It might not feel like it right now, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season is far from being over.
Back-to-back losses at home in games the team very much could have won are hard pills to swallow, and how bad the Bucs looked makes things even worse. The offense is less than inspiring, with the run game nonexistent and the offensive line in absolute shambles.
Even the stout defense is starting to buckle and break. Twice the defense has held an opponent to 20 or fewer points and both times the offense has failed to hold up its end of the bargain. In the losses to Detroit and Atlanta, the Bucs defense held firm-ish but ended up on the wrong side of a big play in each game.
Things have been far from perfect on that side of the ball, but all of the attention and criticism is aimed at the offense.
Somehow the Buccaneers run game is even worse than it was last year, and mental mistakes continue to hold the team back. The offensive line was flagged five times for 35 yards and gave up three sacks for 19 yards in the loss to Atlanta. Outside of Tristan Wirfs and Luke Goedeke, the Bucs offensive line has been useless and is a key contributing factor in the lack of productivity in the run game.
With all of that said, somehow the Bucs are still in the playoff hunt and there's reason for fans to remain invested that this season can still move in the right direction.
Updated NFC Playoff Picture after Week 7
Here's how things stack up in the NFC Playoff Picture heading into this weekend:
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-1)
- Detroit Lions (5-2)
- San Francisco 49ers (5-2)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
- Seattle Seahawks (4-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (4-2)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3)
Despite everything that has happened over the last two weeks, the Buccaneers are still in the playoff picture. That puts even more emphasis on Thursday night's game, as Tampa Bay can remain in the hunt for a Wild Card spot as well as remain within striking distance of the Falcons.
If the playoffs began today, the Bucs would get a rematch with the Detroit Lions with the game taking place at Ford Field this time around. The very idea of that matchup sends cold chills up every spine in Tampa, because there's nothing about the Bucs that suggests they'd be competitive in that game.
There's still plenty of season left, though. If it's fair to say the playoff picture is pointless now because it's still early, it's also fair to say there's enough time for Tampa Bay to figure things out. A good team exists somewhere within what we've seen, and all hope is not yet lost that it can be found.