Sat, 06 Jun 2020

The Broncos' regular-season opener isn't for another four months, but over the next few weeks, DenverBroncos.com will take an early look at each game on the Broncos' 2020 schedule. We don't know how injuries could impact each contest, but we'll present the pressing storylines, matchups, questions and more.

It's never too early to start talking football.

We continue with Denver's Week 3 game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Storylines to monitor:

The Broncos' rivalry against Tom Brady will be renewed this fall at Empower Field at Mile High. Brady last faced the Broncos two years ago, as he and the Patriots earned wins in both 2016 and 2017 over Denver. The Broncos, though, won the most recent playoff matchup, as they defeated Brady and the Patriots in the 2015 AFC Championship game. And while Brady will be wearing a new uniform, it won't be any less enjoyable to watch him and Von Miller square off. The Broncos remain the only team against which Brady has a losing record (8-9, including postseason games).

This Week 3 game will also mark Shaquil Barrett's first trip back to Denver since he signed with the Buccaneers ahead of the 2019 season. He signed just a one-year deal, but it proved prescient as he recorded 18.5 sacks and led the league in the category. He'll try to replicate his success in 2020.

Player to watch:

TE Rob Gronkowski

After a one-year hiatus, Gronkowski returned to the NFL this offseason to rejoin his former Patriots teammate. In his prime, Gronkowski was one of the most dominant tight ends of all time. A four-time first-team All-Pro, he has posted five seasons with at least 10 touchdowns and four seasons with 1,000 yards. He'll have to bulk back up to handle the demands of the position, but he should remain a go-to target for Brady. Whomever the Broncos put on Gronkowski - Justin Simmons, perhaps? - will face a big challenge. Can Denver hold up against the future Hall of Famer, or will he bully the Broncos' defense?

The question mark:

How far along is Tampa Bay's offense?

The Bucs certainly have the pieces in place to light up scoreboards, as Brady and Gronkowski join wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa. Evans is a three-time Pro Bowler, and Godwin earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2019. Brady and Gronkowski's success, meanwhile, is well-documented. The Broncos' secondary will be in for perhaps its toughest test of the season's first month. How, though, will a virtual offseason impact Brady's ability to get settled in a new offense? If the Bucs go through some early season offensive struggles, the Broncos could be primed to pull the upset against Tampa, which is currently a slight favorite. If the Bucs already firing on all cylinders, this matchup becomes much more daunting.

An opposing view:

Carmen Vitali, a staff writer for Buccaneer.com, on QB Tom Brady signing with the Bucs this offseason:

"I think the overarching feeling by everyone was just a sense of disbelief. I don't know how much the current climate played into it, not being able to have a press conference with him, actually have him in the building [and] see him in Bucs gear, his Bucs uniform. None of it felt real for a really long time. But I think that the biggest thing was it already shifted the dynamic. To have someone like that with that much experience and that much invested in another franchise jump ship - no pun intended - to come to Tampa, I think it really gave a lot of the guys a confidence boost in a lot of ways. It was like 'We have a great team, and now people might know that we have a great team.' So I think everyone's really excited to learn from him. [It's] the attitude and the work ethic that he brings in addition to the experience. I know that obviously our receivers are super excited, our defense is even really excited just to know that they have that kind of guy on the other side of the ball. But yeah, it's still kind of surreal in a lot of ways."

For more from Vitali on the Buccaneers and how the Week 3 matchup could unfold, click here.

The last meeting:

The Broncos haven't played the NFC South since 2016, and both teams looked drastically different during Denver's 27-7 win in Tampa.

Trevor Siemian started that contest and officially earned the win as the Broncos improved to 4-0 on the season as they tried to defend their Super Bowl title. Siemian, though, was knocked out of the game, and first-round Paxton Lynch saw the first action of his career. Lynch finished 14-of-24 for 170 yards and a touchdown.

The Broncos cruised for most of the afternoon, as Aqib Talib snagged two interceptions against his former team and later was given a game ball. Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders caught touchdowns and C.J. Anderson also recorded a score.

The only drama was whether the game would finish, as a nearly 90-minute weather delay postponed the game in the fourth quarter.

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