While they accomplished the goal of winning a franchise-record 13 regular-season wins, they also put themselves in a position to earn the two-seed in the NFC.
And this season, unlike many seasons past when the erstwhile Bucco’s needed help just to make the playoffs, San Francisco obliged by topping the Los Angeles Rams for the sixth straight time.
Getting No. 13 was already so important for this team, and this time, a year in which they were already in the playoffs, a little bit of playoff luck came their way.
Of course, you had to have the record to be in the position to take No2 in the first place, but it’s always nice to get a boost from another team like the Niners. It’s nearly impossible to recount the number of times the Bucs had to slink into the off-season and crank up their TV sets to watch the end of the season play out without them.
Not this season.
This season, they managed to put themselves in a great position to start the run for two. In the past, the Philadelphia Eagles wreaked havoc on the Buccaneers playoff hopes. Stopping them twice before Jon Gruden, aka Chuckie, came to town and helped them exorcise their Philly demons in a demonstrable victory on their way to SuperBowl XXXVII.
In that game, the Bucs closed down the vet as Ronde Barber coasted with a pick from Donovan McNabb. They backed it up by taking the first game from Philly when they opened the season at their new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field. Since then, the Eagles have not plagued the Buccaneers as they had in the past, so the exorcism must have worked.
Sunday, however, we will get a second chance to face the Eagles. In the regular-season matchup, Tampa pretty much had their way in the first half. But the Eagles rebounded in the second half and nearly stole the show. Had we lost that game, we might be looking at a completely different situation than sitting in the second seed.
It’s hard to imagine the Buccaneers not being prepared for this game. If things go well, there are only four games left. But in reality, there is only one game. The next one. And that is Philly.
Expect to see a much-invigorated defense. They have been slammed for allowing too many rushing yards, and deservedly so. Part of that can be attributed to missing personnel, such as Lavonte David, but one player is not enough to plug the gaps. Outside contain will also be at a premium this Sunday, too.
We can also expect to see some changes on offense. Last week, the offensive plan exploded as they played more up-tempo, like the two-minute drill at the end of the first half that led to Le’Veon Bell’s first touchdown at Tampa. If the Bucs can get Leonard Fournette back for the game, expect to see a much stronger running game. Behind Brady, expect to see another 300-yard effort and at least three Tuddy’s.
To run it back, one has to win the first game. The second game will wait.