Think there aren't any intriguing subplots to Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos, who are members of the NFC and AFC, respectively?

Think again.

Both teams are off to 3-1 starts, but noting those records would just scratch the surface of the upcoming battle between the Bucs and Broncos.

Perhaps one of the more interesting storylines from the game is the fact that quarterback Brian Griese will return to Denver, where he played from 1998-02.

"It is going to be great I think. I'm really looking forward to it," said Griese. "I spend quite a bit of time back in Denver running [Judi's House] there. I know quite a few people in the community and love the community in Denver. I had some good years there, and I think it will be a lot of fun for our team to go on the road in a hostile environment and play. It will be a lot of fun for me. There are a lot of familiar faces, not necessarily on the team anymore. I think now that Rod Smith and Tom Nalen are gone they were the last two holdovers. It will be fun personally for me to go back and compete in that environment."

It could also be the last time Griese starts a game for the Buccaneers if he continues to turn the ball over. Griese, who is 3-0 as a starter, has thrown six interceptions over the past two games.

Gruden wouldn't disclose any specifics in terms of his conversations with Griese this week, but he did acknowledge that both Luke McCown and Jeff Garcia received some first-team reps in practice on Wednesday.

""Yeah, [Garcia] got some reps today," said Gruden. "As I've said, he's going to continue to get reps. Luke took some reps. We need all of our quarterbacks.

"We're going to be okay, I think. [Griese] understands that he can't turn the ball over. He knows where I stand. He knows enough about the position to know that's critical to our success. We're trying to move on. We were fortunate enough to win the football game. There are some things we talked about and there are some things we understand clearly. We're going to move on now. We've got to get ready for another game."

"He doesn't have to say anything to me. I understand that you can't turn the football over in this business and be successful over an extended period of time," Griese said of Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "We've done some things in the past two weeks to overcome that. That's been the name of the game. For me going forward I plan on fixing those mistakes, and I really feel that I'm playing well in a lot of different situations, but there are two or three throws that I want to have back. I have to eliminate those things and I will. Throughout my career I've taken a lot of pride in being an efficient quarterback. That just hasn't been the past two weeks. It hasn't correlated now. That is what I plan on getting back to because that is what I think this team needs."

Broncos QB Jay Cutler has emerged as one of the best signal callers in the National Football League. He's completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,275 yards and tossed nine touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Through four games, Denver's offense is ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL, and Cutler, a 2006 first-round pick, has played an integral role in that success.

"He's the leader of the number one offense in the league," said Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib. "That should tell you enough right there."

Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud said Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan's West Coast offensive scheme has put Cutler in a position to succeed.

"First of all he's got a great coach in Mike Shanahan," Ruud said of Cutler. "He always does a good job of game planning and getting receivers open for Jay. The other thing is Jay has a cannon for an arm, and he's got confidence in it. He tries to put the ball in tight spaces."

Cutler has used his strong and accurate arm to find wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has caught 31 passes for 398 yards and scored three touchdowns.

Marshall's success has helped create opportunities for Broncos rookie WR Eddie Royal, who has 27 catches through four games.

"He's a big-time receiver," Talib said of Marshall. "He's really having breakout year. I'm not saying he didn't do anything last year, but he's really showing his stuff this year. His guy on the other side, Eddie Royal is doing the same thing. They have a great quarterback, offensive line and offense, so it will be a pretty good game."

One of the reasons why Cutler has been successful is because of Denver's ground attack, which is averaging 121 yards (4.7 avg. per carry) per game.

The Broncos offensive line is also doing a solid job in terms of protecting Cutler on passing plays. He's been sacked a league-low two times this season.

"We have to get after the quarterback," said Bucs defensive end Greg White. "That's been difficult for teams to do because they max protect a lot and put Cutler in good position with the run game."

Denver's zone blocking scheme creates some challenges for Tampa Bay's defensive line, especially when it comes to cut blocks. The good news for the Bucs defensive linemen is they faced a similar blocking scheme last week.

"I think Green Bay really helped us prepare for this week," said Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan. "Green Bay ran a similar type of zone scheme. They didn't cut as much at the line as Denver does, but it is the same type of method. What they want you to do is flow to one side of the field and give the running back cut back lanes to choose what ever he has from front side, back side, or even if he wants to cut across the field. It is a very stay-in-your-gap defense this week. If the running backs can find a little seam then you look up and he's gone for 60 yards. We have to have gap awareness this week.

"They are very good in their cut schemes. We have to be very aware of the cut on the backside, so wherever the ball is going be aware of your legs on the backside because they want to take them out so you don't have any pursuit to the ball carrier. They are a very fundamentally sound offense, they know their assignments, and execute their assignments. We are going to have to play another dimension on the cut block. If we do get cut then we have to get up off the ground and get to the ball carrier. It is just a couple of nuances this week with different blocking schemes."

Even if the Bucs decide to blitz their linebackers or defensive backs there's no guarantee they will pressure Cutler due to Denver playing two-tight end sets and the presence of former Bucs RB Michael Pittman, who has scored four touchdowns in his first season with the Broncos.

"Michael Pittman is out there and he does a great job of blitz recognition," said Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan. "I played with Mike for three years down here. Outside of football he is a great father, great husband, and great friend. I'm glad to see he is doing well in Denver. When he crosses the white stripes it is all business and we'll do some friendly battle."

Tampa Bay's offense has also had success. It ranks 7th overall in the league. Denver's defense, on the other hand, has struggled. It is currently ranked 30th in the NFL.

Bucs running back Earnest Graham is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and pounding the ball vs. Denver's suspect run defense is exactly what Tampa Bay plans to do on Sunday.

"We definitely have a plan of attack, and we'll run the football," said Graham. "We could pass, too. When the game comes you have to be able to adjust and make the plays that are called."

Denver won't be Tampa Bay's only opponent on Sunday. In addition to taking on the Broncos, the Bucs will be attempting to get acclimated to the high altitude at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver.

Hence the name of their stadium, the Broncos home turf resides one mile above sea level, which means the air is thinner. That can sometimes create challenges for opposing players that aren't used to the high altitude in terms of catching their breath.

The Bucs have mixed feelings about how the high altitude can and will impact their play vs. the Broncos.

"I played once at Air Force in Colorado when I was in college," said Bucs center Jeff Faine. ‘It's definitely different. It's something you kind of have to get used to and catch your breath a little bit. You just have to go in there mentally tough and play ball."

That's the mindset other teams have had going into Denver. The high altitude alone isn't enough to beat teams, evidenced by the fact that the Broncos own an 11-7 home record since the 2006 season.

Some players are looking forward to playing in cooler weather in Denver, even if it means playing at a higher altitude.

"I played in Colorado twice when I was in college," said Ruud. "I never really had a problem with it. Some guys had more issues than others, I guess. I'll be pretty happy to have 60 degrees and no humidity. I don't think the altitude will bother me."

Griese, who played in Denver for five seasons, suggested any potential problems the high altitude can cause aren't difficult enough to overcome.

"I heard that when I played in Denver and I was always expecting to see guys breathing really hard on defense when I was playing there," said Griese. "I don't know how much of an effect it really hard. Now I haven't been there for in awhile so maybe it is going to effect me. I don't know, we'll see. I think that we are in really good shape here working out in the heat and humidity. I think we'll be fine."

The Broncos are 2-0 at home this season, but overcoming the altitude issues is the least of Tampa Bay's concerns heading into Sunday's contest.

"We'll let that handle itself," Talib said of playing at a high altitude. "We're just worried about the Denver Broncos."

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