Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
REMEMBER US?
This was it. This was the look you remember. A defense that made big plays when necessary. An offense that was efficient and took great care with the ball. A team that knew how to finish off an opponent. Was this an aberration? Or a return to glory?

THE MISSING LINK
Jon Gruden has talked often about Joey Galloway's impact. How his speed spreads the field and gives the offense another dimension. Gruden ain't kidding. When Galloway is healthy, when he catches more than one pass in a game, the Bucs are 3-1. Otherwise, they're 2-6.

WHAT GOES 'ROUND
Tim Brown criticizes Bucs fans for being unsophisticated then doesn't get in the game. Sheesh. He can't even catch flak.

WORK IN PROGRESS
If you're looking for excitement, if you're interested in highlights, Michael Vick is your man. If you need dependability, look elsewhere. As dynamic as he is, Vick still is prone to excessive mistakes. In Atlanta's three losses, he has five interceptions and four fumbles.

IN A KICK OF TIME
Jay Taylor made you appreciate what it's like to have field goals as a part of your game plan. And he made you wonder where the Bucs might be had they found a placekicker earlier in the season.

Five best bets in NFC Wild Card race
1. GREEN BAY
Record: 7-5. Schedule: Detroit, Jacksonville, at Minnesota, at Chicago. The first wild card probably goes to the second-place team in the NFC North. Since the Packers play at Minnesota on Christmas Eve, the guess is the Vikings win the division and Green Bay gets the wild card.

2. CAROLINA
Record: 5-7. Schedule: St. Louis, at Atlanta, at Tampa Bay, New Orleans. Strange as it sounds, the Panthers control their destiny. If they beat St. Louis Sunday, they become the favorite for the second wild-card spot.

3. ST. LOUIS
Record: 6-6. Schedule: at Carolina, at Arizona, Philadelphia, New York Jets. Worst schedule among the contenders. Could easily lose three of the four. The best the Rams can hope for is if the Eagles and Jets are locked into playoff slots and have no motivation.

4. TAMPA BAY
Record: 5-7. Schedule: at San Diego, New Orleans, Carolina, at Arizona. If the Bucs win Sunday and Carolina beats St. Louis, there is hope. In that scenario, the Bucs would have tiebreaker issues, but could help themselves by beating the Panthers at home Dec. 26.

5. CHICAGO
Record: 5-7. Schedule: at Jacksonville, Houston, at Detroit, Green Bay. Schedule is slightly better than Detroit, New York or Dallas.

Five final words
Was this one final tease?

John Romano The St.Petersburg Times 6 December 2004