Posted: Thursday January 10, 2002 3:51 PM|
I would think, at some point, the Bucs will bust their 0-20 record in cold weather (when the temperature is 39 degrees or below). That's an amazing statistic. You would expect sometime that would go by the by. The other thing is, their defense has to play to its capability, too. No quarterback likes to be sitting on his fanny. So, they have to knock Donovan McNabb down a few times.
Philadelphia beats Tampa Bay if ... The Eagles do the same thing they've done all year, take advantage of (wide receiver) James Thrash and (running back) Duce Staley. They have a good offensive line that keeps people off of McNabb for the most part. They need to keep playing that same type of defense, that inspired type of defense that Jim Johnson favors. They keep you off balance with all their dogs (blitzes); they've got guys coming from everywhere in that defense.
On offense, McNabb really is the X factor. With him, he really keeps a defense off balance. I like the way he's matured this year. It's been remarkable. There's no reason to expect him to stop it. I think he can even elevate his game, and this would probably be a good time for it.
People are critics of Vinny Testaverde, but they won last week and they won with him throwing the ball, not handing the ball off. So, you've got to give him a little credit, too. He can beat the Raiders throwing the ball.
Oakland beats New York if ... The Raiders' talented and veteran people perform the way they did for most of the season. I think the key is that they have to get back to what got them where they are today, and they have to keep people off Rich Gannon. He's, to me, the consummate professional, so it's kind of down to the critical time and it's up to him to step forward with a big game. And I'm sure he will.
I don't agree that Oakland looks like an old, tired team right now, like everybody says. I don't believe that at all. Maybe it appears that way to some people, but not to me. They've got a lot of veteran players who know how to win.
I don't think the cold will affect the 49ers' passing game too much, because their quarterback played in the CFL and has been through that before. And to me, the biggest threat in the NFL this year plays for San Francisco, in Owens. So, I think they'll be able to throw the ball even in the cold at Lambeau.
Green Bay beats San Francisco if ... The Packers just play their game. Their playmakers have to play. Their defense has to step up and make plays. I still say Brett Favre is the best player in the NFL. He's the difference-maker. He affects the outcome more than any other player in the league. He's just a great football player.
Dorsey Levens looks like he's completely well, and that's a good thing to have going into the playoffs. But you don't want to take Ahman Green out of the game. Obviously, I'm a little biased about this game. I think the 49ers match up well, and it should be a really good football game. But the end result should be that the home team should win that game.
I know Elvis Grbac isn't making enough plays, but I think their offensive line may not be as strong as they wished it would be. You see the result of that Leon Searcy injury. I think Elvis has the capability of making the plays that he has to, and he needs to this week. Because they're not going to run for 200 yards against Miami, like they did against Minnesota.
Miami beats Baltimore if ... The Dolphins play the way they've been playing all season. They're going against a really tough defense. Jay Fiedler is maligned by some people, but I think he's probably had a heck of a year, because he can get out of trouble and he gets points for those guys. I think he's done really well down there.
It's tough to run against Baltimore, but Lamar Smith had a big game last week and it's important that he does something this week. It's probably going to be a low-scoring game, dominated by defense. The offense that makes the fewest mistakes is probably going to survive.