Just a few days away from the Week 3 meeting of Tampa Bay and Dallas, the Buccaneers remain one of the biggest underdogs in the league this week.
If you were to go position by position, you would be hard pressed to find an advantage at any spot for the Bucs. However, if you look at the statistics, there are three major trends that can give Tampa Bay fans something concrete to look for on Sunday.
As the Bucs have proven in this young season, they plan to rely on special teams, ball control and defense to maintain field position to put themselves in the best possible situations for success.
To this point, Tampa Bay has ranked fourth in the NFL for average starting field position, having 23 offensive drives which begin, on average, just past the 32-yard line.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have had an average starting field position of about the 20-yard line. On their 18 offensive possessions, they have only bested one team in this department, the Oakland Raiders.
On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers have pinned their opponents at about the 26-yard line to start their drives, while Dallas has started its opponents at just shy of the 30-yard line.
Combined, this equates to a 16-yard average difference in field position in favor of Tampa Bay.
These numbers hint towards how bad the Dallas special teams can be. Last week it fumbled the opening kickoff and had its first punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, putting the Cowboys down 10-0 having only seen three offensive snaps.
If Tampa Bay can win the battle of field position in this manner, it should have a much better chance at both beating Dallas, and not beating itself.
This is a Home Opener
Tony Romo has not been good in his last three home openers.
In those three games, Romo was 69-of-106 passing, a 59.4 percent completion rate for 756 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions.
Over his career, Romo has been a 64.5-percent passer and averaged a full yard more per pass attempt.
Perhaps this is an aberration, or perhaps this will become an Achilles heel of the Dallas quarterback.
Mike Sullivan versus Rob Ryan
Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has faced offensive coaching staffs featuring Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan three times: Twice last year as the quarterback coach for the New York Giants, and once in 2005, as Sullivan coached the receivers of the Giants while Ryan held the defensive coordinator position in Oakland.
In those games, Ryan's teams are 0-3, allowing an average of 32.6 points per game.
In the two most recent meetings, Sullivan's quarterback Eli Manning exposed the pressure-oriented Ryan defense, throwing for totals of 400 and 346 yards, respectively.
This could mean a big game for Josh Freeman, who showed just how dangerous he can be when his offense is opened up. Especially now that he has a big-time receiver in Vincent Jackson.
Speaking of big-time receivers, the three leading receivers in the previous coaching matchups were Plaxico Burress, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. All three reached well over 100 receiving yards, averaging an impressive 156 yards per game.
These trends could be an early indication that Tampa Bay may indeed have an upper hand this coming Sunday. We all know, however, that there is a distinct possibility that former Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was correct when he said, "Stats are for losers!"
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