This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:
JR: Let me get this straight: The Bucs can finish with the same record as the Packers and Giants and still not go to the playoffs because of some calculator-driven tiebreaker called strength of victory? Gary, does that mean stats are for winners?
GS: You're just saying that because it's funny. But most stats ARE for winners. That's why the big numbers go to the Hall of Fame. So what are the Bucs' chances of the postseason? Four percent?
JR: Well, let's see. The chances of the Bucs beating New Orleans on the road? I'd say 45 percent. Chances of the Packers losing at home to Chicago? Forty percent. Chances of the Giants circling the drain against the Redskins? Fifty percent. Chances of all three things happening and sending Tampa Bay to the playoffs? That involves some equation called binomial distribution, which includes math symbols I've never even seen. So let's just say I had better odds of being high school homecoming king and you winning Mr. Congeniality.
GS: Carry the one, and that's 4 percent. Figures. The odds have been against these Bucs all year. Who else wins nine times with no Pro Bowl players?
JR: I was pretty shocked when that list came out, but I'm not sure any Bucs got cheated. Aqib Talib would have been a fine choice, but he has missed more than 25 percent of the season. Josh Freeman has been tremendous, but I wouldn't pick him over Michael Vick or Drew Brees. Maybe he has a beef with Matt Ryan being chosen ahead of him, but I wouldn't call it a crime. Kellen Winslow deserves a spot, but it's probably fair to name him as an alternate. What do you think?
GS: I think Donald Penn deserved to go. Freeman will probably get in because a lot of quarterbacks don't play. I also think it strengthens the coach of the year argument for Raheem Morris.
JR: I agree it helps Raheem's cause, but I still don't think it will be enough. Todd Haley got the Chiefs into the playoffs, Steve Spagnuolo could get the Rams in, and that's going to look better on the surface. You could make a case that Mike Smith has surprised a lot of people in Atlanta. It's just Rah's misfortune to have a splashy turnaround season at the same time as some other guys.
GS: The Rams are better, but partly because they play in a division where Brownie Troop 213 would be the Monsters of the Midway. The Falcons were supposed to be good. And I don't think Haley has overcome as much. My vote goes to Morris. As always, you are allowed to be wrong.
JR: Hey, my teachers fought long and hard to give me the right to be stupid, and I will not have you soil their sacrifices.
GS: You're right. They've already soiled themselves.
JR: Okay, smarty pants. Tell me how the season ends. Do the Bucs get their 10th win and ride off into the sunset, or do they get exposed under the Superdome's artificial lighting?
GS: Hard to pick the Bucs when what's left of the secondary and what's left of the pass rush go against Drew Brees. I think the Saints win. On the other hand, I thought the Saints would win last season, and the McCown year, and the Gradkowski year. What do I know about Sainthood?
JR: Amen, brother.