Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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2020 Game Preview: Buccaneers-Broncos, Week 3

The Buccaneers' first trip to mile-high altitude in eight years will pit them against a Denver team that has absorbed a rash of injuries but has still been extremely competitive in two close losses

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced one of the league's longest running head coach-quarterback pairings in Week One in New Orleans, and that continuity clearly gave the Saints an advantage. In Week Two, the Buccaneers faced a team on the extreme opposite of that spectrum, as the Carolina Panthers have a new head coach and a new quarterback in 2020, along with many other changes as the Matt Rhule era begins. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Buccaneers lost that first game and won the second one.

In Week Three, the Buccaneers head to Denver to face a Broncos team that started out somewhere in the middle of that above spectrum but are now a bit of a team in flux three weeks into 2020. As we noted extensively in this week's Scouting Report on the Broncos, the tidal wave of injuries that swept over the NFL in Week Two definitely made it a mile high and took its toll on Denver. Most notably, the Broncos lost second-year starting quarterback Drew Lock for a few weeks to a right shoulder injury and will now turn to second-stringer Jeff Driskel to face the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers are also somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. They have a returning head coach and coaching staff but they are working with a new quarterback in 2020. Now, that quarterback happens to be megastar Tom Brady, who has 20 years of NFL experience and a history of wildly successful play, but the Buccaneers' offense is clearly finding its way one game at a time. The Buccaneers' offense scored 31 points in Week Two, which would likely be enough to win against Driskel and the Broncos (17.5 points per game so far in 2020) but it might take another assist from the defense to get there. Tampa Bay's 31-17 win over the Panthers included 17 points scored off takeaways and some other shorter-field opportunities after a failed fake punt and a failed onside kick.

The good news for Brady and company is that the Buccaneers will have their star receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at full strength for the first time in 2020. In Week One, Evans played through a painful hamstring injury and finished with just one catch, though he did draw 67 yards worth of pass interference penalties. Godwin missed the next game while going through the final stages of the NFL's concussion protocol. Meanwhile, the Broncos will be without their top receiver, Courtland Sutton, after his season-ending knee injury in Week Two but they have a pair of promising rookies in Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Driskel is also likely to lean on speedy second-year tight end Noah Fant, who appears to be emerging as a standout at his position.

After another AFC West team, the Las Vegas Raiders, did the Buccaneers a Monday night favor by taking down the Saints, Tampa Bay heads into Week Three with a chance to move into first place in the NFC South. New Orleans, now 1-1 like the Bucs, will welcome the explosive Green Bay Packers to the Superdome on Sunday night. Both Atlanta and Carolina are off to 0-2 starts. The Buccaneers would also like to find their winning formula on the road as they play in front of approximately 6,000 fans at Empower Field.

Vic Fangio's Broncos finished on a roll in his first season at the helm, winning four of their last five in 2019. Of course, all of that came after Lock moved into the starting lineup. Even with their roster dotted with key injuries – Von Miller and A.J. Bouye are on injured reserve – the Broncos have played the Titans and Steelers close in a pair of losses by a combined seven points. The Buccaneers should expect a serious challenge from not just the altitude in Denver but a Broncos team with a lot of promising young players.

GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Denver Broncos (0-2)

Sunday, September 27, 4:25 p.m. ET

Empower Field at Mile High (capacity: 76,125…5,700 fans will be allowed to attend)

Denver, Colorado

Television: FOX (Local WTVT Channel 13)

TV Broadcast Team: Adam Amin (play-by-play), Mark Schlereth (analyst), Lindsay Czarniak (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (reporter)

ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won one game in Denver, and it was 23 years ago. The Bucs' first touchdown in that game was scored by tight end Dave Moore, who is now in his 14th season as an analyst on the Buccaneers' radio game broadcasts. To be fair, the Bucs have only made the trip to Denver five times in 44 previous seasons, and only three times since Tampa Bay's 17-10 Mile High win in 1993.

In fact, Sunday's meeting will be just the 10th one ever between the Buccaneers and Broncos, with Denver holding a commanding 7-2 lead and a three-game winning streak. Tampa Bay's most recent victory in the series came in 1999 in Tampa in a 13-10 slugfest against the defending Super Bowl champions. Again, to be fair, these particular defending champs were a little different than most in that soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer John Elway had retired after the Broncos' victory in Super Bowl XXXIII, riding off into the sunset with two straight Lombardi Trophies. (He didn't ride too far into that sunset, however, as he returned in 2011 to take over his current post as the Broncos' general manager. Mike Alstott scored the Bucs' only touchdown in that 1999 win and Hardy Nickerson had a key interception off future Buccaneer Brian Griese.

The last time these two clubs met was, of course, four years ago as part of the rotation of divisional matchups in interconference play. Denver came to Tampa in 2016 and came away with a 27-7 win despite starting quarterback Trevor Siemian being knocked out of the game early. Rookie Paxton Lynch relieved and threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders to put the game out of reach. Former Buccaneer Aqib Talib took care of the Bucs on defense with a pair of interceptions and the Bucs were held to 215 yards.

Denver also won a pair of consecutive 16-13 decisions in 2004 and 2008. The first game to feature the Bucs and Broncos came during Tampa Bay's inaugural 1976 season, in which they finished 0-14. The Buccaneers' roster was stocked mostly with past-their-prime veterans and untested rookies that season and Denver easily got the 48-13 win, with Bucs quarterbacks Steve Spurrier and Parnell Dickinson each throwing a pick-six.

View some of the top photos from Buccaneers Week 3 practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

NOTABLE CONNECTIONS

·    Tampa Bay outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, the NFL's 2019 leader in sacks, joined the Buccaneers in 2019 after five years and four seasons played in Denver. An undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2014, he split time between the Broncos' practice squad and active roster in 2014, then spent the next four years as a rotational pass-rusher. Barrett made 15 starts and recorded 14.0 sacks in that four-year span, then signed with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent and immediately set a new franchise record with 19.5 sacks in 2019.

·    Denver offensive tackle Demar Dotson is in his 12th NFL season and his first away from Tampa. The Buccaneers signed Dotson as an undrafted rookie in 2009 and converted him from defensive tackle to his current position. Dotson was the Buccaneers' primary starting right tackle for most of the last decade, when healthy, and he recorded 106 starts for the team.

·    Broncos Quarterbacks Coach Mike Shula got his start in the NFL with the Buccaneers, in two different ways. After finishing his collegiate playing career at Alabama, Shula was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 12th round in 1987, with the 313th-overall selection. Shula made the roster as a rookie but did not appear in any games, and he immediately went into coaching the next season as an offensive assistant for the Buccaners. After a three-year stint in that capacity, Shula returned in 1996 as the offensive coordinator under Tony Dungy and held that job for four more seasons.

·    Like Shula, Denver Defensive Line Coach Bill Kollar is also a former player and coach for the Buccaneers. He spent five seasons (1977-81) in uniform for the Buccaneers, playing in 72 games with 35 starts on the defensive line. He then began his NFL coaching career in Tampa in 1984 as a defensive/special teams assistant.

·    Linebacker Mark Barron signed with the Broncos three weeks ago after being released by Pittsburgh in March. Barron was drafted by the Buccaneers with the seventh-overall pick in the 2012 draft and played two-plus seasons in Tampa before being traded to the Rams. Barron was drafted as a safety, the position he played for the Buccaneers, but later converted to linebacker.

SENIOR COACHING STAFFS

·    Tampa Bay:

·    Head Coach Bruce Arians

·    Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin

·    Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles

·    Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich

·    Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong

·    Denver:

·    Head Coach Vic Fangio

·    Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur

·    Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell

·    Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon

KEY 2020 ROSTER ADDITIONS

Buccaneers:

·    QB Tom Brady (UFA)

·    RB Leonard Fournette (FA)

·    TE Rob Gronkowski (T-NE)

·    T Joe Haeg (UFA)

·    WR Tyler Johnson (5th-round draft pick)

·    RB LeSean McCoy (FA)

·    C A.Q. Shipley (FA)

·    K Ryan Succop (FA)

·    RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (3rd-round draft pick)

·    S Antoine Winfield Jr. (2nd-round draft pick)

·    T Tristan Wirfs (1st-round draft pick)

Broncos:

·    DT McTelvin Agim (3rd-round draft pick)

·    LB Mark Barron (FA)

·    CB A.J. Bouye (T-JAX)

·    C Lloyd Cushenberry (3rd-round draft pick)

·    T Demar Dotson (FA)

·    QB Jeff Driskel (UFA)

·    G Graham Glasgow (UFA)

·    RB Melvin Gordon (UFA)

·    K.J. Hamler (2nd-round draft pick)

·    DE Shelby Harris (UFA)

·    WR Jerry Jeudy (1st-round draft pick)

·    P Sam Martin (UFA)

·    CB Michael Ojemudia (3rd-round draft pick)

·    TE Nick Vannett (UFA)

ADDITIONAL 2020 CHANGES OF NOTE

Buccaneers:

·    Though it is noted in the "Roster Additions" section above, it's worth further elaborating on the extremely dramatic change the Buccaneers made at the game's most important position. After five seasons, the team moved on from Jameis Winston, the first-overall pick in the 2015 draft, and filled the starting quarterback spot with the man many consider the G.O.A.T., former Patriot Tom Brady. Brady brings 20 years of experience and six Super Bowl championship rings to Tampa in one of the most notable free agent signings in NFL history. Brady's move to the Buccaneers also prompted former Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and he was promptly traded to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round draft pick. Coincidentally, Winston will be there for Brady's Buccaneers debut as he signed with the Saints as an unrestricted free agent.

·    Tampa Bay debuted new uniforms in Week One in New Orleans. The uniforms are largely inspired by the ones the team wore during its Super Bowl era and overall from 1997 through 2013. Some elements of the uniforms introduced in 2014 remain, such as the sharper, more detailed skull-and-crossed-swords logo and the larger flag on the helmet (though not as large as before). The uniforms debuting in 2020 also include an all-pewter version that is completely unique in team and NFL history and will be worn for the first time this week in Denver.

·    The Buccaneers have two new additions to their coaching staff in 2020: Defensive/Special Teams Assistant Keith Tandy and Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach Cory Bichey. Tandy worked at the high school and college levels in 2019, the latter at his alma mater of West Virginia, but he begins his NFL coaching career with the same team that drafted him in 2012. Tandy spent six seasons in Tampa as a safety and special teams standout before finishing his playing career in Atlanta in 2018. Bichey comes to the Buccaneers from Mississippi State University, where he previously worked under current Buccaneers Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Anthony Piroli.

·    The Buccaneers used their franchise tag during the 2020 offseason for the first time in eight years. That tag was employed to retain outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who went from a rotational reserve in Denver to the NFL's 2019 sack leader after signing with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent. Barrett's 19.5 sacks in his first year with the Buccaneers broke Warren Sapp's single-season franchise record and made him one of the team's top priorities in the offseason. Barrett and the Bucs were unable to reach agreement on a long-term deal during the 2020 offseason, in part due to the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, so Barrett will play on the tag's one-year contract this fall.

Broncos:

·    When Vic Fangio landed the Broncos' head coaching job in 2019 he hired San Francisco 49ers Quarterbacks Coach Rich Scangarello to be his offensive coordinator. That pairing only lasted one season, however, as Scangarello was let go in January after the Broncos finished 28th in the NFL's offensive rankings. Taking his place is Pat Shurmur, who is coming off a two-year stint as the Giants' head coach. Prior to that, Shurmur had held coordinator posts with the Vikings, Eagles and Rams.

·    Mike Shula, who was Shurmur's offensive coordinator in New York, followed Shurmur to Denver and is now the Broncos quarterbacks coach, replacing T.C. McCartney. Long-time NFL coach John Pagano is also new to the Broncos' staff in 2020, taking over the outside linebackers spot. The Broncos needed a new coach for that position after Brandon Staley left to be th enew defensive coordinator for the Rams.

·    The Broncos defense could play all or at least most of the 2020 season without its best player, as Pro Bowl edge rusher Von Miller is on injured reserve due to a torn tendon in his ankle. Over the past nine seasons, since he entered the league as the second-overall pick in the 2011 draft, Miller is the only player in the NFL who has amassed 100 sacks in that span, with 106.0. Miller had missed only one game over the previous six seasons, and only nine in his career prior to 2020. Eighth-year veteran Jeremy Attaochu, who has 16.5 career sacks, has moved into the starting lineup opposite former first-round pick Bradley Chubb but the Broncos have also spoken with some available free agent outside linebackers, including Clay Matthews.

·    Last year, the Broncos turned the quarterback position over to rookie Drew Lock, a second-round pick out of Missouri, for the final five games of the season. Lock solidified his hold on that job with a 4-1 record as a starter, and the Dolphins rearranged the rest of their quarterback depth chart after the season. Out were Joe Flacco, who finished 2019 on injured reserve and then was released in March, and Brandon Allen, whose contract expired. The Broncos then signed Jeff Driskel from the Lions to back up Lock and brought back Brett Rypien, a 2019 undrafted free agent, to serve as a third option on the practice squad.

View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster as it currently stands.

TOP STORYLINES

Backfield in Motion – Another thing that helped Brady lead a 31-point charge in Week Two was a rushing attack that was solid for most of the game, productive around the goal line and explosive in crunch time. For the first time since 2018, the Buccaneers scored three rushing touchdowns in a single game, the last of which was a 46-yard blast by Leonard Fournette that ranked as the team's longest scoring run since 2012. That final carry not only clinched the game but also put Fournette over 100 yards in just his second game as a Buccaneers. That predictably led to a round of questions for Bruce Arians this week as to whether Fournette was close to supplanting Ronald Jones as the starter in the backfield. For Arians, at this point in the season, that's basically a moot point. He quite clearly intends to use both Jones and Fournette extensively and it may not particularly matter who is on the field for the first snap. The advantage of having both backs, plus LeSean McCoy in a productive third-down role, is the likelihood of having fresh legs in the fourth quarter, which paid off big against Carolina. Still, if Fournette continues to put up big numbers with his share of the workload, questions will persist as to how the carries should be distributed. For now, it apears to be a good problem to have for the Buccaneers.

(Com)motion in the Other Backfield, Too – The Buccaneers' pass rush improved from one sack in New Orleans to five against Carolina in Week Two. The Broncos' quarterbacks, meanwhile, suffered through seven sacks in Pittsburgh last Sunday, including six against Driskel after he entered the game. The Steelers have a demonstrably good pass rush and can be a problem for any group of blockers, but rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry struggled in his second NFL game, as Fangio conceded after the contest. Tampa Bay's pass rushers might be able to exploit that area with the trio of Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea and Will Gholston, who combined for three of the Bucs' five sacks against Carolina. In addition, they will have a very motivated edge rusher on the field Sunday, as 2019 sack leader Shaq Barrett will want to show his former team what they are missing in his return to Denver. Pro Football Outsiders has graded the Broncos' line as the 26th best in pass blocking so far this season. The Buccaneers will have a better chance of taking advantage of the difficulties of making an in-season quarterback swap if they can keep Driskel from getting comfortable in the pocket.

What Will White Do Next – The Buccaneers used the fifth-overall pick in the 2019 draft on LSU's Devin White, an unusually high selection to use on an off-the-ball linebacker. They did so believing that his wide mix of skills would eventually make him an NFL superstar capable of making big plays at every level of the defense. We may be witnessing the emergence of that star. White heads into Week Three as the NFL's leader in tackles with 26 and he has shown impressive range in the Bucs' first two games. He's also making those splash plays in coverage and in the backfield; last week he became the first NFL player in nearly two years to record 15 tackles and a pass defensed and a quarterback hit in the same game. The Buccaneers' defense is designed to let the team's stout interior linemen eat up blockers and keep them out of the second level, leaving White and Lavonte David to roam free and invade running lanes at high speeds. Before the season, the ultra-confident White set a goal for himself of five interceptions in 2020 (he had one last year) but said he would also be fine substituting in five sacks instead. Chances are he's going to start making marks in both categories, and probably pretty soon. After White had some effective pass rushes in Sunday's win over Carolina, Arians said that the young linebacker is "a load coming up the middle." That could come in handy in Denver.

Special Consideration – The Buccaneers were beaten in the third phase of the game in their season-opening losses, running into troubles containing punt returns and suffering a blocked field goal and a botched kickoff return. In Week Two, Tampa Bay's special teams units were solid across the board and, most importantly, mistake-free. Kicker Ryan Succop hit a 33-yard field goal and all four of his extra points without trouble; punter Bradley Pinion dropped two kicks inside the 20 and had a 42.3-yard net average; and the Bucs' punt coverage team completely bottled up Carolina's Pharoh Cooper. Tampa Bay still hasn't got anything out of its own return game yet but also has had very few opportunities. That solid work against the Panthers helped the Bucs play a complete game in their victory, and that was a welcome progression. It remains to be seen if Tampa Bay's special teams can take another step forward and be a winning edge on some Sundays. That would involve continued steady work from Succop, who has been, as billed, completely dependable on mid-range kicks. It would also involve some splash plays, whether they be long punt returns, turnovers forced on opposition returns, blocked kicks or simply punts downed very close to the goal-line. Succop and Pinion will get to kick at high altitude this weekend; perhaps they will also produce high-end results that are a factor in the final outcome.

More Take than Give – The Buccaneers lost the turnover battle in their season-opener, 3-0, but won it against the Panthers in Week Two, 4-2. If you didn't already know, you could probably guess which of those two games the Bucs won. Takeaways were definitely a factor in the victory against Carolina, as three of them led to scoring drives and 17 total points. But they could have been a more overwhelming factor if the Bucs didn't make two mistakes of their own. Brady's lone interception in the game came right after Lavonte David had created a scoring opportunity with a fumble recovery deep in Carolina territory, with the Bucs threatening to make a 21-point lead into 28. Instead, momentum swung in the Panthers favor and they spent much of the second half in a furious but ultimately unsuccessful rally. The Buccaneers also lost a fumble on an exchange between Brady and Jones, which Arians later described as a result of Jones not being patient enough on a draw play. While turnovers are going to happen and are sometimes merely great plays by the other team, it's the type of self-inflicted wound as Jones's fumble that drives coaches crazy. Both the Broncos and Buccaneers come into their Week Three meeting with an overall -1 turnover ratio. Whichever one is even or better by the end of the day will probably also be the victor.

KEY MATCHUPS

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.

INJURY REPORT

Key:

DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed

Buccaneers:

· WR Chris Godwin (concussion) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· WR Scotty Miller (hip/groin) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· T Donovan Smith (knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· DL Ndamukong Suh (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Not listed.

· WR Justin Watson (shoulder) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

Broncos:

· OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (quadricep) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: LP. Game Status: Not listed.

· T Garett Bolles (elbow) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· TE Jake Butt (hand) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· DE Jurrell Casey (elbow) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· OLB Bradley Chubb (not injury related) – WEDS: NL; THURS: DNP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· WR Tyrie Cleveland (hip) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· CB Davontae Harris (hamstring) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

· DE Shelby Harris (neck) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· WR Jerry Jeudy (ribs) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.

· RB Phillip Lindsay (foot) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Doubtful.

· QB Drew Lock (right shoulder) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.

· S Trey Marshall (hip/wrist) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

· TE Albert Okwuegbunam (hip) – WEDS: FP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.

WEATHER FORECAST

Mostly sunny, high of 85, low of 55, 0% chance of rain, 22% humidity, winds out of the NW at 5-10 mph.

GAME REFEREE

Head referee: Land Clark (3rd season, first as referee)

BETTING LINE

· Favorite: Buccaneers (-6.0)

· Over/Under: 43.5

INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS

Buccaneers-

Points Scored: WR Mike Evans/RB Leonard Fournette/K Ryan Succop, 12

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans/RB Leonard Fournette, 2

Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 456

Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 79.3

Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 108

Receptions: WR Mike Evans, 8

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 106

Interceptions: CB Carlton Davis/S Jordan Whitehead, 1

Sacks: OLB Jason Pierre-Paul/DL Ndamukong Suh, 2.0

Tackles: ILB Devin White, 26

Broncos-

Points Scored: TE Noah Fant, 14

Touchdowns: TE Noah Fant/RB Melvin Gordon, 2

Passing Yards: QB Jeff Driskel, 256

Passer Rating: QB Drew Lock, 87.2

Rushing Yards: RB Melvin Gordon, 148

Receptions: TE Noah Fant, 9

Receiving Yards: TE Noah Fant, 138

Interceptions: S Justin Simmons, 1

Sacks: OLB Jeremiah Attaochu/NT Mike Purcell, 1.0

Tackles: LB A.J. Johnson, 20

TEAM STAT RANKINGS

Buccaneers-

Scoring Offense: 13th (27.0 ppg)

Total Offense: 25th (324.5 ypg)

Passing Offense: 25th (220.5 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 23rd (104.0 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-23rd (21.5)

Third-Down Pct.: 17th (41.7%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: t-9th (4.23%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-4th (83.3%)

Scoring Defense: 17th (25.5 ppg)

Total Defense: t-11th (349.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 21st (264.5 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 5th (84.5 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-6th (21.0)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 13th (42.3%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: t-9th (8.22%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-6th (50.0%)

Turnover Margin: t-20th (-1)

Broncos-

Scoring Offense: 30th (17.5 ppg)

Total Offense: 27th (321.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: 26th (215.5 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 21st (105.5 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: t-25th (21.0)

Third-Down Pct.: t-29th (33.3%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 27th (9.72%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: 29th (42.9%)

Scoring Defense: 10th (21.0 ppg)

Total Defense: 21st (393.5 ypg)

Passing Defense: 25th (274.0 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 14th (119.5 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-14th (22.5)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 4th (32.1%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 30th (2.38%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-6th (50.0%)

Turnover Margin: t-20th (-1)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

·    ILB Lavonte David could pass two former Buccaneer defensive greats on separate lists on Sunday in Denver. The first one he will get as soon as he takes a snap, as it would be the 124th start of his Buccaneer career. That would move him past Gerald McCoy and into eighth on the Buccaneers' all-time games started list. David enters the game with 1,206 career tackes, which means he needs just three more to pass Hardy Nickerson (1,208) for third place on that all-time franchise list. The only two players ahead of Nickerson are Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber.

·    WR Mike Evans has a touchdown catch in each of the Buccaneers' first two games. He also hauled in a TD pass in the team's 2019 season finale, so he's got an active streak of three straight games with a score heading into Denver. If he can make it four he'll tie the team record for the longest such streak. It's been done eight times before, including once by Evans and once by teammate Chris Godwin.

·    WR Chris Godwin has 2,779 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches in his career. With 169 more yards and three more touchdowns, he would move into 10th place on both of those lists in franchise history.

·    Tight end Cameron Brate has 27 career touchdown catches, which is tied for the fifth-most in franchise history. The next one he gets will move him from that tie into one for fourth place with former Bucs WR Joey Galloway.

·    If Tom Brady gets his first 300-yard passing game as a Buccaneer on Sunday he'll do it in the building where Peyton Manning got his last one. Coincidentally, that would be Brady's 93rd 300-yard game, which is the same number that Manning finished with. So one more would put Brady and Manning in a tie for second place in that category in NFL history, trailing only Drew Brees, who has 128 of them.

NOTABLY QUOTABLE

·    Head Coach Bruce Arians on if the Buccaneers are in danger of letting their guard down against an 0-2 team: "I don't think we're anybody that can let our guard down. We haven't done [anything]. We'd better be strapped on and ready to go. They're a very well-coached football team and everybody's got injuries. We're nobody to look past anybody, so that message was passed [to players]. They're a damn good football team. They can beat anybody on their schedule. They had a chance to win that one [in Pittsburgh] even with injuries and they should've won the first one. Their tape doesn't lie – they're good."

·    G Ali Marpet on the momentum shifting several times in the Week Two win over Carolina but the Bucs eventually being able to close it out: "When there's swings in momentum, you definitely feel that on the sideline. I'm hoping that this year – there's always going to be stuff that goes your way and stuff that doesn't go your way – but to sort of mitigate those swings [and] just keep the momentum on our side as best we can, I think that makes a big difference. There's so many games in this league that are this close, and the momentum and mitigating swings is just all you can do. As long as we can just keep doing that moving forward, we'll be really good."

·    DL Ndamukong Suh, who had two sacks against Carolina, on seeing fewer double-teams when teams are paying attention to the Bucs' edge rushers: "It's a great opportunity. Any time I have an opportunity to get one-on-one blocks, the expectation is for me to win. I welcome the opportunity to continue to have more one-on-one opportunities as we continue to play throughout the season. That will be my ultimate focus – continue to win one-on-ones and make a name for myself. I can't do that without the help of my guys outside – the defensive ends – as well as Vita [Vea] and Will [Gholston] that have come in and played at a high level as well. The secondary's been doing their job from the standpoint of being in the right place at the right time and not allowing guys to roam free.

·    LB Lavonte David on if forcing a lot of turnovers is what the defense needs to do to get to the next level: "That's the main thing. I know turnovers was a big deal for our success last year. We all wanted that to turn around. We didn't get it done in the first game, but we were able to turn around and get it done last week against Carolina. It helped propel us to a victory. That's something we want to continue to stack on. It helps us be a great defense that we want to be [and] continue to attack the football, whether it's going for it as far as forcing fumbles, or taking the ball away while it's in the air. That's the thing that makes a defense great. We work on it in practice and we want it to transfer over to the field."

·    Quarterbacks Coach Clyde Christensen on the Bucs' offense being a work in progress: "I think I get the privilege of seeing [that] there's stretches of practice where you go, 'This is really, really going to be good.' I believe that with all my heart. I don't know that it's [happening] this Sunday, I don't know if it's this month. When it clicks, it's going to click and it's probably going to be a gradual process. I would see us as a unit that's going to continue to improve all year long, hopefully stay healthy and play our best football in November and December. Just with familiarity, that's the way this year's going to go. I think we're going to have some moments where it just clicks and it looks pretty special because there's some pretty special ingredients – players – involved in the thing. As far as really understanding what we're doing and being able to execute it for three hours on a Sunday afternoon against an NFL defense – I think that's going to continue to be a work in progress. We'll keep getting there. The biggest thing – my job, probably – is just making sure we don't get frustrated."

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