Raiders-Buccaneers preview

This is a matchup that features must-see TV in many circles, given the fact that both franchises have people with ties to each organization. These two Super Bowl XXXVII opponents, however, are shadows of their former selves.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-2 and while still pretty good on defense, the offense has been downright horrible. The Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, are 1-1 but the jury is still out on them as well. Here's a closer look at Sunday's matchup:

Buccaneers on offense: Brad Johnson remains the starting quarterback but he's not exactly on solid ground. Chris Simms replaced Johnson in last week's 10-6 loss to Seattle. It's one thing to replace a starring quarterback in a blowout loss but a 10-6 loss? Hmm. Johnson, not known for his mobility, figures to face his share of blitzing one week after the Raiders sacked Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe, also known for his statue-like mobility.

Tampa Bay has a pretty solid backfield in former Raider Charlie Garner and fullback Mike Alstott but with Bucs offense still struggling to find its identity, production will be tough. Tampa is also thin at receiver with Joey Galloway being slowed and Keenan McCardell still holding out. In fact, Tim Brown, whom the Raiders released, has been one of the starting receivers. TE Ken Dilger can still be a solid option as a receiver but his skills have waned slightly.

The biggest problem with the Bucs is that the offensive line leaves a lot to be desired and former Buc Warren Sapp, whom the Raiders signed, must be salivating at that sight. Right guard Cosey Coleman is the Bucs only player on the starting line has an upside while center John Wade is solid but faces a tough challenge against defensive tackle Ted Washington.

Raiders on offense: Oakland's emphasis on getting more production from the ground game is not coming to fruition as the Raiders are averaging less than three-yards per carry. Perhaps settling on Robert Gallery at right tackle will allow the Raiders to develop some much-needed continuity. Running the ball might not be much easier this week against Tampa. Despite the many offseason changes, the Bucs still have enough playmakers on defense.

The Raiders do not need a huge day running the ball but they need just enough production to take pressure off QB Rich Gannon, who continues to silence critics that insist he cannot throw the deep pass. The Bucs have a solid pair of cornerbacks in Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly.

Special teams: Joe Avezzano was hired to fix the Raiders special teams coverage problems but missed assignments continue to be a problem. Very few teams can match or surpass the Raiders kicker-punter combination of Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. Oakland also has an exciting return game in Phillip Buchanon on punts and potentially rookie Carlos Francis on kickoffs. For the Bucs, Martin Gramatica remains one of the NFL's better kickers while Josh Bidwell is a solid punter. The punt return game, however, will be a fair-catch fest if Brown returns them.

Bottom line: These two teams met in the Super Bowl two years ago and while the atmosphere in Oakland figures to be electric, these two teams resemble nothing of the matchup that occurred 21 months ago. Two teams that combined to score 19 points last week. Is another snooze-fest on the horizon?

Gruden might have embarrassed the Raiders in the Super Bowl but his offense must find a way to score if his team hopes to avoid an 0-3 start. Will that happen? What have the Bucs done to lead us to believe otherwise? Uh, nothing.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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