Matchup to watch when the Jaguars are on offense:
With the Jaguars having to turn to their backup quarterback Quinn Gray, they will likely employ the running game in a big way. The Jaguars like to run directly up the middle, and whoever wins the matchup between Jaguars fullback Greg Jones and Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud will likely go a long way in determining the outcome.
Matchup to watch when the Jaguars are on defense:
Whereas the Jaguars won't be lining up Sammy Knight directly against the very speedy Joey Galloway, Knight will be responsible for help deep and over the middle on the Bucs fine receiver. Knight has lost a step or two over the years, and Galloway seems to get better each year, much like a fine wine. Tampa Bay will likely attack Knight deep with Galloway, and it could easily result in six points.
Matchup to watch when the Bucs are on offense:
The Buccaneers rushed for 124 yards on Detroit last week with Lions space-eater Shaun Rogers in the middle. Now take Rogers and multiply him by two. That's Stroud and Henderson, perhaps the best tackle combo in football. They're a big reason why the Jags only allow 103 rushing yards per game. Thing is, the Bucs need to run the football effectively to keep Jacksonville's defense from loading up to stop the pass. Sears made some early mistakes against Rogers last week but came around as the game wore on. It will likely take all three Bucs interior linemen to take on Stroud and Henderson, but if they can handle the pair with single matchups it could well swing the game in Tampa Bay's favor. If they are forced to use double teams, watch the Jaguars' linebackers swarm into the backfield and stop RBs Earnest Graham and Michael Bennett before they get started.
Matchup to watch when the Bucs are on defense:
This isn't your usual Bucs defensive line in that the pressure lately has come from inside, not out. New under tackle Jovan Haye leads the team with four sacks, and has made 19 tackles in the past two games, an unusually high number — unless teams are running the ball between the tackles, as Jacksonville and Detroit did the past two weeks. Haye is starting to settle in as an effective run stopper/pass rusher, but he'll face a pretty savvy veteran center in Brad Meester. Plus, as teams are learning that Haye can be a factor, they're double-teaming him, which means Meester might get help from RG Chris Naeole on Sunday. Quinn Gray doesn't appear to be as mobile a quarterback as David Garrard, so if Haye can penetrate the backfield and put pressure on Gray, it could pay off both in limiting the Jaguars' running game and in forcing Gray into mistakes.
The Jaguars will win this game if... they can continue to run the ball effectively, and dominate time of possession. The Tampa Bay rush defense is a currently ranked 21st in the league, and the Jaguars will certainly make it a point to run as much as possible. Winning on first and second downs will be a key in this one, being that the Jaguars certainly don't want to face very many third and long's with their inexperienced quarterback.
The Jaguars will lose this game if... they fail to run the ball effectively early on and fall behind. If Jacksonville has to depend on the passing game, they are playing right into the Buccaneers hands. Quinn Gray was wildly ineffective Monday night against the Colts, and the Jacksonville receivers vs. the Tampa Bay secondary is a bad matchup for Jacksonville with a healthy starting quarterback, much less a backup who has played in three halves of football over his entire career.
The Bucs will win this game if … they can limit the Jaguars' rushing game and force them into long second and third-down conversions. David Garrard has the league's best passer rating on third down, and Quinn Gray is a long way away from that. The Bucs must do everything possible to put the game in Gray's hands, including loading up against the run. That may mean eight men in the box, because the Bucs do have a tendency to wear down late in games against an effective run game. The Bucs secondary is playing well enough to handle the Jags' receivers in single coverage, and it won't matter if Gray can't get them the ball. The Bucs also have to avoid the catastrophic errors they made last week.
The Bucs will lose this game if … they are unable to run the ball. Jacksonville's secondary is very effective and the Bucs cannot afford to be a one-dimensional team against them. Doing so would allow the Jags to play Cover 2 and nickel coverages, and the Bucs don't have enough weapons offensively to offset that (watch the last quarter of the Lions game if you want proof). An effective run game means single coverage downfield and opens up opportunities for Joey Galloway against Sammy Knight, which could be a good matchup for the 35-year old receiver.
Charlie's Prediction: Bet the under!!! Points will be at a premium in this game, and it appears that we will have a pair of one-dimensional offenses facing off. Although it is very likely that the Bucs won't do much on the ground against the Jaguars defense, they will likely find some points in the passing game. The Jaguars will be very easy to defend in this game, being that there will be virtually no threat of a pass that travels longer than seven yards. Bucs in a nailbiter, 10-9.
Matthew's Prediction: The defenses will score more than the offenses in this game. It could be ugly. David Garrard's absence will limit the Jaguars offense, and the Jaguars defense will limit the Bucs offense. But I think the Bucs only need to run the ball effectively enough to force the Jags to respect Earnest Graham and Michael Bennett. I think one deep pass from Jeff Garcia to Joey Galloway could be the difference. The Bucs are undefeated at home, so I take them, 13-10.