Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs' surge earning them league-wide notice as legitimate playoff contenders

Bucs strong safety Keith Tandy (37) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a Phillip Rivers pass in the end zone. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

Bucs strong safety Keith Tandy (37) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a Phillip Rivers pass in the end zone. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]

A month ago, after a desultory showing in a Thursday night loss to the Falcons dropped them to 3-5, the Bucs weren't giving even their own fans much to talk about.

But after bouncing back with four straight wins— taking down two of the NFL's best teams in the Chiefs and Seahawks along the way — Tampa Bay is generating buzz around the league as a legitimate contender to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"Believe it or not, the Buccaneers are in this thing,'' writes Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports in a story headlined "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the playoff sleeper no one is talking about.''

Kurtenbach credits the return of running back Doug Martin for bringing balance to an offense that had been leaning heavily on Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, and a defense on which a different unit stars each week for sparking the turnaround.

"The threat that this defense could be this good every week and this offense, with Jameis Winston — who has been really good in November — and Mike Evans, who is separating as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, is only getting better should strike fear into every team in the league down the stretch,'' Kurtenbach writes.

The Bucs' 28-21 victory over the Chargers Sunday in San Diego moved them into the second wild-card spot and "reinforced that they are indeed a major factor in the NFC playoff race,'' Mark Maske writes in a Washington Post story entitled "It's time to take Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers seriously.''

Maske likes Winston's leadership skills and passing ability, as well as the strides the Bucs quarterback has made in his second season.

Though the Falcons currently hold a slight tiebreaker advantage in the NFC South, Maske cites Tampa Bay's recent play and friendly upcoming schedule as reasons the Bucs might overtake them.

"It no longer is a given that the Falcons will win the NFC South,'' Maske writes. "And it is far, far from a given that the Buccaneers will be home for the NFC playoffs.''

Jenna Laine, who covers the Bucs for ESPN, describes the scene of elation outside the Bucs locker room following the win in San Diego. Co-chairmen Bryan and Joel Glazer exchanged hugs, along with COO Bryan Ford and GM Jason Licht.

"The Bucs are playoff contenders,'' Laine exclaims in her story, "Buccaneers starting to believe and it's culminating in playoff push.'' "Read it out loud. Say it twice. Yes, it's really true.''

Analyst Brian Billick, who won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Ravens, counts himself among the believers. Asked "Are the Buccaneers for real?'' during an NFL Network segment, Billick responded, "Absolutely, particularly with the way they're playing defense.''

Billick said he has been impressed with the Bucs' propensity for creating turnovers and the rhythm Winston is developing with Evans, as well as the team's ability to win on the road.

"They are getting hot at the right time,'' Billick said.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, the former Bucs and Colts head coach who is now a studio analyst on NBC's Football Night in America, particularly liked the timing of the Bucs' win over the Chargers, calling it "huge''.

"Jameis Winston has this team believing and the D is starting to make plays,'' Dungy tweeted.

Bucs' surge earning them league-wide notice as legitimate playoff contenders 12/05/16 [Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2016 1:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills

    Blogs

    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Bucs QB Jameis Winston, shown against the Patriots two weeks ago, will start Sunday at Buffalo after being sidelined with a shoulder injury last week. Dirk Koetter announced that he was starting after watching him throw at practice Friday.
  2. Florida football has become something to be endured, not enjoyed

    College

    The Jim McElwain era at Florida is something to be endured, not enjoyed.

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Khairi Clark (54) leaves the field after the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. The Florida Gators lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 17-16 MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
.
  3. Cannon Fodder podcast: Most important stat in Bucs-Bills game

    Blogs

    Greg Auman talks about the uncertainty at quarterback for the Bucs as they go to Buffalo in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Interceptions, such as this one by Brent Grimes against Arizona, will be the most important stat in Sunday's game.
  4. Dirk Koetter sounds Bucs alarm: 'They're the players that we have'

    Blogs

    The other day, Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith was asked about the lack of production and pressure from the defensive line, especially off the edge.

    Then it happened.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (28) takes the field for the start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New England Patriots on October 5, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
  5. Superiority complex: USF continues to battle schedule, expectations

    College

    Does USF deserve its No. 16 national ranking? Coach Charlie Strong says there's no doubt. He expects that his Bulls can match up with any Division I-A program. (Octavio Jones, Times)