TheÂ PatriotsÂ are back in action on Sunday to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette StadiumÂ . Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can The Patriots get consistent pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman? The Patriots actually did a decent job at pressuring Geno Smith of the Jets last week, as they sacked him four time with Chandler Jones having two sacks himself.
However, Freeman is a quarterback that does have a tendency to hold on to the ball too long which could lead to more sacks. I think it is imperative that the pressure be consistent. This is a quarterback the Patriots should be blitzing and being very aggressive against.
In the last two games, the Patriots played against quarterbacks that were serious threats to run so I think the strategy was to be more cautious. Against Freeman, as mentioned he does take awhile to make a decision, so he is tailor made to just go up the field and get after the quarterback.
2. Can the Patriots defense contain wide receiver Vincent Jackson? I watched in the training camp practices, Jackson dominate against the Patriots cornerbacks. He might be a player you consider double teaming as he is a dynamic target for Freeman.
Jackson so far this season has twelve receptions for 231 yards, and is a serious threat to go deep. The Patriots secondary has a huge challenge on their hands, and limiting his receptions could be a deciding factor in this game.
3. Can the Patriots tight ends make an impact in this game ? I had thisÂ down last week to watch, because I had a feeling that the wide receivers would struggle. UnfortunatelyÂ ZachÂ Sudfeld did not play in the last game, andÂ Michael HoomanawanuiÂ did not have one catch against the Jets.
The middle of the field could be open for the tight ends, so it will be up to them to step up and make an impact. The wild card could be Rob Gronkowski as he has been practicing, but still there is a doubt if he will play on Sunday.
If Gronkowski is out again, it is time for Sudfeld and Hoomanawanui to pick up the slack. I will certainly be watching the tight ends on Sunday.
4. Can the Patriots offense get the screen game going? The Patriots are playing against an aggressive defensive front so this is a perfect opportunity to get the screen game moving. Stevan Ridley I think is going to have a hard time running the ball so you could see him in screen situations.
The bubble screens with the wide receivers could be a popular play on Sunday, and hopefully Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, and Kenbrell Thompkins can get some easy receptions this way. This is a way to dink and dunk your way down the field. It worked for the 2001 Patriots so why not do it with the 2013 version?
5. Can wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins make progress in their development? There is a good chance that Danny Amendola could be out once again.
If that is the case, I think it is going to be important to see improvement from Dobson and Thompkins. Dobson hardly ever dropped the ball in college, but last week had several drops. Dobson was able to get open against the Jets which is huge. Against the Bucs, there could be an opportunity for growth, if he can hold on to a couple of passes from Brady on Sunday.
Thompkins I still think eventually is going to break out, but is still learning the pro game. He should have his targets on Sunday with the Bucs probably focusing on Edelman , so hopefully he will show more than gradual improvement.
Well, these are things I will be looking for, and we will see if they have an impact on the game. I think this could be another very ugly game, but I still see the Patriots getting the victory.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.