Once again, that was probably more stressful than it needed to be but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a last minute win over the Atlanta Falcons to move back into first place in the NFC South. While Baker Mayfield had a bad outing, the defense was the story of the day as they led the Bucs to victory.
Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease. Though, it came at the expense of Mike Evans. After a week where Chris Godwin’s wife taking to Instagram to voice her displeasure about some of what Todd Bowles said about him, then a sit down meeting with Dave Canales, Godwin had his second most targets of the season on Sunday with eleven. However, that caused Evans to be somewhat shut out, finishing with just one catch for eight yards. It still doesn’t make any sense how the Bucs can only scheme for one of their two biggest offensive playmakers per game. Most of the season that player has been Evans, but Sunday was a Godwin day. Of course, passes per game are down compared to the last few years with Tom Brady but with two of the better wide receivers in the NFL on the team you’d think they could utilize them both. Hopefully this is something Canales can do better moving forward, but I don’t think much will change for the rest of this season.
2.) Baker Has To Be Better. As solid as Baker was early on and even in losses out of the bye. However, over the last few weeks he seems to be regressing. It was nice that he didn’t turn the ball over this week, but his accuracy left plenty to be desired. He still can’t connect on a deep ball to anyone not named Mike Evans - though Atlanta’s coverage down field was very good on Sunday - and he’s missing throws he made look easy earlier in the season. Finishing with below 50% completions and a QBR of 53.4, Mayfield’s poor game can’t be overlooked. If he plays like that against the likes of Green Bay, Jacksonville, or New Orleans it’s going to be bad news. Whatever funk Baker has found himself needs to be reversed immediately if the Bucs are going to keep their spot atop the division.
3.) Antoine HIMfield Jr Is That Dude. Not sure how many other ways there are to say it, but Winfield Jr. has been simply unbelievable this season. Another game where his big plays spark the team. A strip sack for a safety, an interception (negated by a penalty that had absolutely nothing to do with the play) and second on the team in tackles. Winfield this season has been the perfect combination of opportunistic, big play moments, and consistency - yet he still isn’t in the top ten in fan voting for the Pro Bowl. There isn’t a safety in the NFL that has been better than Winfield Jr., yet no one seems to notice. It’s on you, Bucs fans - spam that Pro Bowl voting until Winfield gets the recognition he deserves. Otherwise, you’re going to get real salty when the Pro Bowl is announced and he’s left out.
4.) More McCollum. I know players shouldn’t lose their job due to injury, but at this stage Zyon McCollum should remain the number two corner even after Jamel Dean returns. McCollum has come on strong in his opportunities because of injuries to Dean and Carlton Davis this season. In fact, McCollum has continued to improve each week to the point that he’s been a better player than Dean this season. More passes defensed, more tackles, more tackles for loss, more forced fumbles - across the board, McCollum has earned the starting job. The Bucs’ defense plays better and the team has a better chance to win when he’s out there instead of Dean.
5.) Speaking Of Players Being Replaced. It’s time for YaYa Diaby to become the starter and replace Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in the snap counts. I’ve tried with Tryon-Shoyinka and was hopeful he turned the corner with his play earlier in the season - but he’s nothing more than a rotational player. He’s not a starter, he’s not a 50%-plus snap count guy, he’s a minimal impact player. He proved that again on Sunday with a lackluster effort, capped off with one of the more pathetic tackle attempts on Desmond Ridder’s touchdown run that would give Atlanta a late lead. Diaby, since joining the rotation, has been a hugely impactful player - with more sacks, the same tackles for loss, the same fumble recoveries - and doing so in fewer games. Roll with the hot hand and that hand is on YaYa Diaby.
6.) Playoffs Within Reach. Heading into Sunday, the Bucs had a 52% chance at making the playoffs with a win while only an 8% chance if they lost. With the win, they’re now ahead of the pack in a three way tie with the Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The Bucs’ remaining opponents are the Panthers, Saints, Packers, and Jaguars while the Falcons get the Panthers, Saints, Bears, and Colts and the Saints get the Bucs, Falcons, Giants, and Rams. Looking at the remaining roads, the Falcons’ seems the most favorable based on the opponents they face. Any team that is going to emerge as the division winner has to win both division games before it boils down to the remaining two games. While they lead the pack, the Bucs have the toughest remaining non-divisional opponents and there’s still a long way to go before anyone starts planning their trip to Ray Jay the weekend of January 13-14. However, it’s certainly nice to control your own destiny.
Six Numbers To Consider
255 - Rushing yards needed for Rachaad White to reach 1,000 on the season
13 - Sacks by Antoine Winfield Jr since 2020, most of any NFL defensive back
2 - Defensive backs since 2000 to have 3+ sacks, 3+ forced fumbles, 3+ fumble recoveries in one season - Brian Dawkins and Antoine Winfield Jr.
9 - Tackles for loss by Calijah Kancey, most of any rookie this season
5 - Sacks by YaYa Diaby, third most among rookies
81.5% - Percentage on kicks of 50+ yards for Chase McLaughlin since 2018 - second best in the NFL (Chris Boswell - 82.1%)
Six Best Tweets
MOVE, BIRD. GET OUT THE WAY. pic.twitter.com/mX4U8jdFLa— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 10, 2023
Well played by the Bucs social media team. Some of you will get this, some of you won’t - but those that do will get a good laugh
HIMfield!!! Strip sack and it results in a safety. Bucs get the ball back up 12-10 pic.twitter.com/0XOJJsdXRF— Bucs Nation (@Bucs_Nation) December 10, 2023
The Buccaneers have won a game with a score in the final minute of regulation for the first time since Nov. 6 of last year. The player who caught that touchdown to beat the Rams? Cade Otton.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 10, 2023
People harping on what the Bucs didn't do - here was something that shocked me - Tampa Bay outgained Atlanta on the ground 148 to 96. Atlanta came in with one of the top run defenses in the league, one of the best rushing attacks & the Bucs were playing without Vita Vea. #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/4wj0f8xRxq— ☠️ The JC Deck Lᐰ Halls ☠️ (@jcdelatorre) December 11, 2023
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) San Francisco 49ers - McCaffrey, Purdy, Deebo, Aiyuk - they look unstoppable
2.) Baltimore Ravens - Easily the best team in the AFC
3.) Dallas Cowboys - Really? Are we really doing this?
4.) Miami Dolphins - Still need a statement win over a good team
5.) Philadelphia Eagles - Two losses in a row? Rut-roh...
14.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - If the season ended today, the Bucs are in the playoffs, but they’d probably be the worst team in the playoffs...so there’s that.