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Can Bucs get more than the weather to break their way?

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2002

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers get at least one break when they visit Philadelphia on Sunday: The forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s. That's a lot warmer than it was the last two times the Bucs were in Philly, for consecutive playoff losses.

The Bucs, who never have won a game when it was colder than 40 degrees, have the better record (5-1 to 3-2). The Eagles have home-field advantage and those two straight playoff wins, so Philadelphia is a 3 1/2-point favorite.

But this seems to be a new Tampa Bay team under Jon Gruden.

It has allowed just 9.3 points a game, by far the best in the NFL, and has four defensive touchdowns, three on interception returns by linebacker Derrick Brooks. The offense, unfortunately, is still sluggish despite Gruden's reputation as an offensive genius.

The Eagles, who have set their sights on nothing less than the Super Bowl, come off a bye with a somewhat odd record. They've crushed division rivals Dallas and Washington by a combined 81-20, but have lost to two AFC teams, Tennessee and Jacksonville.

Moreover, they seem to have reverted to the offense of two years ago -- all Donovan McNabb. Not only is he passing well, but he's the team's leading rusher with 12 yards more than Duce Staley on 25 fewer carries.

So it will come down to McNabb and perhaps Warren Sapp, who was a no-show in both playoff losses at Philadelphia, but has been rejuvenated this season. He's playing all over the defensive line and is getting more help than in the past two seasons from Anthony McFarland and Simeon Rice.

Still, the Eagles are rested, the Bucs have won five straight and are due to lose.

The Eagles know how to beat them.

EAGLES, 17-16

Indianapolis (plus 4) at Pittsburgh (Monday night)

Tommy Maddox (believe it or not) has given the Steelers firepower. The question is whether Jerome Bettis' performance last week was inspired by playing the Bengals.

Nah, the Bus is back.

STEELERS, 35-33

San Diego (plus 7) at Oakland

No respect for the Chargers.

RAIDERS, 24-20

Buffalo (plus 4) at Miami

The oddsmakers obviously have as much respect for Ray Lucas as for Jay Fiedler.

DOLPHINS, 41-30

San Francisco (plus 2) at New Orleans

Whose suite is Terrell Owens' accountant sitting in this week?

SAINTS, 24-20

Denver (minus 2 1/2) at Kansas City

The Chiefs can't stop anyone.

BRONCOS, 45-40

Washington (plus 7 1/2) at Green Bay

It's not only the QB. Something's wrong with the Washington defense, too.

PACKERS, 34-23

Seattle (plus 5 1/2) at St. Louis

''We're a good team that's playing badly,'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren says. Holmgren has the book on Marc Bulger.

SEAHAWKS, 20-19

Carolina (plus 3 1/2) at Atlanta

Doug Johnson did nicely, but Michael Vick's shoulder has healed. The bloom is off Carolina, which has Chris Weinke back at quarterback.

FALCONS, 17-6

Jacksonville (plus 1 1/2) at Baltimore

Questions about Mark Brunell and Ray Lewis.

RAVENS, 9-7

Dallas (plus 3 1/2) at Arizona

Emmitt inches closer but ...

CARDINALS, 24-11

Minnesota (plus 3) at New York Jets

Fancy that: The Jets are favored.

JETS, 27-21

Chicago (minus 3) at Detroit

Everything that went right for the Bears is now going wrong. Bad health doesn't help.

LIONS, 24-23

Houston (plus 9) at Cleveland

The fans won't cheer an injury to Tim Couch this week.

BROWNS, 24-3

LAST WEEK: 5-9 (spread), 8-6 (straight up)

SEASON: 40-47-1 (spread), 52-36 (straight up)



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