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Saturday, 6 a.m.
Last week was the best defensive game I've seen the Bucs play in years. This looks to be an inspired team that can win 5 more in a row. What say you, Gary?
I agree that last week's effort was a great one. It made you think of that old Bucs run when the defense had Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Ronde Barber. And others.
That said, I wouldn't wager on the Bucs winning five straight, particularly with Dallas, Carolina and two shots at the Saints lying ahead. I just don't think the Bucs are ready for that yet. But who am I? I didn't think they'd beat either the Chiefs or the Seahawks, and they did both.
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Last week's six sacks notwithstanding, I still think the Bucs are flawed with their pass rush. If Noah Spence looks like the real deal during his month, I might change that. I do know this: If Jameis Winston keeps finding Mike Evans, and if Evans is still among the top 2-3 receivers in the league, there isn't a game left that I would count them out of. That includes Dallas and Carolina.
If the Bucs can find a receiver and a safety with their top two draft picks, and if either Robert Ayers, Spence or a free agent nails down the other end, next year could be very good for them.
Given the way they are starting this season and how they struggled to make the playoffs last season, I think the Lightning are significant underachievers--especially since they have basically the same time as last year and have, arguably, the best roster in the NHL top to bottom. Do you think these guys read their press clippings too much? Or maybe we have to start looking at the coaching. Given how Stevie Y worked wonders to keep this team intact, I'm thinking he will shake this team up mightily if they don't go deep in the playoffs. I wouldn't be surprised if he has already lost his patience and we can expect major moves before January. What say you?
I wouldn't classify last year as a struggle to make the playoffs. Even with Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos missing down down the stretch, the team finished in second place in the Atlantic Division. They were spotty at times late in the season, but the playoffs weren't really in doubt. How far they would go was, but they still reached the final four.
I don't think they need to read press clippings. I do think they might have an inflated opinion of themselves after the last two seasons, however. And maybe that has something to do with their slow starts. That, and sloppy goaltending at times, has doomed the Bolts.
Yzerman isn't really a "shake-them-up" kind of guy. What would he do besides trade Ben Bishop. You can't move Steven Stamkos while he's hurt. You wouldn't move Victor Hedman so soon into his new deal. I could see them moving Ryan Callahan or Valtteri Filppula to get a little more size, but I don't think that's shaking them up.
With the expansion draft coming up, the Lightning might lose a piece out of its core. But I think when you give out a lot of big contracts, you're stuck with the players for a while. I remind myself of this: When they signed those guys, I thought it was a good thing. They'll be spotty from time to time, but they still have a good team. Let's see how it shakes out,even with Stammer hurt.
Are you happy with MLB/MLBPA agreeing that World Series home team advantage will now be determined by which team has the better regular season record, instead of which league wins the All-Star game?
You know I am, Scott. It was absurd to make that the stakes of a make-believe game. You might as well have had mascots play toss the bat.
It makes sense to me that a team with the best overall record should win something (besides MVP awards). So I like this on both ends. You aren't basing it on a foolish result of a foolish game. And you're letting the best team win an award.
I was a little disappointed that baseball didn't go to an international draft. Why should foreign-born rookies get rich while those born in, say, Ohio, have to live with a bargained salary?
Your column this week about the responsibility of the CFP committee made it clear for us all what the job of that committee is. But it still seems the current system is lacking. Now my question is would it not benefit fans and the integrity of college football as a whole to eliminate the 4 conference championships of the power 5 conferences and replace them with a quarterfinal playoff round? The sites of the current conference championships would host these games so no revenue would be lost by those venues. The conference championships decide very little as it stands now since the committee decides who goes to the playoffs and it may not be the conference champion as we are seeing this year. The powers that be at the NCAA and power 5 conferences would have to come together to make that decision. The CFP committee would have the same job but now they pick 8 teams. Eliminating the irrelevant conference championship games means no additional games would be added to the season overall and the fans get what they want with an expanded playoff. We can argue about the details but would you agree that this overall concept is much better than the current system?
Larry, the Playoff Committee has zero interest in going beyond four games. Zero. So while there is an outcry for it (which will get louder each year), it isn't going to happen for a long time.
Then there is this. The Playoff Committee has nothing to do with the conference title games, and vice versa. The SEC, for instance, loves its conference championship game. It gets tons of money from the TV rights for it. But the Playoff Committee certainly doesn't care about 15th-ranked Florida. I imagine that if Alabama lost to Florida, the Tide would still go (they'd have only one loss).
I think a week could be shaved off the regular season easily enough. Most schools play games against easy opponents during the year. Just kill those games. You can certainly argue that the regular season is too long.
Again, however, you aren't lopping a game to make room for more playoff games. The College Playoff Committee doesn't want them.
Sure, there is whining from the teams ranked No. 5-No. 7 or so. But doesn't that beat it coming from the No. 3 and No. 4 teams, the way it was with the BCS.
College football is a flawed sport, Larry. We've talked a lot about that. All of us could build an eight-team, or a 16-team, bracket that brings in more representatives. But the Committee, at this point, doesn't want them. It wants to make the regular season as relevant as possible.
Just think: If there were eight teams this year, both Ohio State and Michigan would have been in. Eventually, that has to take a big of the impact of that game away, as it has with college basketball.
Eventually, you have to cut off the playoffs somewhere. If you invite eight teams in, well, ninth-ranked Oklahoma is going to get its nose out of joint. If you invite 16, then 17th ranked Western Michigan looks as if it really got hosed. And so forth.
Who do you predict will be the 2 teams playing in the National Championship game in Tampa?
I don't want to give you the two highest-ranked teams, because that sounds like a copout.
I like Alabama, because Nick Saban is the best coach going and he may have his best defense. I don't think the Tide is bulletproof; they beat Ole Miss only by five. But I think they're the best bet. I like Saban as much as I hate the Dr. Pepper guy.
In the other half, I'm going to go with Clemson over Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat Michigan by three, a lousy Michigan State team by one, Wisconsin by three and Northwestern by four. The Buckeyes are still very talented, and Urban Meyer is a fine coach (it kills me to say that), but I think they're missing some mojo.
So how about a replay for the title? Alabama against Clemson.
In answering one of my questions last week, you said that writers don't have the access to players that they used to have. Why did that happen? Why do teams allow it to
happen? It seems counter-productive.
In the long run, it IS counter-productive, but it would take long-range vision to see that. I'm not sure how much of it the league has.
I call a lot of this the Belichicking of America. Like Bill Belichick, who was born a grump and sees no advantage in sharing the smallest bit of information on his team, every other coach tries to emulate him. It got to the point that, last year, Lovie Smith brated a writer for saying who the nickel back was going to be. Don't you think Smith was going to play the best player he had available? And don't you think the other team probably knew who that was?
Players are so restricted in when they talk to the media. Many players talk only once a week for 15-20 minutes. It's absurd. Part of the problem has been the addition of so many blogs and sports-talk radio employees who are there only for a sound bite. Their questions are boring and clumsy and often just get in the way.
Then there is this: Newspapers just don't matter as much anymore. I hate to say that, because I'm a newspaper guy. But the sections are smaller, and fewer people are traveling.
If Roger Goodell could see beyond Tuesday, he'd notice this. He'd make teams give access to their top players once a week to the local newspapers.
The Bucs truly are reminding me of 1996 when the defense got Dungy/Kiffin System and started playing like the 97-01 Bucs. But even during that late run where they went 5-2, those two losses were pretty un-Buclike A 28-0 loss to Panthers who would eventually go on to the NFC Championship game that year (and kill the Cowboys dynasty) and a 21-10 loss to the Vikings right before the season ending win over Chicago that set the Bucs faithful home counting down the days till 97.
This is what Im hoping for..not even the playoffs… just playing so good, that Bucs fans will know that next year, we will begin the season capable of winning.
Lets forget the fact that if they qualify they are one…do you think THIS Bucs team is a playoff team?
The Bucs were worn out in that Raiders game, just not enough depth to keep up with that offense, and after going 5 quarters and having to play again in 4 days were not ready to play vs Atlanta. Again, just not enough depth.
After 10 days rest, they’ve been great. Does this sound like a sound premise to you?
It's absolutely a sound premise. The Bucs were a tired team, and they needed some players (Robert Ayers, Doug Martin) to get healthy again. I think those two things have really helped the Bucs.
I hate to be splash water on your parade. I think the schedule is incredibly challenging with the Chargers, Saints (twice), Dallas and Carolina. I don't see them making it. Again, I didn't see them beat the Chiefs or Seahawks, either.
You mentioned the Bucs' lack of depth. I think that will be tested down the stretch. But look at this: It's December, and we're talking about the playoffs.
As I mentioned earlier, I think the Bucs can compete with any team on their schedule. That's different. I still think they need another safety and another wide receiver, though. But I like Winston, and I like Evans. I think the Bucs have a solid chance going into the future. Next year, if not this one.