It’s Thanksgiving in America, and it’s a day to be thankful and give thanks. Here are five things the 5-5 Bucs have to be thankful for this season as the team emerges from its bye week.
Brady’s return for one more year
The Bucs saw several key parts of their 2020 Super Bowl championship team and last year’s 13-4 squad retire in the offseason. Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet and future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski called it a career, as did Bruce Arians, who has the highest winning percentage of any coach in franchise history. . Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, has also retired – but not retired after 40 days.
Of course, the Bucs’ 5-5 record in 10 games was a bit surprising and disappointing. But it’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay would even be 5-5 if Blaine Gabbert or Kyle Trask were under center. It’s not just Brady’s ability to lead the Bucs from behind, as he did in a 16-13 win over the Rams, or his knack for avoiding turnovers. Brady threw for 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The fact that Brady rallied the troops in calling out his team’s embarrassing lack of effort helped propel the Bucs to a 21-16 win over the Seahawks in Germany. This game was probably the most comprehensive team victory of the season – and against a quality NFC opponent.
Tampa Bay fans haven’t had the luxury of watching a stellar quarterback play very often since the team’s inception in 1976. But seeing Brady play a third year in red and pewter has proven to be a real treat. treat. Hopefully his greatness takes the team to a third straight playoff berth – and maybe beyond.
A slow year for the NFC South
The fact that the Bucs are still only 5-5 down above NFC South testifies to the weakness of the division. The Bucs should be thankful there isn’t another dominant team in the division, as their only path to the playoffs this season may be to win the NFC South. Tampa Bay is currently 2-1 in the NFC South and has a half-game lead over Atlanta, which is 5-6. But the Falcons are 1-3 in the division, and that will hurt their chances in a tiebreaker scenario.
The Bucs currently have the tiebreaker advantage over the Falcons and Saints. Like Atlanta, New Orleans also won on the bye week and remains just a game and a half behind Tampa Bay at 4-7. The Saints are 1-2 in the division, which is slightly better than the Falcons’ 1-3 mark in the NFC South.
The most interesting team is Carolina, which has the division-leading record at 3-1, including a win over Tampa Bay. However, these three division wins represent the team’s three wins this year. At 3-7, the Panthers might look out of the NFC playoff draw. They’ll have to win the NFC South to secure that automatic playoff spot — and they’re just a few games away from the Bucs with seven games to go.
Beat rams and saints (finally)
Another year, another Bucs schedule with the Saints and Rams on it. For Tampa Bay, facing Los Angeles for the fifth time, including last year’s playoffs, in four years makes it a rivalry in its own right. But it’s been a one-sided rivalry lately. The Rams had won three straight games against the Bucs until this year.
Although neither Tampa Bay nor LA were an NFC powerhouse like the two were a year ago, at least the Bucs snapped a three-game losing streak with a 16-13 victory from behind in of Week 9. The win wasn’t just a payback from last year’s 30-27 win over the Bucs in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, it also snapped the three-game losing skid of the ‘crew. The fact that LA is now 3-7 on the year makes the Bucs’ win over the Rams even sweeter.
There’s no escaping New Orleans, as the Saints and Bucs are both in the same division. But the Saints’ seven-game regular-season winning streak against the Bucs was just ridiculous. Although Todd Bowles’ first season in Tampa Bay got off to a bit of a disappointment, he was at least the head coach to break the losing streaks against the Rams and Saints. His 20-10 victory at New Orleans was highly anticipated and propelled the Bucs to a 2-0 start in 2022.
Bowles’ defense still strong
While becoming the head coach of the Bucs, Todd Bowles decided to retain his defensive playmaking role on game days. Larry Foote and Kacy Rodgers are co-defensive coordinators, who help Bowles during the week. But the good news for Bowles and the Bucs is that the defense game hasn’t suffered much despite Bowles having more on his plate this season.
Tampa Bay’s run defense isn’t as strong as it has been in years past and will receive a tough test in Cleveland on Sunday from Nick Chubb and Co. just four pass runners. The results have been impressive, as the team is still closing in on the quarterback with consistency, ranking third in the league with 32 sacks. Pro Bowlers Vita Vea and Devin White lead with 6.5 and five sacks, respectively.
The Bucs had a few hiccups on the run, especially in the second half against the Panthers and Ravens, but have done better in recent weeks stopping rushing attacks from the Rams and Seahawks. What was missing were takeaways. The Bucs have recovered just one fumble in the last six games and haven’t had a pass since Week 4 against Kansas City. If the Bucs can create more takeaways down the straight, then Bowles’ defense, which ranks in the top 10 in multiple categories, will buzz.
The Bucs’ season is still ahead of them
Despite the Bucs being 5-5, a recent two-game winning streak gives them some confidence and maybe some momentum coming out of the bye week. Tampa Bay is still atop the NFC South, and winning the division seems like the best and easiest path to the playoffs.
As offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich told Brady earlier in the week, there’s only a seven-game schedule left with 21 practices left. The Bucs can keep running and still finish 12-5. But a record somewhere between 8-9 and 10-7 seems more likely given the way the team has played so far.
“I think the hardest part of the football season is that it’s a marathon, and everyone has to buckle down and give their all,” Brady said. “I think at this time of year some teams get worse and stop believing and lose hope, and other teams do the opposite. And I think that’s where you really see – that this whether it’s a boxing championship game, whether it’s football season, whether it’s the middle of the third quarter of a game – that’s where you start to split up. You can’t really split four games , but when you get to 12 games you can start doing it. You have to play well.”