This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano:
GS: For half a season, John, we've talked about all the expectations the Bucs have exceeded this year. Now the question is whether they can do it again. From 5-3, can the Bucs win the 10 games that Raheem Morris said he wanted?
JR: Can they? Sure. They have three dreadful teams (Carolina, San Francisco and Detroit) and a couple of mediocre ones (Seattle and Washington) still on the horizon. But, for a team that has had its share of good fortune in the first half, I would assume a pothole or two is in the future. So I'm more inclined to say the Bucs do not quite make it all the way to Raheem's crystal ball. What do you think needs to happen for Tampa Bay to reach 10?
GS: I think the Bucs need to continue to grow into something dangerous on offense, which is possible. I think they need to continue to be among the league leaders in takeaways, which is going to be harder. I think they need to be better against the run and in rushing the passer, which might be too much to ask. I'd put it this way: If the Bucs win three more games, I'd give Morris a contract extension. If they win five, I'd make him coach of the year. If they win a playoff game, I'd name a day of the week after him.
JR: A day of the week? Shouldn't we start with something smaller, like a ham sandwich? Or maybe a hockey arena?
GS: Let's compromise. What's between a day of the week and a sandwich? How about this: Let's make him governor.
JR: Fair enough. In the meantime, where do you stand on the LeGarrette Blount debate? He's clearly the better runner, but Cadillac Williams is definitely the better pass blocker. So how do you divide playing time without letting the defense know you're going to pass every time Caddy is on the field?
GS: I stand clearly behind the hole Blount is intended to run through. Seriously, if need be, I am willing to allow large signs saying, "If you didn't notice, Blount is in the game now, and he's about to run the ball straight over your dentures." Seriously, I do think you have to use both backs, and the more clearly the situation calls for the Bucs to throw the ball, the more you need Cadillac in the game. Blount is clearly the best runner, even on those downs when it looks as if he's giving directions when he points at defenders.
JR: The numbers say the Bucs are a mediocre running team, but as Raheem will tell you, the numbers are danged, dirty lies. The Bucs are worse than mediocre. Their numbers are just propped up by Josh Freeman's scrambles. It's unusual they've won as much as they have without a consistent running game, so I would assume they need much better results in the second half.
GS: You could say the same for the run defense, and for the pass rush and for the tackling. The Bucs are an improved team, but they're going to have to keep on improving. Looking at the schedule ahead, everyone knows that Baltimore is tough, and Atlanta and New Orleans. But which of the other games do you think looks like a trap game? Or do you think the Bucs win all five?
JR: No, I think they could have trouble at Washington. The Redskins are a decent team and have played well at home. Where do you see trouble?
GS: I see trouble in your ability to drive and in your inclination to sing as you try, for one thing. But here's a strange notion. I think Detroit has played much, much better than I would have suspected. And, frankly, as well as the Panthers run the ball, I think they could be a little more problematic than some seem to think.
JR: Detroit? Carolina? Is Chicken Little your therapist? I've been predicting doom for the Bucs for weeks, but even I see rainbows and ponies this weekend. Bottom line: Do they beat the Panthers?
GS: They certainly should. Any time you handle a team on the road, you should beat them at home. But the Panthers do run the ball well, and the Bucs don't stop the run well. That's enough to concern you. Even Dr. Little says so.
JR: Now, what about my driving …