Written by Cody Manning, @CodyTalksNFL
The Bucs are riding a 4 game winning streak that helped them climb to a .500 record, sitting at 7-7. Even though they have been eliminated from the playoffs, it hasn’t stopped the team from growing and being one of the hotter teams in the NFL. Jameis Winston is playing one of the better stretches of his career, despite the turnovers. He has a chance to leave a lasting impression with 2 home games to cap off the 2019 season. The defense is coming off one of their better performances of this year, but that was against David Blough, they will have a tougher test against Deshaun Watson and company this Saturday. Here are the Top 5 things I want to see from Tampa against the Texans:
1. Can Breshad Perriman handle the role of WR1?
Perriman is coming off the best game of his career when he caught 5 balls for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns. But, for the majority of the game, he had Chris Godwin helping him out and demanding more of the defensive attention until he went down with a hamstring injury. Now that Godwin will be on the sidelines and that Scotty Miller also went on IR this week, the secondary will be focused more on Perriman. The former first-round pick has an opportunity to shine as the #1 wide receiver in an offense and his connection with Winston will be crucial if Tampa wants a chance to win this matchup. Saturday is his opportunity to keep his roster spot entering the 2020 NFL season.
2. Will the secondary be able to contain the WR triplets of the Texans?
The Texans offense runs through Deshaun Watson and his 3 weapons in the passing attack. DeAndre Hopkins has 1,142 yards on the season while Will Fuller has 659 yards and Kenny Stills has 504 yards as both have been in and out of the lineup due to injuries. Tampa’s secondary has been the weakest point of their defensive unit this season, allowing 276.8 YPG. Houston averages 250.0 YPG in the air. It will be strength vs weakness. If the Bucs want to give themselves a chance to win then they will need to do their best to slow down Houston’s passing attack.
3. Is Winston able to go toe-to-toe with Watson?
Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw over 450 yards in back-to-back games in their matchup versus the Lions. Watson is known to be one of the budding stars at the quarterback position and has the capability to take over games on his own. Tampa and Houston’s secondaries struggle to stop the pass so this matchup has shootout potential. Winston may have to go touchdown for a touchdown in this game if he wants to give his team the best chance to win. He has a chance to make his case for his next contract if he can outduel Watson on Saturday.
4. Can Shaq Barrett and JPP disrupt Watson’s game all afternoon?
One of the biggest keys to beating Houston is making sure Watson is on the ground as much as possible while bottling him up within the pocket so he can’t escape so he can create his magical plays. Barrett just needs to get his hands on Watson one time so he can break the Bucs franchise record for sacks in a season, but the team may need him to do that multiple times. JPP has seen plenty of talented quarterbacks during his NFL career and I am sure he understands the importance of slowing down the uber-talented Watson. It will be on the Tampa pass rush duo to give their defense the best chance of slowing Watson and the Texans passing attack down.
5. Will Tampa pass this litmus test?
While the Bucs are one of the hotter teams in the league right now, during their 4 game winning streak, it doesn’t come against a team that currently has a winning record. Houston needs a win to win the AFC South and lock in a home game for the playoffs. This matchup gives the team a chance to truly see where they are and how much they have grown as the season has gone on. This will be a signature win if they can pull off the victory and what can carry momentum into next season. Even if they lose, if it is in a close effort, without their two star receivers, then it is still a great sign for the future under Bruce Arians. Let’s see how they will compete against a team that will be competing in January.