Coming off a Week 11 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now find themselves sitting in third place in the NFC South with a 4-6 record, tied with the Atlanta Falcons and just one game behind the first-place New Orleans Saints.
Here’s what the Bucs must do in order to win the division with seven games left in the season.
3 Things the Buccaneers Must Do To Win the Division
Make Changes In the Coaching Staff
It is safe to say Todd Bowles has had a bad first season as the head coach for Tampa Bay. The former defensive coordinator has not been able to keep up with last year’s offensive production, let alone continue the success he had on defense when he was the team’s defensive coordinator.
On offense, the team ranks dead last in rushing yards with 769 and 18th in receiving yards with 2389. On defense, they rank 30th in passing yards allowed with 2707. On top of that, the defense made rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud look like prime Tom Brady in a game where he recorded five touchdowns and set a new NFL single-game rookie record with 470 passing yards.
The thing is, this is a very talented Tampa Bay roster. They have one of the best wide receiver duos in the league with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, one of the best young running backs with Rachaad White, and some of the defensive players that made up the Super Bowl-winning 2020 defense, including defensive lineman Vita Vea, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, safety Antoine Winfield, linebacker Shaquil Barrett, and both of the players that were selected Second Team All-Pro that year, linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David. This is an extremely talented Tampa Bay team, but Todd Bowles does not know how to work with it.
Last week was a tough week in terms of injuries. The Cincinnati Bengals lost star quarterback Joe Burrow, the Baltimore Ravens lost tight end Mark Andrews and the Los Angeles Rams lost wide receiver, Cooper Kupp. That is not to mention the plethora of other important players who have suffered serious injuries earlier in the season, including Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb.
Tampa Bay’s current injury report currently lists David and White as non-participants in practice both Wednesday and Thursday and Godwin as a limited participant. Besides that, the Buccaneers have had good luck with injuries and have not lost any important players for the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see if they manage to stay healthy heading into the home stretch of the season as they aim for that divisional first place.
Take Down Division Rivals
As obvious as it is, it is critical to beat your division rivals in such a close race for first place. Out of the remaining seven games, four will be against division rivals: two against the Carolina Panthers and one against both the Falcons and the Saints. And those games are perfectly winnable: the Falcons sit at 4-6, the Saints sit at 5-5, and the Panthers sit dead last with a 1-9 record.
Besides these four games, the remaining three games will be against the 5-5 Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, the 5-6 Green Bay Packers in Week 15, and the 7-3 Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. If everything goes right for the Buccaneers and they play at the top of their capabilities, they could very well win six out of the remaining seven games and finish the season atop the division with a respectable 10-7 record. We will have to wait and see how the remainder of the season plays out, but the Buccaneers could be very well poised to take that division title.
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