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Bills' and Bucs' defenses will tighten the screws

Are you ready for some defense? Two of the stingiest units in the NFL will be on display today when the Buffalo Bills visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.

The Bills' top-ranked defense forced five turnovers, recorded five sacks and held the Texans to 120 total yards in a 22-7 victory over the Houston Texans. The Buccaneers' fifth-ranked defense forced five turnovers and held Minnesota's potent offense out of the end zone in a 24-13 road win.

The Bills and Bucs defenses could make it a long day for both offenses.

> Breaking down the Bills

Running game: With RB Willis McGahee and huge offensive line, Bills should use power run game against a Bucs front seven that relies on speed more than size. . . . Running at Bucs pass-rushing terror Simeon Rice will help LT Mike Gandy slow him down. If McGahee is effective, it might pull Bucs out of two-deep zone, making it easier to complete passes downfield. . . . Bucs need huge game from DTs Anthony McFarland and Chris Hovan, who must shed blocks and alter McGahee's path to daylight. . . . LB Derrick Brooks is aging, but he still makes plays with quickness and great instincts. . . . He and other linebackers must avoid getting tied up and slow down McGahee before he gets rolling into secondary.

Passing game: QB J.P. Losman was very efficient last week. This must continue against Bucs defense designed to create mistakes. . . . Bills' offensive line protected Losman well last week, but Bucs provide tougher challenge. . . . Bucs' defensive line has speed to get to QB, but will mix in blitzes trying to flush Losman out of pocket. Look for Bills to use a tight end and/or running back to help Gandy against Rice. Losman needs to make correct reads and use mobility to avoid rush. . . . Bucs play Michael Vick twice a year, so they'll be prepared for Losman's scrambles. . . . Bucs' zone coverages are designed to prevent big plays, but Bills should try to stretch defense anyway with WRs Eric Moulds and Lee Evans.

Special teams: Bills K Rian Lindell got off to great start with five field goals in opener. Points may be hard to come by today, so his leg could be a major scoring source. . . . A quiet day for return game last week, but look for Terrence McGee or Nate Clements to make something happen today. . . . P Brian Moorman will look to keep Bucs pinned down inside 20-yard line.

> Breaking down the Bucs

Running game: Rookie RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams was as good as advertised last week, rushing for 148 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown. Bills must tackle well because Williams runs hard and has power and balance to gain yards after contact. . . . FB Mike Alstott can still pound the rock in short-yardage situations. . . . Active defensive line will be tough to run on, particularly with DTs Sam Adams and Ron Edwards inside. . . . If MLB London Fletcher's name is called often, you'll know Bills have Bucs' rushing attack under control.

Passing game: Bucs use ball-control passing game. Look for QB Brian Griese to deliver short passes to WRs Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway on crossing routes to take advantage of their run-after-catch skills. Galloway still has speed to get deep. . . . Rookie TE Alex Smith (two TDs last week) could be factor in red zone. . . . Bills will come after Griese a lot, but their ability to rush quarterback with just four down linemen allows them to drop more people in coverage, making it harder to find passing lanes. . . . Bucs' offensive line, which has three first-year starters, faces stern test against Adams and Edwards inside and DEs Aaron Schobel (two sacks last week) and Chris Kelsay on the edges. . . . Bills OLB Takeo Spikes is devastating on blitzes. . . . Timing is important aspect of Bucs' West Coast offense, so Bills' secondary should be physical with receivers to disrupt Griese's rhythm. That could lead to turnovers.

Special teams: Bucs have concerns in return game. KR Torrie Cox is on the inactive list after second DUI arrest earlier this week and Mark Jones is not an accomplished punt returner. . . . K Matt Bryant is adequate. P Josh Bidwell had 46.8-yard average last week.

> Prediction

The first road game for a first-year starting quarterback can be an ugly experience. Losman will struggle, but Bills' defense is on mission. More takeaways lead to another victory. Bills 13, Buccaneers 10.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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