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TALK OF THE TOWN

Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:

JUST WAITING TO PULL THE PLUG: Brad Johnson is finished as the Bucs quarterback. He just doesn't know it yet. As Jon Gruden has said, Johnson is a great system quarterback. Unfortunately, the Bucs are systemless. The line can barely block and the receivers struggle to get open. Johnson's best attribute, his ability to pick apart a defense, is wasted on a unit without weapons. Eventually, Chris Simms will get his chance.

LOOKING FOR A POSITIVE SIGN?: Then stop.

PAIN IN THE BACKFIELD: He had just turned 32. He was coming off knee surgery. The Bucs had to know Charlie Garner was a risk. Still, they let Thomas Jones, 26, and Aaron Stecker, 28, go to pursue Garner as their featured back. Stecker gained 106 yards for the Saints Sunday. Jones gained 110 for the Bears. Garner hurt his knee after gaining 11 yards.

THIS JUST IN: The Bucs have decided Keenan McCardell is right. This week, they will ask several others to join him as holdouts.

MUST BE THE WATER: Florida has three NFL teams. And not a single NFL offense. Before Sunday, the Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars had three of the four lowest-scoring offenses in the league. Eager to prove it was no fluke, they scored four TDs among them.

A LIST OF FIVE

Five advantages in losing Warren Sapp:

5. Employees at One Buc Place now permitted to make eye contact with everyone.

4. Acquired LB Ian Gold with money saved on pregame buffet.

3. We're back in Mike Sherman's good graces.

2. Team finally able to institute policy forbidding the swapping of blood samples for players involved in paternity suits.

1. Civility.

5 QUESTIONS TO PONDER

WHOM DID CHARLES LEE OFFEND?: Lee was a revelation when all else seemed lost late last season. Now the Bucs have the worst receiving corps since the invention of the forward pass, and Lee is the forgotten man.

WHY SO MANY BLITZES?: The Bucs have gone from a team that never blitzed to a team that blitzed too much against the Raiders. The front four needs to get to the quarterback without so much help from linebackers and backs.

WHEN IS IT TIME FOR O-LINE CHANGES?: The Bucs spent a ton of money on free-agent linemen, but they aren't getting the job done. Kenyatta Walker may have gotten too many penalties, but at least he was nasty enough to stick a fist in the face of a pass rusher.

HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO HEAR ABOUT INJURIES?: Yes, the offense has been decimated by injuries to key people. But Oakland loses its quarterback in the first quarter and still kicks tail.

WHO WILL ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY?: Just wondering.

FIVE SUPER PICKS

Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XXXVIII in Jacksonville:

1. EAGLES: Donovan McNabb on pace to make the Hall of Fame by November.

2. PATRIOTS: One away from tying the NFL record for consecutive victories.

3. SEAHAWKS: Did not allow the 49ers in the red zone Sunday.

4. FALCONS: Last time Atlanta started 3-0, it finished 7-8-1 in '86.

25. BUCS: Get ready for Nov. 21 _ 0-9 Bucs vs. the 0-9 49ers.

FINAL FIVE WORDS

Hopefully, your electricity was off.

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