By Ryan Leong
The 3-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers present an interesting challenge for the Raiders. They’re a team that is up and coming but some off field problems will be a challenge for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib was traded to New England just before the trade deadline with a seventh round pick in exchange for the Patriots’ fourth round pick. Talib is currently suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The Bucs weren’t likely going to re-sign Talib after his rookie contract expired at the end of this season. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano has said he wanted high character players and has stuck to his plan. He already had traded or released Kellen Winslow, Tanard Jackson, Brian Price and Dezmon Briscoe.
The Bucs might also soon be missing cornerback Eric Wright, who is reported to be suspended four games for using Adderall. In that event, the likely replacement is Leonard Johnson, who had an interception in last Thursday’s win over the Vikings. For now, Wright has an Achilles injury, yet he is expected to play against the Raiders.
Tampa Bay already lost starting guard Carl Nicks who is a vital component of their offense. Nicks was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Without him, their running game and pass protection won’t be nearly as good.
Quarterback Josh Freeman has thrown for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three games. In fact, ESPN statistical research says he’s the first QB in franchise history to throw three or more touchdown passes in three straight games. But a look inside the numbers shows that the three touchdowns against the Vikings were very short passes. One for three yards, one for one yard, and a screen pass by rookie running back Doug Martin went for 64 yards. Freeman is only completing 55 percent of his passes and only once this season has he exceeded the 60 percent mark.
Martin was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. He had a monster game against Minnesota, totaling 214 yards. He became the first rookie in the past 25 seasons to rush for at least 135 yards (135) with 75-plus receiving yards (79) in one game. That included a 64-yard touchdown off a screen pass. He also says he’s looking forward to playing the Raiders. Martin was an Oakland resident for five years when he was in high school and reportedly expects to have more than 60 guests at the Coliseum.
But without Nicks as protection for both Martin and Freeman, that bodes well for the Raiders defense.
Tampa Bay is trying to win back-to-back road games for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. Their run defense has been very good, giving up only 85.1 yards per game. This will be a challenge for the Raiders. Running back Darren McFadden is coming off a seaso- best 114 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs but D-Mac has only had two 100-yard run games this season.
The Raiders lead the all-time series, 6-1. The teams have not met since the 2008 season finale in which the Bucs blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at Raymond James Stadium and lost 31-24. With that defeat, the Bucs missed the post-season after a 9-3 start. It was a bit of revenge for the Raiders after losing Super Bowl XXXVII to former coach Jon Gruden. After 2008, the Bucs fired Gruden, who is now an analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.