New England Patriots: Staff Predictions Week Three Vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3 of 5

Celia Westbrook:

Aug 16, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shakes hands with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano following the preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Buccaneers 25-21. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Although the New England Patriots offense is a bit ill but on its way to a full recovery, the Patriots should still be able to come up with a win on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. By no means it’s going to be an easy game, and I see the winner of this game as the team that best plays defense, the one that commits less penalties and turnovers, and the team that best converts on third-downs.

On the offensive side of the ball, both quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Tom Brady are having a hard time in connecting with their main receivers, which makes them to rely on their respective running backs – Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley way too often. Even then, the fourteenth-year NFL quarterback should outmatch the fifth-year quarterback. The key in here will be for the Patriots to take care of the ball, flawless protection by the offensive lineman, and score points fast.

Coach Greg Schiano has really started to mold his defense they way he has envisioned with players such as Gerald McCoy, Akeem Spence, Da’Quan Bowers, Mason Foster, Lavonte David, Dakota Watson, Darrelle Revis, Leonard Johnson and Dashon Goldson – just to name a few. While they have an explosive primary and secondary, the defense strength is its pass rush. The Bucs pass defense has already improved just by the presence of Revis and Goldson, so it’s crucial for the rookies to have clear communication with Brady and to run precise routes. However, they still give up yards through the air, and the weakness occurs to be (at least from my observations) in covering tight ends.

I thought the Patriots defensive front did very well against the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, although at times, it looked like they weren’t putting enough pressure on the quarterback. Based on those two games, I believe the Patriots defensive front will put just enough pressure to throw off Freeman’s rhythm; consequently, forcing him to inaccurately throw the football and increasing the chances for the secondary to intercept. Covering Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Kevin Ogletree is a must. I’m counting on Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly to really clog up the middle and for Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower power to stop Doug Martin.

Aside from playing football and executing the play, I’m putting high emphasis on coach Bill Belichick’s experience over coach Greg Schiano. I believe that management of the clock for ball possession, situational football, and taking advantage of opportunities with good play calling will be a major factor in winning this game. Coach Belichick has a good balance between being conservative and being bold with his play calling. I think coach Schiano tends to be a lot more conservative which can limit the opportunity on winning games. Are we playing to just play or to win the game?

Both of the last Bucs game came down to managing the clock and play calling. In Week 1 against the New York Jets, the Bucs failed to convert on third-down, having to settle for a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds remaining on the fourth quarter. Add Lavonte David unnecessary hit on Geno Smith out of bounds, and the Jets have the opportunity to seal the deal with a 48-yard field at the 2 seconds of the fourth quarter.

In their game against the New Orleans Saints, the picture was not much different either. Doug Martin failed to convert a third down on 3-6 and the Bucs were forced to attempt a 47-yard field goal which was no good – wide left; allowing Drew Brees to have the ball back with 1:10 remaining on the fourth quarter and picking up yards enough to be in field goal range.

Prediction: New England Patriots 24 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17