It’s the first week of December and Bucs players and fans are getting hyped for a Sunday afternoon.
At 5-6 overall, Tampa Bay remains right in the thick of the NFC playoff picture. Fans have endured two straight brutal seasons since they could enjoy this feeling so late into a season. The Bucs sat at 6-5 heading into 2012’s Week 13 road test in Denver but that would be the last time they would be above .500 – ever, technically.
But regimes have changed, rosters have been overhauled and brown paper bags aren’t accessory items on Sundays.
For players, especially those who have been around for a number of lean years, these are the moments they’ve been awaiting.
“It’s huge, man,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We’re in a spot that we haven’t been in a long time around here. We have a tremendous opportunity that we can’t let slip away.”
For Vincent Jackson, playing his fourth season in Tampa Bay after spending his first seven in San Diego, time is getting short and opportunities can’t be wasted.
“It’s exciting,” the 32-year-old receiver said. “Every game we play is meaningful. It’s an honor and a privilege to play this game at this level, so I don’t ever take a game for granted. But to actually be in that hunt and be in that conversation again is really fun.”
If the Bucs pull off what few expected and qualify for the postseason, it would mark a long-awaited return for Jackson and a first for McCoy.
The team’s defensive captain got a short-lived taste of meaningful December football in 2012, but his first experience came in 2010 when the Bucs enjoyed their first 10-win season since going 11-5 in 2005. That ended in disappointment for the rookie and the team, however, with a season-ending injury and postseason whiff despite going 10-6.
“The last three games of 2010 I was [hurt], but I was able to play most of that. We haven’t been in this spot in a while, that was my rookie year. So this is exciting, we put in a lot of work to get to this point. We’ve just got to capitalize on it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Standing in the Bucs way is five more games and the challenge begins with Atlanta this weekend.
Prior to the season the organization released its annual marketing campaign slogan to drum up support for the franchise. As is the case each year for most teams going through periods of struggle, it was roundly mocked.
But apparently the team was on to something.
When asked if Tampa Bay needs to win out its remaining five games, McCoy said that’s the only option if the playoffs are to be realized.
“We do. We definitely do. There’s no room for error anymore. We have to be almost perfect.”
The time is now and the Bucs must siege Sunday.
As much as I enjoy the Draft,I have paid no attention to the 2016 prospects. Last year this time we were all wrapped up in the Winston-Mariota debate. This is much better.
Have to agree with you there Scu, but from what I have been watching, I just don’t see any eye-popping players coming out that we might be able to land at our slot.
Agreed Scu…. Lets just learn to win games. The draft will take care of itself.
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