The spirit of Christmas has taken over the NFL with games a plenty this holiday weekend. Santa could be delivering wild card berths to division titles to improved playoff seeding to teams that have been good in 2021. The best gift the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Mr. Claus can give their faithful in that holiday vein is a road win on Sunday against the division rival, Carolina Panthers.
The 10-4 Bucs have to regroup after the lump of coal the Grinches known as the New Orleans Saints left last weekend at Raymond James Stadium. The loss put a severe dent in the chances to overtake the Green Bay Packers as the top seed in the NFC. However, a win over the Panthers clinches the division title of the NFC South.
Tampa Bay has had a week filled with news and transactions as they head to Charlotte. Everything from returning players (Antonio Brown, Mike Edwards), key players being out for the season (Chris Godwin, Patrick O’Connor) or put on the injured reserve list (Leonard Fournette, Lavonte David), Pro Bowl selections (Tom Brady, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Tristan Wirfs, Shaq Barrett) and even a new addition for the stretch run (Le’Veon Bell).
The 5-9 Panthers don’t care one iota, though. They will be starting a quarterback in Cam Newton that has a 9-5 career record against the Bucs. It may be his last home game as a Panther, and they enter the game on a 4-game losing streak.
The Bucs have two of their last three games against Carolina, including the season finale in Tampa. Next week, they visit the woeful New York Jets. Even with everything going on, they should win out and set a franchise record for regular season wins with 13.
The Christmas season can be a distraction in a lot of ways for a lot of teams. There should be no distractions for Tampa Bay the rest of the way after being shut out on last Sunday Night.
Either get the bad taste of the Saints out of their mouths for the remainder of the season or let the Grinches win and let the loss send them into a spiral that they never recover from. The Bucs get to decide how this Christmas story turns out.