If recent history can be trusted, none of that will matter. The Bucs have been playing for all of that for weeks, and they've come up short every single time. Instead, they seem to be playing for draft position, judging by the results. That may be good for the franchise in the longer term, but I'd sure like to cheer for some wins before the 2012 fall.
So, will I be able to do that tomorrow? I'm going to go ahead and say 'no'. We need only look back three weeks, when the Carolina Panthers stomped on the Bucs to the tune of a 38-19 final score that wasn't as close as that line would suggest. And that game came before the Bucs got blown out by the Jaguars and Cowboys.
The last time these two teams faced, Cam Newton threw for 204 yards on just 21 trows. Their running game put up 163 points and four touchdowns, three of them Cam Newton runs from one yard out. The only touchdown the Bucs scored was an irrelevant Josh Johnson to Dezmon Briscoe touchdown in garbage time. The Bucs scored five times in total, but four of those scores were field goals. I don't think the Bucs can reverse all of that tomorrow.
Worse yet, they'll have to try to reverse that while playing in Carolina in a hostile environment. Even more so, they'll have to stop Steve Smith without Aqib Talib. While Talib missed most of the game against the Panthers and Smith didn't produce much, the veteran wide receiver did get behind the defense a couple of times - and Newton just missed him.
And that's maybe where the Bucs can manufacture a chance. They couldn't really stop the run, especially early on, they couldn't handle Cam Newton's scrambling - but the quarterback still completed just 12 passes on the day. Newton is still erratic with his accuracy and doesn't produce as consistently as he should, which could give the Bucs a few chances. If they can manage a turnover or two off errant throws or bad reads by Newton, they have a chance to turn the tide in this game.
Chances are, though, that even if they do that their offense won't be able to bail them out. Over the past few weeks the offense has had essentially three good drives: one against the Cowboys and two against the Jaguars. The running game has disappeared as Legarrette Blount has not looked great recently, battling fumbling problems. More importantly, Josh Freeman is playing worse than he was a handful of weeks ago and looked especially disastrous against the Cowboys, excepting one drive.
That's not all Freeman, though. The offensive line has played two consecutive bad games, after playing well both in the passing game and on the ground earlier on in the season. The receivers can't seem to gain separation, and the gameplans are not helping either.
Ultimately, I can't see the Bucs winning this game. In fact, I think they'll get blown out. I'm predicting a 38-14 loss. What do you think?