The matchup between the Patriots and Buccaneers will be closer than anyone may expect out of a battle between a 2-0 team and an 0-2 team.
The Patriots have won by a total of just five points, while the Buccaneers have lost by a total of three points. New England is certainly not looking past Tampa Bay, despite each team’s record.
Many of both teams’ strengths match up well with one another. The Buccaneers have a strong pass rush, which will be fun to watch battle against the Patriots’ impressive offensive line. Tampa Bay has one of the best running backs in the league, Doug Martin, who will have to fight hard to find holes in New England’s stout front seven.
Check out some of the best one-on-one battles we’ll see in Sunday’s matchup below.
Darrelle Revis vs. Julian Edelman
When the Patriots are in two-receiver sets, Revis will more than likely be matched up with Edelman. The Patriots’ veteran receiver will be lined up in the “Z” position, with Kenbrell Thompkins in the “X” role. Edelman is quick and shifty, but Revis should not have much trouble covering the former Kent State quarterback.
Edelman should get a reprieve in three-receiver sets. Revis will likely slide over to Thompkins while Leonard Johnson takes over Edelman in the slot. It will be tough for Tom Brady to throw to either of his receivers in either 12 or 21 personnel (two receivers) since one will be covered by Revis and the other will be double teamed.
Edelman has 20 catches on 27 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Revis has allowed five receptions on 10 targets for 46 yards and zero touchdowns, while Johnson has let up 93 yards on eight catches with 14 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
Gerald McCoy vs. Logan Mankins
McCoy is a tough matchup for any team. The Patriots are lucky they have one of the best guards to football to guard him. McCoy spends most of his time playing three-technique defensive tackle on the right side of the defensive line. He’s quick for his size and has dominated the offensive lines of the Jets and Saints. He has one sack, three quarterback hits and six quarterback hurries this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Mankins has allowed one sack and four hurries.
He’s equally tough against the run, so it will be up to Mankins to stop McCoy from getting to Brady and to shove him out of the way to create holes for Stevan Ridley.
Vincent Jackson vs. Aqib Talib
At this point, Talib should be very familiar with Jackson. He was the 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver’s teammate for the first half of last season, they practiced against each other for a week this summer and they matched up with one another during a preseason game. All that familiarity will likely help Talib more than Jackson.
Talib did a nice job against Jackson in the preseason, but the Buccaneers’ receiver had some impressive moments during training camp practice. Talib typically sticks to the left side of the field, but in special circumstances, the Patriots will have him shadow a team’s top receiver. This will likely be one of those situations.
Jackson has 12 catches on 24 targets for 231 yards and zero touchdowns this season. Talib has allowed two catches on five targets for 47 yards with two interceptions, according to my own film study.
Donald Penn vs. Chandler Jones
Penn has done a great job protecting opposing teams’ best pass rushers this season. He has allowed one sack and two quarterback hurries this year, according to Pro Football Focus. Jones has two sacks, four quarterback hits and seven hurries this year, according to my own film study. Jones has brought the pressure from defensive end and defensive tackle, but he’s lined up on the end of the right side of the line the majority of the time.
Josh Freeman has a tendency to get antsy under pressure, so Penn will have a do a solid job of containing Jones. The Patriots may bring more pressure against the Buccaneers than they did against the Jets or Bills since Freeman is less of a rushing threat.
Adrian Clayborn vs. Nate Solder
This was the matchup that almost blew out Brady’s knee during training camp. Clayborn is a handful at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds. He’s stout against the run and can turn a corner fast on a left tackle.
Solder won’t have to deal with Clayborn on every snap, though. The Buccaneers use Clayborn on stunts and astounding amount of time. They may be better off just rushing Clayborn straight at a tackle, but Tampa Bay over complicates their defense a bit. Clayborn has one sack, two quarterback hits and five hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Solder has allowed zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and six hurries.
The right side of Tampa’s line is leaps and bounds better than the left side, where they use a heavy rotation of different players. That bodes well for New England’s right side of the line, unless Tampa Bay sends their linebackers, Lavonte David and Mason Foster, who are both good blitzers.