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CINCINNATI (AP) — With their defense unable to stop anybody Bobby Hart Jersey , the Buccaneers fired their coordinator and got a better showing — and a slump-busting win — the next time out.The Bengals won’t be doing anything so drastic, even though they’ve got significant issues that came to the forefront during their second-worst drubbing under coach Marvin Lewis. All they can do is hope players get healthy and things get better before it all slips away.Their matchup Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium could be a pivotal moment heading into the season’s midpoint.“I still believe we’re in great shape,” Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd said. “I don’t think we’re a bad team or we’re coming off a week we can’t overcome. But we’ve got to tighten up now.”Tampa Bay (3-3) ended a three-game slide that cost defensive coordinator Mike Smith his job. He was replaced last week by former Bucs assistant coach Mark Duffner, who simplified the game plan. The Buccaneers held Cleveland to 305 total yards and had five sacks during a 26-23 overtime victory .The showing was encouraging, and so is the upcoming schedule. Tampa Bay is nearing the end of a stretch of four road games out of five, with one more at Carolina next week. Then the Buccaneers play four of five at home.“How we won the game Sunday — if we continue doing that, I think we’ll be fine,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has had a sack in each of the last five games.It’s not so clear cut for the Bengals (4-3), who have squandered much of their fast start with a last-minute home loss to Pittsburgh and a 45-10 loss at Kansas City last Sunday night. The defense got shredded for 551 yards, the offense managed a season-low 239 total yards, and there were missed tackles and botched plays that figured in their second-biggest margin of defeat during Lewis’ 16 seasons.The game on Sunday begins a favorable stretch for the Bengals: four of five at home. They’ve already fallen out of first place in the AFC North and can’t slip any more behind.“This game is important for us, and we want to end the first half of the season the right way Cheap Ryan Glasgow Jersey ,” quarterback Andy Dalton said.Five things to watch at Paul Brown Stadium:BETTER DThe Buccaneers’ defense was much better vs. Cleveland, but it still ranks last in pass defense. Middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and backup linebacker Jack Cichy suffered season-ending knee injuries against the Browns, forcing a shuffle at the position. Adarius Taylor moves from outside linebacker to the middle, and Devante Bond — who rejoined the team last week after being released in September — takes over at the outside spot.“That’s a great linebacker we lost,” Pierre-Paul said of Alexander.THIRD TIMEJameis Winston makes his third start since returning from a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The Buccaneers’ offense is ranked No. 1 in the league. Winston threw for 365 yards against the Browns but was sacked four times, threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble, a reminder of his biggest problem: turnovers.“It’s costing us points and putting us at risk,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said.DALTON’S CHALLENGEDalton got off to his best start since 2015 , throwing for 11 touchdowns in the first four games. The offense has stalled in the last three, with Dalton throwing for only four touchdowns. The Bengals have been hurt by the loss of two tight ends and running back Giovani Bernard. They were one-dimensional in the drubbing at Kansas City, with receiver A.J. Green accounting for 110 of their 139 total yards in the first half. They’ll be looking to get running back Joe Mixon and the other receivers more heavily involved against the Buccaneers.“A.J. is going to get his — he deserves it, and he should,” Dalton said. “He’s a big part of why this offense has been successful throughout the years. But if we can spread the ball around Jordan Evans Jersey Limited , it helps.”FLAT AND FLATTENEDThe Bengals’ defense played its sloppiest game in Kansas City, with missed tackles helping the Chiefs pile up those 551 yards. Cincinnati’s defense is ranked second to last in the league in yards allowed and third worst in points allowed.“We’ve just got to have that fire,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “We didn’t play with enough fire.”OLD FRIENDSLewis and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter have been close friends since they were teammates at Idaho State from 1978-80. They were in each other’s weddings. They remain close even as they get set to try to beat each other.“When you’re playing each other, I don’t know if you’d say it’s special because both guys want their team to win,” Koetter said. “We’ll be rooting against each other.” CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Mixon had one of the best games of his career in yet another Bengals loss — making it seven of their past eight, and counting. He sees no reason to slow down even as another season slips away in Cincinnati.“Right now, we are down but we ain’t out, so that’s how I’m approaching it,” the second-year running back said. “I’m going to approach it like we’re in.”Technically, the last-place Bengals (5-8) aren’t eliminated from playoff contention despite their third-longest losing streak in coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons. They could still get the AFC North title if they win out and the Steelers, Ravens and Browns all fall apart the rest of the way.A loss Sunday to the Raiders (3-10) would eliminate the pretense and leave Cincinnati with a third straight losing season and a lot of big questions to address in the offseason: Does Lewis stay? Who’s the next defensive coordinator? Will anything really change so long as Mike Brown runs the franchise?By contrast, the Raiders are already in next-year mode. Following a 24-21 win over the Steelers , they fired general manager Reggie McKenzie and launched into a front-office reshuffle in preparation for coach Jon Gruden’s second season back with the Raiders.They don’t have a general manager and they’re not sure where they’ll be playing next season before moving to Las Vegas in 2020 Nick Vigil Jersey , but all that’s for later. First, they have to finish a season in flux.“When you get here, it’s just rainbows and butterflies because you made it to the NFL,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “All of a sudden, you get new friends every year. I think I’ve counted I’ve had like 27 different people in the locker next to me in five years. It just shows you how tough this business is.”Some things to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:STRIKE THE BALANCECarr has found a comfort zone in Gruden’s offense. He began the season overly aggressive, throwing eight interceptions in the first five games. Then he got overly cautious, failing to complete a pass of more than 10 yards twice in a span of three games.He’s finally gotten a balance.Carr has gone a franchise-record eight straight games without an interception and has regained his deep touch. He completed nine passes that traveled at least 15 yards downfield the past two games against Kansas City and Pittsburgh, equaling his total from his previous six games combined. Now he’s facing the NFL’s worst defense.“I feel more confident in our system,” Carr said. “I feel like my reads are quicker. I feel like I can get through things and eliminate things faster. That feels better.”RAIDERS BANGED-UP O-LINEThe Raiders come into the game with major questions on the offensive line. Starting left tackle Kelechi Osemele missed last week’s game with a toe injury. Starting right tackle Gabe Jackson is dealing with an elbow injury.Backup Jon Feliciano was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury, leaving Chaz Green and Denver Kirkland as potential options against Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and the rest of the Bengals.“I know that both of them are as tough as they come and if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Gruden said. “They have the will Andy Dalton Jersey , I know that. We’ll just hope for the best.”GUENTHER’S RETURNPaul Guenther left Cincinnati after 13 years on Lewis’ staff, including the last four as defensive coordinator, to join Gruden’s staff. He knows the Bengals’ offense, which is struggling mightily with quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green out for the season because of injuries.Guenther also is very familiar with Jeff Driskel, who makes his third NFL start in Dalton’s place. The Bengals expect Guenther to try to disguise blitzes and coverages to throw off Driskel.“I know whenever you’re going against a quarterback who hasn’t played much, as a defense you’re always looking forward to it,” Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey said.TURNING MIXON LOOSEMixon had a career-high 26 carries for 111 yards during a 26-21 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles. He also caught a team-high five passes, becoming the focal point of Cincinnati’s depleted offense. The Bengals plan to lean on him heavily in the final three games. The Raiders know he’s the one to stop.“Man, he’s good,” Gruden said. “He’s a great slash. He can stop and start. He has power. He’s a good receiver. He’s a good blitz pickup guy. He’s putting it together in Cincinnati.”WILL ANYBODY WATCH?A small crowd is expected for the Bengals’ final home game. They’ve gone 3-4 at Paul Brown Stadium before some of the smallest crowds in its history. Their average of 51,673 is the second-smallest attendance since the 65,535-seat stadium opened in 2000.


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