Entering the season, the Buccaneers were a popular pick as an up-and-coming team that could push for the crown of the NFC South as well as a playoff berth. With a 2-6 record and in the midst of a five-game slide, they're a club struggling to find its way, but are not void of talent on both sides of the ball.
With that being said, third-year quarterback Jameis Winston won't play Sunday (shoulder) and the unit could be without their top playmaker in Mike Evans, who leads the team with 40 catches for 532 yards and four touchdowns. Evans was suspended Monday for shoving Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, but he's appealing the ruling. Former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start for the Bucs and the speedy DeSean Jackson would figure to become Tampa Bay's No. 1 wideout.
"Fitz was good when he was here," head coach Todd Bowles said on Monday's conference calls. "We're going down to play the Buccaneers, not Fitzpatrick. So we're going to prepare like it's a normal week and go down and try to get a win."
The Bucs defense currently ranks No. 30 in the league, but they do have a stud in the interior. Five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy paces the club with seven tackles for loss and 13 QB hits and is tied for the team lead with 2.0 sacks.
"They're disruptive," Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum said of Tampa's defensive line and linebackers. "They have a very good front seven and linebacking corps. We know up front we have another test on our hands and we have to take care of what we do. Make sure we're in the right fits, running the ball well, playing mistake-free football and putting Josh (McCown) in a great position from a protection standpoint."
Offensive Matchup to Watch: Jets WRs/TEs vs. Tampa Bay's Secondary
While the Jets may look to establish the ground game against the Bucs' 22nd ranked rush defense, Tampa could be without top cornerback Brent Grimes (shoulder). Grimes hasn't suited up the past two weeks for a unit that allows an average of 272 yards a game, which ranks No. 30 in the league. Conversely, Sunday will mark the Jets' first game without receiver Jeremey Kerley, who will miss the next four contests due to an NFL suspension. Bowles said the team has some gymnastics to do, but rookie wideouts ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen are slated to receive more playing time.
Defensive Matchup to Watch: Jets Front Seven vs. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has been handed the keys for the first time this season and could be without one of the top offensive weapons in football in Evans. The Jets have picked off opposing quarterbacks nine times this season, tied for seventh in the league. Last season, Fitzpatrick tossed 17 interceptions. In three appearances this season, the 13th-year vet has thrown for 358 yards, four touchdowns and two picks while completing 62.5% of his passes.