The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open the 2017 season at the Miami Dolphins, the intra-state rivalry that can never really get people’s blood flowing because the games are so few and far between, and often for very low stakes.
Even then, this may be a must-win game for the Bucs—and the Dolphins. Over at our sister blog The Phinsider, Justin Hier argues that that opening game will be their “prove it” game on their way to the playoffs.
If the Dolphins really are the playoff team that so many fans are hoping to see, this is a game where they need to be competitive. After numerous seasons of starting the year cold over the past decade, coming out of the gate with a strong showing against a rising team would do wonders not only for cementing the respect of writers, fans, and opponents, but also for getting the team on a roll early, making it easier to vie for a postseason slot come January.
If that’s true for the Miami Dolphins, it’s doubly true for the Bucs. The Dolphins are hoping for a playoff berth, but that’s little more than a hope. For the Bucs this has turned into almost an expectation, a must—and if they can’t even beat the Dolphins, how can they hope to get into the playoffs?
Of course, that’s a little simplistic. Any team can lose any game in any season—it’s that whole Any Given Sunday (or Thursday, or Monday, or sometimes even Saturday) thing. A campy movie, and a cliche phrase, but still true. A week one loss wouldn’t necessarily say much about the rest of the season, nor would a week one win. After all, the Bucs lost their first game in their 2002 Super Bowl-winning season, too.
In the end, there’s no such thing as a must-win game or a prove it game. Not until a loss would take a team’s playoff future out of their hands, really. And that won’t come in week one.