On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with both teams coming off wins. Tampa Bay will make the long cross country trip to Oakland, but last played on Thursday so should be well rested. The Raiders defense will need to be prepared for a Buccaneers offense that has found balance this season.
Tampa Bay is ranked 15th in the NFL in rushing offense with 110 yards per game and 14th in passing offense at 246.6 yards per game. Quarterback Josh Freeman has played very well recently and has thrown for 1,800 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. In his last three games, the third year starter is averaging 337 yards per game with nine touchdowns and just one interception. The Raiders have done a much better job stopping the pass in the last three games after the bye. They will need to continue that effort to slow down a passing game that is in rhythm coming into Sunday's showdown.
“I think anytime you can be two-dimensional on offense it makes you more difficult to defend,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the Tampa Bay. “We’ve got to worry about the run and the pass. The quarterback is playing really well.”
The Buccaneers' rushing attack is spearheaded by rookie Doug Martin. The duel threat back is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and has totaled 767 yards this season. The Raiders come into the game allowing just 102.1 yards per game on the ground which is 11th best in the NFL. Martin is coming off his best game of the season, where he combined for 214 rushing and receiving yards against the Minnesota Vikings. The Raiders held Jamaal Charles to just 4 rushing yards on five carries last week. Linebackers Philip Wheeler, Miles Burris, and Rolando McClain have done a great job chasing down ball carriers and making sure tackles. They will be relied on heavily to contain Martin. The Raiders may also get linebacker Aaron Curry back on the field for the first time this season.
“Offensively, they’re a team with a lot of weapons,” Allen said. “They can strike at any point in time. Martin, the runner, there’s a reason why he was their first-round draft choice.”
One of the biggest challenges facing the Raiders will be defending the Buccaneers tall and strong wide receivers. Both Vincent Jackson (6-5, 230 pounds) and Mike Williams (6-2, 215 pounds) have the ability to present problems for the Oakland secondary. Jackson has caught 29 balls for 626 and five touchdowns, with Williams contributing 25 receptions for 436 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders are very familiar with Jackson, who spent seven seasons with the San Diego Chargers. When they faced him twice in 2011, they held Jackson to one catch for 22 yards and 2 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. Cornerbacks Michael Huff and Pat Lee will have a size disadvantage, but that can be overcome by good positioning in coverage.
“I think their ability to throw the ball down field vertically, and their receivers’ ability to go up and make a play at the highest point, is what they do extremely well,” Allen said. “That will be something that we have to make sure that we can defend. They’ve got two, well really three, tall receivers that can go up and make a play on a ball down the field. They’ll throw it into coverage sometimes and give their guys an opportunity to go up and make the play.”
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