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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Game Preview

The Bolts come to Ray Jay looking for their second win of the season.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen is coming off a big performance against the Panthers.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) are back in Raymond James Stadium for a Week Four showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers (1-2).

The Chargers have been ravaged by injury, but there are still plenty of playmakers left to create havoc for opposing teams. The Bucs seem to be on the way up, but they still have a lot to prove.

Who will get it done on Sunday?


Overview

  • All-time series: The Chargers lead the all-time series, 8-3. The Bucs have won three of the last five, however.
  • Longest win streak: Los Angeles won five in a row from 1976-1994.
  • Largest margin of victory: A 41-10 beatdown by the Chargers in 1990 still stands as the largest margin of victory between the two teams.
  • 2020 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs are 27th in total offense (19th passing, 29th rushing) and fourth (14th passing, 3rd rushing) in total defense. The Chargers currently own the league’s sixth-ranked offense (9th passing, 6th rushing) and the eighth-best defense (9th passing, 10th rushing).
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos
The Bucs’ defense has been on fire the last two games.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

What To Watch For

  • Injuries, injuries, injuries: The Chargers’ roster is depleted due to injuries. A lot of them are at key spots within the context of this matchup, as well. The position hit hardest is the offensive line, where Los Angeles is missing three of five starters. Will they be able to overcome them? The NFL is all about ‘next man up’, but sometimes it’s just too much.
  • Justin Herbert, rookie extraordinaire: He’s played well during his first two games, but he’s also had moments where he’s looked like a rookie. The Bucs have historically been bad against rookie quarterbacks, so there’s an additional layer to add to the mix.
  • Chargers’ pass rush vs. Bucs’ offensive line: The Chargers are dead-last in the NFL in blitz percentage, yet they have the fifth-highest pressure rate in the NFL. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you consider they have a higher pressure rate than the Bucs, who have the third-highest blitz percentage. Tampa Bay’s offensive line will need to step it up, even if Melvin Ingram isn’t playing.
  • Keenan Allen vs. Carlton Davis III: This will be fun to watch. Davis has become the Bucs’ top corner and will follow Allen for the most part on Sunday. Allen is a terrific route runner and is one of the best receivers at creating separation, so Davis will need to be on his game Sunday.
  • Hunter Henry vs. the Bucs’ linebackers: Tampa Bay is still having issues with covering linebackers and now Henry, who’s second in receiving yards and third in receptions among tight ends, is coming to town. The Bucs must control him or else it could be a long day.

Impact Players

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • QB Tom Brady: He’s improved each week and should have a nice game on Sunday.
  • RB Ronald Jones II: Leonard Fournette won’t play, so the running game will on Jones’ shoulders. Can he take advantage and strengthen his grip on the lead job?
  • WR Mike Evans: Just like RoJo, Evans will need to burden the load in the passing game.
  • DL Ndamukong Suh: The veteran has been playing like a madman through three weeks and will have a nice matchup against a banged up Chargers offensive line.
  • LB Lavonte David: Tampa Bay’s best defender will be responsible for neutralizing Austin Ekeler and the Chargers’ screen game.
  • CB Carlton Davis III: He’ll have a tough assignment in Allen and needs to lock him down.
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
The Bucs have to find a way to stop Austin Ekeler.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Chargers

  • QB Justin Herbert: The future of the franchise gets his toughest defensive test yet.
  • RB Austin Ekeler: The former undrafted running back has become one of the league’s best. He is dangerous in both the running game and the passing game, so the Bucs will need to have a good game plan for him.
  • TE Hunter Henry: Henry will be in for a big day if Tampa Bay doesn’t figure out a way to slow him down.
  • DE Joey Bosa: Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs are going to have their hands full with the Pro Bowl defensive end.
  • LB Kenneth Murray: The Chargers’ first round pick has shown every bit of first-round talent so far this year and has helped bring stability to the second level of the defense.
  • CB Casey Heyward Jr.: He’s the last man standing in the Chargers’ secondary, but he can shut opponents down when called upon.

Cool Stats

  • Jason Pierre-Paul has now recorded a sack in five-consecutive games dating back to 2019, tying for the third-longest such streak among Buccaneers since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. His 8.0 sacks during this five-game stretch are the most in the NFL. JPP is one game away from tying his own record and Simeon Rice’s record for the most consecutive games with a sack (6).
  • Tampa Bay recorded two interceptions in each of the past two contests. With at least two interceptions against the Chargers, it would mark the first time since 2016 that the team has recorded two-or-more interceptions in three consecutive games (11/27/16 vs. Seattle-12/11/16 vs. New Orleans).
  • The Buccaneers have recorded at least 5.0 sacks in each of the past two games. With 5.0-or-more sacks against the L.A. Chargers, it would tie the longest streak in team history of games with at least 5.0 sacks (also 9/3/00 at New England-9/17/00 at Detroit).
  • Dating back to the 2019 season, the Buccaneers have held nine consecutive opponents under 100 rushing yards, tying a franchise record. If Tampa Bay holds the Chargers under 100 rushing yards, the team will establish a new franchise record. The 2014 Detroit Lions is the last NFL team to hold at least 10 consecutive opponents under 100 rushing yards (11 games, 10/5/14-12/21/14).
  • At Denver, Brady threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions. With at least three passing touchdowns and no interceptions against the Chargers, Brady will be only the second player in team history to post consecutive such games (also Josh Freeman, 10/21/12 vs. New Orleans-10/25/12 at Minnesota).
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
NFL: Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers
Anthony Lynn has a lot to figure out over the next few weeks.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Game Outlook

There would be so much to like about this game if it weren’t for all the injuries. At the end of the day, I just don’t think the Chargers will have enough to get it done, especially when you consider the banged-up offensive line going up against the Bucs’ front seven.

Tampa Bay has to get over its issues in the third quarter/second half, though. If those crop up in this game, then I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers find a way to make both the Bucs and Bucs fans sweat. There’s plenty of talent on the Chargers’ side to make plays and stay in this game if the Bucs allow it.

But if the Bucs come out and play mistake-free football, then they will take care of business. The Chargers haven’t forced many mistakes this year, so I think that will be the case. Expect the Bucs to be 3-1 heading up to Chicago on Thursday night.