The Tampa Bay Bucs have lost three straight games, with the last two coming by a combined total of nine points. The Buccaneers will have their opportunity to break that streak this week against the Houston Texans. Tampa Bay is 3-4 and hasn’t won a game in over a month. Houston, has a new face of the franchise contestant and appropriate optimism. For Tampa Bay, a slip to 3-5 could mean a lot of frightening things for a lot of different people. The organization is filled with personnel who have their backs pressed against the wall. With that pressure closing in—
What could happen?
No matter the victor, this duel could come down to an ugly win.
The Bucs can win this game, they can also lose. In either scenario, this is incredibly unlikely to be a two score game. Both teams come into this game with identical 3-4 records, but the matchup is more than that. Tampa Bay’s 3-4 has a sincerely different feel to it than what the Texans are experiencing. For the Buccaneers, this week should be a cut it all loose, desperation type of performance. There should be no stone left unturned and no stop left unpulled.
Since their bye week, the Buccaneers have played tremendously passive football. They’ve meandered through games without a genuine attitude of mettle. The theme has seemed to be play well enough to be in it without actually being in it. Hindsight shows Tampa Bay’s bye week spoiled the season, somehow it spelled d-o-o-m in T-a-m-p-a. The team lost all of its moxy and has lost all of its games since.
Houston is coming off a loss, but they’re bringing a quarterback with a remarkable 9:1 touchdown to interception ratio. That quarterback will be at home, sitting comfortably, in front of his organization’s fans. The Buccaneers will be on the road for a second consecutive week and until their losing streak is over the gameday stress of trying to turn this ship around will be all those pirates know.
What should happen?
Half of Dave Canales’ playsheet should say ‘Target Mike!’ and the other half should say ‘Target Chris!’
Football is funny sometimes. It’s a very complicated game with a lot of moving parts. There’s so many different things that go into every single play. The thing about football that’s funny is as complicated as it is, it’s actually very simple. A majority of the time, the complex game of football comes down to one team’s athlete against another team’s athlete. The results are usually pretty straightforward, mostly, the team with the better athlete wins the play.
Dave Canales has spit far too much verbiage into Baker Mayfield’s ear this season that hasn’t involved Tampa Bay’s two best playmakers. The Buccaneers have two elite wide receivers— That’s one-two more than most offensive coordinators get to work with.
If you took Mike Evans and Chris Godwin off of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the team’s receiving options would be— Trey Palmer, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, David Wells, Payne Durham, Ko Kieft, Cade Otton, Rachaad White, Sean Tucker, Chase Edmonds, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn. That is not a banner list of names, yet a lot of time those are the athletes touching the ball.
There is an old football cliché, “It’s about players, not plays.” This is the philosophy missing from Dave Canales’ gameday approach right now. Baker Mayfield is trying to prove himself, let him succeed or fail with his best weapons.
What will happen?
Buccaneers at Texans will be a defining game for Tampa Bay.
Houston wants this win, Tampa Bay needs it. The difference between 4-4 and 3-5 is a crescendoing pressure the likes of which is liable to cause implosion. Baker Mayfield is playing for his NFL future— Knock knock, this is the NFL world at your door asking, will real Baker Mayfield please stand up? Todd Bowles is coaching for job security— Like Baker, Bowles’ 2023 equates to dollars in pockets. For Dave Canales this season ends one of two ways— Yes, Canales is a legitimate candidate to remain as a play caller and potentially even push his career further or with an unglamorous return to one of many relatively anonymous coaches on any given NFL sideline. Tampa Bay fan favorites, littered all over this roster, are playing for a meaty contract extension or to have dollar signs thrown at them by other teams in 2024. Tampa Bay needs this, like a toothache needs a dentist, but that does not mean Sunday will be easy.
The Texans have played well this season. They are coming off a loss to a bad Carolina Panthers team, but 2023 has played out favorably for Houston. They have two blowout victories this year, against respectable competition (Steelers, Jaguars). C.J. Stroud looks about as good as, maybe even better than, every Houston fan could have dreamt. The navy and red team in East Texas is living large. New coach, new quarterback, new life. Tampa Bay is down in Central Florida, middling between the dwindling embers of an old life and the latter. This season can still catch a spark and reignite the flame or smother the soft glow that remains. Houston wants Sunday, Tampa needs it— For that reason, Buccaneers at Texans will be a defining game for Tampa Bay.
What do you think of our list? Do you agree? No? What are some things you think could happen, should happen, and will happen this week?
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