Raiders will prevail in unbelievable match-up

by Dave Morain and Seth Nailor

Super Bowl XXXVII is a sports writer’s dream. You just don’t know where to start because the storylines just don’t stop.

It’s East Coast vs. West Coast, league MVP (Rich Gannon) vs. defensive MVP (Derrick Brooks) and the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense. Not to mention Bill Romanowski, Jerry Rice and Rod Woodson all making return trips to the Super Bowl.

But forget all that. This match-up has been brewing since the pre-season. It’s Gruden, who guided the Bucs to the team’s first Super Bowl appearance ever, going against his old team, rich with a winning tradition and blessed with a superb staff he assembled himself.

John Gruden, Mr. Intensity, came up short with the Oakland Raiders last year only to be lured away by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the off-season, although he didn’t come cheap. The Bucs gave up four draft picks and $8 million to the Raiders in order to have him on the sidelines. Gruden got them to the promised land but in an interesting twist of fate we all get to find out if he was worth the price the Bucs paid.

Seldom do we get to have such clear-cut ways of determining if a deal was for the better. It was evident last year that Gruden had put together a team that was of Super Bowl caliber, and now he has coached another to meet them on the biggest stage that football has to offer. If the Buccaneers win, then they made the right decision in going after Gruden and setting back the future of their team by giving away all of the picks. But if the Raiders win, then they have the picks and the Super Bowl championship trophy.

Both teams have excellent defensive backs. For the Raiders, it’s the master and the apprentice as Rod and Charles Woodson (no relation) will try to shut down ultra-athletic Keyshawn Johnson. Oakland’s ageless veteran receivers Rice and Tim Brown will have a tough time finding a chink in the Bucs tough secondary armor of Ronde Barber (great field sense) and John Lynch (hits like an elephant on steroids).

The running game is up for grabs, however, as its speed for the black and silver (Charlie Garner) against the muscle of Tampa (Mike Alstot).

Who will prevail: the Coach or the assistant? The offense or the defense? I am sure Warren Sapp, the colorful defensive end for the Bucs, will have plenty to say and we are sure Gannon will downplay the importance of Gruden, but all of this is why the game will be so fun to watch and to read about for the week building up to it.

But in spite of ourselves and liking anything to do with John Madden we will have to pick the Raiders to prevail in this unbelievable match-up.