Steve Smith has been an absolute menace for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the years. In fact, the explosive veteran wide receiver has essentially had a Pro Bowl year against the Bucs: he's caught 76 balls for 1,103 yards and six touchdowns in 16 games against the Bucs since 2002.
And while he faded in the previous two years, he's performing at a higher level than ever before: he's caught 56 passes for 1,060 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. He's averaging a ridiculous 18.0 yards per catch, ranked fifth in the NFL 0 and everyone ranked ahead of him has much less production.
The Bucs need to be very, very concerned about this. The run defense has been awful and it will be tested plenty by the combination of Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams - but Steve Smith is the real problem, here. Enter Aqib Talib.
Talib has the ability to be a shutdown cornerback. His problem has been consistency, both this year and in previous years. But the past two games he has played some excellent football. He contained Greg Jennings, one of the best receivers in football for my money, to just two catches for six yards. He followed that up by shutting down Nate Washington, who caught one pass for 12 yards, and scoring a touchdown on an interception return to round out a terrific two-game stretch.
Talib has shown that he can be an elite cornerback, but can he continue that play or will he revert to being undisciplined and lacking concentration? The Bucs used him in man coverage last season on Steve Smith, and he did a decent job, but he lost a number of plays as well. One of them was crucial: he allowed a 37-yard touchdown in man-coverage after whiffing on the press at the line, and getting caught out of position on a quick slant by Smith.
That sums up Aqib Talib perfectly: inconsistent. He can't afford to have those inconsistencies on Sunday if the Bucs want to stop Steve Smith.