By Jeff Berlinicke
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepare for Sunday's showdown against the Washington Redskins (Gametime has been moved to 4:15 p.m.), a major question has to be
Is this the biggest regular season game in coach Jon Gruden's career?
That's a lot to ask, but look at it this way: In his first season with the Bucs,
he won the Super Bowl and coasted through the regular season. In Seasons Two and
Three, the Bucs were dead in the water right out of the gate. Sure, the Bucs
were in the playoff hunt until late in the season, but that was only because of
the woeful state of the NFC.
This year things are different. The Bucs have little chance of winning the NFC
Southeast with Atlanta and Carolina out in front already and showing no signs of
letting down. Either the Falcons or Panthers should earn one of the NFC wildcard
spots and the NFC East has several likely candidates for the other, including
the Redskins who also have a lot at stake today. With the New York Giants out in
front of the East, Dallas and Washington are the top candidates for the second
That's what makes Sunday's game so important. A win over the Redskins knocks off
one of their main rivals and also gives the Bucs incentive going into next
week's game in Atlanta, only the Bucs' second division game of the season.
The Bucs enter the game mostly healthy except at wide receiver where Michael Clayton is a question mark entering the game. Ike Hilliard will start in his
place regardless of Clayton's condition. It will be Hilliard's first start of
the season and first start as a Buc.
Gruden also said not to expect a quick trigger on quarterback Chris Simms if he
gets off to a slow start. Simms had an excellent first half in last Sunday's
34-14 home loss to Carolina before a breakdown on the first possession in the
second half that led to a gut-breaking touchdown.
Luke McCown and Tim Rattay were both ready on the sidelines last Sunday but
never warmed up as Gruden let Simms try to gain some confidence. He stated this
week that this is Simms' team, at least for now.
Gruden Faces Biggest Challenge Yet
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