2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Talking Plank - Week 8

The Talking Plank - Week 8

Bucs At Cowboys:

The Bucs travel to Dallas where they are 1-8 over their history. But the Cowboys don't look to be as intimidating now with several key players now out. The Bucs have a very good chance at going into Dallas and stealing a win from a banged up team. If they do, they'll be 6-2 and well on their way to earning a playoff bid.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 8th overall (352.6y/g), 16th in points (23/g), 14th passing (221.1y/g), and 9th rushing (130.4y/g). The Cowboys' defense is ranked 11th in yards allowed (303.9y/g), 24th in points allowed (25/g), 16th against the pass (201.7y/g), and 13th against the run (102.1y/g). The Cowboys run a 3-4 defense now with a lot of disguised blitzes. They've racked up 20 sacks, though they've played some poor lines. So they will come after Garcia a lot. Fortunately for the Bucs, the Cowboys aren't very big on the defensive line, which is not the norm for a 3-4 that typically needs a lot of beef at the nose. The Bucs should be able to get enough of a running game going to make it a threat. The big key, however, will be in keeping Garcia upright for most of the game. If they can, then he will be able to take advantage of the secondary that now lacks it's best corner (suspension), and it's top back-up/replacement (injury). The Cowboys have been vulnerable in the secondary with those guys in there. They also don't get many turnovers (2 picks so far). If Galloway goes, our receivers should be able to really go after them. The Tight Ends could be a huge factor in this game, as they won't be covered by fast, slightly under sized LB's. They will be covered by big guys who are slower. So look for the Tight Ends to get a lot of balls. St. Louis had it's way with this defense last week. The Bucs should be able to have success, but they will need to pick up the blitzes and take advantage of the vacated zones. I think the offense will score often in this game.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 9th overall (292.7y/g), 4th in points allowed (15.3/g), 15th against the pass (201.1y/g), and 10th against the run (91.6y/g). The Cowboys are ranked 3rd in total offense (393.1y/g), 7th in scoring (27/g), 3rd passing (265.9y/g), and 11th rushing (127.3y/g). Once again the Bucs will be facing one of the league's highest rated offenses (something they've done most of the year). The Cowboys will, however, be without Romo at QB, meaning Brad Johnson will start again. His last outing, against a poor Rams club, was very good, and you can expect the same this game as Gruden knows Johnson much the same as he knew Gannon. The Bucs' defense has been getting its hands on balls constantly, grabbing 12 picks to date, with about a dozen dropped. The Bucs will likely want to get in Johnson's face and exacerbate the problem for him. With Felix Jones out, as well as the starting Left Guard, the Bucs will mainly need to only concentrate on stopping Barber. If they can slow or stop him, they'll put a lot of pressure on the Cowboys to beat the Bucs stellar secondary through the air. They might get a big play or two, but the secondary will likely make a lot of plays on its own, and make life difficult for Brad. The Rams are horrid on defense, and still got to Brad 3 times. Unlike a lot of the passers the Bucs have faced recently, Brad is a statue in the pocket. I expect the Bucs to rack up a couple of sacks at the very least. If the Bucs can keep Owens or Williams from getting deep on them, the Bucs could put a lid on the Cowboys' offense, something I expect for them to mostly accomplish.

On Special Teams, the Bucs come in with a sorry 4.9 yards per punt return and 21.6 per kick. They are allowing 10 yards per punt and 21.3 yards per kick. The Cowboys are getting 6.7 yards per punt and 23.9 yards per kick, while allowing 9.1 per punt and 22.6 per kick. Seems both teams have some suckage, so I guess we'll see who sucks the most. I do expec the Bucs to refocus a lot on the Special Teams play and try to turn it around. Bucs have a better punter, and the kickers are roughly the same. I expect the Bucs to play better this time around, but I don't know how much better they will be. Field position will be a big key for the Bucs, and we'll see how it turns out. I personally think neither team will see much of an edge from this group.

In the end, because of some key injuries, and because of how good the Bucs are becoming (they are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL), I see the Bucs winning this game.

Bucs 24 Cowboys 17

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bucs Win 20-10!

Well, the Bucs are starting to make it a habit of dominating teams. The Bucs are now 5-2 and in the driver's seat heading to Dallas. So let's take a look at how they did.

Offense: Garcia led the Bucs with 310 yards passing and over 70% completion rate. He made some very nice passes and generally kept the ball moving. Bryant had his second 100+ yard game for the Bucs as the main target in most pass plays. He was backed up by solid play from Clayton, who hauled in 3 passes for 30 yards. One bad moment was when Hilliard caught a pass near the goal line but got momentarily knocked out (concussion), and turned the ball over because of it. Stevens, Smith, and Gilmore combined for 8 catches for 100 yards from the Tight End spot. The Bucs were able to convert 56% of their third downs, get 402 yards of offense, and rack up over 41 minutes of possession time. The running game wasn't great, getting 97 yards on 38 carries. There were some timely runs, however, that made it a threat. It was clear that the Seahawks' game plan was to take the run away, though that strategy has yet to beat the Bucs. The offensive line gave up just one sack on 36 pass attempts to a very sack happy defense. The run blocks were good, but the gaps were constantly covered as the Seahawks consistently had 8 men in the box. Overall, the offense was able to move the ball very effectively, hitting a 47 yard TD bomb on the first offensive drive, and they were able to keep Seattle's offense on the bench.
Overall grade: A-

Defense: The defense was able to really shut the Seahawks down all game long. It was such a dominating performance that most of the 176 yards of offense came in the second half late (44 yards in the first half). The Seahawks managed just 7 first downs, and went 2 of 10 on third downs. They did manage to run for 103 yards with 45 of it on one run by Morris. The defensive line managed to keep the Seahawks in check up front for the most part, and managed to put pressure on Wallace for much of the night, especially from Adams who got after Wallace quite a few times. Unfortunately, the Bucs failed to get a sack, though one of Adams pressures just made contact as Wallace threw the ball, which Ruud then deflected and Talib picked off. The Bucs shut down the Seattle receivers for much of the night and Wallace only managed 12 of 23 for 73 yards. The Bucs defense dominated the Seahawks all game, and might have shut them out if not for poor special teams that placed the Seahawks in field goal range and then later gave up a return to mid-field that ended in a TD drive late in the contest.
Overall grade: A

Special Teams: Good golly, Ms. Molly. The coverage teams started out ok, but they went down hill as the game progressed. They put the Seahawks in field goal range twice, but the Bucs got a turn over on one of those drives. Then they let Seattle return the ball to mid-field, which led to their only TD. They gave up 36.5 yards a kick return, and 18 yards per punt return. Suck city. The return game sucked just as bad, as Jackson had all kinds of issues on punt returns (3 yards on 2 returns) and then fumbled a ball, twice, on his only kick return (getting just 4 yards). Clayton went in to return the only other regular kick off, but had to kneel for a touchback. Jackson's returns sucked, but so did the blocking in front of him. It was crappy play all around on the return teams. Bryant had a decent game, hitting 2 field goals and both extra points. He missed a 47 yard FG attempt when the snap was high, and the ball lifted on him (it was straight but short). Bidwell had an off night as well, though he did nail one for 58 yards. Just not a very good night for this unit. They really need to refocus on their assignments on the coverage and return units, and Bidwell needs to return to form. It's really bad when your special teams single handedly gave the other team their first points of a game, which made an oustanding defensive effort look not as good on the scoreboard.
Overall grade: F

Coaching: Gruden had another solid offensive game plan, though the running game was only effective in spots. The call to strike deep early paid off big time and put huge pressure on Seattle's offense right off the bat. Monte had an excellent game as well, as his defense had one of its most dominating performances and could have possibly shut the Seahawks out with better special teams play. Bisaccia's group sucked. Big time. They really need to step back up to the plate and start hitting on their assignments again. Bisaccia's group drags the overall grade down one letter.
Overall grade: B

The Bucs dominated the Seahawks after dominating the Panthers the prior week. The defense has now completely dominated the last three teams we have faced and 4 of the last 5 teams. Now this exteremly well balanced team (8th on offense and 9th on defense -4th in points allowed) will go up to Big D and take on what appears to be a Romo-less Cowboys team. If the Bucs can pull a win off here, they will just about be in the driver's seat in the NFC.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Talking Plank - Week 7

The Talking Plank - Week 7

Seahawks At Bucs:

After pummeling the kitties last week, the Bucs get to take on a team that has befuddled them since the 1999 season. Seattle comes in banged up at key positions on offense, and looks to be a wounded duck. This is a trap game that the Bucs need to be ready for. If they don't come out to play, they can still loose.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 11th overall (344.3y/g), 13th in points (23.5/g), 16th passing (208.3y/g), and 6th rushing (136y/g). The Seahawks' defense is ranked 27th overall (355.8y/g), 29th in points allowed (30.2/g), 22nd against the pass (229.6y/g), and 23rd against the run (126.2y/g). The Bucs could have Galloway back in this game, which, if healthy, will give the Bucs the big strike capability they need to further stretch defenses. If so, this should allow Graham and Dunn to have big games against a defense that has really struggled this year. The Bucs brought Jameel Cook back to play FB in front of Graham and Dunn, so Graham could play at tailback again, and the Bucs will probably be using Graham a lot. The Bucs may attempt to strike quickly by going deep against a secondary that, though talented, has been giving up a lot of big plays and quick scoring drives. Trufant and Jennings have failed to get a pick, with Grant getting Seattle's lone pick, and he has been banged up. The big key will be keeping Garcia upright, as the Seahawks come in with 13 sacks, and sacked the Bucs 5 times last year. Keeping Kearney at bay will be goal number one. I don't expect them to get the pressure they got last year due to the better play, and location of this game. What I do expect to see is Garcia coming out trying to hit some big plays early, then leaning heavily on the run. If they can do that, then they will be able to rack up points.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 13th overall (312.2y/g), 4th in points allowed (16.2/g), 19th against the pass (222.5y/g), and 9th against the run (89.7y/g). The Seahawks' offense is ranked 27th overall (274.8y/g), 22nd in points (20/g), 31st passing (137.6y/g), and 5th rushing (137.2y/g). The Seahawks will likely be starting Wallace at QB, though Frye could still go if Wallace can't play. With all of Seattle's core receivers banged up or on IR, all three QB's, including Hasslebeck (Out), have ratings in the 50's. Wallace hasn't thrown a pick, nor a TD. Frye has thrown 2 TD's and 3 picks. Both are averaging less than 4 yards a throw, though. Seattle has had to lean heavily on the running game, and it's been pretty solid with Julius Jones and TJ Duckett running the ball. But when teams are pretty one dimensional, the Bucs have a tendancy to completely shut them down. The Bucs shut down the potent Panther offense last week, holding their runners to 40 yards on 20 carries (2y/c). Expect more of the same. It doesn't help that Jones gave the Bucs bulletin board material by calling them old (even though that only applies to three defenders), and that he would use athleticism to get by our guys. Carter put that up in the locker room. You can bet that the Bucs are going to stuff the run and force the Seahawks to try to beat them in the air. I think Seattle will find it very difficult to score on this defense. I can also see some sacks and some turnovers.

On Special Teams, the Bucs are averaging 5.5 yards per punt return, and 22.6 yards per kick return. They are allowing 9.3 per punt and 18.9 per kick. The Seahawks are averaging 10.9 yards per punt return and 22.6 yards per kick return, while giving up a whopping 14.3 yards per punt and 23.4 yards per kick. The Bucs should be able to get Jackson going on punts in this game. Field position will likely be in favor of the Bucs for most of this game, at least after punts. Ryan had one blocked, and has struggled at times. The Seahawks do have Mare to kick off and kick field goals, so they can score points from a distance. Bryant had his first miss last week, from 51 yards, but nailed a 49 yarder right after. Overall, I like our chances at having solid field position over the Seahawks and being able to get points off of drives.

With this game being the Mike Alstott commerative game, and the supposed installation of the Bucs ring of honor, the team should be plenty fired up. If they come to play, which I expect they will, the Bucs shouldn't have too much of a problem against the Seahawks. But they need to show up and take care of business.

Bucs 24 Seattle 10

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bucs Re-sign Cook

Well, with Storer out for the season, and Askew still out, the Bucs went out and picked up Jameel Cook to come back in and play Fullback for the Bucs. Cook knows the offense, and is a solid FB. He's not a great blocker, but should be good enough to let the backs do what they do. This will allow Graham to run the ball again, something he wasn't able to do much of after Storer went down, and that likely cost us a couple of short yardage 3rd down conversions.

A good solid pick-up that will allow us to continue to properly use our weapons and not throw the primary running load on Dunn.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bucs Win 27-3!! Spank Them Kittens!

The Bucs really took it to the Panthers today. Oh how nice it is to finally leave Ray Jay after beating the Panthers. That last happened in 2002. Let's take a look at how this game went.

Offense: Garcia looked much better in this game than he had in Game 1. The happy feet were gone, as the protection was very solid. The Bucs were able to move the ball quite well on the Panthers' number 4 defense, and managed to rack up 20 points on them as well. Graham didn't get to run the ball much due to Storer going out with an injury, forcing Graham to play fullback the rest of the game. He played it quite well, blowing people up in front of Dunn who became the first back to rush for over 100 yards on the Panthers' this season. The Tight Ends and the backs were the key targets in the passing game, given how the match-ups went (remember my mention of Stevens being a good mismatch - though Smith became a bigger target in this game). The receivers were only thrown to a few times, catching 4 passes. Clayton caught both passes sent his way, with one being a nice 22 yard slant. Bryant was interfered with on one deep ball, but the refs had problems with the rule book all game long. The offensive line dominated the Panthers up front, and kept Garcia clean with no sacks in the game (third no sack game of the season). In general, the offense rolled through one of the league's best defenses, and made it look easy at times.
Overall grade: A-

Defense: The Bucs' defense was ready to kick some kitty butt. The Bucs were flying to the ball and laid some wood on a few plays including knocking the ball out of a receivers hands on one play by knocking him into next week. The defensive line wasn't able to sack Delhomme, but consistently pushed the pocket up into his face and made him feel their prescence. They also stopped the Panthers' potent rushing attack by closing up the gaps and making the tackles or letting the linebackers come up freely to get it done. Ruud, Brooks, and June all had solid games, with Ruud and Brooks both getting there hands on passes that should have been picked. The secondary picked off three passes on their own. The Bucs really could have had 7 picks in this game, with Adams and Barber also dropping one each. In the end, the Bucs held the Panthers to a single field goal, and physically and mentally outplayed the kitty cats.
Overall grade: A

Special Teams: The punting was excellent, as Bidwell continued to nail some nice long punts and also nailed a couple inside the 20. One of these landed around the 1 yard line, though it was originally ruled that Sabby touched the ball while being in the endzone, but replays, and the challenge review, revealed that Sabby didn't touch it. Matt Bryant nailed 2 of 3 field goals, missing a 50 yarder, but later nailing a 49 yarder. He also had solid kick offs and hit every extra point. The punt coverage team was alright, but had one huge play on the first punt of the game when Geno Hayes broke free in the middle of the line and blocked the punt, then scooped it up and ran it back for a TD. That put the Bucs up 7-0, and turned out to be the winning points. The kick coverage team was much better than the punt coverage. Dexter Jackson had a rough start in this game when he setup to far up field on a punt, and ran back to get it, then tried running backward to out race the coverage, only to loose 11 yards from where he caught it. He made up for it, though, with some big punt returns after that, running straight up the field. He also was solid, though not spectacular, on kick returns, averaging just over 22 yards a kick. Nice effort by this group overall.
Overall grade: B+

Coaching: Gruden had a much better game plan this week, and really made the Panthers work hard on defense to try and stop the Bucs' offense. Once the Bucs got up big, the Bucs just switched into run mode, and still ran it. Monte also had an excellent game plan, giving Delhomme numerous looks, and putting his defense in position to make a lot of plays. The defense had 10 passes defensed with 3 picks. In the end, they only gave up 3 points to a very potent offense. Bisaccia's special teams played well, though you have to wonder why Jackson keeps running backwards at times. A little more coaching him up and maybe we'll have a decent returner out of him.
Overall grade: B+

This was a great game. For once we got to lay the wood to the stinkin' Panthers at Ray Jay and send them home sulking. We also grabbed 1st place in the division with a 2-1 division record. Next stop...Mike Alstott ceremonial game against the Seahawks on Sunday night.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Talking Plank - Week 6

The Talking Plank - Week 6

Panthers At Bucs:

After a heartening loss to the Broncos, the Bucs find themselves in a position where they don't want to lose a critical NFC South game to the stinkin' Panthers.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 7th in offense (350.2y/g), 16th in points (22.8/g), 12th passing (215.4y/g), and 8th rushing (134.8y/g). The Panthers' defense is ranked 4th in yards allowed (254.4y/g), 4th in points allowed (14/g), 3rd against the pass (156y/g), and 13th against the run (98.4y/g). The Bucs will have Garcia likely starting in place of Griese. He will need to use his mobility to keep plays alive and run when the coverage locks down on the receivers. The Panthers have 10 sacks in 5 games, and will likely get pressure on Garcia. If the pressure isn't too bad, he may be able to exploit the safeties. The Bucs will likely have a great match-up with Stevens on the linebackers or safeties, and this should be one that Garcia looks to exploit. But what the Bucs must committ to doing in this game is run. They need to hit it the edges hard, and keep the rushers like Peppers from over committing in the passing game. More importantly, running the ball will keep the Panthers' offense off the field and shorten the game. I think the Bucs will try to run a lot and will pound it at the Panthers' defense and try to wear them out in the heat. It will be tough, but they need to establish the run if they want to be able to pass on this team. Look for a good afternoon from the offense, in terms of yards, but scoring may be hard to come by.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 16th in total yards allowed (318.2y/g), 8th in points allowed (18.8/g), 21st against the pass (218.6y/g), and 14th against the run (99.6y/g). The Panthers's offense comes in ranked 14th overall (330y/g), 15th in points scored (22.8/g), 15th passing (207y/g), and 11th rushing (123y/g). The Panthers seem to find success with Delhomme passing on our defense, but the Bucs have really been mixing up their coverages a lot. This looks to me to be a game where the defense will clamp down on the Panthers' potent rushing attack, and try to play a lot more man against the passing game, as Delhomme seems to find a lot of success against our Cover 2 looks. The Bucs will need to man up against the big line of the Panthers', who may not have their starting Right Tackle. Look for the defense to put some pressure on the QB and slow the run down. The Panthers will likely have to find their scores on some big plays. I expect the Bucs' defense to greatly slow down the Panthers' offense.

On Special Teams, the Bucs come are averaging 4.9 yards per punt return, and 22.6 yards per kick return, while allowing 9.3 on punts and just 18.5 on kicks. The Panthers are averaging 9.6 per punt return, 22.6 per kick return, and they are allowing 5.4 per punt and 24.9 per kick. The Panthers clearly have an advantage in the punt return and coverage teams, and also have Mark Jones returning punts, so he should be familiar with our coverage teams. The Bucs do appear to have an advantage in covering and returning kicks. Both teams have solid punters and kickers. The Bucs should have decent field position off of kicks, but the punt coverage teams concern me. The Bucs need to clamp down on this area and keep Carolina pinned back so the defense can make it tough on them. Hard to see any major advantage for either team.

When it comes down to it, though, I see a low scoring game, but the Panthers seem to have our number.

Panthers 16 Bucs 10

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bucs Lose 13-16

Ok, I'm getting ridiculous with this, but there's just way too much stuff going on right now. In any case, let's look at the loss.

Offense: The offense stunk. Shall I elaborate? Seriously, Griese took no chances against what was frequently a max zone coverage scheme. What sucked about it was the fact that Griese should have run more run plays at this defense and force them to either come up at of those zones, or get run on. Graham and Dunn had good averages, though Dunn got stopped short on some downs forcing a failed third down conversion on one run that I think Graham would have converted. Griese got sacked 3 times (really only 2, as I can't see how you count a run outside that didn't lose any yardage as a sack), but was also dragged down by the face mask, right in front of the ref, but didn't get the penalty. Had it been called, which it should have been, the Bucs would have had a first down around mid-field. His safe play also resulted in the Bucs failing to consistently move the ball, though, and kept the Bucs from getting enough drives going. Then he got hurt and Garcia came in. It took a little while before Garcia got going, but he managed a 90 yard drive to get to within 3, but it took way too long, and the defense failed to get the ball back to the offense. Garcia, incidently, got tackled on a run near the 1st down marker, and also got his face mask pulled without a penalty called. The offense had over 300 yards again, but failed to put up enough points.
Overall grade: C-

Defense: The Broncos had the number 1 offense coming into this game, but the defense held the Broncos to just 16 points, with one of those TD's coming off a bubble screen that should have been called back, as Stokely ran around a Bucs' defender that was grabbed from the front and behind and twirled and pulled down to the ground by the blocker. That one play cost the Bucs dearly, as they likely would have held the Broncos to a field goal, and that late TD could have been the game winner for the Bucs and Garcia. The Bucs slowed the running game down, and held the passing game in check for the most part, but Cutler found some holes on a couple of second half drives that allowed them to get 10 points down the stretch. The defensive line failed to get a sack, though they did close the pocket in on Cutler a lot, but Cutler just gets rid of the ball so fast. What really sucks is that Kevin Carter could have killed the TD drive if he held onto his pick around mid-field, and would have set the Bucs' offense up with great field position. Unfortunately, it was not too be. A very strong defensive effort let up a couple of times, and the offense wasn't able to put up enough points to win it.
Overall grade: B+

Special Teams: This unit sucked on the return teams. The Bucs' offense was consistently in the hole, rarely starting beyond the 20. Dexter Jackson had another bad week with punt returns, letting a punt at the 30 roll back to the 10 yard line when, had he run up and caught it, he could have easily gotten to the 40. That was the punt return for the late TD drive, which might have ended a couple of minutes sooner with better field position. The coverage teams were OK, but not stellar. Bryant continued to nail everything, while Bidwell continued to punt well. But bad starting field position was a problem in this game.
Overall grade: C+

Coaching: Gruden had this team prepared for the Broncos they saw on film. Unfortunately, the Broncos changed their defense up completely, and they never really trully adjusted for it. The Bucs should have run the ball 40 times in this game, and jammed it down their throats. Let's hope the lesson was learned. Monte's defense played quite well, but failed to get a sack against the toughest QB to sack. They held the number 1 offense to just 16 points, which was quite a feet, especially when you consider the illegal block that allowed the Broncos to score a TD. Special teams seemed to take a step back, and Bisaccia's group is still having too many problems on punt returns and punt coverage. They really need to work on this area and clean it up.
Overall grade: C+

Well, the Bucs made it a close game on the road, and clearly look to be a team that can continue to contend down the stretch if they can work out some kinks. They'll need it this week against the Panthers.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Talking Plank - Week 5

The Talking Plank - Week 5

Bucs At Broncos:

The Bucs get to go to Mile High and face a highly prolific offense, and a crappy defense. Who will prevail in the battle of heavy breathing? The Broncos were looking great until the sorry Chiefs knocked them off last week. Meanwhile the Bucs, having given up yet another lead (thanks Griese!), beat the Packers, and look to try and get to 4-1. This is a game I really have reservations about for the Bucs, but let's look at how the match-up is currently shaping after the first 4 games of the season.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 7th in total yards (361y/g), 13th in points (25.2/g), 9th in passing (227.2y/g), and 9th rushing (133.8y/g). The Broncos' defense comes in ranked 30th in total yards allowed (408.8y/g), 29th in points allowed (29.2/g), 31st againt the pass (276y/g), and 24th against the run (132.8y/g). This is the one area where the Bucs should be OK. The Bucs will be going up against a defensive line that has recorded just 2 sacks this season (the teams they have played have given up 32 sacks this season with the Raiders giving up 10 and the Chiefs giving up 12). The defensive line has struggled to shut the run down as well. The Broncos' linebackers are so-so with former Bucs Nate Webster starting at MLB (we know how good he was there - rolling my eyes). Needless to say, teams are beating a secondary that has a couple of good corners by allowing their QB to stay upright for extended periods of time, and being able to run the ball and force safety help in the box. I cringe to think what could happen with Griese throwing balls in the direction of Champ and Bly, but he should have plenty of time to exploit other match-ups. This is a game where the receivers can get some balls by continuing routes, or breaking them off and finding a hole to squat in, as Griese should be upright for most of the game. This also looks like the type of defense that will struggle containing Graham and Dunn without consistently putting 8 and 9 men in the box. Barring another slew of turnovers (the Broncos have one pick this season), the offense should be able to move the ball at will on the Broncos' defense, and probably score a lot of points. I expect the Bucs' offense will put up over 30 points in this game.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 13th in total yards allowed (314.5y/g), 10th in points allowed (19.5/g), 21st against the pass (216.5y/g), and 12th against the run (98y/g). The Broncos come in with the top rated offense (435.5y/g), 2nd in points (33.2/g), 2nd passing (314.2y/g), and 14th rushing (121.2y/g). This is the one area that concerns me the most in this game. The Bucs' have had a recent problem with big plays. It's not happening a lot, but 1-3 per game is hurting them a lot, and the Broncos' certainly have the firepower to do it. Royals, WR, may be slowed a little with an ankle injury, but he makes me a little nervous. The Bucs' secondary played quite well last week except for two big plays for TD's. If the Bucs give up those plays this week, it could be a long game for them. The defense should be able to handle Young, Hall, and Pittman in the running game. None of those backs really scare me against our defense, as long as we aren't constantly dropping people back in coverage. What could help is what the Chiefs, who run a version of the Tampa 2, did last week. Monte likely got a lot of valuable information on how to attack the Broncos. Getting Cutler rattled is the big key. He's only been sacked twice this season, so if the Bucs can find a way to get in his face a lot, he will throw picks. It's the nature of the way he tries to fit passes into coverage. I think the Bucs' defense will slow the Broncos' down, but I don't see them stopping them all game. A couple of turnovers could go a long way in this game.

On Special Teams, the Bucs and Broncos will be going to battle with punters and kickers of similar ability. It's in the return game that we could see some differences. The Bucs are returning kicks and punts at a rate of 23.1 yards for kicks, and 5 yards for punts. The Bucs are allowing only 18.9 yards per kick, but they are also allowing 9.9 yards per punt. The Broncos, on the other hand, are returning for 22.1 yards on kicks, and 16.6 yards on punts. They are allowing teams to return kicks for 28.1 yards, and punts for 7 yards. The real problem for the Bucs will be on punt coverage where they are weak and the Broncos are very strong. I wouldn't mind seeing Bidwell punt out of bounds to limit the damage. The kick off game, however, looks to be strongly in the Bucs' favor. So field position off kicks should favor the Bucs in this game. I do believe that we will continue to see Jackson get better and better, and wouldn't be shocked if he returned a punt or kick for a TD. Let's just hope the Bucs don't give up a Special Teams TD.

I'm having a hard time with this prediction. I predicted a Broncos' win in my season predictions. I still see that as the most likely outcome. But I can't help but think that our defense, which is a very good one, can rise to the occasion much more likely than the Broncos' defense can, and that's where I'm getting stuck on this prediction. I really never anticipated the Broncos' defense being this bad (they are bad!). I think our defense will have its hands full, but I think they will make more stops than the Broncos' defense will, and that is where my prediction of a Bucs' win is now coming from...a change from a position I've held even up to the last couple of days.

Bucs 35 Broncos 24

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Players of the Week - Brooks and Bryant

Matt Bryant was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his gutty performance, which included the field goal that put the Bucs ahead late in the 4th quarter, as well as the other field goals he made. It was a well deserved honor considering what had happened, and how much pain he must have gone through and still played.

Derrick had one of his best games in a while and was recognized for it. His forced fumble, interception, two passes defensed (nearly picked), and tackle for a loss, are what got him the honor this week.

Both players were well deserving of these honors.