Week 15 Preview: Tampa Bay at Seattle

A woeful, reeling Tampa team is music to the ears of the Seattle Seahawks.

This weekend when the Seahawks (5-8) play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12), they’ll be welcoming in a team that hasn’t been able to play consistently due to question marks on both sides of the football.

Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman has thrown 13 interceptions to just seven touchdowns, after taking over the starting duties in a Week Nine victory at home against the Green Bay Packers. In the last two weeks, which resulted in losses on the road at Carolina in Week Thirteen and at home against the New York Jets in Week Fourteen, opposing defenses picked Freeman off eight times.

The main reason why Freeman’s had such poor performances, according to Jets inside linebacker David Harris when speaking with the Tampa Tribune, is that the new quarterback stares down his receivers prior to releasing the football.

After the loss to the Jets, head coach Raheem Morris told the reporters that Freeman’s responsibilities in the offense would be scaled back in order to help the youngster develop.

Seattle will need to make sure Freeman remains error-prone by showing and using numerous blitz and secondary coverage packages. A flustered, guessing rookie quarterback on the road in a raucous environment like Qwest Field will be the key for a Seattle defense that got beat big right from the start last week by Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub in Houston.

The Bucs haven’t scored a touchdown in nine straight quarters, but it’s not all Freeman’s fault. Tampa Bay’s three-headed ground game of Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham has been just as inconsistent.

Reaching the century (net) mark on the ground as a team has been a struggle for the Bucs, only being able to do so six times this season. Four times this season, the team has managed to pick up less than 75 net yards.

Seattle’s offense should find success against a stumbling Tampa Bay defensive unit.

The Bucs let opposing offenses have possession of the football for over 31 minutes a game on average, letting opposing running backs benefit the most. The team ranks 31st in the National Football League in terms of average rush yards allowed per game.

Possibly playing for their jobs, running backs Julius Jones and Justin Forsett hope to capitalize on Tampa Bay’s inability to stop the run when they will get the ball Sunday behind a new-look offensive line.

During Wednesday’s press conference, head coach Jim Mora Jr. announced that rookie Max Unger will get the start this weekend at center. The change at center moves the former starter, Chris Spencer, to right guard where he’ll share time with Mike Gibson. Gibson, in his second season in the NFL, has never played in a regular season game.

“We needed to do something up front,” said Mora Jr.

Unger’s move to center won’t be unfamiliar to the rookie; he started 13 games at center for Oregon during his junior year after moving from left tackle. In his senior season in Eugene, Unger started the season with two games back at left tackle before moving back to center for the final 11 games of the season. Unger earned All-America honors from SI.com, Pro Football Weekly and Rivals.com over his final two years playing for the Ducks.

“We feel like Max is going to be a good center in the National Football League and we’ve kinda felt that way from the beginning,” said Mora Jr.

Kickoff for Sunday’s game at Qwest Field is scheduled for 4:15pm Eastern.

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