By Charles Jay
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will start the regular season behind the eight-ball, in a sense, in that they will be missing starting quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games because of a suspension. But that opens up an interesting situation as they get together with the Tennessee Titans in an NFL pre-season game that is set to begin at 8 PM ET at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Winston got caught up legal troubles and found himself in trouble for that. So he’ll have to sit out the first three games, but that doesn’t mean he has to sit out training camp. Under NFL rules, he can participate fully in camp and in pre-season games. And that means Winston can play in these games. At the same time, head coach Dirk Koetter has to get someone ready to start the first three games, and in this case, that’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, the wily veteran who has seemingly played with everybody. The way this schedule is going to work, Fitzpatrick will start the game, and then give way to Winston, who may either find himself working with starters for an extended period or against second-team players (or “twos”) for Tennessee.
The Bucs beat their in-state rivals, the Miami Dolphins, by a 26-24 score last week, while the Titans were beaten 31-17 by the Green Bay Packers.
In the NFL betting odds posted on this game by the folks at PPHVIP.com, the Titans are favored:
Tennessee Titans -3 (-105)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3 (-115)
Over 42 points -110
Under 42 points -110
Tennessee got a nice effort out of Marcus Mariota last week, although it was a brief one. He led the team on a touchdown drive on his only possession. But the Titans’ secondary was torched, to put it mildly. It seemed every Green Bay quarterback was hitting the mark, and Tim Boyle, a Division III passer, looked like an All-Pro. Altogether, Tennessee allowed 356 yards through the air, which is obviously very high for any pre-season game.
And these teams conducted joint practices this week, in which the Bucs’ receiver repeatedly beat the Titans’ defenders, to the point where Koetter was positively effusive. Will that carry over to the game itself? Well, if you can’t cover, you can’t cover.
Tampa Bay will have some young talent back there in the secondary, as draftees MJ Stewart, Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead are all trying to situate themselves. Veteran standout Vernon Hargreaves, who has a groin injury, won’t be out there at all.
What about those quarterbacks who are out there for the “mop-up” duty? Well, Ryan Griffin, who has had some pre-season experience, was outstanding for the Bucs last week, going 20 of 26 for 179 yards, and let’s not forget that he will be the backup once the regular season gets started. Tennessee’s Luke Falk, who set a number of Pac-12 records at Washington State, is on the learning curve, for the most part, because he has to get himself acclimated to being in a pro offense.
Our edge here goes to Tampa Bay plus the points.
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(The preceding information has been furnished for news matter only)