Saturday, March 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs at Jets

Seahawks at Panthers

1 p.m. Seahawks by 3½, 45

QB Russell Wilson, above, had a remarkable rookie season, leading the Seahawks to a surprising playoff berth as a third-round pick. He displayed the same kind of athleticism and playmaking ability that Panthers QB Cam Newton wowed with a few years back. Yet Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn and the 2011 No. 1 overall pick, has failed to live up to his early hype since. It will be an interesting showdown between Wilson and Newton, but the Seahawks, 11-5 a year ago, have a much better supporting cast.

The pick: Seahawks 27, Panthers 17

Chiefs at Jaguars

1 p.m. Chiefs by 4, 421/2

There has been plenty of change in Kansas City with the arrival of coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith, above. Smith, who led the 49ers to the NFC title game in 2011 before being supplanted by Colin Kaepernick in 2012, should boost a passing offense that ranked 32nd last season. Plus, he has star RB Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs struggled to stop the run, however, and that plays into the hands of the Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew. QB Blaine Gabbert (broken thumb) is expected to start for Jacksonville.

The pick: Jaguars 21, Chiefs 17

Cardinals at Rams

4:25 p.m. Rams by 4½, 411/2

The Rams are still chasing the 49ers and Seahawks in the West but could be a sleeper. They went 4-1-1 in the division in 2012. The key is the continued development of QB Sam Bradford, above, who won't have Steven Jackson in the backfield. The Cardinals boast much-older QB Carson Palmer but are exciting with CB Patrick Peterson, S Tyrann Mathieu and, of course, WR Larry Fitzgerald. Rashard Mendenhall, a longtime Steeler, arrived and hopes to spark 2012's worst running attack (75.3 yards per game).

The pick: Rams 30, Cardinals 20

Packers at 49ers

4:25 p.m. Ch. 13. 49ers by 4½, 49

QB Aaron Rodgers, above, drew criticism from his former wideouts this offseason, but he's still the man in Green Bay, which has title aspirations once again. With no Donald Driver or Greg Jennings, the Packers will rely more on WR Jordy Nelson and TE Jermichael Finley. In a potential playoff preview (and rematch from last season's playoffs), they face the defending NFC champions, who are just as strong as a year ago with QB Colin Kaepernick having the tough task of replicating his remarkable breakout season.

The pick: 49ers 28, Packers 24

Giants at Cowboys

8:30 p.m. Ch. 8. Cowboys by 3½, 49

QB Tony Romo, above, has the new huge contract but the same heavy expectations, having to lead a Cowboys team that is seemingly a disappointment each year back to the playoffs. Tonight's opener should be a good barometer considering the Giants and two-time Super Bowl champion QB Eli Manning have been where they want to be. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are, arguably, one of the top receiver tandems in the league. But for one night, the Cowboys will steal the show.

The pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 21

Texans at Chargers

10:15 Monday. ESPN. Texans by 4, 441/2

The Texans have the kind of defense, led by DE J.J. Watt, above, to again hold off the Colts in the AFC South. They've got QB Matt Schaub and one of the game's best receivers, Andre Johnson. And Houston shouldn't have a problem with the Chargers, who have been underachievers in recent seasons despite having a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers. San Diego, however, does have a new coach, former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy replacing Norv Turner.

The pick: Texans 21, Chargers 10

Eagles at Redskins

7:10 Monday. ESPN. Redskins by 3½, 52

The biggest question during the offseason was if Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, above, would be ready for the season opener. The next biggest was how Griffin's surgically repaired knee will hold up considering it was his athleticism that helped make him so special as a rookie last season. The Eagles, under new coach Chip Kelly, will try to speed it up with his Oregon-like offense led by QB Michael Vick. Should be an exciting, highlight-filled game, but the Redskins will come out on top.

The pick: Redskins 34, Eagles 27

Patriots at Bills

1 p.m. Patriots by 10, 51

The Patriots are coming off an offseason filled with turmoil, including the arrest of ex-tight end Aaron Hernandez on murder charges. Their other star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, has returned to practice after back surgery but is uncertain for today. Also up in the air has been the Bills quarterback situation with rookie EJ Manuel, above, the former Florida State star, coming off left knee surgery. His biggest weapon — and biggest talker — WR Stevie Johnson provided bulletin-board material last week by boasting the Patriots can't "stop me." Paging, Aqib Talib.

The pick: Patriots 27, Bills 24

Bengals at Bears

1 p.m. Bears by 3, 42

The Bengals have the defense to contend in the North thanks partly to DT Geno Atkins, who recently signed a five-year, $55 million ($22 million guaranteed) extension. They also should have DE Carlos Dunlap after he missed the preseason due to a concussion. The Bears need enigmatic QB Jay Cutler to step up and WR Brandon Marshall's surgically repaired hip to hold up to improve a pass offense ranked 29th in the league in 2010. The Bengals' passing attack should be formidable with QB Andy Dalton, above, TE Tyler Eifert, a first-round pick, and star WR A.J. Green.

The pick: Bengals 28, Bears 17

Dolphins at Browns

1 p.m. Ch. 10. Browns by 1, 41

The Dolphins have received some hype due to their offseason acquisitions, including WR Mike Wallace. But with RB Reggie Bush gone to Detroit, replaced by Lamar Miller, and a suspect offensive line protecting second-year QB Ryan Tannehill, it could be a battle just to finish 8-8. The Browns have a stout pass rush, which will cause problems for the Dolphins. QB Brandon Weeden, above, helped by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner's influence, could take a step forward in his second season for Cleveland.

The pick: Browns 17, Dolphins 10

Falcons at Saints

1 p.m. Saints by 3, 55

With coach Sean Payton, above, back after a yearlong suspension due to the bounty scandal, the Saints offense gains its prolific playcaller, which should bring back some normalcy. While QB Drew Brees will pile on the points and passing yards, it's the team's leaky defense that continues to be the problem. The new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, will have his hands full, especially after a season-ending knee injury to LB Will Smith. The Falcons are the early favorite in the NFC South, with RB Steven Jackson added to an already potent offense during the offseason.

The pick: Falcons 31, Saints 28

Titans at Steelers

1 p.m. Steelers by 7, 42

The Steelers still have the best quarterback in the AFC North, Ben Roethlisberger, above, and after losing several close games last season are bound to rebound and be in the division title hunt. Due to injuries, Isaac Redman will start at running back. Meanwhile, it could be a long season for the Titans, who have an unproven quarterback in third-year Jake Locker and a defense that was one of the league's worst last season. RB Chris Johnson needs a strong day against the Steelers front to give his team a chance to win.

The pick: Steelers 24, Titans 7

Raiders at Colts

1 p.m. Colts by 10, 47

The Colts were one of the league's most inspiring stories a year ago with QB Andrew Luck, above, an instant star as a rookie and the team rallying behind coach Chuck Pagano, who beat cancer. They still have many familiar faces, including WR Reggie Wayne, but their pass rush is lacking after the departure of longtime DE Dwight Freeney. There is a question of which Raiders quarterback they will be chasing today between former Ohio State star Terrelle Pryor and newly acquired Matt Flynn. Media reports have it being Pryor, but it won't matter today.

The pick: Colts 31, Raiders 10

Vikings at Lions

1 p.m. Lions by 5, 46½

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson proved he was a freak of nature last season, coming back from reconstructive knee surgery to almost set the NFL yardage record while being named the league's most valuable player. He will be a marked man today in Detroit, which is led by its stout defensive front, including DT Ndamukong Suh. The Lions will try to make third-year QB Christian Ponder beat them. And they bring in an offense that has an added dynamic with Reggie Bush, above, hoping to augment a rushing attack that was 23rd in the league last season at 100 yards per game.

The pick: Lions 24, Vikings 17

Projected starters

Bucs offense

WR: Vincent Jackson

LT: Donald Penn

LG: Gabe Carimi

C: Jeremy Zuttah

RG: Davin Joseph

RT: Demar Dotson

TE: Luke Stocker

WR: Mike Williams

QB: Josh Freeman

RB: Doug Martin

FB: Brian Leonard

Jets offense

WR: Stephen Hill

LT: D'Brickashaw Ferguson

LG: Vladimir Ducasse

C: Nick Mangold

RG: Willie Colon

RT: Austin Howard

TE: Jeff Cumberland

WR: Santonio Holmes

QB: Geno Smith

RB: Bilal Powell

FB: Tommy Bohanon

Special teams

P/KO: Michael Koenen

PK: Rian Lindell

LS: Andrew Economos

KR/PR: Eric Page

Special teams

P: Robert Malone

PK/KO: Nick Folk

LS: Tanner Purdum

KR: Clyde Gates

PR: Jeremy Kerley


DE: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim

DT: Gerald McCoy

DT: Akeem Spence

DE: Adrian Clayborn

SLB: Dekoda Watson

MLB: Mason Foster

WLB: Lavonte David

LCB: Darrelle Revis

RCB: Leonard Johnson

SS: Mark Barron

FS: Dashon Goldson


DE: Muhammad Wilkerson

NT: Kenrick Ellis

DT: Sheldon Richardson

OLB: Antwan Barnes

WLB: Demario Davis

MLB: David Harris

OLB: Calvin Pace

LCB: Dee Milliner

RCB: Antonio Cromartie

SS: Antonio Allen

FS: Dawan Landry

Injury report

BUCS — Out: TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), G Carl Nicks (foot). Doubtful: CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring). Questionable: RB Mike James (eye), RB Erik Lorig (calf). Probable: T Demar Dotson (back), CB Darrelle Revis (knee).

JETS Out: LB Quinton Coples (ankle), QB Mark Sanchez (right shoulder). Questionable: DT Kenrick Ellis (back), WR Santonio Holmes (foot). Probable: LB Nick Bellore (oblique), G Willie Colon (knee, shoulder), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), DE Leger Douzable (illness), G Vladimir Ducasse (calf), WR Clyde Gates (shoulder), LB David Harris (hip), DT Damon Harrison (knee), WR Stephen Hill (knee), T Ben Ijalana (knee), WR Jeremy Kerley (finger), CB Ellis Lankster (foot, hamstring), CB Dee Milliner (Achilles), QB Matt Simms (calf, oblique), QB Geno Smith (ankle), TE Kellen Winslow (knee), G Brian Winters (ankle).

Bucs guard Kevin Pamphile signs with Titans

Bucs guard Kevin Pamphile signs with Titans

Offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile, who started 29 of 32 games over the past two seasons, is the latest Bucs free agent to sign elsewhere, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Titans.Pamphile, 27, started all but one game last season at left guard, but...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Leavitt happy to see Pierre-Paul back in Tampa with Bucs

Leavitt happy to see Pierre-Paul back in Tampa with Bucs

Former USF coach Jim Leavitt, who first spotted Jason Pierre-Paul in a high school gym, said he's thrilled to see the former Bulls defensive end back in Tampa with the Bucs."I expect him to have a great year with the Bucs," said Leavitt, who coached ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
New Buc Jason Pierre-Paul: ‘I’m unstoppable’

New Buc Jason Pierre-Paul: ‘I’m unstoppable’

TAMPA — It will be three years this July 4 since Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a horrific hand injury lighting fireworks in his hometown. Three years since he lost his index finger and part of his thumb to amputation and needed multiple skin graft...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, a former Buc, charged with injury to elderly paraplegic

Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett, a former Buc, charged with injury to elderly paraplegic

HOUSTON — Authorities issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of Pro Bowl defensive end and former Buc Michael Bennett, accused of injuring a paraplegic woman as he tried get onto the field at Super Bowl LI to celebrate with his brother. The Harris Co...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Nelson? Chubb? Barkley? Where Bucs fans stand on No. 7 pick

Nelson? Chubb? Barkley? Where Bucs fans stand on No. 7 pick

The NFL draft is still more than a month away, and as Bucs fans debate what Tampa Bay should do with the No. 7 overall pick, it sounds a bit like "Rock, Paper, Scissors."Where do you stand on "Nelson, Chubb, Barkley?"A little background: There's a go...
Published: 03/23/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jason Licht on Jason Pierre-Paul trade

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jason Licht on Jason Pierre-Paul trade

Rick Stroud sits down with Bucs general manager Jason Licht for an exclusive interview in today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.They discuss the Jason Pierre-Paul trade, the Bucs' free agency signings and what the franchise looks for in...
Published: 03/23/18
Bucs finally get their premier edge rusher in Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul

Bucs finally get their premier edge rusher in Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul

TAMPA — Shortly after the Bucs had completed a blockbuster trade for Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul Thursday, general manager Jason Licht made a call to Gerald McCoy.The six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle had been campaigning on social ...
Published: 03/22/18
Updated: 03/23/18
Jason Pierre-Paul: Analyzing the Bucs’ trade for a premier pass rusher

Jason Pierre-Paul: Analyzing the Bucs’ trade for a premier pass rusher

The Bucs' long search for a premier pass-rusher may be over. On Thursday, Tampa Bay traded for New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a former USF standout who cost the Bucs a third-round pick and an exchange of fourth-rounders in the 2018...
Published: 03/22/18
Bucs trade for Giants pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul

Bucs trade for Giants pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul

The Bucs are addressing their pass rush in a big way, trading a third-round draft pick to the Giants for former USF standout Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul, 29, had 8.5 sacks last year and has shown he can still be a dangerous pass-rusher after seve...
Published: 03/22/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs free agency, Rays’ outlook and more

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs free agency, Rays’ outlook and more

Rick Stroud answers your questions in this mailbag episode of his Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.Among the topics he discusses are Bucs free agency, the Rays' outlook, how the Lightning will finish the season and new dates for the Valspar Championship....
Published: 03/22/18