What: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) vs. New York Giants (0-3)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
When: 4:05 P.M.
Latest line/over-under: Buccaneers -3/44.5
Why it’s worth watching
A lot of the shine came off the Bucs during their miserable 34-17 loss to the Vikings last week. A chic pick to reach the playoffs prior to the start of the season, the Bucs were overmatched on both sides of the ball against a team they may eventually have to beat out for a wild-card berth. Despite their 0-3 start, the Giants are another team the Bucs may have to contend with for a wild-card berth. That won’t happen if the Giants don’t start winning, of course, so this measures up as a must-win game for New York. It all but measures up as the same for the Bucs. With the Patriots up next on Thursday night the Bucs could be looking at a 1-4 start if they don’t win today so they need this one as badly as the Giants do.
Key on: Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves
Hargreaves had a horrible game last week. Even with Brent Grimes out, the Vikings still threw the ball Hargreaves’ way 10 times, the most of any Bucs defender. He responded poorly, allowing seven catches for 26 yards and a touchdown. Now comes Odell Beckham Jr. The Bucs don’t match up in the secondary very much. They usually keep their corners in place, with Hargreaves on the defensive right side. Beckham lines up all over the place and you have to believe the Giants will try to take further advantage of a young corner who has yet to play with the added aggression and confidence the Bucs are looking for. The Bucs say they see those qualities in practice but Hargreaves has to start bringing them to the field on Sunday.
Whether it’s by design or a result of the poor play of his offensive line, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has had to strike fast with his throws this year. Of Manning’s 117 pass attempts, 87 have been delivered in 2.5 second or less, according to Pro Football Focus. No quarterback in the league has been asked to get rid of the ball that quickly that often, but Manning has done a good job of making plays with what little time he has, completing 67 of those 87 passes for 613 yards, per PFF. That could prove to be a big problem for the Bucs, who were beaten by quick throws consistently a week ago during their loss to the Vikings. A better pass rush but more importantly tighter coverage will be needed for the Bucs to slow things down.