The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at a crossroads. They currently sit at 3-4 and in third place in the NFC South after losing three games in a row. This weekend has the makings of a must win game for a team with playoff expectations.
However, a win this weekend will be no easy task. The Bucs travel to Houston to take on a 3-4 Texans team who has been much better than expected. What looked like an easy win a month ago now looks like a clash between two equal teams.
Looking at the rosters the Bucs have an obvious advantage, but the Texans have been playing good football in every phase this year. The matchups in this game make it even more intriguing. Here are the Skeleton Key matchups for the Bucs to beat the Texans this weekend.
Pressuring CJ Stroud
The Texans are one of the better teams in the NFL in terms of protecting the quarterback. They currently rank 9th in the NFL in sacks allowed. This has been a key part of rookie CJ Stroud’s great success this season with 10 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
That might not be the case this weekend against this Buccaneers front seven. Despite not giving up many sacks, Houston has allowed the 12th most pressure on the quarterback this season. Keep in mind, that is with a healthier offensive line.
The Texans are down the depth chart for their current starting center. There is also a chance that starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil won’t play this weekend as he is currently not practicing with a knee injury. Several backups going against Vita Vea, Calijah Kancey and this blitz heavy defense could mean trouble for the rookie quarterback.
Test This Texans Defense
Houston has allowed the third fewest points in the NFL (tied with the Buccaneers at 128). This is somewhat surprising considering the roster is lacking a lot of high end talent. New head coach DeMeco Ryans has this group playing very hard and very sound football.
However, the fact remains that it isn’t an extremely talented unit. This is a game to really utilize Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, who might be the best two receivers this Texans defense has seen all year. There is no excuse not to get both involved early and often.
It’s also worth noting that the Texans are tied for second worst in the NFL in sacks. Against the Bucs offensive line which has been excellent at protecting the quarterback this year there is every reason to think that the Bucs will have success throwing the ball.
Stay Out Of Your Own Way
I get a lot of similar feelings about this game that I did going into the Falcons game. That’s to say, I believe the Buccaneers are the better team and should win if they don’t beat themselves. Well, we all saw how that went against Atlanta.
The Bucs turned the ball over three times in a three point loss to the Falcons. They are also averaging 10 penalties per game over the last two weeks. Right now the Bucs biggest threat to them winning the NFC South is their own carelessness.
If the Buccaneers can clean things up with the penalties and not turn the ball over multiple times then I see no reason why they shouldn’t win this game. They are the more talented team as well as the more experienced. If the Bucs can’t stay out of their own way this weekend then it will officially be time to hit the panic button.