Banishing the Game After Hangover

On paper, this one should be a no-brainer. Easy-peasy. A romp, if you will.

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The hapless Carolina Panthers are in town today to face the Buccaneers. Normally, I don't like to label in that fashion, but aside from the hot mess that is the Dallas Cowboys, the Panthers are hanging out at the bottom of the NFL food chain right now, sporting a 1-7 record.

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This one should be a solid notch in the W column for the Bucs, who are favored to win this NFC South bout.

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Should be. But this is the "game after." The matchup following a hard fought battle against the Atlanta Falcons that was lost literally by inches. And with such things, there's always the chance for that most annoying of sporting maladies: the Big Game Let Down. A true sporting hangover.

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After games in which everything physically and emotionally is left on the field, the possibility for a slump the following week is pretty good. Happens all the time. In all sports. But while with, say, baseball, the "game after" is often the very next day, there's a nice block of time for football teams to recoop and reload before they take the field again. Ahem, Buccaneers.

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The Bucs still have a lot of ball to play. More things to prove. Expectations to exceed. Not saying they're playoff caliber yet, but they have the ability to both surprise and excite with their play for the rest of the season. Working through the potential of a Big Game Let Down would be a big step to proving their maturity. 

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On paper, this game should be a no-brainer. But a team with much to gain, like the Bucs, should never underestimate a team who's got nothing to lose -- like the visiting Panthers.

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Let's go Bucs.

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