JR: Let's jump right into this, Gary. You think the Bucs are heading to the playoffs. I've got my doubts. For the love of bacon, when did I become the grumpy one? Please convince me that I need a little more sunshine in my heart.
GS: Maybe what you need is a little more fiber in your diet. I just think there are a lot of reasons to succeed here. LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams and, especially, Josh Freeman.
JR: I don't doubt that the Bucs will be a good team. Probably a better team than 2010. I just think a tougher schedule will make it hard to get back to 10 wins. Not to mention half of their wins last season were by three points or less. Maybe that's because Freeman was terrific in the clutch, but it's still a lot of games that could have gone either way.
GS: The NFL is a three-point league, John. You know that. I just think there is more momentum in the building than you expect. And the quarterback makes up for other shortcomings.
JR: I see your strategy now. I say "tougher schedule," and you say "Josh." I say "rookie defensive ends," and you say "Josh." I say "typhoid fever," and you say "Josh." Well-played, sir. You know I'm not going to argue against a quarterback that big, talented, smart and driven. Freeman is the antidote for a lot of ailments.
GS: I wonder if Josh could cure your attitude. Also, can he pass rush?
JR: Ain't that a kick? I don't think I'll ever get used to the idea of going into a Bucs season saying the offense will be fine but the defense could screw things up.
GS: It still sounds strange, but it's true. I suspect the front four will have a lot to do with the season given the passing attacks to come. The middle linebacker, too. Still, this team's best chance to win comes with its offense. What about you? What are your biggest questions?
JR: There's talent on defense, no doubt about that. It's the inexperience that's a concern. I would worry about QBs like Manning, Brees, Rodgers and Romo making a mess of things. I'd have a genuine fear of holding onto leads in the fourth quarter. What about you?
GS: I'm willing to bet that if you can guarantee leads in the fourth quarter, Raheem will take his chances. And by the way, you should never mention Tony Romo in the same sentence with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers again. Shame on you.
JR: My bad. I sometimes get "ability to avoid the rush" and "ability to attract blonds" mixed up.
GS: Okay, we know I see this team in the playoffs just because I am Mr. Sunshine. I say they are 10-6 again. How do you see this season?
JR: For all of our poking and teasing, you and I see things in much the same way. I'm just a little less optimistic. I think the Bucs go 9-7 and barely miss the playoffs again. Of course, we both thought they would be 6-10 last year, so what the heck do we know?
GS: I know nothing, and you know less. Or is it the other way around?
This week's electronic conversation between columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton: