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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
NYJ at WAS DEN at CIN MIN at GB ATL at DAL OAK at TEN
Sun 1 PM HOU at MIA NE at BUF CHI at SF Mon 9 PM
ARZ at DET IND at CLE SD at KC NO at SEA TB at PHI
BAL at PIT JAX at CAR STL at NYG Times EST no byes
   
Tampa Bay vs Philadelphia Mon, Sep 8; 9 PM on ABC at Lincoln Financial Field
  Tampa Bay Rush Catch Pass
QB Brad Johnson 0 0 220,1
RB Michael Pittman 40 30 0
RB Mike Alstott 20 0 0
TE Ken Dilger 0 40 0
WR Keyshawn Johnson 0 50 0
WR Joe Jurevicius 0 40,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 50 0
  Philadelphia Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb 30,1 0 240,1
RB Duce Staley 20 30 0
RB Correll Buckhalter 50 20 0
TE Chad Lewis 0 30,1 0
WR James Thrash 0 60 0
WR Freddie Mitchell 0 30 0
WR Todd Pinkston 0 50 0

Game Prediction: TB 16, PHI 20

How great of a Monday Night game is this?

Both conference championships are being replayed this week and the Superbowl winner is on Monday Night Football. The Buccaneers get to battle the curse of the Superbowl which tends to make teams a bit less hungry while more importantly energizing their opponents who will all be up for the game each week.

Brad Johnson comes off a nice 22 touchdown year and in the games that he did not play last season, the offense only managed one touchdown. Johnson signed a two year extension to his contract and given his tougher schedule this year, he will be throwing more. Jim Miller was supposed to be his backup but rotator cuff surgery has him on the PUP list and Shaun King steps up to the second spot along with the rookie Chris Simms if needed.

The Buccaneer rushing game was almost nonexistent last season - a mild surprise given a good offensive line - and was addressed to some extent with the acquisition of Thomas Jones who led the team in rushing during the preseason. Michael Pittman is pending felony assault charges stemming from a domestic bumper car incident involving his Hummer and his wife's Mercedes-Benz. Pittman has been impressive in limited use during the preseason but presents a constant headache and hassle for management. Mike Alstott will help out again on the short yardage carries and goal line duty.

Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell will be critical to keeping this offense moving and the team intends on expanding the use of Joe Jurevicius in the red zone to take advantage of his height and leaping ability.

The Buccaneers won last year, simply enough, with their defense. Returning are the same set of linemen and linebackers (other thanLB Al SIngleton) though the re-signing of Anthony McFarland upset Warren Sapp who felt he should have been dealt with first. CB Brian Kelly led the NFL with eight interceptions and considered a holdout since he is now unhappy with the contract he signed in 2002. Keeping an all-star defense together and happy after a championship year is no easier than an all-star offense.

The Eagles come into this potential revenge game after losing to the Buccaneers 27-10 in the NFC Championship game last year. In Philadelphia no less.

Donovan McNabb had returned from his broken leg in that game but was limited to only three rushing attempts. But this season McNabb is unquestionably healthy and will enjoy an offense that should be better than last season. Duce Staley made the training camp more interesting by holding out for a new contract. Entering in his final year, Staley wanted the assurance that his days as an Eagle would not end after this season. Not only did he not receive that assurance, he may have seen the last of his days of being a starting Eagle player.

Correll Buckhalter is now back to health after tearing his ACL in the spring of 2002 and does not show any signs of a setback. The plan now, as it was last season until the injury, is to use Buckhalter as the primary runner and Staley as the primary pass catching halfback. By missing camp, Staley only gave Buckhalter and Brian Westbrook even more time to show that Staley was not as critical as he would like to think. The Eagles also added FB Jon Ritchie which should be an upgrade over Cecil Martin for the run blocking. The Eagles offensive line remain one of the best in the entire league. Brian Westbrook is still not 100% but should good enough to be available in this game.

The Eagle return the same set of starters from last year in Todd Pinkston and James Thrash but the passing game is too diverse to make either a star. Pinkston has turned into a nice big-play receiver and Thrash continues to be little more than an average receiver. Freddie Mitchell turns the magic three this year but has been a disappointment so far. He will man the slot position and is challenged by rookie Billy McMullen.

Like the Buccaneers, the Eagles success is largely predicated on their defense. Unlike the Buccaneers, the unit returning is different than the one that last played. Most notably, LB Shawn Barber (KC) and DE Hugh Douglas (JAX) will be wearing new jerseys this season. Only Carlos Emmons returns to the starting linebacker corps but with Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Brian Dawkins standing behind them, this is still a formidable defense.

The Eagles come into the game still smarting from losing their chance at the 2002 Superbowl and at home with a healthier team, they'll take the win over the Buccaneers that still have to get over last year's success, this year's dissension and potential lethargy.

 

Comparative Stats
Starting Week Two

 

Buccaneers (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @PHI
Week 2 CAR
Week 3 @ATL
Week 4 BYE
Week 5 IND
Week 6 @WAS
Week 7 @SF
Week 8 DAL
Week 9 NO
Week 10 @CAR
Week 11 GB
Week 12 NYG
Week 13 @JAX
Week 14 @NO
Week 15 HOU
Week 16 ATL
Week 17 @TEN
Eagles (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 TB
Week 2 NE
Week 3 BYE
Week 4 @BUF
Week 5 WAS
Week 6 @DAL
Week 7 @NYG
Week 8 NYJ
Week 9 @ATL
Week 10 @GB
Week 11 NYG
Week 12 NO
Week 13 @CAR
Week 14 DAL
Week 15 @MIA
Week 16 SF
Week 17 @WAS
(Statistics are game averages from current season )