The Bucs are 0-6 and are playing New England in England, with the Patriots coming off a 59-0 win over winless Tennessee.
Coach Raheem Morris is trying to keep his team focused in the face of what would appear to be futility.
"If it was anybody else other than Tom Brady I might be shocked. But when it comes to the Patriots, you don't get shocked at what they do, what he does and what they're able to do," Morris said. "But you've got to love those challenges. As a secondary coach, that's what you live for, what you dream about.
"You want to play against Randy Moss and Wes Welker ... awesome. We love it. Tom Brady throwing it to them. (Benjamin) Watson, their tight end. It's a challenge that your DBs love. You get a chance to see these guys play. Like always, the more physical, the more tough team will win. That's how it always plays out."
The Bucs and Patriots have taken different approaches to preparing for the game. New England practiced Tuesday and will depart after practice on Thursday. The Bucs will forfeit one day of practice to leave Friday morning.
"I have an ownership group that goes over there pretty frequently and we sat down and discussed it with those guys, the Glazers," Morris said. "When they feel the rest and how they feel prior to those days and they've done it a couple time. The second day is when you feel best. The third day, you kind of go into a lull and then you come out of it after that. We chose this route based on previous knowledge and people that do it a lot. That's the route we're going."
The Bucs really don't know where to start to craft a game plan to make them successful against the Patriots.
They have been beaten through the air this season - yielding eight passes of more than 40 yards. And they have been demolished on the ground. Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for rush for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Tampa Bay last week.
More telling was the fact that Carolina ran the ball 15 of 16 plays in an 80-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock and resulted in the game-winning TD by Williams.
The Patriots get it done through the air. But they have enough capable backs to control the football if they want to during the game at Wembley Stadium.
New England coach Bill Belichick has managed to make the Bucs sound a little like the '85 Bears.
"They're very fast at linebacker now," Belichick said. "(Barrett) Ruud's just a tackling machine. He must have 100 tackles already this year. He's in on 20, 25 plays a game. He's all over the place - runs, passes, inside, outside. It doesn't make any difference what the call is or what the play is it seems like he's getting up off the pile when it's over. They play their linebackers; they bring Ronde Barber in there and play him as a linebacker, inside guy in their sub-defenses, so they are very athletic inside.
"They run well. They tackle well. Jim Bates, I've know Jim for a long time, we worked together in Cleveland. He's an excellent defensive football coach. He's got them hustling around like he always does; they're playing with a lot of energy. They have good team speed and their linebackers are very active."
Not to worry, Bill.
Since 2005, Brady is 13-0 against the NFC.
The Bucs are sticking with quarterback Josh Johnson, who will be making his fourth start. Johnson has made some plays with his feet, but he's failed to produce more than a touchdown in two of his three previous starts.
Morris said the Bucs are treating it like a business trip and doesn't think he'll have trouble motivating his players.
"I don't think I'm going to have a problem with that," Morris said. "These guys, they appear to be spirited. They appear to be highly motivated to win. They appeared to practice well, they appeared to want to come out and want to play. I think it's a big challenge. Everybody wants to play the Patriots. That's fun. Whether you're a bad team, whether you're a good team, it doesn't matter. It's a lot of fun to play those types of teams on a highly-decorated stage over in London.
"The motivation is high. Motivation in this league is high for everybody. Nobody wants to be embarrassed on Sunday. Nobody wants to be the guy that self-proclaims we lost the game, or whatever the case may be. So you go out and practice well, play well and play hard. Motivation is easy."
SERIES HISTORY: 7th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead the series 4-2. Tampa Bay has won two of the past three meetings. In their last game in 2008, the Bucs were shut out 28-0.
-FB B.J. Askew was placed on the non-football injury list with back and neck injuries following a car accident last Wednesday. The Bucs will go with Earnest Graham at fullback again this week against the Pats.
"He was hunting people out. He was physical, he was violent," Morris said of Graham. "I'm very excited about Earnest Graham going to fullback. Anytime you get a chance to get a guy like Earnest on the football field, that's what it's about."
--The Bucs feel very fortunate to have safety Tanard Jackson back. In his second game since serving a four-game suspension, Jackson forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.
"Welcome back T-Jack," Morris said. "T-Jack makes everybody feel a little bit better about everything. Your coverage unit, your players, your team. Anytime anything breaks out, you always know you've got a guy like T-Jack who can get him on the ground and give your team another opportunity.
"He's so instinctual, you know he can make a play at any point of the game and change it. And he almost did. He also made the difference."
Stroughter returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against the Panthers and was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
"We lost," Stroughter said shrugging. "It's a good honor, I guess, but we lost. And the main motivation for this team and me is to win a game. I'd much rather sacrifice any of that to win that first game and get that first win under your belt."
BY THE NUMBERS: 6.7 - QB Josh Johnson's average gain per rush. He's carried 21 times for 141 yards with a long of 29 yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It just reminds you that people all around the world watch the NFL. To go into another country and to know that what we call 'soccer' is the dominant sport, and for them to want us to go play in London, we respect that." -- Bucs WR Maurice Stovall.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Bucs signed free agent CB Marcus McCauley and released CB Derrick Roberson from the active roster before re-signing him to the practice squad. The Bucs also claimed G Shawn Murphy off waivers from the Miami Dolphins. He is the son of former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy.
--RB Clifton Smith has a concussion and did not practice Wednesday. The Bucs are still optimistic Smith may be able to play Sunday in London.
--WR Michael Clayton has a hamstring injury and was limited in practice Wednesday. He is expected to play against the Patriots.
--LB Barrett Ruud has an elbow injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday. He is expected to play against the Patriots.
--RB Earnest Graham will start at fullback again this week with the injury to FB B.J. Askew.
--DT Ryan Sims (hand) was limited in practice on Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: Defensively, the Bucs don't have a chance to keep the Patriots in check. They lack the ability to put pressure on the quarterback using a four-man rush, which means Tom Brady will likely carve them up with time in the pocket to scan the field. They also haven't been very good against the run, as evidenced by losses to the Giants and Panthers.
So the Pats can basically pick their poison. The only thing that can help is an opportunistic secondary and an offense that helps to keep Brady off the field.
The Bucs have to pound the football on the ground using Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward. It also will keep the pressure off QB Josh Johnson, who is averaging 40 yards rushing per game and can make plays with his feet.
Johnson has faced a variety of defensive game plans and is 0-3.
"Each game was different," Johnson said. "With Washington, they didn't really bring a lot of pressure they played zone and Philly brought a lot of pressures. Carolina they brought pressures here and there and played zone. They played a lot more zone though, so it's been different. Every week it has been something different by each team they try and adjust to us. I see teams adjusting to us a lot during games if they pick up on something we're doing or if they feel like they have a success in a certain defense they stick with it, but there hasn't really been a set defense we've seen in the past three games.
"The Patriots are a team with a very solid defense, are well coached and do all the right things. They have a lot of good players and they play a defense that causes you to try to drive the football down the field. Execution has to be good in order to create big play opportunities. For us to get some things going we have to be on the details of what we're trying to do with our game plan. If we do that we could have some success."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Patriots WR Randy Moss vs. Bucs CB Aqib Talib. Moss is the favorite deep threat for the Pats, but Talib has played well of late, holding Philly's DeSean Jackson and Carolina's Steve Smith to one catch each in the last two games.
Patriots WR Wes Welker vs. Bucs CB Ronde Barber. Welker is a third down terminator. He will be in the slot, which means 34-year-old Ronde Barber will be running with him. Barber is off to a decent start but this will be his biggest test this season.
Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. Bucs C Jeff Faine. If the Bucs are going to have a chance, they have to control the ball on the ground and Wilfork is an immovable object. The return of Faine has given the Bucs a lift.
INJURY IMPACT: DT Chris Hovan (ankle) and RB Clifton Smith (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. Rookie DT Roy Miller took first-team reps for Hovan. Smith was walking around One Buc Place and seemed to be doing better. If Smith is unable to go, rookie Sammie Stroughter will return punts and kickoffs.