RB Warrick Dunn and the Bucs don't want the Packers to trip up their second-half surge
Week 11 is a strange juncture of the season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers to meet for the first time. Since they play a home-and-home series every year, these two intense rivals have generally matched up at least once in the first half of each season.
Perhaps this is good for Tampa Bay, however. Over the last two seasons, the Buccaneers have lost early-season games to the Packers (once in September, once in early October) but come back to get revenge each time in December. Moreover, the Bucs are 13-5 in the month of November under Head Coach Tony Dungy.
On the other hand, 'late' has only been good to the Buccaneers in one sense of the word. This season, Tampa Bay is 5-0 in games that kicked off at 1:00 p.m. and 0-4 in all games that started later. Today's game was scheduled for a 4:15 p.m. kickoff so that Fox-TV could televise the marquee matchup nationally as the second half of its double-header. Today's Bucs game will stretch into the dinner hour, with the Packers as the featured guest.
Dungy is pleased that his team has performed so well around Thanksgiving, of course, but doesn't factor any of the team' streaks, good or bad, into the outcome today. Dungy sees a more direct correlation between the quality of his team's midweek work and the product on the field on Sunday. In that case, Buccaneer fans should feel cautiously optimistic.
"We really had a good week of practice," said Dungy. "Our concentration level was very good. I think Green Bay beating Minnesota (on Monday night) helped focus us a little bit."
The Packers' thrilling overtime win over the Vikings on Monday brought Minnesota back to the NFC Central pack a bit. The Vikings' 7-2 record is now just two games better than the Bucs' and Lions' marks of 5-4. Green Bay suddenly feels back in the race at 4-5 and a chance to catch Tampa Bay.
Dungy doesn't believe that the playoff race has truly rounded into shape yet. "It doesn't even start until December," he said. "We can't even talk about being in or out of position right now. We just have to win our games and see what happens. All we've done for ourselves (with the earlier four-game losing streak) is create a situation with no margin for error."
That means the first Bucs-Packers brouhaha of 2000 carries serious playoff implications, even if the competition isn't well defined yet. That should be enough to give a national audience quite a show.
To follow all of the action during today's game, and in the hour leading up to kickoff, please visit our special Gameday section. Therein you will find pregame reports from the Bucs' locker room, injury information, lineups, stats, quarterly descriptions of all the action, and more.