The 11-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers go into Week 17 as the 4th Seed in the NFC after last week’s 32-6 thumping of the Carolina Panthers. They will head to New Jersey to play the New York Jets who, while 4-11 on the year, are coming off of a win of their own at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Quite simply, this game means more to the Bucs than the Jets, and even after another week of off the field distractions, Tampa Bay should be able to take care of business and get a much-needed win.
The Bucs last week overcame off the field turmoil and this week, it is a new batch of distractions. Head coach Bruce Arians, wide receiver Mike Evans and defensive backs Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting tested positive for Covid-19. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and fffensive coordinator Byron Leftwich on the Jaguars list to be interviewed to become their next Head Coach.
If you include the injuries to Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul on the defensive line, such distractions might be enough to derail even the most resilient of NFL teams. However, the Bucs knew going in that defending their Super Bowl Championship wouldn’t be easy and that they would have to overcome adversity as well as the constant target on their backs every week.
Sunday’s game will literally be this year’s Super Bowl for the Jets. They have a rookie head coach in Robert Saleh who is trying to get a signature win in a disappointing season. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is trying to convince his team and the always fickle New York fan base that taking him as the 2nd Overall Pick from BYU wasn’t a mistake.
The Bucs should expect every trick in the book on Sunday from the Jets to steal a win. They have nothing to lose. The Bucs have a lot to lose, though, like any shot at realistically getting the 2nd Seed in the Conference. In a season, that has resulted in more regular season losses than many expected, the Bucs can’t let distractions lead to anymore.