Bucs Out of Second Chances

The Bucs have nothing to hope for except a wild-card bid and it all starts Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used up their last mulligan. They have to run the table. It all starts in Sunday's game with the feeble 49ers. After a 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, a game which saw the Bucs with all of the momentum in the second half after cutting a 17-0 deficit to 17-14, the Bucs need to win out. Seven-for-seven, and that's not even a guarantee for a playoff bid. Atlanta pretty much wrapped up the NFC South last week and can coast the rest of the way. The best the Bucs can hope for is a wild-card, and a 10-6 record should earn them one in today's watered-down NFL. The Bucs will have some familiar faces in the lineup as Mike Alstott is expected to return from his leg injury, and former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Dexter Jackson is back after leaving the team after the 2002 season via free agency. Now the bad news: Anthony McFarland is lost for the year after being placed on injured reserved with an ankle injury suffered against Atlanta. Also, quarterback Brian Griese is suffering from a sore right shoulder. He's going to play, but coach Jon Gruden's only options are Brad Johnson who's been rusting on the bench since Week 3, and Chris Simms who hasn't taken a snap since injuring his shoulder in Week 4. "(Griese's) all right,'' Gruden said after practice Friday. "He didn't get a lot of reps, but he'll be ready to go. He threw the ball, he moved around well and he feels better.'' Former Bucs linebacker Chidi Ahanotu, who was signed just two weeks ago as a free agent, will replace McFarland. He'll have to come up strong since McFarland was the key to stopping the run. San Francisco has only one win on the season and is struggling on both sides of the ball Tim Rattay has been inconsistent at quarterback, but tight end Eric Jones leads the NFC with 57 receptions, and stopping opposing tight ends has given the Bucs fits all season.

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