Let me set the stage for you. The Oakland Raiders, with the number one offense in the National Football League, want to get this game into the 30s. Raiders head coach Bill Callahan has got to feel good about his chances for winning if the Silver & Black can puts some big numbers up on the scoreboard.
If this game gets to be a track meet in terms of scoring, the Raiders have a decided advantage with wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown on the receiving end of passes thrown by quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon.
Oakland also has a pretty good one-two punch on the ground with Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley. Lots of weapons for the guys from northern California to use.
Conversely, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the top defensive unit in professional football, want to keep the scoring below 20. The Pewter Pirates have Pro Bowlers in all three defensive areas with defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks along with strong safety John Lynch. In two playoff games, the Gulf Coast crew has been extremely stingy when it comes to allowing points, giving up six to San Francisco and just 10 to Philadelphia.
The way I see the Raiders attacking the Bucs is by using a great deal of three wide receiver sets. Expect to see the Raiders flank Rice and Brown to opposite sides and put the big and speedy Porter in the slot. To counter this the Buccaneers will go to their base nickel package and substitute cornerback Dwight Smith for strong side linebacker Al Singleton. This will move Barber down right on top of the rangy Porter, who had a breakthrough season with 51 catches for 688 yards and nine touchdowns. He also added 10 catches for 175 yards and two scores in the post-season.
The Raiders were able to exploit this set against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship game. The Titans had no answer for Porter and he was an integral part of the passing game, even though he dropped an easy touchdown.
Barber, on the other hand, shut the lid on the coffin with his interception return for a touchdown against the Eagles last week. Oh, by the way, No. 20 was the nickel back sealing the first NFC Championship for the Bucs.
Keep an eye on this match up Sunday. If Porter gets the best of it the Raiders could run away and hide. If Barber comes out on top then the hardware could be coming back to Tampa.