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I Guess This Is The Really, REALLY Big One!

Let's see; they're two games back with five to play, facing the unappealing prospect of being swept in the head-to-head (which is the #1 tiebreaker) with the division leader and right in the middle of one of the tightest wildcard races in history.

Yep, this is officially a must-win game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Every Big One that came before (Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore) could be classified as "would have been nice". This one is classified "gotta have it". A loss would put the Bucs three games back with only four to play and with the tiebreaker in the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. That means the Bucs would have to win out while Atlanta would have to lose all the rest of their games. Oh yeah, don't forget, they'd have to leapfrog the defending world champion New Orleans Saints at some point along the way too. That is, at best, a highly unlikely scenario. But not only would a loss virtually kiss the division good-bye, it tosses a nasty wrench into the wildcard works as well, much to the delight of the Saints, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.

The Falcons are playing as well as anybody in the NFL right now while the Bucs are banged up and shuffling their roster. But they played well against the Falcons last time, they're at home and, perhaps most importantly, they're wearing the beloved orange throwback uniforms, the ones they wore to snap the 0-7 skid last year.

Much has been made of the fact that the Bucs have yet to beat a team with a winning record, relegating their improbable turnaround to a nice story and keeping them from receiving the respect they desire. That can all change today, if they can with The Big One.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.