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Bucs mettle will be on display.

Not quite the result we wanted going into the bye week, but we're sitting at 4-3, just over .500 with 9 games left in the regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a long way to go, but sitting near the top of the NFC South and, outside of the San Fran game, having been competitive in every game this year, the Bucs still have a good chance to make the playoffs. One variable that keeps getting overlooked is the schedule. It's a different scenario than last year where the schedule provided a nice boost to a young team trying to learn how to win. This year, it's a bit more difficult, both in opponents and location. As we've noted a few times, six of the last nine games are on the road and will provide a test for this team.

The key will be the slow starts. If you think there is any type of homefield advantage left in the NFL, the visiting team tends to have a difficult time coming back in away stadiums. This could provide some trouble for the Bucs who like to take the first half off and then try to string together 60 minutes of football in a 30 minute time frame. Raheem Morris and the rest of the coaching staff will have to earn their pay over the last nine games as they attempt to prove that last year was not a fluke and that this Bucs team has the mettle to make it to the playoffs in 2011.