As a kind of payback for all the heat the Bucs' offense has taken in recent seasons, the media have turned quarterback Brad Johnson and coach Jon Gruden into folk heroes. Actually, what that tandem has created is an attack that is competent and scores points, often capitalizing on turnovers that shorten the field. Oakland players say there's so much of their old coach, Gruden, in their own offense that they're well prepared to face the one he's created in Tampa. "It'll be like a scrimmage," Raiders wideout Jerry Porter says.
The prediction: Tampa Bay will jump Oakland's short routes and deliver big hits. The Raiders will counter by going deeper than usual. The Bucs' Mike Alstott will have success running the ball, not so much tackle-to-tackle but on the perimeter. Oakland will run the ball only if its receivers are taking too much punishment. The key to the game will be the Raiders' defensive backs, who will gamble and jump routes and come up with turnovers.
The pick: Raiders 24, Bucs 22