There are some really bad teams in NFL, but Tampa Bay is the worst

TAMPA, FLA. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has several other issues going on right now, but there is another one he needs to address.

The quality of play in the league continues to drop off, and it was certainly evident Sunday as the Ravens routed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-17.

League loyalists like to talk about parity, but some of these games and teams have become an embarrassment, and several are still on the Ravens schedule like Atlanta, which struggles to win a game on the road, and Jacksonville, which finds it hard to win anywhere.

There is also Oakland, Washington, Tennessee and the New York Jets, plus St. Louis, always rumored to be looking for a new home.

But Tampa Bay is the worst team in pro football.

The Ravens came into Raymond James Stadium Sunday with rookies starting at left guard and left tackle, and also missing a starting defensive end and cornerback. And they still beat the Buccaneers by 31 points.

Tampa Bay made Joe Flacco look like John Elway. Flacco threw for 306 yards, five touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 146. Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, who had been in a slump, had four catches for 51 yards and two touchdowns.

There is no slump that the Buccaneers can't break.

"So, you're sitting there watching the game and saying, well, this is what I paid for, huh?," said former Ravens guard-center Wally Williams, who was with the team in the mid to late 1990's. "The NFL is about making money and to do that they have to make the game more exciting.

"To do that, league officials have taken a lot of the physical play out of the game and that means fewer fundamentals across the board. That has only increased the gap between the franchises that have, and don't have."

The sad truth is that while some of these games are compelling, the level of play has become quite poor. In the 32-team NFL, the only two really strong teams are the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. On a good day, San Francisco can be put into that elite class.

There is a lot of talk in the NFL these days about franchises moving. It's sad to go to cities like Jacksonville and Charlotte where fans bases have started to erode, and the situation in Tampa is worse.

Before Sunday's game, Tampa Bay had been penalized 35 times for 273 yards in the last three games, more than any team in the NFL. The Buccaneers committed another five for 43 yards on Sunday. They have given up at least 37 points in three losses this season, including a 56-14 drubbing by the Atlanta Falcons.

This franchise can't draw flies.

The stadium was half empty before the game started and Tampa Bay fans started filing out soon after Steve Smith caught a 56-yard touchdown pass to make the score 35-0 with 13 minutes and 57 seconds left in the second quarter.

It's hard to blame Tampa Bay fans for not showing up. In Baltimore, there is Purple Friday and the Ravens are the lead story on the local news on game day. Here, the Buccaneers were an after thought on the local news.

It was sunny and 90 degrees in Tampa. It was a great day to go to the beach. Maybe that's where all the fans were.

"One-and-five says we're not a good football team," said Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, in his first season with Tampa Bay, "and we're not a good football team. It is kind of as simple as that. We understand it's a home game and we didn't play well in front of our home fans, but, for our sake, we're a better football team than that. I thought we would play better. Of course, that goes to the head coach."

When asked to evaluate himself, Smith said: "That's pretty easy. I'd say I've performed at a 1-5 record. That's my record as a head football coach, so it's cut and dry, it's black and white on what we've done and what I've done as a head football coach."

Even in some of the so-called featured games the quality of play is poor. A week ago the Ravens and Indianapolis Colts combined for seven turnovers.

Fans pay a lot of money for tickets and Personal Seat Licenses, and they deserve better. What they are getting on game days is watered down football from a league that has too many teams.

By halftime on Sunday, what were you doing? Did you cut the grass for the last time before putting the mower away for the winter? Did you clean out the garage? Maybe you had dinner early or washed your car.

The commissioner has to find a way to improve the play in this league. There might be more scoring, but a lot of the fundamentals are gone.

Ravens fans had a lot to be happy about Sunday. The team rebounded from a big loss to the Colts last week and the Ravens found their running game again. The two rookies did well on the offensive line and the defense held up despite some new faces on the defensive line.

The Ravens haven't had much of a pass rush all season, but Tampa Bay made Brandon Williams, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Elvis Dumervil look like the Fearsome Foursome.

Compared to the rest of the NFL, Ravens fans have a lot of reasons to celebrate. It could be far worse. They could be living in Jacksonville, Charlotte, Oakland, St. Louis or Tennessee right now.

Or even worse yet, in Tampa.

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