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Sunday, 22 September 2013 00:56

What to watch for: New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Here are five things to keep an eye on as the New England Patriots take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 1 p.m. Sunday in Foxboro.

1) Can the Pats' receivers bounce back from a tough performance against the Jets?

Last Thursday the Patriots were held to just 185 yards in the air against the Jets. Missed throws, incorrect routes and dropped balls all played a role and the struggles of New England’s new receiving corps has been well documented. With two games under their belt and 10 days to prepare for the Bucs, it will be interesting to see how much progress has been made. They have their work cut out for them with a revamped Bucs’ secondary that includes Darrelle Revis and second-round pick Johnthan Banks at corner and 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson at safety.

2) Will New England's tight ends contribute ... anything?

Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan had a combined zero catches against the Jets and were even less productive in run blocking. Rob Gronkowski looks like he is still another week or two away from getting back on the field but rookie Zach Sudfeld, who showed tremendous promise throughout the preseason is listed as probable to return from a hamstring injury.

3) Pats’ run blocking

Probably the lone bright spot for the Bucs this season has been their front seven, led by former third-overall pick, defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy and 2011 first-rounder, defensive end Adrian Clayborn. The Pats’ o-line, specifically center Ryan Wendell and right guard Dan Connolly (listed as questionable with a finger injury) have struggled to control the line of scrimmage in the first two games.

4) Can the Patriots contain Doug Martin?

New England has allowed an average of 133 rushing yards per game this season and Doug Martin is a dynamic running back who may be getting his best offensive lineman, guard Carl Nicks, back from a foot injury.

Last week Vince Wilfork had uncharacteristically quiet game and the linebackers were slow to the ball. The Jets have a very solid offensive line but their running backs are nowhere near as good as Martin.

5) Josh Freeman may be playing for his job

Freeman looked astonishingly bad during practices at Gillette Stadium when the Bucs’ visited in the preseason. Through two regular season games he hasn’t looked any better. Last week he completed just nine passes for 125 yards. Unless he starts showing a dramatic improvement, the 25-year-old former first-round pick may be holding the clipboard.