Additional time is to the Bucs’ advantage

by Gary Shelton on September 6, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston has started slowly in the past./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston has started slowly in the past./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

It could have been worse. It could have been Hurricane Booker. Or Hurricane Josh. Or Hurricane Sabby.

How about Hurricane Trent? Hurricane Vinny? Hurricane Leeman?

Not to be overly flip, but the Bucs are all too familiar with the devastation of picking the wrong guy. It's an all-wet decision, and the recovery from the damage can take years. Federal help would be nice.

Hurricane Hugh? Hurricane Keith? Hurricane Dexter?

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More timing could mean better timing with Jackson./CARMEN MANDATO

More timing could mean better timing with Jackson./CARMEN MANDATO

If you lived through the chaos, the scars can be difficult to live with.

And so it was that the NFL, staring down Hurricane Irma, had taken a pass on this week's Bucs-Dolphins game in Miami. It was the right call. To have fans risk the highways and the traffic in the name of a game would be silly.

But, really, the question has to be asked.

Which team does this favor?

Of course, the answer depends on when the the league tries to make it up. Right now, the easy guess is that the teams will play on Nov. 19, when both teams have an open date. The Monday night suggestion is favored by some, because teams need a bye week. But what if the storm hits Miami hard? Would you want to play a football game?

That's why you get the feeling the NFL is waiting and watching. If they can squeeze this game in, it will maintain a sense or order. If not, both teams playing 16 straight weeks is heavy duty.

Look, if the teams play Monday, the Dolphins have the edge. The Bucs are coming off a terrible preseason in which the offense hasn't clicked, and Doug Martin is suspended and T.J. Ward is still unpacking. The Bucs will have spent a week  not knowing when they're travelling to play; no easy schedule for the week. But if the game is delayed for 2 ½ months, I think the advantage goes to the Bucs.

So, assuming each team will have played 10 games when they play, who would have the edge?

1. The game: The Bucs will have a slight advantage with their schedule, since the Dolphins play the Monday night game in Week 10 against Carolina. That makes for a short week. By then, of course, Miami would have had time to recover from its Oct. 1 game in London against the New Orleans Saints. Edge: Bucs.

2. The passing game: The Dolphins would get a boost from new quarterback Jay Cutler having more time with his offense. But Cutler is a notorious slow finisher. He was hurt late last season with the Bears, but he was 1-4 in his last five in 2015, 0-4 in 2014 and 1-4 in 2013. Of course, the cold of Chicago could have something to do with that.

Martin would be back if the teams played in mid-season./CARMEN MANDATO

Martin would be back if the teams played in mid-season./CARMEN MANDATO

By the same token quarterback Jameis Winston has finished stronger in each of his two years. In both seasons, he started 1-3, and he has thrown seven and eight interceptions in the first months of his season. Ten games should give Winston plenty of time to get into a rhythm with his new receivers. Edge: Bucs.

3. The running game: One would assume that Doug Martin will now miss the New England game (he is suspended for the season's first three games). But Martin should be back in plenty of time to play the Dolphins, who were 30th in the league in rushing defense last year. Martin isn't the running back that, say, Miami's Jay Ajayi is, but a full roster works better than an incomplete one. Edge: Bucs.

4. Home field: The Dolphins were 6-2 at home last year. The Bucs were 5-3 on the road. It isn't much, but it beats playing in Tampa. Edge: Dolphins.

5. The secondary: The Miami Herald has proclaimed that the four wide receivers of the Dolphins would create a major mismatch against the Bucs. Perhaps, although you could suggest the Dolphins might have trouble matching up against the Bucs' receivers, too. Still, a key part of the Bucs' secondary is new safety T.J. Ward. You have to figure he'll be better in week 11. Edge: Dolphins, but not by as much as it would be this week.

6. The offensive line: Dolphin center Mike Pouncey is coming off an injured hip. Obviously, he'd be better with time. The team might also have time to adjust to losing starting guard Ted Larsen. Edge: Dolphins.

7. The injuries: This could change everything, of course. If the Bucs lose Winston, or Mike Evans, all bets are off. If the Dolphins lose Cutler or Ndamukong Suh, it changes things. Ten weeks is a lot of attrition. Edge: We'll see.

In the meantime, stay safe. And stay out of the way of Hurricane Bruce. Or Hurrine Gaines. Or Hurricane Lovie.

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