The Oakland Raiders will be looking to earn their third-straight victory as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at O.Co Coliseum.
Like their previous two opponents, Tampa Bay is coming off a week with extra rest and time to prepare for the Raiders. Oakland’s two previous opponents were coming off of bye weeks, yet the Buccaneers are coming off of a week in which they played a Thursday night game against the Vikings.
The Buccaneers have been playing solid ball, winning two of their last three games to bring them to a 3-4 record.
Oakland’s secondary will have its handful trying to slow down Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman and the wide receiving corps that features former Charger Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Jackson, who played seven years in San Diego, knows the Raiders well and presents a 6-foot-five, 230-pound frame that is tough for anyone to cover. Michael Huff and company need to limit the big plays from Jackson and attempt to keep everything underneath.
Freeman has excelled in the past three weeks after getting a slow start. Freeman has averaged 336.7 yards per game while throwing for nine touchdowns and just one interception in the three previous games. Richard Seymour and the defensive line will need to get into the backfield and disrupt the timing of any play in order to help slow down a Buccaneers offense that is finding its rhythm. Oakland’s defense is coming off of a three-sack game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rookie running back Doug Martin has been everything the Buccaneers could have hoped for when they drafted him with the 31st overall selection in April’s NFL Draft. The Oakland native is the NFL’s 11th leading rusher with 543 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Head coach Greg Schiano, who had Ray Rice in Rutgers, has enjoyed Martin’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield while he has hauled in 16 receptions for 224 yards.
The Raiders rush defense has been solid for much of this year unlike recent years. The Raiders defense is currently ranked 11th in the NFL while allowing 102.1 yards per game on the ground to their opponent.
Raiders star running back Darren McFadden was able to get the rushing attack going with 114 yards on the ground but will face a tougher opponent this week. The Buccaneers are allowing a measly 85.1 rushing yards per game, sixth in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will look to include more power blocking once again in an attempt to jump-start the Raiders rushing attack.
Should the rushing attack struggle, Carson Palmer and the Raiders wide receivers face a favorable matchup going up against a Buccaneers secondary that has surrendered the second most passing yards in the NFL at 309.6. After trading cornerback Aqib Talib to the New England Patriots this week, Tampa Bay will have to rely on young cornerbacks such as Leonard Johnson, Brandon McDonald and Myron Lewis. Should Palmer want to test this secondary, expect Palmer to line up with multiple wide receiver sets that give Denarius Moore and the wide receivers a chance to make a big play.
Moore has shown he can be trusted by Palmer this season with the exception to a dropped touchdown pass last week. Though Moore made up for it later and has hauled in a touchdown pass from Palmer in three straight games. It will be important for Palmer to get Darrius Heyward-Bey and the other wide receivers involved to keep the defense honest.
The Raiders would bring their record to 8-8 and either be tied for the divisional lead or remain one game back halfway through the season.
Both the teams last met on Dec. 28, 2008 when the Raiders beat former head coach Jon Gruden and the Buccaneers 31-24 before Gruden was fired in the offseason, though Tampa Bay did blow out the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII by a score of 48-21. The only player on the Buccaneers from that Super Bowl season is Ronde Barber, who is now playing at safety instead of cornerback. As for the Raiders, the only two players on the 2002 Super Bowl team that remain on the team is the kicking duo of Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski, though Zack Crockett is now with the team as a scout.
Out: T Khalif Barnes (groin), CB Shawntae Spencer (foot)
Doubtful: LB Keenan Clayton (shoulder)
Questionable: RB Taiwan Jones (knee), LB Rolando McClain (toe)
Probable: DT Desmond Bryant (elbow), LB Travis Goethel (back), RB Mike Goodson (toe), K Sebastian Janikowski (left groin), RB Darren McFadden (shoulder), S Michael Mitchell (finger), DT Richard Seymour (knee), DE Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder), T Willie Smith (ankle), DE Dave Tollefson (shoulder), T Jared Veldheer (elbow), C Stefen Wisniewski (ankle)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Probable: DE Michael Bennett (ankle), CB Brandon McDonald (ankle), T Donald Penn (wrist), CB Eric Wright (achilles)