The Buccaneers find themselves in a must win situation this week against the Atlanta Falcons. A win would keep their playoff hopes alive while a loss would essentially end their season. This pretty much says the whole story:
It's now or never for the Bucs pic.twitter.com/iYH45uhIP4— PFF TB Buccaneers (@PFF_Buccaneers) December 8, 2023
So with this being such a critical game, I think it is safe to say that this week’s X-factor is someone who plays the most important position on the field.
This week’s X-factor is quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield will be looking for a better performance against Atlanta than he did last time out in a week seven loss. In that game, Mayfield went 27/42 with 275 yards passing including one touchdown and one interception. When analyzing the box score, it wasn’t a bad day, however the Bucs offense only put up 13 points and Mayfield missed multiples throws throughout the game. He also had a crushing fourth quarter interception as Tampa Bay was driving.
This week, the Bucs need the Baker Mayfield who protected the football in the first four games and was efficient on offense. Not the Mayfield that has thrown an interception in four straight games and also has two fumbles in that span.
A lot of change could come to Tampa Bay this offseason and the results of this game may go a long way in determining what route the Bucs decide to take things at the end of the season. If Mayfield continues to struggle, the Bucs likely won’t win many more games which in turn would likely result in Todd Bowles being fired. If Bowles is let go, a brand-new head coach will come in and more than likely want to select his own signal caller that isn’t Baker Mayfield.
For what the Bus expected out of Mayfield this season, he has been fine and on more than one occasion has given the Bucs a chance to win, but these are the games a team needs their QB to take control and be able to play well. This is essentially a playoff game for Tampa Bay and all eyes will be on Baker and rightfully so.
At the end of the day, a lot of the blame will go towards the QB if the Bucs come up short, but Mayfield has an opportunity to prove that he belongs not only as a starter in the NFL next year, but the answer for Tampa Bay in 2024.
Time will tell whether Mayfield is back for a second season, but for the 2023 Bucs and Baker Mayfield it is now or never.