After losing a battle of division leaders in emphatic fashion in San Francisco on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will regroup in Week 15 and prepare for a visit from another prime playoff contender, the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Buccaneers will play host to the Bengals at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, December 18, with kickoff scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast to a national audience by FOX.
Tampa Bay's 35-7 loss to the 49ers in Week 14 dropped the team back under .500, but its 6-7 record is still good enough for first place in the NFC South over the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, both of whom stand at 5-8 with four games to play. The Buccaneers have remaining games against the Panthers in Week 17 and the Falcons in Week 18 but must first take care of business against the high-powered Bengals.
Cincinnati won its own intradivisional matchup on Sunday, taking down the Cleveland Browns by a 23-10 score. Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who returned from a four-game injury absence last week to beat the Chiefs, went off for 119 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries as Cincinnati won its fifth game in a row and improved to 9-4. That allowed the Bengals to keep pace with the 9-4 Baltimore Ravens atop the NFC North.
The Buccaneers will be looking for their first victory in five tries against AFC teams this season, having previously lost to the other three teams in the AFC North as well as the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs. Tampa Bay has an all-time record fo 7-5 against Cincinnati, though the Bengals have capture the last two meetings. Each of the last four games in the series has been decided by three points or less, with each team winning twice.
The visit from Cincinnati begins a final-month stretch run as the Buccaneers try to keep their title hopes alive by winning the division and then potentially going on a run in the playoffs. Head Coach Todd Bowles stated after the difficult loss in San Francisco on Sunday that the Buccaneers needed to "decide who they want to be" over the final four weeks, and quarterback Tom Brady stressed that the team has still yet to play a complete game.