Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Well, that magical NFL regular season is finally over for Seattle fans. Also, by magic, thousands of other people decided that they were Seahawks fans as well, which is just super. Heck, I don't really mind fair-weather fans unless they come from Red Sox Nation (not speaking to the true fans here, but I sure noticed a TON more Red Sox hats in the previous year than I ever saw in the previous twenty).

This is the first post in awhile. Again. Blame it on Gavin, "X-Men: Rise of Apocalypse," some durn good football, and my FOURTH week-long sickness of the past three months. I've narrowed down the reasons to that phenomenom to either the stress of school or the stress of watching the Sonics play-act at defense. Hopefully it's the latter and Bob Hill changes some things so I can stop this wicked cycle.

Anyways, this is the first edition in the Crushed Optimists Wild Card Weekend Preview! Of course, if you want to read a real preview and have ESPN Insider, go here. If not, then do continue with our take on the Washington Redskins at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Overview
This is a matchup of two very similar teams who Gavin and I both underestimated for much of the season. Tampa Bay in particular far exceeded my expectations. I thought that an 8 win season would be a success story. Jon Gruden obviously felt differently, turning in his best coaching job since the Super Bowl year. Speaking of good coaches, remember Joe Gibbs? He was supposed to be too old, supposed to have been out of the game for too long. Well, he has turned the Redskins from an underachieving bunch of high-paid stars to an overachieving bunch of hard workers. He has brought his ball-control offense into the new century with flying colors, and even pulled another coup this week by retaining defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who almost definitely would have received multiple job offers in the coming weeks. Most interesting aspect about this game? The question of whether these two superior defenses will allow over 70 points in this matchup as they did in the regular season meeting won by Tampa Bay on a 2-point conversion that looked remarkably unlike a 2-point conversion in that the ball never crossed the plane. But that's in the past now.

Gavin: This is an intriguing matchup of one old-school coach (Gibbs) and a newer coach who plays old-school (Gruden). I as well (after patting myself on the back below) admit to underestimating these groups and coaches at the beginning of the year. 2004 were not good years and I didn't see them rebounding as well as they did. These two teams are led by tremendous defenses and solid young running backs. Whichever team is able to stop the run will have a leg up on all other aspects of the game.

Washington "O" vs Tampa Bay "D"
Best Matchup: Clinton Portis (RB) vs. Derrick Brooks (MLB) - Brooks remains an elite middle linebacker long after I thought he would have lost three-four steps. He is the heart and soul of this defense and will be leaned on heavily to negate the huge size advantage that Washington has in their offensive line. Portis has finally become the elite running back Washington thought they were receiving when they traded for him two years ago. If he had run this way last year, my fantasy team wouldn't have been quite as terrible (still terrible, just not AS terrible). If the running game falters, Washington is in a world of hurt due to the lingering injury to Mark Brunell (go UW!). Honorable mention: Santana Moss (WR) vs. Ronde Barber (CB)

Gavin: I would give the matchup to Moss/Barber. Santana Moss has been, just like Steve Smith, a one-man wrecking crew this year. Even the Seahawks could not stop him. He singledhandedly knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs. Against him will be Ronde Barber, who in my opinion is the best cornerback in the NFC (not the NFL because of Chis McAlister). Barber gives the Bucs the flexibility to give more attention up front to stopping Clinton Portis or putting pressure on a gimpy Mark Brunell. The Cover-2 defense by design also gives greater attention to stopping outside speed routes which Moss loves to run (although Santana has shown the willingness and tenacity to go inside as well, he just can't turn those into 70 yard gains as often). However, is Moss is able to consistently beat Barber, then Derrick Brooks and Co will have a much tougher assignment.

Battle of the Trenches: This might easily go to Washington unless Tampa brings up some support for their fast but undersized defensive line (remind you of anyone else?). Washington's offensive line has looked better and better as the year has gone along, with T Jon Jansen the obvious leader, but the replacement of RG Randy Thomas with Ray Brown might slow down the running game a tad and impact the pass blocking schemes more than a tad. Let's face it. Tampa has faced stronger offensive lines for basically the entire season and came out of that as a top-5 defense. I wouldn't count out Monte Kiffen to devise a decent scheme to combat the size gap.

Gavin: Interesting that Colin wouldn't also mention Pro Bowl T Chris Samuels for the Redskins. He's pretty darn good. The play of these five men is the single biggest reason for the turnaround this season of the Redskins. They have blocked for Portis and Brunell, allowing them to be playmakers. Still, they will have their hands full with an active and agressive front four for Tampa Bay. Simeon Rice has ended the year on a high note, getting into the backfield with regularity, and Anthony McFarland is a tremendous talent at defensive tackle. The Bucs are disciplined in their gaps, which is necessary to shut down the gap-oriented running of Clinton Portis. Still, the advantage has to go to Washington, who pushed Tampa Bay around to the tune of 144 yards for Portis in matchup #1.

Biggest Surprise: The entire Redskins passing game. I didn't expect any of this. Brunell to throw for a truckload of yards, Santana Moss to become a Pro Bowl receiver, and Chris Cooley to cost me the fantasy championship. What surprises me most of all at this point is that there are really no other weapons besides those two in the receiving corps. Brunell doesn't really throw the ball to anyone else, and the Skins definitely do not get any big plays out of anyone else. I expect Moss to have two or three defenders around him at all times, as the Bucs will dare Brunell to find someone else to beat them.

Gavin: Probably that no one has been able to slow Santana Moss down. Before the last couple of weeks the Redskins didn't even have a consistent Chris Cooley. Is Moss that good? If the Bucs can control his big play ability like the Seahawks were able to, the Redskins won't get enough possessions to run up points. If they cannot, watch out.

** general aside: Just heard Trey Wingo say on NFL Live that the Jags/Pats game is the Rodney Dangerfield game of the playoffs, as BOTH teams are playing the "I don't get no respect" card. I'm fine with the Jags playing that card. Heck, I don't give them much respect. But the Patriots? Are you kidding me? Maybe the majority of pundits aren't giving them a Super Bowl win, but they are sure picking them to go deep into the playoffs! What is it about Boston sports teams that gives them such a weird complex all the time? NEWS FLASH! YOU ARE ON SPORTSCENTER EVERY F*&#($G (flowering) DAY!! YOU BASICALLY HAVE TO EXTRACT PETER KING FROM BILL BELICHICK'S BEHIND!! TOM BRADY HAS BEEN IN EVERY MAGAZINE PUBLISHED EXPECT OPRAH'S!! YOU HAVE NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE HORRIBLE COMMERCIALS THAT PLAY EVERY FIVE MINUTES DURING AN NFL GAME!! NO ONE, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, HAS PICKED JACKSONVILLE TO WIN ON SATURDAY!! THAT'S BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS PICKED NEW ENGLAND TO WIN!!GAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

Gavin: I think Boston fans suffer from an enormous inferiority complex by being near New York. This same complex is making Bill Simmons almost unreadable. It is a curse. Get rid of it.

Tampa Bay "O" vs. Washington "D"
Best Matchup: Jon Gruden vs. Gregg Williams - Two men who are great at what they do. This will be a fantastic chess match as they try to outthink the other. Here's the problem for Gruden. The last chess match he was in he got absolutely owned. That was the aforementioned Bill Belichick and the disrespected New England Patriots, who completely stopped Chris Simms and Cadillac Williams.

Gavin: I'll actually go with some players here and say Chris Simms vs Washington linebackers. Chris Simms is not a good quarterback. He has problems with blitz recognition. If Washington's linebackers are able to appropriately disguise their packages, they can force him into bad decisions and possible turnovers. Carnell Williams has to carry the load. If Washington stops him, Tampa Bay is sunk. Since Washington is terrific against the run, the Bucs are in trouble. Joey Galloway vs Shawn Springs is an intriguing matchup of ex-Seahawk prodigies. Since Springs is (again) hurt, Galloway might be able to break some big plays. That's Simms' only real strength, as he throws as pretty a deep ball as you'll ever see. Those passes need to be set up with the play action, and so we are back again to the running game. We'll see how it turns out.

Most Enigmatic Player: Tie between LaVar Arrington (MLB) and Cadillac Williams (RB and AP Offensive Rookie of the Year) - Arrington had perhaps the weirdest off-field situations of any NFL player not named T.O. or a member of the Saints and Vikings. Gibbs obviously is not a huge fan, even more so after Arrington ran his mouth about not coming back before the Eagles game. He is the most talented player in this game, but it remains to be seen if he will actually impact the game. Then you have a rookie running back who disappeared for a giant chunk of the season but came back late with a vengeance. Cadillac will have the same role as Clinton Portis. If he outperforms the star Redskins back, this game is assuredly in the Bucs' hands.

Gavin: I have to agree with Arrington. Perhaps the best linebacker in the game benched for most of the season. When on he can make plays all over the field. Of course he does suffer from missed assignments, but Arrington can force turnovers. Turnovers are always huge, but in ball control games like this one take on a whole new level of importance.

Player to Watch For: Joey Galloway (WR) - Any good Seahawk fan remembers the few great years of Joey Galloway in a Hawks uniform. He was basically the only reason to watch Seattle, flashing blinding speed and game-breaking ability. And then he woofed about his contract, got traded to Dallas, and promptly disappeared until this year, when he has, once again, broken out. Personally I'm glad for him, and he might find some open spaces against the Redskins secondary since a certain Redskins cornerback has a sore groin.

The Crushed Line: The first of many toss-up games this weekend. I don't believe that either team will reach 30 points, but Tampa Bay at home should have the extra energy needed to pull this game out.

Gavin: I think Washington will stop Tampa's running game, that Chris Simms will throw a couple of bad picks, and the Redskins win by two touchdowns.

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:37 PM  0 comments

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