TAMPA — The Bucs need help to reach the postseason, but coach Raheem Morris doesn't want his team to take the approach that its playoff fate is out of its hands.
In 2008, Tampa Bay needed help from the Eagles in the final week to reach the postseason. The Bucs had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Raiders before losing that game and were eliminated. Of course, the Eagles did their part, beating the Cowboys.
Tampa Bay must beat New Orleans in a 1 p.m. game Sunday, then hope the Giants lose at Washington and the Packers lose at home to Chicago to earn the final wild-card spot. The Giants and Packers games are 4:15 starts.
"If you go out there and feel you don't have your fate in your own hands and you're feeling sorry for yourself at the onset of the game … but if we go win and everything else falls into place, then our fate was in our own hands," Morris said Friday. "There would be nothing worse than flying home on that plane and you thinking at the beginning of the game that you didn't have your fate in your hands, but we did.
"In our eyes, we do. We started the playoffs two weeks ago and we had the ability to advance. Hopefully, we can advance this week. It just so happens, our bracket may be cut off. But, hey, we can't look at that, we've just got to go out there and play football."
Morris was asked if the Bucs win the game but are eliminated would he still consider the 10-6 record a successful season.
"Anytime you're not invited to the tournament, it's more about disappointment," Morris said. "We want to play in the playoffs. It's not about being proud. I wasn't trying to prove our critics wrong. I was trying to go to the playoffs and win a championship. That's what I'm going to be trying to do every year."
Wary of REGGIE: The Bucs didn't face Saints RB/PR Reggie Bush in their first meeting this season, a 31-6 Bucs loss on Oct. 17, because he was sidelined with a broken leg.
But Bush is back, and the Bucs are on alert. When it comes to punting Sunday, the Bucs know Bush will be on the other end and appear unwilling to risk him taking one the distance. The Bucs have been on the wrong end of a dazzling Bush touchdown before. He lifted the Saints to a 24-21 win in 2006, with a 65-yard late fourth-quarter punt-return score.
"We've been working on (ways) to punt the ball away from him," Morris said. "Every once in a while you have to punt the ball to him. A lot of times we'll try to do things directionally. I'm sure Reggie Bush knows that. You have to put the ball on the right side and you have to do the right thing because he's a dangerous player."
Bush, in his fifth season, has four punt-return touchdowns in his career, the last three coming in 2008. His longest punt return this season is 43 yards.
BRISCOE EMERGING: WR Dezmon Briscoe caught the first two passes of his career last Sunday for 28 yards, but don't be surprised if you see more from him this Sunday.
The Bucs have been consistently impressed by his practice performance, and Morris said Briscoe is among the potential starters to replace injured flanker Arrelious Benn.
At 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, Briscoe is a big target the Bucs liked so much they paid him a rookie minimum salary of more than $300,000 to join the practice squad earlier in the season although the practice squad minimum is less than $100,000.
"We liked him so much in college that when the opportunity came for us to get him, we went out and got him by any means necessary," Morris said of the Bengals' sixth-round pick out of Kansas.
INJURIES: FB Earnest Graham is out with a neck injury. WR Sammie Stroughter, who did not play last week due to a hamstring injury, is questionable. TE Kellen Winslow (knee) and RT James Lee (ankle) are probable.