Where should we start?
Well, with a win Sunday night, the 11-4 Buccaneers would record its 12th win of the season, which would set a franchise record for most wins in a regular season. A win in Champaign, Illinois would also give Tampa Bay a 6-2 record on the road this season, which would also set a franchise record for most wins on the road in a single season.
But more importantly, a win against the 4-11 Bears would possibly give the Buccaneers a bye week in the playoffs, depending on what happens earlier on Sunday.
The 8-7 New York Jets will host the 12-3 Green Bay Packers at Giants Stadium in New York at 4:15 p.m. ET. If the Jets, who need to win Sunday in order to have a chance of securing a spot in the playoffs, defeat the Packers and the Buccaneers down the Bears on Sunday night, Tampa Bay would secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff race, which would give the Pewter Pirates a bye week followed by a home playoff game.
"I think we have to win first and foremost, to get our 12th win of the season, the all-time best for this franchise," said Tampa Bay weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks. "Obviously we would like some things to happen early in the day to be in our favor, but we can't worry about that. We just need to get our 12th win and see how everything falls after that."
Even if you're not a Jets fan, Bucs should be rooting hard for the Jets to defeat the Packers on Sunday afternoon. You know the Bucs players and coaches will be.
"(New York Jets head coach) Herm Edwards will help us," said Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who is a former Jet. "I always cheer for the Jets. I have friends on the team."
And last, but not least, a win on Sunday night would give the Buccaneers some momentum heading into the playoffs. The Bucs barely defeated the Lions two weeks ago and the Steelers soundly defeated the Pewter Pirates last Monday night. The last thing Tampa Bay wants to do is go into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak.
"It's important," Bucs quarterback Rob Johnson said of playing well in Chicago. "We probably played two lackluster games the last two weeks. Atlanta, which was probably our best game all year, then we went to Detroit. We squeaked out a win there and then we had the Monday night thing. It would be good to put a full game together again going into the playoffs."
The Bucs have not lost two consecutive games all season long and the team doesn't want to start a losing streak now.
"We've got to win to gain momentum and bounce back," said Brooks. "We pride ourselves on not having back-to-back losses and we need to keep that streak going."
But even if the Jets help the Bucs by defeating the Packers Sunday, it won't matter if Tampa Bay can't take care of its own business later that night.
"If we go up there and win and some other guys do what they got to do, we'll have a homefield advantage and a bye," said Bucs WR Keenan McCardell. "However, I'm not going to sit here and watch games and see if Green Bay lost or won. We got business at hand. We are working on a 12-win season here. The Bucs have never won 12 games, so we're working on that."
But what happens if the Packers defeat the Jets Sunday? While the Bucs would still want to win its 12th game of the season, a win, loss or tie would not affect the team in terms of playoff positioning. No matter what, a Packers' victory would not change the fact that the Bucs would host a home playoff game during Wild Card Weekend.
If the Packers do win, most people would assume the Bucs would play its starters for a short period of time or not at all in order to rest them and avoid injuries, But Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden said his game plan for Sunday night's game will not change, even if the Packers defeat the Jets.
"We need to win this game," Gruden said. "I don't get that deep and philosophical. We're playing this game Sunday night and we need to win. There's always something at stake, whether you're playing for the two seed or the four seed or whatever seed. The plant seed, I don't care, we're trying to find a way to win a darn game. Whoever is healthy that can play, we need our best players."
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