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BEST REASON FOR HOPE

Hey, it could be worse. The Bucs could be in the AFC. The NFC is so bad that USF might be the fifth-best team. Okay, that's stretching it. But at least the Bucs can still be one of the six best teams in the NFC, and that still means a playoff spot.

Best player

In the NFL on Fox pregame show, the analysts picked their first-quarter MVPs. Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was mentioned. So was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. But how can anyone say with a straight face that Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, left, is not the best football player in the NFL? He just completed two more passes for first downs against the Bucs as you were reading this note.

Most vicious hit

Rookie Tanard Jackson's sledgehammer on Colts tight end Dallas Clark might have been the biggest hit delivered in the NFL all season. One play later, he made his first interception. By the way, Bucs radio play-by-play announcer Gene Deckerhoff had a good line after the hit: "Colts fans are booing. I guess they came here to see touch football."

Biggest drop

How costly was Joey Galloway's drop of what would've been a first down just before the two-minute warning in the first half? Instead of trailing 13-7 but driving with the ball at midfield, the Bucs punted. Before you could say "Adam Vinatieri," the Colts were up 16-7 and it was halftime. One drive into the second half and it was 23-7. Then again, the way this game went down, one dropped pass certainly didn't tip the scales.

This just in

The Colts just picked up another first down.

Worst commercials

Do those Visa commercials make sense to you? You know the ones like When the Saints Go Marching In, where everything is moving quickly because people are using their Visa cards to pay for stuff? And then the whole thing grinds to a halt when someone uses cash? I don't know about you, but every time I go to lunch with co-workers, I pay cash, and yet I'm the one who has to wait while they give the cashier their bank card.

Best rumors

On ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, reporter Chris Mortensen said: "The Bucs could be interested in Ricky (Williams) after Cadillac Williams was lost for the season. They offered the Vikings a sixth-round draft pick for Mewelde Moore. The Vikes said no, but the talks could continue, and, hey, don't forget that Priest Holmes can start practicing with the Chiefs a week from (today), one day before the trade deadline. He's working out in K.C. and even traveled with the Chiefs to San Diego last week."

These rumors might make more sense now that Michael Pittman is injured.

Happy belated b-day

Colts coach Tony Dungy, right, turned 52 Saturday. Bucs coach Jon Gruden, left, felt like 152 Sunday.

This just in

First down, Colts.

Best analysis

Fox's Jimmy Johnson pointed out that the Bucs stayed in the game through the first half simply because their Cover 2 defensive scheme forced Peyton Manning to throw the ball short instead of over the top. And partner Howie Long said, "The one time he did go deep, he was intercepted."

"Hopefully they can score enough points to stay in it," Johnson said.

They couldn't. And they didn't.

Biggest missing piece of information

Why did it take so long for Fox to give an update on Michael Pittman's injury? Couldn't Tony Siragusa have wandered his way over to the Bucs sideline and see what was going on instead of standing in the end zone babbling about whatever it is he babbles about?e_SClBThis just in

That'll move the chains. First down, Indianapolis.

Biggest wasteof time

Late in the third quarter when the Colts were driving again, didn't you feel like someone on the Bucs should've told someone on the Colts, "Hey, guys, we can't stop you anyway, so why don't we just call it a game so no one else gets hurt. We'll just go ahead and get our coats and head home now. Thanks for everything."e_SClBBiggest surprise

I forgot the Bucs signed Jerramy Stevens, left, until he caught his first pass in a Tampa Bay uniform during the regular season with 12 minutes left in the game.

This just in

Peyton Manning just hit Dallas Clark for a Colts first down.

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