The Buccaneers received a huge blow this week when all pro guard Carl Nicks was placed on the injured reserve. Despite having the extra couple days off this week, the injury was causing Nicks too much pain and they decided it was best for the long term to have him sit for the rest of the year.
Who will take his place has remained a mystery, as coach Greg Schiano is holding the decision until game day. The person that makes the most sense is Ted Larsen who started the year off at right guard. They could also put him at center and move Jeremy Zuttah to guard. Whoever it is though will be a huge down grade, especially in the run game as the Buccaneers were averaging a whole yard better to the left side.
Josh Freeman has been on an absolute tear the last few weeks, and I expect this trend to continue this week. The Raiders corners are nothing special and Vincent Jackson should be able to get back on track this week for a big game. Expect Mike Williams to continue his good play as well against single coverage and have a huge game this week as well.
With the loss of Nicks it’s going to be hard for the Buccaneers to get the running game going. The one thing about Doug Martin is he is excellent at reading holes and exploding thru them. The key will be if Freeman can continue his great play in the air, then the running lanes will be there for Martin to hit.
Defensively for the Buccaneers it’s going to be a struggle. Darren McFadden is one of the more explosive running backs in the league, and could give the defense fits. While the run defense has been very improved this year, Adrian Peterson ran all over them last week. It will be interesting to see how the defense bounces back this week.
While the run defense has been improved, the pass defense hasn’t been good at all. Carson Palmer has to be licking his chops to go against a secondary that could be without Eric Wright, who has been on the injury report all week. While Aqib Talib was just traded, he wouldn’t have been playing this week due to his suspension regardless.
A match-up that could happen is Denarius Moore against the rookie Leonard Johnson. Johnson put together a great performance last week with an interception and a near second one when he ripped the ball away from Percy Harvin. He should see his fair share of time this week to see what the Buccaneers truly have in him.
The Buccaneers return game has been abysmal this year, but it shouldn’t matter this week. The Raiders have a pair of big legs in Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. Those two should be big factors in special teams and keep the Buccaneers from having good field position during the entire game.
Ultimately the game will be won by winning the turnover battle. Freeman must continue his play, and play mistake free football. Palmer has played better this year but is still susceptible to the turnover, which the Buccaneers have been great at forcing all year. I think Freeman leads this team to the victory and brings the Bucs to a 4-4 record with a 34-31 win.