The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have seen a resurgence in their offense over the past couple of weeks, but that resurgence also just so happened to coincide with their games against the struggling Pittsburgh and New Orleans defenses.
This week brings a much tougher test, the Baltimore Ravens, who are re-establishing their identity as a feared defense that pressures quarterbacks and makes big plays.
So how do the Bucs overcome this challenge? They execute and overcome tough matchups, such as these key battles to watch on Sunday:
Demar Dotson and Anthony Collins versus the Baltimore edge rushers
I know it's a cop out to include multiple players in one matchup, but this is the biggest hurdle the Bucs must overcome if they want to win this game. Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee and Elvis Dumervil have been dominant as pass rushers so far this season, and while the Bucs have been improving when it comes to protecting the quarterback, they haven't faced a test like this yet.
Dotson is normally reliable, but will still be tested, but it will really be on Collins to step up and play better than he has so far this year. The former Bengal played against Suggs and company twice a year during his time in the AFC North, and knows how dangerous they can be. He has to keep Mike Glennon clean on Sunday if the Bucs want to move the ball reliably on offense.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins versus Matt Elam (and versus his own hands)
Once again, Austin Seferian-Jenkins will have a big opportunity to have his breakout game as a rookie against a team with suspect safeties. Former Florida standout Matt Elam has been horrible in pass coverage this year (PFF grades him as a -7.2 on the season), and that means ASJ should have chances to get open over the middle of the field.
Once he gets open, he has to secure the ball and look to make a big play only after he's tucked the ball away. The Tampa Bay offense cannot afford drops, especially not when penalties and communication issues seem to be inevitable as Marcus Arroyo runs an NFL offense for the first time.
2014 Mike Glennon versus 2013 Mike Glennon
This is maybe the most important matchup of them all this weekend, as Mike Glennon faces his toughest test of the young season. Last season, the NC State product was horrible under pressure, and teams eventually learned that blitzing him led to the quick and total destruction of the Tampa Bay gameplan.
This year, Glennon has shown signs of handling pressure better, but he must show that those traits are repeatable in a game where he'll see more rushers than he has in his previous three appearances. He cannot allow his bad habits to creep back and ruin his strong start to the season, something that could happen if his linemen fail him and allow defenders to get him off of his spot in the pocket.
Glennon has to show that he can handle blitzes and muddy pockets if he wants to be a reliable starter in the NFL. He hasn't been tested all that often in that regard through two weeks, but he almost certainly will face a big test this week. Can he pass? That will go a long way to determining whether or not he truly is the "future of the franchise."