For the first time since 2008, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host a home playoff game. At Raymond James Stadium, Sunday, they will renew an old rivalry when they face the Philadelphia Eagles. The buildup to Wildcard Weekend has been fraught with questions as the teams has been plagued with a variety of injuries. Among those appearing on the injury report has been several key players, however the medical staff and coaches are hopeful that a majority of them will return Sunday’s contest.
Buccaneers’ head coach Bruce Arians was asked how optimistic is he that Shaq, JPP, and Lavonte David could return for this Sunday’s game,
“I feel pretty good about Shaq and JPP. Lavonte will be the most questionable with ‘Lenny’.”
Shaq Barrett suffered a knee injury in the first half of the first meeting between the Bucs and the Panthers on December 26th, that kept him out the final two games of the season. Barrett was seen this week, practicing in a knee brace. Bruce Arians however told media that
“He looked fine. He looked fine, and those things are so light; it’s amazing with the technology…”
The words of Head Coach Arians suggested that if Shaq Barrett can play Sunday, it will likely be while wearing a knee brace.
Both Lavonte David and Leonard Fournette were placed on injured reserve prior to Christmas and have, along with Giovani Bernard, recently begun the 21-day period in which they can return to the team and be activated at any time. Bruce Arians mentioned that Lavonte David and Leonard Fournette are the most questionable to return, so their status will come down to a game-time decision.
If Leonard Fournette is cleared to play this Sunday, Bruce Arians stated he will be “playing as much as he can. We’ll still sub, but he’ll carry most of the load.” Giovani Bernard progress was also mentioned by Bruce Arians, [he’s] “pretty close too, so we’ll be working him out. We should have three or maybe four backs dressed and ready to roll.” If neither Leonard Fournette nor Giovani Bernard can play, then Ke’Shaugn Vaughn and Le’Veon bell will handle most of the running.
The Bucs are the #2 seed and will have the home-field advantage, Bruce Arians spoke about the importance of having that advantage in the postseason.
“I think it’s huge when the fans are there. Last year was so different. To be able to communicate offensively/ defensively, feeding off the crowd noise – the crowds have been so great. To me, it’s huge.”
The Philadelphia Eagles might be a familiar opponent, with the Bucs running out 28-22 victors, but these Eagles are a completely different team from October. This game will be a tough one.
The Buccaneers stand at 7-1 when defending their own house this season, so the home field advantage, and home field fans, certainly help the Buccaneers in this Sunday’s contest.