Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bucs-Rams: Five things to watch in home opener ...

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It's Bucs game almost more notable for who is missing - injured stars like Doug Martin and Robert Ayers, detained / waive players like Austin Seferian-Jenkins - but there's plenty to watch out for the home opener Bucs' against the Rams on Sunday afternoon.

This includes old but new pregame video on the Bucs pirate ship firing on and sinking ship with flag opponents - this time it should be like a football IMAX, with cannonballs flying over the stadium on the new "ribbon" video card along both sides. On the field? Here are five things to watch:

1st Attack of the rookie defensive ends: Second-round pick Noah Spence likely get his first NFL start with Robert Ayers out with an ankle injury. He can raise against the run as well as rush the passer? Three of the five defensive reasons the Bucs' will be newcomers, the undrafted gems Davon Lambert and Channing Ward.

The cool thing that Lambert, Ward and rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves have in common? All three deal with Rams RB Todd Gurley college. Lambert dropped him for the loss of 4-yard with Auburn in 2014, Ward tackled him at the 2-yard gain with Ole Miss in 2012 and Hargeaves he twice got to the Gators in 2013.

Motivation in the SEC meeting? None of the three ever defeated Gurley. Hargreaves went 2-1 against Georgia in school, but Gurley has been sidelined in the two wins.

2. Can Winston-Jackson get back on track? Great talks about the week - at least until, say, 3:42 on Friday morning - was whether Jameis Winston and Vincent Jackson can get on the same page. The first two games saw six catches, but 16 goals, the wrong track interception against the Falcons.

When age catch up with the players? Jackson scored 17 landing in his first 36 games with the Bucs, but has just three in 24 games since.

How many times has the Bucs player aged 33 or older caught more than one touchdown in a season? It happened only seven times in the last 40 seasons, and four of those seven were Joey Galloway, from 2004-07. Since then, only one - TE Dallas Clark had four TDs in 2012.

3. Will that elusive first takeaway arrives? The Bucs are one of three NFL teams without a takeaway in the first two weeks of the period. They are a league-worst minus-6 in turnover margin as a result. The Rams do not capture either, which should be good news for Winston.

How often Bucs go three straight games without a takeaway? It happened last year in weeks 14-16 as Tampa Bay jumped from 6-6 to 6-9, and before that, it had not happened in 26 years, since the season of 1989.

4. Will that elusive first touchdown Rams arrive? Los Angeles is 1-1, but has yet to reach the end zone, turning three goals of the game to a 9-3 victory over Seattle last week. Should you be surprised? Last year, the Rams had an NFL-low 11 touchdown passes all season - 22 teams had double that number. They also had the NFL's worst pass offense (183 yards / game) and the NFL's worst third-down percentage (25.9 percent). After finding it, they will now touchdown on the opening drive.

5. How will Charles Sims fare like starting back? If he can get up 100 rushing yards - something that is more to do in the NFL - it bodes well for the Bucs. In his college career, both over three years in Houston and one in West Virginia, his teams are 10-1 when he rushed for 100 yards Plus, his lone loss coming in his final college game, as West Virginia dropped Iowa State despite his 149 yards and two points.

He had the opposite fortune in the NFL - his two best rushing game was 78 yards against the Giants last year and 69 as a rookie against the Saints and Bucs lost both games.

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