Sunday’s Heavyweight Bout

November 14th, 2019

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Ira Kaufman launched his professional NFL coverage in 1979, back when Earl Campbell was the toast of the league and Lee Roy Selmon was defensive player of the year. After a lifetime at The Tampa Tribune, “The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports” joined in July of 2016. His twice-weekly podcast and three columns per week appear here year-round and are presented by Bill Currie Ford. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter is a regular on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and a part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show, in addition to his other appearances. You can hang out with Ira during every Bucs road games at Buffalo Wild Wings. His schedule is linked here


Other contenders have fallen by the wayside.

That leaves Mike Evans and Michael Thomas vying for the heavyweight title — best receiver in football.

Both superstars will be on display Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, where the Bucs try to stack wins while the Saints hope to rebound from a dreadful effort against the last-place Falcons.

There was a time not so long ago when any discussion of the NFL’s premier targets started with Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and A.J. Green. Those days are gone and new contenders have emerged.

Injuries and age have taken their toll on the old guard, so if you’re looking for the best of the best, keep your eye on the studs wearing No. 13.

They’ve got the same uniform number, but Thomas and Evans bring very different traits to the talent table. They get the job done in varying ways, but both scare the heck out of opposing cornerbacks.

Buc-killer Michael Thomas

Evans is 76 yards away from posting his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season to start a career. The only player in the league’s 100-year history to accomplish that feat is Randy Moss, a role model for Evans
while growing up in Texas. Evans averages 17.1 yards per catch, compared to 11.9 for Thomas, and he leads the NFL with six receptions of 40 yards or more.

“I’m pretty lucky to have that guy, Mike Evans,” says Jameis Winston. “I’m just excited for him – he’s definitely going to be a Hall of Famer one day. But, we’ve got to keep on giving him the ball and we’re going to find a way to give him the rock this game.”

Best receiver in Bucs history

Evans has been blanked only twice in his career — and both shutouts came in New Orleans. He failed to catch a pass in the Superdome in 2015 and Marcus Lattimore shut him down earlier this season, while Thomas was tormenting the Bucs with 11 catches for 182 yards and two scores in a 31-24 triumph orchestrated by Teddy Bridgewater..

Lattimore has a knack of getting in Evans’ head, but he is nursing a hamstring injury and may not suit up Sunday.

While Evans is more of a downfield threat, Thomas offers stunning consistency and some of the most dependable hands in the league. In 60 career games, including four in the postseason, Thomas has been limited to less than four receptions only once. The outlier came in a 2017 matchup against the Lions when he caught three passes.

Thomas leads the league in both catches and receiving yards and is on pace for 153 receptions, which would shatter the NFL record of 143, set by Marvin Harrison in 2002. He is particularly productive against the Bucs, averaging 119.5 yards and posting an 83 percent catch rate in six career games.

The last three matchups against Tampa Bay have been ridiculously prolific. Thomas has 38 receptions on 43 targets against Tampa Bay, beginning with the thrilling 2018 opening-week shootout.

“He’s big, strong, physical and he can separate,” says Bruce Arians. “He’s got quickness for a big guy, very much so like Mike Evans, but he’s long. He doesn’t drop many passes, that’s for sure. He’s legit.”

This summer, Thomas was ranked No. 13 on the NFL’s Top 100 list in voting by the players. Evans was listed at No. 53, but after last week’s loss in Tampa, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury praised Evans as “the best receiver in the league.”

Todd Bowles has been a busy man this week. His secondary continues to struggle, burned for three TD catches by Arizona’s Christian Kirk last week. With Drew Brees now back under center, Thomas presents a huge test for a young cornerback group now missing Vernon Hargreaves.

“You can be a 10-year vet – it’s a challenge,” Arians says. “Those two guys have been playing together. Drew knows when the ball is coming out and when Michael is going to break. For one guy to cover him, it’s tough.”

While Evans tends to be low-key off the field, Thomas brings a little swagger. A second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2016, Thomas has reached the top of his profession … and he knows it.

Just check out the man’s Twitter handle: @Cantguardmike.

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58 Responses to “Sunday’s Heavyweight Bout”

  1. 813bucboi Says:

    folks will have to find a new scapegoat now….lol…

    i dont want to hear any excuses about the secondary….

    the future is now with SMB, dean and davis….all or CBs are 6ft or taller and run 4.4 or 4.3….

    SMB has played well the past 3games….dean had a bounce back game….davis has all the tools…..whitehead is a hard hitting safety….

    now that we’ve gotten the weak link off the team, we should be good….

    im expecting the secondary to play fast and play hungry vs drew and MT…..

    GO BUCS!!!!

  2. Buczilla Says:

    Switch Winston for Brees and Thomas would never be mentioned in the same breath as Mike. If Mike played in New York (or the backward a$$ Northeast city of your choice) he would be the greatest receiver since Jerry Rice.

  3. Jean Lafitte Says:

    Which team will lose

    Jameis and the Bucs? ..or

    Jameis and the Saints?

  4. BucinA Says:

    Davis should maul the big guy (Thomas) and take the penalties.

  5. 813bucboi Says:

    JW is right he’s lucky to have mike evans…..

    mike evans got johnny football drafted and has helped JW stay in tampa….

    mike evans should be the last player re-doing their contract while JW should be the first….

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  6. miken Says:

    no lattimore means BIG day by air for the bucs.

  7. orlbucfan Says:

    ME13, Ungodly, OJ Howard, CBrate (plus backup TEs), and now Rojo is joining the good hands club. Seat Perriman, BA (if you have any brains). If Lattimore is out, no reason why Bucs can’t split the series. Go Bucs Sunday–Split the Saints in Half!!!!!!

  8. Dewey Selmon Says:

    The Falcons doubled Thomas last week. The Bucs will match MJ Stewart in single coverage.

  9. Snook Says:

    I don’t understand the love for Thomas. He’s just like Jimmy Graham. Benefits from the system and Brees. Put Evans or even Godwin in New Orleans and they’d match or top what Thomas is doing.

    Evans yards per catch is also much higher than Thomas.

  10. unbelievable Says:

    Unfortunately for us, Thomas is the better receiver. Some of the best hands in football, and he’s fast.

    But Evans is still a fkn stud. Let’s just hope Jameis doesn’t stare him down all day, resulting in INTs.

    New Orleans pass rush is ferocious. They destroyed our o-line last time around. We need a good mix of screens and intermediate passes to get the offense humming and neutralize their pass rush. Then we need to pick our deep shots wisely.

  11. unbelievable Says:

    And for the love of God, let’s see some double teams on Thomas!!!!

  12. unbelievable Says:

    lol Dewey

  13. Iamabuc Says:

    @Unbelievable…I’m with you right there..the Perriman experiment should just stop…we have a whole bunch of better hands ; why keep feeding this has-been?…🤔

  14. Iamabuc Says:

    I meant to address orlbucfan post …sorry..

  15. Buccernutter Says:

    Thomas is not better. It’s very close but he’s not. He gets more targets every year on shorter routes. Evans beasts the guys downfield. Thomas has brees and evans has a qb that everyone insists sucks.

    I will say thomas has better hands but evans is just better overall. Like someone said before, switch the qbs and thomas isn’t close to evans.

  16. Buccernutter Says:

    Sunday should be an even match for both dbs since lattimore is out. You’ll see everything you need to know cuz peat is out and drew has about as much time as jameis will have.

    Just remember i said, Vea is going to eat. Brees’ achilles hell is monster dts and vea doesn’t have to worry about peat like i mentioned.

    2 sacks for vea sunday.

  17. ManzielMadness Says:


    Lol why would cutting Hargreaves make the secondary better? Just because the Bucs are getting rid of one trash player doesn’t automatically make the unit any good. They’re gonna get torched out there on Sunday, they’re young and going against a HOF QB and a stud WR with a history of burning us. Only one playing consistent is Whitehead.

  18. Buccernutter Says:

    813 isn’t a smart guy but I do think vh3 will make the unit better because…

    it gives the other guys to improve and honestly, they all look better than vern.

    Dean was the best db in the league last week according to many metrics.

    The unit could be good if they get playing time and now the scrub is gone, they will.

  19. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Hmm, so OBJ has a bad QB throwing to him and suddenly he isn’t putting up big numbers. AJ Green has some 4th round back up throwing to him and suddenly he isn’t that good. Strange isn’t it. Yet all the haters give Evans all the credit for his huge numbers and none of the credit to Jameis. Mike Evans does not receive screen plays and then scamper 80 yards to the end zone. The QB plays a large part in Evans success. Keep pushing for a game manager like Bridgewater and you will see Evans numbers fall off a cliff. It takes both a QB and a reciever to put up ungodly yardage year in and year out from your number 1 reciever.

  20. Jean Lafitte Says:

    ^^^^^BS nothing but scare tactics

  21. 813bucboi Says:


    so who else is “trash” in the secondary?….lol…

    because the only DB that got bashed regularly was VHG….

    so who’s going to get “torched” Sunday?….

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  22. 813bucboi Says:


    do you read your comments before you post?…lol…

    you should give it a try….lol…

    it’ll make you seem smarter….lol…

    regarding addition by subtraction…we’ll see….

    you talk about dean being the best CB in the league last week according to stats and metrics….lol…

    what was he vs russell?…the worst CB in the league?…he give up 3TDs and had PIs against a future HOFer….and guess what…he’s going up against another future HOFer….

    and if the defense gets worst what will be the excuse?…they’re young….lol…right…

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  23. Buccernutter Says:


    no need to read before you post, because your input is usually ignored or made fun of. Trust me I’ve had multiple discussions with people about your input and we get quite a laugh at your input.

    You said nothing but silly insults again in 5 different one line paragraphs. You are a joke and contribute nothing HAHA.

    Evidently you don’t know as much about this team if you don’t know how well dean graded out. Yes he struggled vs russel. Whos hasn’t? His first game as a pro with that much time on the field and he greatly improved the next week. Man you’re dumb.

    if the defense gets worst? Someone really needs to comment before he posts.

    You keep trying and you keep failing. Laughing by yourself and we’re all laughing at YOU!!!! HA

  24. Jean Lafitte Says:


    I’m laughing @ you …just too much BS to absorb

  25. Buccernutter Says:

    Okay that’s cute jean. You do suck 813s d*** quite a bit.

    Look at you guys, still no substance. I would embarrass you too. If it’s too much bs then call it out. Until then you’re a guy on the internet deflecting from the topic at hand. I know there’s a few of you that side with 813, because you guys are dumb as s***.

    You guys have said NOTHING. HAHAHA

  26. common sense Says:

    813 and Jean…… OK Boomers

  27. Jean Lafitte Says:

    First of all I contend that Mike Evans would be a untouchable manbeast with Brees as his QB. Second if Winston had Thomas instead of Evans I believe his reception totals would decline.

  28. Jean Lafitte Says:

    Drew Brees 74.3% completion rate

    Jameis 59.3% completion rate

    …and Jameis has more weapons

  29. Buccernutter Says:

    Even common sense acknowledged nobody takes you guys seriously

    Jean, now you’re agreeing with my bs that’s too tough to absorb? HA

    you guys are betas.

  30. Jean Lafitte Says:

    that’s what you do when you can’t compete, you resort to name calling ..weak

  31. Buccernutter Says:

    You missed the part where I’m responding to name calling, with name calling.

    But betas tend to manipulate facts because they’re not strong or smart enough to win anything.

    Dumb and weak.

  32. Jean Lafitte Says:

    I’ll give you the last word so you feel like you won. We wouldn’t want you to snowflake out on us.

  33. BrianBucs Says:

    Winston is right. He is very lucky to have Mike Evans. Without Evans making him look good like he did with Johnny Football, he would be playing in the CFL

  34. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Brian – weird thing is Godwin is making him look good, Humphries made him look good, Brate made him look good. Thank god our POS QB has been supported by the greatest recievers of all time because he certainly doesn’t have anything to do with all these recievers doing so well.

  35. Jean Lafitte Says:

    The same QB who over throws his receivers 5 yards every other pass.

    The same QB who has the lowest completion percentage of all NFL starters.

    That guy? smh

  36. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Guys are nipping around the edges but it must be said outright.

    Which receiver has the better QB? Which receiver has a QB that puts the ball into his hands more frequently…which receiver is expected to bail out their QB more often.

    I guess there will be differing opinions but it’s no major insult to JW if you come down on the side of Thomas having a pretty significant advantage. When JW reaches HOF status get back to me.

    Again…DB55…NDOG…this is not intended so much as a criticism of JW as the obvious…Brees is HOF! I vote for ME as better than Thomas.

  37. Buccernutter Says:

    “I’ll give you the last word…”

    Proceeds to give the last word.

    Holy s*** some of you guys are way dumber than I thought.

  38. Buccernutter Says:

    Yep same qb who is #3 for yards and touchdowns leading one of the most efficient offenses in the league.

    That guy.

    LMAO you’re too easy….and dumb.

  39. Bucsfanman Says:

    TDTB- Um, has AJ Green played a single down this season? Might want to use a different example.
    BTW, like a wr can’t catch without being thrown to, neither can a qb catch his own passes. Nothing exists in a vacuum on the football field.

  40. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    If Atlanta can do what they did to NO in NO……we should be competitive at home.
    ME will have another big day and look for more from OJ…..

  41. Defense Rules Says:

    Jean Lafitte … “Drew Brees 74.3% completion rate. Jameis 59.3% completion rate … and Jameis has more weapons”.

    A tad unfair Jean. Drew Brees is a HOF QB; he just hasn’t retired yet & become eligible. He also has an OC named Sean Payton, one of the best, if not THE best, in the NFL. And Drew is also being asked to do very much different things on the field. A LOT less vertical passing; a lot more shorter stuff. Drew really only primarily uses 2 receivers: Michael Thomas (86-of-103 for 83.5%) and Alvin Kamara (41-of-49 for 83.7%). The next 3 receivers (RB Murray, WR Ginn & TE Cook) TOGETHER have been targeted exactly as much as Michael Thomas has.

    Jameis is in a similar situation in terms of primarily using Mike Evans & Chris Godwin, but his throws appear to be a lot deeper on average. And that’s probably a big reason why he has a lower completion percentage AND many more INTs than Brees does. Personally I wish we’d get off that ‘deep stuff train’ and play a more methodical, patient game like the Saints do. We’re our own worst enemy.

  42. DB55 Says:

    Evans is #2 in TDs and Godwin is #3 in TDs and #4 in yards. Meanwhile Adam Humphries is a ghost ranked like 80th in the nfl, last year he was ranked #24. Hmmmmmm

  43. bojim Says:

    Watch the DB’s play lights out Sunday. It would be so cool.

  44. Tampabuscsbro Says:

    One thing the Winston apologists neglect to mention is just how inaccurate he always is.

  45. Buccernutter Says:

    Db55 don’t use logic. It’s not allowed around these parts.

  46. Buccernutter Says:

    #3 for yards and touchdowns. Ya us apologists are so dumb. He’s so inaccurate. Always.

  47. Tampabuscsbro Says:

    Daily reminder Yards mean absolutely nothing. Also don’t forget number one in turnovers. You know one of the main reasons teams lose games. Also If he were to lose one of Godwin or Evans he would have such a horrible game even the apologists may shut up even though we know they won’t.

  48. orlbucfan Says:

    Reminder: Tampa Bay has ME13, Ungodly, OJ Howard, C Brate (and backup TEs), and now Rojo is joining the receiving posse/good hands club. The ball is in BA’s court. I would like to see Arians call the right O gameplan. That would freak smirking Sean Payton out, and THAT is always worth watching/hearing. Go Bucs Sunday!!

  49. Pryda...Sec147 Says:

    No way is mike Thomas the best receiver. Drew brees and Sean Payton are the reasons why he is “great” look at the history of “great” recievers that played for them and didn’t do crap when they went elsewhere. D hop and Mike Evans the best atm

  50. DB55 Says:

    Last year it was “yea he’s has a lot of yards but where are the points”. This year it’s yea he has a lot of yards and TDs but his accuracy.

    I broke down every incompletion against the Seahawks and concluded that if you give RoJo 6 more carries rather than targeting Miller, Hudson and or Perriman you’d have a 70+ completion percentage. But yea let’s throw the ball to Miller bc we don’t have the #1 wr in the league

  51. Ndog Says:

    I’ll take the QB that scores 28 points a game with a below average running game over the QB that averages 22 points a game with an all pro running back.

  52. DB55 Says:


    The Bucs are 4 plays away from being 7-2 but that’s what losing teams say.

    1. Barber runs the right route vs SF
    2. Matt Gay makes the fg vs NY
    3. Jensen doesn’t hike the ball when JayMiss isn’t looking vs Tenn
    4. D.Smith doesn’t hit WinsNot in the elbow vs Seahawks

    Leave all the rest the same and you’re 7-2 with the #1 DE #1 Rush Def #2 wr #3 qb and the #4 wr in the league. But all of that isn’t enough to overcome the #32 pass def and #32 int qb in the league.


  53. DB55 Says:

    These are gems friends. Maybe you’ll use them in your articles next week. Kinda like this gem which no one was talking about until (apparently) I bolstered this same fact just last week. That in its self should be worth a temporary stay from moderation at least unlike Magafan, TexRex, or Pitt show up.

    he leads the NFL with six receptions of 40 yards or more.

    But accuracy though….

  54. REDZONE BA Fan Says:

    WHAT A MISS!!!! On hiring Mike Tomlin…….

  55. REDZONE BA Fan Says:

    After Gruden was fired, I would literally fall asleep on my couch, watching the BUCS for next few years. Field goal, punt, punt, interception, punt, Field goal….yada yada…Netting 10-13 points/game.

    At least w JW3, Bucs average 28 PT/game. HUGELY different to watch Bucs game today. There is excitement, albiet screaming at TV sometimes.

    If/when we draft QB in Rd1, I am afraid the “days of old” will return, regarding Offensive scoring. ME13 will be pressed to have another 1000k yd season….

    Still have 7 games to go. No playoffs (we will not run the board with 7 straight wins)

    Now on “QB Watch” for 2020….meaning Tag JW3, and/or draft a QB in 2020.

    My vote- Tag JW3….bring it, posters!

  56. BigHog Says:

    I don’t play that switchshy swap game! Big Mike and Godwin play for the BUCS and they play with the prolific FAMOUS …check their stats, two of the best in the game without the switchshy swap game!!! GET A WIN AND START A STREAK..GO BUCS!!!

  57. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    DB55 they talk about accuracy but no QBs hit every pass. In the Seahawks game there were a few touchdown passes that Wilson simply missed on. It happens. However, if you are harping on Winston’s accuracy this is not the year to do it. He completion percentage is down because of the offense we now run. However, Jameis is having his best season by far being accurate with the deep ball.

  58. Buccernutter Says:

    DB55 man couldn’t have said it better myself.