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Put a fork in them. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-2 and done.

That seems to be the prevailing thought on sports talk radio and on some Internet message boards, and that notion does have some validity. History hasn’t been kind to NFL teams that have had similar starts.

Since 1990, only 17 teams have started the season 0-2 and still managed to make the playoffs. Over the past three seasons, only three teams have started 0-2 and earned the right to participate in post-season play. In 2005, no team that started 0-2 made the playoffs.

Let’s face it – starting a 16-game season with a 0-2 record isn’t ideal at all. But despite Tampa Bay’s disturbing play and the disturbing stats mentioned above, the Buccaneers’ season isn’t over yet.

Teams have recovered from 0-2 starts to make the playoffs that same season. In fact, two of those teams – the 1993 Dallas Cowboys and the 2001 New England Patriots – went on to win the Super Bowl after starting 0-2. In fact, the ’92 Chargers are the only team in NFL history to have started a season 0-4 and still make the playoffs.

So why are Bucs fans panicking? Well, their team hasn’t exactly given them good reason to think they’re going to patch the holes in their leaking ship anytime soon. The Bucs have been outscored 41-3 in two games and have areas of concerns in all three phases of the game.

People are also concerned because Sunday’s game between Tampa Bay and Carolina at Raymond James Stadium has been deemed a must-win situation for both 0-2 teams. The Panthers have defeated the Bucs in five of their last six regular season meetings.

The Bucs can’t afford to drop to 0-3, can they? Well, if the Panthers do escape Tampa with a win over the Bucs, there still would be a glimmer of hope. Only three teams – the 1992 San Diego Chargers, the 1995 Detroit Lions and the 1998 Buffalo Bills – have ever started 0-3 and made the playoffs.

When you’re 0-2 it’s hard to look ahead, especially when looking at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule. A loss on Sunday would send the Bucs into their bye week with an 0-3 record and in last place in the NFC South division, and things wouldn’t get any easier in their next two games, which are against New Orleans and Cincinnati, both of which are undefeated.

While the Bucs’ season won’t officially be over if they lose to the Panthers Sunday, history suggests the hole they would have to dig out of will be too difficult to climb.

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