If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fail to qualify for the postseason, it won't diminish the huge strides the team took in 2010, but it's still likely to gnaw at us fans all offseason long. And the reason for that could be the 23-20 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010.
Not because the Lions broke some crazy, nearly 3-year-long road losing streak. Please. We're Rays fans. Goofy streaks are nothing new to us. We just finished a season that saw us lose every game we played on a Friday and get no-hit every third Sunday (seemingly, anyway). Somebody was going to be on the wrong end when the Lions broke that streak. It might as well have been us.
No, it's because the Lions are a lousy football team. Now I know it can be said that they're better than their record indicates. However, with the level of talent dispersed throughout the NFL, it can be argued that every lousy team is better than their record indicates. The same applies to good teams probably not being as good as their record indicates. Play enough games and eventually every team (well, maybe not the Rams and Seahawks) will be within two or three games of .500, which may be exactly the point the NFL is trying to prove by expanding the regular season schedule to 18 games.
The truth is that in spite of the balance of talent among players spread around the NFL, there are always valid reasons for a team having the record it does, whether it's good, lousy or mediocre. All things being relative, if your team has a good record, they're a good team and if your team has a lousy record, they're a lousy team. They might be improving and they might be better than their record indicates but by any measure that matters, the Lions are a lousy football team. And as much has been made of the Bucs failure to beat any of the good teams on their schedule, they're in the position they are because they've been able to beat all the lousy ones...until this past Sunday.
Don't get me wrong; being able to say the Bucs still have realistic possibilities of making the playoffs in late December is a wonderful surprise that nobody anticipated back in September. And the fact that if they miss, it's not going to be by much is also very nice. Unless it's because of losing the game 23-20 in overtime to the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010.