Bucs Can Clinch Playoff Spot As Early As Sunday

December 3 – Tampa Bay can clinch a playoff spot for the fourth straight year Sunday with a win over Atlanta along with a New York Giants loss or tie to Washington. In other news, the Bucs signed former Tampa Bay Storm wide receiver Antoine Toliver to its five-man practice squad on Tuesday. Also, Bucs DE Simeon Rice is just two sacks away from tying the franchise single-season sack record of 16.5 held by DT Warren Sapp. Pewter Report has compiled this notebook full of news and notes.

Tampa Bay signed former Arena League wide receiver Antoine Toliver to its five-man practice squad Wednesday.

Toliver, who played for the Tampa Bay Storm, recently spent a month on San Francisco's practice squad. He was signed by the Bucs Wednesday to take the place of injured WR Onome Ojo, who suffered a knee injury in a recent practice. Ojo was placed on the practice-squad injured reserve, which ended his season and allowed the Bucs to sign Toliver.

The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Toliver is a speedy receiver, but he was also a return specialist with the Storm. He entered the NFL in 2000 with St. Louis, where he spent one week on the team's practice squad.

Not only is Sunday's contest between Tampa Bay and Atlanta a huge division rivalry, but there will be an awful lot riding on this game, including a chance for one of these teams to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

That's right, the winner of the Bucs-Falcons game has a chance to clinch a playoff spot Sunday. If Tampa Bay defeats or ties Atlanta and the New York Giants lose to or tie Washington on Sunday, the Buccaneers will clinch a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season. If Atlanta downs Tampa Bay in Raymond James Stadium and the Giants lose to the Redskins, they will clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 1998.

The 9-3 Bucs and 8-3-1 Falcons are in a tight race with the 8-4 Saints for the NFC South Division title. These teams are also trying to stay in the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the 9-3 Eagles would have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs because of the fact that they own a tiebreaker with the Bucs (head-to-head results). But Tampa Bay is currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which would still give them a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game. Green Bay also owns a 9-3 record, but the Bucs own a tiebreaker with the Packers because of head-to-head results.

With four weeks remaining in the regular season, all six of the NFC playoff spots might not be determined until the final week of the regular season. While the Bucs want home-field advantage, they know they must first win the NFC South Division, which probably won't happen if they don't defeat the Falcons Sunday.

"It's very basically important," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said about the possibility of getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. "You only have to play two games instead of three. When you have the best record in the conference you get a bye week, you get a chance to prepare a little better, you get a chance to get some players well, it's common knowledge. That's a huge edge and certainly playing in front your fans, like the ones we have, it's a tremendous edge. But it has been done the other way, too. You've seen the Ravens do it as a Wild Card team and dominate all the way to the championship game. But that's down the road and we've got to lick our wounds and get ready for the Falcons because they are coming in here hot."

Tampa Bay right defensive end Simeon Rice is on fire.

Rice recorded three sacks in the first quarter of last Sunday's Bucs-Saints game, which gave him 14.5 sacks on the season. Not only does Rice lead the league in sacks, but he set a NFL record for five-straight multiple sack games last Sunday.

Rice, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November last week, has notched 11 sacks and five forced fumbles in the last five games.

With four games remaining in the regular season, Rice is just two sacks away from tying Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp's single-season sack record of 16.5 set back in 2000.

And just in case inquiring minds want to know, Rice recorded two of his 14.5 sacks against Atlanta in Week 5.

Pewter Report editors Scott Reynolds, Jim Flynn and Leo Haggerty will join 620 WDAE afternoon host Steve Duemig for a special live two-hour Pewter Report roundtable on Friday, December 6th from 3:00-5:00 p.m.

Duemig and the Pewter Reporters will preview the Bucs-Falcons showdown and then fans can join the Pewter Report editors in the retail showroom from 5:00-7:00 p.m. for an evening of inside scoop and off-the-record, off-the-cuff stories that are so behind the scenes that we can't print them. Bring your comments and questions to Buccaneer Heaven this Friday.

Buccaneer Heaven is located at 14823 North Florida Avenue in Tampa, Florida. Call (813) 908-BUCS(2827) for more information.

Fans attending the Bucs-Falcons game at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday are encouraged to participate in the 26th annual Toys for Tots Drive.

Fans wishing to participate should bring a new, unwrapped toy(s) to the Bucs-Falcons game, which starts at 1:00 p.m. Sunday. The toys will be collected at all gates and club entrances.

The Marine Corps Reserve will collect toys and distribute them back into the Tampa Bay community.

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