It's November, which means football starts now according to Bucs coach Lovie Smith. For the 1-6 Buccaneers, they have reached the tipping point between focusing on the rest of this year and focusing on the upcoming off-season. With each win moving forward, the Bucs might feel slightly better about themselves, but will also be hurting their draft position.
Football doesn’t really begin until November," Lovie Smith said on Thursday. "You get yourself in position before that. And even though our record is what it is, two games out of first place as I see it. We’re in position for that to happen."
The Bucs travel to Cleveland today to face the Browns who are 7-point favorites. Did anyone think the Browns would be 7-point favorites against anyone this year? The Bucs have been bad and the Browns have been very good, including wins in 3 of their last 4 games.
The Browns offense has been surprisingly good this year. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has the Browns 3-headed attack at running back (Ben Tate, Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell) as the 12th best rushing attack in the NFL. Shanahan's offense mimics Gary Kubiak's offense with the Ravens, who had significant success against the Bucs just a few weeks ago. Brian Hoyer has been Brian Magic for the Browns, while throwing 8 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. While Hoyer is not as talented as Joe Flacco, this style of offense crushed the Bucs. The Browns had arguably the best offensive line in football before All-Pro center Alex Mack went down with an injury.While we all know the struggles of the Bucs offense, the Browns defense has been equally disappointing. New head coach Mike Pettine is a defensive guy and the Browns seem to have a lot of talent on defense. The Bucs offensive line has been a swinging door all year long. With left tackle Anthony Collins unlikely to play on Sunday, O'neil Cousins should get the start, which is bad news for Mike Glennon. One wildcard for the Bucs could be rookie running back Charles Sims, who gets his first playing time of the season against the Browns.
This game has the making of being extremely ugly. I think the Bucs might force the fact that Charles Sims plays today and try and get him the ball in the screen game to neutralize the Browns pass rush. The Browns zone run game and playaction pass game could give the Bucs defense fits today if they didn't learn from the Ravens game. In the end, this game will be low scoring and close to the end.
PREDICTION: Browns Win 23-17
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