Eight games remain on the schedule. That’s plenty of time to turn around a Bucs season trending in the wrong direction.

But at 3-5 overall and caught in an ugly two-game tailspin, Tampa Bay finds itself nearing (or in) must-win territory if it wants to salvage the 2016 season.

Bucs C Joe Hawley- Photo by Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs C Joe Hawley- Photo by Cliff Welch/PR

“Yeah, we’ve got to have it all,” center Joe Hawley said Wednesday of this week’s home game against the Chicago Bears. “We’ve given ourselves a really small window now. Obviously you don’t think about it like that or else you’ll drive yourself crazy. That’s more for you guys to think about. We’ve just got to come to work each day and work hard and work to get better and take it one week at a time. That’s the only way we can approach it.”

The good news is the Bucs get a last-place, 2-6 team coming to town this weekend that is 0-4 on the road. The bad news is the Bucs are only a game better in the standings and are 0-4 at home.

Something’s gotta give.

“Every game in the NFL is pretty much a must win, but for us we’ve just got to get back on track at home,” said tight end Cameron Brate, who grew up about 30 miles west of Chicago. “Obviously we’ve struggled this year at home. Going back to a couple years ago it seems like we have a tougher time winning at home, so what better opportunity than Chicago coming in here off a big win against the Vikings. We feel it’s a huge opportunity for us and, yeah, it’s a must win.”

The Bucs’ home woes have been well documented with additional stumble. The skid is up to six straight at Raymond James Stadium, including last year’s 26-21 home finale loss to Chicago. No Tampa Bay team has finished .500 or better at home since going 4-4 in 2010 under head coach Raheem Morris. Bucs fans have celebrated home victories only three times in the past 20 games.

Letting Sunday slip away against the Bears would twist the knife yet again by squandering the entirety of a three-game homestand.

Bucs TE Cameron Brate - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“It’s harder to win games on the road in the NFL than it is at home,” Brate said. “But for whatever reason things just haven’t gone our way at home this year. So we don’t really think about, like, ‘Oh, we’re playing at home. We suck at home.’ It’s nothing like that or anything. The ball just doesn’t seem to bounce our way, really. Calls don’t seem to go our way at home so far, but we feel like things are going to turn around.”

Although this is a Bears team that’s pretty much lived up to gloomy preseason prognostications, Chicago is coming off a big 20-10 win over Minnesota two Mondays ago before getting a week off. Coming off byes, teams led by Bears head coach John Fox are 10-4 (6-3 with Carolina, 4-0 with Denver and 0-1 with Chicago).

“Playing football in this league, both at the individual player level and really putting it all together at the team level, obviously it helps to have confidence,” Fox said during a teleconference with the Tampa Bay media. “It’s hard to gain confidence without something good happening, and so much is put on the wins and losses columns, which is understandable. We’re in a performance-based business. So obviously you work very hard in preparation and to get that good feeling in the locker room with a W after the game does give you a boost of confidence.”

As for Tampa Bay’s primary leader on the field, quarterback Jameis Winston said his primary focus is on the task at hand right now. What comes in the future can wait, because right now is a few more days of Bears prep.

“I’m not even thinking about the other seven beyond this week, just focusing on week to week,” said Winston, who will be looking to improve his home record to 4-9. “Every week is a big week for us, so we’ve got to really make every week a championship-game mentality because we need wins.”

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

I watched the Bears/Minnesota game and the Bears played like they had no respect for the Vikings running game.
If we can get Martin back in and get him started, that will take a lot of pressure off of Winston and the offensive line.
People can complain about Donovan Smith’s blocking last week, but the Falcons pretty much played us like the Bears played the Vikings for the same reason.
Makes for a long day at the office when you have a guy not playing the run lined up against you the whole game.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

The Must Game. This team has to get much tougher on defense. It’s up to the coaches to help them.

Michael WestDominguez
Michael WestDominguez
5 years ago

This is more like a “if we don’t win this Sunday, it’s really time to start looking at the draft” game. I thought the “must win” was last week against the falcons but we screwed the pooch on that one to keep it consistent with our wonderful record at home. I say this because the next sets on our schedule include:Seahawks, Chiefs, Chargers, Cowboys, Saints (twice in 3 weeks) and the Panthers. Seahawks are playing good ball and everyone knows what the Cowboys are doing. The Chiefs 6-2, Chargers are no slouch. Saints are playing well as of late 4-4… Read more »

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
5 years ago

It’s a must win. No way around it. Lose this game, and even getting to 6 wins is a lot more difficult. Lose this game and it’s likely a 5-11 year. Lose this game and it’s 3 straight home losses. Lose this game and the fans will be completely done. I’m so tired of the Bucs losing. I know we’re not a good team. Injuries haven’t helped obviously, but we absolutely have to win games against other bad teams. I remember thinking about two weeks ago “this game should put us at 5-4. Maybe 6-3!” LOL. I hope the D… Read more »

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

The mood is getting less and less down in the dumps after the home losses pile up. I used to be upset until Wednesdays, now I’m over it by the next day. The community is becoming more and more apathetic. Sad when Scubog, after 40 years of never missing a home game or leaving early, looks less and less forward to going to the game. My always upbeat mood goes through the typical cycle. 1.)There’s always an initial optimism even in the face of overwhelming odds. 2.) Lately the Bucs have played well in the first half which causes my… Read more »

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

I haven’t had much fun at a home game in 3 years really. Go there expecting to lose and they do. What used to be high point of my week is just now excuse to get out of the house and use seats I paid over 10K for. Lol. Its a must win for sure. Looking at rest of the schedule and the way this team has played so far this is best chance to not only win at home, but to win period. Sound negative? Don’t really care it’s how I see it. Hope I’m wrong. If I didn’t… Read more »

fredster
fredster
5 years ago

And yes Scubog when we come out second half it’s just an ass whipping and not even close.

Honestly I would been lot better off if I left most of these games this year at halftime when we were actually in the game still. Lol.