Tom Brady has a winning record against 30 franchises. He’s never played the Patriots and his lone losing record is to the Broncos, the team he faces on Sunday. Brady has won just eight of his 17 career starts against Denver.
Date: Sunday, September 27
Time: 4:25 pm ET
Location: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Line: Buccaneers -5.5 (-110)
Over/Under: 43.0 points (-110)
There will be fans in attendance on Sunday, as Denver has been permitted to fill the stadium to 7.5% capacity (5,700 fans). The Broncos faithful will be happy to see their team in person but how happy will they be with the outcome of the Week 3 matchup?
Denver (0-2) lost to Tennessee in Week 1. They followed that up by losing to the Steelers in Week 2 and John Elway’s franchise is expected to go 0-3, as Tampa Bay is a 5.5-point favorite (DraftKings).
The Buccaneers are 1-1, following a dominant win over the Panthers and they have the talent to take care of business against an injury-depleted Broncos team on Sunday, as I discussed on this week’s Desktop GM podcast.
The Broncos are reeling after losing several players to injury.
Starting quarterback Drew Lock injured his shoulder on Sunday vs. the Steelers. It was diagnosed a sprained AC joint in his shoulder and he is expected to be out 2-to-6 weeks. However, the Broncos are hopeful that Lock can return before the team’s Week 8 bye, as Pro Football Action relayed.
Von Miller and A.J. Bouye are on injured reserve, Phillip Lindsay is expect to miss 2-to-3 more weeks with a toe ailment, and Courtland Sutton was placed on IR with an ACL tear this week.
The Buccaneers will be without Justin Watson, who filled in for Chris Godwin in the slot last week. Jason Pierre-Paul has dealt with knee woes during the week, but he’s expected to play. As of this writing, all else looks good in Tampa.
Can the Broncos Stop Mike Evans?
Evan began the season with a one-catch performance, fueled by a hamstring injury and coverage from Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. However, in Week 2, the All-Pro shines, receiving 10 targets, which was a whopping 34.5% of his routes ran.
“We just took what the defense gave us this week,” Evans said (via the Tampa Bay Tribune). “There wasn’t a lot of double teams this week, a lot of zone, and Tom was just picking it apart.”
Head coach Bruce Arians made it a point to feature Evans in the playbook and it sounds like that’s something that isn’t going away.
“We’ve got to do that every week,” Arians said. “We can’t ever let Mike just sit still and be somewhere where everybody can double-cover him. Tom did a great job of finding him, especially deep down the middle.”
No team has given up as many receptions or yardage to perimeter receivers than the Broncos have this season. Evans and teammate Chris Godwin, who is returning from a concussion should have an easy time in Denver.
Don’t Expect a Vintage Brady Performance
While the wide receivers face a good matchup, Denver actually does a good job at decreasing passing totals. They cut yards and touchdowns per attempt by 4% and 17%, both top 10 in football, as Scott Spratt writes on Football Outsiders.
Brady hasn’t been utilizing his tight ends, as we broke down earlier this week, and Arians seems content with playing Rob Gronkowski without any expectation from him in the passing game.
“We haven’t had that many red-zone opportunities and I don’t see him running 40 yards past people any more,” Arians said. “We brought him in to play tight end. If that means no catches, that means no catches.”
Brady should put up enough to win the game in Denver but don’t expect a historic performance. It’s just a casual business trip for the greatest QB to ever play.
Predictions: Broncos +5.5 Cashes in
- Buccaneers 21-17
Those expecting the Buccaneers to blow out opponents might be disappointed. Brady’s new club has played rather slow through the first two games of the season; only five teams have ran fewer offensive plays than Tompa Bay at 61.0 per contest, as Teamrankings.com showcases (Brady ran 67.9 offensive plays per game last season in New England).
Admittedly, it’s a small sample size, but I’d temper expectations going forward. As for this game, I expect it to be a closer game than many realize.
Record on the Season
You can follow Chris Crouse on Twitter at @NBACrouse and stay up to date with the latest in Tampa Bay via the Heavy on Buccaneers Facebook Page.