Homer vs. Hater, Tampa Bay edition

TAMPA - JULY 31: The training facility of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Training Camp at One Buccaneer Place on July 31 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
This week's edition has James the Aussie and Cyberjag playing the parts of Homer and Hater.  You can figure out who is who for yourself. :)

Well Homer, Tampa Bay comes to Charlotte this week.  Normally this would be a get-well type of game for the Panthers, but that assumes that there's still some life left in their season.  After watching them in New York, I'm not quite sure.  Richardson's plan to save money this year obviously includes saving the airfare and lodging involved in any potential playoff destinations.

Oh Hater, how misguided you are. To the Panthers last week was just another season opener, to the Giants it was a massive, all encompassing quest to regain their dignity after getting embarrassed by us last year. They threw everything they had at us, and still needed a meltdown at the QB position to pull it out. This week: It's very, very different and the Bucs will learn that.

Did you see the scores last week?  The Bucs handed a good Cleveland Browns team a loss, and did so in impressive fashion.  They got down early, but once they settled down they became the anti-Panthers.  Instead of abandoning the run in a frenzied panic because they fell behind by a few points, they tightened up the defense, stayed with their offensive plan, and pulled out the victory in the fourth quarter.  Amazingly enough, when the game ended (a game that they trailed most of the day), they had actually run more than they passed.

Look, I like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers... but frankly, Oakland fans will learn about grace and dignity before the Bucs are any real threat. Their defense is extremely young, too young to deal with the offense we're going to be running up their throats on Sunday. Sure it was nice to see them come back from a deficit last week, but that's nice in the same way its nice to see someone win a 'participation' award.

And this week it isn't going to be a 'few points', it's going to be a bunch of points. I can see it now--"Mr. Stewart's hand, I'd like you to meet Mr. Barber's face." Face it, they're not tough enough to hang with us. And we may not know for sure which QB we'll be starting, but either way I guarantee Moore or Clausen will be better than Freeman.

Yeah, right.  Listen, Josh Freeman is like the Ben Roethlisberger of the NFC South, and he's already a clutch player.  Against Cleveland he completed 61% of his passes, including a 33 yard strike in the fourth to put the Bucs ahead for good.  Don't look for him to be intimidated by the blitz either, assuming the Panthers ever execute one properly.  He's got the footwork to move around in the pocket enough to make Brown miss by *this* much, and he can take off at a moment's notice.  He's young, and is only getting better.

So let me get this straight, I’m supposed to be afraid of a Sophomore QB with a bum thumb who could only get 182 yards against the Cleveland Browns? I’m positively shaking in my boots.  And what about Spurlock, Stroughter and Williams?  No, they’re not a personal injury Law Firm from the 1950’s, they’re Tampa Bay’s receiving corps, and let’s not confuse them with Manningham, Nicks and Smith--not for a second.

Carolina was right in line in allowing 263 yards from Eli Manning, his 2009 average was 255. We also picked him off 3 times and held him to a lower QB rating than his 2009 average. If we hold Freeman to his average, or below his average we can expect less than 200 passing yards… no threat at all. Carolina’s DBs will eat him up.

The only reason Freeman may not get 200 yards is because unlike Carolina, Tampa is a run-first team.  They've got a coach who takes it seriously, and they'll pound it against our undersized line all day long.  Remember when the Panthers used to do that?  Remember how teams folded in the fourth?  At least the average Panther fan won't have to see it happen in person, the Stadium will be deserted after three.

Williams is healthy, Graham is a running back at the fullback position, and Freeman is always a threat to take off.  Not that it's going to matter much who's back there.  With the holes that Jeff Faine and Davin Joseph are going to open up, even I could gain positive yardage on the Panthers.

Now you want to look at the run game? Or really, at the lack thereof? Cadillac Williams looked more like a Pinto, averaging 3.4 ypc against 2009’s 28th ranked run defense. Carolina’s linebackers combined for 33 tackles last Sunday, and that’s before we even begin to talk about how effective Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson were against the run. The only reason Tampa had any semblance of a running game on paper was due to a 33 yard scramble from their QB. They wont get the breaks this week they did last one.

They don't need breaks, they just need for the Panthers to play like they did in New York.  Even Keydrick Vincent can protect the quarterback against the rush we brought against the Giants.  Think he's afraid of Derek Landri?  But if you want to talk about the passing game, I've got something that you just won't believe.  The Bucs have actually developed receivers.  Yes Carolina, it is possible to do that.  It's possible to throw to more than one receiver too, and Freeman already gets that. 

Tired of talking about the running game already?  I don't much blame you!  No matter how you try and spin it, there really isn't a lot to talk about there. 

And finally we get to the pass rush, which I'm really looking forward to.  Carolina didn’t look as dominant last week as they did in the preseason, but I hope Tampa Bay thinks they can count on that again because they will be sorely mistaken.  Our pass rush comes secondary to preventing the big play, and New York had plenty of big play potential… does TB?

Did you say New York had big play potential?  The only thing required for a big play against the Panthers is to throw at Munnerlyn, or to the area that Godfrey's supposed to be covering.  There are 30 other teams in the league who can do that, and don't think Tampa didn't take notice. 

We won’t be afraid to safety blitz, linebacker blitz, corner blitz… blitz, blitz, blitz and that doesn’t fair well for Josh Freeman. Their offensive line pales in comparison to New York’s also… and they have a tight end in Kellen Winslow who would rather be a receiver than block. This equation = a lot of pain for the Buccaneers.

Oh come on! If you're not worried about Winslow, then you can't have seen any Panthers games in the Fox era.  Our defenses always get gashed by Tight Ends, and the Bucs have one who can run with the best.  The Bucs are going to move the ball on Sunday, we shouldn't even be arguing about that.

I don't think so, but if it makes you happy we'll agree that they may get some movement between the 20s.  But you've got to put points on the board to win. and that's going to be difficult for Freeman.  Did I mention we intercepted him five times last year?  In one game? 

The Panthers offense, on the other hand, will pound the ball all day long against the Tampa Bay defense.  That means that a full stadium will enjoy watching the Bucs gently fold in the fourth as Williams and Stewart blow the game open.

New York showed the league how simple it is to shut down the Panthers vaunted running attack.  All you need to do is get a one point lead and watch two star running backs become blockers.  Everyone knows that Davidson is afraid to run the ball if the Panthers need to catch up, and the nice thing is that it doesn't matter how much time is left, or what the field position is.  An early field goal by the Bucs will make the Panthers one-dimensional on offense.

That assumes they get a lead.  The Bucs gave up a touchdown to Jake Delhomme and some receiver who should be on a practice squad at best.  The Panthers receivers are going to feast on that secondary.  Talib is a decent cornerback, but Ronde Barber hasn't been Ronde Barber in about 20 years.

When it comes to defending the pass, all that means is putting two bodies on Steve Smith.  No one else on the Panthers roster scares anyone.  LaFell can get open, but can't catch.  Jarrett can catch, but can't get open.  Edwards won't play, so it won't matter if he can do either.  He needs more time anyway, it's tough to go straight into the NFL after eight years of playing high school ball.  The only other receivers the Panthers have are the tight ends, and judging by last week the Panthers don't throw to their side of the field anyway.

Just relax a little, ok?  The Panthers are playing at home.  Matt Moore loves playing in Charlotte, he's got a quarterback rating of over 100 there, and is looking for a little redemption after last week.  And if he can't go, there's no better place for a future franchise quarterback to get his start than in a friendly stadium?

Matt Moore can't throw to his left unless he's tracked Smitty there across the field, and Jimmy Clausen is obviously auditioning for a future stint on Dancing with the Stars.  If Moore is starting, expect the Bucs to pretty much ignore the check-down and let him toss it deep.  Tampa needs to put it's "hands" team out there at Safety, because the way Matty Vice throws into coverage, anything over 10 yards is an interception waiting to happen. 

And If it's Clausen, then they can ignore the deep ball because he's going to go through his progression whether he needs to or not, and find the receiver who's closest to the line of scrimmage.  I can just hear Davidson now.  "Nice completion percentage kid, but we need a first down every once in a while."

I know there's a real fan deep down inside you.  Give our guys some credit--Fox is one of the best coaches in the league and he'll have our guys ready.  We're going to run, and run, and run some more.  And when we have to get the first, we've got Smitty and Rosario.  The Panthers are going to make it a nice ball-control game, and show the league that we haven't forgotten what power running is like. They'll score early and often, and will make the Bucs one-dimensional on offense.

I hope it works out that way, but there's no way the Panthers make that happen.  Their defense lacks experience, and they still don't know how to adjust.  I don't think the Bucs will score like the Saints do, but they're going to move the ball all day long.  Williams and Graham will beat our line down, and Freeman either uses his legs or arm to pick up the big third downs. 

I can easily see Tampa putting up 24 on Sunday.  And what with Davidson's inability to coach an offense that puts more points than that on the board, the Panthers won't match it.  You're right, I love Carolina, but I'll love them a lot more when Richardson fires Furney and gets a coach who won't mind airing it out and playing a don't even bend in the first place defense.  Of course, he'll have to spend money, so it's just a dream.  Bucs 24, Panthers 13.

Bucs 24?  Are you adding up the points they're scoring in the next three games to get that much?  Seriously, Freeman is going to spend a lot of time running tomorrow.  Don't be surprised if he's Tampa's leading rusher either, because WIlliams and Graham have never done a thing against Carolina.

Last year's third ranked pass defense will make its' return next week, as the coaches adjust to what they saw in the season's first live action.  And the Bucs will find it extremely hard to move the ball.  Williams will go over 100, Stewart will pound out 60 tough yards and a couple of touchdowns, and Matt Moore will look like Matt Moore again.  The Panthers win going away, 31-9.

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