1. What can we expect from the Buccaneer running game with Doug Martin out?
Well, the running game has mostly been fine the last two weeks, though it struggled before that, even a little when Doug Martin was playing. Part of that is just the quality of run defenses the Bucs have faced, but Jacquizz Rodgers has been surprisingly solid too since he's been starting, and the offensive line has started to jell. I wouldn't expect a dominant or explosive running game, but the kind that consistently (and frustratingly, for the defense) grinds out yards, play after play.
2. How has Jameis Winston played in his second season? Has he progressed? Regressed? Stayed the same?
I would say he's progressed a little in some areas, and regressed or stayed the same in a few others. His mechanics are little tighter and he's been slightly more accurate, though not accurate enough. The deep ball in particular has improved quite a bit. But he's still too loose with the football, and too inaccurate on throws outside the numbers. He still has a tendency to not see the underneath defender at times, which leads to opportunities for turnovers. I also think he's regressed a little at reacting to pressure within the pocket. Overall, though, he's clearly on a path to becoming a very good quarterback, he just needs a little more time.
3. Statistically the Buccaneers are middle of the road in every area on offense and defense. Is there a hidden strength on this team that maybe the numbers don't show?
Not really, to be honest. That might change as injured players return, though, and Robert Ayers' likely return this Sunday should be a good boost for both the run and pass defense, but this team does not have any particular, obvious strong points that you can count on every week. Well, except for Mike Evans. He's been stellar in every game.
4. What is the weakest area on both sides of the ball for the Bucs that you expect the Raiders will try to exploit?
Receiver depth is probably the weakest area for the Bucs on offense. Mike Evans is the only reliable target the Bucs have, and if you can shut him down (and that's not easy), Jameis Winston will have a hard time consistently finding quality options elsewhere. Special teamer Russell Shepard is the most likely starter on the other side of the ball and, well, he's been a special teams specialist throughout his career. He has some athletic talent, but we're not talking a dominant receiver, here. It helps if left tackle Donovan Smith has a bad game -- he's been very, very up-and-down this season, and throughout his career.
As for the defense, the Bucs' safeties are very limited, especially given the team's inconsistent pass rush -- though as said, Ayers' return should help in that department. Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald aren't horrible safeties, but both of them lack the range to cover a lot of ground on the back end, and both of them are prone to jumping some routes they shouldn't, especially in the red zone. They have been more solid the last games, but that's definitely a weakness I expect the Raiders to go after.
5. Why is Dirk Koetter going so hard after the fans not selling tickets to Raiders fans? Has this been an issue for the Buccaneers or is it more to do with knowing the Raiders fan base travels well?
The Bucs are 3-15 at home since 2014. They do not win very often in Tampa, which has led to fans generally not showing up as much ever since Jon Gruden was fired. Enthusiasm for the team is low, and it's not uncommon to see large parts of the stadium dominated by opposing fans. It's not about the Raiders in particular, just a general issue the Bucs have been having for years. If the team starts winning, you'll see the fans returning -- that happened in 2010 and the effect was obvious.
To see my answers to his questions, click here.