A quick turnaround for a banged up team rarely has a positive outcome, and its the exact situation facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5 of the NFL Season.
Traveling to face the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field on Thursday Night Football means the Bucs have to play in their first primetime game of the season with their three top receivers listed on the injury report heading into the game.
2019 breakout player Chris Godwin will miss his second-straight game and third of the season with a hamstring injury. Mike Evans injured his ankle in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers and is questionable after missing practice all three days this past week.
Of course, Scotty Miller also missed every day except for Wednesday’s final practice session and is also questionable. I suppose, in some way this is a risky X-Factor pick, as the possibility exists Miller won’t even play!
Given his limited participation on Wednesday, I feel comfortable rolling these dice though, and Tampa Bay is going to need him to go if at all possible.
The need for Miller’s skill set only grows in importance with the season-ending injury suffered by tight end O.J. Howard on the game-winning scoring play against the Chargers last weekend.
Cameron Brate figures to see an increased role, which isn’t a bad thing, but Howard’s elite athleticism as a tight end will be sorely missed.
Where Miller can help off-set this missing piece is by keeping defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage, thus shortening the area players like Rob Gronkowski and Brate have to work with against opposing defenses.
By stretching the field the Buccaneers gain a real estate advantage forcing the opposing eleven to cover more of the field, and ideally, giving the remaining receiving weapons more room to operate.
Of course, as the Bucs’ leading receiver in yards, Miller has proven to be a legitimate weapon as his connection with Tom Brady continues to grow.
In the comeback win over the Los Angeles Chargers alone, Miller caught five passes for 83-yards and a crucial touchdown score which helped Tampa Bay squeeze out a 38-31 win over the visiting team.
Through four games Brady has targeted Miller on deep passes (20-yards downfield or more) seven times; tied for ninth in the NFL. Among the league’s deep ball threats, Miller ranks sixth-best having connected with his quarterback on 35% of their attempts of 20-yards or more.
Not bad for a late-round 2019 NFL Draft pick who missed substantial time in his rookie season.
Mike Evans is still banged up, and let’s be honest, isn’t known for getting the most separation when he’s healthy. O.J. Howard is out. Chris Godwin is also out.
Scotty Miller is hurting as well, but he’s already gutted out one performance with the same injury listed on this week’s reports.
If he can make it through one more it’ll force the Chicago Bears defense to cover the entire field and open up more room to operate underneath for the rest of the team. This includes guys like Ronald Jones II, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and even rookie Tyler Johnson who will look to contribute with Justin Watson out for Week 5.
Then, they have a pseudo bye not having to play again for ten days. Miller could be the key to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers getting out of Chicago with a win, and a chance to get healthy again. Which is why he’s our Week 5 X-Factor against the Chicago Bears.