Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breaking down Week 3

What the Patriots do best

Win at home behind QB Tom Brady's steady leadership. New England is 31-3 over its past 34 home games dating to 2008 (including 20 straight wins at one point). However, their one loss last season was to a Cardinals team that finished 1-7 on the road and 5-11 overall, so it can happen.

How you beat the Patriots

San Francisco forced four turnovers and held New England to 2-of-15 on third downs in last season's 41-34 win. It will take a mistake-free game with help from the Patriots, who are thin on offense at the skill positions.

Patriots' top offensive player

QB Tom Brady hasn't had his top five targets from last season in terms of receptions but will get a boost if TE Rob Gronkowski returns. He makes few mistakes, and he has thrown at least one touchdown in 50 straight games, four short of Drew Brees' NFL record.

Patriots' top defensive player

DT Vince Wilfork (right) has been to four straight Pro Bowls and is the 325-pound anchor of a physical, tough run defense.

The Bucs must avoid ...

Penalties. You've heard this before. The Bucs can't be anywhere near their average of 110 penalty yards a game if they want to be in the game in the second half.

The pick

Patriots 31, Bucs 21

Lions (1-1) at Redskins (0-2)

1 p.m. Pick 'em, 49

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, above, didn't throw 40 times in a game once as a rookie. But he has done it in both games this season, including 30-for-49 in the opener. His mobility isn't back yet (just 25 total rushing yards), but Alfred Morris is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Watch for how Lions QB Matthew Stafford is able to attack two rookies in the Redskins secondary, S Bacarri Rambo and CB David Amerson. Washington is one of five teams without an interception in 2013.

The pick: Redskins 21, Lions 20

Falcons (1-1) at Dolphins (2-0)

4 p.m. Dolphins by 2, 441/2

A matchup of teams that emphasize the passing game over the run: 85 percent of Atlanta's yards have been through the air, 83 percent of Miami's. The Falcons' Steven Jackson and the Dolphins' Lamar Miller aren't likely to change that substantially. QB Ryan Tannehill has 591 yards, impressive considering the team's big signing, WR Mike Wallace, has 130, fewer than TE Charles Clay. Miami has never faced WR Julio Jones, above, who had a career-best 182 yards last week.

The pick: Falcons 28, Dolphins 17

Bills (1-1) at Jets (1-1)

4:25 p.m. Jets by 2, 39

A battle of the rookie quarterbacks. Each has won a game. Buffalo's EJ Manuel has been more polished with three touchdowns and one interception while the Jets' Geno Smith, above, has one touchdown and four picks. Jets CB Antonio Cromartie had a 40-yard pick-six in his last home game against Buffalo. Bills DE Mario Williams is coming off a ridiculous game with 41/2 sacks. He's fourth in the NFL with 631/2 since 2007. Ex-Bucs TE Kellen Winslow needs 57 yards to reach 5,000 for his career.

The pick: Jets 17, Bills 10

Colts (1-1) at 49ers (1-1)

4:25 p.m. Ch. 10 49ers by 10, 461/2

This was already the most intriguing game of the week before the Colts dealt a 2014 first-rounder to the Browns for RB Trent Richardson, above. Indy QB Andrew Luck faces his old Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh. Luck's running ability is underappreciated — his six rushing touchdowns since the start of last season are the most of any AFC quarterback. Former FIU standout Ty Hilton has six 100-yard receiving games among his first 18 in the league, including 124 on six grabs last week.

The pick: 49ers 38, Colts 21

Jaguars (0-2) at Seahawks (2-0)

4:25 p.m. Seahawks by 19, 401/2

Arguably the league's best hosting the league's worst, and it's among the largest point spreads in NFL history. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, a former Bucs assistant, spent the past four years as Seattle's defensive coordinator. Jaguars QB Chad Henne wasn't bad last week, throwing for 241 yards and a touchdown. Seattle QB Russell Wilson is 9-0 at home with 18 touchdowns against three interceptions. CB Richard Sherman, above, has seven interceptions over his past seven home games.

The pick: Seahawks 41, Jaguars 10

Raiders (1-1) at Broncos (2-0)

8:40 Monday, ESPN, Broncos by 15, 491/2

Denver's averaging 45 points, and its defense will be a huge challenge for Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor (162 rushing yards, 343 passing). Broncos QB Peyton Manning is 12-4 on Mondays, including 6-0 against the AFC West with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions with Denver. If the Broncos can get reliable running from Knowshon Moreno (two touchdowns last week), above, they're even more dangerous. Rod Streater leads Oakland's receivers with just 112 yards.

The pick: Broncos 34, Raiders 17

Bears (2-0) at Steelers (0-2)

8:30 p.m. Ch. 8 Bears by 2, 401/2

QB Ben Roethlisberger is 15-1 at home against NFC teams with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Steelers' run game is 31st in the league with Felix Jones "leading" the way with 36 yards. Bears QB Jay Cutler, above, has thrown five touchdowns, including three to TE Martellus Bennett. Pull out a road win in prime time, and you'll be reading a lot about first-year Bears coach Marc Trestman and Cutler, who totaled seven touchdowns in his final seven games of 2012.

The pick: Bears 21, Steelers 17

Texans (2-0) at Ravens (1-1)

1 p.m. Ch. 10 Texans by 11/2, 441/2

Baltimore as a home underdog? The Ravens have won 13 consecutive home games in September and are 34-7 at home under coach John Harbaugh. But RB Ray Rice, above, is reportedly out with a strained left hip flexor, and the Texans have shown a flair for the dramatic in their two wins. S Ed Reed's homecoming will be big, but watch out for two rookie receivers. Houston's DeAndre Hopkins had the overtime touchdown grab last week, and Marlon Brown has caught touchdowns in both games for the Ravens.

The pick: Texans 28, Ravens 21

Packers (1-1) at Bengals (1-1)

1 p.m. Packers by 21/2, 491/2

The Bengals' Andy Dalton has 10 touchdowns and one interception over his past five games at home. There's buzz around rookie RB Giovani Bernard, who had a rushing and receiving touchdown last week, but watch out for tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. Green Bay's James Jones leads the NFL with 12 touchdown catches since the start of 2012. And Aaron Rodgers, above, has at least three touchdown passes in five straight games, a feat matched by only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

The pick: Packers 31, Bengals 24

Giants (0-2) at Panthers (0-2)

1 p.m. Panthers by 1, 47

Giants QB Eli Manning not only leads the NFL with seven interceptions, but no one else has more than four. He's within a yard of the NFL lead but needs to limit his turnovers if New York is to get on track. In the last meeting, Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams, above, had four touchdowns and rushed for 108. The Giants' Brandon Jacobs had three touchdowns in the last meeting and scored last week after re-signing. David Wilson is the Giants' leading rusher with 36 yards; not a good sign.

The pick: Panthers 21, Giants 17

Rams (1-1) at Cowboys (1-1)

1 p.m. Cowboys by 31/2, 47

Last time these two met, the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown. Tony Romo is 2-0 against the Rams with five touchdowns against one interception. WR Dez Bryant, above, has 11 touchdowns over his past 10 games. Rams WR Tavon Austin hasn't disappointed as the first-rounder leads all rookies in catches (12) and touchdowns (two). After going for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, TE Jared Cook had one catch for 10 yards last week.

The pick: Cowboys 34, Rams 24

Browns (0-2) at Vikings (0-2)

1 p.m. Vikings by 61/2, 401/2

Not many folks will take the Browns with RB Trent Richardson dealt to the Colts and QB Brian Hoyer starting. Hoyer has two touchdown passes in his four-plus seasons and faces DE Jared Allen, who has 24 sacks over his past 21 home games. If Minnesota can't win here, you wonder if QB Christian Ponder (two touchdowns, four interceptions) gives way to Matt Cassel. Adrian Peterson, above, went for 180 yards and three touchdowns in his only game against the Browns.

The pick: Vikings 31, Browns 10

Chargers (1-1) at Titans (1-1)

1 p.m. Titans by 3, 44

San Diego has won the past eight meetings and has averaged 37.7 points in the past three games against Tennessee. QB Jake Locker has a modest 273 yards for the Titans but hasn't had a turnover. But Chris Johnson is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. The Chargers' Eddie Royal, above, is a surprise star with five touchdowns among 14 catches (after having just five among 138 catches the previous four seasons). Royal needs to step up with WR Malcom Floyd out with a neck injury.

The pick: Chargers 35, Titans 31

Cardinals (1-1) at Saints (2-0)

1 p.m. Saints by 71/2, 481/2

Carson Palmer has spread the ball around in his first two games for Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald has two touchdowns and rookie Andre Ellington one, and do-everything corner/returner Patrick Peterson has two catches. The key is how well Saints QB Drew Brees, above, limits mistakes, having given up a pick-six against the Bucs and facing an opportunistic secondary. New Orleans finds many ways to beat you with RB Darren Sproles, but his longest play among 15 catches so far is just 6 yards.

The pick: Saints 34, Cardinals 24

Projected starters

Bucs offense

WR: Vincent Jackson

LT: Donald Penn

LG: Carl Nicks

C: Jeremy Zuttah

RG: Davin Joseph

RT: Demar Dotson

TE: Luke Stocker

WR: Mike Williams

QB: Josh Freeman

RB: Doug Martin

FB: Erik Lorig

Patriots offense

WR: Kenbrell Thompkins

LT: Nate Solder

LG: Logan Mankins

C: Ryan Wendell

RG: Dan Connolly

RT: Sebastian Vollmer

TE: Michael Hoomanawanui

WR: Julian Edelman

QB: Tom Brady

RB: Stevan Ridley

FB: James Develin

Special teams

P/KO: Michael Koenen

PK: Rian Lindell

LS: Andrew Economos

KR/PR: Eric Page

Special teams

P: Ryan Allen

PK/KO: Stephen Gostkowski

LS: Danny Aiken

PR: Julian Edelman

KR: LeGarrette Blount


DE: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

DT: Gerald McCoy

DT: Akeem Spence

DE: Adrian Clayborn

SLB: Dekoda Watson

MLB: Mason Foster

WLB: Lavonte David

LCB: Darrelle Revis

RCB: Leonard Johnson

SS: Mark Barron

FS: Dashon Goldson


DE: Rob Ninkovich

DT: Vince Wilfork

DT: Tommy Kelly

DE: Chandler Jones

SLB: Dont'a Hightower

MLB: Brandon Spikes

WLB: Jerod Mayo

LCB: Aqib Talib

RCB: Alfonzo Dennard

SS: Steve Gregory

FS: Devin McCourty

Injury report

BUCS Out: CB Michael Adams (knee), G Gabe Carimi (illness), DT Derek Landri (knee). Questionable: TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring), G Carl Nicks (foot), TE Luke Stocker (hip). Probable: DE Adrian Clayborn (hip), LB Mason Foster (toe).

PatriotsOut: WR Matthew Slater (wrist). Doubtful: WR Danny Amendola (groin). Questionable: RB Brandon Bolden (knee), G Dan Connolly (finger), S Nate Ebner (ankle), TE Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm), T Will Svitek (knee), RB Leon Washington (thigh). Probable: TE Zach Sudfeld (hamstring).

The Bucs have had joint practices with the Patriots each of the past two preseasons, so there's a familiarity between the teams. Still, they haven't played a regular-season game at Gillette Stadium since 2005. It's not the place you want to go looking for your first win of the season.

Bucs offense

Rush: 112.5 (11th)

Pass: 149.0 (31st)

Total: 261.5 (29th)

Bucs defense

Rush: 82.5 (11th)

Pass: 255.0 (18th)

Total: 337.5 (t13th)

Patriots offense

Rush: 106.0 (13th)

Pass: 225.5 (21st)

Total: 331.5 (23rd)

Patriots defense

Rush: 132.5 (28th)

Pass: 169.5 (4th)

Total: 302.0 (7th)

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