It was a terrifying sight when Mike Evans injured his knee and left the game against the Falcons in the first quarter, just one play after setting a major NFL record, but the Buccaneers were able to overcome the loss and sweep the Falcons. Going 4-0 in the last quarter of the NFL season propelled the team to an 11-5 record - only the third time in team history to have eleven or more wins and the first time since 2005 - and etching their date with the NFC East champion in stone.
So for the last time this regular season let’s Pick Six - though this will be the first time since I began covering the Bucs we’re guaranteed at least one more of these following week 17.
**NOTE: This was written prior to the completion of the Washington/Philadelphia Sunday Night game. Therefore, there is no mention as to who the Bucs’ first round opponent will be outside of “NFC East champ”**
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Tom Brady delivered. This is what you brought Tom Brady here to do. We talked about it last season - if the Bucs were able to cut the turnovers by at least half, they were a playoff team. Well, Brady finished with 40 touchdowns and twelve interceptions and here we are. Even without Mike Evans, he was able to connect with Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown for a combined 16 receptions, 271 yards, and four touchdowns. Not bad. The Bucs are peaking at the right time and I’ve said it over and over again both here and on the Locked On Bucs podcast - it’s not always the best team that wins the Super Bowl, just the team that gets hottest at the right time. The Bucs look to be on fire with another convincing win - this one without their top receiver for most of the day as well as their top linebacker, their second best pass rusher, and their top cornerback.
2.) Mike Evans’ status. There’s nothing definitive, but optimism is arising. FOX’s Jay Glazer reported that Evans did not suffer any ligament or structural damage and the Bucs are hopeful he can play next week. Now, this may be a situation where Evans can suit up but is more of a “break glass in case of emergency” guy. The offense was clicking just fine on Sunday with AB, Godwin, and Ronald Jones leading the charge and I would feel confident they can handle the winner of the NFC East with Mike resting that knee for a potential match-up with the Packers in Lambeau. Either way, hearing that there was no ACL, MCL, PCL damage should give Bucs fans a huge sigh of relief.
3.) Speaking of Mike...Can we take a minute to admire what that guy just accomplished? In his seventh season and on the verge of his first career postseason game, Mike Evans - who has played with Jameis Winston, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Mike Glennon as his quarterbacks until this season - did what no one ever has. Not Jerry Rice, not Randy Moss, not Calvin Johnson, not Julio Jones, Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson - literally no one has ever started their career with seven consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons. Kudos to you, Mr. Evans. What an incredible feat.
4.) I told you not to panic. Ryan Succop had a huge bounce back game with pretty bad field conditions. He went 8-for-8 on the day with five made extra points and three made field goals. Last week against the Lions was a bit of an outlier. He made the necessary adjustments and was perfect for the Bucs. Just continue to trust he will keep it going into the playoffs.
5.) COVID concerns and Prime Time nightmares. The Bucs should have Shaquil Barrett and Steve McLendon back for the wild card round. Unfortunately, it would appear that they won’t have Devin White back. The Bucs are slated to play the NFC East winner on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. ET. That’s right - not only will the Bucs not have their best defensive player but they will also be playing in prime time where, let’s be honest, they’ve struggled this season. The playoffs are a whole different animal so you can throw regular season wins out the window. Just have to hope that January/Playoff/Vintage Prime Time Brady shows up and the defense can withstand the loss of the team’s leading tackler and second leading sacker on the season.
6.) Interesting news for the contingency of Bucs fans “not sold” on the team this year. Somehow, some way, there is a group of vocal fans on social media who aren’t convinced that the Bucs are a true playoff team. They’re disappointed the team “only” had eleven wins or that they lost to the Bears and Rams in prime time. That they didn’t beat the “tough” teams. Something I discovered that was relatively interesting shows exactly how crazy this league can be and how the Bucs deserve to be in the postseason as much as anyone else. The Buccaneers are the only playoff team that did not lose to a non-playoff team in the regular season. Their losses were to the Saints (twice), Bears, Rams, and Chiefs. In fact, only the Bucs and Bills had all their losses come against teams .500 or better. The remaining twelve teams in the postseason suffered losses to sub-.500 teams at some point in the season; Saints lost to the Eagles, Packers lost to the Vikings, Colts lost to the Jags, Steelers and Titans lost to Cincinnati, Chiefs lost to the Chargers, Seahawks lost to the Giants, Rams lost to the 49ers, Ravens lost to the Patriots, Browns lost to the Jets, and the Bears lost to the Vikings and Lions. Doesn’t look so bad now, huh?
Six Numbers To Consider
1,067 - Brady’s passing yards in his last 8 quarters - most in the NFL in 30 years
136 - Points scored by Ryan Succop this season, most in team history
492 - Points scored by the Bucs this season, most in team history
137 - Bucs’ point differential this season, most since 2002 (+150)
7 - Career games by AB with 10+ receptions, 100+ yards, and 2+ touchdowns, most in NFL history
299 - Career starts by Tom Brady, passing Brett Favre for most in NFL history
Six Best Tweets
Bruce Arians said he envisioned 40 TDs for Tom Brady. Said Brady broke Peyton Manning's record for most touchdown passes in a QB's first season with a new team.— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) January 3, 2021
"I know he'll like that. Peyton'll be pissed, though."
Mike Evans can have my knee, I don’t need it for anything important— Bailey Adams (@BaileyJAdams22) January 3, 2021
Today's 44-27 win over Falcons, combined with last week's 47-7 win over Lions, gives Bucs 40+ points in back-to-back games for first time in franchise history.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 3, 2021
They've hit 40+ four times this year, five in 2 years with Bruce Arians, after doing so four times total from 2002-18.
The Bucs haven’t been to the playoffs in 13 years.— New Year Brycen (@BradyyNFL) January 3, 2021
Tom Brady arrives at 43, has 43 total TD’s, and takes them straight to the playoffs in his first year there.
“System QB” takes aged like milk.
Six Songs To Celebrate With On Victory Monday
Here is a nice little playlist for you as the Bucs prepare for their wild card round matchup this Saturday
1.) “Celebration” - Kool and the Gang: A staple in Raymond James. Turn it on and crank it up!
2.) “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” - Elton John: Thanks for making sure the Bucs’ best defensive player wouldn’t be able to return for the playoffs while the Saints get to play on Sunday so Alvin Kamara can return, NFL. Bucs fans ready to fight Roger Goodell and the schedule makers.
3.) “Forever” - Eminem, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, and Kanye West: Sure seems like it’s been forever since the Bucs were in the playoffs. Time to make the most of it.
4.) “Started From The Bottom” - Drake: Back to back Drake picks, but the Bucs have been at the bottom for far too long. Now, the whole team here.
5.) “We Right Here” - DMX: The Bucs’ attitude right now. Bring it. We right here. We’re not going anywhere.
6.) “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll)” - AC/DC: Okay, so maybe it’s not for rock ‘n roll, but it’s a long way to the top of the NFL and the Bucs still have work to do. It starts now.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Kansas City Chiefs - To be the best, you gotta beat the best. They’re the favorites as long as they’re in it.
2.) Green Bay Packers - The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Lambeau. Not ideal.
3.) Buffalo Bills - Josh Allen is incredible
4.) New Orleans Saints - They get Kamara back and host the Bears. Nice first round draw
5.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Road warriors through the regular season, will have to be in the postseason as well
6.) Tennessee Titans - I’ll take them as the third best team in the AFC. Derrick Henry is an unstoppable force.
Six Final Words
And now, the real season begins.