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What's Next: Bucs Head to Houston After Mini-Bye

The Bucs have some extra time to rest and work on their shortcomings with a long weekend following Thursday night's loss in Buffalo, then will take on another AFC opponent on the road in Texas


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers left Buffalo on Thursday night with a  24-16 loss to the Bills, one that wasn't confirmed until the game's final play, when Baker Mayfield's 60-yard heave hit the end zone turf just a few feet out of Chris Godwin's reach. The near-miss on a desperation "Hail Mary" play ended the Buccaneers' frenzied attempt to pull off a shocking comeback.

As a result, the Buccaneers suffered their third straight loss and dropped to 3-4, one game behind the 4-3 Atlanta Falcons, who will play at Tennessee on Sunday afternoon. Interested parties at Bucs headquarters will have a chance to watch that game as the team enjoys the "mini-bye" that is the long weekend after a Thursday night game.

When the Bucs return to work on Monday morning, they'll be preparing for a Houston Texans team that has, in the estimation of some, exceeded expectations so far in 2023. The Texans take a 3-3 record into the weekend and will be facing the 0-6 Carolina Panthers. Despite the Panthers' struggles so far, this is a highly anticipated matchup between the first two picks in this year's draft, Carolina quarterback Bryce Young and Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud.

So far, Stroud has made the Texans very happy about their decision to draft him second overall. The former Ohio State standout has looked like a polished veteran and has thrown nine touchdown passes against just one interception. His top target is wide receiver Nico Collins, who has 29 catches for 547 yards and three touchdowns and is averaging 18.9 yards per grab. Rookie wideout Tank Dell, former Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz and well-traveled veteran Robert Woods all have between 19 and 21 receptions and between 215 and 327 yards.

Houston is under the direction of new Head Coach DeMeco Ryans, a former star linebacker for the Texans who rose quickly through the coaching ranks in San Francisco. The defensive-minded Ryans is directing a unit that, while it ranks 25th in yards allowed, has allowed only 18.8 points per game, the eighth-fewest in the NFL.

With their extended break, the Buccaneers will be seeking answers as to how to get the offense back on track after it has been held to 16 or fewer points in each of the last three games. The Bucs moved the ball well at times in Buffalo but too often hampered their own efforts with 11 penalties, including four false starts. Tampa Bay's defense continues to excel in the red zone, allowing two touchdowns on four trips to the Bills, but also continues to have trouble getting off the field on third downs.

Thursday's loss in Buffalo was the Bucs' first on the road in 2023. As they settle into a stretch of six road games in eight weeks, the Bucs will try to get back on track with a trip to Texas in Week Nine.

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