This week's electronic conversation between Sports columnists Gary Shelton and John Romano.
GS: We have come to the part of the season where the Bucs are mostly strange faces in familiar uniforms. So the question is this: Can Raheem Morris gather his vagabonds and coax another win out of this season?
JR: Even the '76 Bucs should have a fighting chance against Seattle. Although, granted, a lot of those original Bucs might have some osteoporosis problems by the third quarter. The Seahawks are still in a division race so they do have desperation on their side, but I imagine Raheem will do a nice job of whipping his guys into a last-ditch frenzy too.
GS: Just wondering: Does a frenzy make a guy tackle better? Does frenzy trump desperation like paper beats rock or Kardashian beats Reggie?
JR: If you've ever been on a shopping frenzy with my wife, you would have a greater respect for the power of frenzy.
GS: Well, looking at my credit score, I understand desperation. Seriously, this is a rather big game for the Bucs. They've only won nine games or more 11 times in franchise history. Tripling the win total from last year would be a reason to sell, oh, four or five tickets for next year.
JR: You jest, but I do think that's a concern. It's a lot easier to sell tickets when a team comes roaring across the finish line. An 8-8 finish would be worlds better than last season, but it's not going to look as impressive when you limp home from a 7-3 start.
GS: True. And there would be some who might even suggest it's like 2008, when the Bucs fell from 9-3 to 9-7. This isn't the same thing. Then, the Bucs ran out of coaching. This time, they're running out of players.
JR: This might also be a lesson that the Bucs aren't quite as close to the top of the NFL as they might have thought. They're better. They've got some strong building blocks. But they can't fool themselves into thinking 10 wins are automatic in 2011.
GS: Two weeks ago, I warned you against talking about the playoffs too soon. Now do I have to tell you it's too early to talk about 2011? As for this year, I still don't think they're near the top of the NFL. I think they're in the top half, though, which none of us would have believed a few months ago. But you're right about this. There is a lot of work to be done.
JR: Excuse me, I believe I asked if it was too soon to talk about the possibility of playoffs. And since they're still alive in late December — albeit with Dr. Kevorkian in a luxury box — it seemed a valid question. Sheesh, can't you reporters quote anyone correctly?
GS: Actually, you asked if they were "capable of a playoff drive.'' I should have answered "not if the car was made in Detroit.'' I'll grant you this: It is amazing what kind of shape they would have been in if they could have made a stop against the Lions. That's what concerns me today: The Seahawks are basically the West Coast version of the Lions.
JR: Oh, the Bucs are certainly capable of blowing this game. When you can't stop a running game and you can't rush the passer, you can make any offense look lethal. But, somehow, I see the Bucs coming up with one more big play than the Seahawks. I also see you taking me out for a New Year's dinner, and I know that's wishful thinking too.
GS: Sure, I'll do that. But not this New Year. Some other New Year. I think I can get a reservation for 2057. Let me ask you this, John. If you lived in Seattle, would you be satisfied with Pete Carroll's first year back in the NFL. Or do you see him as the next Spurrier?
JR: He was in the NFL's weakest division we've seen in ages and had the only proven quarterback in the NFC West. So, yeah, I'd say that was a major disappointment. But does he keep the season alive with a win today?
GS: It's hard to see a team that doesn't run the ball any better than Seattle beating the Bucs. And the best news is this: Calvin Johnson doesn't play for the Seahawks. I think the Bucs offense makes enough plays to win this game but not before it takes a couple of more years off Raheem's lifespan. Why? Because Roger Goodell wants everyone doing math the last week of the season.
JR: Really? I thought Goodell had his hands full with Brett Favre.