Random thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL

1. I hate looking at season predictions. Every year there are numerous teams that surprise on the upside (see 2006 Jets and Saints) and on the downside (see 2006 Bucs and Redskins). Yet, in almost every season prediction or preseason power poll I see, the teams that did well or poorly in 2006 are projected to do roughly the same in 2007. Well, one thing I do know is that that just isn’t going to happen. So, I decided to add to the prediction problem by doing my own slate. For posterity and bragging rights’ sake, here are my playoff teams and Super Bowl champion for the upcoming season: AFC: New England, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, San Diego, Baltimore, Indianapolis. NFC: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Carolina, Chicago. Super Bowl is New England over Philadelphia.

2. I know it looks odd, but given the schedules and improvements made, I think Green Bay and Jacksonville will be much better than what most of the pundits are projecting.

3. On the flipside, I think New Orleans is slated for a fall and Indianapolis will struggle to make the playoffs. Teams that cannot stop the run generally don’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. Replacing Tarik Glenn with Tony Ugoh, who may be good someday, but whose calves looked like toothpicks at the Senior Bowl, was not an upgrade for the Colts.

4. And, yes, I am picking the Patriots to win it all again. They were a minute away from a date with the Bears last year, and they will be there at the end this year so long as Tom Brady remains upright. It’s amazing that players the caliber of Richard Seymour (PUP) and Rodney Harrison (HGH suspension) won’t even be around for the first few weeks of the season, and nobody has changed their odds on the Pats winning it all one iota. In fact, the line against the Jets this week actually has moved from favoring the Pats by six to favoring them by seven in some sports books.

5. For all the hand wringing about the “unprecedented” nature of keeping four quarterbacks on the roster, people should remember that a team in New England did that for the entire 2000 season. They had Drew Bledsoe, John Friesz, Michael Bishop, and oh yeah, a skinny kid named Brady, who happened to help deliver a championship the next season. It isn’t the worst thing in the world to have four quarterbacks. If Chris Simms has value (in some form), then perhaps it is better to keep him vs the nth running back or linebacker.

6. Is anyone else irritated over Alan Zemaitis saga? I kept wondering and asking about him last season, and all I heard was it takes time to learn the system and then he got hurt and blah blah blah. Now it appears he had a 2 cent head AND he couldn’t cover Andy Reid on a go route. Guess Zemaitis slipped to the 4th round in 2006 for a reason. How come other teams seemed to know it and not the Bucs?

7. I’m scratching my head over the Trotter signing, too. I’m inclined to believe it is more a damning commentary of Ryan Nece in the middle than any love affair with Trotter. Supposedly, the guy couldn’t understand the defense when he signed that big contract with the Redskins, so they eventually let him go. Jim Johnson just let him fly to the ball and track down the runner, and that seemed to work until Trotter’s knees became completely shot and he was picked on more in coverage than Michael Vick at an ASPCA convention. Can’t imagine he’ll be in there much if Ruud is healthy (insert prayer here).

8. What is the deal with Tiki Barber? Admittedly, I have never met Tiki or Ronde, and I heard the explanations that Tiki’s dissing of Tom Coughlin stemmed from a need to be interesting in the media, but now I just am not buying it. Now, in his autobiography, Tiki says that he might still be playing if it weren’t for Coughlin and the Giants stiffed him out of $10 million over the course of his career? Huh? Let’s see, in the four years prior to Coughlin joining the Giants, Tiki fumbled an average of nine times a season and averaged 4.6 yds a carry. In the three years he played for Tom Coughlin, Tiki averaged three fumbles a season and 5.1 yards per carry. Oh, and his average carries went from 250 a year to 330. So, Coughlin cured his fumbling and gave him the ball. Then Tiki retired in his prime. What am I missing here?

9. Please, no pining for Buster Davis. Nice little college player, but if he’s 5-9 then I’m Yao Ming. At Senior Bowl practices his head was barely above some players’ waists. I don't care what the official measures say, Torrie Cox could post this guy up.

10. Is anybody else tired of people blaming Gruden’s people skills for everything from a 4-12 record to global warming? Since when does effective coaching require someone to be a Dale Carnegie school graduate? Can Gruden improve? Obviously. Almost everyone can. Don’t you think Bill Belichick was crucified when he unceremoniously let Ty Law go? How about when he cut Willie McGinest? Lawyer Milloy?—whose release prompted Tom Jackson to say the Patriots “hate their coach”? (Nice call, Tom. They just managed to win the Super Bowl that year.) Winning cures all ills, including complaints about the coach’s treatment of players. I guess three Super Bowls in six seasons turned coach Bill into Dr. Phil.

11. The “Ellis Wyms will spill the beans” stuff now that he is a Seahawk is laughable. I remember the last time this worried talk happened when Brad Culpepper was cut before the 2000 season and joined the Bears. Whatever Brad told the Bears certainly worked—— for the Bucs, as Tampa Bay blew out Chicago 41-0. Wyms can talk about a few tendencies or audibles, all of which amount to a hill of beans. The most important thing is that the Buccaneer starting guards should be blowing Wyms and Chartric Darby off the line in the running game.

12. Finally, go up to your favorite Michigan Wolverine football fan and give him or her a hug. Try your best not to giggle, smirk, chortle or guffaw. The all-time egg that was laid last Saturday in the Big House was hatched this week as Big Blow took an unprecedented tumble out of the AP top 25. Word has it Appalachian State Mountaineer merchandise is flying off the shelves—–in Columbus, Ohio. Buy that poor Michigan fan some good books, as he or she will need something productive to do on Fall Saturdays this year. Personally, I recommend Where Football is King: A History of the SEC by Christopher J. Walsh.

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