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Buccaneers vs. Chiefs predictions

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2013 Pro Bowl Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Kansas City Chiefs at 1:00 p.m. ET, with the 4-5 Bucs hoping to hang on to their tiny playoff hopes, and the 7-2 Chiefs hoping to consolidate their number one spot in their division — no mean feat given that the Oakland Raiders are 7-2 and the Denver Broncos 7-3.

The Chiefs may be the better team here, and obviously so, they are far from unbeatable. They lost twice, and Football Outsiders’ rankings suggest they’re a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of quality. That’s better than the Bucs, who they think are poor, but it suggests a win would not be as out of the question as one might think.

With cornerback Marcus Peters (five interceptions this season) and Jeremy Maclin out, the Bucs actually have some realistic openings, too. When they don’t turn the ball over, the Bucs do pretty well for themselves — especially so if they also manage to take away the ball a few times. The latter might be a problem, though, as Alex Smith is such a cautious passer he rarely throws interceptable balls.

Instead, the Bucs will have to find a way to stop the run, something they’ve struggled with recently, and keep the Chiefs’ short passing game short. That means disciplined tackling (another recurring issue), and disciplined positioning — though at least the team’s poor safety play in deep coverage won’t be exposed.

So, predictions? I say the Bucs win this one with a shocking 17-14 score. A lone Roberto Aguayo field goal making the difference in a largely defense-dominated and somewhat frustrating game.