The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will cap off their regular season schedule with a road matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18.
The Buccaneers will not enter their divisional clash with the Falcons in dire need of a win. They clinched both the NFC South and the No. 4 seed in the NFC following their home victory over the Carolina Panthers. They will face either the Philadelphia Eagles or the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC wild-card round.
Nonetheless, Tampa Bay’s upcoming contest against Atlanta will still mean much to the coaches and the players. The NFC South powerhouse is a win away from locking up its third consecutive winning season, and more so, multiple backup and third-string talents may receive an opportunity to prove their worth to the coaching staff in Week 18.
Here are three predictions for Tampa Bay’s regular season finale.
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3. Kyle Trask shines off the bench with two touchdown passes
Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles noted during a press conference on Wednesday that as it stands, he is planning on playing his regular starters against the Falcons. However, multiple backups and third-stringers for Tampa Bay may get a chance to step onto the field at some point in Week 18, including Kyle Trask.
“He may dress – he has a good chance of dressing,” Bowles said of Trask’s availability against Atlanta.
Trask has not been under center for a single official snap since joining the Buccaneers organization as a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has had a front-row seat to watch and learn from Tom Brady, and he did receive playing time during the last two preseasons.
Brady is set to start in Week 18, and Bowles did also mention on Wednesday that “if Tom comes out, Blaine [Gabbert] will go in after him.” In the case that Bowles then opts to later sub out Gabbert, it will be Trask’s time to shine, and he should go on to make the most out of his first NFL appearance by throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the second half.
In the big picture, there is much that stands out to Bowles about the former Florida Gators quarterback.
“Since he’s been here, every time I look out my window, he’s out there working on his own,” Bowles said. “He has the greatest resolve and toughness and inner strength almost than any person I’ve seen. A young guy coming out – he prepares every day. When his time comes, he’s going to be ready because I see him working at it every day. He has inner toughness, he has inner strength, and he has the drive and the will to win.
“If you put that together, given the opportunity, I think he’s going to take advantage of it.”
2. Buccaneers record three takeaways for the third straight game
One of the main talking points for the Buccaneers over the first half of their campaign centered on their takeaway woes. Overall, they tallied a mere 11 total takeaways in their first 12 contests this season. The script has flipped for the reigning NFC South champions in the takeaways department as of late.
Tampa Bay has recorded eight takeaways in its last four games, including a combined six takeaways in its previous two games. In its NFC South-clinching win over Carolina, the Buccaneers defense helped out the Brady-led offense by securing a trio of takeaways, including two fumble recoveries off of Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.
For Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III, he has no explanation as to just why the turnovers have come in bunches for the defense.
“I wish I knew the solution, but it’s just like – sometimes it comes, and it comes in bunches,” Davis said during a press conference on Wednesday. “At that point, you’ve just got to take advantage of it and stay hungry. It just comes, and now you’re just getting them back-to-back-to-back and now the ball’s just finding you.
“So, it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to be patient for, but also stay ready.”
The Buccaneers should make it three straight games with at least three takeaways, which is a feat that they have not accomplished since the 2002 season.
1. Buccaneers clinch their first double-digit win since Week 2
The Buccaneers have not made it easy on themselves as of late, but they should pick up a convincing double-digit win over the Falcons to finish the campaign with a 5-1 record against divisional opponents. They will then shift their focus to preparing for the showdown with the Eagles or the Cowboys in the opening round of the NFL playoffs.