The Bucs did very well to get back to .500 by their bye week, winning back-to-back games against the Rams and Seahawks to do so. But that wasn’t the “they’re around the corner” moment it seemed to be. They’ve been up and down ever since, losing to the Browns, beating the Saints, and then being destroyed by the 49ers.
Now Tampa Bay would like to go back up after a horrible performance last week in San Francisco. However, it will be difficult to do so as the team returns to Raymond James Stadium to host the 9-4 Cincinnati Bengals. As mediocre – and often bad – as the Bucs have been, they somehow still lead the NFC South and determine their own destiny. Beating the Bengals in Week 15 and knocking out the Cardinals on Christmas Eve would be big, but those last two games against the Panthers and Falcons will decide the division.
Tampa Bay will have to miss some key players on Sunday, Vita Vea and Jamel Dean will miss the game. The defense’s pass rush will also be very thin, with Carl Nassib and Genard Avery out with injuries. Joe Tyron-Shoyinka is a playing time decision and of course Shaq Barrett is already out for the rest of the season. But even at full health, this matchup wouldn’t favor the Bucs. The Bengals are the defending AFC champions and look set to make another run this season. Meanwhile, Todd Bowles’ team is a rollercoaster and would be lucky enough to even make the playoffs.
As the Bucs look for an upset victory over the Bengals, there are plenty of individual milestones to watch (as always). Last week, Rachaad White passed Warrick Dunn and Reggie Cobb for fourth most receptions by a rookie running back in team history. Mike Evans passed John Lynch for the seventh-most starts in franchise history, while Will Gholston passed Shelton Quales for the ninth-most games played.
What’s at stake in Week 15? Let’s get down to business.
Brady needs one passing yard to pass Josh Freeman (13,534) for third in Bucs history. At his current pace, he won’t be able to pass Vinny Testaverde (14.820) for second this season, but he could if he returns for another year in 2023.
Brady is one win away from becoming the first player in NFL history to reach 250 regular season wins. He is also three clear of Doug Williams (33) for second by a quarterback in team history.
Fournette is one touchdown away from Ronald Jones II (18) for eighth in franchise history. On the receiving front, he is still one touchdown catch away from Adger Armstrong, Michael Pittman and Charles Sims (six) for fourth in running back in team history. His next receiving score would also tie him with Sims for the most (four in 2015) by running back Bucs in one season.
With 25 receiving yards left, Fournette can pass Doug Martin (1,091) for sixth in running back in franchise history.
With five catches last week, White passed Reggie Cobb and Warrick Dunn for most receptions by a rookie running back in Tampa Bay history. He now has 40 this season, meaning he needs eight more to move James Wilder (48 in 1981) to third in a single season.
Evans is still looking for his first touchdown since Week 4. He needs 21 points to pass Michael Husted (502) for second in franchise history. The veteran receiver must also average 48.8 yards per game over the next four games to break 1,000 for the ninth straight season.
Sunday marks Evans’ 134th start of his career, leaving him three behind Mike Alstott (137) for sixth in team history.
Godwin needs one touchdown to tie Cameron Brate (33) for fifth-most total touchdowns in team history. He also needs another receiving score to pass Kevin House (31) for fourth all-time.
Brate is one touchdown of any kind from tying Jimmie Giles (34) for fourth-most touchdowns in franchise history, and his next receiving score will put him ahead of Giles (34) for finishing in a second most receiving touchdowns of all time.
Brate is also chasing Giles’ franchise record for tight-ended receptions (279). The Harvard man needs nine more catches to take over the top spot in Bucs history.
Otton is just five catches away from Alex Smith (41 in 2005) for the second-most receptions by a rookie tight end in franchise history.
Smith is set to make his 123rd career start on Sunday, which will tie him with Gerald McCoy (123) for 10th in franchise history.
Gholston will play his 150th game as Buc on Sunday, leaving him eight behind Mike Alstott (158) for eighth in team history.
Sunday will be David’s 163rd career game, leaving him one behind John Lynch (164) for fifth in Bucs history. It will also be the veteran linebacker’s 163rd career start, placing him 20 behind Paul Gruber (183) in third place.
David – and the Bucs – could use a defensive touchdown these days. Number 54 is one away from David Logan and Mike Washington (four) for third in franchise history.
With another layoff, David will pass Logan (28.5) for 10th in team history. And with one pass defended, he will tie Carlton Davis (59) in fifth.
Davis needs five passes defensed to put Donnie Abraham (64) in fourth place in team history. He also has to keep the pass from breaking up to fend off Lavonte David, who is right behind him.
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