The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders are a long way removed from Super Bowl XXXVII, but you can bet the hatred towards each other will make Sunday feel a little bit like a championship game.
The Bucs and Raiders aren't necessarily a rivalry. They have, after all, only matched up twice since the 2003 Super Bowl and eight times in history. But the switching of teams by Jon Gruden and Warren Sapp in the mid-2000s set a pretty clear precedent:
No matter how often they play, there will always be bad blood (as would be expected between a Pirate and a Raider).
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about this matchup that contains plenty of recent history.
When: Sunday, Nov. 4, at 4:05 p.m. ET
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Watch: FOX and DIRECTV: 712
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 94
Spread: Oakland (-1.5), according to Covers
Besides Carl Nicks and Danny Noble to the IR, there are no injuries to report.
Check out SportsIllustrated.com for updates on Tampa Bay's injury report.
T Khalif Barnes, Groin, Out
LB Travis Goethel, Back, Questionable
K Sebastian Janikowski, Groin, Probable
RB Darren McFadden, Shoulder, Probable
TE Brandon Myers, Knee, Probable
DT Richard Seymour, Knee, Probable
For a complete look at the Raiders injury report, check out Raiders.com.
What's At Stake?
No one is really paying attention to either of these teams, but they are both very much alive in the standings.
Tampa Bay (3-4) likely won't catch the 7-0 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South, but it's just 1.5 games behind the second Wild Card spot. With the exception of Atlanta twice and Denver, the Bucs have a lot of winnable games left on the schedule.
A playoff run isn't out of the question.
The Raiders, meanwhile, sit just a game behind the Broncos in the AFC West. With Peyton Manning playing so well, however, Oakland is going to have to keep winning in order to keep pace.
Start 'Em: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oh, the joys of having Vincent Jackson.
If you drafted Freeman at the beginning of the season, chances are you are either a Bucs fan, in a really deep league or Josh Freeman.
But the young quarterback has taken a huge leap forward thanks to his new toy at wide receiver. Jackson, who has 626 receiving yards and five touchdowns, has quietly turned Freeman into a solid fantasy spot start, and possibly more.
On the season, Freeman is averaging 246.6 passing yards per game and has tossed 14 touchdowns (two per game) to just five interceptions.
On Sunday, he gets an Oakland Raiders defense that is 17th in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed (7.1) and gets little to no pressure on the quarterback (10 sacks). Start Freeman with confidence.
Sit 'Em: No One Significant
Neither of the running backs have great matchups. Tampa Bay is third in the league at 3.5 yards per rush allowed, while Oakland, which just shut down Jamaal Charles for all five of his carries, isn't far behind at 3.9.
But you never bench Darren McFadden or Doug Martin, who just went off against a stout Minnesota Vikings run D.
We've already discussed Josh Freeman, and a likely big day from him means Jackson and Mike Williams are also both must-starts.
On the other side of the ball, the Bucs can't stop anyone through the air. Carson Palmer should have a field day throwing to Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey against a secondary that is giving up the fourth most yards per attempt (8.3) and second most passing yards per game (310).
Not everyone will necessarily go off, but every significant offensive player in this one will have a useful day.
What They're Saying
Talented DE Da'Quan Bowers returned from a torn Achilles tendon last week, but he was eased back into action. On Sunday, he's hoping to play much more.
From the Tampa Bay Times's Stephen F. Holder:
Schiano said Thursday's game was a "really good start" for Bowers, pointing out they intended to bring him back slowly since he began practicing two weeks ago.
Now we're taking the next step, Schiano said, which is playing back-to-back plays and see how he does. If everything is good on Wednesday, maybe he goes four plays (in a row), try to get him back into this thing slowly. But he does have a pop to him that is good to have back.
Getting Bowers back to full strength will be a huge boost for the Bucs, who have recorded just 11 sacks on the season, which is fourth worst in the NFL.
Moreover, increasing the pass rush will help out a depleted secondary.
Buccaneers Player to Watch: Doug Martin, RB
The highly-anticipated running back got off to a slow start this season, but he showed last week against the Vikings what he is truly capable of.
Martin ran the ball a season-high 29 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. He also took a shot pass in the flat 64 yards to the house and ended the day with three catches for 79 yards and a score.
The 23-year-old is solid in every aspect of the game, and he should only continue his workhorse role against the Raiders on Sunday.
Raiders Player to Watch: Darren McFadden, RB
One of these days, Darren McFadden is going to break out. Again.
The talented, do-everything running back has had trouble running behind a brick wall, as he's only picked up 438 yards on 132 carries (3.3 yards per carry) this year. He's helped soften that blow by adding 215 yards in the passing game and four total touchdowns, but it hasn't been the year that was expected from Run DMC.
It might be more 2- and 3-yard carries for McFadden against a solid Bucs rush defense, but at some point, he's going to flash his All-World talent.
I just (kind of think I) know it.
Key Story: How Will the Bucs Fare Without Carl Nicks
Doug Martin has been living up to his potential the last three weeks, but losing Pro Bowl left guard and key offseason signing Carl Nicks is no good for anybody.
Well, except for defenses.
Running lanes will likely be just a little bit tighter with Ted Larson, Jeremy Trueblood—man, those sound like names—filling in, and it will be interesting to see if it will affect Martin.
It's too hard to go against the Bucs, who are coming off a huge road win and are, in my mind, easily better than their sub-.500 record indicates.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, Oakland Raiders 21