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Ask the Expert: Steve Wyche


Reggie Roberts: Give us your take on what's gotten into the Buccaneers. They go out to the West Coast and get beat 48-3 by the San Francisco 49ers, but come to Raymond James Stadium the next week and beat the New Orleans Saints. How is head coach Raheem Morris getting it done in Tampa Bay?

Steve Wyche: I don't know if anything necessarily got into them. They went to San Francisco, got mugged by a good team and got their act together. In terms of beating the Saints, the Buccaneers beat them last season and they match up well. The one thing that Raheem Morris has been able to do is get his players to believe in him. I'm sure after the smackdown they took in the Bay, he lit them up, practiced them hard and made them realize if they don't get on track, the season could get away from them quickly. I'm sure he made his point most thoroughly to QB Josh Freeman, who spread the message accordingly, if not verbally, by the way he approached practice that week.

RR: Give us your take on the Falcons, who seemingly got back on track with a two-touchdown win over the Carolina Panthers. I know the Falcons have started slow, but do you think they have enough in their arsenal to make some noise down the stretch?

SW: Atlanta has more than enough to get things together. They clearly have good talent at the skill positions and quarterback and for as many knocks as the defense takes, that unit is loaded with first and second rounders and players that management and ownership have been willing to spend free-agent money to acquire. I think they got a little out of character trying to create big plays, clearly the theme and mission during the offseason. If they maintain their identity and play tough when they have to – mentally and physically – they'll be in the hunt. The offensive line could be a work in progress all season but the Bears got to the NFC championship with an inferior line last season so creative play calling and execution could hide blemishes. A playoff spot is not given but if they take care of the ball, make catches when they present themselves and have playmakers make plays on offense and defense, they'll win double-digit games.

RR: Does anyone have a chance of beating the 6-0 red-hot Green Bay Packers?

SW: I don't think the Packers will go undefeated. It's just so hard to maintain the level they're playing at week in and week out. Although they'll be coming out of a bye, I think it could be a tough challenge for them when they travel to San Diego in early November, then play a stretch of games against Tampa Bay, Detroit, the New York Giants and Raiders.

RR: Who are the three most disappointing teams in the NFL after six games in your opinion?

SW: The Rams, the Jets and the Eagles. I know Philadelphia just got a win but it's 2-4 and still doesn't play like it's found itself yet. The Jets could be close to falling off a cliff now that there's players popping off in the locker room about each other. As far as St. Louis, yes, it's played a brutal schedule but it really wants to be a playoff team, you win a few of the games its lost. They look like a really bad team – and now Sam Bradford is hurt.

RR: What was your take on the altercation that took place between the two head coaches following Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers?

SW: A lot of over-reaching machismo. I hated it because it took the focus off a good game between two teams whose players have really accomplished a lot. I think fault lies on both sides but Detroit coach Jim Schwartz has to side step any perceived diss. I'm sure there are a lot of coaches who'd like to react like he did but I simply couldn't see Mike Smith, Mike Tomlin, Mike Shanahan or many other coaches tracking anyone else down on the field.

RR: Let's get back to the NFC South? Do you think the Saints, Buccaneers, and Falcons all have a chance to make the 2011 NFL playoffs?

SW: I'm not too sure there will be three teams coming out of one division because of what's going on in the NFC North. I believe the Packers and Lions are on track to rep that division. I do think the wildcard will come out of the NFC South, though. A nine-win team could end up winning the NFC East and the second place team in the NFC West could very well have a losing record.

RR: Who is the best team in the AFC after six games and which AFC club is flying under the radar, but will be a significant part of the 2011 postseason discussion?

SW: It's hard not to say the Patriots, so I'll roll with them, but Baltimore is playing at a very scary level. It looks imposing on both sides of the ball. A team that's still not getting much run is Tennessee. I liked Houston to come out of the AFC South but I don't know if they have the wherewithal. Tennessee doesn't have the playmakers of a lot of teams, but it is tough and fundamentally sound and Matt Hasselbeck is playing lights out.

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