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Tom Jones: Why the Bucs can't afford to lose to the Chiefs

Receiver Jon Baldwin and the Chiefs were already struggling to stay upright before their starting quarterback was knocked out.

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Receiver Jon Baldwin and the Chiefs were already struggling to stay upright before their starting quarterback was knocked out.

Must-win?

No, not quite. But pretty darn close. Let's call it a can't-really-afford-to-lose game.

The Bucs will play their fifth game of the season Sunday at Raymond James Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs.

It's true that no season was ever salvaged or lost in the fifth game of the season. And if the Bucs lose Sunday, they're not going to turn off the lights, chain the doors and shut down the franchise.

But look at it this way: What would it say if the Bucs lost Sunday? Do we even want to think about the answer to that question?

The Bucs are 1-3 and now have lost 13 of their past 14 games, so there aren't a whole lot of games you can say the Bucs should win. But Sunday is one of them.

They should win, and more important, they need to win.

Here are some reasons why a victory Sunday is crucial for the Bucs:

It will reaffirm the hiring of Schiano

We don't know for sure how the Bucs players truly feel about coach Greg Schiano. So far, they're saying all the right things, and they do appear to be buying into Schiano's hard-nosed ways.

Schiano's plan is to change the culture, and that's somewhat easier to do when players have success, when they see that their hard work is paying off. But if all the harping and yelling and extra sweat don't produce results, how long before the players tune out the boss?

"The most important thing with a change in culture is that you have some kind of success in the first year so players actually believe that this can turn around," radio analyst and former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht said.

Riding a three-game losing streak after an opening day victory, the Bucs might need another dose of success to believe in Schiano and continue running through whatever walls he tells them to run through.

The Bucs are playing a bad team

This is the part where we're supposed to say, "No offense to the Chiefs, but …" In this case, we're just going to go ahead and offend the Chiefs. They're a bad football team.

Kansas City is 1-4 this season and has lost 10 of its past 14 games. The Chiefs have been outscored 145-94, including games in which they've given up 40, 37 and 35 points. The offense is so bad that fans cheered when their quarterback got knocked out.

The Bucs, I know, aren't exactly a dynasty. They are rebuilding after losing 10 games in a row to end last season and are still trying to find their footing this season. So it's not like there are a slew of teams out there the Bucs absolutely, positively should beat.

But you would like to think the Chiefs are one of them.

Brady Quinn is probably starting

Kansas City starting quarterback Matt Cassel suffered a concussion Sunday and has yet to practice this week. It's starting to look as if backup Brady Quinn will start for the Chiefs. The last time anyone was scared to face Quinn, they were playing for Army and Quinn was playing at Notre Dame.

Quinn was a first-round pick in 2007 and is already on his third team. He hasn't started a game in three years and has won only three more NFL games than I have. He's 3-9 as an NFL starter.

The Bucs are coming off a bye

This is the healthiest the Bucs are going to be for the rest of the season, both physically and mentally.

They will have had 13 days off when they line up Sunday. That's 13 days to mend the bumps. That's 13 days to patch the bruises. That's 13 days to re-charge the batteries.

It's also 13 days Schiano and his staff had to dissect everything that has gone wrong so far and come up with a solution or two to fix it.

In other words, the bye week is a good thing. Since 1990, NFL teams are 370-329-1 in the week after the bye.

Final thought

There are a few other reasons the Bucs really need to win Sunday. If you're an eternal optimist and dream of the playoffs, the Bucs can't afford to fall any farther behind the undefeated Falcons in the NFC South or behind the ever-growing pack of NFC wild-card hopefuls. A win might get enough local fans excited to sell out a home game or two. And, well, 2-3 looks a heck of a lot better than 1-4.

But most of all the Bucs need to win Sunday because they can win Sunday. Coming off the bye week, playing at home against a bad team with a backup quarterback is the perfect storm for a victory.

If you can't win a game like that, you start to wonder which, if any, you can.

Tom Jones can be reached at tjones@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8544 and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

Tom Jones: Why the Bucs can't afford to lose to the Chiefs 10/10/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:03pm]

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