TAMPA (WGR 550) -- For the Buffalo Bills, their playoff chances are slim as it is. Likely needing to win out and get some help along the way, the Bills are fighting for the right to keep themselves alive. While a Week 14 loss wouldn't mathematically eliminate them, it would require a Baltimore collapse and even more results to go their way.
As they go to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers, they'll be tested by a team that has won three of their last four games. Since inserting rookie quarterback Mike Glennon into the lineup, the Buccaneers have found different ways to win against a pair of playoff contending teams.
Tampa Bay has also won their last two games at Raymond James Stadium. Will that trend continue? Here are some things to watch during Sunday's road contest for Buffalo:
1) Rookie quarterbacks… more pressure on EJ?
- Mike Glennon and EJ Manuel have known each other for quite some time. Both hail from the state of Virginia, both were counselors at the Manning Academy, both played in the ACC during their college careers and now both are starting quarterbacks in the NFL. When their two teams square off on Sunday, it will be an interesting test to see which quarterback is farther ahead at this point in their careers. Because of when he was drafted, there could be some pressure on Manuel to outperform Glennon to justify to fans -- whether it's a fair argument or not -- that the Bills picked the better quarterback in this draft. It will be a challenge for Manuel against a fast and aggressive defense that has a lot of talent. However, it's an important contest for the Bills rookie to not only perform well against a team with a worse record, but to capture his first road win against that team. If Glennon outperforms Manuel in a Buccaneers win, some fans of the Bills may get a little antsy.
2) The real McCoy
- Remember the warning about Muhammad Wilkerson having the potential to dominate the Bills offensive line before the Week 3 contest? Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has that same potential against the interior linemen. Now in his fourth season, McCoy has reached his highest level of play, totaling six sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2013. He is constantly in the backfield because he has such a great mix of strength and speed. He isn't locked into one side of the line, so that means he'll be going up against both Doug Legursky and Kraig Urbik. Urbik had a bounce back game against Atlanta, while Legursky has struggled mightily since being named the starter at left guard. It may be in the Bills' best interest to dress two of their three rostered backup interior linemen (Mark Asper, J.J. 'Unga, Antoine McClain) in the case that Legursky is as ineffective as he has been.
3) Getting Glennon moving
- The book on Mike Glennon coming out of N.C. State is that he wasn't the best at dealing with pressure. When he has the time, Glennon can be a very, very good player. However, as the Carolina Panthers showed last week in their game against Tampa Bay, Glennon still has those tendencies from college. The Panthers stacked the box against the Buccaneers, daring the young quarterback to beat them over the top. He did hit Vincent Jackson down the sideline for a big play, but that was the extent of it. Carolina had him flustered all game long, and it resulted in a 180-yard, one interception and five-sack day for Glennon. Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will likely disguise his looks and send big pressure plays at the rookie to see if he'll crumble as he has been recently. If the blitzes and defenses are ineffective at getting back there, however, Glennon has the ability to pick them apart.
4) Big play Rainey
- Since his 163-yard output against Atlanta in Week 11, Bobby Rainey has since cooled off from a yardage perspective. Going against two very tough run defenses in Detroit and Carolina, Rainey was able to come away with only a combined 98 yards on 35 carries. Even in those performances though, the one thing that stands out is Rainey's ability to get big chunks of yardage running between the tackles when he has a little bit of a crease. He turned in multiple solid runs against the impressive Panthers front, with his above average offensive line affording him enough opportunities to do so. The Bills run defense has struggled, especially against an Atlanta team that were formerly hapless in their rushing attack. With how much the Buccaneers have depended on their running game under Greg Schiano, and how poorly Buffalo has done against teams in recent weeks, expect to see Tampa Bay try to get Rainey involved early and often to take pressure off of Glennon.
5) Gilmore, McKelvin have their hands full
- Depending on how the Bills line their cornerbacks up, whoever lines up in front of Vincent Jackson will have their work cut out for them. Jackson is a huge target that has the vertical to go up and make a big play down the field. He's the favorite target of Glennon when the young quarterback tries to get the ball deep down the field. The most underrated part of his game? He's a tenacious blocker, too. With how scrappy Leodis McKelvin has been this season, expect to see the two exchange some physical encounters when matched up against one another. McKelvin has been the better of the two Bills cornerbacks recently, so perhaps Pettine should look to get Jackson matched up with the him more often than not. Regardless of who it is though, Jackson will be difficult to deal with. He's questionable for the contest with a hamstring injury and it's looking as though he'll play. But if he's ruled inactive, it takes away one of the best players on the field and possibly swings the momentum in Buffalo's favor.
Tampa Bay OUT: G Carl Nicks (foot) QUESTIONABLE: WR Vincent Jackson (hamstring), DE Da'Quan Bowers (questionable), DT Gary Gibson (calf), WR Chris Owusu (hamstring) PROBABLE: CB Darrelle Revis (chest), G Davin Joseph (knee), DT Akeem Spence (wrist)
Prediction: Buccaneers over Bills
- It's a true coin flip between these two teams. In the end, the edge is given to Tampa Bay because of their run game, their quick and aggressive defense and because EJ Manuel has yet to win a game on the road. The first 15 minutes will be very important for the Bills, because it will determine whether or not they've been able to move past their most crushing loss of the season. After the Bills lost to Kansas City in dramatic fashion, they played their worst game of the season in Pittsburgh. If they come out with a strong effort early on they could pull off a road win. But if the Atlanta loss lingers, Tampa Bay will pounce on them.