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Countdown to Kickoff: Buccaneers-Texans, Week 9 2023 

The Buccaneers will hit the road to take on the Texans in Week Nine … Key stats, lineup notes and more


The Buccaneers took sole possession of the NFC South to begin the 2023 season with a 3-1 start, including a rousing victory in New Orleans. However, Tampa Bay came out of the early bye week with a three-game losing streak. Now at 3-4, Tampa Bay is a half-game behind the Falcons and Saints. The Bucs hope for revitalization in Week Nine against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. On Sunday, the Bucs face a penetrating gap defense under the direction of DeMeco Ryans. That unit posted six sacks and 10 quarterback hits on Bryce Young in Week Eight. Texans' rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has boasted a sensational first-year campaign, including nine touchdown passes to one interception. After a week of preparation, here is what the Week Nine matchup comes down to:

4 Stats That Matter

  • Baker Mayfield has three passing touchdowns, no interceptions and a 96.7 passer rating when under pressure in 2023 (fourth-highest passer rating under pressure in the NFL). Houston has a 41.6 pressure rate in 2023 (fourth-highest in the NFL).
  • Texans' C.J. Stroud has the lowest interception percentage by any rookie in NFL history (minimum of 200 pass attempts).
  • Stroud has a 56.3 completion percentage and a 140.6 passer rating on deep passes (20-plus air yards) in 2023 – both highest in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats.
  • The Texans have allowed 18.3 points per game in 2023 (tied-sixth-fewest in NFL) under new Head Coach DeMeco Ryans. Houston allowed 26.7 points per game from 2020-2022 (31st in the NFL) and missed playoffs all three seasons.

3 Lineup Notes

  • After practice on Friday, Head Coach Todd Bowles confirmed that left guard Matt Feiler (knee) and defensive lineman Logan Hall (groin) have both been ruled out for Sunday's game. Feiler will miss his second-straight game due to a knee injury, giving Aaron Stinnie another start in the lineup. Hall sustained his injury during warmups before the Bills Week Eight matchup, but he made it through most of that contest.
  • Bowles also noted that all the other players on the Bucs' roster are "in play" for Sunday's game, which includes Pro Bowl tackle Tristan Wirfs, who sustained a quadriceps injury last week and was limited on Wednesday to start the week before being upgraded to full participation on Thursday. In addition, nickel corner Christian Izien missed practice on Friday due to an undisclosed illness and was listed as questionable.
  • For Houston, three players were ruled out of Sunday's matchup after missing practice this week: tight end Brevin Jordan (foot), running back Dameon Pierce (ankle) and wide receiver Robert Woods (foot). Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (knee) was listed as questionable after practicing in a limited fashion all week.

2 Challenges Presented by the Texans

Last week, the Bills had four pass-catchers finish with over 65 yards against the Bucs' defense and in Week Nine, Tampa Bay faces another talented cast. The Texans' second-overall pick in the draft, C.J. Stroud, has displayed poise in the pocket and pinpoint precision at layering the ball to all three levels of the field. Stroud has a passer rating of 94.9 and his decision-making has bolstered Houston's offense. His play has boosted the production of Nico Collins, who has really come into his own, along with rookie Tank Dell. Collins is lethal on slant, curls, digs and corner routes. He can stretch the field vertically and Dell is the Texans' gadget player on reverses, jet sweeps and motions. Then there is tight end Dalton Schultz, who is a viable target over the middle of the field and can attack voids against zone. The Texans have the league's 11th-best passing attack and come Sunday; the Bucs' defense will have to be disciplined in pursuit to not allow yards after catch.

Defensively, DeMeco Ryans has developed a group of players that embody his aggressive/swarm mentality. The Texans do not blitz at a high rate, but they get pressure situationally. The 4-3 attack-styled defense has allowed only 18.3 points per game, the sixth-fewest in the NFL. For Houston, Jonathan Greenard has spearheaded the unit with 6.0 sacks and rookie Will Anderson Jr., the third-overall pick in the draft, has proven his worth. Anderson is sudden, violent and gets skinny in gaps to get to the quarterback. He has elite play recognition, posting 26 pressures through eight weeks. The bookends surround a dynamic tandem inside of Maliek Collins and Sheldon Rankins. The Texans' defenders are always in pursuit, crashing downhill and the Bucs will have to match their physicality on Sunday.

1 Key Thought from Kacy Rodgers

On Texans' quarterback C.J. Stroud:

"When you watch them, they're doing a great job with this young quarterback. We've played a couple of young quarterbacks this year, but when you watch them, he is actually playing quarterback. We play some young quarterbacks where it's run, run throw. It's very vanilla and by the book. With this guy, watching him on film, he gets the whole gamut. He's [not] just throwing flat routes – he's throwing over the middle, he's throwing it deep, he's utilizing all of his weapons and then he can make plays with his feet if he has too. He is truly playing quarterback. Us, as a defensive staff sitting there evaluating, we think he has a bright future. They're doing a great job implementing him into their scheme and he is doing a great job playing quarterback."

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