Raymond James Stadium
Kickoff Temperature: 79 degrees
Line: Buccaneers by 3.5
Records: Tampa Bay 4-3, second place in the NFC South, Jacksonville 4-2, tied for second place in the AFC South.
Game notes: Jaguars lead the regular season series, 2-1, with two consecutive wins over Tampa Bay. Last meeting was in 2003, when the Jaguars defeated the then-defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, 17-10 on ESPN's Sunday Night Football.
Tampa Bay offense: 24th overall (18th passing, 19th rushing); Scoring- T24th (17.7 pts./gm) vs. Jacksonville defense: 13th overall (17th passing, 13th rushing); Scoring- 2nd (14.5 pts./gm)
The Tampa Bay offense is predicated on a very accurate short passing game led by quarterback Jeff Garcia. Garcia is currently the second-ranked passer in the NFL with a 106.2 QB rating, and has completed 70.4% of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Garcia is one of just two quarterbacks in the NFL not to have thrown an interception (David Garrard being the other).
Garcia's most dangerous target in the passing game is Joey Galloway, who has 29 receptions for 449 yards and 3 touchdowns. Galloway will be 36 years old next month and is still one of the fastest players in the league. Other targets on the outside are Ike Hilliard, who leads the team with 36 receptions for 455 yards, and Michael Clayton. Tight ends that are involved in the passing game are Alex Smith, Jerramy Stevens, and Anthony Becht.
The Buccaneers have been ravaged by injury at the running back spot, losing their star back, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams for the season with leg injury, as well as Michael Pittman for significant time. Tampa recently traded for former Chiefs running back Michael Bennett, who may be ready for Sunday, as well as practice squad call-up Ernest Graham, who led the team with 92 yards on just 19 carries, as well as 99 yards on 13 receptions last week in Detroit.
The Jaguars will have a tall task ahead of them, facing the fifth-ranked scoring defense with a backup quarterback. Quinn Gray who played his first meaningful game since the 2006 season finale, where he mopped up in the second half for an ineffective Garrard. Quinn Gray struggled mightily against the Colts aggressive defense, completing just 9 of 24 passes for 56 yards, two interceptions, and a fumble. Gray's passer rating was just 11.1, nearly 100 points lower than the Jaguars starter, David Garrard.
The Jaguars will likely lean heavily on their running game, which is led by Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew injured his knee late in Monday night's game, and is currently listed as questionable for next Sunday.
The Bucs have a somewhat undersized front four, but very good and active linebackers in future hall of famer Derrick Brooks, former Indianapolis Colt Cato June, and the team leader in tackles, Barrett Ruud. The Tampa defensive line features first-round pick, Gaines Adams, Chris Hovan, Jovan Haye, Kevin Carter, and Peter Chukwurah.
In the secondary, the Jaguars receivers will try and match up with Ronde Barber, Philip Buchanon, Jermaine Phillips, and rookie Tanard Jackson. The Bucs appear to have a major advantage in the match up between their secondary and the Jaguars unimpressive wide receivers.
Buccaneers kickoff return- 12th (24.9 ypr.); punt return- 13th (10.1 ypr.); punting- T23rd (41.8 gross); net punting- 30th (34.1 avg.); kickoff coverage- 1st (16.3 ypr. allowed)
Jaguars kickoff return- 6th (26.9 ypr.); punt return- T26th (6.3 ypr.); punting- 29th (40.8 gross); net punting- 10th (38.0 avg.); kickoff coverage- 2nd (18.0 ypr. allowed)
Bucs: PK Matt Bryant, P Josh Bidwell, KR Ernest Graham, PR Ike Hilliard, LS Andrew Economos
Bryant is 9 of 11 on field goals, with a long of 48 yards. Graham averages 22.5 yards per kickoff return. Hilliard averages 8.0 yards per punt return.
Carney is 7/9 on field goals with a long of 37 yards. Jones-Drew is averaging 28.4 yards per kickoff return. Northcutt is averaging 7.1 yards per punt return on just seven chances.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.