© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2001
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
HOW DID THEY DO THAT?: How is it possible to take dozens of highly talented football players, put them in a new stadium on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, keep the game close for three hours and still manage to be less exciting than a rerun of I Dream of Jeannie?
MARK ROYALS: He has caught his share of grief this season (not undeservedly), but the Bucs punter deserves kudos for the overtime punt that set up John Lynch's winning fumble recovery.
JON KITNA: It is a good thing the Bucs scored quickly in overtime because if you give Kitna seven or eight possessions, he eventually will get his offense close to the end zone. Dang, how bad must Akili Smith be?
WHAT A WASTE: An 18-play drive that lasts more than 11 minutes and goes nowhere? Sounds like one of Al Gore's old campaign speeches.
RONDE BARBER: In Tampa Bay's past three wins, he has two interceptions and a blocked punt. Five of his teammates on defense have been to the Pro Bowl. Maybe it's Barber's turn.
Five possible explanations for the Bucs' woeful running game:
5: It's a ploy to lure Barry Sanders out of retirement.
4: They get stopped for a loss two dozen times and then just give up.
3: Who needs to run when the passing attack has produced 0.82 touchdown passes a game?
2: Their best run blocker -- Keyshawn Johnson -- is a receiver.
1: Pete Pierson is on the bench.
Now that Tampa Bay is back in the playoff picture, here are five contenders for the final NFC wild card, along with remaining schedules and utterly baseless odds of reaching the playoffs:
FALCONS: Home -- New Orleans, Buffalo. Road -- Indianapolis, Miami, St. Louis. Odds -- 2:1.
BUCS: Home -- Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia. Road -- Chicago. Odds -- 3:1.
SAINTS: Home -- St. Louis, Washington, San Francisco. Road -- Atlanta, Tampa Bay. Odds -- 7:1.
GIANTS: Home -- Arizona, Seattle, Green Bay. Road -- Dallas, Philadelphia. Odds -- 8:1.
CARDINALS: Home -- Washington, Dallas. Road -- N.Y. Giants, Carolina, Washington. Odds -- 10:1.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans:
1. STEELERS: Here is a team Tony Dungy could love. Kordell Stewart is throwing about 27 passes a week.
2. RAMS: This weekend could go a long way toward determining the NFC West champion when the 49ers come to visit.
3. RAIDERS: Sorry. You let Arizona come from behind in the fourth quarter and beat you in OT, you have no business holding the No. 1 ranking.
4. RAVENS: May be a stretch, but the Elvis Grbac flap a couple of weeks ago might have been what Brian Billick needed to rally the troops.
13. BUCS: Their five losses have been by a combined 18 points. On the other hand, five of their wins have been by a combined 21 points.
Which quarter did you nap?