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Bucs-Dolphins: Things to watch in Sunday's 1 p.m. game

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws an interception during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws an interception during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times
Published Nov. 18, 2017

TAMPA — Can the Bucs pull off back-to-back wins with a backup quarterback? Win a game on the road for the first time this season? Politely hand the unnamed trophy for the state's worst football team back to the Dolphins?

With WR Mike Evans back from his suspension and QB Jameis Winston remaining sidelined with a shoulder injury, here are the things to watch in today's 1 p.m. Bucs-Dolphins game.

Pull run game out of storage

Miami gave up 294 rushing yards to Carolina on Monday. That's the second-most allowed in any game this year. If the Bucs get half that total, it would be a season high by 30 yards.

Consistent running doesn't lead to winning so much as it illustrates having the lead. The Bucs have at least 90 rushing yards in each of their three wins, and no more than 90 rushing yards in any of their six losses. Whether that is Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers or Peyton Barber, the Bucs need balance.

Take advantage of backup

This won't be like Atlanta's Adrian Clayborn getting to Cowboys backup (and Tampa Catholic grad) Chaz Green for five of his six sacks last weekend, but the Bucs have an opportunity to exploit.

Jesse Davis is a 26-year-old first-year player who started two games at guard and is now making his second start at right tackle with Ja'Wuan James on injured reserve. Miami has only allowed 17 sacks this season (one fewer than the Bucs). The Bucs had six sacks last week. Miami is vulnerable here.

Let Fitzpatrick throw downfield

The Bucs beat the Jets without an offensive play longer than 22 yards. Miami allows quarterbacks to throw for a 104.8 rating, the NFL's second highest behind Oakland.

The Dolphins have only three interceptions and have given up 16 touchdown passes. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start with Winston out, and the Bucs' experienced receivers should be able to take advantage of young corners Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley.

Watch out in slot

Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry (right) has 61 receptions, 472 yards and five TDs and might be the NFL's best slot receiver. The Bucs are without the injured Vernon Hargreaves, who found a role as the slot or nickel cornerback the last two games.

That means the Bucs either go back to Robert McClain, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, or put their trust in Javien Elliott. They'll probably have some safety help to limit Landry's yards after the catch. If Kenny Stills (back) can't go, that takes away some of the Miami's deep threat.

Keep Miami scoring in teens

The Dolphins are the NFL's worst-scoring team (15.2 points) and rank 31st in total yards. They traded away Pro Bowl RB Jay Ajayi last month, leaving them with little in a rushing offense averaging 80 yards per game, 2 fewer than the Bucs.

Kenyan Drake had 13 touches for 32 yards in seven games before the Ajayi trade. He had nine carries for 69 yards two weeks ago, then seven for 82 yards and a touchdown Monday. He's a big-play threat that Bucs linebackers need to limit.

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Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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