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Guest analyst

Al Michaels

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2003

First off, you can't ignore the Jon Gruden factor. It's a great story. Then there's the matchup of the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. Both teams really peaked at the end of the season. The Raiders played great football down the stretch and looked good in their two postseason games. The Bucs took a stumble against the Steelers on Monday Night Football in Week 16, but they rebounded and clearly looked good in both postseason games.

There is a sharp contrast in the history of both teams. I would rank the Raiders up there with the Cowboys, 49ers, Packers and the Bears we used to know in terms of national following. People around the country gravitate to the Raiders.

Meanwhile, the Bucs didn't have much success until Tony Dungy arrived in Tampa. Over the past several years, they've been in the playoffs so often and played so many big games that fans have gotten to know the players. They are very quotable, funny and intelligent guys who are able to captivate a crowd. Players like Warren Sapp, Keyshawn Johnson, John Lynch and Derrick Brooks get a lot of attention. Even Mike Alstott, who is a quiet guy, has a very distinct style that people love. The Bucs probably have as many recognizable players as any team in the league.

Don't expect the week's festivities to be a problem. The players have seen how the Super Bowl has evolved over the years. They have become very savvy in their preparation. Coaches know more about how to bring a team into a game like this than they did 20 or 25 years ago. And they all give similar advice -- this is the way it's going to be . . . here's what we have to do . . . just remember you are here to play a game and try to minimize the distractions.

Everyone comes into a situation like this expecting that there will be some distractions, and you learn how to deal with them. I know it's a funny thing to say, but the key is not to let the distractions distract you. If you don't let that happen, you'll be fine. All that and it should be a 75-degree day, perfect Southern California weather. A perfect day. The only thing we could also ask for is triple overtime. For the way our Monday Night Football schedule turned out this year, we're owed a triple-overtime game.

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