The outlook on the Buffalo Bills season has never been lower. After sleepwalking through the easy part of their schedule and taking some bad losses, they are 7-5. They are now 1.5 games behind New England in the AFC East title race with the rematch coming in a couple weeks. They now look to turn things around on a short week against a familiar opponent, Tom Brady. This Bills vs Buccaneers matchup has the makings of an instant classic with plenty on the line.
Many of us hoped that we would be tracking scenarios for the AFC 1-seed but now the target is just getting to the playoffs. Despite feeling like the season is over, the Bills stand a good chance of getting to the postseason. The Bills current playoff odds sit around 78% according to the NY Times playoff odds calculator.
A 3-2 record through the final 5 games elevates those odds to 88%. Winning 4 games guarantees a playoff spot. The remaining opponents are: Buccaneers, Panthers, Patriots, Falcons, Jets. This week’s Bills vs Buccaneers game is not a must-win, but a win would remove a ton of pressure.
Tom Brady Effect
There is no denying that Tom Brady owns a large plot of real estate in the Buffalo Bills’ headspace. Brady is 32-3 against Buffalo, all games occurring during his 19-year Patriots tenure. He won the Super Bowl in 2020, his first year with Tampa Bay.
Brady is now playing MVP-level football in his second season with Bruce Arians. The players won’t admit it, but this game is more “Bills against Brady” than Bills vs Buccaneers.
How to Win on Offense
The Buccaneers have an elite run defense. It is not even worth testing. Vita Vea is among the best interior defenders in the league and avoiding him would be smart. Josh Allen should throw 40 or more passes to have an optimal game plan. The rest of the defensive line is excellent at generating pressure. They have a big advantage over the Bills offensive line even if Jon Feliciano is able to return.
Allen should look to distribute the ball quickly even if it means taking short gains. On the back end, the Buccaneers are looking healthy with Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting back in action. They will play a lot of 2-high defense which has given Allen trouble this season. Linebacker Lavonte David is excellent in coverage and Devin White is a nasty run defender.
Diggs may see a lot of bracketed coverage so I would like to see Allen distribute the ball around. Featuring Gabe Davis outside would give him a physical advantage over Murphy-Bunting and could be our best opportunity for downfield shots. Cole Beasley has a big opportunity as our best zone-beater underneath. He should get double-digit targets as a run game replacement.
I would also make Zack Moss inactive and give either Isaiah McKenzie or Marquez Stevenson some designed plays on offense to spread the defense horizontally. Dawson Knox draws a tough matchup with David so it would be wise to keep him in-line to help protect Allen. The Bills should be able to move the ball but execution in the red-zone will be vital to success on Sunday.
How to Win on Defense
There is no sugar coating it, the Buccaneers offense is simply better than the Bills defense. Without Tre’ White, nobody on the team can stop Mike Evans. He is an elite receiver and routinely wins balls in perfect coverage. The key will be getting physical and giving his assignment safety help. Chris Godwin will primarily play the slot and will be Taron Johnson’s toughest matchup yet.
Fortunately, Antonio Brown is suspended for faking his vaccine card and will be replaced by a combo of Breshad Perriman and Tyler Johnson. At tight end, Rob Gronkowski is a familiar face who is still playing great football. Even running back Leonard Fournette has become a threat in the pass game.
This is a spectacular group of pass-catchers and Brady will find the open man more often than not. You can’t outright stop them, but you can limit explosives. That will be the biggest focus on defense.
Brady has also taken some risks this season and has thrown 7 interceptions in his last 5 games. The Bills need to attack the ball and try to force turnovers when the opportunities are there. As good as the skill players are, the Buccaneers offensive line is even better. They have no weak links and are among the best at limiting pressure.
Brady has been significantly worse when pressured so finding a way to get to him would be a huge help. The best matchup we have in the trenches is Ed Oliver against Alex Cappa. He can be the biggest catalyst to defensive success. The Buccaneers quietly have a top rushing attack as well and can attack a well-known weakness of the Bills defense. Greg Rousseau will have to be at his best at setting the edge in the run game to funnel things back inside.
This is a tough draw for the whole defense and points will be scored. Generating turnovers and pressuring Brady is easier said than done but could be the key to pulling off the upset.
I fully believe that the Bills have the ability to win this game. I expect plenty of offense and a competitive game down to the last snap. The Bills are 0-4 in one score games this season so they are due for positive regression at some point. However, I think they make too many mistakes to put together the perfect game that they need in this contest. My final score prediction is
Let’s hope for Allen to step up and lead the team to a win but remember not to lose our heads if we drop this one. The playoffs are within reach either way. Regardless, this Bills vs Buccaneers matchup will be must-watch football.