The Buccaneers will be traveling to Denver for the first time since 2012. They'll have outside linebacker Shaq Barrett leading the way to his old stomping grounds, having spent the first five seasons of his career with the Broncos.
Quarterback Tom Brady has faced Denver his fair share of times while in the AFC and has had some pretty big games at Mile High. In fact, he said on Thursday that he and tight end Rob Gronkowski were talking about how crazy the 2015 AFC Championship game was that sent the Broncos to Super Bowl 50. The game came down to a two-point conversion attempt from Brady to Gronkowski that was thwarted by the Denver defense. Brady also called Empower Field at Mile High one of the all-time places to play in the league.
Needless to say, even with the rash of injuries plaguing this current Broncos team, it will be a matchup to watch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) vs. Denver Broncos (0-2)
All-time record: Denver leads the all-time series 7-2
Road record: 1-4
Key Matchups (via Scott Smith):
1. Broncos RB Melvin Gordon vs. Buccaneers LB Lavonte David
Devin White, whose 2020 exploits are discussed above, leads the NFL in tackles with 26 but David isn't far behind at 20. The two have combined for 31 total tackles on running plays through two games, which has helped hold opposing teams to 2.9 yards per carry and 84.5 yards per game. Since the start of 2019, the Buccaneers have allowed only one individual 100-yard rushing game and have surrendered a league-low 3.2 yards per tote. David is in his ninth NFL season but has shown no signs whatsoever of slowing down; he remains one of the NFL's best off-the-ball linebackers and a player who not only can chase down backs from sideline to sideline but is also adept at popping the ball loose as a ballcarrier is going down. Having already faced and fared well against Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey, David will now turn his attention to Melvin Gordon, who is also off to a good start in 2020. With Phillip Lindsay sidelined by a turf toe, Gordon leads the team and is tied for 12th in the NFL with 148 rushing yards. A stout runner with underrated quickness and cutting ability, Gordon can both break tackles and leave defenders grabbing at nothing. Gordon is also a very good pass-catching back, so David and company will have to keep an eye on him sneaking out of the backfield.
2. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin vs. Broncos CB Michael Ojemudia
Godwin is back after missing one game with a concussion and the Buccaneers' offense will surely be better for it. He was Tom Brady's top target in Week One with seven catches for 79 yards and he's capable of making big plays whether lined up outside or in the slot. When Godwin is lined up wide to the offense's left, he'll probably get some matchups with Ojemudia, the rookie third-rounder out of Iowa. When veteran A.J. Bouye left the Broncos' opener with an injury it was Ojemudia who came in to finish the game. He then played every snap of Denver's game last weekend in Pittsburgh, though Fangio said the rookie "struggled" against the Steelers and had "a tough day." It won't get any easier in Week Three for Ojemudia, though at 6-1 and 200 pounds he does have good size to match up with Godwin. The Bucs' 2019 leading receiver with 1,333 yards, Godwin is the Bucs' best pass-catcher in the open field after he has the ball in his hands, so Ojemudia will have to be sure in his tackling, too.
3. Broncos T Elijah Wilkinson vs. Buccaneers OLB Shaquil Barrett
It's worth repeating that Barrett will not be lacking for motivation this Sunday. He was with the Broncos for five years, playing in four seasons and he contributed 14.5 sacks in that span while in a rotational role that expanded and shrank from season to season. An undrafted free agent out of Colorado State, Barrett is almost certainly grateful to have been given a shot by the Broncos, but it's only natural to want to show your former team that they shouldn't have let you get away. After taking a one-year "prove-it" deal with the Buccaneers, Barrett emphatically proved it when he got a chance to start in Tampa, leading the NFL with a team-record 19.5 sacks in 2019. Barrett doesn't have a sack yet in 2020, though Arians said the outside linebacker is playing just as hard this year, so he would surely like to erase that zero in Denver. Barrett has started almost all of his pass-rushes this season from the right edge of the offensive line, so if that continues he will primarily be the responsibility of Wilkinson, the Broncos' starting right tackle. Like Barrett, Wilkinson got his first NFL opportunity in Denver as an undrafted free agent and he got his first chance to start over the last seven games of 2018, playing right guard. Last year he moved to right tackle and opened 12 more games, and this year that job became his when Ja'Wuan James chose to opt out of the season. Wilkinson is a big man to get around, standing 6-6 and listed at 329 pounds and it was his raw athleticism that gave him a shot coming out of Massachusetts. The Broncos say Wilkinson is also a great fit for their schemes under line coach Mike Munchak. Wilkinson will have to deal with Barrett's speed and well-developed repertoire of moves.
4. Buccaneers QB Tom Brady vs. Broncos S Justin Simmons
Brady is obviously masterful at moving safeties around with his eyes, something members of the Buccaneers' secondary found out quickly in August practices. However, Simmons is one of the league's best safeties and he has consistently put himself in position to get takeaways. His 10 interceptions since the start of 2017 ranks sixth among all NFL safeties in that span. Simmons also had nearly 100 tackles each of the last two seasons as he is an important part of the Broncos' run defense as well. Brady has looked sharp for much of his first two games as a Buccaneer and has made a handful of impressive throws, but as he, Arians and Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen have all said, the assimilation of the 20-year veteran into the Buccaneers' offense is a "work in progress." In a typical season, that process would be much further along by mid-September, but 2020 is obviously not typical and Brady's first live throw for Tampa Bay was in a game that counted in Week One. Brady's best throw in the Bucs' Week Two win was a laser deep down the middle of the field that drew Mike Evans into a gap between two deep safeties for a gain of 50 yards. Brady won't make it easy for Simmons to diagnose where he plans to go with the football, but Simmons also won't make it easy for Brady to find wide-open spaces downfield.
The game will kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET. The broadcast can be found on FOX, locally. It will also be available on a live stream that can be accessed through the Buccaneers Official App and Yahoo Sports. See below for details.
Watch on TV:
Sunday, September 27, 2020
· Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
· Location: Raymond James Stadium
· Television Network: FOX
· Broadcast Crew: Adam Amin (play by play), Mark Schlereth (color), Lindsay Czarniak (reporter)
Watch on Mobile:
The stream is available through Yahoo Sports, the Buccaneers Official App and online at Buccaneers.com.
· Yahoo! Sports (mobile browser or app)
· Bucs Official App
*Please check local listings to confirm availability. Geographic and device restrictions apply. Local & primetime games only. Data charges may apply.
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