Week 17 scheduled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Carolina Panthers, with the Bucs holding the ever-desirable win and you’re in positioning. Tampa’s season has been long and arduous, the offseason ahead looks to be a glass filled to the brim with questions, yet somehow, a win against a 6-9 Panthers team held the possibility to lay all of that to bed and allow Bucs’ fans, for at least a week, to rest their heads on their pillows and breathe in sweet relaxation.
The Buccaneers are the 2022 NFC South division champs. It may seem like a small victory comparable to what the team has accomplished in recent years, but it wasn’t many seasons ago when this would have been an unprecedented and welcomed feat. Tampa is playoff-bound for the third consecutive season with back-to-back division championships. The 2022 Bucs don’t have the same expectations heading into the playoffs as Tampa Bay’s 2020 Super Bowl championship team did, nor are the expectations what they were in 2021, but a division crown, no matter how it is earned, is no easy task and is not to be taken lightly. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the 2022 NFC South champs and will hosting a playoff game at Raymond James Stadium, however—
Any time Tampa plays there are bound to be certain expectations for the team as well as for the players on the field. Reality might agree with those expectations, or it may enlist something else entirely, here’s:
Who we thought would do well and did:
Tom Brady- The Buccaneers discovered an offensive explosion on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Tom Brady shook off the doldrums of a sluggish season and turned in a sensational performance when the Bucs needed it the most. Tampa’s quarterback, at 45 years old, put up 432 yards and three touchdowns. Brady also rushed for a touchdown to cap off a magnificent Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay.
Chris Godwin- Chris Godwin has spent much of 2022 battling back to full strength from his knee injury last season. As the weeks have waged forward Godwin has continued to look better and better, and down the stretch he has truly begun to regain his pre-injury form. With nine catches and 120 yards receiving, Godwin showed why the Bucs were right to take a chance on him with a contract offer despite suffering a significant injury. Chris Godwin has a skillset that plays perfectly off of Tampa’s other star receiver, Mike Evans.
Who we thought might struggle and did:
Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks- The Bucs were without their top cornerback Carlton Davis, against the Panthers, and D.J. Moore feasted. He snagged six catches for over 100 yards while also finding the endzone. The Buccaneers were able to bait Sam Darnold into an interception and while Tampa Bay’s defense made the plays that were needed down the stretch, the Panthers’ passing game had moments of highly effective play making the cornerback’s absence very evident.
Surprise of the game:
Deep Passes?!- Where has this Bucs offense been? Tampa Bay’s offense has been ridiculed all season for its inability to create big plays— and run the ball— and score— and block, but today Tampa sported a new-look offense. Today’s new-look offense actually looked more like the old-look Buccaneers’ offense. The Buccaneers eclipsed 400 yards of passing while putting up 30 points, their second highest scoring output of the entire season.
Mike Evans- In what has been one of his worst seasons, Mike Evans served up one of his best games. Forever a Tampa Bay legend, Evans reached the 1,000-yard mark again, extending his own personal NFL record. Evans’ stat line at the game’s conclusion— ten catches 207 yards and three touchdowns, averaging more than 20 yards per catch. Having your best players show up and make the biggest plays in the most important moments is a good feeling for an organization, knowing you have invested in the right people.
It is official, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the playoffs. As the 2023 NFC South champions, the Buccaneers are two weeks away from hosting a playoff game in Raymond James Stadium. Nearing the conclusion of a season that has underwhelmed many from the start, Tampa Bay made it a point to show up, and play their best when it mattered the most.