Continuing with our season preview, the Buccaneers face a test in week eight against the improving Oakland Raiders.
Coming off of a 6-10 season we knew that the Buccaneers’ schedule was going to get tougher. We have talked about it, it’s simply the way the league is kept even and close every single year. Every team has a chance to go the distance because as you get better, the competition gets stiffer. The Bucs know all about that, especially when talking about the early part of their schedule. Facing both conference champions and a team that nearly got to the big game will be no easy task.
But what about the rest of the schedule?
We have taken a look at the first game out of the break, when the Bucs take a trip out to California to take on the 49ers. The next week, they come home to face off against Derek Carr and the rest of the Oakland Raiders. Yes they were only one game better than Tampa Bay with a 7-9 record, but don’t let that fool you. This is an up and coming team that the Bucs had better be ready for.
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These two teams haven’t faced each other very often, with the Raiders winning six out of nine contests. We all know that the Bucs won the important one, however, winning Super Bowl XXXVII by the score of 48-21. The Bucs actually won the most recent matchup as well, 42-32 in 2012. The last time the Raiders came down to “RayJay” they went home victorious, topping the men in Pewter by the score of 31-24 in 2008.
On defense, the new Bucs’ secondary will be put to the test. The duo pictured above is already tough and getting better. Derek Carr targeted Amari Cooper 130 times in 2015 and he responded with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. If Brent Grimes and company can keep Cooper in check, they will still have to face Michael Crabtree, who posted 85 receptions for 922 yards and nine touchdowns of his own.
Add Latavius Murray and his first 1,000 year on the ground to the mix and it becomes very clear how good the Raiders’ offense is and can be. Mike Smith and his defense are going to have a lot to handle on a Sunday afternoon in front of the home faithful.
Let’s see of Robert Ayers, Gerald McCoy and the rest of the defense can get in Carr’s face a bit. It will be tough. According to Football Outsiders, the Raiders were fourth best in sacks allowed, only giving up 33 in 2015. If they can disrupt Carr, however, it will go along way to bringing that offense back to Earth.
The Bucs’ offensive line had better be ready for Khalil Mack because if they are not, he will destroy the game all by himself. 2015 was only his second year in the league, and he managed to move to near the top of the league by posting 15 sacks and earning his first Pro Bowl selection. With over 70 tackles each year, Mack can always be found at or near the football.
He hasn’t faced the Bucs yet, but they had better watch a whole bunch of game film, otherwise the Tampa turf might have a large imprint of Jameis’ body.
Very quietly, the Raiders’ defense was very balanced in 2015. They ranked 7th against the pass and 13th against the run. Doug Martin was a rousing success the one time he faced the Raiders, rushing 25 times for 251 yards and four touchdowns, a career day for him. But, that was back in his rookie year of 2012, and the Raiders were not as good then.
The Raiders did allow a 63% completion percentage against opposing quarterbacks, so if the Bucs can get Martin going, it could open up some lanes for Winston and the offense. Mike Evans could have some open routes. Per Football Outsiders, the Raiders allowed 91 yards per game to opposing number one wide receivers.
This one will be a true test for the Bucs at mid-season. It will take an A+ effort on all sides of the football to get the win.