Things don't get any easier for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are off to a 0-6 start and have lost 10 straight games dating back to the 2008 regular season.
The Bucs are attempting to put their 28-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers behind them in an effort to focus on their next challenge – the 4-2 New England Patriots.
Although Tampa Bay's game against New England technically counts as one of the Bucs' eight home games in 2009, the Pewter Pirates will not necessarily have home field advantage as the contest will be played at Wembley Stadium in London.
The sentiment shared by many of the Bucs players in the locker room at One Buc Place Monday was the same; the team doesn't care where it plays its next game, especially if it leads to a much-needed win.
"Going to London is a great opportunity for us," said Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli. "I'm excited to play in a different place. The whole world will be watching and the entire country will be excited about it. Hopefully we'll get our first win there."
The Bucs players haven't started studying tape on the Patriots yet, but they already have a lot of respect for New England. The Patriots did, after all, defeat the Tennessee Titans at home in a snowstorm on Sunday, 59-0. That certainly got Tampa Bay's attention.
"I kind of look at them as the premiere team of the decade," said Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. "[Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick probably has been the premier head coach and [quarterback] Tom Brady has probably been the premier quarterback. They have three Super Bowls. They're a team that's always well prepared. They just don't have bad games. You really have to go out there and beat them. I don't see them beating themselves. We need to come out and meet their standard because they have a high standard in New England."
In addition to winning three Super Bowls this decade, the Patriots are only two seasons removed from their perfect, record-setting 18-0 regular season in 2007, which ended in a loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Although Tampa Bay is considered a young team, some of the Bucs' players were around for the team's last regular season meeting with the Patriots. That contest was played in December of 2006, and New England sent Tampa Bay home with a 28-0 loss.
"They're capable of embarrassing you because they have weapons that not everybody has," said Ruud. "They have Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker is a premier slot guy. Obviously, their trigger guy is awesome. When they're on the way they're on, you have to find a way to make great plays because you know they're going to make great plays, too."
Brady tossed five touchdowns in the second quarter alone in the 59-0 win over the Titans, a team that posted an NFL-best 13-3 record last year. But the Bucs aren't scared of the Patriots. The players are actually looking forward to the challenge.
"It's exciting to go against guys like Tom Brady and Randy Moss," said Piscitelli. "My buddy called me last night and said, ‘That's a good opportunity.' I'm excited for it and I'm up for it. We need to have a great week of practice because it's going to be a challenge. This is why you play this game. You can't be the best unless you beat the best."
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris doesn't expect to get any sympathy from the Patriots, who definitely didn't have any for the winless Titans on Sunday.
"The obvious deal there is you are happy to take this game international," Morris said. "You are happy about that, and excited about the opportunity. At the same time you are going to play a team that scored 59 points yesterday, which I didn't realize until I woke up this morning. Bill Belichick is not going to take it easy on us. He played a winless team yesterday, and the score was 59-0. Now he is going to play another one. I'm sure Bill Belichick is licking his chops and he should be. We are going to play the New England Patriots up there."
Despite their season not going as planned, Tampa Bay's players refuse to throw in the towel. Traveling to London for a regular season game has its challenges, but it could also have its perks, such as site seeing. But that's not what the Bucs plan to do when they travel to London on Friday.
"It's a business trip," said Bucs safety Tanard Jackson. "We have a long flight on Friday. We're going out of the country, and for some of us, including, myself, it's the first time. We are not going out there on vacation. This is a business trip."
Regardless of what type of trip it is, the Bucs appear to be taking it seriously. The team spent months preparing their travel and practice schedule for Sunday's game. One thing that helped was the fact that Tampa Bay's owners, the Glazers, are familiar with London from their business interest in Manchester United.
"We have some owners that are really familiar with going over there a lot, and how you deal with jet lag," said Morris. "We took a lot of advice from ownership. We took a lot of advice from people that go over there often."
The Bucs have a short week of practice due to the travel arrangements set aside for their trip overseas. Not only is the team focused on the Patriots, the Bucs are also working hard to keep their locker room together after the 0-6 start, the franchise's worst since 1985.
"It's rough not having a win yet," said Piscitelli. "I don't think any of us saw this coming. We keep our confidence high and we're going to prepare to win this game. We're going to come out here with the confidence and work ethic to get a win on Sunday."
History suggests that losing leads to finger pointing and divided locker rooms. Bucs defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson can attest to that notion from his playing days in Kansas City.
"Being 0-6 can lead to the team being divided," said Wilkerson. "I'm not saying we're divided now, and I don't think we're going to be divided, but anytime you're 0-6 on any team that can worry you a lot because you never know what the other players are thinking in terms of how they're going to go about practicing and preparing the games. Everybody needs to be on the same page and stay on the same page the rest of the season."
Morris has challenged his team to be mentally tough from his first day on the job. That's what his players are attempting to do as they fight through the fact that the Bucs are just one of three teams (St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Tennessee) that remain winless in the NFL this season.
"The rest of the season is a character test for everyone in this locker room," said Jackson. "How are we going to respond to the disappointing losses that have happened? How will we respond from these mistakes and improve from here? That's our challenge."
Ruud was part of a Tampa Bay team that produced a disappointing 4-12 regular season record in 2006 under former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. Ruud is leaning on that experience more than he would prefer this season.
"The biggest thing is staying positive," said Ruud. "That's one of the first things I learned from some of the older guys my rookie year. In college or high school you're down forever because your season is somewhat over. But in the NFL it's such a long season. I mean, we could still make the playoffs. You can't get too down on yourself after a loss because every team is going to lose in the NFL. It's a long season and you have to find a way to stay up and stay motivated for all 16 games."
There has been plenty of criticism thrown Tampa Bay's way this season, but one thing that hasn't been questioned is the team's effort, which certainly will be needed in London if the Bucs are going to compete with – and defeat — the New England Patriots.
"We have to treat this like any other game," said Bucs center Jeff Faine. "It just happens to be in London and against the New England Patriots. But the goal doesn't change. Our goal is to win."