Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs opponent preview: Broncos, Week 4

When they play: Week 4 (Oct. 2) in Tampa

2015 record: 12-4, won AFC West, won Super Bowl 24-10 over Carolina.

Last time vs. Bucs: The Broncos beat the Bucs 31-23 in 2012 in Denver, with Peyton Manning throwing three TDs, two to DeMaryius Thomas. Bucs were down 28-10 in the fourth before making it close late.

2016 outlook: Manning is gone. Even Brock Osweiler is gone, leaving unheralded Trevor Siemian as the starting QB until rookie Paxton Lynch is ready to take over. The defense took some key losses, but will still be a strength for Denver, especially with (even) less at QB than they had in 2015.

Player to watch: OLB Von Miller is a game-changer — double-digit sacks in all four of his healthy NFL seasons and four forced fumbles last season. He had five sacks in three playoff games last year — can he and the defense even get Denver back to the postseason this time around?

Rookie to watch: Much like the Rams' Jared Goff the week before, the Bucs might not see first-round QB Paxton Lynch as he's eased into the lineup. Absent that, keep an eye on fourth-round RB Devontae Booker, who was good enough to push out Ronnie Hillman as the top backup to C.J. Anderson. He played well in two seasons at Utah — could be another late-round RB steal for Denver.

Key matchup: Bucs offensive tackles against Denver pass rush. Broncos had seven sacks in the Super Bowl against Carolina and Cam Newton — even with Malik Jackson and others gone, containing that front seven is a priority against the Broncos. A good early test for a still-young Bucs offensive line.

Familiar face: Cornerback Aqib Talib, traded away by the Bucs in 2012, has seven interceptions — four returned for touchdowns — in his two seasons in Denver. Having said that, he was on the trading block before the season, having only lasted two seasons with the Patriots despite his success there. OLB Dekoda Watson is another former Bucs player, and USF's Kayvon Webster is a leader on special teams.

Cool stat: Denver led the NFL with 52 sacks in the regular season, and then trumped that with 14 in three playoff games, including a record-tying seven in the Super Bowl. The 14 sacks in a single postseason was the most for any NFL team since the 2005 Steelers.

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