Raheem said there would be days like this, Josh. But five picks? I don't think I saw that coming.
The fantasy football service I subscribed to called it one of the worst 300-yard games in history. And I can't really argue that.
Freeman threw for 324 yards against one of the best pass defenses in the NFL this year. The Panthers have shut down some pretty salty teams this year. But those five interceptions were just so glaring that everything good Freeman did on Sunday just disintegrates in comparison.
For the first time this season, the rook cost the Bucs a victory. How else do you explain those passing yards in a 16-6 loss?
Should we start getting worried about Clifton Smith? Sunday brought his second concussion of the year, both of which came against Carolina. The new NFL concussion rules have taken effect and Smith must be fully recovered to be eligible to play this week. In fact, the Bucs ended Smith's season on Tuesday by moving him to injured reserve. Given Smith's impact on special teams for the Bucs, whether concussions will become a nagging thing with the back deserves some thought.
It's time to tell Jeremy Trueblood to start paying attention to what's going on around him. That hit after the whistle, even with his "I didn't hear the whistle" excuse is unacceptable, a week after being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct against Atlanta. That's two major penalties in back to back weeks, and it's not the first time that Trueblood has been caught with his hand in the proverbial unsportsmanlike conduct cookie jar. It was nice to see Raheem Morris bench him, even if it was for a short period. Trueblood could be looking at a second straight week with a fine.
The Bucs return home this weekend to face the Jets. Something tells me the Bucs will have to rely on the Jets fans to sell out RayJay. If you recall, attendance for the Saints game was 3,000 below capacity three weeks ago. And that was for perhaps the best team in the NFL.
Four more weeks, people. Four more weeks.
Time for our latest edition of the 2010 NFL No. 1 Overall Draft Pick Derby. That really needs a catchier name.
It's still a three-horse race between Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cleveland, as all lost last week. Do we need to start discussing the possibility of having three 1-15 teams in the NFL for the first, well, ever? Think about it…
The Bucs have the Jets at home. They have the running game to control that game. The Bucs go to Seattle, where they've never won. The Saints will beat them like a drum in Week 16. That leaves Atlanta as their last winnable game in Week 17.
The Rams have a slightly easier schedule, with divisional games against Arizona and San Francisco to end the season. Before that they travel to resurgent Tennessee and host Houston, the latter being a winnable game.
The Browns get Pittsburgh this week, then follow that with potential wins against Kansas City and Oakland, followed by the season ender vs. Jacksonville.
As crazy as it sounds, this derby is far from over. In its own macabre way, it might be more exciting than some of the potential playoff races we have to look forward to. How often do we get to witness this level of ineptness?
Last week I told you that the No. 1 player on the board, according to Scout.com's Chris Steuber, was Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. I don't know if you watched the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday (you may well have been tying one on after the Gators lost), but this guy is a flat out beast. This was the first time I got to watch him for an entire game and he was just about unblockable. This guy has the capability of being the next Albert Haynesworth. If the Bucs do get the No. 1 overall pick they should take this guy, unless someone offers them a boatload of draft picks in exchange for the first selection. Suh's talent can solve a lot of the problems the Bucs have on defense, beginning with their inability to stop the run.
Or did you miss what Jonathan Stewart did to the Bucs on Sunday?
Speaking of the Raiders, did you see what Bruce Gradkowski did against Pittsburgh? He was 20-of-33 for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Raiders' surprising 27-24 win over the Steelers. I never had a lot of regard for Gradkowski when he was in Tampa Bay, but do you remember the last time he was in Pittsburgh? It was as a Buc in 2006. He was the starter when the Bucs were nearly shut out by the Steelers, and Jon Gruden chose to kick that late, lame field goal because he didn't want the kid to go home with a shutout.
I'm guessing this homecoming went a lot better for Bruce. And don't look now, but he has, very quietly, put together a nice stretch since becoming the starter before Week 11. He's 2-1 with 6 touchdowns and 1 interception. The wins? Over AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. And he's doing this with perhaps the worst assemblage of offensive personnel in the league.
Frankly, the Raiders' stretch-it-out style seems a better fit for Gradkowski. Now that JaMarcus Russell is no longer in favor in Oakland, it will be interesting to see if Gradkowski gets the chance to be a long-term starter.
Could the NFC South neighborhood see some changes next offseason? ESPN was reporting Sunday that Bill Cowher has been talking with some people about the type of staff he would assemble if he returned to coaching. I think most people thought it would be only a matter of time before Cowher returned to the sideline, and it's widely assumed that the job he most covets is Carolina, where John Fox may finally get the ax this season.
The logic is that Cowher would like to coach close to his daughter, who is attending Wofford, which is a short drive from Charlotte. It doesn't hurt that team president Jerry Richardson is a Wofford benefactor and that the team's training camp is in Wofford.
Thing is, if Cowher is offered the job and he takes it, the Panthers won't change that much. They'll still be the hard-nosed team Bucs fans have come to know and dislike.
That's the last time I take the Bucs this season. That's all my fault. I should have known that Carolina's pass defense would give Josh Freeman fits. But I was feeling good about the Bucs' loss to Atlanta, so I caved and took the Bucs. Now I'm 11-2 on the season. I know there's some question as to whether rookie QB Mark Sanchez will play on Sunday, but I don't think it matters that much. The Jets have the backs to run it down Tampa Bay's throat, and that's exactly what they'll do. The Bucs are playing better, but I'm not going to be a fool two weeks in a row. Rex Ryan knows defense and the Jets can pound the rock as well as anyone. Jets 23, Bucs 14.