Sunday Preview: Mr. Freeman Goes to Washington

Josh Freeman is quickly becoming one of the best QB's in football
Josh Freeman is quickly becoming one of the best QB's in football /

WASHINGTON — Last week hurt. It was a rough loss, we all know that. I’ve somehow carved out a niche as the cynic of Pewter Plank, but last week’s game will not be referenced in this article; I’m still in too much pain about it to even be a cynic about the Bucs this week. This week it’s all upbeat, and the chances are come Monday I’m not going to have anything to be cynical about. The reason for that is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel north this week to take on the soon to be Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins (I said I’m not going to be cynical about the Bucs). Washington is absolutely terrible this year and they aren’t looking to get any better. The Bucs are fired up and are looking to clinch the first winning road record in 5 years, as well as guarantee they won’t finish the year with an overall losing record. Much like the Titians of Tennessee,  Washington has all but packed up this season and are currently making reservations to resorts for the offseason. So it should be a relatively easy win for the Bucs right?

There is little doubt in that statement, but there is some. The Redskins are 28th against the run and 29th against the pass. This bodes well for the Bucs who own the NFL’s 11th best run game. That run game also got a big break with the suspension of Albert Haynesworth who is currently pulling off the biggest heist the greater Washington area has ever seen. $100 million dollars to mope around and make the occasional play; where do I sign up? The passing game of the Bucs is ranked 24th but make no mistakes about it, it’s good. I’m going to take some time here to clarify something; I’ve been rough on Josh Freeman the past couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman is a damn good quarterback and deserves all the props in the world. I wasn’t a non-believer by any means, I’ve been the worlds biggest Freeman fan since the day he was drafted. It’s the only time I’ve ever jumped in excitement on Draft day. I will never forget the feeling I got when we drafted him, “Josh, everything is going to be okay from now on.” And my God has it ever. When Freeman laid out Brent Grimes last week after the fatal interception in the fourth quarter, I was reminded of that feeling I got on Draft day. He sent a message to not only his whole team, but the entire league by taking that 15 yard penalty; Do not mess with the Buccaneers. Boom, that’s a statement if I’ve ever heard one. How many quarterbacks do you see that will aggressively go after whoever has intercepted them, then decleat them? Freeman stands in a class of his own and it is not too early to say that. He grows every game and now looks like a third of fourth year QB in only his second season and his first as a starter. The team rallies around him and he is the very pulse of this organization. Josh Freeman is the face of the Buccaneers and that face is mean, aggressive and is going to be very prominent in the coming decade. Watch out America, the Buccaneers are back.

LaGarrette Blount is averaging 138.0 ypg in his last 3 games
LaGarrette Blount is averaging 138.0 ypg in his last 3 games /

As for the game on Sunday, Freeman is no doubt fired up and, unfortunately for the Redskins, so is the rest of the team. The Redskins horrible run defense is most likely going to be exploded by LaGarrette Blount and Cadillac Williams. The two are combining for almost 1,000 yards on the ground and 8 TD’s. The run game has averaged 295.7 total yards in the last three games against really good defenses, and LaGarrette Blount is averaging 138.0 ypg during that stretch. With the absence of Hayensworth, look for those two to have massive days if given the opportunity. Also look for trick plays to have a role on Sunday. Earnest Graham threw a touchdown on Sunday which was a nice return to the trickery of Raheem Morris. Not that they’ll need it to win the game, it’s just nice to see the Bucs going against the grind more times than other teams are willing to.

Defensively, the Buccaneers have actually been playing pretty off the chain. The defense is quickly becoming more aggressive in terms of finding the ball carrier and bringing him down. The loss of Aqib Talib does hurt, but it’s not quite a fatal blow. The secondary is ranked 7th in the league and that’s not just because of Talib. Remember, Ronde Barber does still exist and he does still wear numbero 20 for the Bucs. Donovan McNabb is no stranger to the Bucs defense, but it has changed a lot since he last played them, and he might be surprised with what he sees. It will prove to be the match-up of the day, as the Redskins currently are owners of the league’s 9th best passing offense. As for that run game in Washington, it’s only a matter of time before they start giving the ball to the politicians on Capitol Hill; the Redskins are going through running backs like water. One week it’s Portis, then it’s something called Torain and then Keiland Williams. Because of this constant flux at the position, the Redskins run game is 27th in the league; the Bucs however are the 27th best run defense. That is a deceiving number as this young unit up front is starting to play a lot better. Gerald McCoy, Stylez White, and Geno Hayes are all big parts of that but really it’s a community effort. Guys like Kyle Moore, Roy Miller, and Tim Crowder all have 15-plus tackles this season with all but Moore having 20-plus tackles. If one of those guys can develop into a strong pass rusher, oh man is the Buccaneers defense going to be good.

There is something special happening in Tampa, special and exciting
There is something special happening in Tampa, special and exciting /

If all that doesn’t convince you the Bucs are more than capable of wining on Sunday, then chew on this; the Bucs hadn’t loss back to back games all season until last week. Therefore they have’t lost three games in a row yet this year which is a very impressive stat no one thought the Buccaneers would own. It’s been on hell of a season and the good news is, the ride ain’t over yet! After Sunday the Bucs play at home against the Lions and Seahawks (two very winnable games) then play a virtual ‘Choose Your Own Destiny” game against the Saints to close out the regular season. I’m on th fence on whether or not I want to subject this patch-work team to playoff football in say Chicago or God forbid New Orleans (two weeks in a row would be a killer), but then again this team possesses something special, and I am interested in seeing just how deep the rabbit hole goes. I’m hoping that hole leads across the Gulf to Dallas, Texas for the Super Bowl; Destination Dallas has been my rally cry all year long. As for now, lets take care of Washington and see where the chips fall around the rest of the NFC. Hopefully things work out, because win or lose, playoffs or no playoffs, there is something special going on in Tampa that is cause for Bucs fans to hold their heads high.