Buccaneers Blog: Looking ahead to 2008

Buccaneers Blog is Bucsblitz.com's home for breaking news, injury reports, story links and opinion on the Bucs. Today I look ahead at the 2008 schedule, which is practically set, and see a schedule that, time-wise, may be all over the place next year. Plus, more coverage of Bobby Petrino and Joey Galloway via story links.

In Fayetteville, 5:07 p.m.

I was thinking earlier today. You've gotten the view on Bobby Petrino's departure from the Atlanta and Tampa Bay perspective. But what about the Arkansas perspective? For that, I hit the Web site of the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville, Ark. Writer Tom Murphy had the nuts and bolts story, which you can link to Here. Meanwhile, this "Man on the Street story shows that the fans in Razorback Nation seem to be pretty forgiving. To link to the story, click here.

Bucs update, 5 p.m.

While Bucs head coach Jon Gruden did not specifically update Ike Hilliard's injury status, the wide receiver did participate fully in practice. That's a positive sign that he'll be in uniform on Sunday against Atlanta.

Meanwhile, QB Jeff Garcia appears on course to play on Sunday, as expected.

"He took every snap today," Gruden said. "We tried to simulate as much speed as we could and I thought he looked sharp."

You can read the rest of Gruden's thoughts from Thursday in the Jon Gruden Transcript, a premium service at Bucsblitz.com.

Injury report, 4:59 p.m.

Here is Thursday's injury report:

BUCCANEERS: Did not practice — FB B.J. Askew (ankle); Limited in practice — LB Ryan Nece (groin), RB Michael Pittman (ankle). Full practice ¬— QB Jeff Garcia (back), DE Greg Spires (calf), WR Ike Hilliard (back),.

FALCONS: Did not practice — CB Antoine Harris (knee), WR Roddy White (knee); Limited participation in practice — G Tyson Clabo (ankle), TE Alge Crumpler (team decision).

Losing White for Sunday would hurt this offense big time. He's their best downfield threat right now.

Thinking ahead to next year, 10:10 a.m.

Sure, the Bucs haven't QUITE clinched the NFC South title yet, but their schedule for next year is all but set, in terms of opponents.

Should the Bucs win the division, they'll play all three NFC division champions — Dallas, Green Bay and Seattle — along with their division rotations comprising the NFC North and the AFC West.

That leads me to believe that next year the Bucs' schedule will be all over the map. Why?

First, the Bucs are good this year. I see them finishing 10-6 at worst. Good teams earn prime-time display on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights.

Second, their opponents lend the Bucs added marquee value. The Cowboys, Packers, Broncos and Raiders are traditional TV staples. And who won't want to prominently display Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin match wits with his dad, Monte, in prime time. That's great TV.

Third, there are more prime-time games to fill than ever before. Counting NBC's 17 games, ESPN's 17 games on Monday night and NFL Network's 8 Thursday and Saturday night games, the NFL must fill 42 prime-time slots.

I envision a schedule in which the Bucs play at least two prime-time games on Sunday and/or Monday night, even though they only made one prime-time appearance in 2006 after going 11-5. The schedule that year didn't have as many marquee teams on it.

I also see the Bucs playing at least one game on the NFL Network next year. Remember that the NFL is still in a struggle with several cable companies about carrying the NFLN (that includes the parent company of Bright House Networks in Tampa). It also includes Comcast, which has several cable contracts in the outlying Buccaneers' TV market. Certainly, fans in the immediate area would be able to see the game on over-the-air television (that's a NFL mandate). But putting the Bucs on NFLN might compel the locals to put pressure on the cable companies to cave (or so the NFL might hope).

Finally, overseas? Maybe. The Sporting News published a blurb a couple of months ago saying the Chiefs were interested in going overseas. In that scenario, they would likely want to face a non-conference foe. Their NFC South home opponents next year include the Bucs (the Chiefs would have to agree to give up a home game). The Bucs might be the more attractive opponent because they have an international appeal (as the OTHER team owned by those guys that own Manchester United).

All I'm saying is that next year, when you settle in at 1 p.m. to watch the Bucs, more often than not they may not be on.

Playoff push, 10 a.m.

Here's the playoff seeding in the NFC entering this week's games:

No. 1 — Dallas

No. 2 — Green Bay

No. 3 — Seattle

No. 4 — Tampa Bay

No. 5 — New York Giants

No. 6 — Minnesota

These seedings are if the season ended today. Tampa Bay, New York and Minnesota have not clinched playoff berths yet.

In this scenario, the Bucs would host the Giants and the Seahawks would host the Vikings. The Cowboys and Packers would sit at home and watch.

Given that the Bucs would face the Giants, I think there's a good chance that game would be on late Sunday afternoon to take advantage of the ratings possibilities of the NFL's No. 1 TV markets. Or, it could be the Saturday night game on NBC. You can bank that game will be prominently displayed, though.

Ike's impact, 9:50 a.m.

Ike Hilliard has probably been the steadiest receiver in Tampa Bay this season. So what happened when Hilliard went down with an injury against Houston last week? Find out in this premium article at Bucsblitz.com.

The word up north, 9:45 a.m.

As you would expect, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been all over this story. So it's difficult to pick just one to encapsulate everything that happened in Atlanta. But reporters Tony Barnhart and Ronnie Ramos trace the events that lead to Petrino's departure in this article at AJC.com.

Fine swine, 9:40 a.m.

Tampa Tribune columnist Martin Fennelly wrote this morning that Arkansas got the perfect coach — because Bobby Petrino is, in Fennelly's words, "a total pig." If you want to read more — and you do — here's the link to TBO.com.

Joey for Hawaii, 9:35 a.m.

If you recall, I wrote a story along these lines last week. But Bucs head coach Jon Gruden stumped for Joey Galloway to earn selection to the Pro Bowl this year, as this article suggests at Tampabay.com.

Taking it out on Bobby, 9:30 a.m.

Warrick Dunn became the Falcons' spokesperson on Wednesday regarding the departure of coach Bobby Petrtino. If you didn't read my article on Dunn yesterday (there's an entry for it and link in this blog), here's Joanne Korth's take posted at Tampabay.com.

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