Nov 11, 2005, 11:08 PM EDT
Bold Predictions Redskins vs Bucs
There just isn’t much sizzle here.
The first time these two teams met on October 9, 1977, the two teams combined for nine fumbles, eight turnovers and 14 penalties. The Redskins won this excruciatingly boring affair 10-0 and even Billy Kilmer, the winning quarterback complained afterward that the game was dull and that his team made too many mistakes.
That set the tone for the series. They have played 13 times and none of the games are memorable. There was that game in 1982 right before the strike that the Redskins won on a Curtis Jordan punt block, but had it not been pouring rain to the point that water was cascading down the stairs at the Big Sombrero, a scene that NFL Films captured masterfully, that game would never get a second thought. I suppose you could call the Redskins’ 14-13 playoff loss following the 1999 season somewhat noteworthy, but it’s most memorable for a botched play, a bad snap on a potential game-winning field goal attempt (Brian Mitchell’s playoff-record 100-yard kickoff return notwithstanding). The next year the teams went into overtime at FedEx Field, but the Skins won that game when Deion Sanders set up a field goal with a 57-yard punt return and most of us would rather forget he ever played in the Burgundy and Gold.
With no real rivalry, with no particular reason to dislike the Bucs based on any historical events, we are forced to deal with the here and now. And there is plenty there.
Both teams are 5-3, which right now is if-the-season-ended-today Wild Card position. The first tiebreaker, of course, is head to head so the winner of this game essentially gains two games’ worth of advantage over the loser. Making up those two games over the course of the seven remaining contests is a pretty tall order. It’s not a must-win for both teams, but it’s as close as you get to one at the start of the second half of the season.
Tampa Bay has a balanced offense; the Bucs can’t run or pass very well. They’re 21st in the NFL in total yards gained, 16th rushing and 21st passing. Their rankings have plunged due to two key injuries. The one to running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams slowed down the rookie, who had the best start of any NFL running back ever with 434 yards in his first three games. He has gained just 162 yards in the ensuing five games, two of which he missed with a foot injury. Still, he’s better off than starting QB Brian Griese who went out for the season in Week Six with a knee injury.
Williams is now fairly healthy but he’s coming off of consecutive games in which he has gained combined 49 yards on 24 carries. It’s not all his fault. Griese’s replacement, second-year player Chris Simms, has been less than stellar and if you can’t pass you get the eight in the box that the Redskins saw so much of last year and it’s hard to run.
On the other side of the ball, it’s hard to do anything against the Tampa defense. That unit has been that team’s bell cow for the last decade or so and this year is no exception as they are ranked #1 in the NFL. Former stalwarts like John Lynch and Warren Sapp have moved on, but there’s still linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber, and defensive end Simeon Rice to contend with.
Despite that great D, the Bucs have lost three out of four since a 4-0 start. Included in that skid are losses to a couple of certified dogs, the 49ers and the Jets. Saying that there in a bit of a slump is like saying that Terrell Owens has a bit of a mouth.
For their part, the Redskins are playing better, but they’re not exactly tearing it up either. They’ve lost three out of five. One of the wins was over one of those mutts, San Francisco, and they had a real dog of a game in New York.
Still, you get the sense that these are two teams headed in opposite directions. The Redskins aren’t world-beaters but, as noted above, you don’t have to be to get a W over Tampa Bay. Washington has a pretty decent defense itself and the Buccaneer offense will struggle to get over 13 points or so. On offense, Clinton Portis won’t rack up much yardage barring a big run like he got against Tampa Bay in last year’s opener. I get a feeling that David Patten will play a key role as the Bucs aren’t going to let Santana Moss beat them. Regardless, the Redskins won’t score much, but they will score enough. They’ll claim their fourth win of the season in games that they score fewer than 20 points:
Redskins 17, Bucs 10.
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