TAMPA — Jon Gruden would like to shake someone's hand in the NFL front office this week.
To the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, the league did the 9-7 Bucs two favors this weekend. First, they'll host the 10-6 New York Giants on a Sunday, keeping them in their normal routine. Second, the Bucs will play at 1 p.m., keeping them out of prime time, where they haven't played a game all season.
"We appreciate that, we really do," Gruden said. "I'm not a big night owl guy, and personally, I kind of like the way it worked out."
Two years ago, the Buccaneers played a similar regular-season schedule. They made no prime-time appearances en route to an 11-5 season. But the NFL slotted their Wild Card playoff contest against Washington for Saturday night, taking them out of their normal schedule.
Did that contribute to a 17-10 loss to the Redskins? Gruden probably wouldn't admit to that.
But he would admit to happiness that he didn't have to work as hard after Sunday's loss to Carolina.
"I was fired up to be honest with you," Gruden said. "I was pleased to get the Sunday game. I'm just excited to be in the playoffs, to be playing at home with the group of guys that we have this year. We're excited about it."
NEW GROUND: The Buccaneers and the Giants have never met in the postseason.
The Giants have lost their last four playoff games, including Wild Card appearances each of the last three seasons. Their postseason losing streak began at Raymond James Stadium with a loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV.
Tampa Bay is 0-1 in the postseason since winning Super Bowl XXXVII against Oakland.
The Buccaneers are 6-8 all-time in 10 postseason appearances. Gruden is 3-1 against the Giants in the regular season, but has never faced them in the postseason. The Giants are 16-23 all-time in the playoffs.
SUPER BOWL NUMBERS DWINDLE: Only seven players remain from Tampa Bay's Super Bowl XXXVII championship victory, including just one on offense — RB Michael Pittman. Six defensive players remain — CB Ronde Barber, CB Brian Kelly, LB Derrick Brooks, LB Ryan Nece, S Jermaine Phillips and DE Greg Spires.
DRAFT POSITIONING: At this moment, the Buccaneers hold the No. 20 pick in the 2008 draft. That could change based on their postseason finish.
INJURY UPDATE: Bucs rookie RG Arron Sears told reporters on Wednesday that he planned to play on Sunday. Sears suffered an ankle injury against Carolina on Sunday.
"It won't be tough at all (to play)," Sears said. "Come Sunday I'll be ready to go. Just a high ankle sprain."
Sears said he received treatment all weekend.
For the Giants, C Shaun O'Hara, LB Kawika Mitchell and CB Sam Madison did not practice Wednesday, but head coach Tom Coughlin was non-commital about their availability for Sunday's game. O'Hara and Mitchell have strained MCLs, while Madison has an abdominal injury.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, CB Kevin Dockery and WR Sinorice Moss, who all missed the Patriots games with injuries, practiced today.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.