Bucs Relying On Next Man Up Mentality With Injury Challenges

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return from their bye week for another road trip and NFC playoff rematch from last year’s Super Bowl run, heading north to face the Washington Football Team.

Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s Week 10 showdown:

TOP STORYLINES

Still banged up

Every team hopes to get healthier during their bye week, and while the Bucs could see the return of some key players on both sides of the ball this week, there are still some big names who look like long-shots to suit up against Washington.

Rob Gronkowski (back) and Antonio Brown (ankle) aren’t likely to play in this game, and Chris Godwin (foot) didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, putting his status in doubt.

Jason Pierre-Paul is still trying to play through multiple injuries, including a torn rotator cuff that he called “by far the worst” injury of his career so far (for JPP, that’s saying something). All of these injuries will keep forcing the Bucs to prove their depth with the “next man up” mentality.

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Wild Card rematch

The Bucs bested Washington on the road in the first round of the playoffs last year, but it was a bit too close for comfort, as Tampa Bay escaped with a 31-22 victory.

There will be fans in the stands this time around, and while Taylor Heinicke gave the Bucs defense quite the challenge in his surprise start, Devin White wasn’t in the lineup for that game. His presence should make it harder for Heinicke to make plays outside of the pocket, and the entire defense will be chomping at the bit to deliver a better performance than they did back in January.

Angry Bucs

Every team would prefer to win before they head into the bye week, but after a disappointing road loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 8, the Bucs had to spend their time off stewing about another frustrating defeat at the hands of their division rivals.

Washington probably would have preferred the Bucs win that game, too, because they’re sure to be angry and laser-focused in their preparations coming out of the bye week, hoping to take it all out on their next opponent.

Especially with Tom Brady leading the way, it’s hard to imagine the Bucs not coming out with a strong bounce-back performance.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Bucs 'O' line vs. Washington 'D' line

The Bucs won this epic battle in last year’s playoff win, and they’ll be looking to set the tone for another victory this time around.

Even without Montez Sweat in the lineup, Washington still has one of the NFL’s most formidable defensive fronts, led by former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young.

Tampa Bay has been one of the league’s most dominant teams up front on offense, keeping Brady protected in the pocket and plowing the road for Leonard Fournette and an improving ground game. These are two of the best units in the league at what they do.

Bucs front seven vs. Washington offensive backfield

Heinicke’s success making plays outside of the pocket was key to helping Washington keep things close with Tampa Bay back in January, but he’s also got some versatile playmakers lining up next to him, led by Antonio Gibson.

White and Lavonte David make up one of the NFL’s best linebacker tandems, with the kind of athleticism, intelligence and instincts to shut down even the most explosive ball-carriers.

Making their lives easier should be the Bucs’ dominant front four, which will do their best to keep Heinicke in the pocket and keep Gibson and company from finding any running room.

Washington WR Terry McLaurin vs. Bucs secondary

Washington has one of the NFL’s most promising young pass-catchers in McLaurin, a polished route-runner who can stretch the field over the top, make tough catchers over the middle and break tackles after the catch.

Tampa Bay’s defensive backfield is still struggling with a long list of injuries at cornerback, and will rely on Jamel Dean to keep McLaurin from taking over the game.

Look for Washington to use plenty of motion to get McLaurin matched up against one of the Bucs’ other corners to maximize his impact on the game.

PREDICTION

Tampa Bay would have been the favorite to win this game no matter what, but losing to the Saints before heading into the bye week was the worst possible scenario for Washington.

Brady and the Bucs have had plenty of time to prepare for this game, and they’ll be locked into fixing the self-inflicted errors that caused them to let the Saints game slip away.

Even with the injuries they’re dealing with on both sides of the ball, the defending Super Bowl champs are the better team in all three phases, and should enjoy a comfortable win.

Bucs 34, Washington 16

Source : https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/sports/2021/11/12/washington-football/6375785001/

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