Bucs-Saints Preview

This is it boys and girls. This one is for all the marbles. It's the Battle of the Alcohol-induced, Bead-throwing, Topless Females Celebrations. Mardi Gras vs. Gasparilla.

In years past Gasparilla was forced to play second fiddle to his (her?) older brother (sister?) to the north. Insecure co-eds flocked to New Orleans like fraternity guys to a keg. But it's been a down year for Mardi Gras, not as many people are showing up as they used. Puking beer in a dark alley off of Bourbon Street does not hold the same appeal it used to (especially when said street is under two feet of water).

Seizing the opportunity Gasparilla is hoping to put the strangle hold on Mardi Gras with a celebration of the indecent and immoral. Sex cruises and whizzinators have nothing on a parade which features young 20-somethings flashing what-God-gave-them for cheap plastic beads (ahh, the memories).

So when Sunday rolls around remember what you are rooting for. Not another win, or a playoff berth, but the right to say my city has the best party. Go Bucs!

Offense. Defense. Special teams.

Saint's Offense vs. Buc's Defense

DVOA . . . . Saint's offense . . . . Buc's defense
Total . . . . . -12.9% (# 21) . . . . . -9.0% (# 9)
Rushing . . . -12.2% (# 24) . . . . . -17.7% (#4)
Passing . . . -13.6% (# 25) . . . . . -0.5% (#16)

This Saints offense has been beat up more times than a trailer trash housewife. Saints decide to center their offense around Deuce McAllister this season, Deuce goes down for the season with a torn ACL.

Saints are forced to go to Aaron Brooks more often as a result, then Brooks attacks Paul Tagliabue. As a result the commish forces Jim Haslett to bench Brooks for the rest of the season (check the bylaws, the NFL commish has this power). Now some stiff named Todd Bouman is under center for the Saints and Haslett is clearly throwing games for a chance at Reggie Bush (why else would Haslett demand a contract extension?).

Football Outsider's stats don't paint the same picture as the NFL's traditional stats. By yards per game the Bucs have the fourth best passing defense, but by FO's stats the Bucs are mearly ranked sixteenth. Which is about fair considering the Buc's secondary has given up far too many late drives against poor quarterbacks such as Joey Harrington and Cody Pickett (40 Best Bucs points if you can even name which team Pickett plays for). The few highlights in the secondary have been Ronde Barber's interceptions and Will Allen's cheap shots.

Buc's Offense vs. Saint's defense

DVOA . . . . Buc's offense . . . . Saint's defense
Total . . . . . -15.7% (#17) . . . . . 12.0% (#28)
Rushing . . . -10.8% (#21) . . . . . 12.5% (#28)
Passing . . . -0.8% (#15) . . . . . . 11.5% (#25)

The Bucs poor statistical showing can be attributed to the rash of injuries which have plagued the offense. When Cadillac Williams went down the Bucs lost the ability to move the chains on a consistent basis. It took Chris Simms a couple of weeks to get comfortable in the offense after Brian Griese went down with a torn ACL. And if Michael Clayton could stay healthy the Bucs would have one of the more dangerous passing offenses in the NFC.

The Saints defense is dreadful, but their pass rush forced one of Simm's poorer outings of the season. Simms had only 123 passing yards while going 12 for 21. The Bucs only scored 10 points against the Saints last game.

If the Bucs can win this game they will win the division title and guarantee themselves the third seed in the NFC playoffs. If they lose, there's no telling what will happen. The Bucs could still win the division or they could miss the playoffs entirely.

Benson forced to return to New Orleans

The most amusing part of this whole "Saints returning to New Orleans" story is where Paul Tagliabue mentions he received a memo from Tom Benson saying he "wanted to resume operations in our training and practice facility in Metairie." That's what you call a bold faced lie.

According to this article in the New Orleans Time Picayune Benson has no legal authority to move the team without prior approval by the NFL's owners. And the owners were not about to let Benson move the team to San Antonio.

"I don't think Tom Benson has a snowball's chance in hell of winning an antitrust suit against the NFL," said Gary Roberts, the deputy dean of the Tulane University Law School and a noted expert on sports law.

"Paul Tagliabue has outflanked Tom Benson," Roberts said. "Look at who's on the (New Orleans advisory) committee. It's a group of traditional, old-line people that are close to the commissioner and believe strongly in league stability. The commissioner has stacked the deck in his favor."

Roberts describes it better than I could, Benson was outflanked by the Commish on this one. Benson knows he can make more money keeping the team in San Antonio, but Tagliabue is more concerned about the NFL's image, which means keeping the team in New Orleans. Never mind that Benson will be hemorrhaging money by playing games in Tiger Stadium and the Superdome.


Still Confused?

Then maybe this will help.

Football Outsiders details the Buc's post season scenarios should they lose. And they do a much better job at it than my own attempt. Although it appears confusion still reigns when it comes down to figuring out this BCS-like strength of victory tiebreaker.

That brings us to the old reliable strength of victory tiebreaker, a tiebreaker so rarely used that the NFL doesn’t list an explanation for how you determine it on its website. A team’s strength of victory is the winning percentage of the opponents that a team has beaten this season. Since the two teams in the tiebreaker situation have defeated the same number of teams, and there haven’t been any ties so far in the NFL this year, we’ll use the total number of wins instead of winning percentage for simplicity.

Of course the Bucs could avoid all this confusion, and follow Gruden's advice: "We've just got to win this game."

Saints to play in Louisiana next season

In a one year deal between NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue and Saints owner Tom Benson, the Saints will move back to their practice facility outside of New Orleans next season. Len Pasquarelli is reporting the Superdome will be ready for play by November, which means the Saints will have to play some of their home games at LSU's stadium. Benson has mentioned he stands to lose $45 million this season, and it is doubtful the Saints will be financially solvent next season even if they played every game in New Orleans.

Right now, the Saints can attract more fans to the game playing in San Antonio than they could playing in New Orleans or Baton Rouge. In 2004, the Saints never drew more than 64,900 fans to a game (Scott I'm depending on your numbers). I don't think New Orleans can even match those numbers considering many former residents abadoned New Orlenas for good, while many other have been left broke and penniless. The three game at the Alamodome in San Antonio averaged 62,666 fans, while the games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge averaged slightly more than 40,000.

Benson wants to move the team (either to San Antonio or L.A.), something which he made clear even before Hurricane Katrina. Now he's being roped into playing in Lousiana when he clearly does not want to (In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the NFL was giving Benson a little something under the table to keep him happy). I think there's a good chance, depending on how next season plays out, that Benson moves the team especially if San Antonio can get him a new stadium.

Internet Goodness

This being the college bowl season, go check out EDSBS (Every Day Should Be Saturday) for his bowl previews. Everything this site is not, EDSBS's previews are full of humor and insight.

Matchup quality: Decent. We have no idea which Missouri team will show up, or whether Brad Smith will play one of his rampaging 400 yard total/200 passing/200 rushing games, or decide to linger in the pocket and become a Midwestern Reggie Ball for four quarters. If he does, it’s a game, since Spurrier’s outweighing Pinkel on the coaching brain scales by a few hecatons; if he doesn’t, it’ll get ugly fast.

Quote of the Day

Dusting off a rarely used gimmick, I present you with the quote of the day:

I don't know how drastic it is," Gruden said. "That's up to people who measure drastic-ticity. You'd have to ask a drastic-tician. Last year, two years ago, that's what it is. Who cares? We've just got to win this game."

-Gruden's response when asked if the team's turnaround from last season is a drastic as the numbers indicate.


Is this thing on?

It's not a good week for Jim Mora Jr. First his team losses a crucial game against the Bucs. Then he gets fined for throwing a temper tantrum on the radio. Now, Joe Horn is going after Mora for using a cell phone on the sidelines during the game. Even though the NFL has not made a decision regarding fining Mora, Horn is demanding the money back he paid for a thoroughly unentertaining cell phone celebration two seasons ago.

"I want $30,000," said Horn. "I'm not trying to player-hate coach Mora, but it shouldn't be a double-standard league. A player gets fined, then a coach should get fined under any circumstances.

Except Mora was using the cell to figure out the playoff scenario if his Falcons tied (although he failed to figure that out). Horn's use of the cell phone in a touchdown celebration did not affect his team's chance of reaching the playoffs. I'm not rocket scientest, but there's a bit of a difference in these two situations. If anything, Mora deserves to be fined because he's a horrible coach who took a team that made it to the NFC Championship last season and did everything he could to make sure the Falcons did not make it back to the post season.

And Horn deserved to be fined for that poor excuse for a touchdown celebration. I say put the question to the fans if a player should be fined for a touchdown celebration. Hell, the NFL lets us idiots vote for things like the Pro Bowl, which affect a player's chances to get into the Hall of Fame. Why not let the fans decide which celebrations deserve to be fined?

For example, I would not have fined Chad Johnson for his "NFL: Don't fine me" sign, but I would have wanted Hines Ward to pay up for some off his more awkward celebrations including his attempt at the Riverdance.

File this one under . . .

. . . you learn something new everyday.

Many thanks to Tommy and Costa for their help setting up a RSS feed to my site. For the technologically impaired such as myself, RSS is a way to read a blog without visiting it. A useful tool for those with too many blogs to read or too little motivation to visit them all.

My new RSS feed is: http://bestbucsblog.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Dazed and Confused

Somebody explain this to me. The Giants at 10-5 have clinched a playoff berth. The Bucs, with an identical record of 10-5, could miss the playoffs if a perfect storm of events knocks them out of the playoffs. But if the Bucs and Giants win out then Tampa Bay gets the third seed? The BCS is less difficult to figure out.

If the Bucs lose and the Panthers win then Tampa Bay gets knocked into wild card contention. At that point the Bucs could be tossed into a wild card shuffle with Dallas and Washington (assuming the 'Skins and Cowboys win this week). The Bucs would miss out on the playoffs in this scenario because they have a weaker strength of victory percentage (0.447) than the Cowboys (0.467). Raise you hand if this is the first time you have heard of strength of victory percentage (hopefully I'm not the only one).

Of course, if the Cowboys lose to the Rams while the 'Skins beat the Eagles and the Bucs lose to the Saints then Tampa Bay makes it to the playoffs because they beat the 'Skins earlier this season. For those keeping track at home that means the second tiebreaker (head-to-head) would decide which team plays in the postseason. But if the Cowboys lose anyway the Bucs are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

Only two things are clear heading into this postseason confusion. First, if the Bucs win they will be the third seed in the NFC. Second, the great thing about high school girls, I get older, they stay the same age.

Breaking down the Tampa 2

Every now and then ESPN does something that doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, and this would be one those rare instances. Michael Smith breaks down the version of the Cover 2 defense made popular during Tony Dungy's time with the Bucs.

Three teams which rely heavily on the Tampa 2 this season, Indy, Chicago and Tampa Bay, all are contenders for the Super Bowl. The Tampa 2, for the uninitiated, is a zone defense which requires fast defenders. The article also has an animated breakdown of each defender's responsibility on the field.

The key to the Tampa 2 is quick, undersized defensive end who can attack the quarterback. Simeon Rice has been playing that role for the Bucs for sometime, while Dwight Freeney (Colts) and Alex Brown (Bears) have more recently stepped into these roles. The Tampa 2 can be beat by a team committed to running the ball at the undersized defensive end, since he can typically be pushed off the line more easily. Which is why very few Tampa 2 teams actually run the zone defense on a majority of their plays. Most of the time, Tampa Bay runs man-to-man defense with a variety of blitzes to confuse opposing quarterbacks and disrupt the running game.


"The Cal Ripken of NFL team physicians"

Can you name the longest serving member of the Buccaneer's organization? No, it's not Derrick Brooks (11 years) or Monte Kiffin (10 years) but the team's physician, Joe Diaco, who has been with the franchise for all thirty years of the Buc's existence.

The Tribune unearths a few of the many stories Diaco has to share from his tenure under seven head coaches, two McKays and 26 straight losses:

The most enduring story of Diaco's uncontrolled passion for game day took place in the final regular-season contest of the 1981 season when the Bucs, under McKay, were at Detroit needing a victory to edge out the Lions for the division title and playoff berth.

In his accustomed spot on the sideline in front of the Bucs' bench, Diaco became so entranced as seconds ticked toward intermission that he called for a timeout.

"Thank God the referee did not hear me," Diaco grimaced.

McKay, however, did.

I'll spare you the suspense, McKay did not fire Diaco. Check out the article to read the rest of the story. Diaco also shares his opinion on which head coach was the most difficult and which players were the toughest.

White In

First off, I apologize for the horrible title, I'm still new to this whole "clever" thing.

Second, defensive end Dewayne White earned some much deserved props from the NFL for his block of a potentially game winning fieldgoal by the Falcons in overtime. White is the second Buc to receive the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award (punter Josh Bidwell won in weeks 3 and 6). White also forced Vick to fumble the ball, which set up an Alstott touchdown.

A Father's Mourning

This is a story which I was originally hesitant to post simply because there was no way for most of us to understand what Tony Dungy is going through, and any attempt to do so would most likely fall far short of the goal. But Coach Dungy's public morning of his son's death has convinced me that this is a story worth sharing.

First off, I wish my best to the Dungy family and friends. There can be nothing more saddening than losing a loved one, especially one so young, during the holiday season. Coach Dungy has proven he is a stronger man than myself and many others by making his mourning public to try and teach another lesson about the importance of reaching out to your children. Some people will criticize Dungy for not paying enough attention to his son, but Dungy was an especially caring father who, when he was with the Bucs, warned the organization that he would not work until all hours of the night because he wanted to pick up his children from school.

Which brings me to the James Dungy, who until a week ago was unknown to the world. James was an adult (although barely one at the age of 18) who had moved back to Tampa (from Indy) to attend college. James had planned to pursue a career in criminal justice. As you might have heard in the news James had a MySpace profile which he had updated just a day before his suicide. I feel uncomfortable about linking to this snapshot of what is obviously a tortured soul, but there remains the chance that more knowledge of what James went through could help prevent a situation like this from happening again.


Falcons intimidated by the press

As it turns out the Buc's defense is not the only thing the Falcons are intimidated by. The fourth estate can also get a rise out of the Dirty Birds.

First, Vick hangs up on Tampa reporters after they suggested Vick may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, the Falcons coach, Jim Mora Jr., is throwing microphones at reporters. It seems some Atlanta sports reporter had the audicity to ask why the Falcons punted in overtime when they had fourth and two with 1:08 remaining on the clock.

The sad thing is Mora doesn't even throw the best temper tantrums in his family (remember Mora Senior's playoff rant?). Poor Falcons, they will always be forced to play second fiddle.

UPDATE: Mora apologizes "if [he] offended anyone." Which, for the record, is one of the weakest apologies out there.



There must have been half a dozen times where it felt like the Bucs were not going to win this game. In fact, I was half way to the exit before the Bucs blocked the Falcon's fieldgoal in overtime to stay alive in the game. And I would feel worse about that if not for the fact that half the stadium was doing the same thing. The Bucs were done when Edell Shepherd fumbled the ball on their opening kickoff of overtime.

But when the Bucs blocked that kick the stadium went crazy. But the roller coaster game that today's game was, the Bucs still missed a close field goal in overtime because of a bad snap and hold. When the Falcons got the ball back I thought the game was going to end in a tie. And nobody likes kissing their sister.

Sure enough though, Matt Bryant (who I attacked for losing the Bear's game a few weeks back) came through in the end, with 20 seconds left, to win the game for the Bucs. And with Carolina's loss, the Bucs are back at the top of the NFC South (with an outside chance at a first round bye). And considering how weak the NFC is this year if the Bucs (or any NFC team) gets hot they can take the conference.

And a note to the Falcons fan sitting behind me. The first time you yelled "No Flag League" after the refs did not call a penalty was weakly clever. The tenth time you yelled "No Flag League" was getting annoying. By the twentieth time I was about ready to beat you with a tire iron until you were incapable of breathing, much less yelling.

And one more thing, Vick = overrated. What's his record this season? 8-6, on a team that is going to miss the playoffs? How did he make it to the Pro Bowl over Eli or Brunell?

Interview with a Falcons blogger

I meant to post his interview earlier but I have found little free time in between last minute Christmas shopping and trying to convince old high school friends to go to Mons at 3 in the morning (in both cases I have had no luck). Douglas Scott runs a poorly named blog called Vick for MVP. Please excuse any typos in the interview as I'm still hung over from last night (you are a cruel mistress Beam and coke). Douglas thinks Vick is better than Eli Manning, Delhomme or Brad Johnson despite the fact that all three latter quarterbacks have better records and better passer ratings.

Best Bucs Blog: The Falcons had two losses through their first seven games, but recently the team has been on a downslide with four losses in their last seven games. what happened?

Douglas: that loss at home against the packers pretty took everyone by surprise, since then we've been falling behind in games early and its been tough to climb back
bestbucsblog (1:13:05 PM): how did the falcons lose to green bay? samkon gado turned into a house hold name after that win.

Douglas: Thats the game pretty much everyone realized we had no run defense, when a no-name who was green bays 3rd or 4th running back of the year comes in and rushes for 100+ yds and 3 td, well fell down 14-0 early in the 1st qtr and were unable to overcome that

Douglas: we fell down*

Best Bucs Blog: what's the difference between the atlanat defense this year and the defense from last year? as i remember it atlanta had a good defense last season.

Douglas: the main difference that i can think of is that we simply got better play out of kerney and brady smith. our secondary has always been suspect, itd be nice if they all played like d-hall

Best Bucs Blog: speaking of dante hall, he's one of three players from the falcon's defense to make it to the pro bowl. six players in total made it to the pro bowl. who else from the falcons would you have liked to see make the pro bowl?

Douglas: probably just demorrio williams... and i think he missed out mostly because he's not a household name yet. he leads the team in tackles and has had some big interceptions and fumbles

Best Bucs Blog: with so much talent on the roster does jim mora jr. risk getting fired if he doesn't make the playoffs?

Douglas: i dont think his job's in jeapordy yet. he just needs to do a better job of keeping his composure and keeping the team focused. we have plenty of talent but we just havent been able to win the big games and that may be moras fault...

Best Bucs Blog: it does seem likes he's loses his cool on the sidelines fairly often

Douglas: yeah last week against chicago i actually thought he got ejected from the game, which has to be pretty tough to do, when he almost hit the ref on the sideline

Best Bucs Blog: how about if the falcons don't make the playoffs next season? does mora lose his job?

Douglas: then his job will be on the line, unless of course vick suffers some serious injury. then of course he'll probably get a free pass.

Best Bucs Blog: if only that had worked for dan reeves

Best Bucs Blog: what do the falcons need to do well to win saturday's game against the bucs?

Douglas: vick and the defense need to come out and look sharp. when the falcons face a quick, tough defense they get rattled easily. thats when you start seeing 3 and out after 3 and out. and maybe we can miraculously stop the run... thatd always be nice

Best Bucs Blog: who is the better quarterback, vick or delhomme?

Douglas: i'll take vick over delhomme anyday... if the two of them swapped teams, and vick had carolinas defense playing behind him and steve smith as a weapon, i think he'd play great. as for delhomme with our WR i think he'd have his struggles. i guess we'll just have to see who performs better in the pro bowl.

Best Bucs Blog: how about, vick or brad johnson?

Douglas: brad johnson in his prime was a good QB, but hes about done so i'll go with vick again

Best Bucs Blog: vick or eli manning?

Douglas: eli's tough, he can either turn out like his brother or continue making terrible decisions. but at the same time im pretty sure eli is doing much better than peyton was at the same time in his career. i think vick has potential to be a superstar as soon as he and his WR mature. i think the only QB i'd take over vick right now is peyton.

Douglas: ive grown so accustomed to watching vick, even though he pisses me off half the time, that i cant imagine having anyone else as a QB for the falcons

Best Bucs Blog: really? I can understand that. Many times I've seen Vick make great plays to beat the Bucs, the kind of plays only Vick could make

Douglas: theres just that potential for him to do something amazing on any given play

Best Bucs Blog: yeah, that's what worries me about vick, but there's also the potential for his to go down for the season on one hit, so it goes both ways I guess

Douglas: yeah he definately needs to do a better job of getting rid of the ball instead of forcing a play if nothings there, but i guess thats the part of the maturing process

Best Bucs Blog: anyway, thanks douglas for your help with the interview. I'll be at the game saturday, so I'll have a chance to see first hand what your boy Vick van do


Bucs Pro Bowlers

Here's the full list.

Who's in: Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Josh Bidwell

Who's out: Joey Galloway

This was a tough year to be a wide receiver and get into the Pro Bowl. Steve Smith and Santana Moss are the two clear cut choices in the NFC, but I don't see how Torry Holt or Larry Fitzgerald get in over Galloway. The difficulty with voting in receivers from losing teams is that teams with poor records tend to throw the ball more often that winning franchises. Here are the receiving stats for these three guys in order of total receiving yards:

5. Larry Fitzgerald . . . . . 1,236 yards . . . . . 8 tds
6. Joey Galloway . . . . . . 1,152 yards . . . . . 8 tds
7. Torry Holt . . . . . . . . . 1,128 yards . . . . . 8 tds

All three guys have near identical stats, and all three receivers have had to deal with at least two different quarterbacks during the season. The are a lot of similarities between these three receivers but where Galloway should have distanced himself from the crowd, his team's winning record, was completely ignored by the voters. Galloway deserved a spot in the Pro Bowl and anyone who has seen him play would agree with me.

While waiting for the Pro Bowlers to be announced

Quality work at Hey Jenny Slater. This Jeremy Piven fan compares each college football program to a Simpson character. For example:

Virginia Tech: Krusty the Klown
Famous, powerful, living the kind of celebrity life anyone in his circle would gladly trade for. Yet each is haunted by his own demons of self-loathing -- Krusty is constantly worried he's going to be exposed as a no-talent fraud, while the Hokies are constantly worried they really are going to be pumping gas one day for the kids over in Charlottesville.

Little heavy on the SEC schools, but hey I've got no problem with a little SEC bias (they are the superior football conference).


Cadillac will win Rookie of Year

The official announcement has not been made but the numbers heading into the last two weeks of the season have been announced and Cadillac Williams is the leading vote getter for the Rookie of Year award. The only thing that is surprising about the competition for the award is that Heath Miller, not Ronnie Brown, is the second leading vote getter. Ronnie Brown did not even crack the top five.

1. Cadillac - 219,736
2. Heath Miller, TE (Steelers) - 217,928
3. DeMarcus Ware, OLB (Cowboys) - 104,592
4. Chris Kluwe, P (Vikings) - 100,555
5. Odell Thurman, ILB (Bengals) - 88,715

If ever there has been proof that these kinds of awards (and I include the Pro Bowl) should not be voted on by the fans this is it. Cadillac has 947 yards on 237 carries (4.0 yards per carry). Ronnie Brown has 886 yards on 199 carries (4.5 yards per carry). These numbers are about even, and if Ronnie did not have to split carries with Ricky Williams he could probably win the award.

EDIT: I'm an idiot, these numbers are for the leading rookie vote getters for the Pro Bowl, NOT the Rookie of the Year. As always, discount everything I just said.

Except that.

And that.


The Great Detroit Orange Out

In case you missed, my favorite story from over the weekend was the protest by Lions fans in an effort to try and get Lion's GM Matt Millen fired. Ever since a Lions fan held up a paper bag sign at a home game declaring "Fire Millen" the Lions faithful have rallied around this one theme, getting Millen fired. Chants of "Fire Millen" have been repeated at Lions games, home Red Wings games, hell even the Red Wing's game in Washington.

All this angst culminated this weekend with a planned Orange Out of the Lion's home game against the Bengals. Many Lion's fan planned to wear orange to support the Bengals and declare their extreme displeasure with a team which has been miserable for years. Before the game a local radio station organized a protest march to the stadium.


4th Quarter

I missed almost the entire fourth quarter because Huey was busy producing "The Adventures of Black Jesus" but I imagine, from the score, that all I missed was Sexy Rexy continuing to make plays while the Sunday Night Crew continued to sing his praise.

You know sometimes miking up a player works for the best and sometimes it backfires. Miking Alex Brown tonight can be labeled as the latter. Normally, Brown is more than willing to talk some smack but this game just lacks the energy necessary to produce good smack talk.

And as long as I'm talking about former defensive lineman for the Gators, how about Ian Scott, defensive tackle for the Bears? I went to middle school with this guy back in Gainesville, and I had a lot of the same classes as him. I'm not gonna lie and say we were friends, but Ian was a really chill guy in middle school with a sense of humor. Of course, if he plays the Bucs in the playoffs I'm hoping he breaks his leg or something like that.

Oh good God, the Sunday Night Crew has started talking about everything except the game, which is always dangerous. I have no idea where this conversation will go, it could end up with them talking the best coaches in the NFL. Or it could end up with them talking about a mustard stain on their green tie.

My apologies, Madden was the one who droaned on about his magical color changing/mustard stained tie last week.

Another thing which bugs me about the Sunday Night Crew is obviously fake background. Sure they probably have no control over that but ESPN has been using the computer generated background since at least last year. The thing just looks cheesy, like something out of a bad 70's movie.

And game over, Bears win 16-3. This game marks the beginning of the legend that will be Rex Grossman but for now the Bears are 10-4. Falcons can basically kiss the playoffs goodbye. Check in tomorrow for my week in review column.

3rd Quarter

Sweet, Sexy Rexy just stepped into the game and quickly completed a first down pass on a perfectly thrown ball. Just to be clear Grossman deserves the start over Orton. Not only is Grossman the better player but he lost his job because of an injury. NFL players are not supposed to lose their jobs because of injury. I've been pulling for Grossman to take over the starting duties since the Bears faced the Bucs, and now Sexy Rexy finally has his chance to sign.

And in another sign that Sexy Rexy is destined for greatness the Sunday Night Crew immediately attacks the decision. Sexy Rexy throws another first down.

My boy Sexy Rexy throws an interception but the Falcons player fumbles the ball which is recovered by a Bears receiver on the one yard line. Clearly, Grossman meant to throw an interception, knowing the outcome of the play would be a touchdown opportunity for the Bears.

And then to top the night off for me, ESPN plays the LeBrons commercial, where LeBron plays four different characters. No one has mentioned these commercials are an obvious ripoff of Clinton Portis's weekly costume changes.

Right after the Sunday Night Crew mentions Vick has only completed five passes, the Illusion completes a pass. To the other team. First interception of the night for Vick.

The Sunday Night Crew has pulled a 180 and is now praising Sexy Rexy, who continues to throw for first downs. I'm calling it right now, Bears face off against the Colts in the Super Bowl.

Sexy Rexy has completed more passes in half a quarter than either Orton or Vick did in the first half.

Another field goal by Chicago, who is now up 16-3. If Atlanta does not score soon they can kiss their playoff chances goodbye.

Just to give y'all a heads up when 11 rolls around I'm going to be switching to the Boondocks, the funniest new show on television. The fact that shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Two and a Half Men get higher ratings than Boondocks is a travashamockery.

2nd Quarter

The Falcons are the first team to put points on the board, but I'm still distracted by the Victoria's Secret commercial so I can't tell you the keys plays on the drive for the Falcons. I can share this Sexy picture with you though.

Twenty minutes into the game and Orton completes his first pass in six attempts. How is Sexy Rexy not starting by now?

Wow, an end around by the Bears gains 28 yards. I try that play all the time in Madden and typically get stuffed for five yards. All Atlanta had to do was keep it's backside defensive end outside of the ball, how tough is that?

On third and nine Orton badly overthrows his tightend in the flats. Vick celebrates quietly, confident in the fact that he is finally the NOT the worst passer in a NFL game.

Oh yeah, the game is tied up at 3-3 now.

Vick's last two passes have been deflected by Bear's defenders. Each time it appeared as though Vick was trying to throw the ball to the opposing players. First time Vick threw right at the Urlacher who was probably so surprised by the throw he did not have time to try and catch the ball.. Second time Vick throws into double coverage over the middle.

Poor throw by Orton, and if DeAngelo Hall is any good he picks off the underthrown pass. Instead, Hall picks up a pass interference penalty on Muhsin Muhammed.

6-3, Bears. I might have picked a lousy game to live blog.

Joe Thiesman declares that this has been a well played game by both teams, despite the weather. Clearly he has not been paying attention to the quarterbacks the entire game.

Bears, backed up at their own five yard line with 1:45 to go decide to run the ball instead of attempting to drive down the field. How is this not an indictment of Orton?

And it's somehow working, Thomas Jones just ran to his 43 yard line. Poor play calling by the Bears as Orton passes on first down. Note to Bears, dance with the horse that brought you to the dance, i.e. keep running the ball.

For some reason the Sunday night crew attacks the Bears punter for holding onto the ball too long and getting the punt blocked. Except the Bears punter did not take too long. The Bears offensive line refused to block anyone on the punt attempt, which resulted in about five unblocked Falcons players in the punter's face.

First half ends with the Bears up 6-3.

And as long as we have a break in the game go check out Windy City Gridiron (a Bears blog) and Vick for MVP (Falcons blog).

Oh yeah, and fear the neckbeard.

Live bloggin' the Bears-Falcons game: 1st quarter

The game has not even started yet and Vick looks miserable. The Sunday night crew just mentioned this is the coldest game Vick has ever played in which is not surprising considering he grew up and played college ball in Virginia.

It's -3 degrees with the windchill in Chicago.

By the way, the temptation to make a Ron Mexico/Simplex joke will be difficult to resist. I can't promise I will try to resist making a Herpes joke, but I will promise to try to try.

Orton's first throw is a deep one which is underthrown so badly the receiver could not catch the ball even after pushing the defender away from him. Clear cut case of offensive pass intereference and the ref refuses to throw the flag.

Someone on the atrocious Sunday night crew mentions that Brian Urlacher is the fastest player on the Bear's defense, which is obviously not true. Urlacher is fast, for a middle linebacker, but he's not as fast as the corners. No middle linebacker is faster than any corner or else they would be playing corner, which is a higher paid position than middle linebacker.

The Sunday night crew (Paul McGwire I believe) actually mentions something interesting. Apparently the Bears did not play at Soldier's Field until 1971, before that they played for fifty years at Wrigley Field. Soldier's Field was actually built in the 1920's and was named after veterans from the the first World War. For some reason that is much cooler than naming your stadium after a couple of rich investors.

The best player for the Falcons so far has been their punter Keonon (sp?), who has two punts within yards of the goal line.

In case you didn't know how much I despise ESPN's Sunday night crew you are going to find out. One of them just mentioned (Paul McGwire again I think) that Thomas Jones was not a success at Tampa Bay, which is obviously not true. Jones had a great finish to the season and the Bears outbid the Bucs for his services during the offseason.

I was all excited for the new Family Guy tonite but it has been preempted by the President's national address. I'm sure the Iraq War and national security is more important than a bunch of fart jokes but damnit, I want to watch the fart jokes.

I'm loving the Victoria's Secret commercials but how is buying lingerie for my girlfriend any different form buying her a frying pan. In both cases I getting her something that would benefit myself. Not that that doesn't mean I'm not considering buying her lingerie for Christmas.

In the past fortyfive minutes the temperature had dropped to 9 degrees, or -7 degrees with the windchill.

Bad news for the Falcons. They had great field position for the first quarter and could not put points on the board. At some point the Bears will get their ground game going which will spell trouble for Atlanta.

You know you're excited

Today marks the return of live blogging with Sunday night's matchup between the Bears and the Falcons. In each quarter I will be posting observations and lame attempts at jokes.

Just a note on the Colts loss today, all praise to Allah that the Chargers won that game and saved me from another week of having to listen to talking heads pontificate on why the Colts would go for the undefeated record. The whole non-story had become so ridiculous you had guys on ESPN's pregame show arguing that an undefeated record is more important than a Super Bowl victory.

Which is obviously a load of crap.

Anyway, this means sports columnists will be forced to concentrate on a real story, like . . . oh, I don't know, maybe the tight playoff race in the NFC? Where the only team which has locked up its division is Seattle?

Which leads me to tonight's game, between the Falcons and Bears. I'm rooting for the Falcons in this one, but not because I think Vick is the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. For the Bucs to still have a chance at a home playoff game, Carolina needs to lose a game, while the Bucs need to win out.

So if Atlanta wins today, all three teams (Bucs, Bears, and Falcons) will have records of 9-5. Tampa Bay beats Atlanta at home, which means Atlanta needs to beat Carolina the last week of the season to get into the playoffs. Of course, Carolina needs one more loss for the Bucs to lock up the NFC South and a home playoff game. Plus if Chicago picks up two more losses (against Atlanat and Minnesota), then the Bucs could potentially get a first round bye if Carolina losses and the NFC East continues to beat each other up. Follow?


Bucs get lunch handed to them

You let who score on you? Tom Ashworth?

When a no name offensive lineman beats you for a touchdown you know the day is not going well for you.

Anyway, I missed the first half of the game 'cause I was playing football with the guys (on the bright side my team won in that game) so I can't pinpoint where things went wrong. But judging by the score it looks like a whole lot of things went wrong.

Picking up in the second half, the Bucs were just dominated on both sides of the ball. Simms never had time to throw the ball 'cause there was almost always a blitzer in his face. And the defense could not stop the Pats from moving the ball down the field. There's probably a silver lining to this game but I sure as hell didn't see it.

Feel free to leave your rant about the game (or, if you are not a Bucs fan, your boast) in the comments section.


Bucs vs. Pats Preview

Alex Smith has been a much better than expected draft pick for the Bucs this season. Lost in the rookie hoopla over Cadillac Williams, Smith has gotten progressively better as the season has gone on. Initially lauded for his hands and his ability to stretch the field, Smith has gained more playing time because of his blocking.

The first week, Smith hauled in two touchdowns while getting five balls thrown his way. Since then, Smith's targets per game have dropped in half, to 2.7, and he has not caught a single touchdown. Instead, Smith has impressed his coaches with his blocking, culminating with his performance last week against the Panthers. Several times (as Gruden likes to do with his tightends) Smith was put one-on-one with Pro Bowler Julius Peppers. Sure, Peppers was playing injured but Smith had little trouble blocking the best defensive end in the NFL.

The Patriots are favored by five going into Saturdays matchup against the Bucs. And to be honest, I'm not sure what will be more annoying: the number of time the announcers mention these are the last two teams to win a Super Bowl or the number of time the announcers remind us that the Bucs have not won many games in the cold.

Anyway, as always I will be using stats from Football Outsiders, for a more detailed description of these stats go here.

Offense. Defense. Special Teams.

Buc's offense vs Pat's defense

DVOA . . . . Buc's offense . . . . Pat's defense
Passing . . . 4.7% (#13) . . . . . . . 40.5% (#30)
Rushing . . -8/9% (#21) . . . . . . -7.5% (#14)

The Buc's rushing attack would be rated higher except for Cadillac's injury. As good as Alstott and Pittman are they both depend on Cadillac to get things going for them. Cadillac had a great deal of success against Carolina last week, despite the fact that Carolina consistently put eight man in the box.

New England's defense has been one of the more injury plagued units (with the exception of the Eagle's offense) in the NFL. Unfortunately, many of the guys in the front seven have returned from injury recently. The key (depending on the weather) will be the play of New England's secondary which has been pulling guys off the street to play defensive back.

It will be interesting to see how two of the better schemers in the NFL, Belichick and Gruden, handle the blitz. New England under Belichick has made a name for themselves as one of the more exotic blitzing teams. Gruden has been utilizing max protection for his young quarterback, and, as I mentioned before, Gruden has not shied away from doing the unorthodox, by using a tighend to pass block against a defensive end.

Pat's offense vs Buc's defense

DVOA . . . . Pat's offense . . . . Buc's defense
Passing . . . 30.0% (#5) . . . . . . -9.5% (#11)
Rushing . . . -5.7% (#15) . . . . . -19.1% (#2)

Does anyone have a good explanation for the turn around by the Bucs defense? Last season they were one of the better teams against the pass, but this season they are much better against the run than they are against the pass. Maybe the addition of Chris Hovan or the fact the Bucs are more frequently playing with a lead has something to do with it. Or maybe it's something else entirely. I don't know.

Corey Dillon's return from injury has restored balance to an offense which relied heavily on Tom Brady early in the season. But now, Brady may be injured (but with Belichick you never know what's going on) and last time I heard this Tom guy's pretty good.

I really can't get a good feel for how this game will go. Conventional wisdom says, especially considering the weather, it will be a low scoring affair. But then again, if you look at the stats, both offenses have an advantage when they pass the ball. Of course, the Bucs have been winning games recently by playing Bucs ball, i.e. running the ball and playing tight defense in close games.

Who is college football's winningest coach?

As the build up to January 3rd's Orange Bowl begins the one story you can be sure the media will run with is that the two head coaches stand at 1 and 2 in terms of total wins (not that I blame them, there is very little else that is compelling about this matchup). 'Course everyone knows that Daddy Bowden is #1 (with 359), and JoePa is a very close second (with 353), right? Only thing is that, may not be right.

See, Bowden accumulated 31 one of his victories at Samford College, which did not play in Division 1-A at the time. Samford currently plays in Division 1-AA. But because of a quirk in the NCAA rule book those 31 wins count as 1-A victories, and thus Bowden is Division 1-A's all time winningest coach, except he's really not. Follow?

John Gagliardi, St. John's University of Minnesota head coach (Division III), holds the current record for most wins by a head coach (549). I'm no rocket scientest but I'm pretty sure Bowden should not be able to lay claim to all time winningest coach in all divisions or just Division 1-A.


Congrats, Ronde

Ronde Barber wins NFC defensive player of the week.

Why the AFC is superior to the NFC

If Chicago's loss to Pittsburgh this weekend drove one point home, it is that the NFC is a much weaker conference than the AFC. Pittsburgh is currently the sixth seed in the AFC and they absolutely walloped the Bears, the second seed in the NFC. Hell, if the Chargers played in the NFC they would at least be the second best team. Instead San Diego may not even make the playoffs.

What's the difference between the two conference? Why is the top tier of teams of one so much better than the top tier of the other?

It ain't 'cause of defense. Statistically (points allowed), the Bears, Bucs, Panthers and Seahawks are four of the top five defenses in the NFL.

It ain't cause the AFC has better runningbacks. Two of the the top three rushers come from the NFC (Shaun Alexander and Tiki Barber).

In case you have not already figured out where I'm going here, the reason the NFC is so much weaker is because of the quarterbacks. Just look at the top teams in the NFC and who is under center for each of these contenders for the Super Bowl.

Seattle - Matt Hasselbeck
Chicago - Kyle Orton/Sexy Rexy
New York- My Other Brother Eli
Tampa Bay- Chris Simms
Carolina- Jake Delhomme
Dallas- Drew Bledsoe
Minnesota- Brad Johnson

Not exactly a Pro Bowl roster we're talking about here. Compare them to the AFC's top quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlesberger and Tom Brady. I would take any one of these guys over any NFC quarterback which I listed above.

Right now, the only guys that have won playoff games are Delhomme, Bledsoe, and Brad Johnson. And Bledsoe and Johnson are no longer with the teams they went to the playoffs with.

Then you have guys like My Other Brother Eli, Kyle Orton/Sexy Rexy and Simms who are untested in the playoffs. At some point in the future these guys may lead a team to the Super Bowl, but right now these youngin's are still learning how to play in the NFL.

The only guys I would trust to quarterback my team in the playoffs, Delhomme and Hasselbeck. I like both these guys in the playoffs but they neither one is drawing comparisons to Brett Favre. Delhomme tends to throw turnovers, and losses as many games for his team as he wins.

Which leaves Hasselbeck as the best quarterback in the NFC by process of elimination, who is actually a vastly underrated quarterback. He's suffered the past couple of seasons from receivers with hands made of butter, but with the addition of Joe Jurevicious this season Hasselbeck has established hisself as one of the top three qbs in the NFC.

But even if Seattle gets to the Super Bowl they would have to be the underdogs to Indy or Denver or which ever team represents the AFC.


Some More Internet Goodness

Once I get started I just can't stop. There's just too much goodness to be found out there in the electronic nether regions.

Next stop is Birds and Braves. B 'n B is a rarity in Atlanta. Most Atlanta sports bloggers would rather suck Vick's dick than provide insightful commentary, but not the B 'n B.

I still feel conflicted about Michael Vick because he's a good player, but not a superstar and the Falcons are paying him to be the latter. His enormous cap number is going to make it hard to assemble a championship team around him. Also, his standoffishness this year, specifically the "don't criticize me if we're winning," is less than endearing.

To recap, Vick is about as good as Chris Simms, but he's getting paid like Peyton Manning. Plus, he's been a bigger bitch than Peyton.

More Internet Goodness

Via Deadspin, an intersting story about Chris Simms.

It was about 4 a.m. in Austin, which if you know Austin means there’s a steady migration from downtown back to campus (post hook-up, late night grubbin’, etc. after Sixth Street shuts down). We were standing outside his dorm at Dobie near the parking garage just off Guadalupe. He sees a tricked-out white escalade making its way up the street and going into the parking garage. Behind the wheel is none other than Simms.

The story get's much more interesting from there.

Internet Goodness

I only mention it because sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Illusion here - the Illusion from Atlanta. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Illusion, from Atlanta.

(In case you were wondering what that was all about, we're talking about a blog after my own heart. And 50 Best Bucs points to the person who can name where I stole the quote from.)

Weekend in Review

Current NFC Playoff Picture:

1. Seattle (11-2)
2. Chicago (9-4)
3. New York (9-4)
4. Tampa Bay (9-4)
5. Carolina (9-4)
6. Minnesota (8-5)

7. Dallas (8-5)
8. Atlanta (8-5)
9. Washington (7-6)

Except for Seattle, who has pretty much locked up the NFC, the conference is wide open. Ultimately, Seattle's and Chicago's soft divisions may give both teams the first round bye and home field advantage they need to win in the playoffs. On the other hand, which ever team's win the East and South will likely have to play in the first round of the playoffs.

At the beggining of the season how many people had picked Seattle and Chicago as the favorites in the NFC? Most people were split on St. Louis, Arizona and Seattle to win the NFC West. And the only person I knew of picking the Bears was Bill Simmons.

Remaining Schedule:

Seattle: at Tenn, vs Indy, at GB
Chicago: vs Atl, at GB, at Minn
New York: vs. Kansas City, at Wash, at Oak

Tampa Bay: at NE, vs Atl, vs NO
Carolina: at NO, vs Dal, at Atl
Minnesota: vs Pitt, at Balt, vs. Chi

Dallas: at Wash, at Car, vs STL
Atlanta: at Chi., at TB, vs Car.
Washington: vs Dal, vs NYG, at Philly

At some point some team has to get hot going into the playoffs. Right now it looks like that team is the Seahawks but once Seattle clinches homefield they will most likely rest their players. And players tend to cool off pretty quickly once they are on the bench.

Which leaves the Bucs as the second most likely team in the NFC to get hot down the stretch. Coming off a big road win against a divisional rival, the Bucs finish the season with two games at home. But then again the New England winter tends to chill even the hottest players.


Blast from the Past

Go check out Pewter Pirate's recollection on the first Buc to run for a thousand yards, Ricky Bell. Good stuff by Cutthroat, although I'm still waiting for the Trent Dilfer post where he remembers fondly that one time Dilfer threw for a 100 yards and an interception.

Fatty MgB slurps Dungy

Some insight today from Peter King, via Rich McKay, on Tony Dungy's beginning with the Bucs:

I think, as the Colts go down what could be an undefeated path, I want to go back in time a decade to when the Bucs hired Dungy. I do this to let you know that sometimes the best hire you make is not the one with the loudest trumpets. It's the smart one. The unassuming Dungy was as much Wally Cox as Bill Parcells. Look at him now. "When we hired Tony,'' recalls Rich McKay, now Atlanta's general manager, "believe me, they didn't throw any parades in Tampa. It was not a popular pick at all. We were a franchise in desperate need of credibility and stability. Only I had it reversed. We actually needed stability first, then credibility. I realized that after Jimmy Johnson and Steve Spurrier turned us down and then we had a list of maybe eight candidates. Tony was fifth or sixth on that list. I was doing some interviews out at the East-West [College All-Star] Game out west. Big-time Bucs, you know. I was interviewing guys in a hotel room, a single room, right there on the bed. Tony had broken his glasses and one of the earpieces was off the glasses. They were tilted to one side. After about an hour, I finally had to say, 'Will you please take those glasses off? They're driving me crazy.' But everything about his resume said winner.''

Everything about the early days said loser. In 1996, when the Bucs lost at home to Detroit, 27-0 in Week 5 to go 0-5, the 35,000 empty seats reminded everyone how hopeless this team was. Not Dungy. The night of the game, his wife, Lauren, asked him why he didn't just air out his underachieving masses. "Because they're really trying,'' he said. The day after the game, when McKay and Dungy gathered to watched the game tape, McKay said there was no screaming. "Tony kept saying how good the players were. I knew, walking out of that meeting, we'd be OK.'' And John Lynch, then a fourth-year Bucs safety, told me: "The problem with our franchise was we always were looking for the magic pill. And right about that time, Tony would be watching film with us and he'd say, 'The answer's right here. Look at that missed tackle.' He convinced us we were good and we didn't need any savior.''

At the time I was opposed to the Dungy firing. Not only did Dungy take the Yucs and turn them into a Super Bowl contender, but he did so while turning away guys with character issues.

You know how Notre Dame fans complain about how hard it is to recruit good (but slightly retarded) athletes because Notre Dame has such high academic standards? It's gotta be tougher to get guys to come to a struggling franchise where one run in with the law gets you kicked off the team. (Of course, if Notre Dame let men into the women's dorms after midnight they might have better luck in recruiting.)


Bucs roll over Panthers

The NFC is now wide open.

With Carolina's and Chicago's losses the NFC becomes anyone's conference to win in the playoffs. Sure, Seattle is the best team (some team has to have that distinction), but the best thing Seattle has going for them this season is consistency.

Who would have thought Carolina's first week loss would be the difference between a home playoff game for the Bucs and a cold trip to New York or Chicago in January? But with identical records and a split between the two teams, it comes down to divisional record. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today's game could have gone either way but the Bucs took advantage of good field position early in the match to slowly build a lead on the Panthers. Which was simply karma balancing out the universe, seeing as how the Bears won a few weeks ago because the started out with good field position.

Big game again by Ronde Barber and company, but this was Cadillac Williams' first 100 yard game against a quality defense. Early in the season Cadillac notched up 100 yard games against poor defensive teams (Vikings, Bills, Atlanta) but was ineffective against good rushing defenses (Washington, Carolina the first time).

Anyway, feel free to post your thoughts on the game here.

Bucs vs. Panthers Preview

In honor of Lisa Guerrero's Playboy shoot, I'm going with a Monday Night Football Edition of the Best Bucs gameday preview. As always, I will use stats from Football Outsiders. For a more detailed explanation of FO's stats go here.

Offense. Defense. Special Teams.

Buc's offense vs. Panther's defense

DVOA . . . . Buc's offense . . . . vs. Panther's defense
Rushing . . . -12.8% (#23) . . . . . . -20.3% (#4)
Passing . . . . 1.6% (#17) . . . . . . . . -14.7% (#6)

No doubt, Gruden and company have learned from their last encounter with the Panthers' defense. Gruden will use a tightend to help out Kenyatta Walker against Julius Peppers. In fact, considering how talented the Panther's front seven are, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gruden using max protect on passing downs.

And on a completely random note, tip of the hat to ABC for the Monday Night Football intros. Caught the one with Ray Romano and Lance Armstrong (last week?) and it got a chuckle out of me. Of course, thats does not excuse the country songs or any time Madden opens his mouth.

Panther's offense vs. Buc's defense

DVOA . . . . Panther's offense . . . . . vs. Buc's defense
Rushing . . . -22.4% (#29) . . . . . . . . . . -19.5% (#5)
Passing . . . . 11.3% (#12) . . . . . . . . . . . -5.8% (#14)

Ok, you caught me, this isn't so much a Monday Nigth Football edition of the preview as it is an excuse to post pictures of Lisa Guerrero. Anyway . . .

The Panther's rushing game is horrendous, whihc seems to be counter intuitive. The Panther's have a deep runningback corp headlined by Stephen Davis and DaShaun Foster. But neither back has been dominating this season (and I don't count what Foster did against Atlanta's pourous rush defense).

Which means Carolina will likely be forced to pass the ball early, which is where, statistically, Carolina holds an advantage. But if the Bucs can shut down Steve Smith (easier said than done) then Tampa Bay may be able to slow Carolina's offense. As I pointed out before, Jake Delhomme completes 69% of his passes when throwing to Smith, but only 55% when throwing to other receivers.

Shifting gears, as has been announced this is the last season for Monday Night Football before it shifts over to ESPN. The big change is that NBC will broadcast Sunday night games, which will become the week's premier game. This change was made so NBC could switch potential duds of games (i.e. Atlanta vs. New Orleans) with more promising matchups (Carolina vs. Tampa Bay). Of course, if you've seen this week's Inside the NFL you already knew all this.


After all, it's your civic duty

Vote now

Only two more weeks until Pro Bowl voting ends. A chance to send your favorite players for an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii. A chance to see the best NFL athletes compete against each other. And a chance to see coaches wear ridiculous looking Hawaian shirts.

Oh yeah, don't forget to vote for Keenan McCardell, currently with San Diego. 'Cause if Keenan make it to the Pro Bowl, the Bucs get an extra draft pick.


5 Reasons the Bucs will win on Sunday

The Panthers are favored by six points heading into Sunday's contest (which is actually one of the smaller lines on the weekend). And sure the Bucs have zero wins in their last five games against the Panthers. But here's why the Bucs will win the game.

First off, let's look what has changed since the beat down the Bucs experienced five weeks ago.

Cadillac Williams is fully healthy and recovered from his foot injury. Up until the Falcons game, Cadillac was clearly not 100 percent. He had a difficult time cutting and was not breaking many tackles. A healthy Cadillac means the Panther's defense has to respect the ground game which makes things easier for Chris Simms.

Which leads me to the second reason the Bucs will win, Simms doesn't suck as much as he did five weeks ago. I still haven't seen anything other than the Falcons game (against a really bad defense) which really impresses me about the SoP. But still, he is playing better, and has developed a rapport with Joey Galloway.

This Panther's offense has been exposed as a fraud. Force Delhomme to throw to a receiver not named Steve Smith and his productivity drops significantly. Delhomme's completion percentage when throwing just to Smith is 69%, while his completion percentage to all other players is 55%. Additionally, runningback DeShaun Foster is the second leading receiver on this team.

Last week, Foster was the first runningback to rush for over a hundred yards for Carolina. The Panthers have almost no rushing game. Stephen Davis has entered the Jerome Bettis phase of his career, i.e. only useful within five yars of the goal line. And Foster is very similar to Deuce McAllister, which I don't mean as a compliment. Deuce gets stuffed when his teams needs yards but then rushes for 8 yards on third and ten.

And the final reason the Bucs will win on Sunday, everybody is picking the Panthers in this game. Sure the Bucs play lousy on the road this season, and the Panthers have owned Gruden's team, but Carolina has only one more win than Tampa Bay. Gruden has stepped up his team's performance in big games on the road. Just look at the NFC Championship game in Philly.

Nobody gave the Bucs a chance in that game but Gruden came up with a gameplan to defeat the Eagles and get to the Super Bowl. Bucs have an outside chance at making it back to the Super Bowl (if Simms plays better), especially if they can beat Carolina. The Panthers are a worse team than people have been saying, while the Bucs are better than what popular opinion says. But then again, what do I know?

And if you're wondering why I posted pics of FSU hotties, then well, obviously you're a chick or gay. (But hey if you're both and look like any of these hotties feel free to email me)

And I thought the Barbers were the only NFL twins

20 Best Bucs Points to the person who can spot the problem with this picture.

(Hat tip to DeadSpin.


Fan for hire

Sure you could attack this guy for selling his loyalty to the Lions, but there's something to be said for the American entrepreneurial spirit (when I checked the bidding was up to $115). Plus, he's no different than every NFL player who signs with the highest bidder.

And no, he's not Saddam.


Weekend in Review

Trying out a new gimmick tonight, where I review this weekend's game using at least a thousand words for each matchup. And at the end, I will present the current NFC playoff picture.

Giants defeat Cowboys in a defensive battle to take the division lead.

In a snow bowl at Philly the Seahawks dominate the Eagles.

If not for an errant Favre throw at the end of the first half, this game would have been closer than the score suggests.

Carolina made Vick and company their bitch while retaining the division lead.

Current NFC Playoff Picture:

  1. Seattle, 10-2
  2. Chicago, 9-3
  3. Carolina, 9-3
  4. New York, 8-4
  5. Tampa Bay, 8-4
  6. Minnesota, 7-5

Stay with me here, Dallas and Atlanta have the same record as Minnesota, but due to the first tiebreaker (division record) the Vikings (4-1) edges out the Cowboys (3-2) and the Falcons (1-2). Washington at 6-6 is still in the playoff race, although they pretty much need to win out to make it to the post season.

Minnesota's soft division may be what gets them into the playoffs. With only one division game left (Chicago), the worst division record the Vikings can finish with is 4-2. Of course, the Vikings need to finish with the same record as the Cowboys and Falcons.

If Minnesota and Atlanta finish with the same record, while Dallas finishes one game behind (which is slightly more likely because of the Cowboys' difficult schedule) then Atlanta would make it into the playoffs over Minnesota because the Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.

The Buc's Christmas Eve game versus the Falcons will likely be the one game which decides which team makes it to the playoffs. I can easily see both teams entering this game with the same record. But keep a close eye on how the Vikings' and Cowboys' games, because if the Bucs stumble at Carolina and New England, Tampa Bay will need Minnesota and Dallas to drop just as many games.

So to recap, Dallas could be screwed, Atlanta owns Minnesota, and Bucs need at least two wins.


What happens if the Saints play and nobody shows up to see it?

Reported attendence was 34,411 at LSU's stadium. I'm guessing far fewer people showed up than that.

"You come out there, and I felt like it was just my family in the stands, man," said Kenyatta Walker. "It was strange. It was just dead. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

"It was just real slow. There wasn't a lot of high energy. I don't know for what reason, but sometimes, you'd look in the stands and it felt like a preseason game for a minute. So you had to mentally get yourself right."