Two Way Street: How The Patriots Can Win or Lose Sunday

Derek Havens
September 20, 2013 at 09:00am ET

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The New England Patriots host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week three of NFL action.

So far, this season has started very similar for both of the Bucs and Pats with different end results. The Buccaneers have lost in the final play of the game in each of the team's first two match-ups. The Patriots are off to a 2-0 start, despite sloppy play in both of there first two games and both contests coming down to the wire. One could easily make the argument both the Patriots and Buccaneers could be 2-0 or 0-2, but that's why they play the game.

Going into week three, these are two teams that are very familiar with one another. The two teams met in August for their training camp joint practices and preseason game. The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers 25-21.

Tampa Bay is in need of their first win of the season. The Patriots must continue to battle through early season injury woes and muster up as many wins as possible while developing their young pass catchers.

Here's a look at how both teams can come away with a victory Sunday. --

How The Bucs Win: 

Control the Line of Scrimmage: Offensively, Tampa Bay wants to get the Muscle Hamster, tailback Doug Martin, the ball early and often to establish the ground game. They also want to give quarterback Josh Freeman time to get the ball downfield. Defensively, getting after Tom Brady is key. With New England's passing game struggling, the Bucs could find Patriots quarterback Tom Brady vulnerable.

Eliminate Turnovers: The Patriots defense is improved this season. One aspect of the team that continues to be stellar is their ability to force turnovers and capitalize on other team's mistakes. If the Buccaneers do not give the Patriots extra opportunities, they will have a great chance to get the upset.

Get the Ball Downfield: Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson is one of the league's better receivers. He's strong, runs excellent routes and has burned the Patriots throughout his career. New England is susceptible to downfield passes. If the Bucs can protect Freeman and he can get the ball to Jackson or other receivers downfield, they'll put the Patriots under pressure to score.

Patriots rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins needs to step up as a reliable option for Tom Brady.
(USA TODAY Images)

How the Patriots Win:

Start Fast: New England has not been able to get their passing game going in 2013, an unfamiliar struggle for this team. The Pats need to get their young receivers involved right out of the gate. Quick passes, short gains and getting a few first downs could be just what the team needs. Not only will it help alleviate nerves from guys like Aaron Dobson or Kenbrell Thompkins, but it will also give them the confidence they need to make an impact throughout the game.

Stay Balanced: The passing game was expected to have some hiccups to start the season, but the lack of production from the running game has hurt the Patriots. New England must try to establish the ground game in order to stay balanced and keep the Buccaneers on their heals. The Pats offensive line will have a tough test against a stout Tampa Bay front, but they cannot abandon the run. Stevan Ridley is due for a big game.

Attack: The past two weeks, we have seen the Patriots defense try to control their gaps and contain mobile quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith. This week, they should unleash the dogs and try to get after Freeman early and often. The Tampa Bay signal-caller is prone to making bad decisions and under pressure, New England's opportunistic defense could thrive. Look for the Patriots to blitz early and often, led by second-year defensive end Chandler Jones.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Buccaneers 17

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