Bucs Central
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The Good
The Buccaneers had several players step up after an anemic first half — notably Josh Freeman, who added another fourth-quarter victory and game-winning drive to his résumé — but the standout was Preston Parker.

The second-year receiver out of North Alabama sparked the offense to life, catching passes, returning kicks, and making key conversions to extend Tampa drives.  At game’s end, Parker had touched the ball 11 times for 193 total yards, with second-half conversions on 3rd and 4, 3rd and 10, and 3rd and 12.

Parker’s best play came on a short reception; he turned upfield, burned down the right sideline, and set up an easy Connor Barth field goal that cut into the Minnesota lead.

The Bad
Another week, another opposing quarterback standing comfortably in the pocket.  The elusive, yet geriatric, Donovan McNabb was clean most of the day, sacked only twice in 36 pass attempts by rookie Mason Foster and strong safety Sean Jones.  Tampa Bay has invested a lot of early picks in the defensive line and — young as they are — someone has to beat their man one-on-one.  The fewer blitzes the Buccaneers have to employ, the better they’ll defend the pass.  The flashes are there, and it’s still early in the season, but this unit needs to gel if the Buccaneers want any sustainable success.

The Ugly
The first-half offense.  Something has to change; Tampa’s early-game scheme is laughably predictable, and the players seem uncomfortable in their assignments.  Freeman misses throws, the offensive line whiffs blocks, the receivers drop passes, and the running backs look hesitant.  Punting four times in the first half exhausts the defense which, in turn, aggravates the deficit.  Luckily, Greg Olson‘s halftime adjustments proved effective — and hey, comeback victories are exciting — but it’s going to cost the Buccaneers a ton of games if they don’t improve in their early-game drives.

And as masterful as Freeman’s comebacks have been, they’re giving me hypertension.  I don’t think a few first-quarter points is too much to ask.

The Buccaneers have won seven of the last ten and four consecutive meetings with Minnesota, but the Vikings lead the all-time series 31-20. Tampa Bay also owns an 8-1 record over the last nine games played in Tampa. The series started in 1977, when Tampa Bay joined the NFC Central Division. Minnesota won, 9-3, at Tampa Stadium in 1977 before the Bucs upset the Vikings, 16-10, at Metropolitan Stadium in 1978. That win was just the third in franchise history and the first against a divisional opponent. Tampa Bay also won, 12-10, at the Met the following year en route to its first division title, breaking Minnesota’s six-year run as NFC Central champs. The Vikings won 10 of 12 contests from 1984-1989, but the series has tightened up in recent years. Tampa Bay and Minnesota split the season series in the final nine years (1993-2001) the two teams were in the NFC Central. The Bucs’ 41-13 decision in 2000 was the most lopsided victory for Tampa Bay in the long series; Minnesota’s most dominant win came in a 45-13 win in 1986. Tampa Bay posted 41 points in consecutive home wins against the Vikings in 2000 and 2001 and scored 38 points in the 2002 meeting, a 38-24 win. Tampa’s 24-13 victory at Minnesota in 2005 and 19-13 victory at Tampa in 2008 made it four-in-a-row over the Vikings.

GAME INFORMATION
Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 C.T.)
Site: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (64,111)
2011 Records: Tampa Bay 0-1, Minnesota 0-1
Network Television: FOX
Play-by-Play: Dick Stockton, Analyst: John Lynch
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, flagship station (103.5 FM, 620 AM)
Play-by-Play: Gene Deckerhoff, Color: Dave Moore, Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay lost to Detroit, 27-20; Minnesota lost at San Diego, 24-17

Series By The Numbers
Overall Regular Season Series:…………….. Minnesota leads series, 20-31
Home Record vs. Minnesota Vikings:………………………………….. 13-13
Road Record vs. Minnesota Vikings:……………………………………..7-18
Current Streak:…………………………….Buccaneers, four games (2001-08)
Buccaneers Longest Streak:…………………………. Four games (2001-08)
Vikings Longest Streak:……………Five games, three times (last 1991-93)
Regular Season Point Total:……………….Buccaneers 910 – Vikings 1,093
Most Points, Buccaneers:……….. 41, twice, last Buccaneers 41-13 (2000)
Most Points, Vikings:……………………………….. 49, Vikings 49-20 (1988)
Most Points, both teams:………………………….. 69, Vikings 49-20 (1988)
Fewest Points, Buccaneers:…………………………..0, Vikings 15-0 (1993)
Fewest Points, Vikings:………………………………….9, Vikings 9-3 (1977)
Fewest Points, both teams:…………………………..12, Vikings 9-3 (1977)

INJURY REPORT
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Myron Lewis (ankle) Out
WR Sammie Stroughter (foot) Out
T James Lee (knee) Questionable
DE Da’Quan Bowers (shoulder) Probable

Minnesota Vikings
DE Adrian Awasom (knee) Questionable
LB EJ Henderson (knee) Questionable
CB Asher Allen (toe) Probable
WR Michael Jenkins (groin) Probable

ENEMY COACHES
Vikings Head Coach: Leslie Frazier
Vikings Offensive Coordinator: Fred Pagac
Vikings Defensive Coordinator: Bill Musgrave
Vikings Special Teams Coach: Mike Priefer

STATISTICAL RANKINGS:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OFFENSE
Overall: 20th (315.0 ypg)
Rushing: 29th (56.0 ypg)
Passing: 14th (259.0 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 8th (2)
Points Scored: 20th (20.0 ppg)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSE
Overall: 17th (431.0 ypg)
Rushing: 23rd (126.0 ypg)
Passing: 25th (305 ypg)
Sacks: 32nd (0)
Points Allowed: 19th (27.0 ppg)

MINNESOTA VIKINGS OFFENSE
Overall: 32nd (187.0 ypg)
Rushing: 7th (159.0 ypg)
Passing: 32nd (28.0 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 8th (2)
Points Scored: 22nd (17.0 ppg)
MINNESOTA VIKINGS DEFENSE
Overall: 27th (407.0 ypg)
Rushing: 12th (77.0 ypg)
Passing: 28th (330.0 ypg)
Sacks: 28th (2)
Points Allowed: 16th (24.0 ppg)

Buc Central’s Prognostication:
As always we are not advocating gambling based on our views of the game, especially considering we typically are inclined to make such educated guesses using are heart rather the any rational thought applied to picking. We are merely giving an opinion of who we think has the best chance at securing a victory.

BUCCANEERS 21
VIKINGS 17

Last Sunday’s game against Detroit was disappointing. Not because I predicted the Lions to win and they did, but disappointing that Tampa Bay wasn’t able to put up much of a fight. The 27-20 Lions victory was not as close as the score would indicate. Tampa was bullied up front and quarterback Matthew Stafford was allowed to stand unfazed in the pocket far too much. That can’t happen this week against Minnesota, even with veteran Donovan McNabb under center. Here are a few matchups the Bucs need to focus on if they want to come home with a victory this week.

Containing Adrian Peterson: You don’t need to be a savvy analyst to know that Peterson IS the Vikings offense. He has ranked in the top 10 in rushing attempts for the last three years and has recently developed into a nice pass-catcher, totaling 79 receptions over the past two seasons. Last week versus San Diego, McNabb struggled mightily. He completed just seven passes for 39 yards and looked flustered most of the game. San Diego loaded the box early and often, and dared McNabb to beat their secondary. He showed over and over that he couldn’t. With eight or more players up front, Peterson struggled to find running room and it forced Minnesota into many long third-downs.

The Bucs will need to contain Adrian Peterson Sunday. (Associated Press)

The Bucs defense needs to follow this example. Their main focus should be containing Peterson, forcing him to run side-to-side rather than straight up the middle. Look for Tampa Bay to stack the box and blitz McNabb. If they can hold Peterson to fewer than 100 yards and bait McNabb into throwing often, expect Tampa Bay to force turnovers and more than likely be on the winning side.

Conversely, LeGarrette Blount needs to get the ball. It is inexcusable for a number one running back to get the ball only five times. Earnest Graham is a good change of pace back, but he shouldn’t handle the ball twice as much as Blount. Count on OC Greg Olson to call several plays for LeGarrette going forward.

Donald Penn vs. Jared Allen: The second-most vital player to contain on Minnesota is Pro-Bowl defensive end Jared Allen. He has made a habit of harassing quarterbacks all game and has accumulated at least 11 sacks each of the last four seasons. Left tackle Donald Penn will definitely have his hands full, but Penn does have something on his side.

Donald Penn will have his hands full guarding Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen. (Associated Press)

After graduating from Utah State, he began his career as an undrafted free agent on the Vikings practice squad. This will be his first game back in Minnesota. Earlier in the week, Penn said he still has a chip on his shoulder. Expect his emotions to be riding high as he returns to the team that didn’t give him a chance five years ago.

Overall, count on this one being a close game throughout. I expect both teams to run often, while mixing in play-action passes sparingly. The Vikings secondary allowed Philip Rivers to throw for 335 yards, so perhaps Josh Freeman won’t be afraid to take a few stabs downfield to Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. In his lone game versus Tampa Bay in 2008, Adrian Peterson ran for 85 yards and zero touchdowns. I would be thrilled if the Bucs held him to that Sunday. Look for Blount to carry a bigger load – 80 yards and a touchdown would be nice. Again, this one will be close, but I predict Tampa Bay winning on a late field goal 23-20.

Raheem Morris announced that Jeremy Zuttah has cracked the starting lineup for Sunday’s game.  It’ll mark the fourth time in four seasons that Zuttah’s been called upon to either fill in for an injured teammate or pick up the slack for an under-performer.

The move sends second-year left guard Ted Larsen to the bench in an effort to revitalize the stagnate Tampa ground game. “Larsen didn’t play terrible last week,” said Morris, “but coming off the (ankle) injury, I didn’t think he played as aggressive as he normally could and give me the power that he normally gave me last year. So we’ll try a little change up this week.”

Let’s hope it works.  Tampa Bay running backs averaged only 2.5 yards per carry against Detroit.

While pursuing the internet this morning. I came across an interesting cumulative measure of an offensive line’s ability to protect the passer called “Protection Index”. The index, which uses a proprietary formula, was created by sports information leader STATS to provide a composite gauge for an offensive line’s ability to protect the quarterback. The fundamentals are comprised of the length of a team’s pass attempts combined with penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns.

The Bucs who looked out of sync in the opener ranked 4th, with a combined score of 89, 13.1 points behind the Detroit Lions, the rankings week 1 leader.

After an atrocious offensive game plan against the Detroit Lions, in which offensive coordinator Greg Olson used just four different personnel groupings on offense. Here is the breakdown of the personnel groupings used on the 64 plays run by the Bucs offense.

11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE & 3 WR) 52 (5 runs, 2 scrambles, 3 spikes & 42 passes)
12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE & 2 WR) 6 (2 runs, 3 passes & 1 scramble)
21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE & 2 WR) 5 (2 runs & 3 passes)
22 personnel (2 RB, 2 TE & 1 WR) 1 (1 pass)

Looking at the snap count for the receiver’s, second year WR Preston Parker logged the second most snaps 45…WR Mike Williams led all receivers with 63 snaps…WR Arrelious Benn had 38…WR Dezmon Briscoe had 25…WR Micheal Spurlock had 7 and Sammie Stroughter had 1 before leaving the game with an injury.

After witnessing what Spurlock contributed in clutch situations last season, one has to wonder why the Bucs decided to feature Parker over Briscoe and Spurlock. Presumably Stroughter would have had a load of snaps if it weren’t for the injury. But everything being reported by both the local and national media touting Briscoe as the team third receiver looks to be inaccurate after the first game.

Says head coach Raheem Morris:

“We’ll still use our normal rotation because I want to keep those guys fresh, and I want those guys to have the ability to be strong and be tough and fight as a unit. But [Price has] certainly earned the ability to go out there and play first.”

Rick Stroud reports that defensive tackle Brian Price will replace Roy Miller as the starting nose tackle in Sunday’s contest against the Vikings.  Morris was impressed with Price’s game against Detroit — in limited action, he recorded two tackles, one for a loss — and plans to increase his workload.

Don’t look for a complete revitalization on defense; Morris employs a rotating defensive line, so despite the promotion, Price probably won’t be seeing a significant boost in playing time.  But considering his injury history in Tampa Bay and his offseason struggles to get back to football, any progress is cause for optimism.

BUCCANEERS: Aim for 5th consecutive win vs. Vikings…In 5 career starts indoors, QB Josh Freeman has completed 91 of 133 (68.4 pct.) for 1,243 yards with 7 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 103.1 rating. In career, when Freeman starts & has 100+ rating, Bucs are 7-1. Since start of 2009, Freeman is 1 of 4 QBs in NFL with 500+ rush yards (551)…When RB LeGarrette Blount has 15+ att., Bucs are 6-2. RB Earnest Graham had team-high 8 catches (58 yards) last week…WR Mike Williams aims for 5th game in row with TD catch (5 TDs in past 4). Has 12 rec. TDs in 17 career games. TE Kellen Winslow has a catch in 77 consecutive games. Led club with 66 rec. yards in Week 1. WR Preston Parker had career-high 4 catches & 44 yards last week…CB Ronde Barber has 7 sacks & 1 INT in career vs. Min. He has started 184 consecutive games, most by CB in NFL history. Only player in NFL history with 25+ sacks (26) & 40+ INTs (40). CB Aqib Talib had 28-yard INT-TD last week, 2nd career INT-TD. LB Quincy Black & S Sean Jones each had FF in Week 1

VIKINGS: In past 2 vs. TB, QB Donovan McNabb has completed 38 of 56 (67.9 pct.) for 492 yards with 5 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 125 rating. Aims for 3rd win in a row vs. TB with 100+ rating. Incl. playoffs, when McNabb has 100+ rating (min. 10 att.), his teams are 46-3 (.939)…RB Adrian Peterson rushed for 98 yards last week. In his career, averages 110 rush yards per game in Sept. (1,650 yards, 15 games), 2nd best mark in NFL history (min. 10 games; HOFer Jim Brown, 110.8). Has 52 career rush TDs, tied for most in franchise history. In 30 career games at home, has rushed for 3,189 yards (106.3 per game) & 26 TDs. His 106.3 rush yards per game avg. is best in NFL among active players (min. 25 games)…WR-KR Percy Harvin had 103-yard KR-TD last week & holds franchise record with 4 career KR-TDs. Has 16 career TDs (11 rec., 4 KR, 1 rush). WR Michael Jenkins had TD in Min. debut last week. Had TD in last game vs. TB (12/5/10 with Atl.)…DE Jared Allen had INT (14 yards) & 0.5 sack last week, 3rd career game with 0.5+ sack & INT. Since entering NFL in 2004, has 83.5 sacks, most in NFL. Has 5.5 sacks in past 5 at home.

Initially, I set out to catalog the five hardest hitters in the history of the franchise — something I still might pursue later in the season.  But thanks to John Lynch, the prompt lacked surprise; he was the only eligible candidate for the list’s premier entry, setting standards that no other Buccaneer has come close to matching.  So I decided to amend the topic and detail the five hardest hits in Buccaneer history — a list Lynch would certainly make (several times), but wouldn’t necessarily lead.

But I ran headfirst into another problem.  A written list, even one choked with strong adjectives and thick description, could never capture the violence and intensity of a stadium-shaking, high-speed NFL collision.

Hello YouTube.

I dug through several years’ worth of videos, but was disappointed with the selection.  I wanted Ervin Randle vs. Neal Anderson in 1987; I got Mason Foster blasting Chad Ochocinco in the preseason.  I wanted Carl Howard sending shockwaves into O.J. Anderson in 1985; they gave me Elbert Mack cheap-shotting Matt Ryan in 2008.  I would’ve settled for Dwight Smith thumping Amani Toomer in the end zone, but I found Devin Holland decapitating Danny Woodhead earlier this year.  All solid hits, but hardly historic.

After several days of scrounging, I found a few pieces of footage worthy of this list.  And for the sake of intrigue, let’s get Lynch out of the way early.

5. John Lynch knocks out his brother-in-law; everyone else.

Lynch struggled to hold down a position early in his career, but found his niche in the realm between pass defense and linebacking.  He roamed the secondary, inflicting Armageddon on any receiver with the fortitude to cross him.  There were rarely repeat victims; receivers went out of their way to avoid Lynch’s warpath, and — picking up where Jack Tatum left off — John developed quickly into one of the NFL’s most intimidating and decorated defenders.

4. Lee Roy Selmon body slams Ron Jaworski.

In the late 70s, left tackle Stan Walters was the best player on a weak Philadelphia offensive line.  In 1977 — Ron Jaworski‘s first year as a starter — the Eagles surrendered a league-high 47 sacks, thanks in part to an awful effort against Lee Roy Selmon in the opening week.  Lee Roy was an animal — nearly unblockable one-on-one — and Walters learned that late in the second quarter; Selmon exploded out of his stance, thundered a right hand into Walters’ chest, and powered through him en route to the quarterback.  Jaworski didn’t offer much resistance.  Lee Roy wrapped him up, lifted him off the ground, and slammed him ribs-first into the grass.  Jaworski struggled to stand after the sack, and was replaced by backup Roman Gabriel for the remainder of the drive.

3. Tanard Jackson buries Dallas Clark in AstroTurf.

It was his signature hit — the collision that left Dallas Clark a writhing mess on the floor of the RCA Dome.  It came in his fifth career game, and helped establish Tanard Jackson as a Pro Bowl caliber free safety and the steal of the 2007 draft.  Tampa lost the game that day, but Jackson — intercepting a Peyton Manning pass on the following play — earned a reputation as a big-hitting, ball-hawking, splash play machine.  When not being suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he’s made a habit out of smashing pass receivers mid-route and delivering some of the most devastating tackles in Tampa Bay history.  Ask Dallas Clark.  He knows.

2. Todd Washington shakes the Earth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RccRqXcvL5Y

Todd Washington — a fourth-round pick and career backup in Tampa — never made much of an impression on the Buccaneer organization or its fans.  Fearon Wright wasn’t so fortunate.  Wright, a noted big-hitter out of Rhode Island, went head-to-head with the 310-pound Washington.  Both players collided at full speed.  The sound shook the stadium.  Wright’s body went rigid on impact and the Minnesota linebacker crumpled to the field; the hit left him concussed and contributed to an injury-plagued end to his brief career.  As for Washington, it was easily his most productive moment as a Buccaneer and left fans dreaming about a Mike Alstott / Todd Washington goal line package.

1. Scot Brantley ends Eric Hipple.

Detroit quarterback Eric Hipple faked the hand off to his right, before rolling left and looking for running room on a 1st and 18.  He gained a quick five yards on the bootleg and made to retreat out of bounds, never seeing Scot Brantley — the creamsicle homing missile — beelining toward him.  Brantley launched a shoulder into the unsuspecting quarterback, and sent the ball, the helmet, and what was left of the 28-year-old passer in three different directions.  Hipple left the game after a few minutes of pained squirming near the sideline, and unbelievably returned to action on the following series.

Buc Central’s POW-R’-ANKINGS; The power rankings are the product of a simple mathematical formula, using points for and points against. The rankings have predicted 10 of the last 21 Super Bowl winners. Further, 15 of the last 21 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the POW-R’-ANKINGS system. Unlike with other, lesser rating systems, which are based on the authors opinion or some sort of biased towards a team they have a rooting interest in, no opinion is involved what so ever in formulating these rankings. None. Teams are ranked on a percentile scale, with 1.000 representing the NFL’s strongest team and 0.000 its weakest. If you don’t like where your perspective team is ranked, blame the evolution of mathematical science. (Key: WK 1 = This week’s rankings, based on combined stats from week 1 performances).

With the first week of the 2011 season in the books, the surprise team is the Buffalo Bills in Buc Central’s POW-R’-ANKINGS. Last season the Green Bay Packers led the power rankings from week 9 to week 16 and fell to number 2 in the final standings. Could the Bills be this years super surprise? The Bucs open the season at number 22 after falling victim to the Detroit Lions.

WK 1TEAMSPFPADIFFERENTLYTOTAL POINTSPOW-R'-ANKINGS
1Bills41734481.000
2Ravens35728420.967
3Texans34727410.935
4Bears301218420.903
5Eagles311318440.870
6Redskins281414420.838
749ers331716500.806
8Bengals271710440.774
9Patriots382414620.741
10Chargers24177410.709
11Lions27207470.677
12Cardinals28217490.645
13Packers42348760.612
14Raiders23203430.580
15Jaguars16142300.548
16Jets27243510.516
17Cowboys2427-3510.483
18Titans1416-2300.451
19Broncos2023-3430.419
20Saints3442-8760.387
21Panthers2128-7490.354
22Bucs2027-7470.322
23Vikings1724-7410.290
24Dolphins2438-14620.258
25Browns1727-10440.225
26Seahawks1733-16500.193
27Giants1428-14420.161
28Rams1331-18440.129
29Falcons1230-18420.096
30Colts734-27410.064
31Steelers735-28420.032
32Chiefs741-34480.000

Sure the Bucs young defense gave up 431 total yards to the Detroit Lions. But did you know they held the Lions to just 2-of-11 for an 18% conversion rate on third downs. The Bucs defense was consistently off balance on early downs allowing the Lions to rack up 210-yards on 1st down and 112-yards on 2nd down plays.

On first down the Bucs defense surrendered 49% of the Lions total yards. On second down they surrendered 26% accounting for 75% of the Lions total yards.

They allowed 7.24 yards per play on first down. Couple that with poor tackling and an inability to get even the slightest bit of pressure on Matthew Stafford and you get an instant recipe for disaster.

Of course that’s not to say the game plan wasn’t flawed or the offense didn’t have some culpability in the outcome of the game. But when you mix it all up those ingredients are perfect blend for a loss.

The good news is that the passing game got on track and the defense stiffened late. Definitely looks like the team is a ways away from how they ended the 2010 season.

Mike Williams (19) catches a pass over a Detroit defender. Tampa lost the contest 27-20.

Thank God that’s over with.

Week one, the team we all had so many expectations for just got demolished by the Detroit Lions. The score doesn’t do the game justice, not at one point beyond the first quarter did I think we actually stood a chance. That was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to watch.

The Good
Gerald McCoy. While Ndaumukong Suh‘s stat-line reads better, his performance doesn’t show it. Last season’s All-Pro,  Rookie of the Year got shut-down … bad. Gerald? He ripped through the Lions line like a knife through butter. He tore throught double-teams like he was Warren Sapp. Suh? His best tackle was downfield after getting checked at the line for five seconds by Davin Joseph and jogging to the play. His performance is about the only thing the offensive line should be proud of.

Sean Jones had a great game too;  every time he made a tackle it seemed he was stripping the ball or doing something to try to create a turnover.

Josh Freeman inside the two-minute drill was fantastic; I’ll take his one interception as I’m sure he thought that it was a free play. When he wasn’t throwing to a check down he was great. When he passed past the first down marker he was great.

Michael Koenen – Three touchbacks in his first three kick-offs, despite kicking from the 25-yard line on one.

The Bad
Adrian Clayborn, I say he’s bad because his angles were terrible. He had various attempts to make a play at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield but was unable to convert. He got good pressure on a few plays but nothing that really awed me.

The Ugly
Greg Olson, are you kidding me? Seriously? That’s it? That’s what I’ve been looking forward to for months? Watching Earnest Graham run out of shotgun twice then up the gut? What did that do for us? Oh that’s right, three and out. I think Bill Castle at Lakeland High School could have had a better offensive gameplan. Hell, I may have done a better job. That was pathetic.

LeGarrette Blount – What happened to him? Five runs? Where did he go?

Last but not least, I know this may seem biased, but the referees. How was the pass to Mike Williams in the third quarter not a pass interference? He was shoved.

Hopefully this was a one-time thing.  Morris and Olson will review tape and try to clean it up.  Don’t be too down; the Lions are a good team.  Granted, when you spend a decade compiling top-10 draft picks, you’re going to have some talent.

During CBS Television Network’s NFL pre-game show, The NFL Today, host James Brown and analysts Charley Casserly broke the news that the Bucs are one of five teams the league office has found to have had impermissible contact with players during the lockout.

It’s unclear, whether or not the team will be penalized for the infractions and if the penalty will come in the form of the Bucs having to relinquishing draft picks or if it will be in the form of actual cash.

Interestingly enough many of the prognostications that have been floated and bantered about when talking about the outcome, of the Bucs 2011 season, has them regressing slightly and missing the playoffs. However, Bill Simmons the Editor in Chief of Grantland.com and one of the country’s most widely read sports writers, and the author of the recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball. Is going against the grain in his most recent column titled “The NFL in 2011: All About Continuity” Simmons a pioneer of sports writing on the Internet is predicting the Bucs not only make the playoffs, but will actually play in the NFC Championship Game.

Simmons is also predicting the Bucs over the Lions today!

BUCS (-1.5) over Lions
That’s right, I said Tampa! Why do so few people still believe in JAAAAAAAASH FREEMAN!?!?!?!?? Even if the Bucs had some schedule/luck/momentum help last season, don’t they get credit for overcoming a rash of crippling injuries (they lost five starters in two weeks at one point, including stud cornerback Aqib Talib and center Jeff Faine) and gritting their way to 10-6? What about a full year from LeGarrette Blount? Why is everyone so eager to say how much better Sam Bradford will be in Year 2, but they never say this about Freeman (also entering his second full year as a starter)? Have you seen their schedule for god’s sake?7 And haven’t we learned that it’s much better to be the “Nobody Believes In Us!” team (Tampa) than the “Everyone Believes In Us!” team (not just Atlanta but Detroit, as well)? Relatively Bold Prediction No. 4: Tampa makes the playoffs, Atlanta and Detroit do not.

It’s definitely a bold prediction. The Bucs making the playoffs at 11-5 and going to the NFC Championship Game, while last years media darlings the Atlanta Falcons and this years early media darlings the Detroit Lions both miss out.

The would tickle the heck out of me, for nothing else than the Falcons would be sitting at home, Freeman getting his first career playoff win before Matt Ryan and then beating a division rival in the Saints to advance even further. Talk about a fairytale.

The Buccaneers have won seven of the last ten meetings with the Lions, but Detroit leads the all-time regular season series 28-25. Tampa also prevailed 20-10 in a wildcard playoff win in Tampa during the 1997 season. The teams first met in 1977, a 16-7 Lions victory at the Silverdome. The Bucs’ first win over the Lions came in the 1979 season opener, a 31-16 triumph that propelled Tampa Bay to its first NFC Central title. Two years later, the Bucs captured their second division crown with a 20-17 win at Detroit on the season’s final Sunday. The series see-sawed throughout the 1980s, with the Lions holding a 10-9 edge. Detroit went on a five-game streak, starting in 1994. The Bucs ended the streak in 1997 with a 24-17 win in Pontiac. Later that year, Tampa Bay said farewell to Tampa Stadium with a 20-10 Wild Card victory over the Lions before 73,361 fans. Tampa Bay had won the previous meeting between the two teams in 2008, but lost last season in Tampa, 23-20.

GAME INFORMATION
Date: Sunday, September 11, 2011
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Site: Raymond James Stadium (65,908)
2010 Records: Tampa Bay 10-6, Detroit 6-10
Network Television: FOX
Play-by-Play: Chris Myers, Analyst: Tim Ryan, Sideline: Jennifer Hale
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, flagship station (103.5 FM, 620 AM)
Play-by-Play: Gene Deckerhoff, Color: Dave Moore, Sideline: T.J. Rives
Up Next: Tampa Bay @ Minnesota (9/18), Detroit vs. Kansas City (9/18)

Series By The Numbers
Overall Regular Season Series:………………… Detroit leads series, 28-25
Home Record vs. Detroit Lions:………………………………………….. 13-13
Road Record vs. Detroit Lions:…………………………………………… 12-15
Current Streak:…………………………………………. Lions, one game (2010)
Buccaneers Longest Streak:…………………………. Four games (2001-05)
Lions Longest Streak:……………………………………Five games (1994-96)
Regular Season Point Total:………………….Buccaneers 916 – Lions 1,117
Most Points, Buccaneers:……….. 38, twice, last Buccaneers 38-20 (2008)
Most Points, Lions:………………………….38, twice, last Lions 38-7 (1992)
Most Points, both teams:…………………….. 59, Buccaneers 38-21 (1990)
Fewest Points, Buccaneers:……….. 0, three times, last Lions 27-0 (1996)
Fewest Points, Lions:……….. 10, five times, last Buccaneers 31-10 (2000)
Fewest Points, both teams:……………………………11, Lions 11-0 (1983)

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Bucs O-Line vs. Lions D-Line
Last season the Bucs offensive line surrendered 30 sacks, the Lions defense sacked opposing QB’s 44 times. The Bucs were without Jeff Faine, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood was not starting when the Lions beat the Bucs in overtime. Mark Dominik has shelled out $110 million in contracts with roughly $39 million guaranteed to LT Donald Penn, RG Joseph and RT Trueblood over the past two off-seasons to protect Freeman, the face of the franchise.

With new offensive line coach Pat Morris, in tow. This is a critical unit to watch in the season opener. Especially after a less than stellar pre-season performance, where they allowed far too much pressure and seldom moved the LOS.

The most intriguing battle however will be Trueblood vs. Lions DE Cliff Avril.Trueblood has struggled against speed rushers in the past. Avril a speed rusher extraordinaire could give Trueblood fits in his attempt to protect Freeman.

Aqib Talib vs. Calvin Johnson
Johnson had 10 catches for 152-yards and 1 touchdown against the Talibless Bucs in last years meeting. Talib who’s not played in a game since week 12 of 2010 after being placed on injured reserve will be tested by the athletic Johnson.

This is strength versus strength for both teams. Talib and Johnson both represent the best player for their respective teams on defense and offense. Which ever player, gets the best of the other goes along way in helping decide the outcome of this game.

Josh Freeman vs. Lions Secondary
Last year, Freeman led the Buccaneers to 10 wins, becoming the first quarterback under the age of 23 to win at least 10 games since 2004 (Ben Roethlisberger). Seven of Freeman’s 13 career victories have been fourth-quarter comeback or OT wins. Freeman had a career-best 95.9 passer rating in 2010, the sixth-highest mark in the NFL. His 3,451 passing yards last year were the fourth-most in team history and he joined Brad Johnson as the only Bucs to pass for at least 3,000 yards, 20 TDs (25) and fewer than 10 interceptions (6) in a season.

With the Lions top interceptor from last season CB Alphonso Smith out. This should provide the Bucs deep receiving corps some mismatch opportunities. Don’t be too surprised to see Dezmon Briscoe become an early favorite of Freeman with Mike Williams garnering extra attention.

INJURY REPORT
Detroit Lions
CB Alphonso Smith (foot) Out
DT Nick Fairley (foot) Out
OT Jason Fox (foot) Out
RB Maurice Morris (hand) Probable
DT Andre Fluellen (hand) Probable

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Myron Lewis (ankle) Out
G Ted Larsen (ankle) Probable
LB Dekoda Watson (hamstring) Probable

ENEMY COACHES
Lions Head Coach: Jim Schwartz
Lions Offensive Coordinator: Gunther Cunningham
Lions Defensive Coordinator: Scott Linehan
Lions Special Teams Coach: Danny Crossman

STATISTICAL RANKINGS: (2010 Regular Season)
DETROIT LIONS OFFENSE
Overall: 17th (338.9 ypg)
Rushing: 23rd (100.8 ypg)
Passing: 12th (238.1 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 6th (27)
Points Scored: 15th (22.6 ppg)
DETROIT LIONS DEFENSE
Overall: 21st (343.6 ypg)
Rushing: 24th (124.9 ypg)
Passing: 16th (218.6 ypg)
Sacks: 6th (44)
Points Allowed: 19th (23.1 ppg)

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OFFENSE
Overall: 19th (335.1 ypg)
Rushing: 8th (125.1 ypg)
Passing: 17th (210.1 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 10th (30)
Points Scored: 20th (21.3 ppg)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSE
Overall: 17th (332.7 ypg)
Rushing: 28th (131.7 ypg)
Passing: 7th (201 ypg)
Sacks: 30th (26)
Points Allowed: 9th (19.9 ppg)

Buc Central’s Prognostication:
As always we are not advocating gambling based on our views of the game, especially considering we typically are inclined to make such educated guesses using are heart rather the any rational thought applied to picking. We are merely giving an opinion of who we think has the best chance at securing a victory.

LIONS 29
BUCCANEERS 23