Playoff Atmosphere

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't be traveling on Friday as most teams do. They will instead arrive in San Diego on Saturday to face the Chargers a day later at sold out Qualcomm.

The Bucs are 0-3 when they travel two days before the game so they are hoping the extra day at home will give them a competitive edge as they try and keep their playoff hopes alive. It is something the club has never done before so who knows how they will respond. With the playoffs on the line, they are willing to risk everything.

When you consider that the Bucs are 3-23 all-time on west coast trips, something needed to be changed.

Bucs' quarterback Brian Griese called it "just another trip" and said he enjoys playing in San Diego. He is a former Denver Bronco so he is familiar with the west coast. This isn't, however, the same old Chargers.

The Bucs record, 5-7, says this is a winnable game for San Diego – they have not lost to a team with a losing record this year – but it will be a playoff atmosphere at the Q. The Bucs have won five of their last eight games.

"Tampa is just getting on a roll, blowing (Atlanta) out," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

What wasn't said was how they lost some of those games. The roll would have started a long time ago if former kicker Martin Gramatica would have made some field goals. He missed three in a game against Carolina and two more against St. Louis. He wasn't given the opportunity to try a 46-yard field goal against Atlanta which would have tied the game. Five of their seven losses have come by seven points of less so they have at least been in every single game.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are winners of their last six and have a five-game home winning streak.

The credit, according to cornerback Quentin Jammer, begins with their practice regimen.

"Our practices are 100 miles an hour everyday and that's what you have to do to get it done in this league. We've been doing it this year and we're 9-3 because of it."

But they aren't the only ones who think practice makes perfect. The Bucs are led by one of the hardest working coaches in the business and ex-Buccaneer Roman Oben points to Jon Gruden and says Tampa will be ready to play.

"I respect the preparation – what they do during the week to get ready to play," he said.

And it will be hard for Marty Schottenheimer to match the facial contortions of Gruden.

Marty uses the stern approach and hardly wavers. During the game it is rare to see him smile. He is working over the refs, making sure his players know there responsibilities or glaring out on the field.

Gruden, on the other hand, wears his emotions on his face, literally. From the cocked eyebrow of disbelief to the smirk of understanding, he has it all covered.

"From an emotional standpoint he really gets you ready to play," Oben said of his former coach.

Which is why the Chargers can't take this game lightly. Tampa may not have a winning record but it equates to fantasy football. Every year there is a team that has a ton of points but for some reason has been on the losing end of their matchups. When the stretch run comes they are the most dangerous team on the board.

Given the Bucs shot at a playoff berth, they are one game behind Seattle in the watered down NFC, the test is magnified.

"They are fighting for everything they can get," said quarterback Drew Brees. "I would assume they have to win every single game to make the playoffs. It is going to be a very similar game to the Denver game."

More anxiety for Chargers fans.


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