With a big win last week in Kansas City the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to take on the NFC leading Seattle Seahawks
Confidence is at an all-time high for the Buccaneers after an impressive win against the Chiefs last week to move to .500 on the season. A victory this week at home against Seattle could not only prove to the world the Bucs can hang with the best of them, it could make them a legitimate mention in the NFC playoff picture. A win this week over the Seahawks would actually move the Buccaneers into the number six seed, and in a position to control their own destiny. Pair the win with a Falcons loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and the Bucs would be tied for first place in the NFC South (Falcons would currently hold the tiebreaker with a 3-1 divisional record compared to a 2-1 divisional record for the Bucs).
The Seattle Seahawks are going to be no walk in the park for the Buccaneers. Seattle is 3-0 thus far in the month of November, beating three team who are sitting at .500 or better (Bills, Eagles and Patriots). Although the Buccaneers home record has not been all that good the past few seasons, the Seahawks are a perfect 5-0 at home, and the 12th man really gives them a huge advantage over the opposition. The Seahawks are 2-2-1 on the road, and the Bucs can continue their Thanksgiving ‘things I am thankful for’ by thanking the NFL schedule makers for giving them Seahawks at Raymond James Stadium.
Sunday will mark the 13th time these two franchises hashed out business on the field, with the Seahawks holding an 8-4 record against the Buccaneers all-time. More recently however, the Bucs have won three of the last four meetings, which could have been four in a row if not for the late heroics of Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson. Last time these two teams met up in Tampa, Josh Freeman was the captain of the ship and threw for five touchdown passes. This will be the fourth time the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll will see the Buccaneers as a head coach sporting a 1-2 record against them.
Buccaneers Offense vs Seahawks Defense
The ‘Legion of Boom’ has been sneakily good this season. Sure, most expect the Seattle defense to be top notch, but they have been giving up more yards than usually ranking 10th and 11th in the league is passing and rushing yards allowed respectively. What Seattle’s defense has done better than any other team in the NFL this season is keep points off the board. Allowing just 17.3 points per game can be largely be attributed to the 19 turnovers the Seattle defense has forced in ten games.
Jameis Winston has done a decent job lately at protecting the football, and the continuation of his success here will be key for the Buccaneers. With Mike Evans being covered by Richard Sherman for the afternoon, forcing the ball to Evans when he isn’t open could result in sloppy interceptions. Avoiding Evans shouldn’t be in the cards, as Sherman has proven to be beatable, but Sherman is one of the best in the biz at making quarterbacks pay for their mistakes, as evident by his team-leading four interceptions.
After receiving a decent workload last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, this is the week Doug Martin has to re-establish himself as one of the more dominant backs in the league. The Seahawks are allowing 98.4 yards per game on the ground this season, and Martin needs to find a way to break the century mark on the ground for the first time since his dominating 235 yard performance against the Eagles in week 11 of the 2015 season. Seattle will more than likely be bringing the heat against Jameis Winston, so Martin needs to be ready to see his fair share of targets in the passing game as well.
Mike Evans has a chance this week to plead his case for being mentioned with the elite wide receivers in the league with a healthy performance today against Seattle. Going against Richard Sherman is no easy task, but crisp route running will allow Evans to use his 6-foot-5 frame to create openings in the passing game. Look for Cameron Brate to be involved in the passing game as well as an over the middle safety valve.
Buccaneers Defense vs Seahawks Offense
Similar to their story last season, the Seattle offense has really come alive in the last few weeks. After getting off to a start that left much to be desired, Russell Wilson has re-established his connection with wide receiver Doug Baldwin, and when these two are on, they are as lethal as any quarterback-wide receiver duo in the league. Brent Grimes should have his hands full trying to contain Baldwin for the afternoon.
Another weapon that has resurfaced this season after an off year in 2015 is tight end Jimmy Graham. The Buccaneers know Graham quite well from his days in New Orleans, and Graham has averaged 70.8 receiving yards per game in nine career games against the Buccaneers. Defending Graham can prove troublesome for the Buccaneers as using the safeties to monitor Graham in the passing game could lead to speedster Tyler Lockett to break free for a big gain.
The linebacking trio need to be in top form in this game. With Graham running routes over the middle, the linebackers will have not only the tough job of trying to blanket Graham, but they will also have to contain Russell Wilson to the pocket. Wilson is extremely capable of making a defense pay with his legs. Although his ground game hasn’t been on par with previous seasons, largely in part because Wilson has battled injuries all season, he has become more healthy as the season wears. Wilson’s threat outside the pocket cannot be overlooked.
Forcing the Seahawks to attack through the air can be achieved by stopping Thomas Rawls. After releasing Christine Michael, and the injury to C.J. Prosise, Rawls is the featured back in Seattle. If there is a weakness in Seattle’s offense, it is the ground game that ranks 28th in yards gained per game. Rawls has spent most of the season on the sideline, however, and has looked sharp since returning from injury. The now healthy defense line needs to be dominant up front to prevent the Seahawks from establishing balance on offense.
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