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What the Experts and the Statistics Tell Us About the Bucs

My knowledge of NFC South teams is lacking. At the least, I can review what the statistics indicate about this team from the warmer bay.

Defensive Summary

Even I have heard that the Bucs’ defense has a couple of sprightly ILBs: Devin White and Lavonte David. Both were named to the 2020 AP All Pro team – each received second-team status. The only other Bucs’ defensive representative on either the AP team or the NFC Pro Bowl team is OLB Jason Pierre-Paul.

Starting with those ILBs, Pro Football Focus likes Lavonte David a bunch (5th out of 88 LBs). As for Devin White, he’s rated 71 out of 88. This is a very inferior grade for a guy named second-team AP All Pro – what gives? White is only a second-year pro, but he was drafted 5th overall – a spot more commonly reserved for quarterbacks.

Lavonte, a round-two pick in 2012, became a first-team All Pro in his second year, and now has worked his way back to being a second-team All Pro this season. The 30-year-old is concluding his ninth year, all as a Buccaneer.

The PFF interior defensemen ratings aren’t disturbing. Steve McClendon ranks 61 of 129, Ndamukong Suh (now 34) is 70th, and William Gholston is 73rd.

But wait – Vita Vea has just come off the disabled list, and in limited play he ranked second on the interior defender chart – behind only Aaron David – on the season. Vea fractured his right leg and ankle in Week 5, and was placed on the reserve/COVID 19 list in November – he hasn’t played a bit since October 8. It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to produce at a high level on Sunday.

As for the Bucs’ edge rushers, Anthony Nelson came in at 27 out of 112, Shaquil Barrett was 31, and Jason Pierre-Paul ranked 51st. Pierre-Paul, in taking 89% of the snaps, had 9.5 sacks; Barrett had 77% of the snaps and 8 sacks; Nelson was in on just 30% of the snaps and had but one sack.

There is a big difference of opinion between PFF and the Pro Bowl voters concerning Pierre-Paul. What is clear though, is that the Bucs have several competent pass rushers among its edge rushers, LBs and interior defenders.

Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks and their PFF rankings are: Jamel Dean (15th out of 121); Carlton Davis (32nd), and Sean Murphy-Bunting (74th). On the season, Davis has been on the field for 85% of the defensive snaps, Murphy-Bunting for 83%, and Dean for 67%.

By this measure, Murphy-Bunting looks highly exploitable. He was the Bucs’ 39th overall pick, out of Central Michigan, in 2019. Though he made the PFWA All-Rookie team last year, it appears he’s gone backwards in his second season.

Stats suggest he’s a feast-or-famine defender, as he’s had six interceptions during his two regular seasons, and he had two more during his two playoff games this season. It appears that he skipped the NFL Combine, but is listed as having these unofficial combine-type results” 4.42 dash time, 41.5 vertical jump, and 14 bench presses. He’s listed at 6’ and 195 pounds. PFF grades him quite low across the board, though better at run defense than pass coverage.

Tampa Bay’s primary safeties, both of whom played on at least 86% of the snaps on the season, were mid-range: Antoine Winfield ranked 35th out of 93, and Jordan Whitehead came in at 38th. Capable, but nothing special.

Offensive Summary

No Bucs player was named an All Pro, either on the first or second team, and no one on the offense made the Pro Bowl team. By comparison, the AP placed on its first team Rodgers, Adams, Bakhtiari, and Linsley, and Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander were placed on its second team. Rodgers, and Bakhtiari repeated as Pro Bowlers – and those voters added Aaron Jones and Elgton Jenkins to the NFC offensive unit.

Though David Bakhtiari will miss the entire postseason, Green Bay players will use his misfortune as extra motivation to prevail in the upcoming game.

The voters might appear to some to have snubbed Tom Brady, but he’s still among the league’s top-five QBs on most lists.

The Bucs’ running backs might not be as formidable as they seem. PFF ranks Ronald Jones 23rd out of 70, and they rank 4th year man Leonard Fournette at 57th. Both were high draft choices – Fournette was the 4th overall draft pick in 2017, while Jones was chosen 38th overall in 2018.

Jones, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the season, fell just short of a 1,000 yards in this his third year. In some ways, Jones isn’t so impressive: he’s 5’11’ and 205 pounds, he had a terrible 4.65 dash time, and he passed up on taking nearly all the other tests at the NFL Combine. Jones has had only one 100-yard rushing game in his last nine. He might be tiring out.

Fournette played in only 13 games on the year, and only started in three of them. The 240-pounder has gone from a starter and 1,000 yard rusher as a rookie, to an oft-injured second-stringer with a new team in his fourth year. His career rushing average is only 3.9 yards.

Of the two, Fournette seems to be the preferred receiver – he recorded 76 catches for over 500 yards in 15 games in 2019. However, that was when he was with the Jaguars. Just prior to the opening of the 2020 season, the Jags waived him, so Fournette is playing this season under a one-year contract.

Tampa Bay is well-stocked with good receivers – at least two have explosive potential.

Mike Evans, in the middle of a spectacular career, just finished his seventh regular season with the Bucs. He’s reached the 1,000-yard mark every time, though he barely made it this time, gaining 1,006 yards. He is down, however, over 500 yards from his peak year of 2018, when his primary QB was Jameis Winston.

Chris Godwin, who just finished his fourth campaign with the Bucs, was a second-team All Pro and Pro Bowl player in 2019, but he has been hampered by injuries (hamstring, broken finger) in 2020. Still, he managed 840 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. Brady inherited a strong 1-2 punch of receivers when he signed on with the Bucs.

League bad-boy Antonio Brown has just been ruled out for Sunday’s game. That will make defensive game planning easier.

At tight end, Brady has the legendary Rob Gronkowski and 7-year veteran Cameron Brate. You probably know what Gronkowski has done in the past. Coming out of a one-year retirement, Rob caught 45 Brady throws for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. Brady doesn’t hesitate to look to his old Patriots pal when he needs something good to happen.

Journeyman Brate has only produced about 300 yards in each of his past two years. PFF rates the Gronk as 19th out of 71, and Brate as 26th.

Here’s PFFs ratings on the Buccaneers O-line: C Ryan Jenson, 18th of 37; guards Ali Marpet (7th of 80) and Alex Cappa (23rd of 80); and tackles Tristan Wirfs (12 of 81) and Donovan Smith (38 of 81). Above average, but without any all-stars – the Pack’s O-line had three stars until Bakhtiari’s injury, so they still have two – sizable advantage to the Packers.


Jan 9, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes the ball under pressure from Washington Football Team defensive tackle Jonathan Allen (93) in the second quarter at FedExField. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


I’m hoping that keener followers of the NFL than I will offer some insights that go beyond this statistical run-through.

While the Bucs appear to be pretty solid across the board, they lack the firepower and athleticism that the Packers possess at most positions.

Brady had a fine year, especially in view of switching teams and coaches: 2nd best in TD passes, 3rd in passing yards – but only 9th in passer rating, 11th in yards per attempt, 19th in completion percentage, and tied for 6th worst in interceptions.

The Pack appears to have a decided edge with regard to running backs.

Based on the above points, Green Bay would seem to have the tools to sustain long drives, while the Bucs are going to need some big plays – something Green Bay hasn’t often surrendered in the second half of the season. Having one QB first in completion percentage (Rodgers steadily moved upwards on this stat all year) against another at 19th should be a decided advantage for the Packers.

It appears to me that the Bucs have no one in its defensive backfield who can begin to cope with Davante Adams. Rodgers of late has had lots of open targets to throw to, and that shouldn’t change this weekend.

The game might well come down to which team’s pass rushers can put the most pressure on which future HOF quarterback. On paper, the two pass rushes are pretty even.

One big difference between these combatants is that Bucs’ DC Todd Bowles loves to blitz, even as much as 40 percent of the time. DC Pettine prefers to stick with a four-man rush. Will these patterns hold true?

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Dean January 23, 2021

    The weather tomorrow should be OK for GB to pass the ball as usual. The slick field should slow the pass rush down a bit. TB likes to keep the box loaded to stop the run and blitz as pointed out. That is a different approach than the Rams who used light boxes and dared the offense to run — which GB happily did. I suspect we will see lots of quick passes from GB; however, they should not give up on the inside runs.

  2. Howard January 23, 2021

    Cappa one of TBs guards is on IR. Aaron Stinnie is his replacement. I think Stinnie only had 30 snaps during the regular season and 70 so far in the post season. I’m not sure of his rating among other guards, but a 50 PFF post season rating is not good. There is your weak link on the TB offensive line.
    Jamel Dean has not shown up on this weeks injury report. Jamel Dean left last weeks game in the 4th quarter and did not come back. It appeared Dean was grabbing at his groin. Maybe he just got hit in the groin, but Dean in week 14 or 15 had some groin issues. I think he actually missed a game or two?

    1. Kato January 23, 2021

      Howard- their safety Antoine Winfield Jr also popped up on the injury list with an ankle injury. Packers fans may recognize the name, given his father was a very good CB for a long time with the Vikings. If he can’t play, his replacement might be able to be exploited, and definitely expect Rodgers to look that way. Also, if he does play, it could be worth challenging him in coverage, especially if he finds himself on MVS.

      1. Robster January 23, 2021

        Imagine Antoine Winfield, Jr., on a gimpy ankle, trying to shadow MVS on a deep ball. He’s 5’9” and had a 4.45 dash time – MVS is 6’4” and had a 4.37 dash time. Winfield was taken 45th overall in the last draft, and was named a starter for the Bucs’ season opener. PFF grades the 22-year-old highly at run defense and pass rush, but very low (55.1) at coverage. Hmmm.

    2. Robster January 23, 2021

      What little we know about Aaron Stinnie renders him a marked man on Sunday. He’ll turn 27 next month, but has never started an NFL regular season game. Played at James Madison, an FCS college. Went undrafted in 2018. Picked up off waivers November 2019. . Taking turns lining up across from him could be Kenny Clark, Snacks Harrison, maybe even Za’Darius Smith or Rashan Gary. Being thrust into a conference championship game in this way is asking a lot of him.

      1. PF4L January 23, 2021

        So what’s the over/under on snaps for Snacks?

        1. Mick January 24, 2021

          Don’t know the snap count for Snacks but, if there ever was a game that we need a run stuffer; this is the one. It’s kind of a mystery why he hasn’t played more. When the Rams started playing up-tempo, they pulled Snacks. Maybe he is just that, a one dimensional run stuffer; or maybe he just doesn’t have it anymore. By that, I mean desire. After all, he sulked when he was replaced in the starting lineup in Seattle.

  3. Kato January 23, 2021

    One statistic, that may not necessarily mean anything given the Bucs have been good at stopping the run, but the Packers have averaged 182 rushing yards per game their last four games at Lambeau. Of course, one of those is against the Rams last weekend, and the Rams were third against the run. Something to look out for.

  4. Mick January 23, 2021

    Howard mentioned that Jamel Dean had groin issues in week 14 or 15, and last week he missed time with a groin issue. Sounds to me like a groin pull/ strain. Kato mentions Winfield Jr. has an ankle injury. If these guys don’t play, it will mess with the defenses chemistry, and if they do play at less than 100%, that cold air won’t do them any favors.

  5. PF4L January 23, 2021

    I see a lot written about groins, ankles, fast dash times, pff grades…..but who’s gonna win?

    1. Dean January 23, 2021

      Probably the teams that scores more points.

      1. PF4L January 23, 2021

        Only one team can win Dean
        But thanks for participating.

        1. Dean January 24, 2021

          Good catch! I’ll say GB by a touchdown. Nice snow fall this morning is a good sign.

          1. PF4L January 24, 2021

            Not much gets by me Dean. I didn’t finish 143rd in my class by accident.

  6. PF4L January 23, 2021

    Mercedes Lewis on the Bucs game….
    “We all understand the task at hand, and this game doesn’t even matter if we don’t get to….the big game.”
    Well….that’s insightful…i guess.

    1. PF4L January 23, 2021

      If they win it matters, if they lose, it doesn’t matter.
      I’m a lil slow but i think i got it!!!..YAY!!!!
      I wonder if he’s giving the pre game speech.

  7. Deepsky January 23, 2021

    For some reason Rodgers plays really poorly in Tampa Bay, throwing a lot of picks. Also, in the previous game, he actually started out pretty well, but when he got hit hard on his TD run, his accuracy deteriorated, maybe he had a mild concussion? The offensive line played poorly, but it was probably in the 90s on the field and for much of the time the sun was shining. I expect Rodgers and the offensive line to play much better at home. On the other hand, Bowles picked the best times to blitz, he almost seemed to have Rodgers/LaFluer’s number. Overall, the Packers won’t look terrible again but the Packers playing better at home only improves the results such that it’s a closer game. So then it comes down to Rodgers vs Brady at the end. Rodgers has never played well in an NFC Championship game with a 78 QB rating but Brady has pulled out victories at the end even after looking like crap for 2/3 of the game. I think the Packers lose this one in in the end in heart breaking fashion.

  8. PF4L January 23, 2021

    Well…i’ll agree with Deep in that this game won’t go as bad as the last game, not at Lambeau.
    I won’t be shocked if we lost, or if we win. But in about 17 hours, we are going to know who won this game.
    Thank God because i can’t deal with all the labor pains, just bring me the baby.

  9. Mick January 24, 2021

    I still have a big concern about the STs’. A mistake here could really swing the momentum in either direction. I’ve read that the Bucs’ STs’ aren’t any better—– which is somewhat of a comfort. We’ve all analyzed this game to death; I’m with PF4L; tee up the ball!

  10. Mick January 24, 2021

    In other NFC North news; Associated Press, Jan. 21st, “The Detroit Lions landed the coach they coveted from the start of their search by hiring Dan Campbell” .Geez, I hope the “exhausting search” wasn’t too stressful if they wanted Campbell from the start all along! Which brings me to this story; AP, Jan 23rd. Lions looking into trading QB M. Stafford. “The Lions and Stafford have mutually agreed to explore the possibilities of trading him, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation”. The Colts and Patriots are the teams that might have interest in M.S.

  11. Kato January 24, 2021

    It’s gameday, and there isn’t a gameday post yet :(

  12. Dean January 24, 2021

    Winfield Jr. out for the Bucs. He was excellent in run support.

  13. MMSUCKS January 24, 2021

    Like I said to PF4L a week ago, Rodgers cannot handle pressure AND Tampa 2 defense at the same time. 3 INT”S against Tampa Bay this year. This is getting ugly. Green Bay needs to find a fucking bunch of answers at halftime or this is over PERIOD.

  14. MMSUCKS January 24, 2021

    Kevin King sucks. It looks like I won’t have to watch the SB . . .