TAMPA FL - DECEMBER 19: Cheerleaders of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers perform during the game against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on December 19 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Here are my three key matchups for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on offense.
Arrelious Benn vs Ashton Youboty
Last Sunday, Ashton Yobouty was roasted over and over again by the San Diego Chargers' wide receiver corps. Yobouty actually spent part of the preseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but couldn't stick on a team that isn't extremely deep or talented at cornerback. That's how bad he is. Meanwhile, he's starting for the Jaguars.
Jacksonville will make an effort to not match him up with the Bucs number one receiver, which would be Mike Williams. As such, Arrelious Benn will have the opportunity to blow by Youboty on occasion. These past few games the Bucs have consistently used Benn's speed on deep balls, and his per-catch average of 15.33 yards on the season attests to that - especially when you realize that he's usually given the ball on a wide receiver screen that goes nowhere every game. Benn has the speed to run by Youboty, and if Josh Freeman (or Johnson) can get him the ball he could have a big day.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers love to run right, as that's where their best blockers are located. And to run right, they will have to move last year's 10th overall draft pick DT Tyson Alualu. That burden will fall on Davin Joseph.
Alualu hasn't provided many splash plays in his career so far, but he has been a consistent force against the run and combined with Terrance "pot roast" Knighton he has created a very tough run defense, ranked fourth overall by Football Outsiders. The Bucs have shown this year that they can't consistently produce as a pass-first team, however, and they will have to find out a way to run on that run defense. And that starts with Davin Joseph.
Josh Freeman vs Himself
Josh Freeman has not played good football this year. There are numerous causes for that, and he has had a few games of consistent, good play - but too often he has forced balls into coverage, or simply been inaccurate with his passes.
If the Bucs want to win on Sunday, they need the good version of Josh Freeman to show up. First Freeman will have to fight through his shoulder injury, which seems likely at this point, and then he will have to be accurate with his passes and make the right decisions against a fairly weak secondary and a not very impressive pass rush. Can Josh Freeman show that he still has some of his 2010 form in him, or will he have another disappointing game?