After losing a tough game to the Indianapolis Colts 16-13 in overtime in Week 4, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be on the road for the third straight week as they will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. This will be the sixth time that the two Florida teams have played one another.
The Jaguars enter Sunday’s game leading the series over the Buccaneers 4-1 and they have won the last four contest between the two. Jacksonville’s only loss in the series came during their inaugural season in 1995.
Jacksonville at Tampa Bay
Kickoff: 1 p.m. EST
Spread: Tampa Bay -2.5
Three Things to Watch For
1. Jameis Winston
Even though rookies often struggle as they get acclimated to playing in the NFL, Jameis Winston's poor performance against the Carolina Panthers wasn’t the norm. The former Heisman Trophy winner did finish 26-of-43 for 287 and two touchdowns, but he also threw four interceptions.
On the season, Winston has thrown for 965 yards, six touchdowns against seven interceptions. He is still making the same mistakes he made while at Florida State as he forces the ball into coverage while being pressured.
Despite his mistakes last week, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley likes what he has seen from Winston.
“You see flashes of why he was picked when he was picked,” said Bradley. “You see it and you say he makes some really good plays and then the ups and downs sometimes that you go through. I think the Saints game was a classic one. He played very well, no interceptions and played really well. And then another game he has multiple interceptions. So I think that’s the challenge they’re going through with him. It’s a new offense for him and the speed of the game, that’s a big transition.”
This week, Winston will be facing one of the better pass rushes in the league in the Jaguars. In four games, Jacksonville has eight sacks on the season. If Winston doesn’t limit his mistakes, it could be another long day for the quarterback.
2. T.J. Yeldon
Last week against the Colts, T.J. Yeldon crossed the century mark in a game for the first time in his young NFL career. The rookie rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries.
Bradley has been impressed with Yeldon’s progression.
“What I have been very pleased with him is his protection, said Bradley. “I think he’s done a really nice job. Some of the things we’ve seen on tape as far as making people miss and his instincts, that’s showing up. But the protection part I think has really stepped up his game.”
Tampa Bay’s defense has given up an average of 107.3 yards so far this season, which is the 16th best rush defense in the NFL. So Yeldon should be able to find holes in the Buccaneers defense, which will open up opportunities for the Jaguars offense. If Yeldon can have success running the ball, that will take pressure off of quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville passing game.
3. Buccaneers' defense
Despite their 1-3 record, Tampa’s defense has been among the best in the league during the first month of the season. The Buccaneers rank ninth in total defense as they’ve given up 322.3 yards per game. Tampa is also tied for second in the NFL in pass yards allowed with the New York Jets as they’ve both given up 185.5 per game.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bortles has already completed 11 passes for 20-yards or more in four games after completing 13 of them in 16 games last year. Tampa is ninth in the NFL in sacks with nine this season, so they have been able to get pressure on quarterbacks this year. If they want to force Bortles into mistakes, they will need to be active in Jacksonville's backfield early and often.
Jacksonville and Tampa are two evenly matched teams, so that should make for a highly-contested meeting. The difference in the game will likely be who wins the turnover battle, and that advantage goes to the Jaguars.
Tampa Bay has already turned the ball over 10 times in four games this season. Jacksonville should be able to force Winston into some mistakes.
Expect Bortles to use a lot of play action to get the ball to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns down the field. It should be a close game, but Jacksonville will pull out the close victory in the end.
Prediction: Jaguars 21, Buccaneers 17
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.