-Following the Buccaneers' win in Atlanta last weekend, quarterback Tom Brady said the Week 14 matchup with the Buffalo Bills would be the team's biggest game yet. Now, for most players, the next game is the biggest game – but the Bills have their own postseason hopes this year and come to town toting the league's top-ranked defense that's allowing the second-fewest points of any team in the league this year.
"It's a huge game for both teams," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "Where we're at now, everything is involved with the playoffs and the seeding and everything, plus we don't want to lose at home. They're obviously coming off a really tough loss; they don't want to lose two in a row. It's a big game for both teams."
The Bucs are a perfect 5-0 this season at home and with their first opportunity to clinch the NFC South coming with a win this week, they have everything to play for. Plus, it's December and the team has placed an extra emphasis on these games down the stretch leading into the playoffs. This week may even bring a taste of that intensity.
"I would say we know we have a playoff-caliber team coming to town, so this is going to be more of a playoff atmosphere, playoff speed, playoff game," said safety Andrew Adams. "I think everybody's antennas are at an all-time high right now. I just think in December we want to play our best football. So [regardless of] who is coming in, right now we are all trying to click and jell and when we want to be at our best."
Meanwhile, the Bills are trying to do the same team, especially coming off a 14-10 loss to the New England Patriots in which quarterback Mac Jones threw the ball a total of three times.
"I know how you would feel the next day," laughed left guard Ali Marpet, who knows a thing or two about the effort it takes to run the football. "It just shows that there's a lot of different ways to win [a football game]. Just use the resources that you have around you and we have some good pieces."
The Bills are good at that, too, despite the outcome of the game. They average 116.7 yards on the ground per game themselves. But they also have a quarterback that can not only run the ball, but sling it, too.
"No, they can throw it 40, 45, 50 times and win," said Arians, talking about Bills quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense. "He just is so unique in the way they run the ball with him. Their back-side sets, where it's 100 percent pass by any other quarterback, there's a really good chance it's a run with him. Brian Daboll does a hell of a job with those quarterback runs."
"Buffalo's tough," said wide receiver Mike Evans. "They're a tough team in the AFC. They were a few plays away from the AFC Championship. We could have played them in the Super Bowl last year. They're a really good team coming off a tough loss in a windy game against New England. We're expecting their best and we're looking forward to putting out our best."
Being in the AFC, Evans (and most of the Buccaneers) aren't super familiar with Buffalo as a team. But someone who is? Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has played the Bills 15 times in his career thanks to sharing the division with them during his time with the Patriots. Gronkowski has 69 receptions, 12 of which were touchdowns and a 15.5 yards per reception average when playing Buffalo, which is actually his hometown team. But while the Bills may remind him of his home growing up, his home now is Tampa – and he wants to do whatever it takes to defend it.
"We have a playoff team coming into our house," said Gronkowski. "There's going to be a lot of pressure on the line, but like any other week, we have to prepare. But they're a good team. They have a winning record. They have a lot of playmakers. They have a lot of good players on the defensive side of the ball, so it's going to be a pretty intense atmosphere. I would say it's going to be more like another playoff atmosphere."
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