Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Playoff Fate Determined By Next Four Games

For the second season in a row, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off and running to a fast, 3-1 start.  The one loss?  The unbeaten Detroit Lions.  Not shabby at all.  And putting Atlanta one game into the rear view mirror is always A Good Thing. The other two wins?  Versus the winless Colts and winless Vikings.

It's a similar situation to 2010, when the Buccaneers beat Carolina, Cleveland, and Cincinnati but lost to Pittsburgh in the first four games.  Then came the statement by Head Coach Raheem Morris that this was the best team in the NFC.  Are the Buccaneers as confident this season?  Probably so.

Nonetheless, the next four games may decide if the Buccaneers miss the playoffs again this season:
1. Oct 9th -- West Coast tip to meet up with the 3-1 San Francisco 49ers after a short Monday Night Football week
2. Oct 16th -- Home against the co-NFC South leaders, the 3-1 New Orleans Saints
3. Oct 23rd -- Off to London to face the 2-2 Chicago Bears in Wembley Stadium
A Halloween bye week, then finally:
4. Nov 6th -- To the Superdome to match up for the second time in three games (and last time during the 2011 regular season) against the New Orleans Saints.

Every one of those four teams are in the NFC, and wins against NFC teams are crucial for late-season tie-breaker scenarios.  In addition, all are contenders to win their divisions which makes them excellent tuneups for playoff football.  Finally, Tampa Bay can bury the New Orleans Saints with two wins and place themselves all alone at the top of the NFC South.

In 2010, Tampa Bay lost two divisional games during the second quarter of the season, then played the rest of the season looking up from below at Atlanta and New Orleans.  In the end, they missed the playoffs.

The next four games will go a long way determining if this season finishes any differently than the last.

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