If the Patriots can beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, they'll improve to 3-0 on the regular season for only the fourth time in Bill Belichick's tenure.
The team is coming off a 13-10 win over the New York Jets in Week 2 that was marred by offensive miscues, particularly from the team's young wide receivers (four drops). They'll be looking to clean up their performance Sunday against a more stringent set of defensive backs in Tampa Bay's secondary, including the universally respected Darrelle Revis and All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson.
Through two games, the Patriots have been particularly rough on third down (15 of 38) and despondent in the red zone (2 of 8).
The Buccaneers (0-2) have struggled on offense as well. They're coming off a close, 16-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints. A last-minute failed field goal attempt kept them out of the win column.
Quarterback Josh Freeman (24 of 53 for 335 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 63.0 QBB rating) has had a tough start with questions of discord surrounding him and coach Greg Schiano. The pair have said all is fine in the locker room despite reports to the contrary swirling around them. Improved chemistry, Schiano said, will be pivotal to the team's offense.
"Josh has struggled a little bit, but I donít think itís just Josh, itís our whole offense," Schiano told reporters earlier this week. "Weíve been out of sync. We havenít scored points, and in this league you need to score points. Weíre working awfully hard, and Josh is working awfully hard. I think heís got a much better grasp of what weíre doing. Heís got a better grasp on the defenses, and just the way he is handling himself. So thatís what makes it even more frustrating."
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin (209 rushing yards, 1 TD) will be the focus of the Patriots' defense, which has allowed 265 yards rushing in the first two weeks.
Here are the details for today's game:
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Records: Patriots 2-0; Buccaneers 0-2.
TV/Radio: Fox (Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Erin Andrews); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Bob Socci, Scott Zolak).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Julian Edelman, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Zach Sudfeld, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Michael Hoomanawanui.
Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork, DT Tommy Kelly, DE Chandler Jones, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Aqib Talib, CB Kyle Arrington, S Devin McCourty, S Steve Gregory.
Buccaneers offense: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Donald Penn, LG Carl Nicks, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Davin Joseph, RT Demar Dotson, TE Luke Stocker, WR Mike Williams, QB Josh Freeman, RB Doug Martin, FB Erik Lorig.
Buccaneers defense: LE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Akeem Spence, RE Adrian Clayborn, SLB Dekoda Watson, MLB Mason Foster, WLB Lavonte David, LCB Darrelle Revis, RCB Leonard Johnson, SS Mark Barron, FS Dashon Goldson.
Read this, watch that
- Erik Frenz breaks down a key matchup, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib vs. Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
- Adam Kaufman pontificates on what we can learn about the Patriots against the Bucs.
- Follow today's game and comment on the action in our live blog. Updates start around noon.