The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hit the bye week, and they stand atop the NFC South with a winning record of 3-1. The first frame of the season went particularly well for the team, but now, it’s time to look ahead to the next one.
The Bucs have a tough slate after they come back from the bye, facing off against the 3-1 Detroit Lions and the 3-1 Buffalo Bills, among other teams. It’s a tough upcoming stretch, and if Tampa Bay wants to keep on an upward trajectory to win the division and make the playoffs, it will need to pull out some wins in its next four matchups.
Here’s how we predict those next four matchups will go:
The Detroit Lions are a tough customer, but the Bucs will certainly want to impress when they don their throwback uniforms for the first time in over 10 years. That being said, it’ll be a difficult task — the Lions have a strong offense that will be bolstered by Jameson Williams’ return from Week 5 and a quarterback in Jared Goff who is completing almost 70% of his passes. The Bucs will likely compete in this game, but the Lions might be a team that is just out of Tampa Bay’s tier.
In theory, this shouldn’t be a tough matchup for Tampa Bay. Atlanta has a vaunted run game behind running back Bijan Robinson, but the Bucs have been noted run stuffers all year. Forcing the Falcons to pass is the way to defeat them, as QB Desmond Ridder has been quite poor across his opening stint with the team — with players like Vita Vea up front, Tampa Bay should definitely be able to do that. The Bucs could get a bounce-back win here and continue to separate themselves from the rest of the NFC South.
If the Detroit Lions are just outside Tampa Bay’s tier, the Buffalo Bills definitely are. After a rough start in Week 1, the Bills have proven to be one of the NFL’s best teams with an electrifying offense led by QB Josh Allen, who’s an MVP candidate so far in 2023. The deck is unfortunately entirely stacked against Tampa Bay here — the Bucs have to go on the road on a short week due to the game being played on Thursday to play a much better team. Tampa Bay will almost certainly lose this game, and that’s alright, because there are plenty of wins to be found on the rest of the calender.
QB C.J. Stroud looks like the best rookie QB out of the draft so far and new Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans has impressed in Houston, but that shouldn’t give the Texans a win over Tampa Bay. The Bucs’ stifling defense should come in handy against a rookie quarterback like Stroud and the offense should be able to get it done on the road against a Texans defense that isn’t as good as a defense like New Orleans. Should the Bucs be 4-3 heading into this game, they would need to get this win — and they should.