In a season filled with ups and downs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are clearly trending downward. After a three-win streak that possibly saved head coach Greg Schiano's job, the Bucs laid an egg last week against the Carolina Panthers.
Buccaneers rookie QB Mike Glennon seems to have fared better. Pro Football Focus graded Glennon at minus-6.0. Neither Manuel nor Glennon is very good under pressure, but Manuel doesn't appear to be good in any aspect of his game.
The Bucs' best chance of winning is simply applying pressure up front with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. He is the Bucs' only reliable pass-rusher, and even he is often foiled by his own coaching staff. After McCoy successfully lobbied for more straight pass-rushing over the team's less successful stunting, Bucs defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan reverted to a useless blend of stunts and blitzing.
The way Sheridan squandered the talent on the defensive side of the ball earned him a one-way ticket to the unemployment line. He has arguably the best players at the three levels of an NFL defense: McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
It will be up to the Bucs defense to win what will likely become a war of attrition. The Bills defense is among the best in the league. Their defensive line, led by defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive end Kyle Williams, is stout in both its pass rush and its run defense.
Linebacker Mario Williams is still one of the best pass-rushers in the league. Even former first-round pick Jerry Hughes has come into his own, earning a 12.7 grade from Pro Football Focus.
The struggling Bucs offense will have its hands full. Coming into this season, the Bucs offensive line was believed to be the strongest unit on the team. Now it is arguable the worst. While tackles Donald Penn and Demar Dotson are solid, the money the Bucs invested in the line's interior has yet to pay any dividends.
The Bucs shouldn't expect to run the ball too well despite finding a diamond in the rough in running back Bobby Rainey. Glennon better be ready to play on the run as the pass rush from both the interior and the edge will make keeping the pocket clean a real challenge for Penn and Co.
It falls on Glennon to simply make fewer mistakes than Manuel. Fortunately for the Bucs, Glennon has demonstrated strong decision-making aptitude, throwing 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions in nine games.
Though the Bucs are already out of playoff contention, the coaching staff will do everything in their power to maximize the team's output to close out the season. Their jobs likely depend on it.