If you're new here or don't usually get to watch the Buccaneers, welcome. Though the Buccaneers have been on national television more this season than they have in the past couple years combined already, you'll get another chance to see the red and pewter under the lights this Monday night in New York. And yes, I do mean red, because these players I'm about to list below will indeed be wearing the red jerseys for the first time against the Giants.
There is plenty of talent on this team and things to watch for as you tune in. Narrowing it down with an offense that ranks third in the league in scoring and a team that ties for the fourth-best turnover margin is a near-impossible task. That's not even mentioning the third-ranked defense that has the second-most sacks in the league while also stopping the run better than anyone else.
That being said, here are a few matchup-specific players that could put on a show under the primetime lights.
1. OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
This one is a given – from JPP himself, for that matter. In case you live under a rock and don't know, Pierre-Paul spent the first eight years of his career in New York after being drafted by the Giants 15th overall in the 2010 draft and won Super Bowl XLVI with the franchise. He came to the Buccaneers in 2018 and has played his former team just once in that span, though Tampa Bay has played the Giants every year since Pierre-Paul was acquired.
By his own admission, this is Pierre-Paul's first game against his former team where he's healthy. Last season he missed the Week Three matchup between these two teams inside Raymond James Stadium while out with a neck injury. In 2018, he played in the game up in New York but was dealing with multiple injuries at the time. Now, he feels good and he's ready to go. It won't be his former quarterback in Eli Manning that he'll be going after this time, but second-year quarterback Daniel Jones would do well to be weary of Pierre-Paul this spooky season. JPP wants him seeing ghosts like the other New York quarterback.
2. WR Mike Evans
If there was a downside to the Bucs' convincing 45-20 victory over the Raiders in Las Vegas last week, it came for fantasy owners of Evans. The Bucs' number one receiver had just two catches on the day due to how the Raiders were defending him, mostly. Las Vegas was just following suit of what most teams do – gameplan for Mike Evans. He's a guy defenses key in on and because he commands so much attention, it allows others to have great games. Like Scotty Miller, who had his first 100-yard receiving game of his career in Vegas.
But teams may be realizing those tactics aren't working. The Bucs have so many playmakers that it doesn't matter if you effectively take Evans out of the game. They're still capable of hanging 40+ points on you. It might be time to throw your best corner on Evans but spread your attention out to the other guys who could potentially catch the ball.
There's also the fact that Evans just plays well against the Giants and his likely defender in James Bradberry. In four career games against the Giants, Evans has 527 yards and five touchdowns. That's an average of 131.8 yards per game. His yards-per-reception average is 19.5 against this team. We'll see if the Bucs' offense can enjoy a repeat performance of that with quarterback Tom Brady now at the helm.
3. TE Rob Gronkowski
It seems as if Gronkowski is getting involved more and more as the offense gets more comfortable with each other. He's now scored a touchdown in two-straight games, his last coming on a back-shoulder throw from Brady that has been their calling card throughout their 10 seasons together. Apparently, Gronk's mom has even coined the play, saying Gronk "must be maple syrup, because butter don't drizzle like that." As our intern Amy said: print the t-shirts.
Like Mike Evans though, Gronkowski also seems to play well against the Giants, though he's only played them twice. In those two games, he had 214 yards and two touchdowns with a 16.5 yard-per-reception average. With offensive lineman Joe Haeg helping out as an extra blocker these past couple weeks, it's opened Gronkowski up in the receiving game and Brady has been taking advantage of the time with his buddy. Could we see Gronk's first 100-yard game against the league's 21st ranked passing defense? We'll find out Monday night.
4. CB Carlton Davis
Davis is quietly having one of the best years of any cornerback across the league. He's routinely matched up against some of the NFL's best receivers week in and week out and he's getting the better of them. He started out with a bang in Week One, holding the Saints' Michael Thomas to just 17 yards on three catches. Weirdly enough, that was the last game Thomas played. But Davis has continued to perform.
In fact, he leads the league in passes defensed with 11 through seven games. He's tied for second-most interceptions with three across the NFL. Davis amazingly also has three tackles for loss. He's the only player in the league with 10 or more passes defensed and 3 or more tackles for loss. His three interceptions have helped a defensive unit that has the fourth-most takeaways in the league since the start of the 2019 season with 40. Those 40 takeaways have also led to the most points off takeaways in the league in that span, giving the Bucs 185 points in extra possessions.
5. ILB Lavonte David
David received NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in September (rightfully so) where in three games, David tallied 24 tackles (two for loss), two passes defensed, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Through Week 3, David was the only player in the NFL with at least 20 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. Well, let's look at his October, shall we?
Through four games, David had 41 tackles (three for loss), 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and a pass defensed. Mind you, those sacks came on Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, who had taken just three sacks all season before their Week Six matchup. How much more consistent do you want David to be at this point? He's doing the same thing week in and week out, all while being a leader of one of the best defenses in the NFL. He and Devin White have to be the best inside linebacker duo in the league as captains of a unit that is giving up the third-fewest yards per game and boasts the NFL's number one rushing defense. So yes, Lavonte David still needs more recognition, so he stays on this list.