The Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't light up your television screens in Tim Tebow fashion, but these underrated squads are set to do battle on Sunday in one of the more intriguing games of the week.
Mike Shanahan's—sorry, Robert Griffin III's—Redskins have dropped the last two games, but they've only been by a combined 11 points. A few different bounces of the pigskins and this suddenly offensive juggernaut could be 3-0.
Greg Schiano's club, meanwhile, has taken a similarly different approach. Yeah, that's a thing.
Similar in the fact that they've lost two games by a meager 13 total points. Different in the fact that, for the most part, they've relied on defense.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about this battle of the opposites.
When: Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Watch: FOX and DIRECTV: 715
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 91
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Tampa Bay (-3), according to Covers
Redskins Injuries (via ESPN)
RB Evan Royster, Knee, Questionable
RB Roy Helu, Toe/Achilles, Out (IR)
S Brandon Meriweather, Knee, Questionable
WR Leonard Hankerson, Back/Neck, Probable
WR Pierre Garcon, Foot, Questionable
OT Trent Williams, Knee, Questionable
Buccaneers Injuries (via ESPN)
DE Da'Quan Bowers, Achilles, Out
CB E.J. Biggers, Foot, Questionable
DE Adrian Clayborn, Knee, Out (IR)
What's At Stake?
No game is a "must-win" in Week 4, but making the playoffs after a 1-3 start is no easy task.
The Redskins, despite having the second best point differential in their division, already sit alone in last place at 1-2. Another loss would put them in a hole, which is only further accentuated by the crowded NFC East.
Luckily for Tampa Bay, the NFC South looks like last year's AFC South. That is, with the exception of the Atlanta Falcons.
And therein lies the problem.
The Bucs are still in second in the suddenly weak division, but if they drop to 1-3, good luck catching the Dirty Birds, who will likely be 4-0.
Hello, wild card race.
Must starts: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson
Fringe starts: Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Leonard Hankerson, Fred Davis
Stay away: Both defenses, Dallas Clark, Santana Moss
Note: If Pierre Garcon suits up, I'm inserting him into all of my lineups. That is, if I owned him in any leagues...
Redskins Player to Watch: Robert Griffin III, QB
Is this even a question?
Not only has RGIII proven to already be one of the best fantasy players in the league (747 passing yards, four TDs, 209 rushing yards, three more TDs. Yes, please), but he's also already established himself as the heart and soul of this team.
Oh, and the rookie has as much swagger as Bill Cosby.
Buccaneers Player to Watch: Vincent Jackson, WR
How many yards will Jackson tally on Sunday?
When the Bucs shelled out a $55 million contract ($26 million guaranteed) for Jackson this summer, I don't think they were really hoping for someone who was more bi-polar than Blake Dreary.
Jackson's first game in a Bucs uniform? Four catches, 47 yards. His second game? Five catches, 128 yards, one touchdown. Last week against the Cowboys? One catch, 29 yards.
If this team is gong to have any shot of resembling an NFL offense, Jackson is going to have to find some type of consistency.
Well, against a Redskins team that hasn't really been able to stop anyone in the air, V-Jax (man, I hate lazy nicknames) has a good shot of putting up a huge game. Hopefully, for Bucs fans, he'll build off it.
What They're Saying
The loss of Adrian Clayborn hurts Tampa Bay's defense, which is without a doubt their strong-point, but it also frees up space for some youngsters without much experience to prove themselves.
But with Clayborn heading for season-ending knee surgery, both Johnson and Te'o-Nesheim are embracing the potential opportunity to step up. It's a tall task, as the two have combined for two NFL starts. And while defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and end Michael Bennett boast most of the line's sack production, Clayborn—their first-round pick 2011—was their engine.
There's no way Daniel Te'o Nesheim or George Johnson will be able to match Clayborn's production, but if they can simply hold their own, the Bucs have other playmakers who can step up in his absence.
Key Matchup: Tampa Bay's Offense vs. Washington's Defense
The Bucs have a solid defense, but it's more of a bend-but-don't-break kind of squad. Robert Griffin III and company will break it.
That means Tampa Bay, which is 24th in the NFL in points per game and dead last in yards per game, is going to have to light up the scoreboard.
Fortunately, for Greg Schiano's boys, the Redskins are the team to play if you want offense.
Washington is 29th in the league in opposing points per game, 30th in yards and last in yards per play.
It's a bad offense against a bad defense.
How can I make a prediction when I don't know who the replacement refs have on their fantasy teams?
Who ya got?
But in all honesty—actually, I was serious with that question—I like the Redskins on the road.
On the surface, it appears to be a battle of opposites. The 'Skins can score and the Buccaneers can defend.
But if you delve deeper into the numbers, you'll see that the Bucs haven't really defended all that well. They've gotten torched through the air in every game they've played, allowing 8.6 yards per pass, 29th worst in the league.
What has saved them, kind of, is their No. 1 ranked red-zone defense. Giving up 400 yards per game won't continue to hold up.
Redskins 38, Buccaneers 31