Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Patriots: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Thursday's game

Here's the Times' Bucs coverage team's predictions for Tampa Bay's 8:25 p.m. game Thursday against New England:

PATRIOTS IN SHAMBLES? RIIIIIGHT ...

Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics: Week 1: "The Patriots look like straight garbage!" Week 2: "Maybe we overreacted." Week 4: "We're seeing the beginning of the end!" Death, taxes and people prematurely predicting the Patriots' downfall. I'm not doing it. New England has issues, but I'm pretty sure Bill Belichick will figure out that his defense can't leave receivers wide open. Since 2000, the Patriots' average point differential in games after a loss is plus-11. Prediction: New England 31-20.

BALL OF CONFUSION

Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you: Prediction: Assuming Tom Brady will put up points, a Bucs victory will lie with the offense, but big questions muddle the forecast. Can the Bucs use motion to create confusion on the Patriots defense, like the Chiefs and Panthers did in victory? Can Bellichick fix the unit's woes with only three days of prep? Can DeSean Jackson play a bigger role, with Mike Evans likely to be the Pats' focus? Can Doug Martin return to form? In the end, Bucs lose a shootout, barely. Prediction: New England 33-29.

BIGGEST WIN IN YEARS

Tom Jones, @tomwjones: To beat the Pats, the Bucs are going to have to score at least 30. That doesn't seem to be much of a problem for most Pats opponents this season. Martin is back. Winston will find Jackson a lot more. And Evans, O.J. Howard and Cam Brate will have big nights. Prediction: Tampa Bay 37-34.

NOT QUITE ENOUGH

Greg Auman, @gregauman: What a week it would be for Jameis Winston's arrival as a giant-killer — beating Eli Manning and Brady and their seven Super Bowls back-to-back. I think it's just out of reach — Brady and Belichick get the first win with Patriots in Tampa. Prediction: New England 31-27.

NOT QUITE

Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly: New England's defense looks awful, with little pass rush and gaping holes in coverage. However, under Brady, the Pats are 49-12 following a loss. And without Lavonte David or Kwon Alexander in the lineup, Brady should pick apart the Bucs defense underneath crossing routes to Gronkowski and Amendola. Prediction: New England 31-27.

TOM STILL TERRIFIC

Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud: The Patriots defense has been a mess, allowing 60 yards per game more than any team in the NFL. Belichick will get it fixed. What isn't broken is Brady and he's bombing away with more than 9 yards per attempt. He's taken some hits but the Bucs have one sack all season. Prediction: New England 34-27.

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