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Buccaneers vs. Bills Preview: Can the Bucs finally live up to the expectations?

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The Bucs face the Bills on Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, as they get a few key players back. Jameis Winston returns from a shoulder injury, while Kwon Alexander will likely step back onto the field for the first time since game one.

Let’s dive into the preview.

Reviewing the Bills’ last four games:

Buf 3, Car 9 L

Den 16, Buf 26 W

Buf 23, Atl 17 W

Buf 16, Cin 20 L

In these last four games, the Bills’ defense has not allowed an opponent to score 21 points or more. This does not bode well for the Bucs’ offense because against the 31st and 27th ranked defenses in points per game allowed, the Bucs offense was inept (against the Pats) and did not start scoring until the second half (against the Cardinals).

Bills Defense

The Bills defense is amazing, allowing just 14.8 points on average. It appears as though the Bills are winning the battle in the trenches and forcing teams to become one-dimensional in taking away the run game. If teams are passing more, then it should create turnover opportunities. The Bills have 8 interceptions in only five games, ranking them 4th overall.

Jameis Winston is returning to start after a shoulder injury knocked him out of the game last week. The Bucs failed to establish a running game in their first two drives. The run game did pick up after the insertion of Evan Smith at LG. Still, everything is dependent on Winston and his accuracy. With that in mind, will Koetter deviate from his vertical offense to accommodate Winston’s inaccuracies and deep field only vision?

Bucs Defense

Although the Bills may be a low scoring team, the Bucs have been a remedy for a low scoring team last week against the Cardinals, who were ranked 29th overall with a 16.2 points average. The Cardinals blew up the Bucs defense because they could run the ball. In fact, the Bucs have been worse the past two weeks at stopping the run.

There is one silver lining to the disastrous run defense chart: Kwon Alexander was not playing in games 2 – 5. The starting middle linebacker returns to the field against the Bills. The Bucs had rookie Kendall Beckwith starting in Alexander’s stead and he did an admirable job. But Alexander is faster than the rookie and has two years worth of NFL experience, one year under a Mike Smith defense. Also, he is better in coverage. Alexander was listed as a full participant in this week’s injury report. He is ready to go.

Last week, the Bucs got Lavonte David to return to the starting roster after injury held him out as well. In the second half of the Cardinals game, LVD forced two fumbles. One of those fumbles was a strip, picked up by LVD, and run back for a touchdown by LVD.

At safety, both Keith Tandy and Ward were listed as limited. The Bucs must rely upon rookie safety Justin Evans to hold the fort. Tandy has a year under Mike Smith’s belt and earned himself a starting position this season until injury struck him.

With Kwon Alexander returning to the starting lineup, then tackling machine rookie “Bring ‘em down like Beckwith” moves to the strong side linebacker position. That move actually enhances the run defense.

The imperative this week has been the same all this season – stop the run; make the opposing offense one-dimensional. Buffalo ranks 30th in passing yards. If the Bucs can stop the Bills run game, then the onus is on QB Tyrod Taylor.

Conclusion

For the Bucs, both sides of the ball have been consistently inconsistent. The offense has been relatively healthy all year, but unable to produce to the expectations set with all the new weapons accrued. Defensively, the Bucs have been hit with injury after injury. Those injuries have an impact on the field of play. There is no identity on offense or defense. Is there a sophomore slump in the second year of a Mike Smith defense? Is the offensive line really that impressive to open holes for Martin? Will both the offense and defense show up at first snap?

There is so much uncertainty with the club and it needs to discover who it is by Sunday because this game will probably determine if the Bucs can have an outside chance of being a playoff contender or become a lost season of inconsistencies.

I am hoping the run defense makes an appearance to shut down the Bills’ run game. Then maybe the defense can create some turnovers to give the offense short field advantage to score and possibly replicate the Chicago opener.

Bucs 13, Buf 6

http://www.espn.com/nfl/game?gameId=400951575