With that being said, let's assume – and I know that's asking a lot but bear with me – that the turnover battle isn't a factor and neither team has a serious injury – this is the one I, personally, think will occur – that effects the outcome of the game. The three things I think the Bucs need to do are:
1. SHOW A COMMITMENT TO RUN THE FOOTBALL – The Buccaneers need to be more interested in carries than yardage. If the Raiders know that the Pewter Pirates will run the pigskin they will have to keep the linebackers in tight. This will allow Tampa Bay to hit the intermediate pass routes, behind the backers and in front of the secondary, that will move the chains.
2. PLAY TOUGH ON FIRST DOWN – The Bucs, who are the best team in the National Football League when it comes to surrendering yardage on first down must continue that trend. Tampa Bay must keep Oakland in second-and-long situations. This will allow the Mad Scientist, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, to use all the weapons at his disposal.
3. PLAY THROUGH ADVERSITY – There was no bigger billboard to that statement than the National Football Conference championship game in Philly. The Bucs of old would have folded the tent after a minute when Brian Mitchell took the opening kickoff deep into Tampa Bay territory and, two plays later, running back Duce Staley put the Eagles up 7-0 less the a minute into the contest. Oakland has the No. 1 offense for a reason so they will do good things. Play through the Raiders success.
Now, what three things do the Pewter Pirates have to avoid to win Super Bowl XXXVII. My opinion on that is:
1. DON'T ALLOW ANY HIDDEN YARDAGE – Tampa Bay cannot give up huge chunks of hidden yardage like they did in Philadelphia. Punt returner Karl Williams has to make sure he fields every punt on the fly to keep Oakland from getting a good roll. The Bucs coverage teams have to be exact tacklers and make the first hit the one that takes the return man down.
2. DON'T ALLOW ANY BIG PLAYS – The Buccaneers defense must make the Raiders offense earn every yard. Yes, Oakland will score but the Pewter Pirates must make sure that the silver & black have to fight for every yard. Any play over 25 yards will be a detriment to the Bucs big time.
3. DON'T MISS ANY OPPORTUNITY TO SCORE POINTS – Tampa Bay cannot leave points on the field. Kicker Martin Gramatica must have a perfect game with no missed field goals. When the Bucs get in the red zone it is imperative that they come away with points of some kind. The Pewter Pirates will be in trouble if the points stay on the field and don't end up on the scoreboard.
Going to the other sideline, the Raiders can win the football game if they accomplish three things. For the silver & black to emerge victorious they have to do the following:
1. RUN THE BALL BETWEEN THE TACKLES – The Raiders have to go into this game with the mindset that there are going to play this game in a phone booth. They want to gash the Bucs right up the middle. They want to shorten the game and wear the undersized Tampa Bay defensive front seven down.
2. PASS WHEN THE BUCS LEAST EXPECT IT – The Raiders have to throw when they want to throw and not when the Buccaneers force them into throwing the football. The Bucs are holding team to right around a 50 quarterback rating this season and, other than Pittsburgh Steelers QB Tommy Maddox, no signal caller has played well against the red & pewter.
3. PLAY WITH THE LEAD – Oakland need sto play with lead because then the No. 1 offense can use all its weapons. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown along with Jerry Porter become threats in the passing game and Charlie Garner along with Tyrone Wheatley rushing the football. The Raiders will be deadly if they get up by more than a touchdown.
Now lets look at the other side of the coin. The three things Oakland cannot be are:
1. DON'T LOSE PATIENCE – The Bucs defense is No. 1 for a reason. They frustrate the opposition into getting away from the things that they do that can be them. Oakland must not panic because that plays right into the hands of the Bucs one-gap scheme.
2. DON'T BECOME PASS HAPPY – This one will be huge. The Buccaneers want to make you one-dimensional because now they can come out you with a vengeance. If the front four know you're passing then watch out. Tampa Bay will come out you with a myriad of blitzing schemes off the Cover 2 base or Cover 2 nickel look.
3. DON'T LET THE BAD CALLS GET TO YOU – With the mystique of the Raiders everyone around the world is expecting a call or two to go against Oakland. The silver & black can't start to play the zebras. The have to play the Bucs and ignore the bad calls. There part of the game and don't get the idea that the calls are going against them because of Al Davis or whatever.
There you have it. I'm still sticking to my prediction of 31-10 Bucs because I think turnovers and injuries will play a huge part in the outcome. LET THE GAME BEGIN!
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