BUCCANEERS VS. DOLPHINS
SUNDAY, 1 P.M. ET, HARD ROCK STADIUM, MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 713
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Spake
About the Bucs: Expectations are soaring for Tampa Bay, with many predicting the Buccaneers will earn their first playoff berth since 2007. Much of the enthusiasm centers on third-year QB whom general manager recently called the best leader he had ever been around. In the preseason, Winston got rid of the ball more quickly and with greater accuracy after throwing 33 interceptions over his first two seasons. He’ll have more targets to throw to in 2017, with free agent WR and first-round rookie TE joining Pro Bowl WR and
who tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions by a tight end (eight). The Bucs will rely on veteran RB ers for the first three games while sixth-year RB Doug Martin serves a drug suspension.
About the Dolphins: Expectations also were soaring in Miami a season after the Dolphins ended a seven-year playoff drought. But prospects for another playoff run have been tempered by a preseason in which they lost QB promising rookie MLB
LG and last season’s interception leader,
to major injuries. Much will depend on whether QB can play as he did in 2015, when Dolphins coach was his offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears. It’s imperative Pro Bowl C
hip stays healthy. He has missed 19 games over the last four seasons. Miami also is hoping that recently signed MLB
can play like he did for most of his eight Jameis Winston is skillful and a good leader but must curb his interceptions.
seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Matchup to watch: Dolphins wideouts vs. Bucs CB Brent Grimes. Miami’s Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills combined for 192 catches for 2,606 yards and 17 TDs in 2016. Grimes picked off 13 passes in three seasons with the Dolphins before joining the Bucs last year. Though 34 and undersized (5-10, 185 pounds), Grimes is an exceptional leaper and had a solid camp.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
He tied an NFL record with three 200-yard rushing games last season but mustered just 648 yards in his 12 other games. The Dolphins are hoping to see more consistency from the thirdyear veteran from Boise State.
Jackson’s yards-per-catch average during a nine-year career that includes five 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Bucs coach hopes Jackson will provide more downfield pass plays.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Smart gunslinging: Koetter doesn’t want to put the clamps on Winston’s desire to make big plays, but he does want his quarterback to cut back on foolish throws. He should have opportunities against a suspect Dolphins secondary.
2. Ride the Jay train: Cutler will use his talented receivers, but the Dolphins hope to establish the run game. Ajayi has the ability to take pressure off Cutler.
3. McCoy & Suh: Two of the league’s top defensive tackles will do battle. Tampa Bay’s
has more sacks (331⁄ since 2013 than any other interior lineman. Miami’s
had a Pro Bowl season in 2016 with 72 tackles and five sacks.
Second-year defensive coordinator zone coverage helped Tampa Bay’s defense improve from yielding 29 points and 399 yards per game in the first half of last season to 17.1 points and 337 yards over the final eight games.
DeSean Jackson O.J. Howard Mike Evans Cameron