It’s one thing to make it into the playoffs. It’s another thing to be a playoff team.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an opportunity to clinch their first playoff berth since 2007 today against the Detroit Lions. If they win, they’re in. It’s as simple as that. After beating the Falcons last week, the New York Times playoff simulator has the Bucs with a 98% chance of making it in. A win today and it’s a certainty. It would end a 12 year drought, the second longest in the NFL.
The question is, what will they do once they’re in?
The Bucs have only made the playoffs twice since winning their Super Bowl in 2003 (2005 & 2007) and they lost in the wildcard round BOTH times to NFC East teams (Giants & Redskins). In fact, four of the last five times they’ve made the playoffs, they lost in the wildcard round to NFC East teams (2000 & 2001 to the Eagles). If the Bucs finish in the sixth seed, where they currently are now, they will play the winner of the NFC East (either the Giants or Redskins) in the wildcard round once again.
So, again I ask, what will this Bucs team do once they’re in?
Today’s game could give us a little insight. With only two games remaining in the regular season, this team needs to start clicking on all cylinders, on BOTH sides of the ball, to have a chance in the postseason. It’s not enough to string a few wins together at the end of the year. Momentum is good to have, but they also need to be playing consistently good football as well. And that’s something they haven’t been able to do all year.
The slow starts have been a real issue. The offense hasn’t been able to move the ball OR score in the first half. And the defense hasn’t been able to stop teams from moving the ball OR scoring in the first half. It has not been a good combination. Since Week 8 against the Giants, the Bucs have been outscored 66-10 in the first quarter. They can’t let that happen in the playoffs. They can’t dig themselves into holes against playoff caliber teams. They can’t count on Tom Brady to come from behind every week. Getting off to a fast start today could show us this team came to play. A good first quarter today could show us this team is taking a step in the right direction at the right time. Today’s game could tell us if they’re in the playoffs. A convincing win today could tell us if they’re a playoff team. We’ll see what happens at 1pm today!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!