BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills are hanging onto a playoff spot in the AFC and are once again looking to get back on track following a loss. Can the Bills keep a wild card spot with a win this weekend in Tampa Bay? Our 7 Eyewitness Sports team shares their predictions:
All good things must come to an end. For the first time this season, I’m picking against the Bills as they take on the defending Super Bowl champs. I don’t think it’ll be a blowout by any stretch, but Tampa doesn’t have many weaknesses.
Let’s start with their offense, led by the guy who terrorized the Bills for years. Tom Brady has never lost to a Sean McDermott led team and is playing as good, if not better, than he was when McDermott arrived in Buffalo back in 2017. Brady is the front runner to win NFL MVP and for good reason. In 12 games, Brady has 34 touchdowns and has thrown for 3,771 yards while completing 68.3% of his passes. His favorite targets may be the best receiving group in the NFL headlined by Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. All three players have at least five touchdowns, with Evans leading the way at 10.
But it’s not just the passing game that makes Tampa Bay so dangerous. Leonard Fournette is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has nine total touchdowns this year. He’s a power back who encourages contact but still has solid speed. For the Bills it can’t be about shutting down the Bucs, but rather trying to force turnovers and mistakes. Tampa has scored at least 30 points in their last three games and is the most prolific unit the Bills have faced this season. Brady, as he often does, will likely find who Dane Jackson is covering and test the second year cornerback. Gronkowski has also been a problem for the Bills over the years and I’m curious how they’ll try and limit his effectiveness on Sunday afternoon. Assume the Bucs will score at least 30, and hope the Bills can go punch for punch.
On defense, the Bucs have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said earlier in the week the Bills want to establish the line of scrimmage. In theory that sounds great, but this isn’t the week to try and ground and pound against your opponent. The Bills need to live and die with their two best players: Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. There are some potential favorable matchups for the Bills in the secondary but those will only come if the Bills come out throwing all over the yard.
I think this is the week the Bills offense looks more like the unit we thought we’d see this year. However, I’m not confident they’ll be able to outlast the defending champs on the road.
Bucs: 31, Bills: 26
Season record: 7-5
The Buffalo Bills have been able to bounce back every week following a loss and they'll look to do that again this Sunday. But to do that, they'll have to take on Tom Brady and the Bucs.
Brady has had his fair share of success against the Bills organization. He went 32-3 at the starter under center with New England, including a 6-0 record when going up against Sean McDermott. The good news? Despite those six wins, his numbers against the Bills haven't exactly jumped off the charts as he's only thrown for more than 300 yards once and has never thrown for more than two touchdowns in any of those six games.
Cue the 2021 matchup between a 9-3 Bucs squad who's won three in a row and a 7-5 Bills squad who has gone 3-4 since that win over Kansas City. Both teams have a lot on the line, especially the Bills who with a loss, will slip out of the AFC playoff picture with Indianapolis (7-6) on the bye and owning the tiebreaker over the Bills with their win earlier this season.
The Bills offense hasn't been consistent and week after week, is struggling in the same few areas we've seen them struggle since the start of the season (turnovers, red zone percentage, run game). They have to be on top of their game, in part to keep up with a Tampa Bay offense who can capitalize in several different areas. I'm not saying the Bills defense isn't talented enough to stop them. We've seen them play so dominantly so many times. But Tampa Bay is another animal with not just another high-powered guy in the backfield who can tear opposing defenses apart, but with a QB who's known to make big time plays when they need him to.
I originally picked the Bills during our weekly Leading the Charge show. We always say our minds can change by the time we make our final prediction, and that applies to me this week.
Bucs: 28, Bills: 20
Season record: 8-4
This was a back-to-back Bills fans would've never wished for. First the Patriots, then Tom Brady. This year's Bills have always found ways to respond after losses. But after each loss, a gift of a week has fallen into their laps. After losses, they've beaten the Dolphins (pre-win streak), the Jets (led by Mike White), and the Saints (led by Trevor Siemian). Buffalo will get Brady on Sunday, not Blaine Gabbert.
And his arsenal is better than at leas 90% of the time he spent in New England. Brady's chemistry with Gronkowski is unmatched, and everything else in Tampa Bay is just... better. Mike Evans is one of the best wide receivers in the league. And he's THE best at winning contested catches. Look no further than the Buccaneer's win against the Bears for that. And I haven't even mentioned Chris Godwin. Or their backfield by committee. Or the rest of the tight end room.
This has the makings to be an absolute shootout, especially with the absence of Tre'Davious White. The loss to New England was a horrible and ineffective litmus test for Dane Jackson. But there isn't a better one left on the regular season slate. No matter what matchup the Pitt product draws, he'll be punching above his weight.
To keep pace, the Bills have to stop the fruitless attempts at running the football. They won games by surprising teams week in and week out with how effective the passing game was. At its best, it was a marvel to watch. Buffalo isn't going to surprise anybody with it this season. But that doesn't mean it's not a strength. Passing routes underneath have to become an extension of the running game. Because until the playoffs, this could be the Bills' last guaranteed good weather game.
Even if they find that rhythm, and Dane Jackson plays like the flashes he showed in 2020, it still might not be enough.
Bucs: 31, Bills: 23
Season record: 7-5