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OFFENSE NOT LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS
Raiders owners Al Davis is notorious for suing teams and people around the National Football League. In fact, it wasn't too long ago that Davis sued the Buccaneers and Panthers, seeking to not allow either team to wear their uniforms in California due to alleged similarities to that of the Oakland Raiders' colors.
Perhaps it's time for the Bucs to return the favor. They did, after all, send four premium draft picks and $8 million to Oakland in exchange for Jon Gruden, who at the time (2002) was considered an offensive guru and Super Bowl-caliber head coach.
Gruden delivered the Lombardi Trophy to Tampa Bay, but Davis neglected to send his offense, which many still are looking for six and a half years into Gruden's tenure with the Bucs.
Pewter Report documented earlier in the season how Tampa Bay's offense has not lived up to expectations since Gruden's arrival, and it bears repeating after watching the Bucs get held out of the end zone vs. Dallas last Sunday.
The Bucs have averaged 29.5 offensive touchdowns per season under Gruden, which does not even amount to two per game. That's near the bottom of the NFL and certainly not what the Glazers had in mind when they traded for him back in '02.
The most number of offensive touchdowns the Bucs have scored in a single season under Gruden is 33, which came in 2004 and 2007. Only four teams over the last six seasons have not scored more than 35 touchdowns in a single season, and the Bucs are one of them along with the Ravens, Lions and Texans.
How does Gruden's touchdown totals in Tampa Bay compare to what his offenses were able to accomplish in Philadelphia and Oakland? Let's just say expectations haven't been met in Tampa Bay. See below for yourself.
2008: 13 (through eight games)
Bucs fans probably are tired of hearing and reading about Tampa Bay's red zone offense. Lord knows many are tired of watching it. But the issue is a legitimate one, and certainly one worth continuing to discuss.
Despite the fact that they have the 13th-ranked offense in the NFL and have had the second-highest number of visits to the red zone behind only Arizona this season, the Bucs have scored touchdowns in only 11 of their 31 attempts in that particular area of the football field.
Tampa Bay has scored just 13 offensive touchdowns through the first half of the 2008 regular season, which puts it on pace to total just 26. Sure, the Bucs have had injuries to offensive players, including playmaking wide receiver Joey Galloway, but 26 touchdowns? To put that number in perspective, the Bucs scored just six more touchdowns with rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in the lineup in 2006.
The good news for Gruden and Co. is they're getting injured players back healthy in Galloway and fullback B.J. Askew. The second half of Tampa Bay's schedule also includes some very suspect, and in some cases, mediocre defenses.
That includes this Sunday's game vs. the 1-6 Kansas City Chiefs, who have the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL and are allowing an average of 28 points per game. The Bucs will also face Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego and Oakland, which have the 25th, 32nd, 24th, 28th and 26th-ranked defenses, respectively.
It sounds cliché', but they say you are what you are, and if the Bucs offense can't find the end zone on a consistent basis over the second half of the season, they certainly aren't going to find it in the playoffs, and perhaps never under Gruden.
BUCS MIGHT NEED HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have compiled a 5-3 regular season record through the first half of the 2008 season and are right in the thick of things in the NFC playoff race.
The Bucs currently trail the 6-2 Carolina Panthers by one game in the NFC South division, and although Atlanta is playing better than expected, the division likely will come down to the Bucs and Panthers.
Neither team has much room for error, but the Panthers could slip up over the second half of the year. They play four road games (Atlanta, Green Bay, N.Y. Giants and New Orleans) during the final six weeks of the season. Carolina's two home games during that stretch are vs. Tampa Bay and Denver.
Tampa Bay's contest vs. Carolina on Monday Night Football (Nov. 30) could decide the division winner. Winning the division could be critical to Tampa Bay's success this season since it has not played well on the road.
The Bucs have compiled a 4-0 record at Raymond James Stadium, but they are just 1-3 on the road. While Tampa Bay lost those three games by a total of 11 points, the Bucs offense has struggled mightily on the road, scoring a total of two touchdowns in New Orleans, Denver and Dallas.
Regardless of what a team's regular season record is at the end of the year, division winners automatically host at least one playoff game. The Bucs did not take advantage of that reward in their last two post-season appearances, losing to Washington and the New York Giants in 2005 and 2007, respectively.
It's not impossible to make the Super Bowl when forced to play all of your post-season games on the road. The Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants recently hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after winning all of their playoff games away from their home stadiums.
But one can see why it's so important for Tampa Bay to win the NFC South division and possibly homefield advantage throughout the playoffs after looking at the opponents the Bucs would likely face on the road in the post-season should they secure one of the final two Wild Card sports in the NFC.
The Bucs haven't fared well on the road vs. the potential division winners, including Arizona, Dallas, the N.Y. Giants, Washington, Chicago, Green Bay and Minnesota.
Take a look at how the Bucs have fared vs. those teams all-time on the road:
Green Bay (7-18 including the playoffs)
N.Y. Giants (1-6)
Dallas (1-9 including the playoffs)
Obviously the Buccaneers piled up some of those losses when they were one of the league's worst franchises for nearly 20 years, but the team clearly has struggled to win games in those cities.
Of course, the Bucs defeated the Bears in Chicago earlier this season, but it took overtime to accomplish that feat, and Tampa Bay just lost to the Tony Romo-less Cowboys in Dallas last week and hasn't done well at all on the West Coast, which is where Arizona is.
If they had to play on the road in the playoffs, the Bucs could be better off playing in Carolina, believe it or not. The Bucs own a 4-4 record in Carolina, including wins in two of the last three seasons. If the Panthers won the NFC South division and the Bucs were to secure a Wild Card spot, there's a chance the two teams could meet again in the post-season.
The Bucs are just one game behind the three teams with the best records in the NFC – New York (6-1), Washington (6-2) and Carolina (6-2). Only two of Tampa Bay's final eight games are vs. teams with winning records. Both of the contests against teams with winning records are vs. NFC South division rivals – Atlanta and Carolina. As you can see, the Bucs simply don't have room for error over the second half of the season, but the good news is they control their own destiny.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton, a former first-round draft pick, has scored just one touchdown over the last 47 regular season games he's played in since 2005. Certainly not impressive, but what makes that number even worse is the fact that five Bucs defenders – defensive end Gaines Adams, cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Phillip Buchanon and safety Jermaine Phillips – have matched or surpassed that touchdown total in the same time frame. And it took rookie linebacker Geno Hayes just six games to score his first career touchdown on a blocked punt vs. Carolina. The Bucs need to find the end zone, but the team also needs to find a way to find Clayton there, too.