Devin White and Shaq Barrett out for the Bucs against the Falcons
It’s hard to believe, but here we are in the last week of the NFL season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched their first playoff berth in 13 seasons last week with their 47-7 win against the Lions.
Although the Bucs have a playoff berth clinched, the Bucs still have a lot to play for.
A win against the Falcons and the Bucs would end the season with a four game winning streak, the longest win streak to end a season in franchise history.
If the Bucs can score 11 points on Sunday, they would set a new franchise record for points scored in a season with 459.
Wide receiver Mike Evans needs 40 yards to become the only player in NFL history with seven consecutive seasons of 1,000 receiving yards.
Running back Ronald Jones is sitting at 900 yards and would love to cross that 1,000-yard plateau.
Jones has missed the last two games with a broken pinkie and was on the reserve COVID-19 kits. Jones is off the COVID list and appears ready to give it a go on Sunday.
Another interesting stat is that rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs has not allowed a sack in ten games. This is a fantastic accomplishment for the rookie from Iowa, considering he had no OTA’s,mini-camp, and pre-season games.
The Bucs are the fifth seed right now, and a win would make sure that they stay in that spot.
The Bucs would potentially go on the road wildcard weekend to play the NFC East winner. We will not know who the division winner will be until after the Washington Philadelphia game Sunday Night.
A Washington win, and they are in the playoffs. A Washington loss, and that opens the door for the winner of the Giants-Cowboys game.
The Bucs will be taking on a scrappy Atlanta Falcons team, and although the Falcons have nothing to play, they have been competitive and have played good football under interim coach Raheem Morris.
The Falcons took the Chiefs down to the wire in Kansas City last week, But a missed field goal cost the Falcons a chance to send it to overtime, and the Falcons lost 17-14.
In their matchup two weeks ago, the Falcons jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead before the Bucs offense woke up and outscored the Falcons 31-10 in the second half to get the win.
The Bucs had an excellent game against the Lions last week and need to continue to play that way against the Falcons.
This game will be a challenge for the Bucs as they will be missing two of their best defenders, Linebacker Devin White and linebacker Shaq Barrett who were put on the reserve COVID-19 list and will not play in the season finale.
The Bucs put defensive tackle Steve McLendon on the reserve COVID-19 list also.
The three players must stay away from the team for ten days and have at least two COVID tests to be negative to be eligible to rejoin the team.
The players can participate in zoom meetings and online meetings but cannot be in the facility or around the players.
This could put their being able to play in next week’s playoff game in jeopardy. Barrett, who has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID, has a better chance of playing than Devin White.
The Bucs have been successful at managing COVID all year, and now that the season is winding down and the most important games are ahead of the team, COVID strikes the Buccaneers.
Kevin Minter and Anthony Nelson will start against the Falcons, and they could start in the playoff game if Barrett and White have not passed all COVID testing.
The Bucs also re-signed linebacker Jack Cichy from the New England practice squad. Cichy was with the Buccaneers the last two seasons and is familiar with the defense.
This will not be an easy game for the Bucs to win without two of their best defensive players.
The Bucs will have to rely on their offense to be sharp and have excellent execution as they did in the game against the Lions.
The Bucs will win this game in a nail biter 28-25 to lock up the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs.