BUC­CA­NEERS VS. DOL­PHINS

SUN­DAY, 1 P.M. ET, HARD ROCK STA­DIUM, MI­AMI GAR­DENS, FLA. uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 713

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NL WEST - Brate, pett, cey’s luga Jameis Win­ston, Ja­son Licht Ryan Tan­nehill, Raek­won McMil­lan, Jay Cut­ler Jac­quizz RodgTed Larsen Tony Lip- Adam Gase Mike PounRey MauaPlayer to watch: RB Jay Ajayi. Num­ber crunch­ing: 17.7. Ger­ald McCoy Ndamukong Suh Dirk Koet­ter

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.

Scott Pi­to­niak

KIM KLEMENT, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

DeSean Jack­son O.J. Howard Mike Evans Cameron

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