Cleveland Browns Scouting Report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

'Although he may play another season, Tom Brady likely will be making his last appearance in Cleveland on Sunday. The Browns are 1-7 against the QB GOAT. (New York Times)

'Although he may play another season, Tom Brady likely will be making his last appearance in Cleveland on Sunday. The Browns are 1-7 against the QB GOAT. (New York Times)

Cleveland Browns scouting report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is an analyst on the Cleveland Browns for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Browns v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, 1 p.m., in FirstEnergy Stadium

Record: 5-5.

Last game: Defeated Seattle Seahawks, 21-16, Nov. 13, in Munich, Germany.

Coach: Todd Bowles, 5-5, first year; 31-46 overall.

Series record: Browns lead, 6-4.

Last meeting: Buccaneers won, 26-23 in OT, Oct. 21, 2018, in Tampa, FL.

League rankings: Offense is 17th overall (32nd rushing, fifth passing), defense is seventh overall (14th rushing, sixth passing) and turnover differential is plus-1.

Things to watch

1If the Buccaneers reach their destination of another Super Bowl with Tom Brady, they will point to Munich as the place in which they found themselves. Against the Seahawks, they finally put together a running game – something Brady had been pining for all season. Brady, 45, had been on pace to surpass his personal record of 719 pass attempts set last year. The vast majority were dinks and dunks to avoid getting hit. In Munich, the running back tandem of rookie Rachaad White (105 yards) and Leonard Fournette (57) churned out 162 yards on 39 attempts. It helped limit Brady’s pass attempts to 29 after averaging 44 in the first nine games. The emergence of White, a third-round draft pick who is also a good pass catcher, was a big factor. Also, the play of veteran left guard Nick Leverette has stabilized the offensive line.

2. Brady has had a tumultuous year – he retired, unretired, effected a coaching change, signed a $375 million future broadcasting deal with FOX Sports, lived down substantiated reports that he tried to jump to the Miami Dolphins with free agent coach Sean Payton, endured one of the worst stretches of his 23-year NFL playing career, and then had a very publicized divorce. He’s 2-0 since splitting with Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bundchen, the mother of two of Brady’s three children, and things are looking up again. His team is getting healthy and the reborn running game will help him return to his former QB self and stop chucking 2- and 3-yard dinks.

3. With the Browns forced to turn to Hjalte Froholdt to play center – he was the fourth center in training camp – the Bucs’ defense comes in as their worst possible opponent. The Bucs feast on pressuring QBs up the middle with tackles Vita Vea, a 346-pound strongman who forklifts linemen into quarterbacks, and rejuvenated veteran Akiem Hicks, with help from inside linebacker Devin White. The Bucs were the top defense against the run the past two years and are playing closer to that recently with Hicks back from a plantar fasciitis injury.

4. Another reason things are looking up for Brady’s offense is his receivers are getting healthy. Mike Evans (49 catches, 671 yards) is the No. 1, but slot receiver Chris Godwin only recently has looked like himself after a torn ACL last December. Newcomers to Brady this year, Julio Jones (knee) and Russell Gage (hamstring), also seem poised for a healthy stretch run.

5. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. may be one of the league’s underrated defensive players. Only 5-9 and 203 pounds, he is a physical tackler who leads all DBs in tackles for loss (six) and is third in sacks (three). Winfield is third among DBs in tackles since 2020.

Did you know … ?

1. Former Bucs coach Bruce Arians, 70, a former Browns offensive coordinator, remains on the payroll as a team consultant but has ceased traveling with the club since suffering pericarditis (inflammation surrounding the heart) in October.

2Receiver Julio Jones, 33, leads active players in career receptions (887) and receiving yards (13,508) and is sixth in touchdowns (63). Mike Evans is second in touchdowns (78).

3. The Browns have faced Brady eight times, all when he played for the Patriots, have defeated him one time, 34-14, in Cleveland in 2010 – Eric Mangini’s signature win as Cleveland coach.

4Brady’s contract with Tampa Bay runs out after this season. Although many believe he will not return to the Bucs, it’s very possible he will seek another team in free agency and pursue a Super Bowl title with a third different team – something no quarterback has done. It is commonly believed that Brady would like to enter team ownership ranks at some point, too.

5. Rookie punter Jake Camarda, a fourth-round draft pick from Georgia, has been among the league leaders with a 49.0 gross average and 43.8 net. His first punt of his career hit the scoreboard above AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. His re-kick went 60 yards.

6. Right tackle Tristan Wirfs of Iowa was the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2020 at No. 13, taken three notches after the Browns selected Jedrick Wills. Wirfs earned a Super Bowl and all-rookie honors in 2020 and was named first team All-Pro in 2021. He has not missed a game in his 2 ½ seasons.

Small world: Head coach Todd Bowles was Browns secondary coach 2001-04 … Running backs coach Todd McNair had the same position with the Browns 2001-03 … Assistant wide receivers coach Thaddeus Lewis (2011-13, 15) and assistant secondary coach Tim Atkins (2014-15) played for the Browns … Defensive end Carl Nassib (2016-17), receiver Breshad Perriman (2018) and linebacker Genard Avery (2019) all played for the Browns.