Thursday, Sept. 20
A 3-1 start?
If you had said that to me before the season I would have laughed. I think most people would have laughed.
Now it doesn't seem completely out of the realm.
First, I didn't expect the Bucs to beat New Orleans, so their 1-1 record surprises me. But I think there's a decent chance they can beat St. Louis on Sunday. Tom Marino, our Scout.com senior NFL analyst, told me on the phone yesterday that the Rams simply don't do well outside their dome. And he should know — he used to work for the Rams as a scout. It's going to be sweltering again, the Bucs will force the Rams to wear their blue uniforms and I'm not sure the Rams will be able to handle that heat. They played their first two regular-season games at home, so this is their first trip out of the air conditioning.
Compound that with the offensive line woes, and I think there's a chance — a chance — Tampa Bay can win.
But say they do win Sunday, and Carolina does what I think it should and beats Atlanta on Sunday. That sets up a Week 4 showdown between the two in Charlotte for the outright division lead.
I'm not as impressed with this Panthers team as I have been in the past. The offense is basically Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith, and that's it. A No. 2 receiver hasn't stepped up, and the running game has been anemic. And there's something up with this defense, and it's not just giving up that many points to the Texans last week. End Julius Peppers is having an off year so far. Check out Wednesday's Hot Topic at Bucsblitz.com for the lowdown.
Plus, the last time the Bucs and Panthers played a meaningful game in Charlotte was December of 2005, when the Bucs defeated the Panthers to all but win the NFC South. Charlotte is usually Tampa Bay's house of horrors in this division.
Now, the Bucs are a LONG way away from a 3-1 start. But the fact that we can even have this conversation after two weeks is progress.
Links to the best Bucs stories
Along with what you can find at Bucsblitz.com, check out these articles on the Bucs at other sites:
The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings focuses on the pass rush today, saying that despite their victory over New Orleans, the Buccaneers want much more out of their pass rush. Despite better pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees, they only managed two sacks. The main culprit, Cummings writes, is inexperience.
Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times writes about Jeff Garcia's demeanor on and off the field. Off the field, Garcia is your typical, laid-back California. On the field, well, let's just say he doesn't want his mama listening to that audio tape and leave it at that.
More coming today, including our exclusive "Press Pass" with Rams coach Scott Linehan, a daily practice update and the "Behind Enemy Lines" feature on the Rams to get you ready for Sunday's game. MP