TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers return home to face to the New York Giants at 4:05 p.m. in a week three matchup full of storylines for both teams.
The Bucs will not have a true home game after today for seven weeks as they embark on a nationwide and worldwide tour of five games, one of which counts as a “home” game on the schedule. That game will be the rematch against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 13 in London, England.
The Bucs recovered from an opening day loss to the San Francisco 49’ers by winning on the road at Carolina 20 to 14. The team has had 10 days to rest and prepare for a Giants team that has struggled to an 0-2 start and will change course at quarterback by benching future hall of famer Eli Manning in favor of the team’s first-round draft selection Daniel Jones.
While the national spotlight shines on the Giants, the Bucs hope to continue their momentum after their dominating defensive performance against the Panthers. With five straight games away from Tampa on the schedule, a 2-1 start to the season feels like a must.
Here are three keys to watch for today at Raymond James Stadium:
1. Keep Saquon in their sights.
No matter who would play quarterback for the Giants today, the number one challenge for the Bucs defense was always going to be: contain running back Saquon Barkley. The reigning NFL Rookie of the Year has picked up his stellar play in his second season. Last week against the Buffalo Bills, Barkley ran for 107 yards in a game the Giants were forced to pass a lot. He is currently second in the NFL in rushing through two games with 227 yards. Barkley ran over and around Bucs defenders in a Giants victory last season and he will make the defense pay again if he is allowed to get to edge of the Bucs 3-4 defensive front.
Last week against Carolina, the Bucs faced an equally potent running back challenge and shut down Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, holding him to 37 yards rushing for the entire game.
2. Pressure Jones a ton. Then pressure him more.
The Giants selected Daniel Jones one pick after the Bucs took linebacker Devin White in this year’s NFL draft. He was chosen to succeed the great Eli Manning and proved he was worthy of immediate consideration by dazzling during the preseason. But there is always the unknown when a rookie quarterback makes his first official start and upside and potential cannot replace a long day made difficult by a strong defense.
The Bucs will want to put the Giants into passing situations any way they can. Some of that will have to do with the defense’s ability to stop Barkley and the run game. The game itself may call for the Giants to pass if the Bucs can jump out to a lead and increase that advantage early. The game plan devised by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will disguise looks on the defensive line, creating multiple blitzes that appear to be coverage. Jones will have already seen many of these looks as he practices against his own defense, another team that uses the 3-4 scheme up front.
The Bucs executed their defensive plan to near-perfection last week at Carolina, holding the Panthers to a third-down conversion rate of 3 for 14 and 0 for 3 on fourth down attempts.
3. Help Jameis by running even better.
After a three-interception nightmare in the season opener, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston committed no turnovers against Carolina. He made critical throws, including a 41-yard strike to wide receiver Mike Evans. Winston even showed great chemistry with wide receiver Chris Godwin, waiting for his route and hitting a perfect strike 20-yard touchdown. Godwin finished the night with 121 yards receiving. This, as the Bucs passing attack still shows room for improvement.
The bread and butter for this offense, as it has shown in two games, will be the run game. Head coach Bruce Arians says it begins there and that he intends to ride the “hot hand” as long as possible. In week one, that was running back Ronald Jones who carried the ball for 75 yards. In week two, it was Peyton Barber’s turn, rushing for 82 yards against the Panthers, scoring a critical touchdown from 16 yards out.
If the Bucs defense is able to create turnovers and short fields for the offense, look for Winston and company to go for broke, finishing red zone drives with touchdowns instead of field goal attempts. The Giants defense enters the game ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass.