PTI - Not so tough as it looks
Most of the Buccaneer message board began bitching about the 2006 schedule as soon as it was announced on NFL Network (how do you dedicate a two-hour program to that?). "It's so tough", "It's unfair" etc etc etc. Think back to this time last year when our first two road games were in Minnesota and Green Bay. "Here comes an 0-3 start" proclaimed most people.
But no. The Vikings and Packers were not as good as advertised and the Bucs took road wins in September on their way to a 4-0 start. The moral of the story is of course, that the NFL is not played on paper, it's played on grass and astroturf. Just because a team was in the playoffs in 2005, does not make them a playoff team in 2006.
How many teams looked at their 2003 schedule, saw the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers on it, and immediately pencilled themselves in for a loss? And we went 7-9 that year. We have a first-place schedule in 2006 because we won the NFC South division last year. Yes it looks tougher, but you can bet that a lot of the teams that look good right now, turn out to be a lot less than that come the actual season. I know it's a mad world but we just have to hope that one of them isn't wearing pewter and red.
Elsewhere around the NFL
I just loved the payback that the Vikings got from Seattle over the Nate Burleson contract. Minnesota offered a huge contract to Steve Hutchinson with a "poison pill" element that guaranteed the entire $40-odd million value if he wasn't the highest paid lineman on the team. That of course didn't affect Minnesota, but did Seattle as they have Walter Jones. Hence the Seahawks could not match the offer and the Vikings got their man. Downright sneaky and definitely a tactic straight out of the Bucs UK Fantasy League owners' manual.
But payback is a bitch and Seattle offered a contract to Viking WR Nate Burleson which similarly guaranteed the entire contract if he played five or more games in the state of Minnesota. Which of course he would do if the Vikings matched the offer. Brilliant and one that made the rest of the NFL laugh out loud when the Vikings started whining about it. Obviously these types of contract clauses are not good for the game and need to be eradicated, but serious kudos to the person in the Seattle front office (former Buc Tim Ruskell perhaps) who came up with that one.
Great news came recently when NASN Setanta Sports (you too can watch Celtic Reserves and French Division 3 football) announced they would be televising the NFL draft thanks to their arrangement with ESPN. So we get Chris Berman, Chris Mortensen and Helmet-Hair Kiper for another evening. The FFL party takes place at Jonesy's to avoid us all running up huge phone bills calling each other all night.
But why can't they televise the Bucs UK Fantasy League draft? Simple really - last time I looked, excessive swearing, abuse, physical violence, drunkeness, flatulance and walking into a patio window (eh Clive?) were not part of pre-watershed television viewing criteria. Shame really, because the 2005 FFL draft DVD is full of all it.
Edgerrin James signs for Arizona and everyone rushes to comment how the losing mentality is over in Arizona because a player of James' calibre has gone to play for the Cardinals. Horseshit - he's gone there for the money as any seven-year veteran with more mileage than Gary Botteley's car would realise. Nothing will change in Arizona because the ownership is still the same. As Malcolm Glazer told myself and Phil in 2002, "It can't happen on the field, unless it happens off it".
In the same vein, expect the Cincinnati Bengals to fall back to earth in 2006 after their brief sojourn in the bandwagon stakes. Especially after I traded Carson Palmer for 1st and 5th round picks.
You've been great - enjoy Tears for Fears.
Paul Stewart, April 2006.