For the fourth year in a row, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing postseason football, and their journey will continue beyond Wild Card weekend.
The Bucs blew past the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday in the teams most decisive win of the season. It was a total beatdown and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The path for Tampa Bay beyond this weekend is set, though. Everything will have settled by the time the Bucs kick off and they know where they'll head in the Divisional Round if things continue to go their way.
Last year things felt unearned, as having Tom Brady was pretty much a free pass to the playoffs even if the Bucs did all they could to test those limits. This season things have flipped, as the Bucs bounced back from a 1-6 midseason slump to win four games in a row and surge back atop the NFC South.
That's not something we saw out of the team last year, and the lack of Brady's aura makes this trip to the playoffs feel unlike any previous journey. Even if it had ended on Wild Card weekend, it's hard to not view what the team was able to do as a success.
NFL Playoffs: Who will the Buccaneers play in the Divisional Round?
With the Green Bay Packers pulling off an upset win in Dallas, the Bucs won't have to go to San Francisco next weekend. Instead, a victory on Monday over the Eagles will punch Tampa Bay's ticket to Detroit, who beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night.
It will be yet another rematch for the Bucs, and another chance to avenge a loss from earlier this season.
Tampa Bay's loss to Detroit back in Week 6 triggered the team's 1-6 midseason slump, as the Bucs lost four straight games out of the bye week. That first loss came against the Lions, a game that was set up to be a sort of coronation and ended up being a humbling.
Detroit came to Tampa for a game that was flexed into the late window and featured the Bucs donning their creamsicle uniforms for the first time since 2012. Unfortunately, the team turned the clock back to those ugly early years, looking like a shell of the team that jumped out to a 3-1 start to the season and started to expose some of the frustrating issues that caused the Bucs to skid.
Tampa Bay was able to pull itself out of that slump in December, ripping off four straight wins and showing the sort of fight that was missing when the team fell on hard times last season. It was the sort of stuff that could carry them on a deep playoff run, but we've also seen enough of the flip side to that coin to be nervous about which version of the team will show up.
Unlike their earlier meeting, the location will flip. Tampa Bay will this time head up to the Lions den in Detroit.