Big game this weekend as the (7-3) Baltimore Ravens host the (7-3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Our “enemy blogger” this week is Patrik Nohe of ThePewterPlank.com. Check out what he thinks about the Bucs’ 7-3 record so far, and also why it may still not be enough just yet. I’d also like to note that he corrected my ignorant use of the term “Bucs,” by referring to them as the “Buccs” instead. Thanks for correction, Patrik!
1. After the Bucs went 3-13 last season, how surprised are you with their success this year?
Extremely surprised, to be honest. Coming into the year I had them at five, maybe six wins and that was an optimistic outlook. The Bucs are the youngest team in the league and they have the league’s youngest coach, but they’ve managed to band together so far this season and buy into the underdog persona. The results have been surprising amongst other adjectives.
It is worth pointing out though that the Bucs’ 7-3 record is a bit inflated by virtue of their strength of schedule. On the season they have played just three games against teams over .500 and they have lost all three of those games. That means the Bucs win the games they are supposed to but they’re yet to establish themselves as true contender because they lack that quality win. That’s why the next two weeks are so important, if the Bucs can pick up a win this weekend in Baltimore or next weekend when Atlanta visits they will prove they’re legit. Otherwise people will start to label them frauds.
2. Is Josh Freeman the franchise quarterback that the Bucs have long been searching for?
I don’t want to jinx anything because it’s still early but it certainly looks that way. Ironically Bucs fans booed the selection of Freeman and accused Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik of nepotism after the Bucs traded up in the first round to select a quarterback that Morris once coached in college. That all seems silly now. Freeman puts up modest numbers but he brings the type of intangibles that few quarterbacks are imbued with. He’s just a natural winner and he’s at his best in the 4th quarter when the game’s on the line. You toss in his physical measurables, his size, arm strength, speed and add a good football mind and you can understand what had Bucs fans so excited. This guy is for real and he’s getting better with every week.
3. Do you think the Bucs need to focus more on the run or the pass?
Offensively or defensively? The answer to both is the run. The Bucs front seven has struggled to stop the run all season (ranking just 29th) and the Ravens have a very good tandem of backs and an extremely gifted line. If the Buccaneers want to hold their own defensively they need to make Joe Flacco beat them. That’s still not an incredibly enticing option, but it’s better than letting the Ravens pound the ball at them for the whole game.
Offensively, the Ravens have shown you can move the ball against them on the ground. Ronnie Brown had 45 yards on six rushes during the Dolphins opening drive a couple of weeks ago and then Miami (rather inexplicably) just completely ignored the run for the rest of the game. Last weekend a third stringer, Mike Goodson, ripped off 120 yards against them. The Bucs need to run, if just to keep the pass rush off of Josh Freeman, but they may find some room to work on the ground behind the legs of LeGarrette Blount.
4. Who’s one underrated Bucs player that Ravens fans should look out for?
Well, LeGarrette Blount comes to mind, but he’s beginning to receive some national attention so I won’t talk about him. I would say its’ Aqib Talib. I think Talib may be the most underrated corner in football, he’s capable of taking away a team’s best receiver when he’s on his game and he has an impeccable nose for the ball. He has five picks on the year but he should have at least twice that, he just doesn’t have the best hands. Still, if Joe Flacco isn’t careful he’s going to end up trying to chase down the former Jayhawk, It also doesn’t hurt Talib that the guy on the other side of him, Ronde Barber, is a future Hall-of-Famer.
5. Game predictions?
I think the Bucs will keep this game close and have a good chance to win this one, but I still don’t know that they’re a better team than the Ravens. Barring some big mistakes out of Baltimore, I think the Ravens will be able to handle the Bucs in a tight game. 24-20, Ravens.