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Is this a must-win for Tampa Bay?

The Bucs have to show that the past two games are an outlier, not a constant

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears
This could be the beginning of the end for Dirk Koetter
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Losing is a part of life in the NFL. There is no dodging it. No matter how much a team wins, there will always be a time where it gets beat by another team at some point.

However, at some point during the season a team has to start winning or else they can kiss their chances at the postseason goodbye.

That time is now for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After winning their first two games in electric fashion, the Bucs have come crashing back down to earth after consecutive losses put them at 2-2.

But it’s not the losses themselves, it’s how Tampa Bay lost those games that have left many wondering how the rest of this season will play out.

Just like 2017, the defense was a sieve and the offense was very inconsistent. The same issues that plagued the team last year cropped up in a big way and if they don’t get them fixed then Tampa Bay may finish with an even worse record this year.

This weekend represents a major opportunity for the Bucs to answer a lot of the questions that currently surround the franchise - at least for another week, anyway. Coming off a bye and facing a depleted 1-4 Falcons squad is just what this team needs after getting owned in Chicago.

It’s a matchup of two teams that have major firepower on the offensive side of the ball but have non-existent defenses due to injuries and other factors. Tampa Bay also has a slight advantage considering both Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith oversaw Matt Ryan and Julio Jones earlier in their careers, but as our own James Yarcho recently pointed out, they still haven’t been able to stop either player.

As the season wears on, the better teams are beginning to establish themselves. Unfortunately for the Bucs, they have to keep pace with both the Saints and Panthers - two teams that are currently above them in the division standings.

NFC South standings after Week 5

NFC South Standings Wins Losses Tie(s) Win % PF PA STRK
NFC South Standings Wins Losses Tie(s) Win % PF PA STRK
Saints 4 1 0 0.8 180 140 W4
Panthers 3 1 0 0.75 104 91 W2
Bucs 2 2 0 0.5 112 139 L2
Falcons 1 4 0 0.25 133 163 L3

The Saints showed against the Redskins that they are for real, making Tampa Bay’s victory over them in Week 1 even more important than it already was. It also makes one wonder how in the hell they beat them in the first place.

What’s even more important is that despite the past two games, the Bucs still hold the second wildcard spot in the playoff race. Their conference record is key. At 2-1 with big wins over the Saints and Eagles, a victory over the Falcons would help pad that lead.

A victory on Sunday would all but end the Falcons’ season as well. If a team has a chance to step on a divisional foe’s throat, it’s imperative they take full advantage of that opportunity. No one in the Bay area wants to see the Falcons hanging around at the end of the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Chicago Bears
The Bucs will depend on Winston in a major way this weekend
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A loss could also drop the Bucs as many as four spots in the playoff race depending on what happens with the Packers, Vikings, Seahawks, and Eagles. You’re playing with fire if get in a playoff race with those four teams.

There is one glimmer of hope should the Bucs lose this weekend. Their remaining schedule is one of the easiest in the league with a 27-29-1 record, while their NFC opponents hold an 18-24 mark.

But this week doesn’t just represent potential future scenarios for Tampa Bay, it also represents the present. Can this coaching staff make the correct, needed adjustments after an entire week off? Can this team muster up a good effort after a terrible loss? Just how far have they really come since last season?

History isn’t on the Bucs’ side, either. They’ve lost three straight to the Falcons and are 4-6 in Atlanta over the past ten meetings.

To say this team is under pressure would be an accurate statement. How they respond to said pressure will be a big statement.

But the biggest statement of all would be a win in Atlanta this weekend.

It’s your move, Tampa Bay.