By Cedric Williams
Seattle will head to Tampa with a 7-2-1 record and a firm three-game lead in the NFC West standings. With just six games to go in the season, the Seahawks are inching ever so close to clinching the division title.
Tampa, on the other hand, was a team few believed would be better than the 6-10 record it had last year. But the Bucs are better, and will come to play on Sunday, looking for a chance to have a winning record this late in the season for the first time since 2012.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season Record: 5-5, 2nd place in NFC South
After beginning the year with losses in three of their first four games, the Bucs have won four of their last six, including a surprising 19-17 road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. With Atlanta losing three of its last five to fall back to 6-4, Tampa is now just one game behind the Falcons in the race to claim the NFC South crown.
The Bucs are also still alive in the NFC wild card chase, although with the current wild card holders — New York and Washington — own 7-3 and 6-3-1 records, respectively, Tampa is actually closer in its divisional race.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Offense:
Quarterback Jameis Winston leads a Tampa Bay offense that ranks 11th overall in total yards gained per game at 366.0 per game. Winston will be coming off his second straight dynamite performance after leading the Bucs to that win over Kansas City on Sunday.
The second-year pro out of Florida State threw for 331 yards and a touchdown, but even those numbers don’t give Winston his due justice. He picked apart the Chiefs’ defense all day long in a matchup where most thought Kansas City would control the action.
The Bucs also looked improved with starting running back Doug Martin back in the lineup. He had been out eight weeks with a hamstring injury. Sunday was Martin’s second game back and he gained 63 yards on 24 carries, while also catching three passes for 42 yards.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Defense:
Tampa’s defense is ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every team category. The Bucs are 26th in total defense, 24th in rushing yards allowed, 25th in pass yards allowed and 24th in points allowed.
But none of that has mattered the last two weeks, as Tampa’s “D” stifled both Chicago and Kansas City on its way to a pair of wins the Bucs desperately needed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Players to Watch:
Tampa’s big play star on offense is receiver Mike Evans. Even when the rest of the team wasn’t playing well early in the season, Evans was, and that has continued now that the rest of the team has caught up.
For the season, the second year man out of Texas A&M has caught 65 passes for 916 yards and eight touchdowns. Last week, Evans helped the Bucs bail themselves out of several jams with six catches for 105 yards.
The Bucs have been rolling lately, with two big wins in their last two games, but the Seahawks have won three straight and have been the more consistent club throughout the season. So we’ll take Seattle in a high-scoring affair. Seahawks 34, Buccaneers 27.