Buccaneer QB Shaun King has to throw against one of the league's best pass defenses today
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins are like next-door neighbors who won't speak to each other. Hostilities are there, but rarely expressed.
The Bucs and Dolphins have played only six previous regular-season games, met just twice during the 1990s and haven't shared a field in over three years. Yet no secret was made of their mutual distaste during the week leading up to today's game.
Most analysts trace those hostilities to a pair of rough and tough defenses, each of which believes it will be the best unit on the field today. And whether or not you believe that dislike will be a factor in today's game, the most dominant defense is likely to walk away with the victory.
Which means the brunt of the pressure today should fall on quarterbacks Shaun King and Jay Fiedler. Miami and Tampa Bay rank first and second, respectively, in the NFL in yards allowed per pass play, though they come about those numbers in different manners.
Miami's press corners make it extremely difficult for opponents to even complete a pass, pacing the NFL in both opponent completion percentage (51.3%) and interceptions (25). Tampa Bay allows a completion percentage that is exactly on the league average (58.3%), but tackles extremely well and strives to take away the big play, usually successfully.
King and Fiedler are each nearing the end of their first full season as an NFL starter, and the situation isn't getting any easier for either. Both are expected to play the best football of their young careers in these crucial December games, because so much is at stake. The 10-3 Dolphins have a very real chance to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 8-5 Buccaneers need every win they can get just to guarantee a playoff spot.
Only one team will move closer to its goal today, when these nasty neighbors are forced to mingle for three hours. Neighborhood pride is at stake.
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