Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Terrell Owens vs. Ronde Barber – Two wily veterans will match wits. Both players have been extremely productive in their lengthy careers. Owens is second all-time in touchdown receptions. Barber is the Bucs all-time leader in interceptions. Barber moves into the slot in nickel, but when on the outside it's a matchup where superior football smarts could be the difference.
2. Kellen Winslow vs. Bryan Scott – If Bucs top WR Antonio Bryant is unable to play (knee) Byron Leftwich will be looking to Winslow all the more in the passing game. After watching the damage New England's Ben Watson did last Monday night you have to believe Tampa's offensive staff will see if Winslow can have similar success against Scott and LB Keith Ellison.
3. Gaines Adams vs. Demetrius Bell – The task gets no easier this week for Buffalo's new left tackle. Bell draws the Bucs top pass rusher. Much like Bell, Adams is still more potential than production right now, but the third-year end has far more game experience and will be a test for the Bills' blind side protector.
Top 2 Bills AdvantagesGood advantage – Kicking game – Brian Moorman and Rian Lindell were rock solid in the kicking game for Buffalo on Monday night while Tampa's new kicker Mike Nugent is off to a rough start. Last Sunday he had a 38-yard attempt blocked and pushed a 46-yard attempt wide right. Bucs punter Dirk Johnson had a better day than his kicking counterpart, but if wind is a factor Sunday things could get hairy for Tampa's specialists.
Best advantage – Deep passing game – The Bills haven't made a habit of taking advantage of the deep ball the past couple of seasons, but this matchup makes it difficult to ignore. With a safety tandem that's trying to get their feet back under them after giving up three touchdowns all over 40 yards the Bucs may overcompensate to guard against suffering the same fate this week, but it doesn't mean Buffalo shouldn't try with Evans and Owens outside.
Bills number one must
Contain Bucs run game – Despite getting beat handily by the Cowboys in Week 1, Tampa's revamped run game produced big numbers in their opener with 174 yards on the ground and a 5.6 yards per carry average. Adopting a new zone blocking scheme in the mold of Denver's run game for so many years under former coach Mike Shanahan, the Bucs offensive line is aggressive and Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham make for a formidable three-headed monster.
Buffalo's run defense fared well against the Patriots in Week 1 and will need to do just as well if not better against Tampa's scheme which requires supreme discipline to capably defend.
Cadillac is back
Not much was expected of former Bucs first-round pick Cadillac Williams coming off of back-to-back knee surgeries to repair torn patellar tendons in each knee. But after two years of grueling rehabilitation Williams was impressive in his Week 1 return with 97 yards on just 13 carries (7.5 average) and a touchdown.
Benefitting Williams further is Tampa's zone blocking scheme is very similar to the one he ran behind with enormous success in college at Auburn. Bucs head coach Raheem Morris maintains he'll continue to go with the hot hand at running back, but each of the top three backs were used last week. Williams and Derrick Ward saw the most action.
No longer are the Buccaneers exclusively playing their trademark 'Tampa 2' defense originally built by former head coach Tony Dungy and further popularized by long time defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. New defensive coordinator Jim Bates, who had great success as a defensive boss in Green Bay and Miami, has brought a more aggressive scheme to the club. Tampa now plays more press coverage and has a far greater number of blitz packages in their scheme than in years past.
Down a pivot man
The Buccaneers lost starting center Jeff Faine for 4-6 weeks with a torn triceps in the opener. Rookie Jonathan Compas stepped in , but figures to be replaced in the lineup by veteran Sean Mahan this week. Mahan was one of Tampa's final cuts before the season, but was re-signed. Adjusting to a new pivot man could initially compromise the Bucs' effectiveness in the run game.
No number one?Tampa Bay top receiver Antonio Bryant was forced to leave last week's game due to knee fatigue, and has struggled through the practice week leading up to Sunday's game not practicing Thursday or Friday. He's listed as doubtful for this weekend's game with Buffalo.
Bryant is the Bucs' number one passing weapon after putting together a monster season in 2008 that earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors with 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns. If he cannot play Sunday it's expected that the Tampa Bay offense will lean more heavily on number two wideout Michael Clayton and Kellen Winslow in the passing game. Behind those receiving weapons Tampa has only Maurice Stovall, rookie Sammie Stroughter and Brian Clark. Stroughter is expected to line up at Bryant's split end position if he cannot play.
With starting safety Tanard Jackson serving a four-game suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy, Tampa's starting safeties are Sabby Piscitelli and Jermaine Phillips. Phillips has a calf injury, but is listed as probable.
Piscitelli meanwhile is a first-year starter at strong safety and was victimized on two of Dallas' long touchdowns last week. If Phillips can't go Sunday, veteran Will Allen would step in.
As talented as Leodis McKelvin and Roscoe Parrish might be as return men, Tampa Bay has a promising young returner in Clifton Smith. The fourth-string running back finished fifth in the league last season in kick return average with a 27.6 figure last season. That was just over a half yard lower than McKelvin's average (28.2).
Smith also handled punt return duties for the Buccaneers and finished second in the league in average last season behind Parrish with a 14.1 return average to Parrish's 15.3. Smith had two returns for touchdowns last season. One came on a kickoff (97 yards) with the other on a punt return (70 yards).
Buffalo ChipsQuote of the week"I believe in myself. I feel like I have other guys' trust in me. That's the coaches' call to make. Whatever call they make I'm sure it's in the best interest of the team."
--New starting MLB Marcus Buggs
Stat of the weekTampa Bay is making their first ever appearance at Ralph Wilson Stadium. With a win this week, the Bills will improve to 4-0 against current NFC South Division teams in their first game at the Ralph.
Milestones within reach
Trent Edwards (148) needs 27 pass attempts without an interception to set the club record for most attempts without an INT.
Lee Evans need four receptions to pass Pete Metzelaars (302) for fourth place on the Bills all-time receptions list. He also needs just one catch for the 300th reception of his career.
Roscoe Parrish needs one punt return for a touchdown for the fourth of his career, which would earn him sole possession of first place in franchise history.
Tampa QB Byron Leftwich's last appearance at Ralph Wilson Stadium was also in a home opener for Buffalo in 2004. Then the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Leftwich led a late fourth quarter drive. Down 10-6 Leftwich marched the Jaguars 80 yards on 14 plays and hit Ernest Wilford in the back of the end zone with four seconds left in a 13-10 come from behind victory.