Admit it. You needed the bye week as much as the Buccaneers did. Did you enjoy that Vikings-Packers game on Sunday? Or that Saints-Falcons game on Monday night? Nice to see some good football for a change.
I was surprised to read that, from the Bucs' departure for London until they returned to work on Tuesday that they had practiced just 2 ½ hours. Really? That's going to get you prepared for the Packers next Sunday? Head coach Raheem Morris said they set the practice schedule well in advance. Guess he just couldn't stand to look at this team a minute longer during the bye. Maybe the mental break will do everyone some good.
Of course, 14 players had the flu when they got back from London. What, Virgin Airways doesn't give out surgical masks?
Against my advice, rookie Josh Freeman will start on Sunday against Green Bay. I've made it clear several times that I'm against playing Freeman as a starter this season. I realize the season is lost, but the worst thing you can do is damage Freeman's confidence right now. The one thing he had going for himself at the moment is that his attitude is not tainted by all of this losing. As long as he stays on the sideline, he's still full of promise. Toss him into the fray and he becomes just another struggling young quarterback with a lot to work on. Or have you been watching Matthew Stafford in Detroit this season? And he was the No. 1 pick.
Two things will happen to Freeman this season: He'll throw more interceptions that touchdowns and he'll miss at least one game due to injury. Bank on it.
Remember when I said that the Bucs will start 0-11? Here's further evidence to back up my claim. Of the Bucs' final nine games, six of their opponents have winning records. Four of those games are against undefeated New Orleans and NFC South rival Atlanta, who at 4-3 are still in the playoff race. Combined, the Bucs' final nine opponents are 36-22.
And don't forget – the Bucs still have to go to Seattle, where I'm almost positive they've never won. No. 1 overall pick here they come!
So I caught the tail end of that Saints-Falcons game on Monday night. Anyone who doesn't believe that Drew Brees is leading candidate going away for MVP needs to share whatever mind-altering drugs they're currently on. He's put on a clinic for the past three weeks of the impact that a quarterback can have on a game, especially his two gutsy rushing touchdowns against Miami. The Saints won't go undefeated, but they'll be the No. 1 overall seed and they'll destroy half the teams they'll play from here on out.
The funny thing is, though, that the most important addition to that team is defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Saints just needed their defense to stop being a liability, as it had been the past two years. They are no longer a problem, though the run defense is a bit soft. But S Darren Sharper has given the pass defense a real boost.
If you're planning ahead for next year, think about the makeup of the Bucs in 2010. I was considering it the other day. The Bucs are likely to get a Top 3 pick at this point. There is labor discord in the air. There is potential that 2010 could be an uncapped year, which means teams can spend, spend, spend. Now, the financial climate isn't that great, but you know the big-market teams will stock up on players, giving them high-dollar 1-year deals that won't be an issue if the salary cap comes back in 2011.
Then consider that the Bucs have spent the least on player costs in the last five years in the NFL, and that there are rumors that the Glazer family might even sell the team (which they have strongly denied).
Finally, think about a 1-15 season. If you're Williams, Ruud, or Phillips, would you really want to come back to this mess?
The fact is that the Bucs could have an even larger dearth of talent on the field in 2010 than they do this year. Ugly. Think about that when you're considering renewing your season tickets.
Remember that the Bucs will wear their Florida Orange jerseys this weekend vs. the Packers. It will be a sight for the eyes, that's for sure.
A little fantasy advice for you. If you have a back that faces the Bucs this season, he's a must start. The Bucs are 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 162.4 per game. So, If you have Ryan Grant, you better get him in your lineup.
I still think it's worth talking about Raheem Morris' job security if the Bucs are winless entering December. There's potential that Titans head coach Jeff Fisher could join Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher on the coaching sidelines after the season. And, of course, there's Tony Dungy.
I am undefeated this season in my picks. The Bucs get the Packers this week and I see no reason to give the Bucs a chance in this game, though the Packers have been inconsistent this season. If QB Aaron Rodgers is banged up more than they're saying, that could factor into this game. But with the Bucs' run defense so awful, all the Pack has to do is hand it to Ryan Grant to win this game. Packers 27, Bucs 13.