New England Patriots vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Game Five Preview and Prediction
By Hal Bent
WHY THE PATRIOTS WILL WIN:
- The communication on defense has to improve, right?
- The New England offense is still first in the NFL in total yards and second in points
- Rob Gronkowski is poised to have a big game in prime-time on Thursday night
The Patriots’ lack of communication in the secondary eventually needs to improve. After four weeks of poor communication and botched assignments it seem inconceivable that these mistakes that should have been cleared up in training camp. This is a talented secondary that should be compensating for an average pass rush rather than being the problem on defense.
There is little left to say about the issue: either the Patriots’ secondary fixes it or the Patriots are forced to shuffle the players and their roles in the secondary. One option is to simplify the coverage scheme and use more man-to-man press coverage. That may not be an easy fix, but “you take this side and I take this side” isn’t too complicated.
The Patriots still have their big play offense to cover-up a number of issues on defense. They are second in the NFL in points scored and first in yards. New England is first in passing yards, first in touchdown passes, second in yards per attempt, and Brady has yet to throw an interception through four games.
Although Rob Gronkowski landed on the injury report with a thigh injury, he was not ruled out. The Patriots will be without running back Rex Burkhead and despite an ankle injury right tackles Marcus Cannon should be ready to go on Thursday night. With the offense near 100% healthy, there is little reason to believe they will not keep up their high-scoring attack.
Gronkowski leads the Patriots with 318 yards receiving and is second on the team with 20 receptions. He is averaging 15.9 yards per reception. In addition, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be without their two top coverage linebackers Lavonte David (knee injury) and Kwon Alexander (hamstring injury).
In the place of their two best coverage linebackers, the Buccaneers have back-up linebacker Devante Bond who was burnt for six receptions for 62 yards trying to stay with New York Giants rookie tight end Evan Engram last week. If healthy, Gronkowski should be in line for a big game on Thursday night.