Tampa Bay Buccaneers

09000d5d822f780c_gallery_600

2011 NFL Season: Week 5, Ehh…Not So Much!

For the first time in a long time, I can say I was largely bored by the Week 5 action. There simply were not many great games played this week. Perhaps a bit of the separation between teams is beginning. Perhaps conditioning on older teams is beginning to kick in. Are the fogeys starting to get their legs?

If nothing else, I’m fairly certain that you’ll need garlic, silver, and a very, very, very long stake to kill the Packers this season. In fact, that might only kill off a few of them. Last year, they won with 38 guys and 15 “what’s his names.” This year, with 53 guys they’re just pounding the living daylights out of game plans, and opponents and their smack talking fans.

The Lions aren’t scared, but the Lions haven’t played this team.

The Falcons had the Packers by the holes in their Swiss speedos…and they let ‘em off the hook.

Cam Newton threw the worst pass of his career on Sunday. It so happens that it was his first pass of the game. And, it so happens that instead of winding up in the waiting hands of Steve Smith, it wound up in the hands of the New Orleans Saints. The pass was returned deep into the red zone and led to an opening touchdown. The Panthers played uphill for the rest of the day. By the time they mustered up the strength to take the lead late in the 4th quarter, the defense was running on fumes and gave up a decisive score. The Panthers dropped another close game, 30-27. The team seems to be getting close. Losses this season have been by 7, 7, 5 and 3 points respectively. Next up, a desperate Atlanta Falcons team.

We’re going to find out a lot about the resiliency of these teams on Sunday. The Falcons are hosting and should win by 10-14 points, but the Panthers have exceeded expectations all season.

Do you want to play this team?

Frank Gore: Opening Up A Can of Whoop! on the Bucs

The Lions do. The Bucs didn’t. If you had high expectations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, it’s probably time to put those on the shelf until 2011. The team has three marginally impressive wins (I’m being kind) over Minnesota (1-4), Atlanta (outdoors), and Indianapolis (sans Peyton Manning). The Bucs lost an eagerly anticipated matchup with the Lions in their home opener and this weekend, they laid the egg of all eggs. Last year, Tampa was strong enough to go West and return with a 21-0 win over the Niners. This year, the Bucs were forced to walk the plank in an embarrassing 48-3 rout.

In other news around the league:

  • Quick Pass Roethlisberger passed for five touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans. Four different receivers caught touchdowns. Slow Pass Roethlisberger apparently missed the bus. Steelers 38, Titans 17. If he gets rid of the ball on time and uses all of his weapons, the Steelers will score lots of points for the rest of the season. Mike Tomlin’s fake punt call opened the floodgates. Kudos to the coach with the cojones.
  • The Giants figured out a way to do the unthinkable. Big Blue blew a chance to take tremendous strides in the division by losing a home conference game to the lowly Seattle Seahawks. While the Cowboys and Redskins watched at home, and the Eagles stuggled elsewhere in the state of New York, the Giants were busy finding inventive ways to put their guests in unique scoring positions. The Giants also hosted a Coming Out Party for Stanford’s Doug Baldwin (8 rec, 136 yds, 1 td).
  • The Andy Reid Reject Bowl took place between Arizona and Minnesota. There were no winners there, except for Donovan McNabb. Statistically, he did enough to keep the train on the track. Kevin Kolb was abysmal. Thankfully for Kolb, he is benefitting from a media white out that has yet to call for his head. Kolb may well be the NFL’s leading affirmative traction candidate.
  • Kolb, Part Deux.  The national media may have already been instrumental in duping the Cardinals into believing he was worthy of his juicy contract. Kolb is not a proven winner and he faces a significant up hill climb. It’s too bad he only has Larry Fitzgerald. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start reading articles about how Larry has lost a step or doesn’t know the playbook or gives up on plays or something — and if we do, they’re sure to come from ESPN (Chris Mortensen — Week 9?)
  • The Vikings need to get better at the QB and the WR position. McNabb’s not a Back Foot Betty (Favre, Romo, Kolb, etc.), but he just throws too many balls in places that defy explanation. Berrian is fast but he has not used his speed wisely in tight spaces. He isn’t getting separation and has demonstrated poor route running and pass catching over the first month of the season. He has to step his game up.
  • One thing that struck me about the San Diego Chargers is that Philip Rivers has always been blessed with well-rounded backs. LT2, Darren Sproles and Michael Turner were not one-dimensional. LT and Sproles were excellent blockers. Turner has been known to throw a knock-out block or two as well. Tolbert is solid, but he’s not as proficient as Turner across the board. Matthews is on the rise, but he has yet to arrive. The overall versatility of LT2, Sproles, and Turner gave the Chargers a much bigger matchup edge than they have now. The well has not run dry, but it is simply not as deep.
  • Matt Cassel’s ribs are healed. Four touchdowns and a close relationship with Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston mean big things for the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles isn’t there, but Jackie Battle has stepped in and played well. The Chiefs look a little different this season, but they have some pieces and are still in the fight. Following historically bad losses to Detroit and Buffalo, the Chiefs have rebounded with wins over mediocre teams and are in position to challenge in the AFC West.
  • The Chiefs and the Jets are both 2-3. The teams in the AFC West ahead of the Chiefs are Oakland and San Diego. The teams ahead of the Jets are New England and Buffalo. If the Chiefs are definitely out, so are the Jets. Right?
  • The Jets. Ehh!!! The Jets. Losers on the road at New England. Losers on the road at Baltimore. Losers on the road at Oakland. There is a reason why this was called “The Make or Break Portion of the Schedule.” Up next: Miami, San Diego, bye, @Buffalo, New England, @Tebow, Buffalo. And then there’s that Week 15 game vs. the Eagles. It’s early, but this team is going to be CHALLENGED to make the playoffs as a 3rd entry from the AFC East. Put simply, if the Jets get in, it will come at the expense of either the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders or Ravens. They’ve already lost to the Raiders and Ravens. It doesn’t look good.
  • I’ve got nothing on the Eagles.
  • Quiet as it’s kept, the Houston Texans dropped another game in which the performance of QB Matt Schaub was decisive. Last week, Arian Foster did the heavy lifting vs. the Steelers. Schaub has to prove he can get it done in big games. Next up: Rested Rapacious Ravens Relentlessly Ripping Ravaging and Rolling with Ray Rice.
  • Congratulations to the Raiders for beating the Houston Texans 25-20. “Just Win, Baby!” Nicely done.

Week 6 is sure to provide more fireworks. Looking forward to the Lions-Niners, Cowboys-Patriots, Panthers-Dirty Birds, among others.

Bears MLB Brian Urlacher Shows Who's Boss

2010 NFL Season: Week 17 Previews

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in need of help from the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers make the most interesting case for a compelling “must-see” game.  The Young Bucs will be in the Big Easy taking on the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  The Saints survived a sub-par performance by quarterback Drew Brees to win on the road in Atlanta last Monday night.  With the world watching, the Saints made a case for themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.  Today, the Bucs will bring the fight to a team that still has something to play for: a division title.  Both of these teams would love nothing more than for the front runners  to open the door with a loss at Carolina.  Regardless of the outcome of those games, both Tampa Bay and New Orleans have a lot to play for.  Pride!

In other games, the needy and the greedy will be separated for better or worse.  Green Bay just needs a win.  Will the Packers try to go for too many home runs to get the job done?  Will the slow and steady Bears win the race?

2009 NFL Season: Diggin’ In the Crates on the New Orleans Saints

The biggest topic of conversation in the NFC over the Christmas holiday will be, “How do we beat the New Orleans Saints?”  The answer won’t come easily — but it can be done.  On any given playoff Saturday or Sunday, any team can lose.  Just as surely as the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings (1998) fell to the Atlanta Falcons in the confines of the cozy Metrodome, the Saints can lose this season.

I’ll be revisiting this topic over the next few days, but I wanted to illustrate a point that may not be understood by fans in places like Arizona, Minnesota and Philadelphia.  Drew Brees is an athletic football player.  He makes plays with his feet and his eyes and his arm.  If you underestimate any of those aspects of his game, you will probably lose — and never fully understand why you lost.  Just because he looks like “an average dude” does not entitle you to get it twisted.  At 6’0″, he came within a stones throw of toppling Dan Marino’s single-season passing record.

A little respect will go a long way.

Here is Exhibit A:

Raymond James Stadium in the Elements

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Week 13 Picks

After going 13-2 two weeks ago (missing on Oakland over Cincinnati and Kansas City over Pittsburgh) and following that up with a 10-6 week (including a 41-17 prediction of New Orleans over New England), there is no doubt that I am on fire!!

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Announcing Josh Freeman

From where I’m sitting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have accomplished one thing this season.  They’ve shown that they have 3 quarterbacks who can make plays and that they have a defense that is a shadow of its former self.  The offense has hardly been lights out this season, but when you consider that the offensive coordinator was fired at the start of the season, that the team has a new head coach, that the starting QB was determined at the end of pre-season, and that two of the QB’s who’ve started this season are new to town, you simply cannot have high expectations.  As I’ve said, Byron Leftwich was not the reason the Buccaneers were not winning games at the beginning of the season.  They were losing for the same reasons they lost prior to last week: a profound inability to stop the run.

When Leftwich was benched, he was 6th in passing yards in the NFL.  Guess who is 6th in passing yards right now?  Ben Roethlisberger.  The Steelers have won five in a row.

Leftwich performed well in relief of Roethlisberger last year.  Given that Antonio Bryant has played hurt for the entire season, that Michael Clayton is somewhere between Chris Chambers and Chris Henry, and that the Bucs don’t have a reliable deep threat, Leftwich did a credible job.  The same can be said for Josh Johnson — except that he was compelled to play against teams like New England (#3 pass defense) and Carolina (#5 pass defense) and Philadelphia (#2 with 15 INTs) and Washington (#1 pass defense).  Forget that Leftwich scored 21 points against Dallas and threw for nearly 300 yards vs. Buffalo.  Forget that Josh Johnson fought hard against some of the best defenses in the league.

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Week 9′s Biggest Losers

The week isn’t over yet, but on Sunday, some teams lost more than a single game.  It’s still early enough that anything can happen, but some teams may be watching their seasons fall apart.  Let’s take a look at the early casualties.

  • San Francisco 49ers. You knew the Titans were a dangerous opponent.  With Vince Young quarterbacking and Mike Heimerdinger calling plays, the Titans were sure to rely on a conservative attack  and their ability to pound the rock and force turnovers.  That’s exactly what happened.  The Titans won 34-27 on the road and forced Alex Smith into a sloppy, hurried game.  Frank Gore was dynamic and versatile, but he didn’t dominate the action like he did before the Viking game.  Suddenly, a team that began the season 3-1 with quality wins over division opponents is sitting at 3-5.  The bad news is that first-place Arizona won at Chicago on the strength of a 5 td performance by Kurt Warner (without Anquan Boldin).  The good news is that the Niners only trail them by 2 games — and already have a win at Arizona.  Mike Singletary has changed quarterbacks.  They score more points with Smith, but have less ball security than under Hill.  Next up: the Bears, Packers, Jags, Seahawks.  There is no reason this team can’t be 7-5 in a month.  Book It: If they’re +8 or better in turnovers over that time frame, they’re going to the playoffs.
  • New York Giants. If the playoffs began tomorrow, the New York Giants would have the same vantage point as the New York Yankees, and you and I.  They’d be watching from home.  The Giants have lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers.  They’ve lost on the road to the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.  There really is no shame in losing to any of these teams.  The Saints finished in last place last season, but they’ve been remade and have yet to lose a game this season.  Arizona and the Eagles played in the NFC Championship game last year.  San Diego is a perennial playoff contender.  That the Giants have lost to these teams in consecutive weeks is surprising.  That the Giants have failed to score more than 20 points in any of these games is shocking.  The Chargers have been an enigmatic bunch all season.  They’re 5-3, but could be 7-1 or 2-6.  They’re inconsistent and have been unable to stop the run since the injury to Jamal Williams in September.  All of that sounded like a recipe for resurrection in the Meadowlands.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, the same depleted secondary that was undressed by Drew Brees was dissected by Philip Rivers.  The Giants could do “soul-searching” or any number of things on their bye week, but the answers (like the problems) are on the field.  The execution is simply what it has been — on either side of the ball.  When the sun rises tomorrow, the Giants will be 2 games behind the leader of the NFC East.  Next up: Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.  This could get much worse before it gets any better.  Book It: If the Giants are not able to defeat second and third tier quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton, the season will be over before they meet host Dallas and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks.
EliManning_Scramble_JacquesCesaire

Eli Isn't the Only Man On the Run (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are kicking themselves tonite for taking the Bengals lightly.  I don’t know why they continue to do that.  It seems they forget that they have a 3-8 record vs. Carson Palmer.  They don’t scare him.  He torches them more regularly and scars them more deeply than any QB in the league.  Really, if they think about it, they’re his bird bitches.  They probably don’t like to admit it, but 8 wins is 8 wins.  The Ravens know they will not be winning the AFC North this season.  They will not be beating the Steelers twice.  They may not even beat them once.  The good news, though, is that they hold tie breakers over the Broncos and Chargers.  Only 1 of them can win the division.  If the Ravens can somehow manage to get to 10 or 11 wins, they can sneak in as the 3rd in the AFC North.  New England, a probably division winner is the only team they’ve lost to in the AFC aside from Cincinnati.  It means their destiny is still in their own hands.  Baltimore can win 6 or 7 of their final 8 games.  If they do, they’re in because of their wins over the AFC West.  Next up: Browns, Colts, Steelers, Packers.  They get Indy and Pitt at home.  Book It: If Baltimore finds a way to win these 4 games and wins out until their Dec. 27th game in Pittsburgh, they’ll beat whomever they play in the Wild Card round.

Teams like the Bears, Texans and Packers lost games yesterday that likely surprised their die-hard fans.  What Bears fan doesn’t expect to beat the Cardinals in Soldier Field?  In all honesty, the Bears simply are not the same team they were at the beginning of the season.  The Bears were fortunate to beat the Steelers this season — and that win has been the cause of all “great expectations” since the signing of Jay Cutler.  It was a quality win.  It was something the Vikings were unable to do.  Still, there hasn’t been much for the Monsters of the Midway to hang their hats on.  Without Urlacher and Hillenmeyer, I don’t expect much.

For all their talent and perennial promise for unleashing potential, the Texans simply cannot be expected to win at Indianapolis.  I expect them to do what they did — play tough, play a little less than smart, and lose.

The Packers simply are not a good team.  They play unevenly and had to be flatter than week-old Coke after playing against Brett Favre under the national spotlight at home last week and then traveling in anonymity to lifeless Raymond James Stadium for a late game vs. a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach.  Teams that lose games like this don’t really belong in the post-season.  Green Bay will find their way out.

Addendum:

  • Philadelphia Eagles. Anytime you lose at home to a division rival, it’s painful and it adversely impacts your playoff positioning.  This version of the Eagles is losing games they are supposed to win.  They’ve lost at Oakland…and now this.  If you don’t think the Eagles are going to regret this loss, consider that over the next four weeks, they will be on the road at San Diego, at Chicago and at Atlanta.  The Eagles could lose every one of these games.  The last time the Eagles played on the West Coast, they lost to Oakland.  Against Dallas, the Eagles only ran the ball 23 times.  They didn’t run many plays overall.  Philly only converted 4 of 12 first downs, including some notable failures on 3rd and 4th down with short distances to go.  Jason Peters was injured.  Asante Samuel was roughed up.  Sheldon Brown was toasted.  Brian Westbrook was inactive.  Michael Vick was ineffective (He’s got time.)  McNabb looked like his ribs are still sore…and he also looked like he always looks.

2009 NFL Season: Week 6 Recap

There were some compelling story lines that emerged this week.  The Bengals took a not-so-surprising plunge back to earth after beating the Steelers and Ravens.  The Giants were undressed.  The “Sanchise” took it on the chin 5 times and the Jets found a new way to lose.  The Vikings showed just how tough they’re going to be down the stretch.  (It looks an awful lot like the Saints and Vikings are going to play for the NFC Championship.)  The Eagles did the unthinkable.  With all of these stories, perhaps nothing was more surprising that the rapid and complete demise of the once-proud Tennessee Titans.

Welker_v_Titans

AP Photo - Winslow Townson

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Here Come the Bucs

I am going out on a limb.  No one has been harder on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the past few weeks, but I believe a change may be in the air.  I think the Bucs may have found something that can work.

johnson_AP (more…)

2009 NFL Season – Week 4 Picks

We’re heading to the Quarter Post.  Week 4 is here and games are on tap for 28 teams in the league (Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia are off.).  The first three weeks have shown that some patterns are continuing:

AFC+NFC+Hall+of+Fame+Game+ENz2Ne-O4lJl

Zorn: In search of Directions OFF the Beltway

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Week 4 – What to Watch For

Five things on my radar this week:

1.  Packers at Vikings. Revenge is a dish best served old.  I have this feeling that the Vikings may not be served by the spectacular success of last week’s win vs. the San Francisco 49ers.  The Niners are a team that lacks the offensive punch and balance of the Packers.  The Niners lost Frank Gore early in the game and were unable to run out the clock with less than 2 minutes remaining.

I am wondering if newly-minted OLB Aaron Kampman is comfortable enough in his new position to bring the pain from the edge.  He was the best DE you’d never heard of for the past three seasons.  He notched 37 sacks playing in a 4-3 scheme.  He’s been moved and has only registered one sack through 3 games.  Does he break out in Minnesota?  I’m sure he’ll want to show former fellow-Hawkeye and current Viking LB  Chad Greenway a few tricks.

I think Al Harris and Charles Woodson are really going to be up for this game.  I think Brett Favre will be so charged up that he will have to work hard to resist his urges to embarrass the Packers.  The men he is most angry with will not be covering Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin.  If Favre loses focus, Harris and Woodson could take him to the wood shed.

(more…)