Luke McCown to be starting quarterback for Bucs in 2009?

Luke McCownCould Luke McCown be the Buccaneers starting quarterback in 2009? The team re-signed him on Monday, leaving only McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson under contract for next season.

With $42 million in cap space, Tampa could sign a free agent signal caller this offseason, but the market is bare. Kurt Warner is expected to return to Arizona, which would leave Jeff Garcia, Rex Grossman and Kyle Boller as the top quarterbacks on the market. Yikes.

Although the aging veteran Griese might have a slight edge to start next year for the Bucs, there’s a strong chance that McCown could win the job in preseason and line up under center come Week 1. And although he has flashed signs of potential at random times throughout his career (mostly in two performances in 2007), McCown certainly isn’t a long-term answer. Hell, he might not even be the short-term answer. (Although to be fair, I am the idiot who questioned the Cardinals for going with Warner over Matt Leinart last year, so maybe McCown can be the answer at quarterback for Tampa.)

Tampa has gone through some radical changes since the season ended, firing head coach Jon Gruden, losing defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to the University of Tennessee, and naming Raheem Morris as Gruden’s successor. Even though the free agency period hasn’t even started and the scouting combine is yet to be conducted, the Bucs look like a strong candidate to take a major step back in ’09.

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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen

Read the rest after the jump...

NFL Week 5 Primer

Donovan McNabbSunday’s Best: Redskins (3-1) at Eagles (2-2) 1:00 PM ET FOX
Who would have thought after four weeks that the Washington Redskins would be right in the thick of things in the NFC East? Especially after they bombed in the opener against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. But they are, and a big reason for that is the maturity of QB Jason Campbell, who has looked comfortable running Jim Zorn’s West Coast Offense the past three weeks. But he’ll get a major test this weekend against Jim Johnson’s blitz-happy defense. The WCO is predicated on short timing routes and getting the ball into the hands of receivers so they can get yards after the catch. If Campbell can’t get the ball out of his hands quickly, Philly is sure to produce plenty of sacks and turnovers. Whether or not the Eagle offense converts those turnovers into points remains to be seen, however. In their loss last week to Chicago, Donovan McNabb struggled getting the Eagles into the end zone without the threat of Brian Westbrook in the backfield. Westbrook will be a game time decision, although he has seen a fair about of practice time this week, which might be a good sign that he’ll play. Expect another physical matchup between NFC East rivals.

Upset Watch: Bills (4-0) at Cardinals (2-2), 4:15 PM ET CBS
I’m not fooling oddsmakers by calling this a potential upset because they’ve already established the Cardinals as 1-point favorites. But considering how well the Bills have played this year and how Arizona surrendered 56 points in last weeks loss to the Jets, a Cardinal victory would be an upset. The fact of the matter is that the Cards just flat out play better in the desert than they do on the road. They’re a completely different team and while dynamic wide out Anquan Boldin is not expected to play after suffering a nasal injury last Sunday, the Cards have more than enough offensive weapons to pull out a win. The key will be Kurt Warner not turning the ball over and for the team to play all four quarters. Buffalo has trailed in the second half of three of their four victories this year, which means that they’ve been outstanding in the clutch. Arizona will have to play a complete game to earn a win, but an upset could be in the making.

Ben RoethlisbergerIntriguing Matchup: Steelers (3-1) at Jaguars (2-2), 8:15 PM ET NBC
The Steelers may be 3-1, but they can’t feel too good about the way things are unraveling as injuries continue to mount. Not only will Pittsburgh go into this game without their top two backs in Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, but Ben Roethlisberger is also dealing with shoulder and hand injuries and OT Kendall Simmons is now lost for the year. The Steelers had offensive line issues coming into the season with Simmons in their lineup. Now they have to play without him, which isn’t good news for Big Ben and the rest of the offense. The Jaguars started the year 0-2 but are now gaining confidence after beating the Colts and Texans in dramatic fashion over the past two weeks. The running game has opened up the passing attack for David Garrard, who is starting to play like the quarterback who led the Jags deep into the playoffs last season. We’re going to see what Pittsburgh is made of, because Jacksonville is starting to show signs of the Super Bowl contender that everyone that they’d be in preseason.

Other Notable Games:
Titans (4-0) at Ravens (2-1), 1:00 PM ET
Tennessee is one of only two teams still undefeated and perhaps is playing the best defense in the AFC. Rookie Joe Flacco looked like he was starting to come into his home against the Steelers, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against a tough Titans’ defense.

Buccaneers (3-1) at Broncos (3-1), 4:05 PM ET
This is one of the best matchups on the Week 5 schedule as it pits Monte Kiffin’s defense against the Broncos’ offense, which has been one of the best units in the league so far. Can Denver bounce back from its embarrassing loss to the Chiefs last week? Can the Bucs further convince people that they’re a contender with Brain Griese under center?

Bengals (0-4) at Cowboys (3-1), 4:15 PM ET CBS
Ocho Cinco vs. Grab Your Popcorn. Should be a good one.

Bucs batter Rodgers, Packers in 30-21 win

Aaron RodgersThe Buccaneers won for the third straight week, beating the Packers 30-21 in Tampa Bay on Sunday. Ernest Graham rushed for 111 yards and added a touchdown with only two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

The Bucs flustered Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers all game and forced the first-year starter into three interceptions. The most crucial turnover came with just over two minutes to play and the Packers down 21-20. Rodgers took a massive hit in pocket, which forced his pass intended for Donald Driver to float and was intercepted by DE Gaines Adams.

The biggest issue right now for the Packers is the lack of a running game. In back to back losses the past two weeks, Ryan Grant (20 rush yards) has been a ghost. Whether the offensive line is failing to open holes or Grant has just been that ineffective, the Packers’ running game has been nonexistent. And Rodgers has suffered because of it as defenses don’t have to honor the run and are sending extra rushers.

For Tampa, Brian Greise (15 of 30, 149 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) wasn’t as good as he was last week in Chicago, but Graham and Warrick Dunn picked up the slack. And since losing their opener to the Saints in New Orleans, the Bucs’ defense has been fantastic. They’ve done a great job taking away opponents’ running games and overall, Monte Kiffin’s unit has played incredibly physical. With the Bucs and Panthers both at 3-1 and the Falcons and Saints at 2-2, the NFC South looks like a better division than what most expected.

NFL Week 4 Primer

Jason CampbellSunday’s Best: Redskins (2-1) at Cowboys (3-0) 4:15 PM ET FOX
How stacked is the NFC East? Even Washington, the team expected to be the worst in the division, has looked strong since losing their opener to the Giants. In their sound win over the Packers last Sunday night, the Cowboys proved that they’re the class of the NFC. Dallas has a ton of offensive weapons, but the Skins could keep things close now that QB Jason Campbell is starting to look more comfortable in Jim Zorn’s West Coast Offense. Plus with RB Clinton Portis running well and the Cowboys’ run defense missing S Roy Williams, maybe this is a good time for Washington to face their NFC East foe.

Upset Watch: Eagles (2-1) at Bears (1-2) 8:15 PM ET NBC
Philadelphia is coming off an impressive win over the Steelers while Chicago once again gave up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter while dropping its home opener to Tampa Bay. But the Eagles are banged up right now, with QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook and TE L.J. Smith all missing significant practice time this week. By all accounts, the Bears should be 3-0 right now, but blew wins at Carolina and home against Tampa Bay. Da Bears are tough to beat at home and the defense should bounce back after Brian Griese tuned them up in the fourth quarter and overtime last week. But can the offense generate enough points? Philly’s defense harassed Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger last week and will no doubt attempt to do the same this week against Kyle Orton. As of Friday, Devin Hester is still listed as questionable on the Bears’ injury report, but he could give Chicago a huge boost in the playmaking department if he could return.

Jon GrudenIntriguing Matchup: Packers (2-1) at Bucs (2-1), 1:00 PM ET FOX
Aaron Rodgers suffered his first defeat as a starter last week against Dallas, so it’ll be interesting to see how he and the Packers respond. Things don’t get any easier this weekend in Tampa, where the Bucs have won two straight and the offense is clicking with Brian Griese under center. Without the threat of a running game last week, Green Bay wasn’t as effective offensively as it had been in wins over Minnesota and Detroit, respectively. Can RB Ryan Grant bounce back against a tough defensive front seven of the Bucs? And how will the Packers fare without starting CB Al Harris (spleen)? Even though Green Bay is 2-1, it has issues that Jon Gruden and Tampa could expose.

Other Notable Games:
Vikings (1-2) at Titans (3-0), 1:00 PM ET FOX
After notching their first win of the season last week against Carolina, are the Vikings back? Adrian Peterson didn’t run wild last week, but the Minnesota defense stepped up and created scoring opportunities. They might need to do so again this week given the Vikes’ offense could struggle against a tough Titans’ D.

49ers (2-1) at Saints (1-2), 1:00 PM ET FOX
The 49ers would go long way in proving they’re for real if they can beat a banged up Saints team in New Orleans this Sunday. With how well the rest of the division is playing so far, the Saints can’t afford to fall to far behind in the NFC South.

Falcons (2-1) at Panthers (2-1), 1:00 PM FOX
The Panthers are eager to bounce back following their loss to Minnesota last Sunday, while the Falcons want to prove that their record isn’t just a byproduct of beating two bad teams (Detroit, Kansas City). The Panthers have the better overall talent, but Atlanta (especially DE John Abraham) has had some success playing in Carolina over the years.

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