Saying the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season is on the brink feels like an understatement at this point. After starting out 3-1, the Bucs are just 1-6 since their bye week and are in the type of uninterrupted downward trajectory that results in jobs being lost.
That feels like what's on the line Sunday, as a loss to the 1-10 Carolina Panthers might be what ends the tenure of Todd Bowles as head coach.
With all that said, the difficulty in reading how Buccaneers ownership will proceed is in the fact that the team is just a few games out of a playoff spot. As bad as things are, the Bucs are just a game out of first place in the NFC South and own a critical half-tiebreaker over the New Orleans Saints. A win on Sunday not only keeps them alive but gives the team another divisional win that could come in handy at the end of the season.
That's where things are: Tampa Bay is equally close to firing its head coach and landing a Top 10 draft pick as it is hosting a playoff game in January.
Sunday's game will be critical in determining how things shake out the rest of the way, and the Bucs are already getting dealt a massive blow before the weekend even arrives.
Buccaneers rule out three defensive starters for Week 13
On Friday Todd Bowles announced that Lavonte David, Devin White, and Jamel Dean would all be out for Sunday's game. Chris Godwin, who is battling a neck injury, will be a game time decision.
David hasn't played since the Bucs loss to San Francisco a few weeks ago, while Dean has been banged up all season long. White has also been battling a groin injury for most of the season, something that dates back to the loss against Philly in which he failed to run back an easy pick six supposedly due to the injury.
An already must-win situation is even tougher now, but it affords some players a chance to step up and begin to prove themselves. No one is in a better spot to do that than rookie SirVocea Dennis, who has already been worked into the defense more and more over the last few weeks and is now in line to start in Week 13.