Following a horrifying and heartbreaking meltdown once again, the Buffalo Bills may actually relish their short week. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town for Thursday Night Football, we’ll see if a get-right game is in the cards. We could spend time dwelling on what went wrong and why, but that’s not what this piece is about. Instead, let’s look at getting to 5-3, and back into the fight. It’s Tampa week.
Meet The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bills aren’t the only ones coming off a disappointing loss to a division rival with significant cost. Tampa’s 16-13 loss to the Falcons on Sunday is likely as good a motivator to them as the Patriots loss is to us. The biggest difference in circumstance seems to be the expectations. Tampa wasn’t expected to go anywhere, but under Baker Mayfield they have been surprisingly competent.
This is still the kind of game that we could have reasonably chalked up a win for a month ago, but things have changed for Buffalo since then. They have to take every game seriously. Still, Tampa’s offense has been generally uninspiring. However, one point of pride for them is their consistency. They’re safe with the ball and don’t take major risks. They’re one of only two teams to allow fewer sacks per game that the Buffalo Bills this season, and they have the NFL’s best turnover margin (+7). Still, they struggle in the red zone, leading to the 6th-fewest point per game in the NFL, with a lowly 17.2 through 6 games. Compared to Buffalo’s 3rd-best 28.3 ppg, it’s a wide margin.
Whilst average in the air, they struggle on the ground, generating only 77.8 rushing yards per game. That mark is one of the worst of any team this year, and it shows them to be explicitly one-dimensional.
3 Keys To Victory
Now that we know who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are, let’s see how the Buffalo Bills can beat them.
Key #1 – Red Zone Urgency
For the Buccaneers, red zone woes have been the story of the season. They move the ball well in the open field, but as those windows shrink they have trouble getting across the goal line. Tampa stalls out at a lowly 37.5% TD rate in the red zone, 5th-worst in the NFL. Keeping that mark where it stands is critical to Buffalo’s success. The Bills allow a 40% TD rate on the season inside the 20-yard line. But, over the last three games, it has been an improved 35.7%. That oft-maligned “Bend Don’t Break” moniker hits true on Thursday.
On the other side, Buffalo will need to get creative in the red zone. We may be scoring there at a horrifying 71.4% TD rate (2nd-best in the NFL), but Tampa Bay still has locked it down. They hold opposition to a league-best 22%, which has dropped to only 11% over their last three games. Things are going to be very difficult for both offenses as the field shrinks, and Buffalo needs to bring its best.
Key #2 – Pass-Happy Offense
The best thing Buffalo can do to take down the Buccaneers is to pass early, pass often, and never take their foot off the gas. The Bills have been one of the NFL’s best passing offenses for much of this year, and the Buccaneers struggle to defend it. They’ve allowed a whopping 246.7 YPG through the air this season, good for 6th-worst. Stay aggressive and get the ball to the receivers consistently. Start hot, and we can run away with this game and get back to dominant football.
The Tampa run defense is very good, but a large number of short to intermediate passes should keep things on schedule without us having to run into a stacked box. James Cook will get the work, but Dalton Kincaid especially should see a lot of targets in the 3-8 yard range. With Dawson Knox out, be prepared for plenty of layups the Bills rookie TE.
Key #3 – Make Your Layups
Speaking of layups, they’re where we’re losing games lately. Miscues, mistakes, and missed opportunities are the story of our failures as of late. Dropped fourth downs, missed tackles, and field goals sailing wide one way or another. The Buffalo Bills are anything but a bad franchise. They’ve been disciplined, ruthless, and driven, but this slump is indicative of otherwise.
Simply, we must make the easy plays we’ve given. Since winning AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September, Tyler Bass has been horrific. Following a hot-handed start, Gabe Davis has cooled off and returned to dropping catches. From the clean-cut defensive performance of the early season, we now give up reckless penalties at an astonishing clip.
We don’t have to take the checkdown, the passive play-call, or the soft defense every time, but when we do, we simply must execute effectively. This should be the key to any win, but after three games of terrible on-field output, it has to be said.
Key Player Of The Week: Dalton Kincaid
Featured Image Credit: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn