While Bills fans have watched EJ Manuel suffer through two knee injuries and the peaks and valleys typical of rookies, Mike Glennon has quietly put together an excellent rookie season in Tampa. Is it safe to say that Bucs fans think their team got the best rookie signal caller in 2013?
Philipse: Yes, I think that's safe to say, although I don't know whether that's more about the competition than it is about the Bucs' rookie quarterback. Glennon has looked good and had a couple of very good games, but took a major step backwards last week. Unsurprisingly, this has reignited the "is Glennon a franchise QB" debate, which is a bit premature but necessary in light of the high draft pick the Bucs are likely to have.
Speaking of Glennon: his strong play has quieted down a lot of the criticism, at least nationally, surrounding head coach Greg Schiano. Has Glennon saved Schiano's job?
Philipse: Nope. Not yet, at least. Certainly the team's three wins in the past four games have helped quiet the storm surrounding Schiano, but it surged again when the Bucs were blown out by the Panthers last week. Many of the issues that were there over the first eight games of the season are still there, and Schiano needs to do a lot better than three wins on the season to retain his job - especially with the talent on this Tampa Bay team.
That said, if the team can win two or three of the next four games you could very well see Schiano return next year. Those games have to be won first, though, and that won't be easy.
What should we expect from Bobby Rainey and the running game on Sunday? He shredded Atlanta three weeks ago, but was held mostly in check by Carolina and especially Detroit.
Philipse: The running game has been a bit of an enigma this year. It struggled for most of the year, had three good games when the Bucs tweaked their scheme and starting lineup, and then fell back down the past two weeks. That tends to happen when you play really good run defenses in Carolina and Detroit, though, and the running game showed some good signs of life in the second half against the Panthers before the Bucs abandoned the run. The struggles the past two weeks were more about the opponent than about a real failure on the Bucs' part. I would expect Rainey to get a good amount of carries and yards on Sunday against a Bills defense that has struggled to stop the run.
Tampa has lost five games (and won two more) decided by one score. The Bills, similarly, have lost four one-score games and won three of them. What's been the biggest culprit in some of those close losses for the Bucs?
Philipse: Luck is always a very large factor in close games, so there's been some of that. Rian Lindell's failure to make some crucial kicks has certainly hurt a lot, too, as has Schiano's tendency to tighten up and go conservative with the game on the line has really hurt, a lot. And then there's the fact that the Bucs' play has been uneven at best, and you have part of the reason why those games were close in the first place.
It's looking like Darrelle Revis will play this weekend, and people are already making a big deal of his matchup against Stevie Johnson up here thanks to some good duels between the two when Revis was in New York. Should we expect Revis to shadow Johnson most of the day, or does he not really do that in Tampa? Note that Johnson spends most of his time in the slot.
Philipse: Revis has not been locked up on a single player all game long at any point this year. He has tracked some of the better receivers across the field, but the Bucs always play a mix of zone and man coverage, so while he may be lined up on a receiver, that doesn't mean he'll be covering that receiver down the field. He generally hasn't followed his receivers to the slot, either, although opportunities to do that have been somewhat rare as well.
In general I would expect Revis to follow Johnson across the field, but only sparingly if Johnson lines up in a slot position. Even when he does follow Johnson, though, I wouldn't expect more than 50 percent man coverage, and even that will happen with safety help. A true Johnson-Revis battle is unlikely at best.