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Week 2 Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) @ Buffalo Bills (0-1)

Week 2 is descending upon us rather quickly.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to shake the stink of a 34-21 loss off their backs while the Buffalo Bills are trying to get back to an even keel after an emotional letdown and loss at the hands of the Patriots.  Sunday's game will also be the 50th anniversary celebration of the Bills All Time AFL Team, so the team should be extra fired up. 

The Bucs have some problems to fix, we know that, but how do they match up with Bills? 

Overview/Team Stats

Thankfully this game takes place in September, as I don't want to hear about the Bucs and cold weather.  Sure, we more or less broke that dismal record a few years back, but I'd rather avoid it whenever possible.  The Bucs will travel north to the land of the unknown for them.  What they'll find is a rather angry and hungry team, looking to get win number one on the year, much like the Bucs.

This is an important game for both teams as each team tries to hold off the 0-2 hole to start the season.  For the Bucs, it's more about momentum as an 0-2 hole with the Giants, Redskins and Eagles all on tap may cause for a dreary start.

The Bills have a potent offense, and a player you may not have heard of.  Terrell Owens.  Oh, you've heard of him?  He had a pretty quiet showing in Monday night's loss, so I'm sure he's amped up to get the ball and do some celebrating.  And no better team to do that against than our Bucs, who ranked in the bottom 3 in pass defense.

 But how do these two teams match up?  Let's look at some handy dandy stats to find out 


-44.60% -15.20% 27 43.00% 3 75.70% 32 -11.90% 28
0.00% -25.80% 32 31.30% 5 21.20% 26 -10.10% 27

 Somewhat similar teams.  While the Bucs offense was better than average (based on opponent and situation), the defense was much worse, though Buffalo still feel in the bottom third of the league.  Special Teams they're pretty similar.  Hard to believe that the team that hung in with the Patriots is relatively close to the team that got smoked by the Cowboys in terms of rankings.

The traditional stats show a similar picture.

TB Team Buf
450 Off Yds/Gm 276
5 Rank 20
276 Passing 186
174 Rushing 90
33:32 T.O.P. 22:52
21 Pts/Game 24
14 Rank 9
462 Yds All/Gm 441
29 Rank 26
34 Points All 25

Neither team is exaclty building up a head of steam going into week 1.   

When Buffalo has the Ball

Buffalo is in a similar predicament as the Bucs, having fired their OC just weeks before opening day.  They run more of a no huddle offense this year, aimed at keeping the defense on the field and wearing them down.  Their top running back, Marshawn Lynch has 2 more games left on his suspension, but they have a capable back up in Fred Jackson

Also, you might have heard, they have a new wide receiver opposite Lee Evans.  His name is Terrell Owens.  While he wasn't involved in the game on Monday night, you can bet he wants to see more action this coming Sunday.  A tough match up for any defensive secondary, it doesn't get much easier with Lee Evans on the opposite side and Roscoe Parrish in the slot. 

A quick look at their 2008 and 2009 numbers as individuals.  Remember that 08 numbers are based on a complete year, thus DYAR will be significantly higher (in theory)

Player DVOA 08 DVOA 09 DYAR 08 DYAR 09
Trent Edwards -0.30% 31.80% 278 69
Fred Jackson 7% 4.30% 91 8
Lee Evans 11.20% -39.60% 191 -12

This could pose some problems for the Bucs as two top tier WR's will surely test our secondary.  The Bucs flat out have to do two things better.  1) Generate a pass rush (yes, you Gaines Adams) and 2) maintain some sort of deep safety and not bite.  The safety issues will come down to discipline.  Can they maintain their responsibilities and not get caught free lancing.  This was a huge issue last week obviously.

The front four generated zero sacks, a handful of pressures, and our best player, at least in terms of expectations (Adams) generated zero stats of any kind, unless you count the penalty.  That can't happen again.  Buffalo's OL was pretty average last year and ranked 25th in sacks given up and sack rate, so the opportunities are there.  They ran a lot of screens, something the Bucs LB's will have to be all over.  Barrett Ruud will have to lead on the defensive side and find a way to get involved. 

I would imagine T.O. would draw Talib in coverage, but this is dicey.  T.O. has size, speed and strength.  Evans has speed.  Where do you put Talib and where do you put Ronde?  I expect either a ton of blitzes to limit the amount of coverage either has to do, or tons of LB/Safety help.  After the Dallas debacle, this could be bad.  Let's hope Bates and Morris got some things fixed as the Bucs should be tested often through the air.

When the Bucs have the ball

We saw how high the Tampa offense was ranked, how they performed, and how both the pass and run were above average.  This will have to continue.  Two heads of the three headed monster will need to be on point.  Last week it was Caddy and Ward.  This week?  Could be the same, or maybe Graham gets involved.  Either way, we have to run the ball successfully.  Count it as a loss if Leftwich throws more than 35 times. 

The offensive line did a fantastic job neutralizing the Dallas pass rush.  Buffalo will need to be thwarted just the same.  As Niko showed you, the OL did a great job in the run game.  They opened holes, held blocks and got to the second level.  This needs to continue, and I have no reason to believe it won't.

The question mark going into the game will be on Leftwich and the passing game. Can he and OL repeat their zero sack performance and will he avoid the turnover?  The passing game has already seen a big loss in losing Jeff Faine. He is the captain of the line and did a fantastic job of pointing out coverage and blitzers. 

The passing game may also be hurt if Bryant is 100% or doesn't play.  This knee injury sounds like a season long aggravation.  He either has to tough it (and who knows how successful he can be then) or call it a season and hang it up.  Clayton performed well, but Winslow has to step up.  He made a few grabs, but will need to be a solid #2 WR. 

Terrance McGee was pretty successful in holding Moss in check until a late grab and run happened.  Paul Posluzny is out with an arm injury, which should be good for the tight end passing game and running game.  Aaron Schobel will look to apply pressure in the four man front the Bucs will face. The Bucs need to establish the line of scrimmage to have success in the ground and air game.

Special Teams

Both teams had severe special teams issues.  Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff late to set up the Pats for the winning score.  The Bucs couldn't muster more than 40 yards in the air on punts and saw their kicker go 0-2 on field goals, including a block.  Field position is always key, so look for Dirk Johnson to kick a bit deeper, if he's capable.  Mike Nugent has to start making some field goals, if nothing else than for confidence of himself or the fans.  Roscoe Parrish and Clifton Smith are two dynamic return guys, so there is the potential for a big play on any kick.

Key Matchups

Terrell Owens vs Aqib Talib - I'm guessing Talib draws T.O, on Sunday.  Look for the second eyar corner to stay physical with T.O. and try to frustrate him.  He should have some safety help over the top (should being the operative word).  T.O. is a dynamic WR, but teams have shown they can win without him touching the ball.  I'd like to see the Bucs pressure the Bills to do just that.

Sabby Piscitelli vs himself - Seriously.  He has to go back out there and forget last week.  Important things are depth, assignment and wrapping up.  He has to be disciplined.  The Bills WR's aren't slouches and will make him pay.

Gaines Adams vs Demetrius Bell & Brad Butler - Gaines has to win this battle.  He is supposed to be on his way to becoming a premier pass rusher.  This is a good time to start.  Facing two unheralded tackles may be just what he needs. 

Donald Penn vs Aaron Schobel - Give Penn his due.  He put a stop to Demarcus Ware last week, and now we need the same performance against Schobel.  He (Schobel) had a great pick and return for a score last week, let's hope he has no more playmaking in his future.

Antonio Bryant vs Terrence McGee - If Bryant plays, he's going to draw McGee in coverage.  Bryant has to win this battle, at least enough to get targeted and free up other options.  McGee did a pretty good job against Moss last week, hopefully Bryant will be 100% and give McGee some fits.

Jonathan Compas vs Buffalo DT's - Who the heck is Jonathan Compas?  He's Jeff Faine's replacement, that's who.  Faine and the OL did an excellent job.  Now Compas must come in and guide the Buc's OL and help Leftwich in the passing game. 

What to watch for

Will Antonio Bryant be 100%.  A key factor in the Bucs passing game, he makes the deep plays go.

The Bucs kicking game.  Deep or high punts (or both), and made field goals. 

Under Pressure.  The DL for the Bucs has to generate pressure and force Trent Edwards to make mistakes.  The Bucs OL has to keep Leftwich upright. 

Well, there you go, the breakdown on Sunday's game.  My prediction will come on Saturday afternoon, but feel free to drop your thoughts and predictions in the comments section.