It's a potentially historic day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. For the first time in over two decades, the Bucs have a chance to clinch a fourth-straight trip to the playoffs with a win over the Saints.
Not only would a playoff ticket be punched, but it would come at the expense of a division rival. New Orleans would be eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to Tampa Bay, losing both a shot at the division title and a chance to end a playoff-less streak that started when the Bucs knocked them out in the 2020 NFC Divisional Round.
As for the Bucs, making the playoffs for a fourth straight season isn't the potentially historic part of the afternoon. Tampa Bay would clinch the NFC South for the third straight season, making it the first time in franchise history that the team has won the division three consecutive times.
Not everyone is suiting up for the big game, though, as the Bucs will be without some key players on defense against a Saints offense looking to play spoiler.
Buccaneers inactives for Week 17 vs. Saints
The Bucs entered the weekend knowing they'd be witout two key defensive starters against the Saints. Carlton Davis left last week's win over the Jaguars with a head injury, and he failed to be cleared in concussion protocol in time to be active for Week 17.
Shaq Barrett is also out, as he's dealing with a groin injury that knocked him out of practice all week.
Both losses are big, but they also provide the opportunity for players to step up in their absence and continue to shine. Yaya Diaby has been on fire recently, and he figures to get even more of a spotlight without Barrett in the lineup. Jamel Dean is supposed to be the Bucs top cornerback but has struggled mightily this season to live up to the billing. A good performance from him on Sunday could help reset that narrative as the season comes to a close.
Here's who won't be suiting up for the Bucs today against the Saints:
- Shaq Barrett, OLB
- Carlton Davis III, CB
- Ko Kieft, TE
- J.J. Russell, LB
- Deadrin Senat, DL
- Brandon Walton, OL
- John Wolford, QB
Outside of missing Barrett and Davis, the Bucs will be fully healthy on defense. Devin White made his triumphant return last Sunday against Jacksonville and will be looking to build on that strong outing in a game that would help him shine even more.
As for the Saints, they're up against it in the injury department as much as they are in the standings. New Orleans will be without offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk who was placed on season-ending IR earlier this week.