The Rays are settling into their normal comfy spot in last place. The Lightning has been done for a couple of months. The NBA Finals have another game or two before it gets interesting. And I got bored with the Billy Donovan story about three days ago. So what do you talk about in sports when there's nothing to talk about in sports? The Bucs, of course.
I actually wrote this back when the schedule came out, but I thought it was worth running again here on the Two Cents blog. Using complex and sophisticated data analysis, playing countless hours of Madden 07 and interviewing countless scouts and people named Kiper Jr., I came up with my predictions for the 2007 Bucs season. (Okay, maybe I should be up front and admit that I didn't do any of those things except play Madden 07 and I didn't even play the Bucs.) But I did make predictions. That part is true. So here is my look at how the Bucs will do in 2008.
Sept. 9 at Seattle: Unless Jeff Garcia gets stuck in line waiting for his iced, nonfat latte at one of the 1.2-million Starbucks in the greater Seattle area, he will start at QB. But it won't matter if it's Jeff Garcia, Andy Garcia, Chris Simms, Phil Simms or Molly Simms, the Bucs won't be able to stop Shaun Alexander and will fall to 12-19 all-time in season openers. Seahawks 27-10. (0-1)
Sept. 16 vs. New Orleans: The Saints' Reggie Bush might be banned from the Playboy Mansion, but we haven't noticed Hugh Hefner and his girls next door hanging out in the Bucs' end zone (and we've looked!) so we assume Bush is free to go wild. He'll run for one score, catch another, return a punt and a kickoff for TDs. Then in the second quarter ... Saints 38-7. (0-2)
Sept. 23 vs. St. Louis: The Bucs will beat the Rams. Why? Because they always do well against the Rams ... well, except for that little NFC title game that had they won, Tony Dungy might still be in Tampa Bay. But the Bucs have won three of the past four meetings in the regular season - all great games, by the way. This game won't be great, but it will be a victory. Bucs 23-14. (1-2)
Sept. 30 at Carolina: Tampa Bay can't stop the other team from scoring. It could put 15 guys on the field and the other team would still score like crazy. There is never such a thing as a three-and-out. We're talking, of course, about Joe Maddon's Up With People Devil Rays, who finish another 100-loss, last-place season on this day. The Bucs? Yeah, they lose, too. Panthers 24-14. (1-3)
Oct. 7 at Indianapolis: Here's the lone hope: Peyton Manning, while filming a TV commercial in Las Vegas, runs into Pacman Jones and Chris Henry and they talk him into getting "just one drink'' at a local establishment. Next thing you know, Peyton is using MasterCards to make it "rain'' and ends up in Interrogation Room 3. Otherwise, we're going with Dungy's team. Colts 42-7. (1-4)
Oct. 14 vs. Tennessee: A short book for Jon Gruden written by Dr. Steussie: See Vince Young. See Vince run. See Vince run fast. Oh, how he can run. Run left. Run right. Run left and right. Run, run, run. Do you like to watch Vince run? I do not. I do not like to see Vince run. I do not like him on the road, I do not like him at home. I do not like to see Vince run. Titans 30-20. (1-5)
Oct. 21 at Detroit: For all you Bucs fans tired of Bruce Allen calling the shots, count your blessings. You could be stuck with Lions head cheese Matt Millen. This guy makes Vince Naimoli look like Steve Jobs. He took over a team that had hit rock bottom, then whipped out a jackhammer to dig even deeper. Bucs 7-3. (2-5)
Oct. 28 vs. Jacksonville: Did you know this is only Jacksonville's second trip to Tampa Bay in the regular season? Of course, you didn't. No one did because no one cares about what the Jaguars do. Quick history lesson. They are good. Then bad. Then good. Then so-so. Kinda like seasons of The Sopranos. Can the Bucs win two in a row? Sure, why not. Bucs 12-9. (3-5)
Nov. 4 vs. Arizona: Making fun of the Cardinals is like fishing with dynamite. It's too easy. Then again, we like easy. How many Cards does it take to change a tire? One, unless it's a blowout and then they all show up. Or this: "Will the woman who left her 11 kids in the parking lot please pick them up? They are beating the Cardinals 27-0.'' So ... Bucs 24-23. (4-5).
Nov. 11 Bye week: Slowly but surely becoming every Bucs fan's favorite week of the season.
Nov. 18 at Atlanta: Falcons QB Michael Vick misses the first half. Still, the Bucs can muster only a three-point half-time lead. A fresh Vick comes out in the second half, runs for 210 yards and throws for three touchdowns - two of them right-handed and one to a pit bull. Falcons 38-17. (4-6)
Nov. 25 vs. Washington: Will Joe Gibbs please pick up the white courtesy phone? Your ride to the retirement home is here. Actually, it's kind of sad to watch Gibbs go from one of the greatest coaches of all time to babysitter for a five-wins-a-year team. Unfortunately, this might be one of the Redskins' five wins. Redskins 17-13. (4-7)
Dec. 2 at New Orleans: Oh when the Bucs ... come marching in. Oh when the Bucs come marching in. Lord, you know it will be ugly. When the Bucs come marching in. Actually, here's the shocker. Down by one with 30 seconds left, Bruce Gradkowski completes three passes to set up a Matt Bryant 62-yard FG with one second left. It's high enough, it's long enough and it's ... oh, just wide right. Saints 20-19. (4-8)
Dec. 9 at Houston: How to kill a franchise: Re-sign your unproven starting QB (David Carr) to another year. With the No. 1 draft pick, pass on a hometown hero (QB Vince Young) and a stud RB (Reggie Bush). Take a defensive end (Mario Williams). Then get rid of your unproven starting QB (Carr) and trade for another team's backup (Matt Schaub). That's like re-signing a QB with no spleen, signing a free-agent QB and trading for one who wants to retire. Yeesh. Tie 0-0. (4-8-1)
Dec. 16 vs. Atlanta: Usually, once a season, the Bucs figure out a way to slow Michael Vick. Usually it's at home. They must water the field or let the grass grow or something. Or maybe it used to be that the Bucs defense of Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles, Simeon Rice and such were too quick for Vick to outrun. Now, unless the Bucs D uses walkers to trip up Vick, there won't be any stopping him. Falcons 27-10. (4-9-1)
Dec. 23 at San Francisco: This is supposed to be a night game for NBC's Sunday Night Football. Of course, the NFL has that flexible schedule, meaning NBC could switch to a more high-profile game. Why don't they just save the trouble and go ahead and change this game now. Really, this is like Rays vs. Royals any time after Memorial Day. It won't mean a thing. 49ers 3-2. (4-10-1)
Dec. 30 vs. Carolina: Last game of the year. Maybe the last game of the Gruden Era. Maybe the last game for Derrick Brooks and Mike Alstott. By this point, Carolina will have wrapped up a playoff spot. The Bucs go out with a bang. Bucs 33-3. (5-10-1)
That's it, folks, 5-10-1. Write it down. Well, I guess you don't have to write it down because I just did and it's in your computer and ... ah, you know I mean!