The Raiders continue their southern excursion by closing the whole shebang out on Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. Most are calling Week 7’s Jacksonville victory a dominant win; something that this team, more specifically the defensive side of the ball, can look at and see positives at every level.
The Bucs on the other hand, feel as confident as they have all season, having reeled off three straight wins, pulling them right back into the race for the top spot in the NFC South. In what is very much a swing-week for both clubs, I relayed a back and forth with Pewter Plank’s editor, James Yarcho, to discuss this weekend’s skirmish.
Week 8 comes at both teams as crucial as a game can be. Oakland can hold onto their lead in the division heading into a huge game against Denver (not trying to look ahead, but damn…). Meanwhile, the Bucs can keep within striking distance of the Falcons in the NFC South. What are the Bucs riding highly on entering this matchup??
The Bucs have finally found and offensive groove and Mike Smith is becoming more confident in his defense, allowing him to call some more exotic plays. Both have paid dividends the last two games as the Bucs have gotten back to .500.
Jacquizz Rodgers has provided a spark and allowed Jameis Winston to get back in to a rhythm with the offense since defenses finally have to respect their running attack. No, the teams Tampa Bay has beaten the last two games aren’t very good, but they’ve done what they were supposed to do and beaten a lesser talent. They will certainly have a much tougher task against Oakland Sunday.
Young QBs, young WRs. Who shines brighter in this game than the other when talking Carr/Winston and Cooper/Evans?
The duos of Derek Carr/Amari Cooper and Jameis Winston/Mike Evans are certainly formidable, and will be exciting to watch for a long time. Between the two positional matchups, I give the quarterback edge to Derek Carr. He’s got one year on Winston in the NFL and looks more polished. There will certainly be opportunities for both in this game, but I think the Bucs will ultimately rely heavier on the run game than Oakland does.
For wide receiver, I’ll give the edge to Mike Evans. He’s the only receiver in the NFL to be in the top five in touchdowns, receptions per game, and yards per game. He’s undoubtedly Winston’s top and most reliable target and will get plenty of chances to make plays.
Cooper, while a great player, hasn’t seen the amount of targets Evans has because there is a reliable option opposite him in Michael Crabtree. Bucs rookie corner Vernon Hargreaves III has progressed phenomenally through six games and I fully expect him to cover Cooper most of the game in an effort to redeem himself from the embarrassment Cooper caused him in college.
Does the Jacquizz Rogers workload carry over to this week? He’s been toting an impressive amount of carries the past few weeks with Doug Martin out. Do we possibly see Martin at all this week? Or is Koetter going with the hot hand and resting Martin while he can, healthy or not?
Jacquizz will continue to see a heavy workload this week as Doug Martin is still out. They wasted two weeks using Charles Sims as the feature back when he is not a between the tackles runner. He needs open space to be effective whereas Rodgers is far more similar to Martin in that he is very small, he gets through small holes in the offensive line, and can get to the second level quickly. He can break tackles at the point of contact and effectively fight for extra yards on every carry.
We never heard what The Martin setback was, but with the way Jacquizz is running, they have time to be as cautious as needed until Doug is fully healthy.
Talk to me about Koetter’s statements regarding losing home field advantage. Is it that much of a problem?
I wrote a column Friday about Dirk Koetter’s “home field advantage” comments and it boils down to this: the Bucs haven’t earned it. You’re always going to have visiting fans here because it’s a great place to vacation for people from opposing teams’ cities. There are also a lot of transplants who brought their team allegiances with them.
However, if the Bucs start winning, you won’t see nearly as many visiting team jerseys in the stands. Bucs fans have invested a ton of money into seeing this team win 17 home games since the 2009 season began. You’re pretty much guaranteeing you’re going to waste your money if you go. You can take that money and take your family and hour up the road to Disney World or Universal Studios and be guaranteed a positive return on your investment. You can’t with the Bucs. They start showing they can win at home, the fans will come.
What is your stance on Jameis as a franchise QB? Do you see him taking the right steps in his progression?
Jameis Winston is absolutely a franchise quarterback and Bucs fans are thrilled to have one for the first time in team history. It’s hard to say whether he’s progressing or suffering a sophomore slump, as he’s shown signs of both. The interception numbers aren’t good, but you can go back and see that they clearly are not all his fault despite them going against him on the stat sheet.
The other thing to remember is Winston had Martin last year as the NFL’s second leading rusher. When Martin went down, there was nothing remotely resembling a run game and Winston put it all on himself to try to do it all. We all know when a quarterback tries to do too much and pushes too hard, mistakes happen.
What’s the outcome on Sunday?
I think the continued balance of the Bucs offense, the improvements on defense, and the extended road trip for Oakland all create a golden opportunity for Tampa in this one. I’ll say this; I believe that right now, Oakland is the better team.
However, the better team doesn’t always win. I’ll say the Bucs win a close one, 33-28.