The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins sure look weathered after an unexpected bye in Week 1 forced the teams to navigate their way through the season without any semblance of a break. With injuries accumulating at a rapid pace, the beleaguered Buccaneers and Dolphins look to get back on track at the other’s expense Sunday in Miami.
“I‘m sure both teams, with the number of games we played and the number of guys both teams have banged up, I’m sure both teams would prefer to have a few days off,” Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter told the Miami Herald. “That’s just not the hand we were dealt.” The Buccaneers had dropped five in a row before Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped in for an injured Jameis Winston (shoulder) and engineered two long scoring drives in Sunday’s 15-10 win over his former team, the New York Jets. The 34-year-old Fitzpatrick has thrown five touchdown passes over his last two encounters with Miami, which has yielded at 40 or more points on two occasions during its three-game losing skid and fell to 0-3 on prime-time television with a lopsided 45-21 setback to Carolina on Monday. “This isn’t acceptable. It’s unacceptable,” said Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake, who saw his team’s top-10 run defense gashed for 294 yards on the ground by the Panthers.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Pick. O/U: 40.5
ABOUT THE BUCCANEERS (3-6): Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans admitted he made a “bone-headed play” when he hit New Orleans rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore from behind on Nov. 5, igniting fireworks between the NFC South teams and resulting in a one-game suspension for him. “If we were winning, I don’t think I do that,” the 24-year-old Evans said. “... I will never do that again. I like playing with passion and effort. But I’ve got to be calmer. I’ve go to be smarter.” Tight end Cameron Brate, who likely is pretty smart considering he went to Harvard, is tied with Evans in touchdown receptions (four) -- but has just two catches for 19 yards over his last two games. Doug Martin hasn’t fared much better in that span, rushing 28 times for just 58 yards for the Buccaneers’ 28th-ranked ground game.
ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (4-5): While Miami’s defense has come under fire of late, its pedestrian offense is scoring an NFL-worst 15.2 points per game while averaging a second-worst 275.0 yards per contest. “There is a lot of football left. The pieces are in the locker room, I truly believe that,” said Jay Cutler, who has tossed nine touchdown passes over his last four games. Familiar target Jarvis Landry (NFL-best 61 receptions) has found the end zone in five of his last six, but the wideout is expected to be shadowed by four-time Pro Bowl selection and former Dolphin Brent Grimes on Sunday. The 34-year-old Cutler has utilized his running backs in the passing game a bit more since Jay Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia earlier this month, with Kenyan Drake rolling up 196 scrimmage yards in the past two games.
1. Wake has 13 sacks and six forced fumbles in his past 13 games at home.
2. Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David recorded 15 of his team-leading 51 tackles over the last two contests.
3. Dolphins TE Julius Thomas has reeled in a touchdown reception in back-to-back games.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers 19, Dolphins 16