They say it isn’t about how you start, but rather how you finish. That is certainly the case in the NFL and for the Buccaneers. No one remembers what the first two months of the New York Giants season looked like in 2007 or that the Chiefs lost three of four games in October of 2019, but everyone can tell you how the season ended for those teams.
As we approach the new year, we are in the part of the season where it’s all about finishing. With discussion of the playoff race in full swing and many teams battling for their postseason lives, this is the time of year that will define the season for many teams. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they are doing everything they can to finish the year out strong.
The Bucs are now on a three game winning streak since December began. This included a game against the Atlanta Falcons to take the lead in the NFC South and most recently a game in Green Bay against the Packers in which both teams were approaching as a playoff game. That’s to say that the Bucs are starting to put things together at the most important time of the year and are proving it against competition that is in the same position as the Bucs.
This is a stark difference from where the team was a month ago. It seems like just last week that the Buccaneers were 4-7 and fans were starting to have conversations focused on next season. Things such as who the next head coach would be and what quarterback they should target with their top ten draft pick.
Now the conversation has changed dramatically. Now we are discussing whether the Bucs will be a wild card team or win the NFC South. We are even to the point where we can peak ahead and start to think about playoff matchup and if we’d prefer to see Dallas or Philadelphia in the opening round.
This was always the hope entering the 2023 season. With a new offensive system and a first year play caller in Dave Canales, it was always going to take time for the offense to really start to click. And while it took a little longer than I initially expected, it seems like the Bucs are finally starting to figure it out.
Dare I say, it’s even starting to feel like this offense is developing their identity. The Bucs have now rushed for over 100 yards (okay 99 last week, but close enough) for four consecutive weeks. Running the ball was always part of what head coach Todd Bowles envisioned for this team and it is finally starting to come together.
You could also apply this thought to the passing game as well. Baker Mayfield has been answering the call in the biggest moments in this three game winning streak, including a late go ahead touchdown against the Falcons. That was capped off last week with a perfect passer rating in Green Bay as he threw for over 380 yards and 4 touchdowns. If this offense is going to take the Bucs anywhere, it will be on Mayfields arm.
So, what does this mean for the Buccaneers playoff prospects? At the moment, not much. There are still three weeks to go in the regular season and that is time that this Bucs offense needs to prove that their recent success is sustainable. A late season flash will do them no good if they can’t carry it over into the postseason.
However, it’s all encouraging. This new Dave Canales offense is starting to come together late in the year just as we expected it would. If this team can continue to build on their recent success, then they will prove to be a difficult out in the playoffs with the potential to go on a postseason run.