For the second week in a row, there is exactly one game on the NFL schedule that pits two division leaders against each other and it involves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After coming up short in a matchup of first-place teams in the NFC South and NFC West in Week 14, the Buccaneers now welcome to town the Cincinnati Bengals, who are tied with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North. It will be Tampa Bay's fifth and final interconference game of the season and may determine whether or not the Buccaneers maintain sole possession of first place in their own division.
The Bucs' 35-7 loss in San Francisco was deflating, coming on the heels of a thrilling Monday Night Football comeback win over the New Orleans Saints, but there's no time for reflection as they prepare for yet another opponent riding a hot streak. The 49ers had won five in a row prior to hosting the Buccaneers last Sunday; the Bengals are also on a five-game winning streak as the defending AFC champs are reestablishing themselves as a top contender after a relatively uninspiring start to the season.
The Bengals will be trying to complete a season sweep of the NFC South after already dispatching of the Saints, Falcons and Panthers over a four-week span in October and November. More impressively, Cincinnati won at Tennessee three weeks ago and followed that up with a third straight win over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The biggest challenge in Week 14 was the San Francisco 49ers' top-ranked defense, though rookie quarterback Brock Purdy proved to be more troublesome than expected as well. This week, the Buccaneers' defense must contend with a Bengals offense that ranks fifth in yards and seventh in scoring and has averaged 29.8 points over its last five outings. Young superstar quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown 27 touchdown passes against nine interceptions and has a passer rating of 102.4. His former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase recently returned from a hip injury and last week torched the Browns for 10 catches, 119 yards and a touchdown.
Cincinnati's offense is more than just the explosive Burrow-Chase connection. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd give the Bengals one of the best trio of receivers in the league and running back Joe Mixon has already surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage. While Mixon has dealt with recent injuries, backup Samaje Perine has emerged as an explosive two-way threat, consistently making big plays out of the backfield in the passing game. However, the Bengals will be monitoring the health status this week of both Higgins (hamstring) and Body (finger), both of whom left last weeks' win over Cleveland early in the game.
The Bengals' 11th-ranked scoring defense is led by the safety duo of Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, who have combined for seven interceptions. Cincinnati lost standout edge rusher Trey Hendrickson to a broke wrist in the Cleveland game but still has Sam Hubbard and his 6.5 sacks. Linebacker Logan Wilson leads the squad with 91 tackles to go with four quarterback hits and three passes defensed.
While the Buccaneers were taking their lumps in California, the Atlanta Falcons were enjoying a very late bye week (and making a quarterback switch) and the Carolina Panthers were upsetting the Seahawks in Seattle. The result was the 6-7 Bucs' seeing their lead over the 5-8 Falcons drop to one game and watching the Panthers surprisingly joining the division-race party with their own 5-8 record. Both the Buccaneers and Panthers can theoretically take the division by winning out over the final four weeks, but Tampa Bay can only focus on the very difficult task at hand. Meanwhile, the Falcons will be at New Orleans and the Panthers will be at home against the Steelers.
With the NFL now finished with its bye weeks, it's an all-in four-game sprint to the finish line, and both Tampa Bay and Cincinnati have a long way to go to secure their own division titles. For the Buccaneers, that stretch starts with one of the biggest challenges of their season.
GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
Sunday, December 18, 4:25 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 69,500)
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)
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ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
The Buccaneers and Bengals have only 12 games to review in their all-time history with each other, but those dozen contests have provided plenty of entertainment.
At one point, the Buccaneers had a 7-3 lead in the series for a .700 winning percentage that was their best against any opponent. Unfortunately, the Bengals have won the last two to close the gap and it's now the Buffalo Bills against whom the Buccaneers have their firmest grip on the series at .667.
Despite the relative paucity of games in the series, it does feature one massive blowout by each team. The Bengals beat the Bucs in Cincinnati, 56-23, in 1989 in what remains the fourth-highest scoring game in their franchise history. Boomer Esiason threw five touchdown passes against no interceptions, and then Erik Wilhelm came in to add one more, with Tim McGee, Rodney Holman and Eddie Brown all scoring twice. In the final week of the 1998 season, the Buccaneers secured their most lopsided road shutout in team history, steamrolling the Bengals, 35-0, and in the process keeping their faint playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately, a win by the Cardinals while the Buccaneers were flying back home got Arizona into the dance instead of Tampa Bay. Mike Alstott scored three rushing touchdowns in that one.
The Buccaneers also trounced the Bengals in Cincinnati, 35-7, in their 2002 playoff season, with Shelton Quarles returning an interception for a touchdown, but there have been some squeakers in the series, too. In fact, eight of the 12 games have been decided by six points or fewer, including six by three points for fewer. That latter group includes the last four meetings, as the final margin in those games were one, three, one and three points, respectively.
The Buccaneers reeled of a streak of six straight wins in the series from 1995 through 2010. After that 56-23 blowout loss in 1989, the Bucs had to wait six years for a shot at evening the score, and in 1995 they beat the Bengals, 19-16, thanks to four Michael Husted field goals, two of them in the fourth quarter. The interesting part of that pair of games is that Sam Wyche was the winning head coach in both of them, helming the Bengals in 1989 and the Buccaneers in 1995.
As noted, the last four victories in the series, two for each team, were games decided by three or fewer points. The most recent one was a 37-34 shootout in Cincinnati in 2018, a game the Bucs lost despite racking up 576 yards of offense, including 450 net passing yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick relieved starter Jameis Winston after Jessie Bates returned Winston's fourth interception for a touchdown and led the Bucs to 17 unanswered points to tie the game at 34-34 with a minute left in regulation. One of those scores was a 72-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, still the longest play in Evans' illustrious career. However, Andy Dalton was able to maneuver the Bengals into possession for a walk-off Randy Bullock 44-yard field goal.
What makes this year's meeting stand out from the rest is that the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2020, the Bengals were in the Super Bowl in 2021 and both teams have serious playoff aspirations once again in 2022. Not one of the first 11 meetings in the series came in a season in which both teams would go on to make the playoffs. In fact, only two of the 11 came in a season in which either team made the playoffs. For the Bucs, that was the aforementioned 2002 blowout, which helped Cincinnati finish the season 2-14. For the Bengals, that was the 2014 meeting which ended in their favor, 14-13, after a Josh McCown two-minute drill fizzled just across midfield thanks in part to a rare 12-men-on-the-field penalty against the offense that erased a 21-yard catch by Louis Murphy.
- Cincinnati Head Coach Zac Taylor signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2007 after finishing his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska. He was waived prior to the start of training camp and did not return to the NFL as a player.
- Bengals senior Defensive Assistant Mark Duffner coached the Buccaneers' linebackers coach during Dirk Koetter's tenure as the team's head coach from 2016-18. In October of 2018, Duffner added defensive coordinator duties after Mike Smith was relieved of those duties midseason.
- Alex Cappa, the Bengals starting right guard, held down the same position for the Buccaneers from 2019-21. A third-round draft pick out of Humboldt State in 2018, he started 46 regular season games for Tampa Bay before signing with Cincinnati as an unrestricted free agent this past spring.
- Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard played the first eight seasons of his NFL career in Cincinnati after being drafted in the second round in 2013. He appeared in 115 games with 30 starts for the Bengals, rushing for 3,755 yards and 22 touchdowns and ranking as one of the most prolific pass-catching backs in the NFL in that span, with 342 receptions for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns.
- Tight end Tanner Hudson, who was signed to the Bengals' practice squad this past Tuesday, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Buccaneers in 2018. He split most of the next three seasons between the practice squad and active roster in Tampa, seeing action in 20 games and collecting five receptions for 67 yards.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
- Head Coach Todd Bowles
- Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
- Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
- Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers
- Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote
- Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
- Head Coach Zac Taylor
- Offensive Coordinator Brian Callahan
- Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo
- Special Teams Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach Darrin Simmons
KEY 2022 ROSTER ADDITIONS
- P Jake Camarda (fourth-round draft pick)
- WR Russell Gage (UFA)
- G Luke Goedeke (second-round draft pick)
- DL Logan Hall (second-round draft pick)
- T Fred Johnson (FA)
- WR Julio Jones (FA)
- TE Ko Kieft (sixth-round draft pick)
- G Shaq Mason (trade–NE)
- CB Zyon McCollum (fifth-round draft pick)
- OLB Carl Nassib (FA)
- S Keanu Neal (UFA)
- TE Cade Otton (fourth-round draft pick)
- TE Kyle Rudolph (FA)
- S Logan Ryan (FA)
- RB Rachaad White (third-round draft pick)
- G Alex Cappa (UFA)
- DT Zach Carter (third-round draft pick)
- T La'el Collins (FA)
- S Dax Hill (first-round draft pick)
- TE Hayden Hurst (UFA)
- C Ted Karras (UFA)
- CB Cam Taylor-Britt (second-round draft pick)
- G Cordell Volson (fourth-round draft pick)
ADDITIONAL 2022 CHANGES OF NOTE
· While the Bucs continue to maintain enviable continuity on their coaching staff, there is a new person in the corner office. In March, Bruce Arians stepped down after three years as the head coach and took on a new role as a senior advisor to the general manager. Todd Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to take his place. Bowles previously served as the New York Jets' head coach from 2015-18 before rejoining Arians when the latter came on as the Buccaneers' head coach in 2019.
· With Bowles stepping up the Bucs needed a new defensive coordinator and they essentially named two of them. Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers added the title of Run Game Coordinator while Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote switched to inside linebackers and added the title of Pass Game Coordinator. They are in effect co-defensive coordinators. Bob Sanders joined the staff to take over for Foote in the outside linebackers room. Foote made his switch after Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell landed the defensive coordinator position in Jacksonville under new Head Coach Doug Pederson.
· The Buccaneers had two key players retire after the 2021 season, but only one of them stayed retired. While quarterback Tom Brady eventually elected to return 40 days after announcing he was stepping away from the game, his long-time buddy Rob Gronkowski walked away for good, leading to big changes in the Bucs' tight end room. While veteran Cam Brate returned, O.J. Howard left in free agency and the Buccaneers subsequently drafted Cade Otton and Ko Kieft and signed veteran Kyle Rudolph.
· Tampa Bay's defense also saw the departure of two front-seven stalwarts from the extremely successful 2020-21 seasons, as neither DL Ndamukong Suh nor OLB Jason Pierre-Paul was re-signed. The team signed veteran standout Akiem Hicks and drafted Houston's Logan Hall 33rd overall to address depth up front and are relying on 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to step up on the edge.
· The sweeping changes that the Bengals made to one position group in particular is hinted at in the relatively short list of 2022 roster additions in the previous section. The Bengals made it all the way to Super Bowl LVI last season but their young star quarterback, Joe Burrow, was sacked 51 times during the regular season and another seven times in the Super Bowl. Of the five players who started that title game on the Bengals' offensive line, only left tackle Jonah Williams still has his job. Left guard Quinton Spain was not re-signed when he hit free agency, center Trey Hopkins was released in March, right guard Hakeem Adeniji is now a backup and right tackle Isaiah Price is on the practice squad. Riley Reiff, who was signed to be the right tackle but landed on injured reserve in December, was also not re-signed. In came Alex Cappa from the Bucs to play right guard, Ted Karras from the Patriots to play center and La'el Collins from the Cowboys (after being released) to play right tackle. The makeover was completed when fourth-round pick Cordell Volson won the left guard spot, where he has started every game this year. Burrow has still been sacked 36 times through 12 games, but at least the Bengals have improved from 31st in sacks allowed per pass play last year to 21st this season.
· The Bengals used their franchise tag on standout safety Jessie Bates during the offseason, which led to the disgruntled fifth-year veteran skipping the voluntary offseason program and holding out well into training camp. However, Bates eventually reported to the team and signed the one-year tag to make it his contract for the 2022 season. Cincinnati had given itself a second option at the position by drafting Michigan safety Dax Hill with the 31st overall pick.
· Head Coach Zac Taylor has managed to keep his three coordinators intact throughout his first four seasons in Cincinnati, but there were a couple of changes to his staff. Linebackers Coach Al Golden left to become the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame so the Bengals hired James Bettcher off the 49ers' staff, where he had been a senior defensive assistant in 2021, to fill that spot. With Steve Jackson also departing after one season coaching the cornerbacks, Cincinnati also hired Charles Burks off the Dolphins staff for that role. In addition, Derek Frazier came aboard as an assistant offensive line coach.
· The longest-tenured non-special teamer on the Bengals' Super Bowl roster, tight end C.J. Uzomah signed a three-year deal with the Jets in free agency. In addition, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who had a career sevens sacks after coming from across the state following four years in Cleveland, left in free agency as well. Ogunjobi initially signed with the Bears, but that deal fell through when he failed his physical. (Ogunjobi had suffered a foot injury in the playoffs.) Ogunjobi later signed a one-year deal with the Steelers.
· The longest-tenured Bengal among all players heading into 2022 was punter Kevin Huber, who had held that job since 2009 and as of Week Nine had played in a franchise-record 216 games. However, Cincinnati spent the past three games auditioning first-year punter Drue Chrisman by elevating him from the practice squad each week, and on Tuesday the Bengals decided to give Chrisman the job for good, cutting Huber. Huber, who was born and raised in Cincinnati and even played his college ball at the University of Cincinnati, has since re-signed to the Bengals' practice squad.
Who's In and Who's Out? – As the Buccaneers try to rebound from a lopsided loss in San Francisco and find their footing for the final four-game stretch run, they have some new issues in the training room to overcome. The Bucs played the 49ers without such notable figure as right tackle Tristan Wirfs, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and starting safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield Jr. Todd Bowles indicated on Wednesday that he didn't believe Wirfs would be ready to face the Bengals but there is hope for the three defensive backs, especially Murphy-Bunting, who was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. That would be helpful given that starting cornerback Jamel Dean will likely miss Sunday's game with a fresh toe injury. Mountainous nose tackle Vita Vea also has a new calf injury and is unlikely to play in Week 15, according to Bowles. In addition, the outside linebacker position could be thin with Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Carl Nassib and Genard Avery all on the injury report. The Bengals, meanwhile, are dealing with injuries to two-thirds of their incredible receiver duo, as Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd missed most of last week's game due to finger and hamstring ailments, respectively.
Whither the NFC South? – In 2014, the Carolina Panthers played in Atlanta in the final regular-season week with the division title on the line. Carolina won, 34-3, to keep the top spot and barrel into the postseason with a … wait, a 7-8-1 record? It's true. With four games to go in 2022, the Buccaneers are 6-7 but still in first place in the NFC South. That spot in the standing figures to be in jeopardy every week until the season ends, and this week is no exception. The right – or rather, the wrong – combination of results this week could actually see the Panthers take over first place. Most importantly, the Buccaneers have a home game against Carolina in Week 17 and a trip to Atlanta in Week 18, which will give them an opportunity to take care of their own business. However, continued struggles over the next two weeks could potentially put the Buccaneers into absolute must-win mode over those last two weeks. Will the South stay tight for the next month, or will one team pull away?
Giving Tom Time – Tom Brady's prettiest throw in San Francisco last weekend didn't even count. What appeared to be a game-tying 68-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans down the right sideline came back due to a holding call on Donovan Smith. The unanswerable question is whether Brady would have had time to get the throw off if Smith hadn't held. Either way, the Buccaneers' long-time standout left tackle has clearly struggled in recent weeks, racking up a handful of costly penalties. Meanwhile, the team's All-Pro on the other end of the line, Tristan Wirfs, is currently sidelined by an ankle injury, pressing Josh Wells into action. Brady actually executed 55 dropbacks without taking a single sack in San Francisco, but he was clearly pressured on a number of plays and had to get off a few desperation throw-aways to avoid going down. Head Coach Todd Bowles said again this week that Brady is throwing the ball as well as ever despite playing his age-45 season, and that passes the eye test. But every quarterback in the league is more effective when given ample time to throw, and the Buccaneers hope to provide that to Brady this week in order to keep up with a high-scoring Bengals' offense.
Sweating Joe Cool – Meanwhile, Joe Burrow has mounted a strong follow-up to his breakout 2021 campaign, when he led Cincinnati all the way to Super Bowl LVI and radiated nearly visible waves of confidence the entire ride. The story of the Bengals' post-Super Bowl offseason was their effort to tear down and rebuild an offensive line that allowed Burrow to be sack 70 times over the regular season and postseason combined. Burrow has still been sacked 35 times in 13 games, tied for the fourth most in the league, but it's still an improvement over last season and the offense has hummed right along. The Buccaneers would like to disrupt Burrow's timing and possibly force him into mistakes to create the elusive turnover, but they are coming off a game in which they recorded no sacks of rookie quarterback Brock Purdy and they have a banged-up edge-rushing group and no Vita Vea to pull away blockers. If they can generate a decent amount of pressure on the young Bengals passer they will have a better shot at getting back to the more effective defensive results they were posting before the trip to California.
NFC Pride – Technically, the Bucs' game against Cincinnati is the least important one remaining on the schedule because a loss wouldn't weaken the team's most important playoff tiebreakers. Still, the game is obviously very important, and it also offers the Buccaneers one last opportunity to avoid an interconference sweep. The Bucs' first four games against AFC teams – Kansas City in Week Four, Pittsburgh in Week Six, Baltimore in Week Eight and Cleveland in Week 12 – all resulted in losses. The Buccaneers were poised to get their first interconference win while in Cleveland before the Browns stormed back with a late comeback and a field goal in overtime. In addition, Cincinnati is seeking a sweep of its own, with an opportunity to beat every team in the NFC South. The Bengals already took down the Saints and Falcons in back-to-back weeks in October, then swamped the Panthers, 42-21, two weeks after that. This is the Bucs' chance to stand up for the South, and the NFC in general.
1. Buccaneers C Robert Hainsey vs. Bengals NT D.J. Reader
Seventh-year veteran DJ. Reader is an iceberg in the middle of the Bengals' defensive front, and if the Buccaneers want to keep their between-the-tackles running game from sinking they're going to have to find a way to keep him out of their lanes. A good portion of that will fall to Hainsey, who has put together a solid first season as the Bucs' starting center in the absence of injured Pro Bowler Robert Hainsey. Though he doesn't have a sack yet this season and has compiled only 8.5 in his career, Reader can still blow up the pocket from the middle with his powerful bull-rush. He also creates opportunities for other Bengals pass-rushers by occupying blockers. Last week in San Francisco, Hainsey was part of a blocking effort that kept Tom Brady from being sacked despite dropping back 55 times. That tied for the most dropbacks without a sack for a quarterback in Buccaneers history.
2. Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis
Here's Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles providing the scouting report on Ja'Marr Chase, the Bengals' electric second-year receiver: "Outstanding hands, outstanding size, very good at getting off the ball, his catch radius is enormous. As soon as the ball touches his hands, he's getting upfield right now. It's rare to see somebody get upfield that quick with that size. He has a natural knack for the game and he looks great doing it." Enough said. Particularly with Jamel Dean a big question mark for Sunday's game due to a toe injury, Davis is the Buccaneers' best shot at containing Chase, and given how sudden Chase can be when he gets the ball in his hands, the best strategy is not to allow that to happen in the first place. Davis has the size and physicality to match up just fine with Chase and he has shown elite coverage and change-of-direction skills when at the top of his game.
3. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin vs. Bengals CB Mike Hilton
Chris Godwin continues to do impressive things out of the slot in the Bucs' very prevalent three-receiver packages and, since rounding into his 2021 form following a knee injury has become the focal point of the team's passing attack. Tom Brady is looking in his direction frequently, and Godwin is the first Buccaneer in more than two decades to have a streak of 10 straight games with at least five catches. Hilton is also extremely effective in the slot, not just in coverage but as a tackler. He will likely get a good taste of Godwin's sublime blocking skills. Hilton has 52 tackles this season, along with four passes defensed, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. He also has good instincts and can close quickly on quick passes, something that could on occasion disrupt the strong underneath connection between Brady and Godwin.
4. Bengals T La'el Collins vs. Buccaneers OLB Anthony Nelson
Cincinnati, eager for any offensive line fortifications they could get after Super Bowl LVI, snapped La'el Collins up just four days after he was cut by the Cowboys in a cap-saving move. He has stepped right in at right tackle opposite the lone holdover on Cincy's line from last year, left tackle Jonah Williams, and has started every game. Collins has very good hands and effectively counters pass-rushers trying to swipe or chop past him. He's adept at getting leverage in pass blocking and shows power in the run game. With Genard Avery, Carl Nassib and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka all showing up on the injury report this week, Nelson is likely to see extensive playing, just as he did last Sunday while playing a season-high 83% of the snaps. Nelson is a very active player who hustles to the ball and can also be effective dropping into coverage. But for an unrelated penalty, Nelson would have had a forced fumble-interception double dip, rare for an edge rusher. What would have been his first career pick was erased by a defensive holding call away from the play. The Buccaneers may need Nelson to lead the charge if they're going to get much pressure on Joe Burrow.
DNP: Did not participate in practice
LP: Limited participation in practice
FP: Full participation in practice
NL: Not listed
- OLB Genard Avery (abdomen/oblique) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- ILB Lavonte David (rest) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
- CB Jamel Dean (toe) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- S Mike Edwards (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- DL Akiem Hicks (rest) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.
- WR Julio Jones (knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
- CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quadriceps) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- OLB Carl Nassib (pectoral) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (hip) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- NT Vita Vea (calf) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- Antoine Winfield, Jr. (ankle) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
- T Tristan Wirfs (ankle) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
- WR Tyler Boyd (finger) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- QB Joe Burrow (right elbow) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- T La'el Collins (rest) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- CB Jalen Davis (thumb) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Doubtful.
- DE Trey Hendrickson (wrist) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- WR Tee Higgins (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
- S Dax Hill (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- CB Mike Hilton (knee) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- TE Hayden Hurst (calf) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
- DE Joseph Ossai (shoulder) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- DT D.J. Reader (rest) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
- WR Trent Taylor (hamstring) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
Mixed sunshine and clouds, high of 61, low of 44, 24% chance of rain, 60% humidity, winds out of the NNE at 10 mph.
Head referee: Adrian Hill (13th season, 4th as referee)
· Favorite: Bengals (-3.5)
· Over/Under: 42.0
INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS
Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 90
Touchdowns: RB Leonard Fournette, 6
Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 3,585
Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 88.9
Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 524
Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 73
Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 805
Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean/Mike Edwards, 2
Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 6.5
Tackles: ILB Devin White, 99
Points Scored: K Evan McPherson, 91
Touchdowns: RB Joe Mixon, 8
Passing Yards: QB Joe Burrow, 3,685
Passer Rating: QB Joe Burrow, 102.4
Rushing Yards: RB Joe Mixon, 701
Receptions: WR Ja'Marr Chase, 64
Receiving Yards: WR Tee Higgins, 861
Interceptions: S Vonn Bell, 4
Sacks: DE Sam Hubbard, 6.5
Tackles: LB Logan Wilson, 91
TEAM STAT RANKINGS
Scoring Offense: 28th (17.2 ppg)
Total Offense: 18th (338.6 ypg)
Passing Offense: 5th (265.7 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 32nd (72.9 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 17th (20.2)
Third-Down Pct.: 21st (38.1%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 1st (3.10%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 21st (51.4%)
Scoring Defense: 9th (19.5 ppg)
Total Defense: 10th (320.7 ypg)
Passing Defense: 6th (195.3 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 20th (125.4 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 4th (18.0)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 10th (37.6%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 5th (9.09%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 21st (58.3%)
Turnover Margin: t-18th (-2)
Scoring Offense: 7th (25.8 ppg)
Total Offense: 5th (371.7 ypg)
Passing Offense: 4th (268.1 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 24th (103.6 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 4th (22.6)
Third-Down Pct.: 3rd (47.5%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 21st (7.97%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 4th (66.7%)
Scoring Defense: 11th (20.4 ppg)
Total Defense: 14th (331.1 ypg)
Passing Defense: 20th (220.1 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 11th (111.0 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 5th (18.1)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 19th (39.8%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 30th (4.79%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 6th (51.2%)
Turnover Margin: t-10th (+2)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
· Last week, quarterback Tom Brady pulled into a tie with Josh Freeman (13,534) for third place on the Bucs' all-time passing yardage chart, which means of course that his next passing yard will give him sole possession of that third spot.
· Brady also needs just one more victory as a starting quarterback to be the first QB in NFL history to reach 250 regular-season wins.
· Tight end Cameron Brate has 33 career touchdown catches. His next one will tie him with Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for second place in franchise history in receiving TDs and fourth place in overall touchdowns.
· Meanwhile, wide receiver Chris Godwin has caught two touchdown passes this season to give him 31 in his career, plus 32 total touchdowns (one rushing). He is therefore just one behind Brate in total TDs and could tie him with one on Sunday.
· Tackle Donovan Smith has made 122 starts as a Buccaneer. His next one will tie him with Gerald McCoy for the 10th most starts in team history.
· Head Coach Todd Bowles on Bengals QB Joe Burrow: "He's great, he's poised in the pocket, he throws a great ball all over the field, he can throw at any angle, he can make any throw. He has some great receivers to throw to, he has a good understanding of the offense and the game, he can take advantage of what you're trying to give him, he can run the ball when he has to run the ball, he can throw people open, he can use his feet. He has a knack for the game. Certain guys when they come out of college that young have a knack for the game already – he has it."
· Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks on what the team can build on for the final four regular season games: "We've got a lot of good players, so we can build on that belief. We've got a lot of guys that have won a lot of games in this league. We've got a lot of guys in this locker room who've had success in this league. I think we've got to be a good team together, so I think it's focusing on executing the play and trusting the guys next to us. We have a lot of talent and we believe in ourselves and we believe in our talent, that's not the issue. I think we've got to go back in believing in the actual play and just playing the plays."
· Safety Logan Ryan on what Bowles' message to the team has been this week: "Just focus, just focus. You can't ride the rollercoaster forever, right? We've got to start going back up. We want to be the team to beat Cincinnati and then we'll take it from there. I think when you start looking at things from years past or looking at the length of the season or what's in front of us or the division and all that stuff, you get away from what's important right now and that's beating Cincinnati."
· Wide receiver Deven Thompkins on if he thinks he could add something to the offense with his speed: "Definitely. Any time you can get some speed on the field, I feel like it adds an extra threat. I'll just wait to see what they do and hopefully I can get out there and make some more plays."
· Bowles on Tom Brady facing more pressure this season: "I think any time you disrupt the quarterback, it's going to have an impact on certain things. We've got to block it better and we've got to get it out of his hands better. We've got to make plays more. If we do that, if we run the ball more, that takes some of the pressure off of him. It's a collective group thing as an offense that we've got to get better at and we understand that."