Yardbarker Horiz

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tampa Bay Playoff Drought Ending?

NFL.com has compiled their offseason rankings, and all three of their Expert writers have Tampa Bay firmly in the top half of the NFL.  Clearly, the word is out after last season's impressive rise and another strong draft class and Tampa Bay is getting some of it's credibility returned after a couple years of rebuilding.

Gil Brandt has the Buccaneers rated at #13, behind the Saints (#6) and the Falcons (#3) but ahead of the Panthers (#30).

Pat Kirwan has Tampa Bay at #11, also behind the Saints (#8) and Falcons (#5).  Kirwan tags the Carolina Panthers as the worst team in the NFL next season (#32).

Steve Wyche has the Buccaneers as a Top 10 team in the NFL (#9), only behind the Saints (#1) in the NFC South, with Atlanta (#12) and Carolina (#32) ranked lower.

What is truly impressive is NFC Rank for each:  Brandt has the Buccaneers as the 8th best NFC Team, Kirwan has Tampa Bay being the 6th best team in the NFC, and Wyche has the Bucs as the 4th best team in the NFC.  With eight teams from the NFC reaching the playoffs, all three are suggesting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will return to the playoffs next season.

Obviously the NFC South will still be a stout division next season.  Should the Buccaneers finish 3rd, they may find themselves walking the fine line of the final wildcard births again this coming season.  A second place finish in the NFC South has resulted in a playoff birth in three of the past four seasons.

The current three year playoff drought is the longest for the Buccaneers since the 1983-1996 void ended by Tony Dungy leading the Buccaneers to their first playoff win in 16 years in 1997.

Tampa Bay has not won a playoff game since the 2002 Championship Season.

The wait for the return to the NFL Playoffs may end this season!

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