It’s easy to ride the emotional high from a fourth-quarter comeback. It’s painless to lean on optimism and say the Buccaneers are on to something. But it’s naive to simply pencil in a "W" as the Bucs travel to Miami on Sunday.
But it’s certainly not out of the question.
While there’s still a lot to learn about Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers, we know who the Dolphins are. They’re a tough, physical defense and a tricky, Wildcat running machine with playmakers in the backfield in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. They’re explosive on special teams, allowing people to forget how inept Ted Ginn Jr. is at the receiver position when he’s taking kicks back to the house.
And they’re banged-up.
While I’m not suggesting Freeman and the supporting cast are in the same class as Brady and Co., the Dolphins’ 28th-ranked pass defense is a favorable match-up for the young offensive unit.
Advantage No. 2: The Dolphin defense is ranked 5th against the run. Well, that seems like a disadvantage, doesn’t it? However, last week, against another stout run defense, the Bucs were able to run the ball just enough (81 yards) to keep the Packers honest, which is what they will have to do this week to achieve the same results. The Bucs average under 100 yards per game rushing, but to open up the passing game, they likely won’t need that much.
Advantage No. 3: The Dolphins lack playmakers at the receiver position. Ginn is among the league-leaders in dropped passes and Anthony Fasano, once a favorite target of Chad Pennington, has been practically non-existent. With the Bucs’ secondary vulnerable to big plays, particularly early in the game, Chad Henne's difficulty finding open receivers down the field plays to the Bucs' strength.
Disadvantages: The Dolphins have the 4th-ranked rushing offense in the league, tallying over 150 yards per game. The Bucs, on the other hand, are ranked 30th in rushing defense, allowing 163 yards per game - a glaring mismatch.
Additionally, Freeman is still a rookie, and there’s no telling how he will respond coming off his first career win. The Dolphins are 2-0 this season against rookie quarterbacks. Or, quaerterback, I should say, as they’ve defeated Mark Sanchez and the Jets twice.
While only 3-5, the Dolphins have lost to five teams that will likely make the playoffs: the Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Falcons and Saints. Contrarily, they’ve failed to defeat a team outside of their division this season and are 0-2 against NFC South opponents.
Last week I wrote an article highlighting Week 10 against the Dolphins as one of the best chances for the Bucs to get their first win. With one already under their belt, I still feel it’s a good mactch-up for them to grab their second.
Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Dolphins 21.