ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making just their third visit to Western New York, where they have never won, in facing the Bills in a non-conference matchup on Thursday night.
The Bucs opened the series hosting the first eight meetings before making their first trip to WNY in a 33-20 loss in September 2009. The Bills rallied for a 30-27 home win in October 2017 during coach Sean McDermott’s first season.
The home team has won each of the past six meetings. In their previous matchup, the Bills overcame a 24-3 halftime deficit before losing for a 33rd and final time to a Tom Brady-quarterbacked team.
Tampa Bay (3-3) at Buffalo (4-3)
Thursday, 8:15 p.m. EDT, Prime Video
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Tampa Bay 3-3; Buffalo 3-4.
SERIES RECORD: Buccaneers lead 8-4.
LAST MEETING: Buccaneers beat Bills 33-27 OT at Tampa Bay on Dec. 12, 2021.
LAST WEEK: Buccaneers lost to Falcons 16-13; Bills lost to Patriots 29-25.
BUCCANEERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (23), RUSH (29), PASS (15), SCORING (T-26).
BUCCANEERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (20), RUSH (10), PASS (27), SCORING (6).
BILLS OFFENSE: OVERALL (5), RUSH (14), PASS (6), SCORING (3).
BILLS DEFENSE: OVERALL (14), RUSH (23), PASS (10), SCORING (5).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Buccaneers plus-7; Bills plus-3.
BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Baker Mayfield has completed 65.2% of his passes for 1,363 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He leads the NFL in third down passer rating (121.8) and has only been sacked eight times through six games. The 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick is with his fourth team in two years. He’s 2-0 with five TD passes versus one interception and a 105.6 passer rating in two road starts this season. He’s made one career start against Buffalo, beating the Bills while with the Cleveland Browns in 2019.
BILLS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Josh Allen acknowledged that his decision to rein in his emotions might be a reason behind Buffalo’s slow-starting offense. The Bills have combined to score 10 points in the first half in their past three outings, and facing a defense that’s allowed just 55 points — tied for the fourth fewest in the NFL — in the opening two quarters. Allen has committed turnovers in all but two outings, and opened with a first-snap interception against New England.
KEY MATCHUP: Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin versus Bills secondary. Buffalo’s defensive scheme hinges on the front four applying pressure to aid a secondary missing CB Tre’Davious White (torn Achilles tendon). Tampa Bay, however, has allowed the second-fewest sacks in the NFL this season. Second-year CB Christian Benford and fourth-year backup Dane Jackson will start against an Evans/Godwin tandem that’s combined for 63 catches, with Evans scoring four times.
KEY INJURIES: Buccaneers: Mayfield (knee) and Godwin (neck) were limited in practice Tuesday after not participating the previous day. … DT Vita Vea (groin), LG Matt Feiler (knee) and S Kaevon Merriweather (ankle) did not practice Monday or Tuesday. … RB Chase Edmonds (knee) is practicing after being designated to return from injured reserve this week. … The Bills are down to one healthy TE, rookie Dalton Kincaid, with Dawson Knox out after having wrist surgery and Quintin Morris (ankle) ruled out. … DT Ed Oliver has a chance to return after missing one game with a toe injury. … Edge rusher Von Miller was limited to six snaps against New England. He combined for 47 in his previous two outings since being activated after missing 10 months with a right knee injury.
STATS AND STUFF: This is the first prime-time meeting between the non-conference opponents, with Allen holding a 5-0 record when playing on Thursday nights. The Bucs are 5-9 overall in Thursday night games, but have won three of the past five. … Tampa Bay is 2-0 on the road, but only 1-3 at home. … The Bucs are 0-2 since their bye week, scoring one TD and 19 total points in losses to the Lions and Falcons. … The defense is allowing 17.3 points per game, the sixth-lowest average in the NFL. It’s also the least the Bucs have allowed through the first seven weeks of a season since 2008, when they gave up 15.3 points per game over that stretch. … The Mayfield-led offense, meanwhile, is averaging 17.2 points. The Bucs scored 30 total points in losses to Philadelphia, Detroit and Atlanta, compared to 73 in victories over Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans. … Evans has 13 receptions for 179 yards and two TDs in two games vs. the Bills. … Godwin had 10 catches for 105 yards when the teams met two years ago. … Despite having played six games — instead of seven, because of the bye — the Bucs defense has the fourth-most takeaways in the league with 12. The team’s plus-7 turnover margin ranks second. … Buffalo is 3-0 at home and in the midst of hosting three consecutive prime-time games over a five-week span. The Bills beat the New York Giants on “Sunday Night Football” two weeks ago, and next play at home on a Monday nighter against Denver on Nov. 13. … Allen has combined to go 30 of 52 for 302 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the first half of his past three outings. In Buffalo’s first four games, Allen was 64 of 80 for 616 yards with seven TDs and an interception. … With an interception and lost fumble, Allen’s record dropped to 32-23 in games where he commits a turnover. … Buffalo past three opening drives have combined for 11 yards on seven plays, with two ending in punts and another with an interception. … Despite a season-low 58 yards receiving on six catches against New England, WR Stefon Diggs became the seventh player, and sixth overall, in the NFL’s Super Bowl era with six or more catches in each of his team’s first seven games. … Kincaid had a career-best and team-leading eight catches and 75 yards last weekend. … The Bills had an eight-game streak snapped when holding an opponent under 100 yards rushing last weekend, dropping their record to 27-4 since 2020.
FANTASY TIP: Both defenses fell below pregame point projections in each of their past two outings. Combined with the vagaries that come with teams playing on short weeks, starting either D falls into the high-risk/high-reward category.