I’m finding it very difficult to pick a winner for Super Bowl XXXVII. To me, it seems that both the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have serious weaknesses that could prevent either from being a champion.
For the Bucs, I find it hard to imagine their offense providing enough power to win. Tampa was 24th in total offense this season. Even with their top-ranked defense, it could be hard to keep pace with Oakland’s No. 1 offense. Meanwhile, is Brad Johnson a Super Bowl winning quarterback? He might be destined for one of his patented playoff chokes of the last few seasons.
As far as the Raiders go, their offense is tremendous. However, the defense is prone to giving up big plays. Also, the Raiders seem to make too many mistakes for a championship team. Against the Titans last week, the Raiders dropped some key passes. Jerry Porter was wide open in the end zone when he let one of quarterback Rich Gannon’s passes slip through his hands. Meanwhile, the penalties against Oakland were foolish. The Raiders managed to accumulate 14 penalties for 127 yards. The team looked undisciplined; players took cheap shots at Titans’ QB Steve McNair.
Despite these weaknesses, the Raiders are currently a five point favorite because of their dominant offense. Rich Gannon was the NFL’s MVP, and he throws to a phenomenal receiving core of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter, among others. Additionally, he is protected by an excellent offensive line, featuring Lincoln Kennedy and Barret Robbins.
Although the Raiders give up big plays, their defense is not that bad. The Raiders’ scoring defense was 6th in the NFL, at 19 points a game. Both sides of the ball also feature veterans that know how to get the job done: Rice, Brown and Gannon on offense, with Bill Romanowski and Rod Woodson on defense.
Because the game is in San Diego, Raiders fans will outnumber Bucs fans. Those guys dressed up like it’s Halloween should make the game interesting. But the crowd should not have much of an effect. How many of the people at the game honestly care about football? There must be a large portion of corporate types who are as interested in the halftime show as they are about football.
Anyway, it probably sounds like I am picking the Raiders, right? Well, not exactly. This will be a great game, and the Bucs will pull it out. Here are some things to look forward to this Sunday:
1. Big Plays from Tampa’s Offense: The Bucs need some big plays to outscore the Raiders. The Tampa offense is not consistent enough to frequently march down the field on long drives. Last week, Joe Jurevicious’s 70-yard reception was a huge spark for Tampa. On Sunday, I expect the Bucs to get the one or two big offensive plays they need to win. Oakland already has demonstrated it can give up yardage in big chunks.
2. Pass interference on Charles Woodson: Woodson is injured and has been physical in coverage the last couple weeks. If he gets caught this Sunday, he could supply the Bucs with a big play on his own.
3. Jerry Porter: With attention on Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, Jerry Porter could take advantage of a favorable match-up. Porter is fast and could get downfield for some long passes.
4. Raider Turnovers: Tampa will need to slow the Oakland offense and give Brad Johnson favorable field position by creating turnovers. The Raiders will throw the ball a lot, and the Bucs had 31 interceptions this season. Obviously, a defensive touchdown would be huge. Linebacker Derrick Brooks had four touchdowns this year, and Ronde Barber iced the win against Philly by running back a pick.
5. Brad Johnson: He needs to manage this game carefully. Johnson cannot afford to give the Raiders’ offense any advantage by turning the ball over. He needs to be patient and not force throws. Trent Dilfer led the Ravens to victory in Super Bowl XXXV by not making mistakes while relying on the Ravens’ phenomenal defense. Johnson’s defense is almost as good, and he is a more accomplished quarterback then Dilfer. After all, Johnson did have the highest quarterback rating in the NFC this season.
6. Mike Alstott: Tampa will pound the ball with Alstott in short yardage. Alstott should be instrumental in helping Tampa control the ball and keeping Rich Gannon on the sidelines. In Super Bowl XXV, the underdog New York Giants slowed down the explosive offensive of the Buffalo Bills by controlling the ball for a Super Bowl record 40:33. Tampa could do the same to the Raiders’ offensive juggernaut.
7. Tampa Bay 23, Oakland 20.