Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What to watch in Sunday's Bucs-Giants game

TAMPA — Can the Bucs keep the Giants winless and keep Eli Manning from becoming the only quarterback with a 6-0 record against Tampa Bay?

Here are five things to watch as the Bucs seek their sixth straight home win, and their first against the Giants since 2003, when Ronde and Tiki Barber were still playing and not calling games together for Fox Sports.

BATTLE OF THE ROOKIE TIGHT ENDS

The Bucs' O.J. Howard (left, top) went 19th in this year's draft and the Giants' Evan Engram (left, bottom) went 23rd, so the first two tight ends drafted go head-to-head today.

They've had very different starts to their careers. Howard has been targeted only four times, with two catches for 29 yards in his first two games. Engram, who played at Ole Miss while Howard was at Alabama, has at least four catches in each of his three games and 13 total for 138 yards and a touchdown.

If there's one thing that could change that, it's the Giants defense. New York has given up a touchdown to a tight end in each game — Dallas' Jason Witten, Detroit's Eric Ebron and Philadelphia's Zach Ertz — and each opponent's leading receiver has been its tight end.

RED ZONE DEFENSE

How were the Eagles able to edge the Giants 27-24 last week? Red zone efficiency. The Eagles had three touchdowns in three red zone opportunities while the Giants went 2-for-5, getting stopped on fourth down at the 1-yard line and the 13 in the first half, then settling for a field goal late when they got to the 18.

A year ago, the Giants had the NFL's No. 1 red zone defense, holding opponents to touchdowns in 42 percent of their opportunities. The Bucs, by comparison, were 24th, giving up touchdowns 58 percent of the time. Three games into 2017, the Giants are allowing touchdowns 62 percent of the time, part of why they're 0-3.

YOU REMEMBER DeSEAN?

New Bucs WR DeSean Jackson had played his entire career in the NFC East until this season, and whether with the Eagles or Washington, he has gotten the Giants twice every year.

As such, only one active player has more career touchdown catches against the Giants — Dallas TE Jason Witten, who has 14 — than Jackson's six. He has essentially played a full season against New York, with 16 games adding up to 63 catches for 1,051 yards.

It's no more than his career averages, but it points to familiarity. Giants fans remember Jackson well from the stunning 2010 comeback, when the Eagles, down 31-10 with eight minutes to play, rallied for a 38-31 win, the final score on a Jackson 65-yard punt return as time expired.

WELCOME HOME, JPP

Former USF standout Jason Pierre-Paul returns to Raymond James Stadium, where he played during his only season (2009) with the Bulls.

The defensive end has played here twice with the Giants. He had a sack in their 2012 win, and when he played in 2015, it marked his first game back after missing half a season in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in which he lost his right index finger and suffered additional damage to his hand.

Pierre-Paul, a first-round draft pick in 2010, showed he can still be a solid pass-rusher last season with seven sacks in 12 games. He has one sack this season.

CAN THE GIANTS RUN?

The Bucs have the NFL's No. 4 rush defense, allowing just 72 yards per game, and much of that comes from holding the Bears to 20 yards on 16 carries in the season-opening win.

The Giants are last in the league at 49 rushing yards per game and last in time of possession, 25:09 to 34:51 for their opponents. Their leading rusher after three games, Orleans Darkwa, has 53 total yards; top carrier Paul Perkins averages just 2.1 yards per carry; and two of their top three backs were limited by injuries in practice this past week.

Contact Greg Auman at gaum[email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

   
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