.0) and currently leads the club in 2022 with 8.5 through 10 games. With rare bend and an explosive get off – average of 0.72 seconds to accelerate off the line of scrimmage per NFL Next Gen Stats – Garrett consistently commands double teams and frequently generates the phrase "unblockable" for his reign of terror on opposing offensive game plans. He has game-wrecking potential and can spin either direction out of initial block engagement to gain leverage. With a blazing-fast inside pursuit, Garrett routinely collapses the pocket. He can cover a ton of ground with his first few steps, while maintaining control to cut back toward a tackle's inside shoulder when there is an opening. Garrett showcases his power on bull rushes and Wirfs will receive his share of reps with arguably the Browns' best player. The Bucs' offensive line are coming off a breakout performance against Seattle, in which the unit did not allow a sack. Tom Brady averaged a season-high 2.78 seconds of time from snap to throw against Seattle. In addition, Tampa Bay achieved a season-high 161 yards on the ground and the offensive line needs another stout performance on Sunday. Wirfs, the Bucs' anchor of the line, possesses a coveted trio of characteristics: natural strength, quickness and athleticism. Wirfs will need all three going up against Garrett head-to-head. He has the ability to punch and re-set his hands to battle rush maneuvers, which elevates his skillset. This will be a marquee matchup to view in Cleveland.
Opponents have had success against the Browns in recent weeks by utilizing a quick passing attack targeting the intermediate area of the field to try and mitigate Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney's pressure off the edge. Quarterbacks have managed to have success off a quick release and on Sunday, Chris Godwin could have expanded opportunities over the middle of the field. As the Bucs' dynamic slot man continues to distance himself from December's ACL/MCL tear and subsequent surgery, Godwin's stock rises. In Munich, Godwin continued to take strides and hauled in several challenging, contested catches to move the chains. He registered his first touchdown of the year and averaged 11.8 yards after-the-catch. Godwin effectively catches the ball in traffic, using his frame to box out defenders. He is willing to do the dirty work on stalk blocks to assist with the run game. As defenses try to account for Mike Evans and Julio Jones, that frees up Godwin to exploit the short-to-intermediate area. The YAC-threat fortifies the Buccaneers' offense and could be the X-Factor against the Browns.
Antoine Winfield Jr.
With Kevin Stefanski's run-centric approach, Antoine Winfield Jr. will likely play an integral role in limiting the Browns on Sunday. Winfield has thrived in a hybrid slot corner/safety role in 2022. In nickel sub packages, which the Bucs play the majority of the time, Winfield has dominated throughout the course of the season at the line of scrimmage. His angles to the ball are proficient against the run or pass. Winfield is very instinctive and sees plays unfold, putting himself in prime position to make a momentum-shifting play. Whether outpacing Kareem Hunt or Nick Chubb to the sideline, shooting the gap to stifle the ground game in the backfield, or serving as the safety help over the top versus Amari Cooper or Donovan People-Jones to try and limit the big play downfield, Winfield will have a myriad of responsibilities. As an extension of Cleveland's ground attack, Jacoby Brissett is sneaky quick for a quarterback of his size. Against the Bills, Brissett used his legs to extend plays, eluding defenders for large gains. His size creates a mismatch against smaller safeties in the open field. Winfield could become the driving force behind the defense's continued success on Sunday with his instincts and pursuit leverage. He is one of two defensive backs since the start of the 2021 season with 5.0-plus sacks and 100-plus tackles. In Cleveland, Winfield will strive to build on his résumé.