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Buccaneers-Packers matchup of the day: Wednesday

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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By Dan Arkush

Buccaneers interior offensive line vs. Packers NT B.J. Raji

After a breakout season in which he led all NFL nose tackles in sacks with 6½, Raji hasn't been as effective through the first nine games this year, registering only two sacks. The free-agent departure of Cullen Jenkins, one of the league's better inside pass rushers, has had a great deal to do with Raji's decrease in production, as Raji has been forced to face a lot more double-teams without the great complement that Jenkins provided. But with his tremendous strength and stamina and rare atheticism, Raji has continued to be a workhorse inside capable of creating big problems for a Bucs offensive line that allowed four sacks last week in Tampa Bay Week 10 loss to the Texans.

Against Minnesota last Monday night, Raji had a very quiet game matched up against excellent veteran OG Steve Hutchinson much of the time. The Packers actually made a concerted effort to cut down on Raji's snaps in that game, with C.J. Wilson spelling him more frequently. Look for a continued reduction in Raji's playing time with the Packers playing three games in an 11-day span and hoping that Raji will be fresher down the stretch, which is when he really came on last season.

The interior Tampa Bay trio that Raji will be facing Sunday consists of C Jeff Faine and OGs Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah on the right and left side, respectively. The best of the lot is Joseph, a PFW Midseason All-Pro selection who plays with great power and physicality. Joseph's huge hands and long arms enable him to gain leverage in pass protection, and he can be a dominant run blocker.

Faine is a rock-solid veteran who can be counted on to make the appropriate checks and calls, but he runs into trouble on occasion matched up against bigger nose tackles like Raji. Zuttah, who can play all three interior positions, has been very serviceable on the left side, but is not nearly as good a run blocker as Joseph.

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