Bucs or Raiders? Who is going to win?

Greg Seerveld

And so it comes down to this: Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the title of Super Bowl XXXVII champion.

Many firsts will happen in San Diego this weekend, with the most notable being the first time in NFL history that the top-ranked offense will face the top-ranked defense. We’ll finally get to see if the old adage “defense wins championships” is true.

It’s also the first time a coach (Jon Gruden) will lead his current squad against the team he coached the year prior. Will this be an advantage for the Bucs since their coach is familiar with the opposing team? I don’t think so. I think each team will continue to execute the things that got them here.

Oakland’s offensive mastermind Rich Gannon will continue to throw accurately and spread the ball to his outstanding wide receiving core of Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Jerry Porter. In addition, Charlie Garner and Tyrone Wheatley will provide the Raiders with a one-two punch out of the backfield, either by running the ball or giving Gannon someone to dump the ball off to when he gets in trouble.

Tampa Bay’s defense should also live up to its billing.

Imagine being Gannon on Sunday, and as you come up to the line, you glance to your right and see pro bowler Simeon Rice staring you down. Then on the other side you see the crazed face of pro bowler Warren Sapp. My prayers are with you, Rich.And then as you drop back to pass, you have to try and find some way to sneak the ball into your wide receivers, as cornerback Ronde Barber is providing tight coverage. And if you throw one high, saftey John Lynch will make sure your receiver gets a shoulder pad to the ribs or to the back. And, oh yeah, before I forget, the whole time you have linebacker Derrick Brooks charging at you on a blitz. Rich, good luck.

So with both Oakland’s offense and Tampa Bays defense canceling each other out, the main determining factor in this game is twofold: which side’s special teams will step up and make big plays?

And will Oakland’s defense outplay Tampa Bay’s offense?

First, let’s analyze special teams. One big play, such as a returned kick or blocked kick could completely change the face of the game and swing momentum irreversibly to one side.

In both of the last two Super Bowls, special teams have played a huge part in determining the winner. Two years ago, it was a kick-off return by Raven’s Jermaine Lewis that broke open a close game with the Giants.

And who can forget last year, when the heralded Adam Vinateri kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired to give the Patriots the thrilling victory.

Oakland, comes in boasting one of the best special team tandems in the game.

Polish kicker Sebastian Janowkowsi is one of the best in the NFL, usually booming kickoffs into the end zone. Punter Shane Lechler provides the Raiders with reliable punting, whereas Tampa Bay’s punter, Tom Tupa had a punt for six yards last week.

We all know the Bucs’ defense and the Raiders’ offense will play well. But what about the other side of the ball? Oakland’ defense has been suspect the last two weeks, while Tampa Bay’s offense has been clicking on all cylinders.

Oaklands defense is full of veterans at many key positions. Bill Romanowski anchors the defense at linebacker, while Charles Woodson and Rod Woodson roam the secondary looking for someone to pop; all the while, Trace Armstrong provides constant pressure on the quarterback.

The Tampa Bay offense is no slouch either, as they put up 20 points against a supposedly tough Eagles defense. And any team that goes on two scoring drives of 80 yards or more has to be pretty good.

Oakland’s Jerry Rice comes into the game with a perfect record in Super Bowls, winning all four of them with San Fransico. Furthermore, Romanowski is looking to make history and become the first person to win a Super Bowl with three different teams. He has already won them with San Fransico and Denver. He is also perfect in the Super Bowl and that streak will continue. My pick: Raiders

Enjoy the final game of the season and make sure to look for my NFL preview coming up this spring. Cheers!