Bucs hope home games help boost their record

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) stands in the pocket during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Raymond James Stadium.Photo: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hoping the second half of the season and some home cooking will help them.

Five of the next eight games are at Raymond James Stadium, which presumably may give them an advantage.

It won't be easy. The Bucs begin by hosting the Washington Redskins at 1 p.m. Sunday. Head coach Jay Gruden's team is 5-3 and leading the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Bucs are coming off another defensive collapse at Carolina and a thrilling comeback that fell short.

Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his second straight start at quarterback for the Bucs. He played OK, but not great, in the loss to the Panthers, setting up their first touchdown with an interception.

Fitzpatrick was handed the job back after Jameis Winston threw 10 interceptions in three and a half games since returning from his three-game suspension.

Fitzpatrick has consistently brought the Bucs back. He's got lots of outside weapons to throw to. But he put the Bucs in a hole last week with a first-quarter interception.

Meanwhile, the Bucs defense has not gotten the job done. They have created no turnovers in five games. It's not likely to happen this week as the Bucs face Redskins quarterback Alex Smith.

"He's a 14-year vet," Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. "That's probably the thing he does best. That's probably why he's had the successful career he's had. He takes care of the ball. He takes very little risk. If you looked up the MO on Alex Smith, call up the Chief fans and see what his MO was. See what his MO is in Washington. That doesn't mean that doesn't win. His record speaks for itself - he's won a lot of games, but Alex Smith from whenever he started clear back with Urban Meyer, University of Utah, he has done a great job of taking care of the football his entire career and that's why he's been a starting quarterback for 14 years."

The Redskins are among the most physical teams in the NFL. They have a slew of injuries, with four more players going on injured reserve. But this will be a big test on both sides of the ball for the Bucs.

"I mean, look at how their team was built," Koetter said. "Their last two first-round picks on the D-line on the inside. They've got - when he's healthy - arguably the best left tackle on offense in the game. Their offensive line, one of the best in football even though they got hit hard by injuries here in the last week. They've got a really physical running back. They play a 3-4 coach Greg Manusky as their D-coordinator. They're I think eighth or something in the league stopping the run. They've gone from last in the league against the run two years ago to I think sixth in the league against the run right now. They're definitely built to be a physical football team and so far this season they've done that."

The Bucs are minus-15 in turnover ratio. That can't continue. They have to start fast and protect the football. If they do that, with all the Redskins injuries, they have a good shot.

SERIES HISTORY: 21st regular-season meeting. Series tied, 10-10. The teams have split the past four meetings. In 2015, the Bucs blew a 24-0 lead and lost at Washington 31-30 at FedExField, prompting then Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to scream "You like that!" on his way to the locker room.

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