What the Patriots have to do to win
Jon Scott: I think the patriots have to do what's been successful for them so far this season, and that's to get the running game going with Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk and whomever else is healthy enough to play. The Patriots have had their troubles running the ball while Dillon, Faulk and Patrick Pass were out with injury, but Heath Evans stepped in and carried the load against his old team the Miami Dolphins. Now that Dillon's back, it's imperative that the banged-up offensive line do enough to get him the crease he needs to pound out some yards on the ground. If the Patriots cannot get Dillon, or the other backs, on track, the Buccaneers defense is going to tee off on the Tom Brady.
The running game will allow the play action pass, which the Patriots are very good at. Tom Brady will probably play on Saturday, so I don't expect we'll see Doug Flutie scrambling around in the backfield trying to buy time to find a receiver. It's going to be more of the quick hit type attack, with dinks and dunks to keep the chains moving. Brady, or even Flutie have to be aware of Ronde Barber who is one of the best defensive backs in the league and is waiting to make another game-changing interception.
Chris Harry: I think they need to get something out of Corey Dillon. Anytime the Bucs are surrendering yards, that makes their Cover-2 a little more vulnerable and they have to play It a little safer.
Jon Scott: Get pressure on Chris Simms to when he throws. If the Patriots can stop the Buccaneers from converting first downs through the air, it will put more pressure on Tampa Bay to run Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman and Mike Allstot. The Patriots obviously have to be able to stop the run, but if they can take Simms totally out of his element throwing the ball, the Buccaneers won't be able to continue drives at critical times (after a penalty, on second or third and long)
The Patriots rush defense has improved tremendously over the last five games with the exception of their matchup against KC when Larry Johnson rumbled for 119 yards up. If they can continue that trend, which I think they can, then the key is to shut down or Pressure Simms into doing something he doesn't' want to do - winning the game through the air.
Chris Harry: Conversely on the other side of the ball, they need to harass Chris Simms. When Chris Simms has some pressure on him he's going to get nervous because he's a young quarterback and he's going to make some mistakes. The Bears did it to him. He didn't make a whole bunch of mistakes, but he made a big one that cost them the game, or at least put them in a hole early in the game.
An inexperienced guy like that playing in these conditions; In New England, against a coach like Belichick who's known for confusing guys, that's a lot to overcome.
What the Buccaneers have to do to win
Chris Harry: They have to Stop Corey Dillon and force Tom Brady to throw. Whenever the Bucs can make a team one-dimensional they usually win the football game. I think if they can do that, they'll take their chances at having Tom Brady, as goods and accurate as he is, try to find holes in their defense. He can do it, but that's definitely what the Bucs want.
Jon Scott: Get to Tom Brady. The Buccaneers should be able to slow the running game down to keep the score close just with the speed of their defense. The real challenge is to get pressure on Brady when they have him in a second or third and long situation. Teams that aren't able to bring the pressure on Brady up the middle, usually pay the price. Brady has averaged close to 280 yards per game through the air each week. Last week he used to the pass to slice apart the Bills defense that was more susceptible to the run than the pass. Brady is keeping the Patriots drives going by passing the ball, and if the Bucs can stop that, they can win.
Chris Harry: I think the Bucs have to get something out of their running game. The Patriots defense is ranked 29th and 11th against the run. I think if Carnell Williams can get some yards to take some pressure off Simms, I think those things go hand-in-hand. That will give the Bucs a chance to win this game.
Jon Scott: The Patriots are susceptible to the pass. Teams that abandon the run and try to just pass have paid the price. The Jets were unable to do it. The Bills were unable to do it. Trying to just pass against the Patriots defense is not going to get the jobs done. The Pats have been able to bring pressure from different angles, as they get more aggressive in their approach. If the Bucs can get the ground game going with Williams, then that should allow Chris Simms time with the play-action pass to find Joey Galloway or Michael Clayton deep.
Giving up big plays is the Patriots Achilles heel. They did it against Buffalo allowing two completions of over 50 yards on deep plays. If Tampa can do the same, they're going to score points, and it will allow them to remain within reach, if not give them the advantage.
More Q & A wuth Chris Harry can be read in the forums here: Link
Stats and trends between the two teams can be found in the Statistically Speaking column here: Link