The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be big underdogs, but that doesn't mean they can't beat the Seattle Seahawks tomorrow. This is the NFL, after all, and any team can win on any given Sunday. Except the Jacksonville Jaguars. They're doomed.
Davin Joseph vs. Michael Bennett
The Bucs let Michael Bennett leave in the offseason, to the great joy of the Seattle Seahawks who have made him their most important defensive lineman. He moves all over the front four, but he may be at his best as a three-technique defensive tackle on passing downs. In that role he's likely to face Davin Joseph -- and that will be key to the Bucs' offense this week.
Davin Joseph has been the team's worst offensive lineman this year. He doesn't look remotely like his old self, and if he wasn't a team captain there's a good chance he would have been benched by now. He's been that awful. With Mike Glennon needing functional pocket space and lacking the mobility to consistently scramble and create plays outside of the pocket, the Bucs can't sustain a passing attack while giving up interior pressure.
This matchup should be fun: one of the best NFL receivers (despite his drops this season) against one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks have allowed Sherman to follow receivers across the field a little more this season, so we should see this matchup quite a bit.
Since Mike Glennon became the starter, Vincent Jackson has caught 26 passes for 358 yards in four games. He's clearly the team's number one receiver and he should see plenty of targets on Sunday, but that could turn out to be disaster against Richard Sherman. Glennon's out routes have been an issue as he places the ball low and to the inside where Sherman could easily make a play on the ball.
Vincent Jackson needs to find a way to get open against one of the toughest cornerbacks in the NFL, and keep him away from the ball on poorly placed throws. If Jackson can't do that, the Bucs are in for a long day.
Mike Glennon vs. Earl Thomas
Earl Thomas is probably the best safety in the NFL right now. His speed allows him to make plays all over the field, and he has the instincts to take advantage of and fool opposing quarterbacks frequently. He has four interceptions this season already, and he'll get a chance to add a few more against Mike Glennon.
That means the Bucs' rookie quarterback has to play within the scheme and try to stay away from forced throws. He's done a decent job reading defenses and taking what's there, but against a safety like Thomas you have to be especially careful.
The Seahawks' weakness is their offensive line. The biggest reason they couldn't get anything done against the St. Louis Rams was that their offensive tackles kept getting beat handily. Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie are not NFL starting material, at least not right now -- but that's what they're stuck with.
If the Bucs want to win, Adrian Clayborn is going to have to step up. He's struggled to beat offensive tackles all season long, and the Bucs have relied on blitzes and (ineffective) stunts to get pressure. If they do that against the Seahawks, they could get picked apart. But if they can get pressure with four rushers they stand a good chance of disrupting Russell Wilson's play. For that, Clayborn is going to have to show marked improvement in this game, but he has easy matchups to do so.
Mark Barron vs. Zach Miller
Zach Miller is such an underutilized player in the passing game, but the veteran tight end is both a devastating blocker and a quality receiver. Even though he has just 130 receiving yards this season, he is crucial to the Seahawks' running game and a key red-zone weapon. With Sidney Rice down, he should see more targets as well.
Mark Barron's role in addressing Miller's abilities as a blocker and receiver will be interesting. The Bucs have given Barron a lot of in-the-box responsibilities and he could be the key player in stopping Seattle's running game. He's likely to be the edge player over Miller in a lot of nickel and dime situations, which will make this matchup very interesting.