What you could say about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that they have, in a sense, played well enough to win both of their games, and in a sense, have played badly enough to lose. They will make the trip to Foxborough on Sunday to take on one of the league’s most dangerous quarterbacks as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are waiting for them. The kickoff is scheduled for 1 PM ET at Gillette Stadium.
New England Patriots -7 -115
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +7 -105
And this is the NFL over/under on this game:
Over 43.5 Points -110
Under 43.5 Points -110
Some things appear to working rather well for the Bucs; for instance, they have been able to continue some of the supremacy at the line of scrimmage that made them the league’s best against the run last year (allowing just 3.4 yards per carry). And the secondary hasn’t let anyone really get out of control. But coach Greg Schiano was hoping for better production out of his own running game, and what he’s gotten is 3.9 yards a carry out of Doug Martin. And it goes without saying by this time that the situation with Josh Freeman may be on the verge of boiling over.
Schiano has considered Freeman’s ability to lead to be somewhat suspect, and that is one of the reasons the quarterback from Kansas State is not a captain any more. But that is not the end of it. Freeman just hasn’t performed. He’s completed just 45%, and he turned the ball over twice against New Orleans last Sunday as Tampa Bay lost in heartbreaking fashion. And frankly, the defense did not come through at the critical moments; the Saints were able to put together a drive of 55 yards in 66 seconds and kicked the field goal that turned a one-point Buccaneer lead into a two-point New Orleans win.
What is particularly unacceptable are the penalties, and in that area, the Bucs (the +275 underdog in BetOnline’s money line) set the pace for the rest of the National Football League, They have been flagged an incredible 23 times, losing 220 yards, and that is not a way to win football games.
The Patriots have won both games, but they have failed to cover in pro football betting as they had a much harder time than anticipated. Buffalo and the Jets proved to be pesky, and both of them were starting rookie quarterbacks. That is not the situation here, although it can be argued that Freeman is playing at a lower level than either one of them.
This appears to be something of a transitional period for the New England offense, because the Pats (the -330 favorite to win straight-up in the money line) lost Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez in the off-season (under different circumstances, of course) and have seen Danny Amendola (Welker’s replacement), Rob Gronkowski (Hernandez’s running mate in the two-tight end set) and running back Shane Vereen go down with injuries. Brady is not having a Brady-like season, as he is just 53% accurate and have averaged a paltry 5.2 yards an attempt, but he improvising as best he can, using Julian Edelman as an outlet receiver with some success. In fact, Edelman has caught 20 passes with a couple of touchdowns in the first two games.
But clearly the Patriots have to get some of the other pistons pumping if they hope to put some distance between themselves and some of these lesser opponents. There was no excuse for a perennial playoff team to have life-and-death with bottom feeders who not only had novices under center, but novices who had missed snaps in training camp and weren’t originally expected to be starters. Still, it might be wishful thinking to hope that this is the spot where Freeman, or the Bucs, are going to “get well.”
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