Another season of Buccaneer football is upon us. We've seen all the speculation, the predictions and what not. The talking is over. Now it's time to put it all on the football field.
The Bucs are 1-9 lifetime against the gang green and have never beaten the Jets in New York. The last time the Bucs beat the New York Jets, Prince was singing about Purple Rain and Michael Jackson was finishing up his Thriller tour.
Will this game be any different?
Let's take a look at the match ups:
Series Record: Jets lead 9-1
Last Meeting: December 13, 2009 - Jets 26, Tampa Bay 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Game vs. New York Jets Pass Defense
We all know the rollercoaster ride that is Josh Freeman. At times he can look like an unstoppable force. Other times, he's the worst quarterback in the league. There's no middle ground with Freeman. You either have good Josh or Bad Josh.
Freeman still has two awesome weapons to throw to in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams as well as newcomer Kevin Ogletree. Doug Martin and Brian Leonard are also expected to catch more balls out of the backfield this season.
They'll be facing a young Jets defense that was hobbled by the injury to Quinton Coples, expected to be their primary pass rusher. Coples won't play after suffering a hair-line fracture in his ankle.
Even without Coples, the Jets defense (ranked 8th last season) is capable. Muhammad Wilkerson and first round pick Sheldon Richardson are players to watch.
In the secondary, Antonio Cromartie is as good as they come and has done a credible job in replacing Revis. On the other side, Dee Milliner has had his struggles and facing Mike Williams, could be an advantage for the Bucs.
Head Coach Rex Ryan is known for his confusion defense, bringing blitzes from every corner of the field. The Bucs offensive line, which was supposed to be a strength, surrendered 9 sacks in the pre-season. They must give Freeman time to find the open man.
Even without Revis, New York had the second best defense against the pass last season. Tampa Bay's offense was 10th in the league in passing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Game vs. New York Jets Run Defense
The Jets hope they've solved their woes against the run. Last season, New York was 26th against the run. They drafted Sheldon Richardson to shore up the defensive line and are starting DeMario Davis at linebacker. They're also counting on David Harris to return to form after a disappointing 2012 season.
They'll be facing one of the top running backs in the league in Tampa Bay's Doug Martin. Martin finished with 1,454 yds and 11 touchdowns on the ground in his rookie season, earning him a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Martin's expected to be even more potent this season, as the Bucs offensive line will see the return of Pro Bowl guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph. Nicks may not play this week against the Jets as he's dealing with the effects of MRSA, a very aggressive staph infection, in his foot.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
New York Jets Passing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Defense
Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez? Does it really matter at this point? Sanchez is out with a shoulder injury and will be a non-factor in the game. It's rookie 2nd round pick Geno Smith who will be getting his first taste of live NFL action. One has to wonder if Smith knows what he's getting himself into. He's on record as saying he hasn't studied former Jet Darrelle Revis on film and may or may not before Sunday.
Okay, good luck with that, rookie.
Santonio Holmes will be a game-time decision but doesn't appear to be 100%, leaving the receiving duties to Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill - neither of whom strike fear into anyone. Kerley is a solid player, leading the Jets last season with 56 receptions for 827 yds and 2 touchdowns. Hill was a disappointment in his rookie season, managing just 21 receptions and averaging 12 yds a catch.
A familiar face could be in the lineup on Sunday as Kellen Winslow, Jr. has resurfaced in the Big Apple. Winslow played well in training camp and pre-season for the Jets but has been slowed with chronic knee issues.
The Bucs completely revamped their horrid secondary. Tampa Bay signed free agent All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, drafted Johnthan Banks in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft and of course traded their first round pick for Revis.
The challenge for the Bucs is to get some pressure on the opposing quarterback. Certainly having a secondary that can hold up a little better will help but the Bucs expect big things from 2011 First Round Pick Adrian Clayborn, who returns from a knee injury. Teamed with Gerald McCoy, the Bucs hope that they can generate enough rush to allow their talented secondary to make plays.
Greg Schiano's defense also adds a myriad of blitz packages that may be a bit more effective this season if the secondary can give them that extra half second.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
New York Jets Rushing Attack vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Run Defense
The Jets' running back core is a bit of a committee right now. New York traded for Saints running back Chris Ivory during the draft and he was expected to take over the position but hamstring problems hindered him throughout camp. It allowed third year player Bilal Powell to have some more playing time and perhaps steal some carries from Ivory.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the number one defense against the run last season and led the league in tackles for losses. That's a bit of a misnomer though because the Tampa Bay pass defense was so bad, many teams abandoned the run and focused solely on the passing attack.
Still, when it counted, the Bucs were stout. Two key cogs in that run defense, Michael Bennett and Roy Miller, left via free agency. The Bucs hope they have found a replacement for Miller in rookie Akeem Spence but the jury is still out on who might replace Bennett's production.
Daniel Teo-Nesheim will get the start but the Bucs hope that former second round pick Da Quan Bowers will finally begin living up to expectations.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Special Teams Match Up
Clyde Gates returns as the Jets kick return man. Last season Gates averaged 28.0 yds a return. Kerley will be the punt return guy. He averaged 10.9 yds a return, including one for a touchdown.
Tampa Bay's new kick returner is Eric Page, who won the job in the pre-season. Page averaged 27.3 yds a return but had a kickoff return for a touchdown called pack on a penalty. Page will also serve as the team's punt returner. He averaged 10.8 yds a return during the pre-season.
Veteran Rian Lindell takes over for the injured Connor Barth at kicker for Tampa Bay. At age 36, Lindell is coming off a solid season where he was 21 of 24 (87.5%) on his field goals. He is a life-time 81.3% field goal percentage in his 13 year NFL Career. Michael Koenen mans the punting duties for the Bucs. Koenen had a 45.3 average in 2012 with 22 kicks placed inside the 20 yard line.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
By the Numbers
- Tampa Bay has never beaten the Jets in New York, going 0-6 lifetime.
- Tampa Bay last defeated the Jets in 1984, the last game coached by Ring of Honor Inductee John McKay.
- Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan is 3-1 in season openers and is 3-1 in home openers
- Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano is 1-0 in season openers.
- The Jets were 3-5 at home last season.
- Tampa Bay was 4-4 in road games.
- The Jets were 4-4 against the NFC the last two seasons, 2-2 at home.
- Tampa Bay was 4-4 against the AFC the last two seasons, 1-3 on the road.
- The Jets are 2-2 in their last four games against the NFC South, 1-1 at home.
- Tampa Bay is 0-4 in their last four games against the AFC East, 0-2 on the road.
- Rookie QB's making their first start on opening day were 1-4 last season.