NFL Week Three: Buccaneers @ Patriots
A win is a win. The Patriots have two sloppy games under their belt and are tied with the Dolphins atop the AFC East heading into Week Three. After the Chiefs surpassed their win total (2) from last year, last night, the story-lines in the NFL are beginning to shift. Facing CB Darrelle Revis is nothing new, the team on the front of his jersey has changed in 2013 for the better. Tampa Bay HC Greg Schiano left Rutgers in 2011 after a 10 year stint with the Scarlet Knights. The Buccaneers were a consistently inconsistent team last year. QB Josh Freeman and crew recorded three and five game losing streaks last year with a four game winning steak sprinkled in between, ending up at (7-9). In Week One this year, the Bucs lost to the Jets on a field goal after a bonehead late hit on Geno Smith out of bounds as time expired. Despite the deflating defeat, Tampa came back hard in Week Two but fell just short to the division rival Saints (16-14). There is no denying the talent the Buccaneers have, WR Vincent Jackson and RB Doug Martin are studs at their respective positions. This will be an interesting early-season matchup, check out these three keys to victory for the Patriots in Foxboro at 1:00 on FOX this Sunday.
1) Establish the run: It is quite apparent that New England is banged up offensively. The Patriots’ deepest position coming into training camp was running back. With Vereen shining in Week One only to be sidelined for ten-plus weeks after the fact, newcomers LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington will be leaned on if Stevan Ridley continues to cough up the rock. This is not a new realization for the Patriots, the harsh reality was discovered just minutes into the season opener.
New England is 13th in the NFL with 106 YPG on the ground and 21st through the air with 225.5 YPG. What does this tell us? It’s week two. What else? It is imperative to gain positive yards on first and second down to set up easy third down conversions. Tom Brady has a 63.8 QBR on first down, 42.9 QBR on second down and 110.8 on third down! Furthermore, he has thrown all three of his touchdowns on the down this year. TB12 has only handed it off five times on third, gaining a measly two yards. The Patriots need to establish the run early and continue this trend in 2013.
2) Contain Doug Martin: Despite leading the league in penalties and penalty yardage, as well as losing to the Jets, the Buccaneers are no slouch of an opponent. Through two games, the Patriots defense has limited teams to an uncharacteristic 169.5 YPG through the air, good for 4th in the NFL. They sit at the bottom of the pack (28th), surrendering an average of 132.5 YPG on the ground. Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin has rushed for 209 yards and a touchdown. The third year back is a stud and should be treated like one. Expect Belichick to bring seven in the box, tempting Freeman to air it out with his inconsistent production.
3) Create pressure: Get ahead early and make Tampa Bay fight back. Allowing the Bucs to take control of this game and execute elaborate drives will prove costly for our unproven offense. More importantly, we all saw how effective Chandler Jones has been this season. The defensive line is versatile and it has shown thus far, recording four sacks. Last week was a rainy mess; however, the Patriots displayed their ability to limit a mobile quarterback. It was Geno Smith, nevertheless, it was a good test for a team that is beginning to gel. Expect New England to bring the heat early and often, as their cornerbacks and safeties have held their own in the early parts of 2013.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and either is the AFC East Title this year. If the Patriots do not operate a seamless gameplan this week, they will definitely have their hands full in Atlanta on SNF. New England takes it with a 24-17 victory on Sunday.