Buccaneers-Bengals Preview

Aqib Talib was honored by the NFL Alumni Association as the league's best corner on Friday.
Aqib Talib was honored by the NFL Alumni Association as the league's best corner on Friday. /
Aqib Talib needs a big game for the Bucs to beat the Bengals.
Aqib Talib needs a big game for the Bucs to beat the Bengals. /

On Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals (2-2) it will be a battle of two teams reeling from similarly embarrassing defeats. The Bucs have had two weeks to dwell on their loss 38-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals are still reeling after dropping a divisional game to the lowly Cleveland Browns.

The Buccaneers have worked to address a myriad of problems over the bye week and need to move on from the Steelers debacle, and buy into the idea they are a 2-1 team (not the team that showed up against Pittsburgh). Cincinnati is not a weak opponent by any stretch of the imagination, their loss to Cleveland was a slip-up. But if the Bucs can catch them at the right time they may be able to pull out a win in this one. But make no mistakes about it, the Bengals are the superior team.

The Bucs still have a shot to win this one, if they come out of the bye week fresh and play more physical they may be able to catch a reeling Bengals team and beat them. Thus far this season Cincinnati has yet to really play to potential. They are well below their ’09 averages in rushing and on defense. They tally just three sacks thus far and their run game has been fairly anemic. But again, this team is playoff caliber and when at potential, is capable of sweeping both the Ravens and Steelers (as they did last season, they have already beaten Baltimore this season). Tampa Bay has a shot, but needs to play a mistake-free game and catch a few breaks to win up in Cincinnati this week.

Bengals Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense

The Bengals offense is going to be very difficult to match up to. Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber are both going to need to have good days and the safeties cannot afford to have any coverage breakdowns. Carson Palmer and his duo of receivers, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are very capable of exposing any coverage errors for big yardage and this offense can get vertical in a hurry. One of the problems the Bengals have had is that because of their duo at WR, they have gone away from what got them to the playoffs last season, their running game.

This tends to work to the Bucs advantage as they have struggled with shutting down the run, but don’t let their lack of rushing yardage through the first four games of the season fool you. If the Bengals feel like they have the advantage, they will take to the ground. Most likely the Bucs can expect Palmer and his duo of receivers to go after the Cody Grimm at free safety. If the Bucs secondary can’t hold down the fort against the Cincinnati air attack, it will undoubtedly loosen the Bucs defense up and give Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott some daylight.

The Bucs best bet may be to attack Carson Palmer and try to pressure him into bad decisions and sacks. Palmer is hardly the most mobile quarterback in the NFL and if the Bucs can overcome their deficiency in getting to the passer, the may be able to force the Bengals’ QB into some bad situations. What they cannot afford to do is let the Palmer have time to sit back and pick apart the coverage. Cincinnati will win handily if Palmer has time to throw all day.

Player to Watch: Bernard Scott, RB Cincinnati Bengals

Cedric Benson proved last year that he could shoulder the load for an NFL rushing attack, but he’s hardly the most fleet-footed guy on the Bengals roster. Bernard Scott is a very dynamic runner in his second season out of Abilene Christian. The Bucs would be wise to keep an eye on him, he can threaten vertically out of the backfield and his speed and elusiveness make him a big threat on draws and screens. Whereas Benson really isn’t a home run threat, Scott is. And if Tampa finds itself on its heels against the Bengals passing attack, Scott could be in line for a big play or two.

Advantage: Bengals Offense

With all due respect to the Bucs defense, their lack of a pass rush and uncertainty in the secondary don’t lend themselves to the Bucs being successful against the Bengals offense.

Bucs Offense vs. Bengals Defense

The Bucs offense must be mistake-free on Sunday.
The Bucs offense must be mistake-free on Sunday. /

The Buc offense will look a lot different for this game than they did their last time out. Cadillac Williams will be stepping back, accepting a diminished offensive role in favor of LeGarrette Blount and Kareem Huggins. The Bucs hope the changes will help propel the rushing attack back to where they want it, or at the very least back to the middle of the pack.

The rushing game will be integral against the Bengals. For starters, it’s going to be important to keep the ball away from the Bengals offense. The Bucs cannot win this game if the time of possession battle does not favor them (at the very least it needs to be about equal). The Bucs are going to need to establish their run game to control the ball, let their defense rest and to keep the pressure off of Josh Freeman. Fortunately for Freeman, the Bengals have been fairly inept at rushing the passer, but without the threat of a solid run game the Bucs may find themselves facing a defensive front that has its ears pinned back.

Defensively, this Bengals defense is in the middle of the pack, the Bucs should have some success attacking it through the air but if they become one-dimensional their offensive attack will stall out. Look for the Bucs to take a few deep shot opportunities early on to try and loosen things up for their short and intermediate passing game and for their rushing attack. The Bucs can score on this defense, but they can’t get away with mistakes against it. The Bucs offense needs to come out poised and focused from the opening gun.

Player to Watch: Kellen Winslow, TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the Bucs to win Kellen Winslow needs to have a great game. Josh Freeman needs to find him regularly as his safety valve and needs to force the Bengals to commit to covering him on every play. This will open up the middle of the field for the other receivers and give Freeman a comfort zone on the road. It’s also going to be important that Winslow shows up to block well in this game, the run game could use a good blocking game out of the tight ends and it all starts with Winslow.

Advantage: Bengals Defense

The Bucs lack of a run game and the atmosphere on the road against a desperate team don’t bode well for a young offense. The Bengals defense has the advantage in this one.

Final Prediction: Bengals 24- Buccaneers 13

I just don’t see this one going to the Bucs way. It’s a tough road game against a hungry team looking to prove its loss to the Browns was a fluke. Unless Tampa can come out fired up and jump on the Bengals early, I don’t think the Bucs will win this game. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t get a good feeling about this one.