Everyone is 0-0, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When the playoffs start, it doesn’t matter what the regular season record was. All of that goodwill and clout you gained as a team, is gone.
It’s win or go home. Kill or be — sent on vacation.
For the Bucs, the team has been nowhere near as lucky in 2021 as it was in 2020.
At the tail end of the last regular season, the biggest question was whether or not Leonard Fournette would be able to step up at running back while Ronald Jones worked his way back.
As recent as Sunday, it was the Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Le’Veon Bell show as Fournette and Jones were both sidelined with injuries.
But the Buccaneers are looking to get a bit healthier ahead of Sunday’s Wild Card Round matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Leonard looks great...he should be back,” Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians told media on Monday. “(Shaquil Barrett) and (Jason Pierre-Paul) should both be back. Lavonte (David), he’ll be the one that’s the closest, but he is starting to move around pretty good...I’m still waiting to hear about Jamel Dean, that’s the one that has got me concerned for this ballgame.”
JPP hasn’t played since the 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, while Barrett missed the final two games of the regular season. Inside linebacker, Lavonte David has also been missing since the Saints contest, in which he had a sack and forced fumble for his team.
While the team won all three games following their disappointing loss to New Orleans four weeks ago, the defense as allowed around a five percent increase in third-down conversions allowed since the last time all three were on the field together, and have allowed teams to rush for more than 100-yards in two of the three.
Previous to the injuries, the Bucs defense had allowed 100-yard rushing performances against teams in less than half of its regular-season contests.
Facing the league’s top rushing attack on Sunday, getting even two of the three back would provide a big boost in morale, and onfield performance, as the now more experienced duo of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Anthony Nelson fall back into support roles.
Tampa Bay has been plagued by slow starts on offense and defense as of late, but have been praised for the coaching staff’s ability to adjust in-game, ultimately coming up with winning strategies in the moment.
This ability may once again be tested, but this time, Todd Bowles’ defense will have a few more weapons to choose from when adapting to what the Eagles present on Sunday afternoon.