Yes, I know that I said the same thing last week about the Bills game. I still say it was. It’s even more so for this week’s game now. The Bucs are 2-4 going into this NFC South matchup against their division rival the Carolina Panthers. It’s just one game, but it counts as more than that in the division standings.
The Saints are leading the South with a 4-2 record going into a game against the Bears in Chicago. Carolina is in second with a 4-3 record and will hopefully be leaving Tampa sitting at 4-4. Atlanta sits in third place at 3-3 with a road game against the Jets on Sunday. Even if all the right pieces fall into place this weekend, the Bucs will still be last in the division. They would end up 3-4 in a tie with the Falcons, just a half game back from the Saints and Panthers who would be tied at 4-4.
The good news is that if all the chips fall into place again next weekend, the scenery could change. With the Bucs visiting the Saints and the Falcons going to Carolina, things in this NFC South division could get interesting. The Bucs would then be tied for the best record in the South at 4-4 with Atlanta while the Saints and Panthers would be only a half game back at 4-5. Craziness!
This Sunday is important, not only because it puts the Bucs right back into the division race, but because it will show this fan base that they do in fact have some pride and heart left in them. This Sunday starts the Bucs division play schedule. Six of their final ten games are against NFC South opponents so even as they sit 2-4, they’re not out of this thing yet. Even at 2-4, they still have a shot at the division crown and a playoff berth.
However, a loss this Sunday could be disastrous, if not catastrophic, for this team and it’s fans. I realize that they were in a similar situation last season when they sat at 3-5 before winning six of their final eight games to finish 9-7. The difference between last year and this year is the expectations. Last season, they had a rookie head coach, a new defensive ccordinator and a second year quarterback. This year, especially after the free agent signings and the draft, was supposed to be a unique season. The offense hasn’t lived up to it’s billing. The defense has regressed dramatically from where it left off last season. They have simply not played very good football. As much as I hate to say it, a fourth loss in a row and a record of 2-5 would be devastating for Tampa Bay.
Most people, including myself, had the Bucs going 10-6 this season as a worst case scenario. The hopes, dare I say expectations, for this team were even higher. Maybe 11 or 12 wins, a division title and a possible first round bye in the playoffs. Even though mathematically it’s still a possibility, it’s not probable. This defense would have to repeat their turnaround of last year when they went from one of the worst defenses in the league to one of the best. And the offense would need to start scoring earlier and more often. This team has not shown signs of either of those things happening.
This game could either be the turning point of this season or it could be their funeral. These players will make that decision. I know we’re all still pissed off about the Bills game. Hell, I’m still mad about the Cardinals game! I realize that we’re all still upset and maybe even surprised about being 2-4 at this point of the season. And that’s all fine. But come Sunday morning, it’s time to put all of that behind us. It’s time to throw on that Buccaneers jersey and whatever else you wear on game days. It’s time to drive to whatever parking lot you park in and party at whatever tailgate you party at. Then it will be time for us to make our way into Raymond James Stadium where we will cheer, yell, scream and chant until we all lose our voices and can’t cheer, yell, scream and chant anymore. If that’s what this team needs from us, then that’s what we should give them.
Come Sunday morning, this team isn’t 2-4 anymore. They’re 0-0 and looking to go 1-0…that’s all. We hear them often talk about “One game at a time”. So let’s help them win this one game. Let’s do our part. Hopefully, the players on the field will do theirs.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!