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Behind Enemy Lines: Insider Analysis on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sports Illustrated-Fan Nation's team publisher Zach Goodall serves up the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who host the New York Giants on Monday Night Football in Week 11.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost their last two games in a row, both on the road, and they're not happy campers. But don't look for the Giants to be sympathetic as they are focused on stacking their first back-to-back wins of the 2021 season in what could be a statement game for Big Blue if they pull off theupset win.

What are the Giants up against, besides future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, of course? Sports Illustrated-Fan Nation's team publisher Zach Goodall answers five burning questions about the Bucs for us. 

1. The Bucs have lost their last two games. What has been the common thread in those losses?

They were shooting themselves in the foot, which has been a problem all year long, including when they win. Tom Brady was intercepted twice against New Orleans and Washington while fumbling on a sack versus the Saints. His picks against Washington came early on in the game and didn't allow Brady to ever get in a groove as Tampa Bay reverted to a conservative passing offense.

Penalties and struggles with conversion defense have also been a common theme all year long, and each fault impacted the Buccaneers' recent losses. The Bucs were flagged 11 times for 99 yards against the Saints, including six defensively that resulted in a first down for a New Orleans offense playing its third-string quarterback.

And against Washington, the Bucs allowed 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) third-down conversions and 2-of-2 fourth-down conversions. On their game-sealing, 19-play, 10:26 touchdown drive at the end of the game, the Football Team converted 4-of-5 third downs and one of their fourth-down tries.

2. Can you update us on some of the key injuries and the impact they’ve had on the team?

Injuries have been non-stop for this Buccaneers team, and they took a step back after projecting a healthier lineup post-bye week. Although cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and receiver Scotty Miller are in the injured reserve practice window, cornerback Carlton Davis III's has yet to be opened, and fellow cornerback Rashard Robinson landed on the IR just last week.

In addition, cornerback Richard Sherman isn't expected to be available for the foreseeable future with a calf injury, while another cornerback in Dee Delaney is currently concussed. And defensive tackle Vita Vea was carted off at the end of the Washington game with a bone bruise and slight MCL sprain.

But wait, there's more! Receiver Antonio Brown has now missed three games in a row with an ankle injury that required a boot, and Rob Gronkowski has played just six snaps since Week 4 as he recovers from fractured ribs.

I get it, most people don't want to hear injury luck as an excuse, and I do believe Tampa Bay has lost games because of their own mistakes instead of talent this year. But injuries have certainly had an impact on the results.


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3. Has this team been experiencing a Super Bowl hangover?

If so, it was a delayed hangover that began in Week 8. Tampa Bay picked up where it left off offensively to begin this season as Brady and his vast arsenal of weapons were playing some of the best football of their careers.

But injuries and, as head coach Bruce Arians says, "dumb" mistakes have caught up to them. The next several weeks will be telling because if the Bucs can't clean up these issues and get healthy, they probably won't make a deep run in the 2021-22 playoffs.

4. Which under-the-radar players do the Giants need to be wary of?

Does Chris Godwin count? He's well-respected but at the same time underrated among the NFL's top receivers. He leads Tampa Bay in receptions (57) and yards (717), although Mike Evans and Antonio Brown get more attention for their top-tier play-making ability and touchdown grabs.

Godwin has proven he can stretch the field, was surprisingly efficient within the Bucs' conservative game plan this past weekend while playing on a hurt foot, and is a tremendous blocker in the run game. He's an X-factor for this team and deserves more credit for the Buccaneers' offensive success from a national perspective.

5. What is the X-factor in this game?

Although I just called Godwin an X-factor, the X-factor for Tampa Bay to win this game is to avoid losing tendencies - the same ones I listed above: Turnovers, conversion defense, and penalties.

This year, the Bucs haven't been "out-talented" other than the loss to the Los Angeles Rams as Matthew Stafford and Co. rolled against a banged-up pass rush and secondary. Rather, this team has lost games on its own by committing various mistakes that Super Bowl contenders should not be committing.

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