Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.
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Sunday’s matchup against the Packers isn’t a must-win.
The Bucs are 3-2, tied for first in the NFC South and have yet to even play their best ball.
And while it isn’t a must win, it is however a statement game and has the chance to become a statement win if Tampa Bay comes out victorious. This is a game to show the other 31 teams in the NFL that the Bucs are a team to be reckoned with this year.
The Bucs have played in two big match-ups this season and lost both. One being a “Game of the Week” against the three-time defending NFC South champions Saints (3-2) to open the season, and of course last Thursday night’s game against the Bears (4-1) in prime time on national television.
The entire Bucs organization wants to make a statement, but some really want to make a statement.
Quarterback Tom Brady really wants to make a statement.
First of all, while he has passed on talking about anything having to do with New England and Bill Belichick since training camp and the regular season began, you know in his heart, Brady wants to show his former team and their fans he still has the talent and juice to go out and win another Lombardi Trophy. Brady is as competitive of a player as we’ve ever seen in Tampa Bay. He hates losing, and the opportunity to take a woeful franchise like the Bucs to the promised land would cement his legacy as the greatest quarterback to ever line up under center in the history of the league. Beating Aaron Rodgers head-to-head would be a statement win for Brady.
Lavonte David really wants to make a statement.
David has been flying under the national radar since being drafted in 2012. Every year the politics of the NFL have hindered David from becoming a household name. That, and playing for a team that disappoints year after year. Playing in big, meaningful games have been few and far between for David, and in the Saints and Bears games this season, while he played well, there were no stand-out, “Who the heck is this guy?” moments from No. 54. We’ve seen plenty of them here in Tampa Bay, but across the country most NFL fans couldn’t tell you a whole lot about the 30-year old David. With a majority of the nation tuned in on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. to watch the Brady-Rodgers match-up on Fox, this is an opportunity for David to make his statement.
Bruce Arians really wants to make a statement.
Arians has two Super Bowl rings, but none as a head coach. He has won everywhere he has been, but winning a title as the head coach is something that has eluded him. Does he still have it in him at age 68? Does he still have a magic touch with quarterbacks that earned him the moniker the “Quarterback Whisperer?” Can he turn a rag-tag organization that has seen 12 years fly by since the last time it was in the playoffs, and 18 years since the Bucs won the Super Bowl? A Super Bowl win – especially with the Buccaneers organization – would put him squarely in the middle of the Pro Football Hall of Fame discussion. Beating the Packers on Sunday would put the rest of the league on notice and make a statement around the NFL.
The Glazers really want to make a statement.
And lastly, the poor Glazers. Well, I suppose I should clarify – the poor billionaire Glazers. While financially wealthy, they’ve been below the poverty level in terms of NFL owner recognition for a long time. We can argue and point out all the mistakes ownership has made since that victorious night in San Diego following the 2002 season, but I firmly believe the Glazers love to win and want to win.
There is no joy in showing up in Boca Raton, or Phoenix, or Orlando at the NFL Annual Meetings coming off another sub-par, losing season. It stings them to lose despite being able to sit back and make proper airplanes out of $100 bills if they want to just for fun.
Plenty of others want to make a statement this Sunday against Green Bay. Linebacker Devin White wants to show the league he is one of the best young players in the NFL. Shaq Barrett wants to make a statement proving his 19.5 sacks in 2019 wasn’t a fluke. Ali Marpet wants to make a statement that a small school kid from upstate New York is one of the best in the NFL. Rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. would love to show off for his former NFL standout father with a statement performance.
Each player on this entire Tampa Bay roster has his own statement to make. But none will resonate louder than walking off the field with a 4-2 record just having beaten the undefeated Green Bay Packers and putting the rest of the league on notice that this is a different Bucs football team.
• Speaking of statements, when was the last time the Buccaneers had an opportunity to show the NFL and the nation they were for real? And in those games, how successful were they?
Last year coming off an impressive performance by quarterback Jameis Winston with a win at Detroit the Buccaneers came back home to take on the Texans in a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon game.
What happened? The Buccaneers lost, 23-20, and fell to 7-8 on the season, seeing their slim playoff chances vanish.
In 2016, the Buccaneers traveled to Dallas for a Sunday night match-up on NBC with an 8-5 record and their playoff destiny in their own hands. Two wins in the last four weeks would have given the Bucs a 10-6 record and a playoff berth.
What happened? They laid an egg, losing 26-20 to the Cowboys.
The very next week, with their playoff possibilities still alive, the Bucs and Saints game in New Orleans was flexed to late afternoon to give them even more exposure. Tampa Bay had just beaten the Saints two weeks prior, holding Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense to just 11 points.
What happened? Brees put up 31 points and any hope to makes the playoffs were dashed for 2016.
There have been plenty of other chances for the Bucs to prove they were legit contenders over the last 12 seasons but more times than not they failed to capitalize and after getting the hope of of the NFL and Bucs fans, they fell back into their losing patterns.
Will Sunday be different? Fingers crossed, Bucs fans.
• Las Vegas can’t catch a break. First the city was supposed to host the annual NFL Draft last April, but then COVID-19 hit. Then the Raiders were set to debut their brand new $1.8 billion stadium to sold out crowds this year and now the news comes that the NFL Pro Bowl which was set to take place at Allegiant Stadium has now been cancelled by the league. Well, at least the Raiders beat the undefeated Chiefs on Sunday. That may prove to be an even bigger prize later this season if Las Vegas (2-2) gets into playoff contention.
• I wonder if former Bucs head coach and now Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will dump all his team issued clothing off to an Atlanta area thrift store when he is let go after this season like he did in Tampa when the Glazers fired him? This was such a funny story, and one that a lot of fans might have missed. To read more about it, click this link.
Wow, poor Josh Norman. But seriously, can we now stop mentioning my man Chris Conte against the Steelers now?
DERRICK HENRY JUST THREW JOSH NORMAN OUT OF THE CLUB pic.twitter.com/0OmAr9aPDb
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) October 14, 2020