Struggling Buccaneers defense faces another rookie QB, hosting Will Levis and the Tennessee Titans

TENNESSEE (3-5) at TAMPA BAY (3-5)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS


AGAINST THE SPREAD: Tennessee 4-4; Tampa Bay 5-3.

SERIES RECORD: Titans lead 10-2.

LAST MEETING: Titans beat Buccaneers 27-23 on Oct. 27, 2019, in Nashville.

LAST WEEK: Titans lost to Steelers 20-16 in Pittsburgh; Buccaneers lost to Texans 39-37 in Houston.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Titans minus 3; Buccaneers plus-8.

TITANS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Will Levis. The No. 33 overall draft pick out of Kentucky is 1-1 as a starter. He will be the eighth rookie in franchise history to start least three games. The job is Levis’ as Tennessee tries to salvage this season and see what Levis brings for the future. Levis has four TD passes and one interception. He completed seven passes of at least 20 yards or longer.

BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Rachaad White is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry rushing in a struggling ground attack, however he’s gained more than 100 yards from scrimmage each of the past two weeks while playing a more prominent role in the passing game. The second-year pro has 33 receptions for 279 yards, ranking second among NFL running backs in each of those categories.

KEY MATCHUP: Levis against a defense facing a rookie QB for the second straight week. The Bucs allowed five touchdown passes and an NFL rookie-record 470 yards through the air to C.J. Stroud in last Sunday’s narrow loss to the Texans. One key figures to be how well the Titans protect the ball. Tampa Bay’s defense ranks among the league’s best with 15 takeaways.

KEY INJURIES: Titans CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (thumb), LT Nicholas Petit-Frere (shoulder), RG Daniel Brunskill (right ankle) and WR Treylon Burks (concussion) are out. ... LB Azeez Al-Shaair (ankle) and RT Chris Hubbard (concussion protocol) practiced fully Friday. ... CB Roger McCreary (hamstring) should return after missing two straight games. ... Both starting CBs are on Tampa Bay’s injury report, Carlton Davis (toe) and Jamel Dean (concussion protocol) are questionable after leaving last week’s game at Houston. ... LG Matt Feiler (knee), returned to practice this week after being inactive for two games but he is doubtful.

SERIES NOTES: The Titans have dominated this series since the Bucs start as an expansion franchise in 1976. The Titans have won three straight. The two losses both came in Tampa.

STATS AND STUFF: This is Tennessee’s second of three straight road games. The Titans haven’t won away from Nashville since Nov. 17, 2022, a prime-time win in Green Bay. They have dropped seven straight on the road, including the first four this season. Five of those losses were one-score games. … The Titans are 10-1 under coach Mike Vrabel with nine or more days between games and 4-1 playing on Sundays after a Thursday night game. … K Nick Folk has made 27 straight field goals. He’s converted a league-record 72 consecutive field goals on attempts of less than 40 yards. He needs one field goal to pass Jan Stenerud (373) for 19th all time in the NFL. … Two-time league rushing champ Derrick Henry has 8,936 rushing yards. He trails only Eddie George (10,009) for the most in franchise history. … Tyjae Spears is fourth among rookie RBs with 340 scrimmage yards. … WR DeAndre Hopkins leads the Titans with 564 receiving. He’s the fourth WR since 2000 with at least 500 yards receiving in each of his first 11 seasons. … WR Kyle Phillips had a career-high 68 receiving yards last week. … Bucs QB Baker Mayfield threw for 265 yards and two TDs without an interception and had a season-best passer rating of 119.4 last week against Houston. ... Bucs WR Mike Evans (37 receptions, 594 yards) is on track for a 10th consecutive season with at least 1,000 yards receiving. ... TE Cade Otton is emerging as a dependable option for Mayfield. The second-year pro had six catches for a career-best 70 yards and two TDs last week. ... LB Lavonte David (1,422) is closing in on Hall of Famer Ronde Barber (1,428) for second place on the Bucs career tackles list.

FANTASY TIP: Evans had 11 receptions for 198 yards and two receptions the previous time he faced the Titans. He has caught five of the 12 TD passes Mayfield has thrown through eight games this season.


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