The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off their biggest (but also least deserved) victory of the year, taking down their division rival the Atlanta Falcons in the ATL Sunday afternoon with a 29-25 win.
The win propelled Tampa Bay into ownership of first place in the NFC South despite a season plagued with inconsistent and down-right infuriating play in all phases of the game.
While the defense got off to a strong start, creating takeaways and continuing its dominance in the rush defense department, injuries and super subpar secondary play have made the group one of the more frustrating squads to watch.
On the other sideline in Sunday afternoon’s matchup for the Bucs, the Green Bay Packers have been similarly frustrating to watch. The Packers have a promising young offense led by quarterback and polarizing former first-round pick Jordan Love. The 25-year-old’s been a lot better than expected in his first season as a starter, especially despite dealing with a receiving corps as young and inexperienced as Green Bay’s.
Christian Watson, who graduated from Tampa’s Plant Hight School, is Green Bay’s deep ball specialist, with his dynamic athleticism and 6-foot-4-inch frame, but he’s unlikely to play Sunday as he deals with a hamstring injury.
Combine that with a laundry list of other injuries for both the Packers and Bucs and we could be looking at two hobbled teams playing each other at Lambeau Field.
The Buccaneers could be without defensive tackle Vita Vea for a consecutive week, cornerback Carlton Davis III and receiver Chris Godwin are questionable, and safety Ryan Neal has a neck injury that’s kept him out of practice through Thursday.
I’m not sure the Bucs will be able to withstand all these injuries, even with Green Bay being as banged up as they are, and I expect them to fall to the Packers 31-10.
The Bucs’ defense has proven time and again to be unable to limit an opponents’ effectiveness against the pass, and I expect Sunday will be no different.
Love is an above-average QB and has shown that while he’s still learning, he can at least be a competent enough field general to pick apart the Bucs’ weak secondary.
What complicates matters in regards to the NFC South standings is that the Falcons have a far easier remaining schedule, with matchups against the Panthers, Colts, Bears, and Saints rounding out the season.
The Bucs take on the two other divisional foes—the Saints and Panthers—as well, but the Packers and Jaguars are superior teams compared to the Atlanta’s out-of-division matchups; I don’t have much faith that the Bucs can win this division without pulling off an upset this Sunday.
And since that isn’t seeming to be in the cards, this game could prove fatal to Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes.
Oh well. At least they can get a better draft pick.