This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:
JR: Gary, why do I have the feeling the Bucs are standing on the edge of a cliff today?
GS: I think it's because you're a giddy optimist, and you realize that standing on a cliff is better than five weeks of falling toward the rocks below. Admit it: You think the Bucs are going to win today, don't you?
JR: Okay, you've caught me at a weak moment. (Which is, technically, any time between meals.) I do think the Bucs are going to win today. Where I see a problem — where I see a cliff — is that if they do not win today, the Bucs could be in for a long wait before the next strong opportunity.
GS: Yeah, the Bucs play only two weak teams this season, and both of them are Carolina. That said, I remember how the Panthers chewed them up on a Monday night last year. I think they ran for 3 million yards. Of course, that's not the official statistic.
JR: Does that mean you don't share my school-boy-going-to-prom optimism about a victory?
GS: I want to, John. I want you to convince me that Jeff Faine will make the line strong, and Cadillac Williams will run for 150 yards, and Josh Johnson will throw four touchdowns and push Josh Freeman's first start back another two weeks. I'm just having trouble seeing it. Maybe it's because my eyes are bleeding from the Eagles game. So tell me, Chuckles. Why should I believe today will be different?
GS: I tried 'shrooms once, back in my college days, but they made the bacon slide off the bun and fall into the fries. Seriously, what do you like about this matchup that makes you think you can raise the Poseidon?
JR: Call it critical mass. A bad Bucs team sensing a rare opportunity vs. a bad Panthers team that just got its victory for the month. Plus those frisky Panthers cheerleaders will probably hog the bathroom on the flight down.
GS: Yeah, make fun of the cheerleaders. I'm here to tell you that one of them, maybe both, could start for the Bucs at defensive end.
JR: Yeah, like that's a high bar to clear. I wonder how many fans in the stands Sunday will even realize Gaines Adams has been traded to the Bears.
GS: The Three Bears? The Berenstain Bears? The Care Bears? I'm glad to see someone finally recognizes Gaines for what he is: A snuggly little toy.
JR: He did sort of play like Winnie the Pooh, didn't he? Seriously, what did you think of this trade? How can the Bears give up a second-round draft pick for a guy who is the poster boy for underachievement?
GS: I think Chicago's Jerry Angelo must have owed Mark Dominik a favor. This is like selling a wrecked car, a sunken boat and a house on fire. In the end, I think Adams was slightly better than Eric Curry and Keith McCants, he wasn't as good as Regan Upshaw. What a horrible legacy.
JR: So what's the tally so far? Offensive coordinator? Kicker? Quarterback? Defensive end? It's like an episode of Survivor. They kick somebody out each week.
GS: That's what desperate teams do. If you remember, Sam Wyche used to bring in guys on Wednesday, start them on Sunday and cut them on Monday. Losing teams tend to lose parts on their way to nowhere. It's the way a team shows everyone it's paying attention.
JR: Okay, no more stalling. Do they beat the Panthers today? And, if so, will it be a sign of the apocalypse?
GS: It's hard to say the words out loud, but yeah, I think they're going to win, 4-3. Just because I'd rather the Carolina writers have to deal with the Bill Cowher rumors than us.