GAME TIME: Sunday, November 20, 2016 at 1:00 p.m., ET
LOCATION: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO
The Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) hope to maintain their position at the top of a tight race in the AFC West as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) come into town. The Chiefs are coming off a 5th straight victory as their defense carried them to a victory in the waning minutes of their Week 10 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. The Buccaneers likewise hope build on a dominating win last week over the lowly Chicago Bears and make up some ground against NFC South top team, the Atlanta Falcons.
These two teams don’t play each other very often with the last time being in 2012, a year in which the Chiefs were notably bad and lost to Tampa 38-10. In fact, Tampa will be bringing a four game win streak, dating back to 1999, into Arrowhead stadium and an all-time 6-5 record over the Chiefs in their 11 matchups since 1976. The 2012 Chiefs led by short-lived starter Brady Quinn in a year marred with poor QB play are much different this year than they were in a year that in which they ended 2-14 earning them the 1st pick of the 2013 Draft and picked current Tackle, Eric Fisher.
The Buccaneers will bring an offense led by Jameis Winston into the hostile Arrowhead environment, where the young QB will be tested by the ball-hawking Chiefs defense. Winston has had some trouble with turnovers this year with 10 interceptions in nine games throwing an interception once in every 30 attempts. Marcus Peters and Eric Berry will look early and often to make big plays against the mistake-prone Winston.
While the Chiefs secondary will certainly look to be aggressive against Winston they will have to watch out for Mike Evans who has solidified himself in his third year as a legit number one wide receiver with his 6’5”, 231 lbs frame. Evans has become Winston’s favorite target and has amassed 811 yards and 8 TDs on 59 receptions putting him in the top ten in the league in all three categories. On top of Mike Evans dominance, Tampa received a shot in the arm last week when Doug Martin returned from his week 2 injury finding the endzone once on 16 carries for a team that looks to improve on its league middling rushing stats.
QB Rankings Is Mariota really this good?
Draft Preview:: Breaking down the best linebackers in this year’s class
Mailbag: What’s next for Romo?
Perhaps the biggest story of this game however, will be on the Chiefs team who look to play Justin Houston, their sack master and the heart of their defense for the first time this year. Dee Ford, who will likely play opposite him has been great as Houston’s replacement all year with a league leading 10 sacks but Houston will almost certainly be an upgrade to this Chiefs pass rush. Longtime Chief Tamba Hali has been struggling getting to the QB on the edge with less opportunities to rest than he has been accustomed to and while Frank Zombo has been serviceable in spots Houston, who was half a sack off the sack record two years ago, will look to get back into playing shape before the Chiefs matchup against division rival, Denver Broncos, next week.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Chiefs look to bounce back from two poor performances in a row as they hope to get back WR Jeremy Maclin from a groin injury. Without Maclin the Chiefs lose a major weapon and comforting figure for QB Alex Smith, but in his absence Rookie WR Tyreek Hill has certainly shined making dazzling catches and burning opposing secondaries on several occasions. Whether Maclin can go or not they need QB Alex Smith to bounce back after being knocked out with a head injury twice in the Week 8 game against the Colts. At times last week Smith looked lost against the Panthers and overthrew or entirely missed players open in the endzone on three occasions. Perhaps to take the stress off Smith they can put RBs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West to work and take advantage of a weak Tampa rushing defense who has given up almost 120 yards per game.