The most annoying thing about living up here in Northern Virginia (besides the traffic) is listening to 'Skins fan complain about Alstott's two point conversion. Without fail, every 'Skins fan I meet while at a sports bar will let me know that Alstott did not cross the goal line. "But the refs called it a two point conversion, they even reviewed the play and it still stood," I attempt to argue with the 'Skins fan, but to no avail. 'Skins fans are a stubborn lot, and there's no point trying to speak reason with them.
Anyway, the odd thing about these two teams is how similar they are. Both have average quarterbacks performing better than expected. Power runningbacks fueling the offense. One go-to receiver and then nobody behind said receiver catching the ball. Each have a young tightend making a name for himself this season. And both have top ten defenses coached by two of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. And both head coaches have won Super Bowls.
Offense. Defense. Special Teams.
'Skin's Offense vs. Buc's Defense
DVOA . . . . . 'Skin's offense . . . . Buc's defense
Total . . . . . . 6.1% (#12) . . . . . . . -10.0% (#10)
Rushing . . . . 4.2% (#9) . . . . . . . -18.4% (#1)
Passing . . . . 8.3% (#10) . . . . . . . -1.9% (#15)
The severity of Mark Brunell's foot injury will likely determine if the 'Skins can win this game. Last week the 'Skins struggled against the Eagles because Brunell could not plant off his back foot. As a result, he was not able to throw the ball as hard as would have liked to and the balls tended to float on him. If this continues to be a problem the Buc's secondary should have little difficulty shutting down the 'Skins passing game.
It's the 'Skins running game which worries me. While the Buc's benefit from having the top ranked rushing defense this season, Clinton Portis, the man of many costumes, has been kryptonite to the Buc's defense. With the speed the Bucs have on defense they tend to overpursue a runningback, which leaves cutback lanes for a runningback who can find them. Portis is one of those backs with the speed and agility to find the cutbacks lanes, which means the linebackers have to be more patient and stay in their lanes when going after Portis.
In the last game most of the Buc's safeties were injured and the secondary was forced to start third stringers. This game safety Jermaine Phillips may not be able to play but hard hitting Will Allen will start if Phillips is too injured to play. Hopefully, Monte Kiffin will have realized that you have to double Santana Moss all day, considering Moss is the only receiver Brunell throws to.
Buc's Offense vs 'Skin's Defense
DVOA . . . . . Buc's offense . . . . 'Skins defense
Total . . . . . . . -5.1% (#17) . . . . . . -15.5% (#2)
Rushing . . . . . -11.3% (#24) . . . . -16.3% (#5)
Passing . . . . . 0.7% (#16) . . . . . . -14.8% (#7)
Having Cadillac back at a 100 percent should help the Buc's offense, although I doubt the Bucs will put up over 30 points again. In the last game the 'Skins defense brought the house against Simms to try and force him to make a mistake. Simms handled the blitz well and threw a couple of nice deep strikes to his receivers. I can't imagine Greg Williams (the 'Skins defensive coordinator) will repeat his mistake, so I imagine Simms will see less of the blitz. All the same, expect Gruden to use plenty of two tightend sets and max protection to simplify things for Simms.
The 'Skins secondary is banged up this time around also. The top two corners have missed the last couple of games. While rookie starting corner Carlos Rogers may be able to start, the other corner, Shawn Springs, is listed as questionable. Safety Dean Taylor, who missed the last game, will be back for this one. A depleated secondary will be another reason Greg Williams holds off on bringing the blitz as often as he did last game. Which should slow this game down, and lead to fewer scores compared to last time's 35-36 shoot out.
An argument can be made that the 'Skins are the better team. Just looking at the above statistics, the 'Skins are favored in just about every matchup. And because the last game was so close, many "experts" are picking the 'Skins to win this game. Which is one of the few things which makes me feel good about this game. Anytime Peter King is picking against your team you have to feel good about it.
I will be watching the game up here in Northern Virginia with some of my buddies who are 'Skins fans, but it sounds like a good number of 'Skins fans will be heading down to Tampa. Even though tickets have been difficult to get, many Washington fans bought airplane tickets to Tampa before last week's game with the hope of buying tickets when they get down to Tampa. And who can blame them? Mons Venus, Ybor City and Clearwater Beach sound pretty good when the DC area can expect a high of 42 degrees.
This game is going to be exciting and I'm jealous of any fans who have the opportunity to make it to Raymond James tomorrow. Go Bucs!