Despite clinching a playoff berth with a 47-7 win at Detroit on Saturday, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians and his 10-5 Buccaneers won’t be resting any starters when Atlanta (4-11) comes to town for the 2020 regular season finale. The Bucs want to finish 11-5 and keep the fifth seed in the NFC playoff picture.

“We’re going to play to win,” Arians said in matter of fact manner. “[Going] 11-5 is very rare. To have a chance to get to 11-5 and keep that seeding – we want that seeding, just for pride and not who we care [about] playing. It’s more for pride. I’d probably have to beat some guys in the head with a stick to get them not to play anyways. I talked to them about it before and [they said], ‘I’m playing.’”

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

Arians wants to keep the team’s momentum going against a Falcons team that jumped out to a 17-0 lead against the Bucs before Tampa Bay came back to score 31 points in the second half to win 31-27. On Sunday, the Falcons had a 14-10 lead in Kansas City in the fourth quarter before Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs came back to win 17-14.

“We’re going to practice and play like everything depends on it,” Arians said. “It’s not going to be an easy game, either.”

The Bucs can keep the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win over the Falcons on Sunday – or a Rams loss. The benefit to maintaining the fifth seed is that the Bucs would travel to face a team with a losing record in the first round of the playoffs, as the eventual champion in the NFC East – Washington, Dallas or the New York Giants – will finish 7-9.

The Bucs are 9-0 against teams with losing records this year, and 6-2 on the road, which ties a franchise record set in 2002 during the team’s Super Bowl run.

Now that doesn’t mean that Tampa Bay’s starters will play the entire game against Atlanta. If the Bucs can reverse their fortune from their Week 15 game against the Falcons and get off to a fast start like they did on Saturday in Detroit, Arians might opt to pull some veterans like he did quarterback Tom Brady, who had 348 passing yards and four touchdowns at halftime.

“Get Tom out at halftime even though he didn’t want to come out, and Gronk and some of those other guys last week and get some young players some reps,” Arians said about pulling starters with the team up 34-0 at halftime against the Lions. “When you make these decisions – and I’ve been on both sides – that five and six seed, they’re different. And 10-6 and 11-5 are different. I’ve been 10-6 a bunch, and 10-6 didn’t make the playoffs, but 11-5 is special. I think our guys are more than ready to go.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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bucballer
5 months ago

Take care of business first. If the score permits and Evans has his 40 yards… it’s rare u get a chance to make history in the NFL by doing something that nobody else has done in the history of the NFL…then and only then do u consider resting ur starters. I don’t think that the Bucs will be able to build a comfortable lead against the Birds like they did with the Lions by halftime. It would be nice, but Matty Ice can still drop a dime on u if given time. It will come down to how well the… Read more »

Horse
5 months ago

I definitely agree with the coach. Go Bucs!

thewbacca
5 months ago

Season finales against underperforming teams can get real ugly real quick. Protect Brady at all costs: Quick passes, shotgun, heavy run game etc. Don’t think for a second that there are a few Falcons that would like to lay some Bucs out. I get the value of the 5 seed, but the only real threat is Goff with a broken thumb. I also remember the Super Bowl season where the mentality was “play any body any where.” That’s the mentality I would like to see. Having the mindset that Lambeau is too daunting or playing an NFC North team is… Read more »

Eddie
Reply to  thewbacca
5 months ago

Totally agreed. Play the starters have this risk of getting them dinked up for the play off. But it is good to keep the expectation high and confidence even higher. Let hope the corner backs can keep up.

Naplesfan
Reply to  thewbacca
5 months ago

Sure – play anybody, but only a fool would prefer to play at Seattle or Green Bay in the wild card rather than at Washington. That means beating the Falcs is very important.
Besides, this is a division game, never take a division game lightly.

TBChucky
5 months ago

I say ground and pound. Get Evans his record, then hit them with Fournette, Vaughn, or preferably RoJo if available. Run the clock, then get that play action going. Quick passes. Protect Tom. Bucs win!

gcolerick
Reply to  TBChucky
5 months ago

Definitely play Rojo if healthy. He need 100 yards to get his first 1000 yard season.

BigSombrero
5 months ago

Raheem and Dirk have jobs on the line. Many Falcons will be suiting up for the last time as Falcons. Divisional games seem to have extra intensity, regardless of team records.

I don’t see the Falcons mailing it in. If they put up a street fight, the Bucs must fight back especially considering momentum heading into the post season.

Here’s to hoping the players stay healthy and no dirty shots are taken,

Last edited 5 months ago by BigSombrero
ScottC543
5 months ago

Win the game. Period. We need to go into the playoffs on a roll. Losing the last game before is no way to start.

Kick ass and take names. Once the game is in the bag, protect our assets.
Oh, and be sure to get Mike that record.

Last edited 5 months ago by ScottC543
surferdudes
5 months ago

Ya all will be singing a different tune if we lose a key starter. You want Marpet to suffer another concussion, and miss our first playoff game? How about D. Smith, want him to tweak his ankle? The team has earned a playoff spot. If the division was on the line I’d say that’s worth playing for.The back ups get paid also, let them earn their game check this week. It would be sweeter beating the Birds with back ups. I want everyone healthy, and ready to go in two weeks, not this week.

Naplesfan
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

Losing a game is much worse than losing a starter. Every NFL team loses starters pretty much all season long, including the Bucs this year. It’s part of the game.

Captain Sly
5 months ago

Rarely due I agree with BA but this is the right approach. Need to really pound the falcons putting the NFC on notice. Make this a statement game heading into the playoffs to where everyone is saying “I don’t want to see The Bucs”.

twspin
5 months ago

The Falcons are not Detroit and will play well their last game. Rah will have them ready and hittin hard. Better protect Brady. ATL coaches and players are playing for jobs next year. Falcons will go all out on this one. Be careful. I smell Injuries on this one.

Spitfire
5 months ago

I’ve seen resting work both ways. I feel like with our late bye and our injury list being so short, our guys need to play and tighten up their game and be ready to hit the ground runnin in the post season. Coach has it right, only if the score permits do you pull anyone, otherwise play a smart game and prepare for the long haul. Anyone can get hurt at any time including the first round of the playoffs, you can’t play any game scared of an injury. Our guys are tough and they are gonna give it their… Read more »

scubog
5 months ago

Here’s the priority list against the Falcons. # 1-Win the game. # 2-No injuries. # 3-1,000 yards for Mike Evans. # 4-1,000 for RoJo. # 5-Make Scubog happy.

Dave
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

Ehh, completely disagree. Flip 1 and 2. No injuries, should be #1 by a country mile.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Dave
5 months ago

Teams have no control over injuries happening. A key starter can easily get injured in daily practice, or at home messing around (just ask JPP about that one). Injuries are strictly a matter of luck – good or bad. They happen, or they don’t happen. Teams have no control over that.

surferdudes
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Teams do have control over injuries. If Brady is sitting on the bench I’d say there’s a 100% chance he doesn’t get injured this game. Same goes for Rojo, who I’d hate to see hurt his surgically repaired finger. I don’t need to see the Bucs pound Atlanta like some of you are hoping for, what would that prove? We’re going to the playoffs, WTF more do you people want? I want a healthy team for the playoffs. Momentum going into the playoffs, what if we play all our starters, and lose, could happen, how would that be for momentum.… Read more »

BigSombrero
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

Momentum matters.

Brady and the Pats lost to Miami at home last year in week 17. It carried over to the wild card and Tennessee won in Foxborough, holding Brady scoreless in the 2nd half.

Dave
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Completely disagree. You absolutely have control over injuries. Specifically preventing injuries before the playoffs start. Brady, Evans, Godwin, Gronk, etc….can’t get hurt if they’re sitting on the bench. Ask Belichick about playing Welker in week 17 vs the Texans in a completely meaningless game in the 2009 season. No reason to be out there, and he had a non contact torn ACL in that game. The Pats lost that game, and went on to lose in the 1st round to the Ravens. Who knows if having Welker would have made a difference or not. Not saying to bench everyone, but… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Dave
BigSombrero
Reply to  scubog
5 months ago

Great list! Lol.

DD1406
5 months ago

To quote Herm Edwards-“You play to win the game!”

scubog
5 months ago

When you’re sitting in the stands with Falcons fans dotting the stadium, and the “home team” expecting to hear its’ few fans cheering for them, I’m sure not going boo if Mike Evans trots onto the field. That said, I would expect to see a bit more of Tyler Johnson at some point. None of us think the team should totally disdain the risk of injury, but neither should we not recognize the momentum building and confidence boost winning this last regular season game will bring. Why even play if surrender to avoid injury is the better option? I’m pretty… Read more »

Spruce
5 months ago

This should be very interesting. Atlanta has nothing to play for and typically that sort of team plays hard for a while but folds their tent when they get behind. Last year Brady lost the last game and first round bye after throwing a pick six to a Miami team that hate the Pats and reveled in being the spoiler. I don’t think the Falcons hate the Bucs that much at all. Really how do you hate the historically hapless Bucs that finally get a moment in the sun. They may even be pulling for them. This should be routine… Read more »