Tampa Bay made history a week ago in a loss to Washington. Though it’s not really the kind of way you hope to make it into the record books. The Buccaneers became the first team in NFL history to record 500+ yards and score just three points.
In what was probably one of the defense’s best performances of the season, the Bucs offense was a complete flop. That can’t happen against a New York Giants team that isn’t anything special outside of play makers like Saquon Barley and Odell Beckham.
Dirk Koetter has turned the play calling back over to Todd Monken (thank god) which should provide a spark to the offense. However, they’ve also got to find their footing in the red zone again while limiting turnovers.
1. Slowing down Saquon Barkley
The do-it-all rookie back has arguably been New York’s best player to this point. After starring at Penn State, Barkley’s game hasn’t taken a step back at all as he’s transitioned to the next level.
He’s rushed 131 times for 586 yards and five touchdowns while adding 62 catches for 530 yards and two more scores in 2018. Barkley is a beast and the Bucs short-handed defense is going to have their hands full with him in the backfield.
2. Getting to Eli Manning
After failing to sack Alex Smith in the first half a week ago, Tampa Bay got to him three times in the final two quarters. That kind of pressure along with quarterback hurries and hits are really the only thing keeping this team alive in pass defense.
With the injuries across the unit, the guys they have out there aren’t experienced enough or plainly aren’t good enough. This team has to make quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket or they’re at a big risk of getting picked apart, especially with Beckham and Sterling Shepard on the outside.
Manning was sacked just once in the Giants win over San Francisco last week, though he has been sacked 32 times this season. This would be an ideal time for Jason Pierre-Paul to end his two-game streak without a sack, especially in a tilt against his former team.
3. Finding success on the ground
New York has the ninth-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 122.6 yards per game on the ground. On the other hand, Tampa Bay was solid running the ball a week ago.
Peyton Barber was the main benefactor, carrying the ball 13 times for 61 yards. The stats don’t tell the main story as Barber ran with reckless abandon all day, breaking tackles for extra yards on multiple runs against the Redskins.
The Buccaneers have been excellent throwing the ball but they could open up the field even more if they prove they can pound the ball on the ground consistently.
4. Red zone offense
There’s no way to sugar coat it. Tampa Bay was absolutely awful in the red zone against Washington. The Bucs got inside the 20-yard line four times and converted just one field goal. The miscues during the other four possessions include three turnovers and a missed kick.
Koetter can’t afford to have his team perform like that again in an area where you have to have points. This team has to preach ball security, especially in crucial parts of the field like the red zone.
Speaking of ball security, the Buccaneers have turned the ball over six times in the last two games after Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Jameis Winston in the starting lineup. They’ve forced zero in that time.
With such a porous defense, Tampa Bay’s offense simply can’t lose out on possessions due to turnovers. There’s basically no way for this team to come back if they don’t take care of the ball.
To this point, the Bucs rank last in the NFL with a -19 turnover differential. They’ve forced six total turnovers while turning it over a whopping 25 times in nine games.