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 – 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.”