The Final Pick is in…

I've been baited once again. I wanted to stay away from making any kind of Super Bowl prediction, especially after predicting both games and scores wrong last week, but I have these ridiculous obligations that stipulate that I make some kind of forecast on the big game.

I mean, I would look even sillier if I didn't break this game down in some fashion, considering that every single person in the country has a team they like. The bookies in Vegas; the analysts galore who have hounded players all week in San Diego; the people in Hollywood who decided to become prognosticators for one day; you get the idea by now.


In any case, the most important reason for making my BIG prediction for the BIG game on Sunday is because I must redeem myself after last week's debacle. Going into the Championship matchups, I compiled a fairly impressive 5-3 record and was confident that at least one of the underdog teams (either Tennessee or Tampa Bay) was going to upset the home team. I was right, but I picked the wrong team to win: Tennessee.


However, once the Buccaneers defeated Philadelphia, it was pretty clear that the Titans had no shot to unearth the Raiders in the black hole. After picking the Jets to upset Oakland the week before, I should have known better than to go against the men in black for a second week in a row. But hey, I picked the old fogies to miss the playoffs before the season started, and I certainly threw dirt on their coffins after they dropped four games in a row midway through the season.


I'm not picking against these guys anymore though. Oakland is my pick to win the Super Bowl: 24-14.


Now, let me explain why I came to this conclusion. First of all, I don't buy into this argument that the game will come down to Jon Gruden's ability to out coach his close friend, Bill Callahan. I also don't buy into the argument that the Raiders will be extra motivated to show up their former coach. I know, not taking much interest in the Gruden aspect of this matchup is sacrilege, but I'm one of those football geeks that's more interested in Xs and Os, and the individual matchups between players that will make or break either team's chances to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 


For starters, football purists all over the globe are looking at this battle inside the trenches between Oakland's offensive line and Tampa Bay's defensive line as one for the ages. The Raiders' front five outweighs Tampa's front four by 45 pounds per man, while on the other side; the Buccaneers have the fastest defensive line that Oakland will have faced all year long.

Simeon Rice is sure to dominate Barry Sims in passing situations all night long, unless Callahan uses offensive tackle Langston Walker as an eligible blocking tight end, much like they did against the Titans last Sunday. However, Lincoln Kennedy shouldn't have much trouble walling off Greg Spires, a fast defensive end, but a squattier version of Rice all around.


My guess is the interior, with Sapp and Darby manning the defensive tackle spots, will be opened up some though, if guard Frank Middleton can successfully turn Sapp at an angle, allowing Robbins to chip him once he moves back inside.


If Oakland can successfully negate the Buccaneers' four man pass rush, as I believe they can to some degree, than defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will have to use more blitz packages to get to Gannon. This could prove to be a dangerous move because Oakland will just attack the voids in the middle of the field and outside of the hash marks by completing crosses, curls, hitches, short outs and slant passes.


If Tampa Bay's line can control the great black wall while using four rushers, much like they did against the St. Louis Rams' offensive juggernaut four years ago, then the Bucs will be able to drop more players into coverage, flooding the windows that Gannon passes through.


The other aspect of this matchup that intrigues me is whether Bill Callahan attacks the Tampa Bay defense on the ground. A lot of experts have sort of dismissed that idea, stating that Callahan won't deviate too much from his pass happy attack.

Still, Oakland's play calling master has been studying the attack plans that three teams established to defeat the Buccaneers this season: New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In all four of Tampa's losses this season, they've yielded some substantial yardage against the run. Even last week against the Eagles, Tampa Bay didn't necessarily stop tailback Duce Staley, who gained over 50 yards on 11 carries, rushing for 5 yards per clip.

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