Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL predictions

Chargers (4-5) at Dolphins (4-5)

4 p.m. Ch. 10. Chargers by 1½, 45½

The AFC's second wild card has the Jets at 5-4 then five teams with four wins, including these two. Miami has dropped five of six, but that might help against the Chargers. Three of their four wins are against teams now at .500 or better while four of their five losses are to teams below .500. Dolphins DE Dion Jordan, the third overall pick in April, has 11 tackles and one sack in nine games. The opposite? Chargers third-rounder Keenan Allen, above, who leads rookies with 568 receiving yards.

The pick: Chargers 24, Dolphins 21

Packers (5-4) at Giants (3-6)

4:25 p.m. Giants by 4, 42

Scott Tolzien, who was cut by the 49ers in preseason, threw for 280 yards last week for Seneca Wallace. But he's why the Packers are again an underdog against a team with a losing record. So much for the Giants easing Andre Brown in. He rushed 30 times for 115 yards in his season debut last week. Packers rookie Eddie Lacy leads the NFL with 618 rushing yards since Oct. 1. He'll challenge John Brockington's rookie record of 1,105 set in 1971. Is this the week Hakeem Nicks, above, gets his first touchdown catch?

The pick: Packers 31, Giants 27

49ers (6-3) at Saints (7-2)

4:25 p.m. Ch. 13. Saints by 3, 48

The numbers for 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, above, are down. But much of that is from a depleted receiving corps, where the addition of Anquan Boldin hasn't offset the loss of Michael Crabtree. Can LB Aldon Smith, in his second game since completing alcohol treatment, help San Francisco contain the Saints offense? Drew Brees is 5-1 in the regular season against the 49ers with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. A win helps New Orleans in terms of homefield advantage in the playoffs.

The pick: Saints 34, 49ers 24

Vikings (2-7) at Seahawks (8-1)

4:25 p.m. Seahawks by 121/2, 46

Is Minnesota headed to the No. 1 pick? It is a game back of Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, but its remaining opponents are 40-26, easily the toughest. Seattle is expected to see the season debut of WR Percy Harvin, just in time to face his old team, for whom he scored 29 touchdowns in four seasons. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, above, threw three touchdowns against Minnesota last year in a 30-20 win. Vikings WR Cordarelle Patterson had his first receiving touchdown last week to go with his NFL-best two on kickoff returns.

The pick: Seahawks 41, Vikings 17

Chiefs (9-0) at Broncos (8-1)

8:30 p.m. Ch. 8. Broncos by 8, 49

Kansas City is unbeaten, Peyton Manning, above, has ankle concerns and the Broncos are still a big favorite. This is a chance for the Chiefs to win over doubters unconvinced by a 2-14 team in 2012 going 9-0 to open 2013. Denver has three players with nine touchdowns. The rest of the NFL has two with nine or more. One promising stat for Kansas City. Coach Andy Reid is tough after a bye with a 13-1 record after one. The Chiefs' strength is turnover margin — an NFL-best plus-15 this season.

The pick: Broncos 31, Chiefs 24

Patriots (7-2) at Panthers (6-3)

8:40 p.m. Monday. ESPN. Panthers by 21/2, 46

Carolina has won five straight to become a playoff contender, and New England has won its past seven November games. Tom Brady, above, and Cam Newton both have 13 touchdown passes, but Brady is 13-4 for his career on Monday night. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is looking like the Gronk of old with nine catches for 143 yards in his last game. Carolina is coming off a 10-9 win at San Francisco. These two last played in Charlotte back in 2005, and the Panthers won 27-17.

The pick: Patriots 27, Panthers 24

Jets (5-4) at Bills (3-7)

1 p.m. Jets by 1, 41

Why, exactly, is Buffalo only a one-point underdog beyond being at home? It has lost five of six and will be without their top receivers, Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. That leaves relative unknowns T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin. First-round pick and QB EJ Manuel, above, is back for Buffalo, but the Bills mustered just 227 yards of offense in his return last week in losing to Pittsburgh. One guy the Bills could use: former Buffalo WR David Nelson. The ex-Gator has played well since latching on with the Jets.

The pick: Jets 24, Bills 17

Ravens (4-5) at Bears (5-4)

1 p.m. Bears by 3, 44

Baltimore is only a game back of the second wild card. And after today, it gets three straight at home. The Ravens must improve their run game. Ray Rice leads them with 289 yards but ranks 43rd in the NFL, and his 2.5 yards per carry is worst among the league's top 80 rushers. Bears QB Josh McCown has played well with four touchdowns and no interceptions. (He had two touchdowns from 2008-12.) Chicago's Brandon Marshall, above, and Alshon Jeffery are on pace for more than receiving 1,300 yards.

The pick: Bears 30, Ravens 24

Browns (4-5) at Bengals (6-4)

1 p.m. Bengals by 6, 411/2

Coming off back-to-back road overtime losses, this is a must-win for Cincinnati going into the bye. After throwing 11 touchdowns in a span of three wins, the Bengals' Andy Dalton has two with six interceptions in the losses. One touchdown was the Hail Mary to A.J. Green, above, at the end of regulation last week. Current Browns starter Jason Campbell has five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Two receivers stepped up for them last week: Davone Bess (two touchdowns) and Greg Little (122 yards).

The pick: Bengals 21, Browns 20

Raiders (3-6) at Texans (2-7)

1 p.m. Texans by 9, 41

Yes, the Texans, losers of seven straight and without top RB Arian Foster, are favored. Houston's Case Keenum has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions and sparked WR Andre Johnson, above, who has five touchdowns over his past two games after totaling four in the previous 28. Only the 49ers have thrown for fewer yards than the Raiders, who also are one sack shy of the most allowed. Houston needs more from RB Ben Tate, who has no touchdowns over the past three games and a long of 12 yards.

The pick: Raiders 21, Texans 17

Cardinals (5-4) at Jaguars (1-8)

1 p.m. Cards by 81/2, 41

Arizona, off back-to-back wins, is only a game out of the wild card despite Carson Palmer, above, throwing 15 interceptions, one off of the NFL lead. We continue to lobby for more touches for Cardinals rookie Andre Ellington, who has 26 carries over the past two wins. The Jags' Maurice Jones-Drew has never averaged fewer than 4.2 yards per carry, but he's at just 3.0 this season with defenses stacking the line against him. Jacksonville won last week despite going 3-for-12 on third down and allowing the Titans to go 10-for-18.

The pick: Cards 31, Jaguars 17

Lions (6-3) at Steelers (3-6)

1 p.m. Lions by 21/2, 461/2

The Lions' Matthew Stafford, above, likes playing the AFC — 19 touchdowns and two interceptions over his past eight games against the conference. That's unlikely to change against a Steelers defense that has only five total interceptions. Only four teams have fewer. Steelers WR Jerricho Cotchery has four touchdowns over the past two weeks, and his six for the season match his high during his 10 years in the league. Pittsburgh has won 11 of 13 in the series, including three straight. But the last meeting was four years ago.

The pick: Lions 24, Steelers 20

Redskins (3-6) at Eagles (5-5)

1 p.m. Eagles by 41/2, 53

The challenge for the Eagles is their next three are at home, where they're 0-4. When the teams met in Week 1, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, above, went for 184 yards, one of his three games with 150-plus. Redskins WR Pierre Garcon has caught exactly seven passes in three straight games but has just one touchdown. Eagles WR Riley Cooper has seven touchdowns among 28 catches. The only higher touchdown percentage among the top 30 scoring receivers is Seattle's Jermaine Kearse (four among 13).

The pick: Eagles 31, Redskins 20

Jameis Winston is about to get a big pay raise. It will cost the Bucs more than money

Jameis Winston is about to get a big pay raise. It will cost the Bucs more than money

TAMPA – Jameis Winston is heading for a big payday with the Bucs. He's played well enough to make that an easy decision.But what impact will that have on the type of players they surround him with?The Bucs are expected to exercise the fifth-yea...
Published: 02/16/18
Bucs interview Brentson Buckner for defensive line job

Bucs interview Brentson Buckner for defensive line job

The Bucs continue to move quickly with the defensive line opening on Dirk Koetter's coaching staff, interviewing former Cardinals assistant Brentson Buckner.Buckner, 46, spent the last five years as Arizona's defensive line coach, leading the unit to...
Published: 02/16/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston investigation, Lightning trade possibilities, more

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jameis Winston investigation, Lightning trade possibilities, more

It’s a Mailbag Friday as Rick Stroud answers your questions, including what will happen with the Jameis Winston investigation, who should the Bucs sign in free agency and would Warren Sapp make a good defensive line coach?Also, who will win more game...
Published: 02/16/18
Kevin Pamphile on Bucs’ O-line: ‘We’re not far from breaking through’

Kevin Pamphile on Bucs’ O-line: ‘We’re not far from breaking through’

Free agency is less than a month away, and the Bucs have several decisions to make about unrestricted free agents from their 2017 squad. One is Kevin Pamphile, who started all but one game at left guard last season but still split the job with backup...
Published: 02/16/18
Jameis Winston’s ‘Eat a W’ ritual lives on at Florida State

Jameis Winston’s ‘Eat a W’ ritual lives on at Florida State

Jameis Winston's pregame "Eat a 'W'" speech didn't go over too well the last time he gave it in front of the cameras and teammates.Before the Bucs-Saints game in New Orleans on Nov. 5, Winston formed a "W" with the fingers on his right hand and proce...
Published: 02/15/18
Browsing the Bucs’ needs and possible free-agent answers

Browsing the Bucs’ needs and possible free-agent answers

No sooner had the Bucs 5-11 season ended than coach Dirk Koetter identified the two areas his team needed to improve for 2018."I think we were 3-7 in one score games. You're going to have a hard time getting where you want to go when you win 30 perce...
Published: 02/15/18
Free agency preview: Brate, Humphries lead Bucs’ restricted free agents

Free agency preview: Brate, Humphries lead Bucs’ restricted free agents

NFL free agency is now just a month away, and as we begin the process of previewing the 2018 free agent class, we'll start with a less prominent part that is still relevant for the Bucs this year: restricted free agents.Unrestricted free agents have ...
Published: 02/14/18
Derrick Brooks to sign autographs at sub shop for charity

Derrick Brooks to sign autographs at sub shop for charity

A Tampa sub shop is offering fans a deal to help raise funds for former Bucs linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks' charity efforts.From Feb. 21 to Feb. 25 next week, the Jersey Mike's shop at 14839 North Dale Mabry Highway (inters...
Published: 02/13/18
The Bucs pass rush was so bad, Dirk Koetter sacked his friend

The Bucs pass rush was so bad, Dirk Koetter sacked his friend

TAMPA – It was friendly fire. The decision by Bucs coach Dirk Koetter to terminate a guy he's been buddies with for nearly 40 years was not an easy one. But defensive line coach Jay Hayes was let go last Friday, an apparent fall guy for the 5-1...
Published: 02/12/18
Updated: 02/13/18
Bucs D-line coach name to watch: former Colts DC Ted Monachino

Bucs D-line coach name to watch: former Colts DC Ted Monachino

The surprising firing of defensive line coach Jay Hayes on Friday is one that was difficult for Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.Not only had the Bucs picked up  the one-year club option on Hayes' contract, he and Koetter go back nearly 40 years when the...
Published: 02/12/18