Week 01: Ravens vs. Buccaneers
When: 1 p.m. September 10
TV: WJZ-TV (Channel 13)
Radio: WIYY-FM (97.9)
ABOUT THE BUCS:
• Tampa Bay is playing the league's third-toughest schedule with half its schedule against 2005 playoff teams. The Bucs won six of their last eight games to take a division in which most experts had them finishing last. Tampa had a +7 turnover ratio last year, the fourth time in five years they've been on the positive side of that stat. The Bucs haven't been ranked lower than ninth in total defense since 1996 and were the league's best in 2002 and 2005.
• Last year, Tampa was sixth in both run and pass defense. Offensively, the Bucs ranked 23rd overall (14th rushing, 25th passing).
• Richard Mann, a wideout coach with the Baltimore Colts (1982-83) and Ravens (1997-98) has the same job now in Tampa. Former Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Loyola strength coach Kurt Shultz is now an assistant strength coach with the Bucs.
• QB Chris Simms, son of New York Giants' Super Bowl-winning QB Phil Simms, saw action in 12 games down the stretch and hit on 61 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns, seven INTs and an 81.4 rating. TE Alex Smith is Simms' best option against aggressive defenses like Baltimore's. He finished second on the team last year with 41 catches. Joey Galloway (83 catches, 10 touchdowns in '05) and Michael Clayton (32 catches) are the starting wideouts, but on his fourth team in five years, former Arizona standout David Boston is healthy and expected to contribute.
• RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams ran for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. He was the NFL's Rookie of the Month for September and December and was a Player of the Week three times.
• The Bucs' defense ranked first overall in the league in 2005, and that's with six of the 11 starters over age 30. DE Simeon Rice led the team with 14 sacks and LB Shelton Quarles was the leading tackler with 196. Rice's 119 career sacks are second among active players. His 56.5 sacks the last four years are the NFL's best.
• Since 1998, the Bucs and Ravens lead the NFL with seven shutouts each. Since 1997, Tampa Bay has allowed an NFL-low 2,380 points. The Ravens are third with 2,589.
• Derrick Brooks' 97-yard INT return for a touchdown in the Ravens' 2002 home opener is the longest play allowed by Baltimore. Brooks was second on the team in tackles with 174.
The Ravens have a better team this year, but winning on the road, which they haven't done in nearly two years, is their biggest problem.
Issue 1.20: September 7, 2006