I'm a Bucs fan. I've enjoyed being a fan for almost two decades now. (And there's nothing wrong if you've been a fan for less time). Last year was an unsurprising disappointment. This year should see the beginning of the turnaround. And yet, I find myself unenthusiastic about this weekend's game. A large part of that is due to the fact that I won't be able to sit at my house with family and friends and cheer for my team due to the blackouts. The rest of my apathy stems from the opening day matchup. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (hooray) and the Cleveland Browns (meh). I can't even boo the Browns. I don't dislike them, I don't wish ill will on them, honestly, I just don't care about them.
But that doesn't mean that this week's game counts for any less than Week 2, 10 or 16. So while we may not be able to watch, or may not be pumped up for a matchup of these two cellar dwelling teams, I vow to give at least a 65% effort in giving my preview of this week's game.
On to the facts!
There will be a lot to (not) watch this weekend. The obvious items are Gerald McCoy and the whole defensive line, Josh Freeman and his thumb, Ronde Barber starting his 4033242nd season opener, and my boy Cadillac starting up another year. I'll break down some of these pieces, but let's first look at some key matchups.
Jerome Harrison vs Bucs D: Our run defense flat out sucked in 2009, coming in at 32nd in yards allowed on the ground. Now Jerome Harrison may not be Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, but he has some talent. Harrison only rushed for 862 yards last year, but 561 game in his last 3 games with a sterling 286 against KC (ranked 31st against the run). With our defensive philosophy, we need to shut Harrison down and force Delhomme to lob up some of those interceptions he loves to throw.
Eric Wright/Sheldon Brown vs Mike Williams: I don't know who will take on Williams this game, but this will be a good battle to watch as Williams should be the dynamo in our offense and this will be his first true test. I have zero thoughts on Wright, but I'm excited to see how Williams handles his first game.
Kellen Winslow vs his old team: Make them pay K2
Massaquoi vs Biggers. I have to assume Biggers will shadow Massaquoi with Talib out. Biggers missed all of last year so this will be his first real NFL game. Nerves are sure to be there and while Massaquoi isn't a huge threat, he is their deep threat and Delhomme can hit the deep ball as we've seen. Biggers will need to shut him down.
Shaun Rogers vs our offensive line: This will be a good test for our line. Rogers is one of the best nose tackles in the 3-4 when he's playing and healthy. Our game plan should involve the run, so neutralizing the big boy will be a primary objective.
Keys to victory for the Bucs:
- Pound the ball on the ground. Cleveland wasn't much better than us against the run (26th). This will keep our defense off the field and give Freeman the ability to run some play action passes and go deep.
- Stop the run. If you've watched any Bucs games in the last two years, you know why I say this. The longer the D is on the field, the more worn down they get.
- Keep Freeman clean. He's a big dude and can handle a hit, but we need that thumb to stay untouched.
- Pressure Delhomme. He's a mediocre QB who likes to take chances. Hit him early and often and he'll start throwing up 50/50 passes. Sacks aren't needed, just be in his face.
With only 2009 to go off of, here are a few key stats about each team.
26th in total DVOA (-23.3%).
#1 ranked special teams by DVOA (8.4%)
No skill player in the top 27 at each position according to DVOA.
24th in offensive DVOA
30th in defensive DVOA
27th in total DVOA (-23.8%)
One player in top 25 according to DVOA (Byron Leftwich, Ha)
26th in offensive DVOA
25th in defensive DVOA
|TB||188||23.78 (28)||1.11 (30)||.122 (29)||.463 (24)|
|CLE||185||22.67 (31)||1.17 (29)||.114 (30)||.508 (32)|
|TB||.181 (31)||.154 (31)||.027 (2)||30.47 (9)||.599 (27)|
|CLE||.168 (28)||.097 (21)||.070 (27)||30.48 (8)||.591 (30)|
Man thos are some ugly numbers for both sides.
This is just a quick look at Week 1's matchup. The Bucs are favored by 3.5 last I looked, which is basically what a team gets for homefield advantage. I'm taking the Bucs here with a Week 1 win that no one will see. Bucs 24, Browns 17