Three Wise Men

After pulling off arguably the biggest upset of the NFL opening weekend, the Buccaneers face the daunting task of taking on the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on the road, fresh off a loss to a hated division rival.

Tampa Bay fans, at first thought, might fear being Baker Act’d if they dare predict a Bucs win over Big Blue, yet with a deeper look, a victory just might cross their sights this Sunday and here’s why:

Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan, who served as the Giants’ linebackers coach from 2005 to 2008, also filled his present role, albeit for one unsuccessful year, in New York during the 2009 season.

Sheridan was able to fluster Carolina in week 1 with blitz packages that Coach Ron Rivera admitted they had not seen before.  His familiarity with Eli Manning, who was drafted by the Giants in 2004, should play into Tampa’s hands.

After only one week the Giants are league ranked twenty-first in rushing and twenty-eighth in passing.  Their offensive line was consistently dominated by the front seven from Dallas.  If the Bucs are able to conjure up the same pass rush they brought against Cam Newton, Manning could be in for a long day.

On the offensive side for the Buccaneers, new Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan coached the Giants’ wide receivers from 2002 until 2009, when he was promoted to quarterbacks coach.  Under his tutelage, Manning recorded career-highs in passing yards (4,933) in 2011 and touchdown passes (31) in 2010.  Who better than Sullivan to exploit Manning’s weaknesses or point out his tendencies?

One of the more surprising developments that occurred after the final preseason shellacking by the Redskins was the acquisition of backup running back D.J. Ware.  Tampa fans spent so much time during the preseason frothing over the LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin carry-share, that it caught them by surprise when G.M. Mark Dominik added the third-down back from New York.

After making it to the final round of cuts in New York, Ware, who spent 5 years as a Giant, should be able to bridge the information gap, if any, from the post Super Bowl exits made by Sheridan and Sullivan.  Between the three, the 2012 Buccaneers have twenty years of experience with the inner workings of this week’s opponent.

Everyone has repeatedly talked about this Bill Belichick comparison with new Buccaneers’ head coach Greg Schiano.  Some Panthers fans have even entertained the idea that the new coaching staff in Tampa planted hidden recording equipment at the IMG training facility in Bradenton, where Carolina practiced during the week.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura thinks that’s a bit of a stretch, but the addition of Ware rings a familiar bell.  Remember the 2010 poaching of Danny Woodhead from the Jets?

Obviously the Bucs are facing an uphill climb against a very talented team on Sunday.  However, if they are to believe that coaching made the difference in their victory over Carolina, then what game on the schedule would the Buccaneers be better prepared to win?