Bucs see opportunity this Sunday

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face Seattle on Sunday knowing that a win could put them atop the NFC South by themsleves. Head coach Jon Gruden spoke about the opportunity in this article. Plus, link to our exclusive 2009 free agency breakdown, in which Bucsblitz.com handicaps all of the Bucs' '09 free agents and their chances of returning.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just six games into the 2008 season, but it's never too late to start thinking out free agency in 2009. Scout.com's Adam Caplan has confirmed that at least 11 Bucs will be restricted or unrestricted free agents in 2009. How do they fit into the Bucs' plans for 2009 and beyond? Get the scoop right here.

Each week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers furnish the local media with an impressive amount of statistical information on the team. In this edition of Bucs Tidbits, Bucsblitz.com will expose to you some of this information, usually only for the eyes of the media. Today, go inside the numbers and find out why the Bucs are being successful this season. Get the scoop right here.

The Bucs have a great opportunity to continue to separate themselves from a three-way tie with Atlanta and Carolina in the NFC South.

Tampa Bay hosts Seattle in a nationally televised game on NBC, their first since 2006.

The Bucs defense is humming, allowing just 16.2 points a game after allowing only a field goal last week to Carolina.

Tampa Bay also seems to have stabilized the quarterback position, with Jeff Garcia posed to make his second straight start. Garcia is coming off a 15-of-20 passing day for 176 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he committed no turnovers.

The Bucs also were inspired by the play of running back Earnest Graham, who volunteered to play fullback last week after an injury to Byron Storer and wound up paving the way for a 115-yard rushing performance by Warrick Dunn.

"Well, you know what, I'm really proud of them," Gruden said. "We've got a hard-nosed, great work ethic group of people, group of men. They do what they're asked to do and they do more than that. And they like each other and they respect each other and they push each other, and that's sometimes something you can be most proud of. That's where I am right now. I want more. They want more. To do that, we've got to play better. We've got to continue to improve and work at it."

The Seahawks are off to a 1-4 start in what figures to be the final year of Mike Holmgren as head coach. It's not exactly how he wanted to go out.

But injuries have devastated the Seahawks on the offensive side of the ball. Starting QB Matt Hasselbeck will miss his second straight game with a bulging disc in his back and Seneca Wallace will probably get the start.

Despite their recent woes, the Bucs have respect for Seattle, which has beaten them seven of the eight meetings.

"They've won three, four straight division titles," Gruden said. "They're a heck of a football team. They've had a couple injuries; we've been there before ourselves. They have a lot of pride. They have a lot of really good players, Pro Bowl players, on defense - (Julian) Peterson, (Lofa) Tatupu, (Marcus) Trufant, (Patrick) Kerney, the big guy, Rocky Bernard in the middle of the defense. They're having great seasons and they're a handful. They're very talented. We have a lot of respect for Julius Jones and the system that they run, Walter Jones. They have a lot of really good players, let's be honest."

Gruden has a rich history with Holmgren. They worked together on the 49ers staff and Holmgren eventually hired him as receivers coach in Green Bay.

"You always remember the first things you do in life," Gruden said. "Mike Holmgren, the time I got a chance to go to the 49ers. We were pretty good at that time, to say the least. Steve Young was the backup quarterback. We had a lot of really good players. I remember all our nose guards. We had Jim Burt, Fred Smerlas and Michael Carter all on the same team. That's before the salary cap was in play. Maybe the 49ers had a lot to with their being a salary cap. We were loaded. That was fun. That was really awesome. To learn a system of football from some great people was really exciting."


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