It's safe to say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially turned their season around, and this time there might not be any looking back.
The Bucs already got our hopes up once, starting the season 3-1 and entering their bye week with control of the NFC South. We all know what happened after that, though, as the team fell into a 1-6 slump that they're only just now climbing out of.
As bad as that losing streak was, the Bucs have not only erased it but have done so in a way that suggests they might be a dangerous team to play against in the playoffs. A win next week over the Saints would clinch the division and officially punch the Bucs playoff ticket, and if the team that we've seen over the last few games shows up in January it's going to be a nightmare for the rest of the NFC.
Baker Mayfield had the perfect message after blowout win over Jaguars
One of the reasons the Bucs have managed to turn things around is thanks to the play of Baker Mayfield. It seems he's settled into a groove that has folks believing hes' the franchise quarterback of the future, something he's embracing both on and off the field.
Mayfield threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the 30-12 win over Jacksonville, which now makes back-to-back games where he strapped the team onto his back and carried them. In both wins the Bucs have looked like a complete team and it's something that has Baker feeling like they'll be a tough out in the playoffs.
He was asked after the game how difficult he thinks the Bucs will be to play against given how they've looked lately, and his response was perfect.
"Extremely difficult," Baker said. "We're getting hot at the right time, but we can't take that for granted. Gotta realize that the one game at a time mentality has really been a turning point for us."
Baker also noted a few different times that there are plenty of things the team can do to improve, despite winning by double digits two straight weeks.
"There's definetly some things that I want back," Mayfield said. "There's just some critical things that need to improve, but like I said it's good to learn from a win. We can continue to improve, though."
That's the type of leadership that has everyone talking about how much he's won over the locker room. Rather than rest on the success of the four-game winning streak, Baker is actively challenging both himself and his teammates to not take their eye off the prize, while showing some refreshing accountability.
As if the win on Sunday wasn't already sweet, knowing that the team won't allow itself to coast into the playoffs is something to be very excited about in terms of what the future may hold.