Eye On the Buccaneers: Scouting Report

Eye-On-the-Buccaneers-Ryan-Fitzpatrick

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants will try to win for the first time this season on their home field when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday in MetLife Stadium. A victory on Monday night in San Francisco broke a five-game losing streak and improved the Giants’ record to 2-7. Since winning its first two games of the season, Tampa Bay has lost six of its last seven and is 3-6, including 1-4 on the road. The Giants lead the regular-season series, 13-7, and won the only postseason meeting between the teams in 2007. They last faced each other on Oct, 1, 2017, when Nick Folk kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to give the Bucs a 25-23 victory in Raymond James Stadium.

What is the Buccaneers biggest strength?

Their passing offense. Tampa Bay leads the NFL with 361.2 passing yards per game (and with an average of 452.8 total yards). Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has reclaimed the starting job from Jameis Winston, is a gunslinger who is always looking to make the big play downfield. Fitzpatrick is also deceptively athletic; he can move and slide and get out on the edge, and he is not afraid to take chances. It also helps that he throws to four wideouts and two tight ends who are exceptional receivers.

Which player is key to the Buccaneers’ offense?

Surprise, it’s Fitzpatrick. His statistics aren’t as gaudy as some other quarterbacks, because Winston started three games. But the most telling number is 9.8, which is Fitzpatrick’s league-leading average yards per attempt. Fitzpatrick has completed 67.1 percent of his passes, six of his 17 touchdown passes have been 20 yards or longer, and his 107.3 rating is on pace to shatter the Bucs’ team record of 97.5 set by Brian Griese in 2004. And Fitzpatrick is perfectly willing to tuck the ball under his arm and run; he is Tampa Bay’s second-leading rusher with 138 yards.

A look at the playmakers for the Buccaneers as the Giants prep for Week 11.

What is the strength of the Buccaneers’ offense?

All those outstanding perimeter players at Fitzpatrick’s disposal. Start with Mike Evans, who has team-leading totals of 50 catches for 837 yards and has scored four touchdowns. Evans is 6-5, has long arms, is physical and has improved his route-running. Chris Godwin is another big target with strong hands – and has 37 catches (as does Adam Humphries, a reliable underneath receiver). Longtime Giants nemesis DeSean Jackson plays only 50 percent of the snaps, but remains a premier deep threat; he has touchdown receptions of 75, 60 and 58 yards this season. Tight end O.J. Howard is an excellent combination of size and speed who leads the team with five touchdowns, including a 75-yarder. Cameron Brate is a favorite target in the red zone (14 catches, three touchdowns).

Which player is key to the Buccaneers’ defense?

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who missed two games with a calf injury, but has been selected to each of the last six Pro Bowls. A disruptive player vs. the run and pass, McCoy sometimes seems to spend almost as much time in the backfield as the opposing running back.

What is the strength of the Buccaneers’ defense?

The front seven. In addition to the indomitable McCoy, former Giant Jason Pierre-Paul has a team-high 8.0 sacks. Right end Vinny Curry missed two games with an ankle injury, but is a high-motor defender who makes plays with great effort. Linebacker Lavonte David is the defensive captain and leads the Bucs with 71 tackles (56 solo). Tampa Bay does miss 2017 Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander, who tore his ACL at Cleveland last month and is on injured reserve.

Which player is key to the Buccaneers’ special teams?

Adarius Taylor is now a full-time linebacker in the wake of Alexander’s injury, but he is also a standout special teamer. He teams with cornerback Ryan Smith to give the Bucs a pair of sure tacklers on their coverage teams.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

Play well in the red zone both offensively and defensively, and specifically limit the Bucs’ opportunities to score from in close.

Buccaneers injury report:

In addition to Alexander, Tampa Bay has other key defensive players on I.R. The list includes cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and safety Chris Conte. Linebacker Kendell Beckwith is on the reserve/non-foot injury list.

Statistics you should know:

*Coach Dirk Koetter fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith after five games and replaced him with linebackers coach Mark Duffner. But the Bucs are still last in the NFL in points allowed (32.3 a game) and red zone defense (allowing touchdowns on 28 of 32 opposing trips inside the 20-yard line, or 87.5 percent).

*The Buccaneers have committed an NFL-high 25 turnovers and have a league-worst minus-19 turnover differential.

*Tampa Bay’s opponents have rushed for more than 115 yards in each of the last four games.

*Last week vs. Washington, Tampa Bay outgained Washington, 501-286, averaged 7.5 yards per play, converted 60 percent of their third downs (six of 10), advanced into the red zone five times – and lost, 16-3. Those five trips ended with two turnovers, two missed field goals, and a field goal.

*The Buccaneers have gone 27 straight quarters without a takeaway on defense.

Photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Buccaneers, which dates back to their first meeting in 1977.

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