Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are coming off a surprising loss to the Chicago Bears, falling just short of leaving the Windy City with a victory as they lost 20-19. The offensive unit failed to find any consistency as they were missing Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Justin Watson for the night. Players like Tyler Johnson and Tanner Hudson attempted to give their best effort to help out the offense but it wasn’t enough. Ronald Jones was a bright spot, rushing for over 100 yards. The biggest influence on the loss was the offensive line struggling to keep Tom Brady on his feet as Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn wreaked havoc. After a mini-bye since that Thursday night, Tampa will be looking to get back on track as they are set to face the undefeated Green Bay Packers who are coming off their bye week. This will be a great litmus test for both teams involved, so these are this week’s Top 5 things I want to see on Sunday:
1. How does the team come out to start the game?
The Buccaneers are sitting at 3-2 and currently tied for the lead of the NFC South. A loss to the Packers would place them at .500 and could cause some in the organization to hit the panic button as we head towards the halfway point of the year. Luckily, the offense is getting some pieces back and has the time to work out the kinks, but this matchup needs that unit to come out firing because of the way Aaron Rodgers is playing this year. The team can’t afford to come out sluggish and let Green Bay walk to an early big lead before halftime. Tampa should look to come out and punch the Pack in the mouth to send a message that they’re in for a title fight all afternoon.
2. Can Chris Godwin’s return get the offense back on track?
The last time we saw Godwin on the field was when the Bucs beat the Broncos on September 27th. He ended up catching 5 balls for 64 yards and a touchdown. He’s a player that can be Mr. Reliable for Brady in the slot or on the outside, plus he makes life easier on his counterpart in Mike Evans. Since he has been out of the lineup, the offensive unit has failed to put together any type of consistency and struggle to finish drives with touchdowns. They will need him as much as possible as this could end up getting into a shootout if the Packers offense continues to put up points as they did in their first 4 games of the season.
3. What’s the immediate impact on losing Vita Vea?
Losing Vea was such a brutal blow to the interior of the Tampa defense. While they have enough talent to do their best to make up for the loss, his ability to take up space won’t be there for Lavonte David and Devin White so they can flow freely to the running back. Rakeem Nunez-Roaches and Khalil Davis will be the players that will look to help fill his role, but it will be on Ndamukong Suh to be more dominant on a consistent basis to help out this defense. While there is no way you can replace the talent in Vea, the front seven has enough players that could mitigate the loss of their up-and-coming defensive tackle. We will see if this ends up hurting the unit starting this Sunday.
4. Will the offensive line hold up against Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith?
Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs will once again be tested this season as they are set to face off against another top pass-rush tandem from Green Bay. Both players have combined for 8 sacks on the season and have the potential to ruin drives on any snap with their ability to get after the quarterback. The Bucs need their tackles to deliver this Sunday to give their offense a chance to find the consistency that they are seeking. With Brady getting back some of his weapons this week, if he can have even just an extra second to make his reads, then they can pick apart the Packers defense throughout the afternoon. The battle of the trenches could end determining who wins.
5. Who will cover Davante Adams?
Adams will be making his first return to action since the Packers win over the Detroit Lions on September 20th. After taking a few weeks off to let his hamstring get fully healthy, I am sure Rodgers will want to pepper his favorite receiver with plenty of targets throughout the game. Adams’ playmaking ability can be a nightmare for cornerbacks. What will be Todd Bowles plan for him? Does Carlton Davis get the assignment? Maybe Jamel Dean? Does Sean Murphy-Bunting get a shot if he comes inside to the slot? Or will there be plenty of double teams get thrown his way? Regardless of what the plan is, the Buccaneers defense can’t afford for the Rodgers-Adams connection to go off on them all afternoon.