As a crucial stretch approaches, we wonder: Which are the real Bucs?



Welcome to Overreaction Monday, Part II.

 

Clutch. Brake. Reverse.

 

Back past the Super Bowl ring party, past the conference title, past the 10-win season, past the big Monday night win over Carolina, past the opener at Atlanta …

 

We now return you to:

 

Come with us if you want to live.

 

The sky is falling. The coach is crazy. The quarterback is lousy. The defense is awful. The pass rush stinks. Vincent Jackson is a ghost.

 

Ah, the week-to-week life the NFL.

 

All after the Debacle in the Desert.

 

How will Jameis Winston recover? How will the Bucs ever win another game? How will they run the ball, especially without Doug Martin? Will the Bucs defense ever force a turnover?

 

In other news, the upset of the year so far, the Glazers did NOT send GM Jason Licht down to the Bucs sideline to overrule Dirk Koetter's totally screwy decision to keep the franchise quarterback in the game during extended garbage time.

 

It's time for Bucs fans to begin building their panic rooms.

 

The OMRRT (Overreaction Monday Rapid Response Team) is on the job, fanning out across Tampa Bay, dispensing sedatives, promoting general calm, whispering in ears.

 

It was one loss.

 

True, it was a whopper, but it still counts as one loss.

 

You know, like Atlanta was just one win.

 

More than a few Bucs seemed to forget that on the way to Arizona.

 

Two games in and we've already seen how the Bucs can win and how they can lose.

 

Oh, how they can lose.

 

Winston went from king of the NFL, four touchdown throws, to a turnover machine.

 

The Bucs are all square.

 

But face it: The Cardinals are a lot better than the Bucs.

 

Arizona might be the best team in the NFC. It played like it, too, played angry, after losing its opener to Brady-less New England.

 

The Cardinals weren't about to go 0-2 at home.

 

The Bucs got everything Arizona had.

 

That's how you get 40-7.

 

And so Bucs fans are back where they started, wondering which are the real Bucs, the opening day wizards in Atlanta or last Sunday's human sacrifice.

 

That's what Sunday's home opener against the Rams is about.

 

Setting the real course.

 

The Rams might have moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles, but this is still the team that jumped the Bucs in Missouri last year, the team that left Jameis so frustrated that he sort of lost it on the sideline.

 

Beyond that lies another home game, against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos. There's no Peyton Manning, and probably no DeMarcus Ware (broken forearm), but Denver is 2-0 and Von Miller is Von Miller.

 

The next two games are crucial given what follows, a Monday night game at Carolina.

 

Back to Arizona.

 

What, you really expected the Bucs to beat the Cardinals?

 

On the road, against a veteran team with better players?

 

Forget it.

 

Granted, it would have been nice not to have lost by 33 …

 

But losing Sunday to the Rams, now that would be a disaster.

 

The Rams will be flying across the country, like the Bucs did, and can't possibly bring the energy they did against hated Seattle in that first game back in L.A in front of 91,000. The Rams have a good defense, especially against the run. They also have scored just three field goals in two games.

 

Games like this, against the teams the Bucs can beat (and that can beat the Bucs), are more important indicators of whether these Bucs are developing more than any trip to Arizona.

 

Translation: You don't lose this game.

 

Not if you're serious about this season.

 

Win it and it will be time for 2-1 crazy.

 

And the Broncos will look beatable.

 

But that's next Monday.

 

Or is it?


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