By Abraham Gutierrez
Intrastate rivals collide in Week 10 of the 2013-14 NFL season, as the Miami Dolphins try and achieve two straight victories when they take on the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night. Opening kickoff for this Monday Night Football game is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. ET from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The Ultimate Spoiler
While the Dolphins come in looking to stay in the playoff race, all the Bucs can accomplish from here until the end of the season is to play the role of spoiler. Miami would be wise not to take this team lightly, especially after the scare they gave Pete Carroll and the mighty Seahawks last week.
Listed as double-digit underdogs, Tampa Bay went into the toughest stadium in the National Football League, CenturyLink Field, and took a shocking, 21-7 first-half lead into the locker room. While the Seahawks would go on to avoid a monumental upset, they needed overtime to keep their home win streak alive, coming away with a 27-24 victory.
Buccaneers on Offense
The release of starting quarterback Josh Freeman earlier this season has done very little to improve this anemic offense led by second-year offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan.
The Bucs come into Week 9 ranked 31st in the league in points (15.5), total yards (304.2), and passing yards per game (196.8), while their bright statistic is the running game, where they rank 18th in the NFL (107.5). Fins head coach Joe Philbin will need to prepare for Tampa Bay to pound the rock to try and wear out the defensive line and control time of possession.
That’s exactly what they did last week against the Hawks, running the football 38 times and dominating the time of possession battle, 36:37 to 30:12.
With the team’s leading rusher, Doug Martin (127 carries, 456 yards, TD) nursing an injured shoulder, they will rely heavily on bruising running back, Mike James (55 carries for 254 yards). The rookie out of Miami is coming off a season-high 158 yards on 28 carries against Seattle’s defense, and will be the focal point of their attack come Monday night.
First-year signal-caller, Mike Glennon is also coming off a career-day, completing 17-of-23 passes for 168 yards and two scores for a quarterback rating of 123.1. Thus, the North Carolina State product improved his career stats to 123/204 for 1,165 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
Through the air, Glennon will be looking for three receivers that can give the young Miami secondary a very difficult time. This team’s receiving corps is a three-headed monster led by Vincent Jackson (43 catches, 634 yards, 4 TDs), Timothy Wright (24 catches, 259 yards, 2 TDs) and Mike Williams (22 catches, 216 yards, 2 TDs).
Buccaneers on Defense
While their offense is nothing to write home about, their 4-3 defense is about middle of the pack statistically, with the exception of one bright spot.
Bucs second-year defensive coordinator, and former Dolphin, Bill Sheridan, features a “D” that’s ranked 17th in the NFL in points (23.8) and total yards allowed (348), 15th at defending the pass (240.5), and their strength is against the rush – where they rank 13th (107.5) in the league.
Sheridan’s immediate impact is certainly worth noting, as Tampa Bay’s run-defense went from worst to first, surrendering 156 yards per game in 2011 to 82 yards per game in 2012.
Key defensive players include: (OLB) Lavonte David (71 tackles, 52 solo, 5.0 sacks), (DE) Adrian Clayborn (29 tackles, 24 solo, 3.0 sacks), (MLB) Mason Foster (46 tackles, 32 solo, 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble), (DT) Gerald McCoy (20 tackles, 13 solo, 2.0 sacks), (SS) Mark Barron (55 tackles, 43 solo, 1.0 sacks) and, of course, (CB) Darrelle Revis (25 tackles, 22 solo, 2 forced fumbles).
Dolphins vs. Buccaneers Head-to-Head
Despite residing in the same state, the Fins and Bucs have only crossed paths nine times in the history of the National Football League. Miami comes in with a 5-4 edge in the head-to-head department, but has lost three of the last four games versus Tampa Bay. After dropping three straight, the Dolphins were finally able to get back in the win column, coming away with a 25-23 victory in their last meeting (2009).
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .