Entering Week 9 of the NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a 6-2 record and are a half game ahead of the New Orleans Saints for the top spot in the NFC South. Yet, even as they watch the action this week, there are still several chances for the Bucs to win by the completion of the weekend.
The first order of business involves the NFC top dogs at the moment, the 7-1 Green Bay Packers. This week, the Pack head to Arrowhead Stadium without reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Based on their respective positions, the result the Bucs prefer is obvious.
A loss by Green Bay gives both the Bucs and Packers two losses on the year. Combine that with the questionable health status of Rodgers going forward and maybe that improves the Bucs’ prospects of not having to visit Lambeau Field in January for a second year in a row.
The 7-1 Arizona Cardinals are currently the 2nd seed and leaders in the NFC West. This week, they travel to Santa Clara, California, to take on their division rivals, the 3-4 San Francisco 49ers. The Cards limp into the game having quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins both suffering injuries in last week’s loss to the Packers.
Just like the scenario with the Packers, a Cardinals loss on Sunday evens up the defeats at two with Tampa Bay. Both teams will have a loss in their division and another against a conference foe. Over the years, the teams in the division have a history of being competitive with one another, so a 49ers victory cannot be discounted.
The NFC South contest between two teams the Bucs hate will force them to actually root for one. The Saints host the Atlanta Falcons. Perhaps New Orleans will be too happy after celebrating a regular season win last week like it was the Super Bowl and the Falcons can pull off the upset.
Two other games the Bucs will have their eyes on during their bye week are the NFC 3rd seeded Dallas Cowboys at 7-1 hosting the Denver Broncos and the number 5 Los Angeles Rams at home against the AFC South leaders and overall conference top seed, the Tennessee Titans. The Bucs would hope for wins by the Broncos and Titans, but that might be too much to ask. Just one of those teams winning would be welcome at One Buc Place.
The Buccaneers won’t be playing in Week 9 but, besides getting some rest and several key injured players back, a lot still can be gained on the field from the bye week. A little help from some of their competition around the NFL on Sunday would make for pleasant viewing and improved playoff positioning in their drive to get to and win the Super Bowl come February.