The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans will square off on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium in the second preseason game for both teams. Tampa Bay is off to an 0-1 start after losing 26-24 at home to the Miami Dolphins last Saturday as a 1.5-point underdog. Tennessee also dropped its opener by a 23-10 final against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday, failing to cover as a three-point road underdog.
These teams met last preseason, with the Titans rolling to a 34-3 victory.
Buccaneers lose preseason opener as defense torchedThe Buccaneers rested just about every starter as expected in preseason week one, and were unable to complete a rally over the Dolphins last Saturday as the defense struggled in the first half. Tampa Bay struck late in the first quarter on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Jaelon Darden before Ke'Shawn Vaughn scored on a one-yard run midway through the second and Jerreth Sterns brought in a 19-yard score at the 7:55 mark of the third, but the Dolphins kicked a go-ahead field goal with 6:56 left that made the difference.
Kyle Trask played the vast majority of snaps at quarterback, finishing 25 of 33 for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Rachaad White was the leading rusher with seven carries for 32 yards, while Tyler Johnson reeled in six catches for 73 yards.
"It's a lot about the development of what he's learned and seeing what we have," first-year head coach Todd Bowles told Tampa Bay's website about Trask's performance. "We hadn't seen him under pressure. We hadn't seen him get knocked down and throw an incomplete pass and get up. We hadn't seen him throw an interception [and] we hadn't seen him throw a touchdown in a preseason game to date, other than practice."
Bowles now has a 7-10 record in his preseason career, with the results before this coming between 2015 and 2018 when he was the head coach of the New York Jets. Tampa Bay went 1-2 in the preseason last year, with the offense putting up just 13.33 points per game.
There's no reason for Tom Brady to take a preseason snap, so quarterback duties will largely fall to Trask, a second-year signal caller out of Florida. Gabbert looked sharp in his two drives on Saturday, going 5/5 for 56 yards, and the veteran backup should get around that level of playing time in game two as well.
The biggest position battle on the Buccaneers is over wide receiver depth, and Johnson has a chance to go off in the preseason after looking solid last regular season with 36 catches for 360 yards. Sterns is a very intriguing rookie after he racked up an unreal 150 receptions for 1,910 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final collegiate year at Western Kentucky.
Wideout is thin with Russell Gage (leg), Chris Godwin (knee), Mike Evans (hamstring) and Breshad Perriman (leg) all dealing with injuries. Linebacker Grant Stuard (hamstring), center Ryan Jensen (knee), running back Giovanni Bernard (ankle), running back Kenjon Barner (undisclosed), linebacker Cam Gill (foot) and safety Keanu Neal (undisclosed) also are unlikely to play.
Titans lose, but Willis impressesThe Titans didn't have much of a chance last Thursday against a Baltimore Ravens team that hasn't lost a preseason game since 2016, but they have to be happy with some of the playmaking ability from rookie quarterback Malik Willis anyway. Willis scored on a seven-yard scramble early in the second quarter before leading a long field goal drive a few minutes later, yet that was all the scoring the Titans could muster.
Willis went 6/11 for 107 yards while adding five carries for 38 yards and the score. Julius Chestnut carried the ball seven times for 44 yards, while Terry Godwin caught four passes for 31 yards.
"He needs to try to throw the ball when guys are open, be more decisive," coach Mike Vrabel said about Willis via ESPN. "Wanted to get him out there and wanted to see how he responded. He did OK."
Tennessee is now 4-8 in the preseason under Vrabel, although four of those losses came in his first year at the helm. The Titans went 2-1 in the 2021 preseason including a blowout win over the Falcons in addition to the comfortable triumph over Tampa Bay.
Veteran Ryan Tannehill won't play in the preseason much if any, and the Titans will want to see what they have in the exciting rookie Willis. In addition, Logan Woodside will be under center for a large chunk of plays after he went 14 of 24 for 102 yards and two interceptions in the opener.
Rookie first-round receiver Treylon Burks will be one to watch as the Titans might want to get him more involved after he didn't record a catch last Thursday, although rumors are also swirling that he may have been injured in practice. Second-year wideout Racey McMath could also be a factor after making a nice 48-yard catch in the opener.
Kicker Caleb Shudak (undisclosed) and linebacker Monty Rice (Achilles) are out. Corner Chris Jackson (knee), wideout Robert Woods (knee) and corner Elijah Molden (leg) are considered questionable.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Predicting team performance in the preseason is always difficult, but last year's matchup between these two that Tennessee dominated in every facet can't be ignored. Tampa Bay isn't going to play many if any first-stringers throughout the preseason with a veteran roster, while the upside of Willis will make a big difference.
While Willis will have to harness some of his raw talent to become an NFL starter, the combination of a huge arm and his athletic ability will be tough for second or third-stringers to stop. He will only add some explosive ability to a Titans offense that averaged 27 points per game last preseason, and last week's blowout can be attributed to the fact that they were playing a Ravens team that takes things more seriously than any other during this time of year.
Tampa Bay's pass defense really struggled against seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson of the Dolphins with things only getting tougher this week. Bet on Willis and the Titans to do some damage against that defense here en route to a win.
Full-Game Total Pick
Trask looked very comfortable under center in the opener with nearly eight yards per pass attempt, while the experienced Gabbert had no trouble leading a scoring drive against backups. This is also an impressive group of young receivers by preseason standards, as Darden and Sterns both had record-setting college careers while Johnson looked good in regular season action in 2021.
As tough as the Ravens are, the Titans allowing 389 yards while getting shredded by rookie Anthony Brown isn't a great look for the defense. The skill position talent for both teams' backup units is strong, and we'll get an over here as a result.