While arguably the most promising of Florida’s NFL teams is off this weekend, two more look to further their improvement after struggling starts to the season. The Miami Dolphins (2-2) are the ones who will be resting on Sunday as they close out their bye week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4), on the other hand, each have something to prove when they take the field Sunday afternoon.
Tampa Bay will travel to the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints (1-3). The Bucs are coming off of their first victory of the season after a nail-biter in Pittsburgh last weekend where they trumped the Steelers 27-24 on a last minute touchdown. The team showed huge improvements in that game, particularly due the play of quarterback Mike Glennon who got the start over an injured Josh McCown (thumb).
Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith has yet to name a starter for this week’s game but New Orleans appears to have their own problems to worry about. Drew Brees and the Saints were crushed 38-17 last week against the Dallas Cowboys, a game in which New Orleans had no answer for the run defensively. With running back Doug Martin in the lineup for the Bucs this weekend, establishing a run game may be the key to their success this week as they look to keep the wins coming in Tampa Bay.
The Jaguars won’t be coming off of a victory when they host Pittsburgh on Sunday, but there is something they’ll take away from last week’s 33-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers; that is the promise rookie quarterback Blake Bortles showed in his first career NFL start in which he threw for 254 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Bortles’ leadership of the offense was evident as the Jags went 9-for-14 on third downs, an area that the team had struggled in during previous games. Bortles says he looks to keep it up Steelers.
“I think its just something to build on,” says the rookie quarterback. “That’s where we set the bar and [will] continue to raise it.”
Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t quite as pleasing, giving up 365 yards through the air to Phillip Rivers and the San Diego offense. Ben Roethlisberger will look to take advantage of the Jags’ struggling secondary this week, as the team ranks eighth in the league in passing yards per game. Pittsburgh also ranks fifth in rushing yards per game. The Jags D will certainly have its hands full trying to contain such a well-rounded Steeler offense.
Key injuries in the two matchups include:
Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (questionable), Saints RB Mark Ingram (Day-to-Day), Jaguars WR Marquise Lee (Out), and Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (Questionable).
Both games are set to kickoff Sunday at 1:00 PM ET.
For an audio clip from Blake Bortles, click below.