The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gone from hero to zero heading into a home date with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Tampa Bay started the season 2-0 but has since fallen to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Atlanta in succession. The Browns had been on a relative streak by their standards (2-1 in three games) before getting blown out by the Chargers last week.
Where’s Baker’s help?
Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield is saddled with a ragtag assortment of receivers during his rookie campaign. When the Browns face Tampa Bay in Week 7, the No. 1 overall pick will be throwing to the likes of Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Damion Ratley (a sixth-round pick who saw his first significant action in this past weekend’s 38-14 loss to the Chargers), and Breshad Perriman (signed last Saturday). The Browns do not boast as single receiver in the NFL’s top 25 in receiving yards or the top 20 in average yards per catch. No pass-catcher has more than one touchdown on the season. That is not what head coach Hue Jackson envisioned for Mayfield’s aerial attack. Former first-round pick Corey Coleman turned out to be a bust. Josh Gordon was a walking controversy and finally got traded earlier this year. Callaway is a rookie (fourth-round selection) who has underwhelmed for the most part. Rashard Higgins got hurt, as did Derrick Willies and Rod Streater.
“I always feel like I have something to prove."
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 15, 2018
That is to say Mayfield has an excuse for being inconsistent, and not just because he is a rookie on what is supposed to be a relatively bad team. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner has four touchdown passes and five interceptions through four games (three starts). Mayfield was dealing with a sore ankle following the setback against the Chargers, who picked him off twice while limiting him to 47.8 percent passing and one touchdown.
Smith gets the axe
Tampa Bay fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith on Monday, one day following a 34-29 loss to the NFC South rival Falcons. Atlanta racked up 417 total yards despite being without running back Devonta Freeman, and Matt Ryan torched a porous Buccaneers secondary to the tune of 355 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions on 31-for-41 passing. Through five games this season, Smith’s defense was giving up 440 yards per game. That is not going to cut it–not after Tampa Bay allocated $88 million in 2018 cap space to its defense (sixth-most in the NFL according to ESPN’s Roster Management System). Linebackers coach Mark Duffner, who was the Bengals’ DC in 2001 and 2002, will serve as the interim defensive coordinator.
“These decisions are always difficult, but our top priority here is to ensure that we do everything possible to help this team succeed,” head coach Dirk Koetter explained in a statement. “As I have said in the past, the issues we have had as a team are never one person’s fault. During good times, as well as the bad, it is a collective effort between the coaches and the players. We all understand that this is a result-based profession and our results to this point have not met our standards. I want to thank Mike for all the hard work and passion he has displayed here on a daily basis and I wish him well moving forward.”
In addition to their 417 yards, the Falcons went 3-for-3 on touchdowns in the red zone (and the red zone is not exactly the Falcons’ specialty). One week earlier, Tampa Bay watched Mitchell Trubisky throw six touchdown passes in a 48-10 rout by the Bears. Needless to say, Tampa’s return to Earth on offense is not the lone reason for the team’s plunge from 2-0 to 2-3.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are:
- 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games after allowing more than 350 yards in their previous game
- 4-0 ATS in their last four games against Cleveland
- 6-0 Over in their last six overall
The Cleveland Browns are:
- 16-35-1 ATS in their last 52 overall
- 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 road games
- 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games against teams with losing records
Updated on Oct 20 at 11:20pm EDT
Update prepared by our editoral staff
Public Money / Line Movements
Nothing to read into the line movement as the Buccaneers started off as 3 point favorites and it has grown to -3.5 with 54% of the bets coming in on the Bucs.
Injury / Weather Report
Cloudy, but no rain expected. Temps in the lower 80’s.
Cleveland’s Injury Report:
DB E.J. Gaines (one INT) is out and that could hurt against the pass-happy Bucs. LB Joe Schobert (23 tackles, 1.5 sacks) is also out. They are relatively healthy other than those two.
Tampa Bay’s Injury Report:
DT Gerald McCoy (1.5 sacks) is out, while DE Vinny Curry (1.5 sacks) is doubtful. CB Ryan Smith (18 tackles) is questionable as is S Jordan Whitehead.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Tampa Bay’s offense is not showcasing the magic that it did during Week 1 and Week 2, but it at least performed well enough to win against the Falcons (the visitors did not win, mainly due to a lack of defense). Cleveland’s offense was abysmal, itself, last week. As such, Jameis Winston should have a field day in Week 7. The Browns generally do not get enough points against bad teams (they are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 against losing opponents). They are not getting enough this time around, either.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Full-Game Total Pick
The Buccaneers made one change in their defensive coaching rankings after they gave up 378.1 yards per game last year (worst in the NFL). They fired defensive line coach Jay Hayes after recording a mere 22 sacks. Clearly that change has not helped at all in 2018. Will Smith’s firing change anything? Maybe later on, but for now Tampa Bay still has problems on ‘D.’ Fortunately, the Buccaneers’ offense will likely roll all over Cleveland. The over is 12-5 in the Browns’ last 17 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 on the road against opponents with losing home records. It is also 6-0 in the Buccaneers’ last six overall, 4-0 in their last four against losing opponents, and 5-0 after allowing more than 30 points in their previous outing. Look for this one to go over the total.