Pewter Report Pre-Game Roundtable

January 26 – Pewter Report editors Scott Reynolds, Leo Haggerty and Jim Flynn have each given their takes on what needs to happen in order for Tampa Bay to defeat Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII in this 1,500-word commentary. You don't want to miss what the Pewter Report editors had to say about Sunday's huge game.

SCOTT REYNOLDS – Pewter Report Editor-In-Chief:

"If the Raiders have to help out injured Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson with a safety, it will hurt their ability to blitz Tampa Bay's offense. Expect Jon Gruden to test Woodson early and pick on him with bigger, physical receivers like Joe Jurevicius and Keyshawn Johnson if Woodson gets exposed."

"I expect Tampa Bay to come out in a lot of bunch formations to try to confuse Oakland's defenders, who will likely be in man coverage. The Bucs run a lot of picks out of the bunch formation, and that helps their receivers get instant separation off the snap of the ball."

"The thing that scares me if I'm the Buccaneers is Oakland coming in with a completely different game plan than they're used to implementing. If Oakland comes out and unexpectedly runs the hell out of the ball, especially with bigger backs like Zack Crockett and Tyrone Wheatley, they could catch Tampa Bay's defense off guard and put them back on their heels. The Bucs' biggest weakness is their defensive interior. Starting nose tackle Chartric Darby weighs about 275 pounds, and Warren Sapp, who hasn't been much of a force against the run in the postseason, weighs about 300 pounds. Oakland has an offensive line that averages about 320 pounds, and features 340-pound left guard Frank Middleton, an ex-Buc who can't wait to get a piece of Sapp for old times' sake. In fact, Middleton vs. Sapp is going to be one of the marquee matchups of Super Bowl Sunday."

"If the Raiders come out and throw the ball 15-20 times in the first quarter, chances are they will be playing right into the Bucs defense's hands. Tampa Bay's defense always makes a point of first shutting down an opponent's running game. If Oakland offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is going to do that for them by having Rich Gannon sling the ball all over the field in the first quarter, that's all the better for Tampa Bay."

"The big matchup in this game is 6-foot-3 Oakland receiver Jerry Porter versus Tampa Bay's 5-foot-9 cornerback Ronde Barber. Porter is the Raiders' third wide receiver and Barber moves into the slot in nickel defense when Oakland brings out its three-wide formations. Barber is coming off his best game ever as a pro last week versus Philadelphia, but bigger receivers such as Pittsburgh's 6-foot-6 Plaxico Burress have given Barber some trouble."

"Tampa Bay's offensive line holds the key to victory in this game. They have to produce at least 90 yards rushing and can't surrender more than two sacks for the Bucs to win. Oakland's offense will score at least 13 points on Tampa Bay's defense, so the offense will have to at least score 14 to get the victory."

"Tampa Bay came out better in the Jon Gruden trade. After surrendering a first- and a second-round pick last year, the Bucs are expected to give Oakland a first-rounder again this year as part of the deal, followed by a second-rounder in 2004. The problem for Oakland owner Al Davis is that this No. 1 pick is going to be either pick 31 or 32, depending on the winner of the Super Bowl. I'm sure a first-round pick that low is not what Davis had in mind when he signed off on the Gruden trade last year. The Bucs will wind up getting the last laugh on this one, especially if Gruden beats Davis' Raiders on Sunday."

"I think Tampa Bay has an edge over Oakland in Gruden's familiarity with his former team. The Bucs defense will hold the Raiders below 20 points, and it will be up to the Pewter Pirates offense to put some touchdowns on the board to secure the team's first ever Super Bowl title. I think Tampa Bay's receivers can expose Oakland's cornerbacks and win the game through the air."

"Who will win the Super Bowl MVP for Tampa Bay? Here's my top five predictions in order: 1. QB Brad Johnson 2. CB Brian Kelly 3. RB Mike Alstott 4. WR Keyshawn Johnson 5. DE Simeon Rice."

LEO HAGGERTY – Pewter Report Managing Editor:

"From an offensive point of view, first and foremost, Tampa Bay has to score early. They have to mount a 10-point advantage as soon as possible. With banged up cornerback Charles Woodson basically playing on one leg look for the Pewter Pirates to create man-to-man situations by formation. This will force Oakland to do one of two things. Either pull Woodson from the game or give him help. If the Raiders choose the first option look for 6-foot cornerback Terrance Shaw to replace the 6-foot-1 Woodson and that is advantage Tampa Bay. If Oakland decides to give him help it will eliminate a lot of blitz packages from the silver & black. Bigger advantage Buccaneers."

"When you look at the defensive side of the ball Tampa Bay has to set the tone. I hearken back to the 1999 National Football Conference championship game against St. Louis as a perfect example. The hit that linebacker Derrick Brooks put on Rams wide receiver Torry Holt that nearly broke his leg in half sent a message. That calling card was that you're not getting deep on us and we'll let you catch the ball underneath but you will pay dearly. The Buccaneers have to send an early greeting to either Tim Brown or Jerry Rice that they will be getting blasted all game."

"From the area of special teams to keys are clear and concise. The coverage units cannot allow any big plays. They must keep punt returner Tim Brown and kickoff return man Marcus Knight in check. No game changing returns of any kind. Conversely, the Bucs have to do a better job with their return game especially punt returns. The hidden yardage, when the ball isn't caught and it rolls 20 more yards in the wrong direction, can't happen. Finally, kicker Martin Gramatica cannot miss a field goal attempt of reasonable length. That could come back to haunt the Pewter Pirates."

JIM FLYNN – Pewter Report Assistant Editor:

"Tampa Bay's defense is regarded as one of the best tackling defenses in the National Football League. This unit will definitely be tested on Super Bowl Sunday when they face an Oakland offense that makes a living off of breaking tackles and making defenders miss. Oakland's receivers run a lot of short intermediate routes and the team simply counts on its receivers to gain yards after the catch. Not only must Tampa Bay's defense limit wide receivers Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and running back Charlie Garner's production in the passing game, but they have to hit these players hard immediately after there is contact made with the football. If the Bucs secondary can make the Raiders receivers think twice about catching the ball over the middle of the field, the Pewter Pirates will stand an excellent chance of limiting their production in the passing game."

"Oakland's secondary doesn't scare me at all. If I'm Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, I come out and test injured Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson immediately. The only guy in the Oakland secondary that I'd be fearful of is veterans free safety Rod Woodson, who is excellent against the run and the pass. He has eight picks this season. Tampa Bay wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius are good enough to eat this secondary up, especially if they elect to play man-to-man against the Bucs. But again, the Bucs offensive line must give QB Brad Johnson time to pick them apart."

"Last week, I was worried about Tampa Bay's special teams coverage units allowing Philadelphia return man Brian Mitchell to burn them on some big plays. My concerns became a reality when Mitchell toasted the Bucs on two big returns. But this week, I'd have that same concern if I were an Oakland Raider. Oakland has one of the worst special teams coverage units in the league. Tampa Bay has never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in its 27-year history. Jon Gruden has erased a number of embarrassing statistics from Tampa Bay's record books, so why not do away with one more."

"Field position will play a huge part in determining the outcome of Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa Bay's defense needs to hold Oakland to some three-and-outs, but this will be difficult to do. The Raiders converted 45 percent of its third downs during the regular season. Tampa Bay's offense can't afford to turn the ball over in its own territory and the defense will need to come up with a few turnovers of its own. Remember this stat – the Bucs have not lost a game this season when they've won the turnover battle."

"They say offenses sell tickets and defenses win championships. If that theory is true, Tampa Bay should walk away from Super Bowl XXVII victorious."

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