Pictures of the Buccaneers arriving at Raymond James Stadium for the game against the Seahawks.
The 5-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the 7-2-1 Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in a matchup of two teams trying to prolong winning streaks. The Buccaneers have claimed two victories in a row and begin the day a game behind Atlanta in the NFC South standings. The Seahawks are riding a three-game streak and, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, enter the stretch run in pursuit of a first-round playoff bye.
Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter said his team was focused and productive during the week of practice leading up to Sunday's game, despite an altered holiday schedule.
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"Every week's a new week and you've got a new set of issues, starting with a really good football team, the Seahawks," said Koetter. "After that, you've got to address your own lineup issues based on your injuries, guys coming back, guys that might be a little nicked up. As far as practice goes, I felt like we got a lot accomplished this week. I felt like the guys came to work. We had a different day on Thursday because Thanksgiving, a little shortened-down day, but I'm pleased with how we've prepared so far this week."
Here are some additional notes regarding Sunday's Bucs-Seahawks matchup:
Backfields in Motion
The Buccaneers will welcome starting left guard Kevin Pamphile back into the lineup. Pamphile missed the previous two games while in the league's concussion protocol, but his return restores the five-man O-Line combination that started each of the first eight contests together.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers returned to practice this week but will miss a fourth straight game due to his foot injury. He filled in ably while Doug Martin was out due to a hamstring ailment. Martin returned two games ago, however, and has looked like the same player who finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2015 since his return. His statistics in the past two weeks haven't been overwhelming but he has made the most of his carries and also contributed significantly with his pass blocking.
"Sometimes a guy might whiff at the line of scrimmage and then the running back saves the day," said Koetter. "Doug had a couple unbelievable saves that actually led to big plays by us. If Doug had been hurrying out into his own route, those would have ended up being sack plays. And in the run game, sometimes a one or two-yard run is way better than a four or five-yard loss, and Doug also had some of those."
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The Seahawks have had some upheaval in their offensive backfield, as well. Like Martin, Rawls suffered an injury (fibula) in Week Two and only recently returned to action. He had 88 yards on 17 touches in last week's win over Philadelphia, and his return is timely since emerging rookie C.J. Prosise suffered a shoulder injury in that game and will not play against the Buccaneers.
Additional Lineup and Inactive Notes
The only player who is out for the Buccaneers due to injury is center Evan Smith, who is usually the team's one active reserve for the interior line on game days. Rookie Caleb Benenoch will take over that role on Sunday.
The Seahawks have five players out due to injury, including Rawls. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas will miss a game for the first time since he entered the league in 2010 due to a hamstring injury; Steven Terrell will open the game in his place, making his first NFL start. Also out due to injure are defensive end Michael Bennett, cornerback DeShawn Shead, running back Troymaine Pope and linebacker Brock Coyle.
In addition to Rodgers and Smith, the Buccaneers declared the following players inactive for Sunday's game: QB Ryan Griffin, G Josh Allen, T Leonard Wester, DT John Hughes and DL DaVonte Lambert.
The Seahawks' inactive list is mostly made up of the above injured players. In addition to Prosise, Thomas, Shead, Pope, Coyle and Bennett, Seattle has deactivated DE Damontre Moore.
Keep An Eye On
The most entertaining matchup in today's game will pit Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, the league leader in targets, against Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman, who has four interceptions on the season. The 6-5 Evans and the 6-3 Sherman share a physical approach to the game, and the Bucs expect the Seahawks to maintain that matchup throughout the day.
"We're not going to have control over that," said Koetter. "Sometimes Sherman stays on our offensive right, but then there are other games where he just matches the number-one receiver. For example, when they played Atlanta earlier this year he matched Julio Jones no matter where he was, even if it was in the slot. So we have to expect that they're going to match Richard Sherman up against Mike. If they don't, that's something they control and we'll adjust accordingly.
"Mike's an elite player. He's an elite receiver. That's why you pick guys where he was picked, because you expect him to come in and be game-wreckers on the other team. They have game-wreckers of their own and we have guys that are [that], and we're going to continue to try to find ways to get Mike the football. No matter how they're covering him, it's up to Mike to find a way to get open so Jameis can get it to him."
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson rides a hot streak into Tampa. Over his last three outings, all Seattle victories, Wilson has completed 67.0% of his passes, thrown for an average of just over 300 yards per game and compiled a passer rating of 119.2. Wilson has thrown just two interceptions all season, none in the last three games.
While the fifth-year pro hasn't run as often as he did during his first four seasons, he is still adept at extending plays and throwing on the move.
"He's as good as there in our league at both of those things," said Koetter. "This is one of those guys that's next to impossible to sack because he just has a knack. He's an unbelievable runner. He'll go back, kind of like that play in the Chicago game that Jameis did, he'll go back, lose yardage and scramble around. His ability to be moving one way, keep his vision down the field and find the open guys, it's almost like that's one of the key components of their offense. That's going to put a lot of pressure on not only our rushers but also our cover guys."
The Buccaneers take on the Seahawks on Sunday, with kickoff scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium. The game will be broadcast locally by FOX and on radio through the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station, US 103.5 FM.