Week 9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers At Oakland Raiders
- QuarterbackJosh Freeman has been a much more effective quarterback this season. He is projecting confidence in every move he makes on the field. He’s got the size, strength, arm strength, accuracy and touch this season that he did not show last year. He went to a hostile environment last week and punished the Vikings and he should be ready to do the same thing to the Raiders.Carson Palmer is not an elite quarterback, but he is proving to be quite competitive. Palmer has helped the Raiders steal a couple of games in the late going. He’s big, strong and still has a powerful arm, but he’s no longer the gifted young stud. He’s getting by on guile and ingenuity at this point.
- OffenseThe Bucs want to punish opponents with a hard-nosed running game. In the Week Eight win over the Vikings, it was Doug Martin who let loose with 135 yards and he took the pressure off of Freeman. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson is the Bucs’ top big-play threat and that makes it easier for Mike Williams to get open.The running game is giving Palmer a big assist. Darren McFadden is another back who is going to finish each of his runs and he is coming off a 114-yard effort against the Kansas City Chiefs. You have to respect Darrius Heyward-Bey who has taken some overwhelming punishment this year but comes back to make big plays nearly every game.
- DefenseThe Bucs are playing much tougher and a much more physical brand of defense than they did last year. The Bucs are going to make mistakes, but it’s not because they are playing timid football. Ancient Ronde Barber is coming off a 9-tackle game in which he also forced a fumble. Defensive end Michael Bennett also forced a fumble while making five tackles and adding a sack.The Raiders are surprising some people on offense, but if they are going to have success this year it will be the result of the defense. Outside linebacker Philip Wheeler is coming off an 11-tackle, 1.0-sack effort against the Chiefs. Richard Seymour is still a playmaker on the defensive line and must be accounted for or he will cause problems for Freeman throughout the game.
- Special TeamsThe Bucs are not explosive on special teams, but they know that placekicker Connor Barth is dependable. He made 3-of-3 field goal attempts against the Vikings. Punter Michael Koenen averaged 46.8 yards on six punts against Minnesota.Sebastian Janikowski gives the Raiders an advantage at the placekicker position nearly every time he takes the field. He is incredibly dependable and may be the most powerful kicker in the history of the NFL. Shane Lechler is an equal partner with Janikowski and has an explosive leg as a punter.
The Raiders are showing some toughness in their back-to-back wins over the Jaguars and Chiefs. While they are not the most talented team, they are playing well in the fourth quarter. Going across the country would seem to be a lot to ask of Greg Schiano’s Bucs, but they are starting to get explosive play from Freeman and could build a big lead.