Tampa has been decimated by injuries and suspensions this season, but are looking at a .500 record if they can win this Sunday. If Greg Schiano can get this team to 8-8 at the end of the season, he should get some serious consideration for coach of the year. With major producers Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, and Adrian Clayborn all our for the year, and Eric Wright and Aqib Talib suspended for four games each, there is a lot of talented players off the field for the Bucs.
They have shown their biggest struggles in their secondary, where they rank 31st in the pass. Most of that was with Talib and Wright in the lineup, so I can only imagine how poorly it fairs against a good passing team. They will face a decent one this Sunday at Oakland. Carson Palmer doesn’t have the arm strength of a few years back, but is still capable of putting up some yardage through the air. He has passed for nearly 2000 yards already, with many of his receivers frequently out. Right now, Denarius Moore is his top target, and has been pretty solid all year. The Bucs will likely struggle to stop him, especially with Darrius Heyward-Bey back. The speedster out of MD broke out last year for his first big season since becoming a first round draft pick. He can torch D’s over the top, so stopping the two of them won’t be an easy task. This isn’t an elite passing attack, but Tampa has struggled to stop much worse.
Luckily for the Bucs, they have done well against the run. If you asked me in the beginning of the year, I would have told you the Raiders would be a run first team as long as McFadden was healthy. Run DMC hasn’t been held off the field much, but he has struggled mightily. he has just 3.3 YPC, leading to the 30th ranked run offense in the league. That plays right into the Bucs favor who have done a good job of stopping the run so far this year. McFadden has incredible talent though, so he can break out at anytime.
The Raiders have been average on the defensive side of the ball. They have stepped up recently, but have faced the likes of Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel the last two weeks. Josh Freeman has played much better than the two, especially recently. The rushing game for Tampa concerns me, but more because of the Tampa line woes. Missing Nicks could prove to be a crushing blow to Martin, who was just starting to really come on after a slow start. He won’t be phased out completely, but I have to expect a decrease in production.
The Raiders have won their last two games to improve to 3-4, but both wins were against weaker competition. A healthy Bucs team probably is favored here, but as it stands now it’s basically an even line. Still, Tampa has been playing their best football recently already missing a lot of players. I don’t think Nicks will be what brings them tumbling down. The offense may take a step back, but should be able to score enough to stay in this game. Either way, one team is coming out of Oakland with a .500 record.