The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take their three game winning streak to southern California to take on the San Diego Chargers
Riding high after a three game win streak that featured quality wins against two first place clubs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) take their playoff dreams to San Diego to take on the Chargers (5-6). The Chargers are coming off a huge 21-13 win over the AFC South leading Houston Texans to keep their playoff aspirations alive. With both teams fighting for wild card, the NFL has moved the game to 4:25 P.M. today to attract more viewership.
This is the 11th time in franchise history these two teams will get together, and the Chargers have owned the Bucs in the past, carrying an 8-2 all-time record into this contest. The Buccaneers did come away with a victory the last time these two teams met up back in 2012. The Chargers are a team that refuses to go away. After a rough start to their 2016 campaign that saw some of their top offensive weapons go down with season-ending injuries, they have found ways to stay relevant in the playoff conversation.
Buccaneers Offense vs Chargers Defense
Although the San Diego defense have given up the 26th most points per game, the Chargers defense consist of two strengths, forcing turnovers and stopping the run. Preventing turnovers for the Buccaneers all starts up front. The Chargers pass rush hasn’t turned any heads this season, as they only have 20 sacks on the year, but creating a comfort level for Jameis Winston in the pocket will be key. If the offensive line can void out the Chargers pass rush, Winston just needs to make good decisions.
Against a defense that forces a lot of turnovers, Winston needs to find the open receivers. Although Winston has been playing well this season, when crunch time rolls around he tends to stare down wide receiver Mike Evans too often, a tactic that could result in turnover issues. The Buccaneers are +2 in the turnover department, and need to win the turnover battle once again to improve to 7-5.
With Doug Martin receiving a full workload last week, there is no reason to expect anything different this week. The Chargers sport the 6th best rushing defense in the NFL, but Martin needs to establish himself early and often. The Buccaneers have done a good job of establishing the run games in their victories, despite ranking only 16th in the league in rushing yards per game. If the running game can be effective enough to force the safeties to cheat in, expect a big day for Jameis Winston against the 26th ranked pass defense.
Buccaneers Defense vs Chargers Offense
How have the Buccaneers become relevant in the playoff discussion? Their defense has played much better as of late, especially last week when they gave up just three points to the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks. A big part of the improved defense has been the great play lately by the Buccaneers safeties that were making people grimace earlier in the season. One of those safeties, Chris Conte, will be sitting this contest out with a chest injury after not practicing all week. Keith Tandy will fill in for him, and the focus for him should be to not allow any big plays over his head.
Melvin Gordon is a guy who is going to require attention all day by the Buccaneers defense. With Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead lost earlier in the year to season ending injuries, Gordon has become the focal point of the Chargers offense. With nine touchdowns on the year and averaging nearly four yards per carry, assigning Lavonte David to shadow him for the afternoon may be in the best interest of containing Gordon.
The Buccaneers pass defense needs to bring their ‘A’ game to sunny California on Sunday, because if not, Philip Rivers has the ability to make them pay. A huge arm, Rivers has enjoyed success this year throwing for 3,128 yards and 23 touchdowns. Rivers is a player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and if the Buccaneers big men up front can create havoc in the pocket for Rivers, he can be thrown off his game. Gerald McCoy has been a big part of the pass rush as of late and is questionable in this game after limited practice on Friday with a foot injury. McCoy was seen in a walking boot following last weeks victory against the Seahawks, but if he is able to go, you can take it to the bank he will be out there contributing with his team chasing a playoff spot.
Be sure to watch the Buccaneers take on the San Diego Chargers at 4:25 P.M. from Qualcomm Stadium