Could a winning record or (gasp) the playoffs be possible?

This week’s electronic conversation between Sports

columnists John Romano and Gary Shelton:

JR: A quarter of the way into the schedule, I am convinced of

two things, Gary. No. 1, the

Bucs are better than a lot of us

suspected. No. 2, the NFC West has a chance to be one of the worst

divisions in NFL history. Considering the

Bucs will play all four NFC West

teams this season, should we start contemplating the possibility of

playoff football in the coming months?

GS: Mid October is too soon to think about the playoffs. On the

other hand, we aren’t thinking about the draft, either. That’s a

pretty good indicator how much better this team is. The

Bucs are improved enough that a

winning record is possible, which means contract extensions for the


JR: If a winning record is possible, then I would presume the

playoffs would be possible. Isn’t that half the fun of a season?

Looking down the line and trying to figure out where the pushovers

and potholes reside?

GS: I thought half the fun was winning and the other half was

making fun of those who can’t.

JR: That’s only in politics. In sports, we make fun of


GS: That’s right. I forgot. On the other hand, the

Bucs are less of a punch line these

days. At the first of the year, the Saints would have been

double-digit favorites. Instead, they’ve lost two games, a

Kardashian and a Heisman. That’s a bad start.

JR: Especially the Kardashian. You lose one of those and it’s

another six minutes before another comes along. So which start is

closer to reality? Tampa Bay at 3-1 or New Orleans at 3-2?

GS: Don’t you think every TMZ headline heroine should change her

name to Kardashian? Paris Kardashian. Lindsay Kardashian. Britney

Kardashian. It would make things less confusing. As far as the

football question, I think they’re both real enough records. The

Saints defense hasn’t been good. And the

Bucs? They seem to believe they’re

better. The Saints are still the more complete team, of course, but

I think the

Bucs will give it a game. The key is

going to be to get pressure on Drew Brees. Can they do it?

JR: The evidence says no. The

Bucs have four sacks in four games,

which would appear to be the weakest pass rush in the NFL. Yet

Tampa Bay has held opposing quarterbacks to a 65.1 passer rating.

How are they doing it? I’m thinking it may have something to do

with Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, Charlie Batch and Carson Palmer.

Brees might be different.

GS: Yeah, he isn’t as likely to consider Cody Grimm as T.O. or

Sabby Piscitelli as Chad Ochocinco. This is a game the

Bucs definitely need to play

keepaway. Do you see a real number of carries for LeGarrette Blount

or Kareem Huggins?

JR: I would hope so. The running game has failed to impress. I

don’t know if that’s Cadillac Williams’ fault or a lack of ability

across the board. Either way, it wouldn’t hurt to have a new look

in the backfield to shake things up. On the other hand, I don’t

know if I would want to be in the backfield with Jeff Faine


GS: I still think you have to run the ball. Josh Freeman has

been very good, but I’m not sure he can win a shootout with Brees.

The throwers from Tampa Bay haven’t been too successful lately in

shootouts. (See: Price, David.)

JR: And the fans haven’t been too lucky with blackouts. I’m

thinking this is a best-case scenario for the Glazers. Eight

blackouts will make people reconsider buying season tickets in the

offseason, and the team is playing well enough to help entice them,

too. Sort of black(out)mail.

GS: Yeah, the only thing better would be to make the fans in the

cheaper seats cover one eye.

JR: Or bring a Kardashian.