The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got some great news Sunday and they didn’t even play. With the Atlanta Falcons losing, the Buccaneers pulled within two games of the Falcons in the NFC South. With a victory in hand over the Falcons, the Buccaneers are in good shape coming off of their bye week even with a 2-3 record.
Now, the work truly begins for the Buccaneers. If they want to make some noise in the NFC, they have to take care of business in this upcoming four game stretch starting Sunday in California against the San Francisco 49ers. Then the Buccaneers have a three-game home stretch against the surprising Oakland Raiders, the Falcons on a Thursday night and the Chicago Bears.
While a 2-2 mark would probably be enough, the Buccaneers need to win at least three, including two at home, a place where Tampa Bay has given teams a little too much hospitality. In the last 50 home games, the Buccaneers have a 16-34 record, including 0-2 this season. The Buccaneers are one of four teams (N.Y. Jets, Cleveland and Jacksonville) that have not won a game at home this season. Meanwhile, the rest of the NFL is 52-37 at home this season.
First, however, is the game at San Francisco. While the 49ers have consistently been a thorn in the Buccaneers’ sides (4-17 in regular season games against the 49ers), this may be a good time to catch San Francisco.
As their 1-5 record indicates, the 49ers are struggling on both sides of the ball. Offensively, San Francisco is last in the league in total yards, passing offense and run defense. The 49ers are 31st in points allowed.
While the Buccaneers aren’t exactly setting the world on fire (23rd in total yards, 27th in points scored and points allowed), they are coming off of a victory and had an extra week because of the bye to prepare for the 49ers. Tampa Bay should start getting some of its injured players back, which will be vital during this stretch.
After the 49ers, the Buccaneers will turn their attention to the Raiders, who at 4-2 are tied atop the AFC West with the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. While the Raiders can move the ball against anybody (eighth in total yards and 11th in points), the team has struggled at times defensively. Oakland is last in the league in yards allowed and 24th in points allowed. The Raiders are 3-0 on the road so far, however, heading into the first of a two-game Florida swing at Jacksonville before coming to Tampa.
Next up will be a tough Thursday night contest against the Falcons. The 4-2 Falcons will be itching to get some revenge and try to put some distance between them and the Buccaneers in the division. Atlanta had won four straight games before losing a tough 26-24 contest at Seattle, but the Buccaneers have won their last three meetings against the Falcons are looking to win four straight for the first time since the team won five straight meetings between 1997-2003.
Finally, Tampa Bay will end its homestand against another struggling team in the Chicago Bears. While the Bears are currently 1-5 (and will face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field and the undefeated Minnesota Vikings in the next two weeks), they will have a bye week before taking on the Buccaneers. The Bears have won five of their last six meetings against the Buccaneers including a 26-21 victory last season. Offensively, the Bears can move the ball (fourth in the league in passing yards) but they are 31st in points scored, which has held them back. Tampa Bay will have to take advantage.
For the Buccaneers to get into playoff contention, it is imperative for them to get on a roll as well as start winning games at Raymond James Stadium. The upcoming schedule is the time to get started.