The Tampa Bay experience

John
John Turner
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Six-week road trip concludes with Giants vs. Eagles

The Freak and family landed in sunny Florida for a week’s stay after a great trip to New Orleans and the Grand Canyon.

Last Sunday, we watched the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who we saw for the second straight week.

Getting to and from Raymond James Stadium was very easy, but the tailgating was just fair as the Bucs were out of the playoff race and with it so close to Christmas it appears people were busy with other things. 

The stadium is very nice and the seats were only 12 rows from the beautiful grass field in the warm Florida sunshine. With a cold beverage in hand, life doesn’t get much better than that. 

You can see why players like playing in this type of climate, and why they also have so much difficulty playing cold-weather games in December and January.

It’s definitely a big disadvantage for a warm-weather team like the Bucs to travel north late in the season. More so than teams from the north who travel down here.

There were lots of jerseys in the stands, and some of the most popular choices are still from the Bucs’ Super Bowl team such as Derrick Brooks (No. 55) and John Lynch (No. 47) while the most popular current player was, without a doubt, safety Ronde Barber (No. 20). Many of them who wore Josh Freeman’s jersey (No. 5) may be tossing them in the garbage after another dreadful performance. 

St. Louis doesn’t have the largest following in the NFL, but there were a number of Rams’ fans donning the jerseys of Marshall Faulk (No. 28), Jerome Bettis (No. 36) and current quarterback Sam Bradford (No. 8).

The Freak’s boys were really excited they were only yards away from wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Barber in warmup. Also, they found it pretty cool that during the game Rams head coach Jeff Fisher walked all the way down to the 10-yard line, which was very close to them. 

When you see these NFL players this close, you realize why playing careers, on average, last less than four years. These guys can all run and are just monsters.

You definitely see a team’s offensive and defensive tendencies after you watch a team play in back-to-back weeks, and when a player is struggling like Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, your team really has no chance to win.

Freeman will be glad that The Freak won’t be attending any more of his games after he had eight interceptions and one fumble in the last two weeks. The Tampa Bay faithful were screaming for the backup quarterback after his fourth pick on this day, and one guy was yelling, “Morgan Freeman is better than you!”

Also, when The Freak’s wife recognizes and says, “Freeman looks awful tentative,” that is not a good sign if you’re a Tampa fan as this guy is supposed to be your franchise quarterback. Put it this way, the Bucs’ pirate ship cannons were being drowned out by all the boos ringing out in the stadium.

On the other hand, you can see why Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick three years ago as he was very decisive with the football and very accurate compared to Freeman. St. Louis is in good hands with Bradford being their quarterback, and if they can get a couple of receivers around him, they will be good offensively down the road. 

At the end of the day, you can’t turn the ball over four times and expect to win in the NFL. Rams won 28-13.

The Freak is now off to the final game of this six-week trip around the U.S. in New Jersey to see the struggling Giants play the Eagles. It will be exciting to see the new Met Life Stadium as well as the two newest Super Bowl banners hanging with the other the ones from 1986 and 1990.

Stat of the week

The Indy Colts clinched a playoff berth with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck last Sunday, and what else is amazing is they have 36 new players on the team. Look what youth and enthusiasm can do for your team! Wish the Giants’ players would have had some of this the last couple of weeks.

Pet peeve of the week

Watching Freeman self-destruct in back-to-back games.

Bonehead play of the week

Bucs coach Greg Schiano not pulling Freeman.

The sure thing

Tom Brady is angry at his team’s performance the last two weeks, and when Brady speaks the players listen. New England ends regular season on a positive note by pounding the Dolphins, who need to travel to the cold north.

San Fran got a wakeup call from the Seahawks, but will end on a good note as they host the brutal Cardinals. Poor old Larry Fitzgerald, to put up with these non-NFL quarterbacks Arizona sends out there every week. Niners win big.

Three words “Chiefs versus Broncos.” Take Denver.

Don’t mortgage the house picks

Detroit has lost seven games in a row, and has nothing to play for while Chicago needs a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. Bears will maul the Lions in the Motor City, and will do some scoreboard watching to see if they are in the tournament.

The Freak will see Eli and the Gmen in person. Although they have a slim shot at the playoffs, the boys will play with Giants’ pride with The Freak and crew in attendance. Giants end the season with a win over Philly.

The NFC East will be decided once again on Sunday night, this time between the Cowboys and Redskins. Ultimately, it will come down to quarterback play to decide this important game. You have to believe Tony Romo will finally step up and play well in a big game. Washington may still get in with a Bears or Vikings’ loss prior to this game, so most likely Dallas will have more to play for. Take Big D.

Upset special

The Freak has been on a three-week roll with these upsets as the USA has been really good for the picks.

Teams always seem to play harder if they need a win on the last week of the season in order to get in the playoffs, while teams seem to struggle to win when they are only playing for a seeding or home-field advantage. Well, this rings true for the Green Bay and Minnesota game. 

Vikes will beat the Packers and surprising make the playoffs. AP for MVP!

Last week: 5-for-7.

Season: 78-for-112.

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to ssidespartansfootball@yahoo.ca.

Organizations: NFL, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Dolphins Seahawks

Geographic location: Tampa, Raymond James Stadium, Florida St. Louis U.S. New Jersey Met Life Stadium New England Arizona Chicago Motor Dallas Green Bay Minnesota Summerside

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