The Bucs got their first win of the 2020 season and Tom Brady got his first win as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer with a big win over the Carolina Panthers last week, but now it’s time to travel to Mile High Stadium and face off with the Denver Broncos.
Denver is beat-up. Like, really bad. But that doesn’t mean they’ll just lie down and let the Bucs walk all over them.
Tampa Bay needs to be ready for a fight. Let’s dive into this week’s game preview.
- All-time series record: The Broncos lead the all-time series, 7-2, with the most recent win being a 27-7 victory over the Bucs.
- Longest win streak: Denver currently holds a four-game win streak from 2004-2016. Tampa Bay’s last win was in 1999.
- Largest margin of victory: Tampa Bay was crushed, 48-13, in the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
- 2020 offensive and defensive rankings: The Bucs are currently 25th in total offense (27th pass, 23rd run) and tied for 11th in total defense (21st pass, 4th run). The Broncos are 27th in total offense (23rd pass, 21st run) and 21st in total defense (25th pass, 14th run).
What To Watch For
- The impact of Denver’s injuries: As I mentioned earlier, this team is extremely banged up. Courtland Sutton, Von Miller, A.J. Bouye, Drew Lock, and others are all out. Phillip Lindsay is doubtful and Jerry Jeudy is questionable. It’s going to be interesting to see what Denver does to counteract its issues.
- Jeff Driskel: He came in for an injured Lock and struggled in the first half, but played pretty well in the second half. Expect a lot of bootlegs, roll outs, quick throws, play action, and max protect when the Broncos want to take a shot. Doing all of those things will help Driskel stay upright and find a rhythm versus the Bucs’ defense.
- Tampa Bay’s receivers vs. Denver’s secondary: Pittsburgh torched Denver’s secondary last week and Chris Godwin returns for the Bucs this week, so you know he’s —and the other wideouts— looking at this game as a big opportunity. However, Denver still has two very good safeties in Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson who will do everything they can to limit big plays from the Bucs’ passing game.
- The trenches, again: Just like last week, there are major advantages to be had for the Bucs on both sides of the trenches. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has a good matchup vs. Denver’s defensive front and the Bucs’ defensive front should put in good work against the Bronco’s offensive line.
- Offensive consistency: The Bucs rolled to a 21-0 lead in the first half against the Panthers, but the offense took some major steps back and couldn’t ice the game until late in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay doesn’t have to be world-beaters on offense this week, it just needs to show that it can play consistent football for 60 minutes.
- QB Tom Brady: The six-time Super Bowl champion will be fighting his own ghosts at Mile High, where everyone knows he tends to struggle.
- WR Chris Godwin: He’s back, baby! Godwin should have a good game against a struggling Denver secondary.
- The offensive line: Much like Carolina, Denver represents an opportunity for the Bucs’ offensive line to get better.
- DT Vita Vea: The Bucs’ interior line will free up the edge rushers, which should lead to some sacks this week. Vea is the key to starting all of that.
- OLB Shaquil Barrett: How can you not put him here? Barrett returns to Denver for the first time since leaving as a free agent last year. He’ll notch a sack this week, trust me.
- S Antoine Winfield Jr.: This kid will make this list every week if he continues to play like he has over the first two weeks.
- QB Jeff Driskel: It all starts with him for the Broncos. The Bucs have to keep Driskel from making plays with his legs and his arm.
- RB Melvin Gordon: The thought is that Gordon will see an extended workload now with Sutton out for the year. How will he fare against one of the top run defenses in the NFL?
- TE Noah Fant: This dude is coming into his own and it’s scary if you’re not a Denver fan. The Bucs struggled with tight ends last year and struggled with Jared Cook in Week One. This could be a big game for Fant.
- DL Jurrell Casey: He needs to get the interior push this line so desperately craves. Watch out if that happens this week.
- A.J. Johnson: Johnson has one of the more impressive stories in regard to how he made it in the NFL. He’s easily the best inside linebacker on this team and will play a big role in stopping Tampa bay’s ground game.
- S Justin Simmons: One of the best safeties in the game, the Bucs will have to account for Simmons on every play.
- Linebacker Devin White currently leads the NFL with 26 tackles and tied Derrick Brooks’ franchise record of 26 tackles through the first two weeks of an NFL season after his 15-tackle performance against the Panthers.
- The Buccaneers defense has been one of the best in the league in creating turnovers since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator in 2019. From the start of the season last year, Tampa Bay ranks tied for fourth in takeaways and second in points off turnovers.
- The Bucs have allowed just 75 yards per game on the ground since the start of 2019, which is the fewest amount allowed per game in the NFL. The next-closest team is the New Orleans Saints, who have allowed an average of 92.4 rushing yards per game.
- Tampa Bay recorded four takeaways against Carolina in Week 2. With four or more takeaways at Denver it would mark the first time since 2007 that the team has recorded four-or-more takeaways in consecutive games (11/18/07 at Atlanta-11/25/07 vs. Washington).
- Tampa Bay scored three rushing touchdowns against Carolina. With three-or-more rushing touchdowns at Denver, it will mark the first time in franchise history the team has posted consecutive games with at least three rushing touchdowns.
*Stats provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Communications Department
If you’re associated with the Bucs in any sort of positive manner, then you should really like the Bucs’ chances in this game.
Not only are they playing a maligned Denver squad, but Denver’s weaknesses are very exploitable and a lot of them coincide with Tampa Bay’s strengths as a team. For instance, Denver has a weak offensive line, the Bucs have a strong front seven, etc. etc.
But even though things seem optimistic for Tampa Bay, you cannot count Denver out until the very end. The Broncos have shown a ton of fight, especially against the Steelers. Anything will be possible if Tampa Bay allows the Broncos to hang around in the fourth quarter.
This is just like last week’s matchup. If Tampa Bay comes out and plays its game and doesn’t make dumb mistakes, then a win is on the horizon. But if the Bucs don’t fix the issues from last week and continue to make mistakes, then don’t be shocked if Denver pulls the upset.
Regardless, I should receive a wonderful birthday present in the form of a Bucs’ victory.