1. Look out against the deep ball. The Buffalo Bills’ secondary has been hurt by the big play this season. The Bills have given up 13 passing plays of 40-plus yards this year, which is third most in the NFL. The Buccaneers have a pair of deep threats in receivers Vincent Jackson and Tiquan Underwood. Jackson’s average yards a catch over the past two seasons is 12.5 yards downfield, second best in the NFL to San Diego’s Malcom Floyd (13.1). Underwood is fourth in the league, with 12.3 yards at catch – although he’s got just 44 catches over that time, compared to 133 for Jackson. The Bills will need struggling second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore to get right today.
2. Glennon can make all the throws. The Bucs’ deep passing game, of course, rides on the strong arm of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. In the first nine starts of his career, Glennon has thrown for 1,962 yards, 13 touchdowns and a passer rating of 90.3. Only Robert Griffin III had a better passer rating (93.9) through the first nine starts of his rookie season among quarterbacks drafted between 2010-13. Glennon’s best trait thus far has been his ability to take care of the ball. He’s thrown only five interceptions, accounting for 1.7 percent of his 290 attempts. That interception percentage is 10th in the NFL. Bills rookie EJ Manuel is eighth in interception percentage, at 1.6 percent of his 249 attempts.
3. Avoid the negatives. The Bucs, and in particular stud linebacker Lavonte David, are one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to producing negative run plays for opposing offenses. Through the first 13 weeks of the season, Tampa Bay has stopped run plays of the opposition for a loss 50 times, accounting for minus-100 yards. Only St. Louis, with 55, has more such stops. David leads the NFL in “stuffs” – defined as a tackle of a ball carrier behind the line of a scrimmage on a rushing attempt – with 11. Bills running back C.J. Spiller is a threat to take it to the house on every carry, but he can also get dropped for big losses when he’s trying to make something happen. Spiller will need to stick his foot in the ground and go.
4. Jump ahead early. The Buccaneers rank 30th in the NFL in points per game, averaging 18.1. They especially struggle in the second half, when they’ve been outscored, 140-67. The Bills need to jump out to an early lead today. If they do, they might be able to turn Raymond James Stadium into a de facto home game – there are a ton of Bills fans in the Tampa area.
5. Get them off their game. Coach Greg Schiano is known as a disciplinarian, but his message must be getting stale. The Buccaneers are an undisciplined team. They’ve taken an NFL-leading 98 penalties. If the Bills can get them frustrated, the Bucs could come unglued.
Outlook: It’s time for the Bills’ defense to put in a solid road game – the team is allowing 28.6 points per game away from home. Buffalo also needs Manuel to outperform Glennon in a matchup of the first and third QBs taken in April’s draft. The Bills have gone to overtime twice this year, why not once more?
Prediction: Bills 24, Buccaneers 24.