Don’t tell Bruce Arians and the Bucs that they’re out of playoff contention, because Tampa Bay is still playing meaningful December games in their eyes.

While the Bucs are mathematically eliminated from the postseason, their opponents this week, the 9-5 Houston Texans, have the AFC South Division still on the line to play for. Against a team looking to punch their ticket to the postseason, Arians is looking forward to competing against a playoff caliber team.

“For us, this is a big December game,” Arians said. “This is a good measuring stick. Even without whoever’s not playing, it doesn’t matter, it’s still going to be a team going to the playoffs. We’ve beaten one team that was almost in the playoffs, we went to overtime with the number one seed in their place. That’s the things that I think you judge on, you look back to that rear view mirror and you start evaluating where we’re at next year.”

The Bucs are on a four-game winning streak and have won five of six as they’ve clawed their way back to .500 with a 7-7 record. Playing the Texans is a step up in competition, but as the Bucs finish up their season a week later at home against the Falcons, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bucs can win six straight and end the season at 9-7.

If that were to happen, Arians wouldn’t consider that a success, but did say it would be an encouraging season.

“I’d be pissed the season’s over,” Arians said. “It’s encouraging, because you look back at two plays and you’d be 11-5. I think 11-5 would get us in [the playoffs] with the fumble in Tennessee and the kick against New York. But that’s still in the rear view mirror, there’s too much football left to be looking in the rear view mirror.”

Some of the encouragement for the Bucs comes from the improved play of the cornerbacks, such as rookie Jamel Dean and second-year player Carlton Davis.

“I think the studying of film helps,” Arians said about how they’ve gotten better. “The technique’s gotten better but they’re more anticipatory, they see things coming, there’s a lot more confidence.”

Arians even went as far as to compare Davis and Dean to that of Albert Lewis, a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro, and a player who is in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall Of Fame.

“I think Carlton, like Jamel, Carlton reminds me so much of Albert Lewis,” Arians said. “Who is one of the all time great corners in this league, but didn’t have many interceptions because he just couldn’t catch. PBUs was his thing, Kevin Ross was on the other side and he would knock everybody out. But those two guys remind me, Jamel a little bit, but Carlton really, of Albert.”

Each of these corners will have one of the toughest matchups of their young career as they face wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is widely considered as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Arians said the young Buccaneer corners do have one thing going for them that helps, and that’s their size.

Back in the day you could get away with having smaller corners, but as the game has adapted, receivers are bigger and stronger, making it difficult for smaller sized corners to keep up.

“Length, you got to have length now.” Arians said. “With what used to be with the small forwards and stuff now playing football in high school and college are all playing receivers, some of the best athletes ever that don’t make it in basketball anymore, so the corners have to adapt. You used to have the 5-9, 5-10, physical guy they used to eat off his head now. It’s a different game.”

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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1 year ago

Love this coach. He is fearless and plays to win. Not perfect by any means but the kind of guy for whom any player would want to play.

Reply to  buddah
1 year ago

Agreed. I’ve always been stern on saying that all the talent in the world can’t make up for a lack of coaching. This team had been lacking that for a decade. I love this coach and his drive to win. He doesn’t settle and he doesn’t make excuses. Go Bucs!

1 year ago

Yes! It’s refreshing from the last coach who said he just didn’t know what the answer was in terms of the teams poor performance. Let’s rally behind this team and this coach! I think… and we will see… this may be the beginning of something special. One more successful draft and a couple of key Free Agent pick ups and the wisdom and resources to resign our own free agents that we want back! Go Bucs!

Ron Potter
1 year ago

Great comments about the coach as the article spoke a lot about the Corners… which our team desperately needed improvement from. But back to the coach, I know there was a lot of doubt about BA’s health and how he’d been hospitalized every year during his Arizona career. Looks like he’s going to complete the season healthy and I couldn’t be happier for him and this staff. I’m sure his delegations went a long way to helping. Here’s to hoping BA finishes the season strong in health and returns rejuvenated and healthier than ever next season to continue the progress… Read more »

1 year ago

I always said the problem with the Bucs was the lack of confidence and not so much talent. Gone was the swagger of the playoff years. It was not surprising to me that Coach Arians recognized the same weakness addressed the mindset of the team first. Now it’s just the youngsters getting much needed experience. And with that, dare we say the old swagger will return.

Captain Sly
1 year ago

This is a Good Measuring Stick!.. I want to see how many guys are buying into this winning culture. In years past guys have packed it in because they were convinced there was nothing to play for, But I believe part of what BA is saying in his statement is “Pride”. Who on this team has Pride to not quit, to play hard, to hate losing, Because there’s nothing else to play for at this point. Win or Lose I won’t the Texans to leave Raymond James feeling like they were in a fight for their lives because that’s what… Read more »

1 year ago

This game needs to be the defense’s coming out party. They need to take over the game.

Reply to  Buc76
1 year ago

And for God’s sake, the OL needs to step up and block for the RBs better, take some pressure off of Jameis!

1 year ago

WE will see. But I do NOT..have our Bucs beating these Texans. They are going to the playoffs and have much more to play for. They might not do anything once they get there, But they are in the playoffs. Arians is..Correcto Mundo. This is a very good measuring stick for our Bucs. In order for a victory, The Bucs Defense will have to double up and play even more lights out. Not just good but our D has to play great to beat these Texans. Because we cannot beat them in a Jameis Shootout.