Tennessee won nine games a season ago but missed out on a Wild Card playoff berth. Meanwhile, the Bucs failed to capitalize on a strong 10-win 2010 campaign, losing 12 games in 2011, including 10 straight to end the year after starting the season 4-2.
One of those losses came at the hands of the Titans in Nashville back in Week 12 last season. Despite taking a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Bucs watched as Tennessee scored 13 unanswered to send Tampa Bay to its fifth consecutive loss.
Both of these playoff hopefuls have plenty to prove in 2012, and Friday night's preseason showdown promises to offer each team an opportunity to do just that.
Here is everything you need to know for Friday's matchup between the Titans and Buccaneers.
When: Friday, August 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Watch: WKRN Channel 2 (Nashville), Blackout (Tampa)
Listen: 104.5 FM The Zone (Nashville), WDAE 620 AM (Tampa)
Live Streaming: NFL Audio Pass
Betting Line: Buccaneers (-3), according to Covers.com
What's At Stake?
The Buccaneers will play their preseason home opener on Friday night with no one watching live at home in Tampa. Tampa Bay's first home game of 2012 has already been blacked out locally by the NFL after "the team failed to sell 85 percent of its general seats at least 72 hours before kickoff," according to The Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud.
According to Stroud, the troubled economy in combination with the Bucs' dismal 4-12 effort a season ago has fans losing interest. The disappointing support to start 2012 will either light a fire under Tampa Bay this season, or send the Bucs on their way to another poor year.
Other than potentially gaining or losing more fans on Friday night, very little is at stake for the Bucs and Titans outside of fringe players looking to earn a roster spot.
Key Titans Injuries
*According to CBSSports
No significant injuries to report.
Key Buccaneers Injuries
*According to CBSSports
WR Arrelious Benn (Knee), doubtful for preseason
Fantasy Prospect to Watch
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin has a lot of NFL potential after being selected in the first round in last April's 2012 NFL draft. Martin proved to be an exceptional playmaker at Boise State in college and has already found the end zone in the NFL.
Martin carried the ball seven times in Tampa Bay's preseason opener against the Miami Dolphins last week, rushing for 21 yards and a touchdown. Martin also caught a pass out of the backfield, which he did 28 times for the Broncos last year.
Although the 23-year-old back is playing behind LeGarrette Blount in the Bucs' backfield, he is sure to get his fair share of snaps on third down and will most likely be next in line if Blount goes down at any point this season. Fantasy owners beware.
What They're Saying
Tennessee Titans linebackers coach Frank Bush is impressed by what he sees so far from rookie linebacker Zach Brown out of North Carolina. Here is Bush gushing about Brown via The Tennessean's David Climer:
“There are a lot of those ‘Woo!’ moments,” Bush said. “There are times he takes off and explodes to the ball and closes on people and you go, ‘Woo!’ That’s why we drafted him.”
Meanwhile, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is feeling excited heading into the 2012 season after a long offseason and a win over the Miami Dolphins last week. Here is McCoy via The Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud:
"Man, it's been a long time for me," McCoy said Monday. "Week 5 of last year. I came back, played like three or four snaps against the Saints. I haven't played a real game since Week 5. But it felt good. You always know you love something when it electrifies you, so I had a blast."
Titans Player to Watch
Jake Locker enters his second NFL season in 2012, looking to take over the starting quarterback position in Tennessee. Locker played in five games last season, and threw four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Titans were 1-4 in the games Locker played in last year.
The 6'3" signal-caller completed 7-of-13 passes for 80 yards in the Titans' preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks last week. Locker's rushing threat and strength is what makes him a promising prospect under center, though.
The quarterback battle will come down to Locker and veteran Matt Hasselbeck this August, but one has to like Locker's chances at getting the starting nod at some point this season considering that Hasselbeck will turn 37 this September.
Buccaneers Player to Watch
Josh Freeman has a lot to prove in 2012 after following up a sensational 2010 season with a disastrous year in 2011. Freeman threw 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions in his second NFL season in 2010. But came unraveled last year, throwing 22 interceptions to just 16 touchdown passes.
Freeman has thrown for over 7,000 yards through the past two seasons and completed 62 percent of his passes, but he will need to rid himself of the turnover bug in 2012 if he and the Bucs are to have any sort of success in the NFC South.
Freeman was 4-of-5 for 41 yards in Tampa Bay's 20-7 win over the Miami Dolphins in its preseason opener. He will likely get a few more passing attempts against Tennessee, so be sure to watch how the 24-year-old bounces back on Friday night.
The key matchup to watch for in this game will be Tennessee's rushing attack vs. Tampa Bay's run defense. The Bucs ranked dead last in the NFL last season defending the run, allowing over 156 yards on the ground per game. On the other hand, the Titans ranked 31st in rushing offense, accumulating under 90 yards on the ground per game in 2011.
Something will have to give on Friday night, though, as one side is destined to take advantage of the other. Tennessee only rushed for 85 yards as a team in its opener against Seattle, while Tampa Bay held Miami to just 43 yards rushing total in its opener last week.
With Chris Johnson enjoying the safety of the sidelines on Friday night, I expect the Bucs' defense to keep the Titans' rushers under wraps, and ultimately win the night's most intriguing matchup.
Bad teams seem to always succeed when nothing counts. That being said, I like the Bucs to win this Week 2 showdown thanks to their defense at home. The second- and third-teamers will be excited to play in front of their friends and family at their home stadium, and should emerge victorious over a Titans team that is coming back from a trip to Seattle last week.
Buccaneers 17, Titans 10
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