Since they last played in their home park, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have traveled to Los Angeles, New Orleans, London and Nashville, with a bye week mixed in between those last two. Before they can get back to Raymond James Stadium for the first time since September 22, the Buccaneers must embark on one more long journey: to the other corner of the country to play the Seattle Seahawks in Week Nine.
The Buccaneers could use the comforts of home on the heels of a three-game losing streak, extended in Week Eight with a narrow loss in Nashville to the Tennessee Titans. They must face one more significant challenge first, as the Seahawks improved to 6-2 on Sunday with a road win at Atlanta behind another strong performance from MVP candidate Russell Wilson. Seattle's CenturyLink Field, site of next Sunday's game, is generally considered one of the loudest and toughest on visitors in the NFL, though the Seahawks are only 2-2 at home so far this season.
Wilson, who went to four Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl in his first six seasons, may be having his best campaign yet. His 131.7 passer rating in Sunday's win over the Falcons marked the seventh time in eight games this year that he has finished a game above 100 and the fourth time he's been north of 130. Speedy Tyler Lockett is his favorite target – he had another 100 yards Sunday against the Falcons – but muscular rookie D.K. Metcalf is an intriguing young talent who scored twice in the same game. Despite all that, the Seahawks run the ball more frequently than every team except San Francisco, Minnesota and Baltimore.
Tampa Bay's beleaguered secondary may be up to the challenge, however, after showing significant improvement in the team's first game back from the bye. Ryan Tannehill was held to 193 passing yards in Tennessee's win, and only 62 of those were recorded by wide receivers. The Buccaneers' broke up seven passes, three by Carlton Davis, and the pass rush was energized by the return of Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Buccaneers' playoff hopes took a serious hit with the loss to the Titans, which dropped them to 2-5, but Head Coach Bruce Arians is still focused on winning each week and turning the season around. A victory in Seattle would at least keep the team's shrinking postseason hopes alive.