Bucs See Light at the End of the Tunnel

January 9 - All 12 teams in the National Football League have one common goal, and that's to win the Super Bowl. But that goal might be easier for some teams to achieve than others. If Tampa Bay is going to play in Super Bowl XXXVI, they will have to take the road less traveled. As the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs, the Bucs will have to win three playoff games, and all of them will have to come on the road. While the odds don't appear to be in Tampa Bay's favor, the Bucs like their chances

The odds are stacked high against the Buccaneers in terms of making a run at Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans, but believe it or not, Tampa Bay believes winning against Philadelphia on Saturday will put the Pewter Pirates right where they want to be.

"The mindset is that we're going to do it," said Bucs Pro Bowl SS John Lynch. "We feel like we've got a great opportunity. We feel like we have the team capable of doing that. With this organization, you have the opportunity to break a lot of streaks and things that have never been done. And we've done that a couple of times and we feel like we can do it again."

One of the things the Buccaneers have never done is win a game in temperatures below 40 degrees at kickoff. As of Wednesday, forecasts in Philadelphia were calling for partly cloudy skies and 34 degree temperatures at kickoff, which means Tampa Bay has a chance to break their 0-20 franchise record in below 40 degree temperatures.

"It's (the cold weather stigma) there and a lot of people want to talk about it, and I guess the stats are there to back it," said Lynch. "But the way you put those types of things to rest is by doing something about it, and it looks like we're going to have that opportunity."

Tampa Bay will also have to win three games on the road in order to reach the Super Bowl--something that has not been done since the New England Patriots reached Super Bowl XX in 1986 by winning three straight road games. Oddly enough, Super Bowl XX was played at this year's Super Bowl site--the Louisiana Superdome.

While Tampa Bay has not played three consecutive road games, they have played two straight road games three different times this season. Tampa Bay has finished those road trips with a record of 1-1, 1-1 and 2-0.

The Buccaneers also like the fact that they are familiar with all but one of the NFC teams participating in this year's playoffs. Tampa Bay has faced the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers at least one time this season. The only team the Buccaneers have not faced is the San Francisco 49ers, who they last played on opening day in 1997.

Although Tampa Bay has faced four of the five NFC playoff teams this season and won at St. Louis, the Bucs have lost in Green Bay and in Chicago, and the Pewter Pirates are 0-3 on the road in the playoffs under head coach Tony Dungy.

A win against the Eagles on Saturday at Veterans Stadium will setup a Bucs-Rams matchup the following Sunday (Jan. 20) at The Dome at America's Center. St. Louis (14-2) finished the regular season with the best record in the league, but both of those losses were at home and one of them was to the Buccaneers back on Nov. 26. Tampa Bay has won two of their last three games against the Rams, including two straight. Not only does Tampa Bay like the way they match up against St. Louis on their astroturf, but the Bucs also like the idea of not having to worry about weather conditions inside the Rams' dome. But before the Buccaneers get ahead of themselves, they know they will have to take care of business in Philadelphia at Saturday.

"We can't think about St. Louis," said Bucs Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks. "We have to think about Philly. If we win this game, St. Louis will take care of itself."


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