Heading into week six the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sitting atop the NFC South at 4-1. The team took care of business against the Miami Dolphins last week.Tampa Bay leads the NFC South by one game, ahead of the 3-2 Carolina Panthers. This week the team travels north to Philadelphia to face off against the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. Let’s take a look at some things to watch out for in this week six matchup.
Buccaneers Passing Game
The Buccaneers went into week five facing off against one of the worst rush defenses in the league. The Buccaneers showed the ability to run the ball averaging 5.5 yards a carry from their running backs and quarterback Tom Brady, who had a 13 yard carry in the game.
The interesting part was the lack of running plays called, as the offense decided to pass the ball 41 times instead. This led to a career day for Brady as he produced 411 yards passing to go with his 5 touchdown scores, a first in his 20 plus seasons. The offense could not be stopped Sunday against Miami. Brady only needs four more touchdowns for 600 career scores through the air.
The Buccaneers top three wideouts all had a day Sunday as well. Wideouts Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin all went over 70 yards receiving. Brown and Evans eclipsed 100 yards a piece and both scored twice. Tampa Bay currently has the number one passing offense by a wide margin. They average over 30 yards more than the number two passing offense.
The team has built its offensive identity around Brady. So far it’s hard to argue against that philosophy. As for Thursday night’s matchup, the 2-3 Eagles currently have a top 3 passing defense allowing only 194 passing yards a game. Looks to be a “best on best” scenario when Tampa Bay’s offense is on the field.
This season Tampa Bay has been bitten by the injury bug and Sunday they again lost a key player. Linebacker, and team captain, Lavonte David left the game due to a high ankle sprain. If Lavonte David is to miss time look for veteran linebacker Kevin Minter to step in. He played well the last time we saw him, in the Wildcard round in last season’s playoffs. So far this season the team is not only battling opposing teams weekly but also lady luck.
Cornerback Jamel Dean returned last week and recorded an interception in the game. Thankfully for the Buccaneers the schedule has softened and they can afford to take some lumps while some of the key players recover.
With some solid depth across the offense and defense, the coaching staff should practice some caution and not rush the veterans back. Yet again the team will look to leave with a win and without another injury. The journey back to the top looks to be that much tougher for the Buccaneers.
Antonio Brown, WR1
Against the Miami Dolphins, Antonio Brown showed that he still has that explosive ability he displayed in Pittsburgh. It was his best game as a Buccaneer as he recorded seven receptions for 124 yards and the two scores. His first score was all him as he took a short pass and raced to the endzone for 62 yards.
Brown has been targeted 26 times in the three full games that he has been healthy in. If that trend continues, he won’t only be the top wideout in Tampa Bay but also a top wideout league-wide. He has been written off since his ugly departure from Pittsburgh but he has been a hard worker for the Buccaneers and his play has shown that so far this year.
This week against the Eagles he will square off against their top corner Darius Slay. Against Miami, Brown torched Pro Bowl corner Xavian Howard for 4 catches, 88 yards, and both scores came with Howard as the main defender. If Slay is to travel with Brown all game, look for the opportunities to open up for fellow stars Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Looks to be a long day for the Eagles secondary.
In conclusion, the Buccaneers look to earn another victory and win their third straight. The play of Brady has placed him in the mix of early season MVP favorites. He will have to continue that play against a top passing defense. If wideout Antonio Brown can continue his rise back to the top, that task becomes that much easier for Brady.
The teams’ ultimate task though is being challenged weekly by injuries suffered. Just like all other teams nothing matters early if the team cant stay healthy and make it to the tournament in the end.