The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to be a tough enough test on their own. Add in a coronavirus (COVID-19) scare running through the Las Vegas Raiders’ building, and Sunday’s task just got a lot harder.
Coming off a 38-10 whooping of the Green Bay Packers, the Buccaneers were expecting to visit Vegas for a Sunday Night Football appearance, but the game has since been flexed to Sunday afternoon just in case it needs to be postponed (even temporarily). Meanwhile for the Raiders, they’re not entirely sure who to expect available on Sunday — with the exception of Johnathan Abram and Trent Brown both having been ruled out for sure.
With that, here are three observations and two predictions…
1) Coming off a bye week, the Raiders were expecting to ride the momentum of a massive win against the Kansas City Chiefs into another big test against Tom Brady and Co. Instead, they’ve been without their entire offensive line this week after Brown tested positive and the remaining members of the position group were all included in a “high risk” contact tracing group. So far, they’ve all tested negative — and if they do so again on Sunday, they’re eligible to play. Without a week of practice, however, what’s reasonable to expect?
Yes, it’s a group made up of mostly veterans — and they’ve played together for a long time — but missing Brown alone is a big deal, and so I’d expect the start of Sunday’s game to be a bit rocky.
2) Speaking of absences, while Abram hasn’t been perfect on the backline of the defense, his counterparts at safety have been even worse. Yes, Jeff Heath made a big interception against the Chiefs, but besides that, he and Erik Harris have been liabilities, to say the least. Now, they’re both expected to start — and if the Raider defense is going to continue to build off their second-half emergence two weeks ago, these two guys need to step up in a big, big way.
3) You might not expect this, but did you know the Buccaneers are the best defense in the NFL this season when it comes to yards allowed per game? While Brady, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin get all the headlines — it’s the defense that has carried a pretty average offense so far. A big part of this has been their ability to limit the opponent’s rushing attack — holding teams to just 64.3 yards per game this season. We all know the Raiders want to pound the ball with Josh Jacobs, but with an offensive line that may or may not play, and a run defense that has been dominant, something has to give.
1) I’m expecting a big game from Derek Carr on Sunday — especially knowing all the question marks around him. With two weeks to prepare for this one, I think the Raiders will be able to move the ball on Tampa, especially as a guy like Henry Ruggs III gets more and more comfortable in the system.
Prediction: 315 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
2) Despite being the home team, the Raiders opened as three-point underdogs before the line was taken off the board amidst questions about the Vegas offensive line. I know the Buccaneers are coming off their best performance of the season, but so are the Raiders — plus the bye week. I sense that the Raiders line will play, and I don’t think the missed practice will impact them too much. I also think the Raiders offense is good enough to move the ball against anyone, and so I’ve got the Raiders pulling this one out.
Prediction: Raiders 28, Buccaneers 23
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