The Bucs, thanks to pile-pushing defensive tackles Jovan Haye and Chris Hovan and cleanup man Barrett Ruud at middle 'backer, are giving up fewer yards per carry than the front-running Titans and Giants. And that could be the difference on Monday night when Tampa Bay and Carolina, both 9--3, meet in Charlotte. "We'd love to get them in predictable passing situations and turn our secondary loose to make plays," Bucs corner Ronde Barber says. Tampa Bay picked off the Saints' Drew Brees three times in the second half last week by giving him nothing over the top. Another wise veteran passer, Jake Delhomme (above), can expect the same. The winner is positioned for a first-round bye; the loser falls into the wild-card morass. The Bucs force three turnovers and win it.
This is an article from the Dec. 8, 2008 issue
PETER KING picks the weekend's games, Fridays on SI.com.