Back to the grind! The Bucs are back from their much-needed bye week that gave the Bucs some rest and allowed the Buccaneers that are laboring injuries another week to get healthy while the team doesn’t have an opponent. With that said we know the following approaching Sunday. Sean Murphy-Bunting and Scotty Miller are back practicing with the team: a positive sign that their return to the field is near. Rob Gronkowski seems to have suffered a setback against the Saints and the team is unsure when he will return. And Antonio Brown is still sporting a walking boot.
An important addition to the injury report is Chris Godwin who popped up Wednesday with a foot injury and did not practice. This will be something to monitor heading into Sunday however it is early in the week and Thursday will give a better indication of which direction Godwin is trending. Jason Pierre-Paul also did not practice Wednesday. JPP has been an iron man battling what is now known to be a torn rotator cuff and a broken finger. Not only did JPP deserve the rest, but he needed it. JPP is a guy who needs to be kept from hurting himself because his motor will allow him to go until his body won’t allow him. He will likely be a regular on the injury report.
It’s also worth noting Jason Pierre-Paul took to Twitter sharing the depth of the injury he’s dealing with. I hope the team can manage JPP and his injury so that he is able to finish the season and postseason. This team is without question better with JPP on the field, however, with a backup as talented as Joe Tyron-Shoyinka it makes sense to limit JPP’s snaps and give him the rest he needs to make it through the season.
The Bucs know that their depth is key to finishing the season healthy. The team displayed this by adding a free agent wide receiver on Tuesday. You might ask about Jalen Darden or Tyler Johnson? While I do believe in the Talent of both these players for the future, it took Jalen Darden 7 weeks to beat out Jayden Mickens as the return specialist and Tyler Johnson has not won his matchups with consistency. Who is this former first-round, Wide Receiver the Bucs added? Breshad Perriman. Flashy? Probably not. Fast? Definitely. Perriman has been with the Bucs before and in Arians’ system. His speed will get him on the field, especially with Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller sidelined.
The Week Off
All things considered, the Bucs con.tinue to trend up after starting the season 6-2. Not often do teams talk about winning a bye week. Bucs fans not all too long ago took bye weeks as a chance to say “We didn’t lose this week” but the Bucs won their bye week in every way possible. On top of good news from injuries, the Bucs received major help in the standing as well. Had the Saints completed their comeback and beat the Falcon the Saints would currently hold a half-game lead in the NFC South. Instead, the Bucs remain at the top of the NFC south.
The Bucs also received help from other teams like the Packers who lost on the road to Kansas City. Also, from the Rams who lost on Sunday night to the Titans who have beat the Chiefs, Bills, and Rams in the last month. An impressive stretch to say the least. The Cowboys also took their second loss of the season against the Broncos. These losses vaulted the Buccaneers to 3rd in the NFC playoff standings. The Buccaneers will continue to get healthier and keep gunning for the number 1 spot in the NFC playoffs to secure the only bye. This would be a huge advantage for the Bucs to rest up and scout their potential opponents.
The Path Ahead
Sunday the Bucs will travel to Maryland to play the 2-6 Washington Football Team (WFT). There is no reason to believe the Bucs will lose on Sunday despite the injuries that continue for Tampa. The WFT does not have the same defense from last year. A year removed from having a unit that carried them to the playoffs the WFT ranks dead last in passing yards allowed and next to last in touchdowns allowed. A recipe for a 4TD performance from Tom Brady coming off the bye week.
The Bucs’ next stretch of games before their heavyweight matchup against the Bills and rematch versus the Saints offers the chance for the Bucs to continue their push for the top seed in the NFC. Of the top 3 teams, the Bucs have the path of least resistance with a combined opponent record of 13-21 in their next 4 games. The Cardinals and the Packers? 16-17 and 17-17 both with matchups against the Rams in their next 4. While the matchups wont be attractive on paper coming up every game will be more important than the last to secure a top playoff seed.
In a week where teams with a winning record went 4-6 against teams .500 or worse hopefully Bucs fans who were hitting the panic button see this team is right where they need to be. The Bucs have a great chance Sunday to continue and determine how their season will finish. Is it likely the Bucs repeat what they did last year and go undefeated after their bye? Probably not. And the season won’t be over if that is the case. After all, we have Tom Brady on our team.