Injury Analysis: Bills-Bucs

Both teams enter Sunday's game with key injuries to star players. Buffalo must go half the season without its stalwart middle linebacker, while Tampa Bay will probably be without its go-to wide receiver...

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at BUFFALO BILLS -- BUCCANEERS: OUT: CB E.J. Biggers (shoulder), C Jeff Faine (triceps). DOUBTFUL: WR Antonio Bryant (knee). QUESTIONABLE: TE John Gilmore (ankle), DE Kyle Moore (groin). PROBABLE: S Jermaine Phillips (calf). BILLS: OUT: LB Paul Posluszny (forearm). QUESTIONABLE: CB Terrence McGee (back). PROBABLE: TE Derek Fine (hamstring), CB Drayton Florence (knee), DE Chris Kelsay (knee), DE Aaron Schobel (back).

A string of injuries, both for the Bills and the Buccaneers, may play a role in the outcome of Sunday's tilt. Last year, injuries down the stretch caused both teams to falter at the end of the season, and it appears that health issues are again present early in this season.

For the Bills, most problems lay on the defensive side of the ball. After missing essentially all of the 2007 season with a broken arm, third-year linebacker Paul Posluszny appears to have re-aggravated it early in this year's campaign. He had surgery early this week, and is expected to miss approximately six weeks. As a result, second-year man Marcus Buggs will start in the middle. Much was asked of Posluszny this season, in terms of playmaking ability as well as emotional leadership. Buggs has big shoes to fill. He's lighter, shorter and much less experienced but will get his shot Sunday. Tampa Bay relies on a pounding rushing attack with Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward, which could pose problems.

Terrence McGee is currently listed as questionable for the week with back problems. He developed back spasms Friday morning. If McGee cannot go on Sunday, there is a reliable backup in Reggie Corner, who saw action in 12 games last season. Corner had the game-clinching breakup on Brandon Stokely against Denver last season. However, McGee is generally regarded as the Bills' most proven cornerback, the guy to handle the other team's biggest weapon, so his health problems cause some reason for concern.

Listed as probable are tight end Derek Fine, cornerback Drayton Florence, and defensive ends Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel are listed. Although they should be ready to play, the possibility of Kelsay and Schobel being out would wreck the effectiveness of the Bills' defensive line. Schobel got consistent pressure on Tom Brady in the first half of the opener. The Bills need to hope that at least one of these two will be healthy on Sunday. Otherwise, Tampa Bay will have no trouble with picking up the pass rush.

For the Bucs, cornerback E. J. Biggers and center Jeff Faine are listed as out. Biggers has not yet seen any NFL action, so his injury does not cause the Bucs much concern. However, Jeff Faine is Tampa's starting center, a proven seven-year veteran, so his problems may be a benefit to Buffalo on Sunday in terms of pressuring Byron Leftwich. Rookie Jonathan Compas will be asked to step in earlier than expected, in front of the always hostile Buffalo crowd.

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant is listed as doubtful. The 7th-year man, with a total of 335 receptions in his career, is always a deep threat when on the field. The loss of his services would drastically damper Tampa Bay's big-play ability. It appears that McGee's absence would cancel out Bryant's, and if one of the two is able to play, there may be critical difference in either the Bucs' passing game or the Bills' pass defense.

Michael Clayton will become the Bucs' go-to receiver is Bryant is sidelined. A gritty downfield blocker, Clayton has failed to emerge as a dangerous downfield weapon in the passing game. He hasn't caught more than 38 passes in four seasons after a breakout rookie campaign. Still, he racked up 93 yards on five receptions last week against Dallas. Quarterback Byron Leftwich and Clayton have developed chemistry early. If McGee can't go, Leodis McKelvin must stick to Clayton. The Bills will want to emphasize stopping the run Sunday. It's imperative for the corners to shut down the Bucs' lackluster wide receivers one on one.

Tight end John Gilmore and defensive end Kyle Moore are listed as questionable. Gilmore is third on Tampa's depth chart at his position, so his loss would be essentially a non-issue. Kyle Moore is a rookie and was listed behind Jimmy Wilkerson. As long as Wilkerson stays healthy, Moore's problems shouldn't cause the Bucs much trouble.

Safety Jermaine Phillips is listed as probable. The only free safety listed on Tampa's chart, his loss would open things up for Owens and the Bills receiving corps to make plays down the field. However, the likelihood of Phillips actually missing the game is slim to none.

With both teams being 0-1, this week's game is critical. Both teams are facing pressure to get some results from local media and fans, and history shows that it is difficult to make the playoffs after a 0-2 start, especially when the Patriots missed the postseason last year with an 11-5 record. Posluszny's arm troubles and Bryant's knee issues could detract from the game-changing capabilities of each team. In a game that could easily go either way, these injuries could prove to be crucial, not only for this game, but in setting the tone for the rest of the season.


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