Buccaneers vs. Patriots 2013 game preview: Tom Brady tries to keep New England unbeaten

Jared Wickerham

The New England Patriots are trying to remain unbeaten while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be searching for their first win when the two teams meet Sunday.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road to take on the New England Patriots in Week 3, searching for their first win of the season. The Patriots, however, are hoping to stay unbeaten after a victory over their AFC East rivals, the New York Jets, in Week 2.

Tampa Bay has had bad luck to this point, losing both of its games by a grand total of three points. The Bucs couldn't fight off a Geno Smith comeback in Week 1 and though the defense played hard against the New Orleans Saints, the Saints eventually scored and the Bucs lost that game as well.

New England hasn't been quite as dominating as expected, either. The Patriots have won their two games -- against the Buffalo Bills and the aforementioned Jets -- by a total of five points. Let's take a closer look at both teams below:

Meet the Patriots

If Tom Brady is successful, then the Patriots will be successful. This is how it's been since Brady took over as the New England quarterback and this is how it will be until he retires. That said, Brady isn't having a stereotypical "Brady" year thus far. The team is 2-0, but he's only completed 52.7 percent of his passes for 473 yards. He does have three touchdowns against just one interception, however.

It's enough to get the Patriots wins, but Brady has never posted a sub-60 percent completion percentage over the course of a season in his career. Obviously, we can expect him to get better as the season goes provided he's healthy, but the early numbers are worth noting.

Given that the Buccaneers have been strong against the rush this season, Brady will have to beat them. If he has a lackluster day, then the Patriots may be facing their first loss, or at least another very narrow win.

Meet the Buccaneers

Of course, Brady may not need to do much if the Buccaneers' offense doesn't show up again. They rank 31st in the NFL in passing yards over the first two games. Josh Freeman has struggled mightily, with just 24 completions over the first two games and a completion percentage of 45.3. He's thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions.

On top of that, the Patriots are allowing the fourth-least opposing passing yards in the league at just 169.5 per game. A good stat for Tampa Bay to hang its hat on, however, is the rushing yards allowed by the Patriots: 132.5 per game. Doug Martin has almost exclusively moved the chains for the Bucs this season, with 53 carries for 209 yards and a touchdown. He'll be counted on to make things happen in this game.

Local Takes: Patriots

Richard Hill of Pats Pulpit noted that it would be nice to get tight end Rob Gronkowski back for this game, but that it's more likely he plays in Week 4:

Patriots All World tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready to play. In fact, he could play right now if the coaches allowed it. According to the Boston Globe, a league source says that the Patriots just want to give Gronkowski some more time in practice to get him up to football speeds before unleashing him on the field.

While it would be nice to have Gronkowski shed some of the rust against the Buccaneers, it's looking more like he'll first step on the field against the Falcons in Week 4. With Gronkowski on the field, hopefully that will open up the running game and relieve some of pressure on the rookie wide receivers.

Local Takes: Buccaneers

Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation thinks that Dashon Goldson will be an invaluable tool in dealing with the Patriots' receivers:

With Goldson back the Buccaneers should be well-equipped to deal with a Patriots receiving corps dealing with injuries. The Buccaneers played a lot of big dime with three safeties on the field against the New Orleans Saints and had a lot of success with that personnel grouping. With Goldson available, they should be able to continue that trend.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Pats Pulpit and Bucs Nation, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@patspulpit

@Bucs_Nation

Prediction

From the Week 3 picks:

I've seen more than a few picks for the Buccaneers this week. But that team looks like it's in free fall. Greg Schiano runs the ship like Captain Bligh. Darrelle Revis has already taken issue with it. And the rest of the team was reportedly unhappy about the way Josh Freemanwas treated. Supposedly, it's all smoothed over now ... just like it was the last time Schiano tried to publicly keelhaul his quarterback.

New England is 31-3 in its last 34 home games. That's a big spread considering how poorly the Patriots offense played last week. Still, I'll take the Patriots to keep the Buccos from covering.

The pick: New England

Odds

The Patriots opened as 7-point favorites but the line moved further in their favor throughout the week, with some books having them as high as 9-point favorites according to OddsShark.

Next Week

The Patriots will hit the road to take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 29. The Buccaneers will return home to host the Arizona Cardinals on the same day.

More from SB Nation NFL:

Week 3 picks: Beware of big spreads

An illustrated guide to playing cornerback

NFL hot seat watch: Ryan loses, Allen wins

Mike Holmgren blasts Trent Richardson trade

Browns trade Trent Richardson to Colts | What it means for Indy | Who wins?

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