They have been a laughing-stock of the NFC for about five years now. But when you glance over at their remaining schedule, they bear a decent shot at making the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and no one is talking about them.
That team would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 3-3, first year head coach Dirk Koetter has a team that finished last in the division a season ago to now controlling their own destiny in an NFC South division that features an underachieving Carolina Panthers team and suddenly spiraling out of control Atlanta Falcons squad which has lost two in a row.
Buccaneers’ faithful have had to wait since their 48-21 triumph over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl 37 to be this opportunistic about their chances of stardom. In fact, they haven’t won a playoff game since that dream 2002 season. But after countless years of misery combined with a couple of years of double-digit losing seasons, this could be the year that Tampa Bay breaks through with second year QB Jamies Winston. The first six weeks of the season have tested the will of Tampa, who’ve endured lingering injuries to their workhorse tailback Doug Martin and grizzled veteran receiver Vincent Jackson. But through it all, Winston has managed to right the ship with complimentary back Jacquizz Rodgers (rushing for 4.7 yards per carry) and elite wideout Mike Evans (who already has amassed 545 receiving yards for six TDs).
With a two-game winning streak on the line Sunday when the Oakland Raiders come to town, this proves to be an impactful point of the Bucs season, as their division aspirations lay in the balance of a brutal stretch of games against playoff opponents in Atlanta, Kansas City, and Seattle to end November.
With division-leading Atlanta going through a rough stretch, things don’t get any better for them when they welcome the Green Bay Packers to town this Sunday. The next two weeks will go a long way in determining who will win the NFC South. If Tampa can pull one out of the hat this week and follow it up with a series sweep over the Falcons, then the Bucs positions themselves nicely to be the favorite to take the NFC South crown. Right now, the pendulum has swung in the southeast, where suddenly this young Bucs squad have arrived a year early.