WHERE:Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas
SPREAD: Bucs by 7
WHERE THE TEXANS STAND: The Houston Texans are 1-3 and in last place of the AFC South Division in terms of preseason standings.
TEXANS HEAD COACH: Don Capers (0-0 all-time vs. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden).
TEXANS OFFENSIVE COORINATOR: Chris Palmer
TEXANS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Vic Fangio
TEXANS SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Joe Marciano
HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL (2002 PRESEASON):
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 28th RUSHING: 11th PASSING: 27th
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 8th RUSHING: 9th PASSING: 12th
HOW THE TEXANS RANK IN THE NFL (2002 PRESEASON):
OFFENSE: OVERALL: 30th RUSHING: 28th PASSING: 22nd
DEFENSE: OVERALL: 17th RUSHING: 22nd PASSING: 17th
MATCHUP TO WATCH Texans WR/KR Jermaine Lewis vs. Buccaneers cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly: His 5-foot-7, 180-pound frame might not strike fear into too many people, but Texans wide receiver/kick returner Jermaine Lewis' blazing speed is definitely something Tampa Bay starting cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly have to respect. His speed makes him nearly impossible to contain in man-to-man coverage. Barber and Kelly aren't the fastest players in the league, but they are good cover men. But neither Barber nor Kelly will win a footrace against Lewis, so they'll likely have to press him on the line of scrimmage early and often. Lewis has seven receptions this preseason, which is tied for the most on the team with running back Travis Prentice. He is averaging 14.3 yards per reception and he's worked his way into Houston's starting unit. He didn't get much playing time as a receiver in Baltimore, so Houston has left Lewis in the game with the second-string. Bucs CB Dwight Smith has been beaten deep on a few occasions in preseason and he can't afford to give up any big plays against Lewis. Lewis was the league's best special teams return man in the league when he with Baltimore, but he hasn't returned a kick for the Texans, yet. Lewis returned six punts for touchdowns during his seven-year career with the Ravens.
DID YOU KNOW…
…the Texans have been outscored in preseason 88-42 in four preseason games?
HOUSTON'S FIRST HALF BLUES:
The Texans have been outscored 24-3 in the first quarter of its preseason games this year. They've been outscored 54-19 in the first half of their preseason games.
Tampa Bay has, however, outscored its preseason opponents, 34-23, in the first half of its game this year.
TEXANS' RUSHING BLUES:
Houston's rushing attack is on life support. The Texans are averaging just 2.7 yards per carry and rushing for an average of 76 yards per game this preseason. Texans RB James Allen, who was supposed to be the team's feature back this season, is only averaging 1.5 yards per carry and could be replaced by rookie RB Jonathan Wells, who is averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
The Buccaneers have only allowed an average of 80.7 yards rushing per game in preseason.
BUCS MUST HANDLE CARR:
Houston rookie quarterback David Carr is the team's starter. He was the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft and while he's had flashes of play-making ability, he's struggled through the majority of the preseason. He's completed just 52.5 percent of his passes and he's thrown one touchdown and three interceptions. The Texans have gained an average of 166 yards through the air in preseason. The Bucs' defense has allowed an average of 187.3 yards per game.
BUCS FACE 3-4 DEFENSE:
Houston head coach Don Capers installed the 3-4 defense, which has given Tampa Bay and other teams problems in the past. The Bucs allowed 10 sacks against the Steelers, who also play the 3-4 defense, last season, but that was last year, and the Texans don't have the personnel on defense that the Steelers do.
Houston's defense has allowed an average of 301 yards per game to its opponents. The Texans' defense has allowed an average of 103 yards per game on the ground and an average of 192.3 yards through the air.
The Texans' linebacker corps are the strongest part of this unit. Houston ROLB Jeff Posey has recorded 17 tackles and three sacks in preseason. He's also hurried opposing quarterbacks nine times. Houston middle linebacker Jamie Sharper has also recorded 17 tackles and he makes his presence felt in the running game. Backup middle linebacker Jimmy McClain leads the team in tackles with 27.
Former Bucs special teams coach and new Houston special teams coach Joe Marciano has watched his troops fare well this preseason. Texans kicker Chris Brown, who was very inconsistent with Pittsburgh last season, is 7-of-7 on field goal attempts. Texans rookie KR/WR Jabar Gaffney is averaging 22.5 yards per return and has a long of 36 yards.
BUCS SOUND OFF:
BUCS HEAD COACH JON GRUDEN ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BUCS' LAST PRESEASON GAME AGAINST HOUSTON:
"I don't know how it has been around here with the last preseason game but we will continue to evaluate players. We are going to try to develop other players and continue to probe certain phases of our football program. We are going to try and expose our team as to what we want to get done in the regular season. We're not going to go to Houston and be lackluster. We're going to try and play a physical, complete football game no matter who plays and how long."
BUCS WR KEENAN McCARDELL ON RETURNING TO HOUSTON, WHERE HE PLAYED FOOTBALL IN HIGH SCHOOL:
"I'm glad to go home. I'll get a chance to play in front of some family and friends. And I'll get a chance to see that stadium. I've seen it from the outside, I want to see it from the inside. I have a lot of friends who play for the Texans who say it's state-of-the-art. From what I hear, it's beautiful."
GRUDEN ON WHETHER OR NOT RB MICHAEL PITTMAN WILL PLAY AGAINST HOUSTON:
"He might play a little bit (on Friday), He's practiced here the last couple days. He has carried the ball six times in three preseason games. He needs to carry the ball a couple times and get himself acclimated again to the collisions in this game. We'll see how he feels in the morning and go from there."
GRUDEN ON WHAT THE BUCS ACCOMPLISHED THIS WEEK IN PRACTICE:
"We just got re-centered on the bullseye. We realized that some of the things we did (against Washington) weren't tolerable, weren't good enough. At the same time, we focused on the Houston Texans and finishing the preseason strong.
"The number-one thing we wanted to do was get re-acclimated to game-week and get our schedules programmed to how it's going to be during the regular season. We were able to accomplish that and we got some good work done."
GRUDEN ON FINISHING THE PRESEASON STRONG:
"Everybody is anxious to start the regular season games. At the same time, you've got to play the schedule. We've got to finish the preseason strong. We've had some good spurts here, and we've had some spurts here where we need to improve. We want to try to finish with a good taste in our mouths and hopefully build some momentum for the regular season."
Tampa Bay's offense has averaged just 16.7 points per game this preseason. It's time for Gruden's troops to decorate the scoreboard with some points and Houston is certainly a team the Bucs can do it against.
Tampa Bay's defense has looked suspect against the run and pass at times, but people forget the offense has been putting this unit in awkward situations. It's time for Tampa Bay's defensive line, which is made up of four former first-round draft picks, to put some pressure on the quarterback. They haven't been able to do it this preseason. Bucs starting left defensive end Marcus Jones (knee) will be replaced by Greg Spires, which might not be a bad thing. Jones hadn't done well in preseason. If the Texans have success running against Tampa Bay's defense, the Bucs should be very concerned. The Texans' rushing attack has been non-existent throughout preseason and it shouldn't come to life against the Bucs.
Bucs RB Michael Pittman needs to play on Friday night. How can the running game come together when the feature back has only carried the ball six times in preseason? If his ankle is really that bad, maybe the team should keep him fresh for the home opener against the Saints, but it would be nice to see what Pittman can do against Houston's run defense, which has allowed over 100 yards per game.
It would be nice to see Tampa Bay come out of Houston with a win, but the most important thing is for the team to come out of the game healthy. Gruden might leave his starters in a little longer, especially on offense, due to their struggles this preseason.
If Tampa Bay's defense can create some turnovers and the Bucs' offense can avoid giving the Texans' offense a short field, the Pewter Pirates should roll in this one.
FLYNN'S PICK Buccaneers 30 Texans 14
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