Buccaneers-Packers Preview: The Power Of Bruce Compels You!
So it's come to this for the fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hoping that creamsicle and a less-than-masculine looking winking pirate can bring you luck in ending one of the longest losing streaks in the franchise's sordid history.
Yes, Bucco Bruce has risen up from Davey Jones locker. Orange will again be in fashion in Tampa Bay.
While the fans are hoping for some magical redemption in the "Pastel Foot wipes" of old, one has to wonder if the resurrection of Bucco Bruce is the cause of this disaster.
Think about it. With Pewter Power Tampa Bay, has had nine seasons of at least 8-8 or better in 12 seasons. Tampa Bay has only had three losing seasons since the color change and amassed a 105-87 record. The run has included four division championships, seven playoff appearances, five playoff victories and a Super Bowl title.
By raising Bucco Bruce, the Bucs' owners - the Glazers, invited in the demons of a 100-231-1 record in 21 years of creamsicle. In those dismal 21 seasons, Tampa Bay had just three winning seasons (one of those in a strike shortened year), had double digit losses in 17 of those seasons and won just one division title. They made the playoffs just three times, winning only one game (1-3).
Things were so bad, some believed that current Bucs Director of Pro Scouting and former quarterback Doug Williams cursed the team's colors with a Louisiana Hoo Doo Priestess after a contract dispute ended with Williams leaving the team for the USFL.
When the Glazers decided to change the color scheme, the Buccaneers actually held a funeral at sea for Bucco Bruce, burying him and the team's dismal past for good.
The first season in Pewter began with a 5-0 start and a playoff berth for the first time in over a decade.
Now, like Jason and Freddy, Bruce has returned from the dead and the results - an 0-7 start for the team.
Of course, the real reason behind the Bucs terrible start is a lack of cohesiveness, talent, and perhaps coaching ability on both sides of the ball.
But you just have to wonder a little don't you? The exact jersey replica the Glazers chose for this weekend's throwback game was from the 1976 team. The same team that went 0-14. I can't make this up, folks.
The real reason behind the throwback weekend is to celebrate the career of the Bucs only Hall of Famer, Lee Roy Selmon, who will be the inaugural inductee into the team's newly founded Ring of Honor.
In addition to honoring Lee Roy, the Bucs will also pay homage to the 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - a team that went from worst to first and was 9 points away from reaching the Super Bowl.
For two decades the 79 team stood as the one exception to the horrible rule of Buccaneer football.
There's been a buzz around town about the throwback game. Die-hard fans who used to sport the orange proudly are eager to see the Bucs in their classic uniform - if for just one last time.
Oh and some guy named Freeman is making his first start for the Buccaneers.
With that, let's take a look at the Pastel Winking Pirates' match up against the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay leads the all time series 29-20-1. The Bucs won the last meeting 30-21 last season.
Tampa Bay Pastel Winking Pirates Passing Attack against Green Bay Packers Pass Defense
And so it begins. Head Coach Raheem Morris' poster child for the new hope, Josh Freeman, takes over behind center for Tampa Bay.
Freeman, the 17th pick overall in the 2009 draft, is a large kid with a powerful arm. He has struggled a little bit with accuracy but has the wheels to motor down field and pick up first downs.
Some scouts have compared him to Donovan McNabb, while others JaMarcus Russell (that collective groan you heard was from those who believe he'll be closer to the latter).
It should be interesting to see what, if anything, the Bucs allow Freeman to do. With Byron Leftwich, the Bucs pushed the football down the field more. With Josh Johnson, the prototypical West Coast offense quarterback, the receivers disappeared from the game while backs and tight ends made more of an impact.
The Bucs also called a lot more bootlegs and play action under the fleet footed Johnson.
Freeman has the rocket arm of Leftwich combined with the fleet feet of Johnson (although with a much larger frame he's not nearly as quick).
What he lacks is experience behind center. That will come in time.
Freeman faces the 9th ranked pass defense in the NFL. Despite the lofty statistical ranking, the defense has struggled a bit with the new 3-4 alignment.
Still, with a stellar defensive backfield led by Charles Woodson and Al Harris, protecting the football and not putting the Bucs in a bad spot may be Freeman's #1 responsibility.
Advantage: Green Bay
Tampa Bay Pastel Winking Pirates Running Attack vs. Green Bay Packers Run Defense
If the Bucs hope to upset the Packers on Sunday, the Buccaneers missing running attack must rumble to life.
Some of the Bucs trouble in the running game is they've quickly fallen behind in games, making it difficult to have patience to establish the run.
Still, with what's supposed to be a quality offensive line, the Buccaneers expect to try to pound the rock at Green Bay's 3-4 front.
Coming off the heartbreaking loss to the Vikings and a big challenge upcoming against Dallas, it will be interesting to see the Packers have the intensity to meet the run attack.
Advantage: Green Bay
Green Bay Packers Passing Game vs. the Tampa Bay Pastel Winking Pirates Pass Defense
Aaron Rogers is a statistical monster. I should know, he starts for me in my fantasy league (and yes I'm playing him). The Bucs may be catching Rogers a bit banged up, though, playing with two injured feet.
That's not good news for the Packers much maligned line that has surrendered a league high 31 sacks.
Of course, whether or not the Bucs defense can take advantage of that is another matter. The Bucs have managed just 11 sacks this, good for 29th in the league.
When Rogers has the ability to stay on his feet, he's got some of the league's best wide outs to throw to in Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones. Even Donald Lee has gotten into the act for the Pack.
The Bucs pass defense has been playing better of late, making plays in the secondary and not allowing as many big plays against them.
If the front seven can get to Rogers, there may be opportunities to make some plays.
Rogers though only has 2 INTs this season despite being constantly under duress, protecting the football very well for Green Bay.
Advantage: Green Bay
Green Bay Packers Running Game vs. the Tampa Bay Pastel Winking Pirates Run Defense
The Packers Ryan Grant leads the way for the Green Bay rushing attack, ranked 16th in the NFL. Meanwhile the Bucs can't stop the run - period. Ranked second to last in the league giving up a beefy 162.4 yards per game on the ground.
If the Bucs have any chance in this game, the Buccaneers need to make sure Grant doesn't give Rogers 2nd and 1's and 3rd and 2's to do damage with.
Advantage: Green Bay
Tampa Bay Pastel Winking Pirates Special Teams vs. Green Bay Packers Special Teams
Connor Barth becomes Tampa Bay's third kicker this season. Barth at least comes in with some experience kicking in the NFL, more than you can say for his predecessor, Shane Andrus.
Dirk Johnson has been solid in the punting game for the Bucs.
The Bucs also welcome the return of Pro Bowl kick/punt returner Clifton Smith. Tampa Bay remains 2nd in the league in kick coverage (although they've slipped to 21st in punt coverage).
Green Bay counters with the reliable Mason Crosby, who's banged home 14 of 18 attempts this season. The Packers are also getting a good punting performance from Jeremy Kapinos, who's averaging 45.3 yards per punt and has 7 kicks inside the 20.
Green Bay is middle of the league returning kicks and punts behind Tramon Williams, Will Blackmon, and Jordy Nelson.
The Packers have also struggled covering kicks and punts, ranking 15th in kick coverage and 30th in punt coverage.
- Green Bay is 1-6 lifetime at Raymond James Stadium.
- The Bucs have won two straight and three of the last four meetings with the Packers.
- Green Bay hasn't been very friendly to the dregs of the league - Blasting St. Louis 36-17, Detroit 26-0, and Cleveland 31-3.
- Tampa Bay is honoring legendary Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon with an induction into the newly formed Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium.
- The Bucs will also be honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad. The 79 team won the first division title in franchise history, won the team's first playoff game, are the only team in Franchise history to host an NFC Championship game and came within 9 points of reaching the Super Bowl, losing 9-0 to the Los Angeles Rams.
- To honor both Selmon and the 79 team, the Buccaneers will be wearing their throwback uniforms with orange jerseys and a white helmet featuring "Bucco Bruce", the winking pirate.
- Top draft pick Josh Freeman makes his first NFL start at quarterback for Tampa Bay.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Raheem Morris is in his first season as an NFL head coach and is still searching for his first win at 0-7.
Mike McCarthy is in his 4th season with the Packers, 32-25-0, .561 (incl. 1-1 postseason). The Packers have one winning season under McCarthy, and one division championship.
Advantage: Green Bay
If there was ever a trap game, it's this one for the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay is coming off an emotional loss at home against the Minnesota Favres and following the Bucs the Packers face the meat of their schedule where they will take on five playoff contending teams in the last eight games. In the middle, the winless Buccaneers.
The Packers have traditionally struggled at Raymond James Stadium and they're facing a Buccaneers team that is well rested after being on the bye, excited about playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, and desperate to notch a W in the win column.
This is a dangerous game for the Packers. Still, if Green Bay comes to play, there's little chance the Buccaneers can win this game. Match up wise, the Packers are all wrong for the Bucs (then again, who isn't?).
I think the Bucs will hang around enough to get the Packers scared before Green Bay pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Final Score: Green Bay Packers 28, Tampa Bay Pastel Winking Pirates 16
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