Raiders, Buccaneers to Meet in Super Bowl

The Oakland Raiders have a high-powered offense and professional football's Most Valuable Player. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a stifling defense that seems to get better each week.

The contrasting styles will be on center stage in San Diego on Sunday when the two teams play in the Super Bowl -- a matchup that will feature plenty of intriguing storylines and familiar faces.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden was the coach of the Raiders for four seasons, but left Oakland a year ago after a highly publicized courtship by the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay paid Oakland $8 million and provided four draft picks to get Gruden.

The Raiders gave their head coaching job to Gruden's former assistant, Bill Callahan.

"We've got a tough team coming up, Tampa Bay," said Oakland's Jerry Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver. "And it's going to be a little unusual facing Gruden. But this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I am just looking forward to the challenge."

Rice is one of several aging veterans who make up the core of the Raiders, including quarterback Rich Gannon, who was the league's MVP as he led one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory.

Tampa Bay counters with a stingy defense made up of defensive stalwarts including Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch.

The challenge for Oakland, which scored 71 points in two playoff victories, including a 41-24 decision over Tennessee on Sunday for the AFC title, is not just to move the ball against Tampa Bay, but also find the end zone. The Bucs, who beat Philadelphia 27-10 for the NFC championship, yielded the fewest yards and the fewest points in the league.

"We're good and I'm not afraid to say it," said Ronde Barber, whose 92-yard interception return with 3:12 iced the win in Philadelphia.

The Oakland and Tampa Bay franchises have unique -- but highly different -- pasts.

Led by their maverick owner Al Davis, the Raiders were among the NFL's elite teams in the 1970s and early 1980s, winning three Super Bowls as they adhered to Davis' slogan of "Just win, baby!" They became a powerhouse again when Gruden arrived.

The Buccaneers were once the laughingstock of football -- entering the league in 1976 and losing their first 26 games. They were miserable through most of the 1980s and early 1990s, but started making strides in the last five years.

Now they're in the Super Bowl -- and their coach knows all about his opponent.

"Certainly there's some sensitivity there and some emotion to see Oakland play in the Super Bowl," Gruden admitted. "I have not talked a lot about how I got here, but I respect where I came from. I know there's some players that maybe don't feel that, but I'm proud of my experience there and I have a lot of respect for the players there and what they may have done."

Gruden knows there won't be any sympathy coming from the Silver and Black during the big game. The Raiders' trash talk already has begun.

"We thought this could happen," said Tim Brown, the longest-tenured Raider with 15 seasons. "For it to come to fruition, you really can't dream about it. We're going to go get Jon."