The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their bye week with a 2-4 record and a third-place spot in the NFC South. There are 12 teams ahead of the Buccaneers in the overall conference standings, but the majority of the season still lies ahead. Despite taking a two-game losing skid into the bye, the Buccaneers are still eyeing a playoff run.
When the Buccaneers come out of their midseason break they will have 10 games remaining, against nine different opponents. They will likely need to win at least seven of those games to have a shot at the playoffs. Now that a third of the season has been played and teams around the league have revealed some of their strengths and weaknesses, let's take a look at how Tampa Bay matches up with each of its upcoming opponents, continuing with the Seattle Seahawks in Week Nine.
Opponent: Seattle Seahawks
Date, Location: Week Nine, November 3, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
Top Offensive Performer: RB Chris Carson…504 rushing yards (5th in the NFL), 140 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns
Top Defensive Performer: LB Bobby Wagner…57 tackles (t-5th in the NFL), 1 pass defensed, 4 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hit
Notable Strength: The Seahawks have one of the league's most productive offenses as far as yards racked up. They rank fourth in the league with 2,394 yards of total offense through six games, thanks in part to the NFL's sixth-ranked rushing attack. It's spearheaded by running back Chris Carson whose 504 yards on the ground rank fifth among running backs league-wide and contribute to the team total of 783 this season. Seattle turns those yards into points, too, also ranking fourth in total offensive points put up with 158.
Notable Weakness: Conversely, the other side of the ball fails to inspire much fear with their pass rush, or rather, lack thereof. The Seahawks have just 10.0 sacks on the season, the sixth-worst mark in the league. They have only 18 hits on the quarterback, period. Only the Miami Dolphins have less. The one bright spot on that side of the ball lies in takeaways, which the defense still manages to get in the form of interceptions. Seattle defensive backs (and Jadeveon Clowney) have recorded six interceptions, which is tied for the eighth-most of any team. They're also tied for the eighth-most forced fumbles with six. In all, the Seahawks' defense has 10 takeaways, which ranks sixth in the league, tied with the Buccaneers among others, in fact.
How the Bucs Match Up:
The Bucs conclude their five-game road trip with one of their few remaining opponents that have a better-than-.500 record. In fact, of the opponents the Bucs will face going forward, the Seahawks are tied with the Saints for the best record at 5-1. Though, given that Seattle shares a division with the only unbeaten NFC team in the San Francisco 49ers, they still rank second in the NFC West. Therefore, the wildcard implications are there if the Niners don't slow down.
As Scott mentioned in the first part of this series, the Buccaneers rank first in the NFL in both rushing yards allowed per game (68.0) and yards allowed per carry (2.89) and that's despite facing a murderer's row of backs including Christian McCaffrey (twice), Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley. With Vita Vea, Will Gholston and Ndamukong Suh, the Buccaneers are particularly stingy up the middle, allowing only 2.00 yards per carry on such plays (thanks for perfectly articulating that for me, Scott).
The Bucs will therefore look to add Chris Carson to that list of dangerous backs they've been able to neutralize. The thing is, Carson isn't the only running threat. The Seahawks have one built-in under center in quarterback Russell Wilson, who is one of the best dual-threat signal callers in the game. Wilson ranks fifth in rushing yards among all qualified passers and has the most passing yards of any of the four candidates in front of him. It means you have to respect the run, but even if you shut that down, he's still going to throw on you. That brings me to the Bucs' struggles facing the pass. A lot of it has to do with the sheer amount quarterbacks are having to pass against them because they have no options on the ground. Consider that in your average game, you'd want your quarterback to attempt probably about 20-30 passes in a well-balanced offense. Bearing in mind that attempting more passes is NOT better, the average amount of passing attempts by an opposing quarterback against the Buccaneers is 41.6. So, while the Bucs have given up an uncomfortable average of over 300 passing yards per game, it's not hard to do when you're forcing a well-above-average amount of throws. However, it's the points that matter, and with Seattle putting up the fourth-most points on offense in the league, the Bucs will have to improve in that area if they want to contain Wilson's production through the air.
Tampa Bay's offense, however, may find a little bit of solace in the Seahawks' aforementioned lack of a pass rush. Following a game in which quarterback Jameis Winston got sacked seven times, Head Coach Bruce Arians said getting hit changes things for a quarterback and the fact that Winston took five of those seven in the first half alone doesn't bode well for his confidence going forward. In both of the Bucs' wins this year, Winston was kept relatively clean, taking no more than three sacks throughout the game. It could be the key to a successful day in Seattle, as a result.
Looking at individual matchups, the Bucs have two of the best receivers in the league in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Seattle's secondary is far from the Legion of Boom it once was, letting up the seventh-most passing yards in the league, currently. The Bucs have the seventh-most passing yards in the league, so that's another aspect Tampa Bay can exploit. While Seattle cornerback Tre Flowers matches up better than most size-wise (Flowers is 6'3), he has just two passes defensed this year. Therefore, Seahawks could turn to the 6'0 Shaquill Griffin to handle Evans. Griffin has six passes defensed this season, which ties him for 13th-most in the league. It still likely leaves a mismatch for Godwin, though, which is good news for the Bucs.