Predicting outcomes of playoff games based on earlier season results is often a big mistake.
Just asks the Saints – and some Bucs fans – about that. The Bucs were thoroughly beaten twice in the regular season by New Orleans, they came out on top with a 30-20 playoff win last Sunday, surprising many.
This week Bucs players were quite aware that despite a convincing 38-10 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 6, both teams are different than they were back in October.
Linebacker Lavonte David said that message is already being heard loud and clear.
“We put that in people’s ears already. This is a whole different football team that we’re about to face and we’re a different team in our own right,” David said. “At the same time, this is a different stage and a different level. That was like Week  in October or whatever it was – that was a long time ago. We’ve got to put that past us. They’ve got a lot of weapons back. It’s going to be a different ballgame. A lot is at stake right here, so we’ve definitely got to forget about what happened that game the last time we played them and focus on the right now – that’s us getting better at practice today. When Sunday comes, we’ve just got to be able to execute at a very high level.”
Superstar wide receiver Mike Evans said his side of the ball is also different than in the previous matchup.
“I think we’re better offensively,” Evans said. “Our defense has been really good all year. I just think we’re better offensively. We’ve been getting more time in – that was our sixth game together with no preseason, [shorter] training camp [and] no OTAs. We’re just getting better and better each week as the season goes on. I just feel like we’re better offensively. Our defense has been strong all year.”
Rookie safety, Antoine Winfield Jr., who coaches have described as mature beyond his years, knows results from more than two months ago will have little bearing on this week’s contest.
“They still have a great offense. It’s the same offense, offensively,” Winfield said. “It is difficult to beat the same team twice, so we know going in that we really have to prepare well, practice well [and] make sure we’re still studying these guys extremely well because they have a great offense. Going into this game, that game before doesn’t matter anymore. The game last week [does not] matter anymore. We’ve just got to know to move forward and get ready to prepare to go out there and play these guys.”
While some think the Bucs will be at a significant disadvantage playing on the road in this rematch, quarterback Tom Brady looks forward to the challenge and trip to Lambeau Field.
“We’ve been pretty good on the road all year outside of the first game and the Chicago game,” Brady said. “For one reason or another, we’ve just done a good job. Some years it’s been like that. I’ve been a part of other teams where it wasn’t quite like that. Let’s keep that streak going – that would be pretty sweet. Let’s get another one.
“We’re going to be challenged to get it because we’re going up against a great football team. Playing on the road, it’s about good football, execution, communication, all the fundamentals, the blocking, tackling, throwing – all those things. It’s a great environment. This is one of the coolest stadiums in the league to play in. I know they’re excited, we’ll be excited, and it will make for a great football game.”
Head coach Bruce Arians was frank when asked about looking ahead to the Super Bowl if they win on Sunday.
“We don’t play that game this week – that’s the message to everybody,” Arians said. “We play the Packers in the NFC Championship game. If you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you get your ass beat and [will] be packing your bags on Monday.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org