Well well well.
There they sit. Our 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Holding down the bronze medal in arguably the most competitive division in the NFL this year, the NFC South. Thinking about the playoffs and wondering if a current 7-5 record with three games left in regular season play can be improved upon enough to garner a spot.
There's been a lot of talk about the performance of the team by a lot of people -- with the wins coming at the expense of teams with losing records, blowout losses to two perennial Super Bowl contenders and games where successful outcomes were missed by that much, to borrow a phrase from Maxwell Smart.
The news this week that Aqib Talib and Jeff Faine have seen their last stint on the field this season seems to propel the playoff hopes even farther into the distance. Losing those gents to the sidelines impacts the team on both sides of the ball and provides a final bitter exclamation point to a series of personnel losses that have forced the team to shuffle the lineup deck more than we'd all like.
So right now, the Bucs are a long shot to make the playoffs this year. Frankly, did anyone, aside from those on the team itself, think that statement would have ANY legitimacy at this point in the season when the ball was kicked off in Week One? If you did -- and you're being really truthful -- then a John McKay golf hat off to you.
One can talk about moral victories, but that's usually a bit of smoke and mirrors to distract from the sound of heartbreak. But after watching one of the better games played this season this past Sunday, as the Bucs, led by Bucco Bruce and resplendent in Creamsicle Orange, played toe-to-toe football with the division leading Atlanta Falcons, I'll take the moral victory, painful as it may be right now. For it not only is another smack on the pile of rubble made by this team as it tore through the meager expectations laid on it by everybody and his brother when the season began, but a sign of things to come for a young squad that has just begun to realize its potential and a young head coach with an abundance of creativity, a whole lot of nerve (the good kind) and beaucoups confidence.
For the first time in a long time, I'm excited to see what the Bucs will do on the field. Both now and in the future.
Is it Sunday yet?