That's the question I propose to everyone regarding the Bucs chances of getting to the Super Bowl. Amidst all the gloom and doom, I've merely tried to point out that the rest of the NFC field is very beatable. Personnel wise, the Bucs have the players to go places but for some reason it just hasn't happened. Not yet at least.
Lack of running game people tell me. Tony Dungy's too conservative is another frequent complaint. The defense isn't what it used to be, no second receiver, blah blah blah blah. I've heard it all and I'm not disagreeing, but flaws are easily overcome when you're opposition has warts as well. If Rosie O'Donnell and Alyssa Milano were to have a beauty contest it's be no contest. On the other hand, if Rosie were to go up against let's say Janet Reno, then the task isn't too daunting.
No home games in the playoffs is usually a sure fire way to not make it to the Super Bowl. In the last four years, at least one representative in the Super Bowl (Denver '97, Atlanta '98, Tennessee '99, Baltimore '00) won their conference title game on the road. In addition, teams like the Rams and Eagles are much better on the road than they are at home. Sometimes, in a pressure situation, it's better to play on the road and feed off the NEGATIVE energy produced when you jump out to an early lead.
There are various other factors people cite for why not, but just to give you more ammunition for why it can happen, think about this. No team in the NFC playoffs this season can afford to play a bad game and still win. My guess is the Rams might be the closest team to being able to do that. But didn't the Rams play a poor game at home against the Bucs this year and get beat. I think the Bucs match up very well against the Rams and I don't think St Louis wants any part of a team that's beaten them the last two times they played. The Niners and Bears have been great stories, but how many of their players will know what playoff pressure is about. The Eagles are completely punchless and are struggling through a tremendous confidence crisis. The Packers have been a thorn in the side of the Bucs and playing at Lambeau in sub arctic temperatures would not be ideal, but that's where the unpredictability of the conference comes into play.
As long as the Bucs don't have a nuclear meltdown, they'll play at Philly or the Giants the first playoff weekend. The Eagles would be the preferable matchup, but the New York game is also a team that Dungy's crew could and should beat. After that it's the Rams on the carpet which would be followed by a trip to Green Bay, San Fran or Chicago. As scary as a game in Packerland would be, it looks as if the Pack will have to beat BOTH the Niners and Bears on the road to even get there. You've got to believe that the Bucs experience would be a big plus in a conference title game against either Frisco or Chicago. For being the 6th seed and sleepwalking their way through a majority of the season, Tampa's got a very favorable draw.
Now that I'm through with the happy go lucky segment of the column, it must be pointed out that this squad will be battling history, the elements and their own fragile confidence as they head into the playoffs. With the exception of the Rams, before the year started, we all thought the Bucs were better than all the other teams in the NFC playoffs. They haven't been, but they could be. We know what they've been, but we don't know where they're going. Sound too philosophical. It's not, it's just football and we all know that's harder to figure out than philosophy.
You can listen to Sandy Penner on 620 WDAE Monday through Friday, 6:00-8:00 AM. If you're not in the Tampa Bay area, you can listen to Penner live by logging onto 620WDAE.com.
Become an insider today with a subscription to Buccaneer Magazine or the BucMag.com Insiders Pass. Sign up for the Insiders Pass by clicking here or and call 1-800-881-BUCS(2827) to subscribe to Buccaneer Magazine.
Looking for the largest selection of Bucs merchandise on the internet? You can find it at BucsStore.com.