The Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed to secure the division that would have propelled them into the playoffs. After dropping a crucial division-clinching game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, the Bucs now hope that they can get in with another chance at wining the division next Sunday at Carolina.
Easy, you say? Not so fast.
In their last game against the Panthers back in Week 13, the Bucs narrowly escaped with a 21-18 win at home. Sure, that game was in the rain. But the Bucs — knowing it would most likely be a run-heavy game from Carolina — gave up 133 yards on the ground and two touchdowns by running back Chuba Hubbard. Although the Bucs are at times heralded for their run stopping defense they have been inconsistent in that department more often than not.
And regardless of weather, they’ll face that some running game in Week 18.
A loss next week all but seals the season for the Bucs. All the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons need is a Tampa Bay loss in Carolina and since both the Falcons and Saints play each other one of those two will be crowned NFC South Champions.
What was once a promising string of games that placed the Buccaneers on the doorstep of another division crown is now a dire plea for a victory next week, or some help to get into the playoffs.
Lots of it.