Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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5 Bucs to Watch Against New York

The Bucs go on the road for the last time in the regular season and here are some players to watch as they take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

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1. QB Tom Brady

This is again an obvious one given that the Bucs are rounding out their tour of Brady's former division. The 22-year league vet has played the Jets 38 times in his career. He averages 241.1 passing yards per game, has completed 825 passes, 61 of which were passing touchdowns, and has a 93.1 rating when playing them.

He's leading the league's second-highest scoring offense that's averaging over 30 points a game against the NFL's last-ranked defense that's giving up an averaged of 29.9 points per game and save for maybe some rain, the conditions at MetLife Stadium aren't going to be the worst he's ever faced there.

He'll be without a few offensive weapons but we saw the Buccaneers adjust against Carolina to make up for the absences of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. There is a chance the Bucs get Evans back after he was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday but acting Head Coach Harold Goodwin said he will be a game-time decision given that he is still working his way back from a hamstring injury that kept him out against Carolina.

2. TE Rob Gronkowski

Brady's tried and true weapon of choice has always been Gronkowski, who himself has a lot of familiarity with the Jets. He has a nice total of 69 receptions in his career against his former division foes. That's amounted to 883 receiving yards with a 12.3 yard per reception average over 16 games. He has just nine touchdowns against them in his career, though. He's been kept out of the end zone since Week 13 in Atlanta, where he had two touchdowns. Since then, the old goose egg. Maybe he can break that streak this Sunday.

3. TE Cam Brate

The Bucs' most common personnel grouping last Sunday against Carolina was 12, meaning one running back and two tight ends. Well, if the Bucs are going to field two tight ends then so am I in this here article.

Unlike Gronk, Brate has gotten across the goal line as of late. He scored against Carolina and has two touchdowns in his last four games. This is nothing new, but Brate has found his groove inside the red zone most often. He's a big and reliable target that can make tough catches when the field gets shorter. Plus, you don't really need to be fast, which he hilariously sees as a plus.

"It was just like we were right there on a couple earlier in the year, so it's good to finally connect on a few here down the stretch," Brate said about his connections with Brady. "Once you get down close there, speed is not really that important, so that's good for me. It's about finding space [and] finding subtle ways to use your body to get open. Coach does a really good job of putting us in good spots to make plays and Tom has done a good job finding me."

4. S Jordan Whitehead

Whitehead has finally started to get his due after a monster game in Carolina and I want to keep that going. Whitehead has been quietly (and not so quietly if you've been paying attention) imposing his will on opponents, coming downhill like a missile and emerging this season as one of the best box safeties in the league despite his 5'10 stature. When healthy, Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles said it, he plays hard. He had seven combined tackles against Carolina, including one where he single-handedly took down quarterback Cam Newton on a designed run in space.

What's even more encouraging/mind-blowing is that he's grown so much in his recognition. In addition to those seven tackles, Whitehead had three pass breakups and got his hands on an interception. Not only is he an absolute missile when he's coming down to play the run or on a safety blitz, but now he's also looking for work around him and recognizing offensive concepts that allow him to make plays on the ball. He's morphed into one of the most well-rounded defensive backs in the league and it's time we start talking about that more.

5. CB Carlton Davis

Though cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting can be activated on Sunday given that their five-day isolation window from the Reserve/COVID-19 list will be up, the idea that they'll be able to play after being away from the team and practice all week doesn't seem totally realistic. Acting Head Coach Harold Goodwin said Friday there's a possibility they could join the team in New York but they would have to travel on their own and the logistics have yet to be worked out.

With the team unable to count on them, other corners will have to step up and it'll be Davis' turn to lead. Though, according to him, it's nothing new for this unit this year.

"At this point, it's just kind of like another day at the office," he said Wednesday. "We've had so many guys interchange at the corner spot and at the safety spot. I think we are just kind of used to it now. We've just got to have that 'next man up' mentality like we've had all season."

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