The Buccaneers were optimistic about getting some of their injured players back today as they take on the New Orleans Saints inside the Superdome, but tight end Rob Gronkowski is still slated as a “game time decision.”
There is still some doubt about whether TE Rob Gronkowski, who missed four weeks with a rib injury, will play today. “He’s trying,” is what I’ve been told and his status will be determined in pre-game.— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) October 31, 2021
Players expected to play Sunday include Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Jerry Jeudy, Rob Gronkowski, Richard Sherman, Stephon Gilmore, Deebo Samuel, Trey Lance and Darrell Taylor.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 30, 2021
The only player the Bucs ruled out, officially, before traveling to New Orleans was wide receiver Antonio Brown. Lavonte David, Richard Sherman, and Gronk all traveled with the team and were listed as questionable.
Gronk will test things out pre-game, but you have to wonder if the Bucs would be better off in the long term allowing him to sit this one out then get the bye week to continue to heal before returning on November 14 against the Washington Football Team. Though, according to Ian Rapoport, it sounds like the Bucs could be getting some more players back right around that time;
More on the #Bucs, who are getting healthier.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 31, 2021
— Antonio Brown is likely back after the bye from foot/heel injuries.
— CBs Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting are also progressing well and could be back after the bye, as well. https://t.co/nndcU30AFt
The Bucs certainly need as many of their players back as they can get as they try to assert themselves as the clear top team in the division. A win by the Saints, however, puts them just a game back in the division as well as holding the tie-breaker. That said, the Bucs are thinking in the long term and the health of their players down the stretch for a playoff run is more important than a week eight game, regardless of their opponent.
The Saints will be missing a few key players of their own and will look to do what they’ve done all season long - lean on Alvin Kamara to carry the offense and take the occasional deep shot with Jameis Winston. It’ll be on Devin White and possibly Lavonte David to remove Kamara from the equation as much as possible, forcing Winston to throw the ball more.
Jason Pierre-Paul will be playing despite missing practice all week, so he and Shaquil Barrett will get pressure early and often on Winston, trying to force him into the mistakes that caused the Buccaneers to move on from him just a season ago.
The Bucs and Saints kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET inside the Caesar's Superdome in New Orleans. The game will be broadcast on FOX with Joe Davis, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews on the call.