A Happy New Year Starts Sunday

December 14th, 2022

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If the Bucs close out the season with victories against Carolina and Atlanta, they’ll be division champs once again.

That’s a stone-cold fact, but it shouldn’t minimize the importance of Sunday’s matchup with the Bengals.

Why is that?

What’s also true is the Panthers, left for dead in October, also control their own destiny. By beating Pittsburgh, Detroit, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, Carolina would finish 9-8, with a tie-breaker edge over the Bucs because of a season sweep.

Ira Kaufman isn’t betting against the Panthers.

According to a New York Times simulation, Tampa Bay currently boasts a 77 percent chance of making the playoffs, with Carolina listed at 19 percent. Should the Bucs upset the Bengals, that playoff rate jumps to 85 percent while a home loss would drop Tampa Bay to 69 percent.

Big difference.

The priority right now is to minimize the importance of that Jan. 1 home matchup against the Panthers, who have been revived under interim coach Steve Wilks. Carolina has established an offensive identity, averaging 155 rushing yards in the past seven games while scoring 10 TDs on the ground.

Given the way the 49ers just gashed Tampa Bay’s suddenly vulnerable run defense, Carolina’s physicality will present a robust challenge on New Year’s Day, when Bruce Arians enters the Ring of Honor.

Let’s face facts — at the moment, the Panthers are playing better football than the Bucs.

Win Now, Not Later

Why would any Buc fan want this division decided by a single 60-minute duel against a team that has already beaten Tampa Bay 21-3?

You wouldn’t. That’s why the next two weeks are critical.

Should the Bucs defeat Cincinnati and Arizona, they would still have a 79 percent chance of making the playoffs — even with a loss to Carolina.

But if the Bucs split their next two games and then lose to Carolina, that magic number plunges to 37 percent. Big difference.

That’s because Tampa Bay could finish no better than 8-9 factoring in a split/then lose to Carolina scenario, giving the Panthers wriggle room to drop another game down the stretch and still match the Bucs at 8-9.

The idea is to force the Panthers to run the table. If Wilks can lead Carolina to a closing 6-game winning streak, give it up for a spectacular coaching effort that should earn Wilks the permanent job in Charlotte.

From a Buc perspective, why make Carolina’s uphill climb any easier?

Wins against Cincinnati and Arizona would keep the Bucs heavy favorites to capture the division, regardless of the outcome of that Jan. 1 showdown.

The Panthers don’t do a lot of things well, but they know who they are. They run the ball, play good defense and rely on a solid kicking game.

That’s their winning formula. That’s their identity. The Bucs are searching for theirs.

Opponents are averaging 15.5 points against Carolina in the past four games. The Panthers have rushed for at least 145 yards six times this season. The Bucs have topped 100 rushing yards only twice.

Would you want to get down in the trenches with the Panthers in a potential winner-take-all scenario?

Because they have Tom Brady under center and Carolina has Sam Darnold,the Bucs will be favored at home on New Year’s Day. Brian Burns begs to differ.

The former FSU standout has emerged as one of the league’s premier edge rushers. He certainly has the full attention of Mike Tomlin, who is concerned Burns will wreck Pittsburgh’s offensive game plan in Charlotte.

“Burns is an elite edge guy,” Tomlin says,A  “You’d better be conscious of where he is.”

And where his team is.

Ira loves that lifetime warranty on new and used vehicles!

23 Responses to “A Happy New Year Starts Sunday”

  1. Bucfan1988 Says:

    Soooo, what are the % odds of Bucs winning the division WHEN they lose their next 2 games, not IF….

    This team has mentally checked out of any connection with this coaching staff, lol!!!


  2. Bucfan Says:

    Please lose out so this coaching staff will be replaced.

  3. Mike Johnson Says:

    The only way Todd Bowles stays is he either runs the table or wins 3 out of the next 4 games. I simply do not see this happening folk. The Bengals are on a roll. They will not take us lightly. Stanger things have happened. But this team of ours has no glow whatsoever. We have a decimated secondary, A D line that get gashed repeatedly every single game, an O line that is Average..at best. And an aging QB who cannot run 5 yrds if his life depended on it. Love your enthusiasm, Ira. But this team is done.

  4. Darin Says:

    I must be one of the few who doesn’t care one bit about the Bucs playoff chances. Another coaching staff yes. Whatever gets that faster. I’m guessing no playoffs. They’re playing great for that to happen. See Byron you’re playing great!

  5. OrlandoBucFan Says:

    Ira, you must have watched the Bucs 2020 Super Bowl win before you wrote this column because you sound much more sanguine about the Bucs’ chances of making the playoffs than you did in the podcast this morning. I’m less optimistic. As has been pointed out by the you and the Joes, we are 13 games into the season and have not seen any inkling of improvement…not even a faint hint of progress. We’re too far into the season now for the Bucs to suddenly change directions, particularly with the injuries we consistently seem to be battling. At any rate, I love the enthusiasm Ira. Hope is cheap. Go buy a lotto ticket.

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    Wait a minute Ira. Is that the same Steve Wilks who led the 2018 Cardinals to a 3-13 record & got fired after 1 season? The same Steve Wilks who followed that up with a 1-year stint as the Browns DC, then got ‘promoted’ to Missouri’s DC after a year off before returning to the Panthers as Secondary coach? THAT Steve Wilks, the DEFENSIVE guy? The one who’s got Carolina playing very good defense and actually RUNNING THE BALL successfully?

    Oh wait, I just noticed that Wilks had BL as his OC back in 2018 when he did so poorly & got fired. Never mind, explains everything.

  7. Crickett Baker Says:

    WoW Def Ru. NO KIDDING! That is quite great intel. Damn!

  8. AbucAway Says:

    Great article and paints the picture of what the Bucs are needing to get done in the next 4 games. It would be fun to see a four game win streak going to the playoffs but, I’m still thinking that Carolina takes the division. Hope I’m wrong.

  9. sasquatch Says:

    Best thing for this team is to suffer the consequences of sucking. They do not deserve to be a playoff team. Save the fans the extra week of suffering and get this season over sooner so we can see Leftwich fired sooner. Making it to the playoffs with this TURD of a team is a waste of time.

  10. Pewter Power Says:

    If the Bucs close out the season with victories against Carolina and Atlanta

    That’s the biggest IF I’ve ever seen like an if from the “lost decade”

  11. HC Grover Says:

    Only Bowzo could blow it.

  12. gofortheface30 Says:

    In 2020 and 2021, the Bucs would be more than obliged to get in to a track meet with this team. In 2022 – Ja’Marr Chase has 169 yards and 2TD’s by half time, Bengals up 42-3 going in to 4th Quarter as Joe Burrow gets the rest of the day off.

  13. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I have more confidence that Detroit will beat Carolina and if it comes down to the Saints beating them in their last game….the Saints would love to lose and burn the Bucs..

    We need to win at least 1 of the next 2……no easy feat as poorly as we are playing.

  14. Wild Bill Says:

    I don’t know what sanguine means but I totally agree with the rest Orlando Buc said. Haha

  15. gotbbucs Says:

    Burrow is the only QB left on the regular season schedule they stand a chance against.

    After that, it’s Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold, and Desmond Ridder. That’s a murderers row as far as this teams history is concerned.

  16. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Detroit will save us from the Panthers! They are the hottest team in the NFL right now, and no way Carolina gets past them.
    No way we beat Cincinnati, who might beat us worse than the 49ers did.
    We have a chance in Arizona, only because their starting QB is out.

  17. Defense Rules Says:

    Chris … I’d put my money on the Panthers rather than on the Lions. Panthers defense is doing very well in these past 4 games (only given up 62 points total while their offense has scored 81 points (even including only getting 3 points in their only loss in that 4-game stretch). Lions defense is REALLY bad (as in #31 bad) so Panthers offense should be able to put points on the board.

  18. Defense Rules Says:

    We lost to the Panthers in our 1st meeting largely because their run game wore our defense out by late in the 3rd quarter. A big part of that is because we were missing Hicks, and we got gouged with several long runs once our defense pooped out (60, 17, 13, 27 yards on their 2 TDs in the last 19 minutes … it was only 7-3 up until those back-breakers).

    PJ Walker also connected on several deep passes which proved to be deadly (20, 21, 20, 29 yards with 2 going for TDs).

    So all-in-all, our run defense crumbled late in the game, our pass defense sucked, and we only scored 3 points. Other than that I’d say it was a resounding victory … for Carolina. Got a hunch the Bucs’ players were reading too many of the media reports telling them how badly they were gonna beat the Pathetic Panthers. Karma strikes again.

  19. Miller5252 Says:

    If Carolina wins all their games except against the Bucs they deserve the playoffs more then the Bucs. The Bucs are a huge disappointment and if they won’t make any changes, then the outcome won’t change from what it has been all year. Carolina has at least made changes to try and change their season. If the Bucs won’t change, let Carolina in and the Bucs watching from home. No changes for the Bucs….. No playoffs

  20. Thisisouryear!! Says:

    I wasn’t awake of Wills being the cards coach with Leftwich as the OC. That’s super interesting. Twice Arians tries to get a HC gig for Leftwich and he falls apart as soon as Papa Arians leaves. Last time he took down Wilkes and this time he’s dragging down Bowles. The only thing I think is being the HC (Bowles), you have to step in and stop the bleeding.

  21. garro Says:

    Ira, great stuff as always from the Sage.
    The thing I dont get is these percentages that
    the media is reporting these days (New Yark media is notoriously BS).
    I’m admittedly not a big stat fan, but this percenatge thing is just plain and simple malarkey to me. There are so many variables in just one game not to mention four that I can’t go along with any of this percentage crap!
    My eyeballs tell me all I need to know. The percentage I came up with is pretty close to zero. Sadly I think mine is closer to what will happen.

  22. 1#bucsfan Says:

    Can’t believe so called fans want us to lose. We still own the south n have a great shot at the playoffs. Yea let’s lose out just to get a change in coaches 🤦‍♂️ We got the worse fans ever.

  23. kyle Says:

    this team will not win a playoff game.. love the bucs, but this team is a dumpster fire. time for a rebuild.