CHARLOTTE NC - SEPTEMBER 19: Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws a pass against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 19 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
As we stand now, this game probably isn't as hard as it was before the season. Adding Terrell Owens to an offense with a once prolific quarterback in Carson Palmer, a top-notch running game in 2009 and a flashy yet elite WR in Chad Ochocinco seemed to be an unstoppable force. However, four games in and the Bengals are struggling to find an offensive identity. Cedric Benson has averaged 3.3 YPC and has only found the end-zone twice. And while you can certainly do worse than Palmer he has a QB Rating of 82.7, 5 TD's and 3 Picks. The question surrounding Palmer is whether he can return to the same form he displayed in 2005 and 2006.
The Bengals defense has too been inconsistent at best. While they rank near the top of the league in Turnovers (9) they have gotten to the quarterback a whopping 3 times (32nd). Sound similar Bucs fans? According to FO metrics the Bucs rank 22nd in the league against the run and 8th against the pass.
After the "jump" you will find 5 things the Bucs need to do to win the game.
Run the Ball. As I mentioned above, teams have found success (4.1 YPC) in running the ball against the Bengals. Carolina who had the least success against the Bengals was also the team who had the least success in running the ball. However, that was also Clausen's first start and the box was stacked. Even on Carolina's 'big' run the Bengals brought a safety up (who whiffed on a tackle).
- Find a 2nd WR. Using Winslow will be huge in this game, but the Bucs have got to establish a 2nd WR. Whether it be Stroughter, Benn or Spurlock. After reading that Morris is back tracking on Benn I have an odd suspicion that Olsen is waiting for Stovall to get healthy. It doesn't sit right with me if Stovall is launched into a starting role after missing all of camp and the first quarter of the season. To be perfectly honest I am not sure how he even made the team. Regardless, I am getting off track. The Bengals are best in the league at covering the number one option. In large part, this is due to Leon Hall becoming one of the best cover-corners in the league. He has mostly shut down Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith so far this season. While the Bengals run some Cover 2, I have not seen it consistently applied.
Get pressure with only 4. As many of you may have seen, Pat Yasinskas wrote that the Bucs lead the league in passer rating against when only rushing four. It's slightly shocking when your eyes are telling you that they can't get a pass rush (and we can't). I think it's more of a result of the Tampa 2. When you blitz, you are leaving another man to cover more of the field. While our linebackers are probably the fastest group in the NFL, they aren't that fast and teams are finding the open man quickly. Not to mention we can't get a pass rush with our end enough for the 5th rusher to matter much. Stylez White and Kyle Moore have to start proving their worth or you will see a similar draft strategy to the one the Bucs applied to the DT position this past year. More stunts maybe, but less blitzing.
Safety Help. When playing deep, Grimm and Jones must stay behind the last receiver. While Talib has some height, Barber doesn't. Barber will not be able to compete for balls much against much taller Ochocinco and Owens. Getting physical won't do much against Owens, so the Bucs safeties have to be disciplined. While I gave Grimm some praise after last game and have called for the Bucs to stick next to him, I have to believe that the Bengals will try to test him early and often. Linebackers must get deep, you may see some more Nickel packages but most of all the Safeties have to play disciplined football.
- Field Position. After digging into punting statistics, Bryan has been far from the worst we've seen. Certainly he can do better, but his statistics show he is a middle of the road punter. Obviously, our eyes tell us otherwise and having a 67 yard punt on the books doesn't hurt your average. Regardless we have to pin Cincinnati deep. The Bengals rank 19th in field position given up (29.49LOS) and start at an average of the 32 yard line. The Bucs, on the other hand, rank 6th in field position given up (26.43LOS) and start at an average of the 33 yard line (3rd in NFL). The ratio needs to stay similar to this because the Bengals have a much higher drive success rate than the Bucs. Meaning, 66.7% of the Bengals down series result in either a first down or touchdown. The Bucs have a 60.8% drive success rate. If none of this makes sense to you just trust that it is imperative that we consistently have better field position than they do because we are less likely to move the ball further.