Modesto Bee – Jan 26, 2003 – Brian Vanderbeek – There you go again, Ron, always picking the home team.

Maybe if you wrote your weekly predictions in verse we could use them to sell cars.

Let me do it for you (with apologies to David Halvorson):

Callahan’s not Gruden and for that we should give thanks.

Because while Chucky’s entertaining, those grimaces he fakes

But there will be nothing phony in the Raiders’ run to glory. ‘Just won, baby,’ will be the headline for Monday morning’s story.

Burma Shave.

Ron, insert your score here. But be forewarned that if you list the Raiders first, you will be wrong.

Every plausible pregame indicator points to a victory today for Tampa Bay.

Remember, on Wednesday Keenan McCardell defeated Charlie Garner 28-8 in the Madden video game pre-enactment of today’s game.

While that might indicate McCardell spent the bulk of his time at UNLV playing video games instead of attending class, take note that the Madden winner has claimed the last seven Super Bowls.

Want something more scientific? OK, try the results of the Murray Performance Index. It’s a series of precise measurements compiled by noted sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray, aka “The Football Shrink.”

In short, the “MPI” gives the edge to the Buccaneers, who have a slightly better rating and whose playoff victories came over teams with better MPIs.

“By a clinical play-by-play evaluation their execution has hardly been that of a juggernaut,” Murray writes. “The Bucs have been more consistent, especially on defense.”

Hey, Murray’s a doctor. He can’t be wrong about sports.

I trust the guy, even though rumor around here is he’s been seen writing prescriptions for Sebastian Janikowski.

Try this head-to-head battle. Tampa is the birthplace to and home of the American cigar industry. Oakland is home to, er, ah, cross-bay views of San Francisco.

Edge to the Floridians.

Not good enough? Let’s try some numbers that may be a little more valid.

Here’s one: Tampa Bay will be the eighth Super Bowl team to play with the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. The Bucs are the first team since the 1985 Bears to lead the NFL in total defense, fewest points allowed and interceptions.

Of the previous seven teams entering the game with the best total defense, six took home the Lombardi Trophy.

Now that’s relevant.

No one has been able to pass effectively on Tampa Bay this season.

The strength of the Raiders’ passing game — the short crossing routes to Tim Brown and the Jerrys (Rice and Porter), the flares to Charlie Garner — play into the strength of the Buccaneers’ defense.

So Oakland will have to run the ball to be effective. People point to the Tampa Bay rushing defense as perhaps its weak point.

Sure it is. The Bucs gave up a whopping 97 yards per game, good enough only for fifth in the league. Some weakness.

I just don’t see the Raiders scoring a lot of points in this game. In fact, there’s a good chance the Tampa Bay defense will get into the end zone more than the Oakland offense.

The Buccaneers’ offense isn’t exactly overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember, it was only two years ago that Baltimore, with Trent Dilfer (of all people) at quarterback, knocked Oakland out of a Super Bowl berth with its defense.

Tampa Bay and quarterback Brad Johnson, with Derrick Brooks at linebacker, is faster and better on both sides of the ball than that Ravens’ team with Ray Lewis.

This one will be low-scoring, and so it will be close.

But the Buccaneers will prevail.

So with pen poised, again I write:

In this battle of Pirates, so far from home

It’s not the ship that looks wooden.

It’s Bill Callahan’s face, his smile erased

At the sight of the smirk from Sir Gruden.

Gannon’s a goner, Garner’s been grounded, Brooks and Barber have ruled the day.

There is little left of the Silver and Black

Send the trophy to Tampa’s bay.

Buccaneers 24, Raiders 16.

Jon Gruden helped build the Raiders into the team they are. Today he will lead the Bucs over them.