The Tampa Bay Buccaneers week 17 game against their division rival Carolina Panthers is the biggest game of the season up to the point for the Buccaneers. The prospect of this is one that many would have laughed at coming into the 2022 season.
As we were all eagerly awaiting to kick off the 2022 NFL season, the Carolina Panthers were looked at as a team that was essentially tanking, and when they fired head coach Matt Rhule mid-season and traded their best player in running back Christian McCaffrey, more and more believers of this notion came out of the woodwork. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were seen as potential Super Bowl contenders despite having a new head coach in Todd Bowles. How could they not the way the NFC was looking and the fact that their quarterback is Tom Brady?
Well, suffice to say it hasn’t turned out that way for either ball club.
The NFC South is a mess. In fact, it stinks on ice. This is completely evident by the fact that the Bucs and the Panthers will be playing for first place of the division in the penultimate week of the regular season, with the Buccaneers sitting at 7-8 and the Panthers at 6-9.
If the Bucs are able to (finally) take care of some business, then they will be hosting a playoff game in Raymond James Stadium somehow. Should the Panthers win, and remember they beat the Bucs once already albeit with PJ Walker at quarterback and not current starter Sam Daronld, the Bucs season is not dead, they would just would no longer control their own destiny.
This game should be a gimme for the Buccaneers, at the very least on paper. As we know though, games are played on the field and not on paper, and as we said, Steve Wilks and the Carolina Panthers have already beaten the Todd Bowles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once this year. This is the biggest game of the 2022 season for both teams, regardless of what their respective records and the preconceived notions of the state of the franchises were coming into the year. It’s time to put up or shut up.