Well it looks as if the Bucs had actually made the playoffs, they would have played Seattle on Saturday. Detroit punched their ticket over Tampa by the slimmest of margins. It seems to have come down to the third or fourth tiebreaker and strength of schedule.
Detroit put on a terrible performance. Just like every game this Wildcard Weekend, it was a blowout. Detroit entered this game with a solid defense and offense, at least that was my perception. Seattle dominated in all three phases of the game and it was another boring playoff game. Sigh.
That leads Bucs fans to the reoccurring question of the day, “Could they have beaten Seattle?”.
After the utter destruction Tampa had put on Seattle earlier in the season, it is easy to say yes. Tampa’s defense may have been the best I have seen since Gruden was on the sidelines. The unit generated six sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. Russell Wilson had nowhere to go all day and had no answer.
I honestly just don’t see it playing out the same way. Tampa’s offense is easily the answer as to why not. In that game specifically, the Bucs jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. After that, zero more points were scored. If it wasn’t for the defense and if Seattle had played like they played on Saturday, then that game could have gone the opposite direction.
The Bucs also lost a huge contributor since then, Cameron Brate. Brate was arguably Tampa’s second best weapon. As far as dependability, Jameis would have had to rely on Mike Evans and Adam Humphries specifically at the wide receiver position. That’s it. Sure our other receivers can make plays, but in the playoffs? I don’t know.
Round two would have been in Seattle. Not only is it one of the loudest stadiums ever recorded in history, but they simply do not lose at home in the playoffs. The Seahawks are 9-0 in their last nine home games at CenturyLink Field. That is impressive.
The Seahawks also have vast playoff experience, making the post-season six of the last seven seasons. Most of that roster has complete confidence and familiarity with playing football in January. Unfortunately for the Bucs, there aren’t nearly as many players at that level. Clinton McDonald and J.R. Sweezy are one of few that come to mind that actually do. Playoff experience is coming, though.
Jameis may not have been entirely ready for that moment. He is three games removed from head-butting a Cowboys defender on Sunday night football which is half the stage a playoff game possesses. He seems to get pretty riled-up in big moments and it’s going to take time for him to grow accustomed to these environments. Add in the lack of offensive talent and offensive regression this season and it’s easy to support this claim.
Now don’t get me wrong. I would not be surprised to see the upset. The defense may know how to attack Wilson and Carroll’s offense. They also may have perceived a playoff game as extra incentive to showcase their skills.
As I had stated before, I was proud enough of the overall improvement in 2016. It’s irrational to pigeonhole expectations for playoffs or bust. A three-win improvement is better than most teams have accomplished since 2015. I anticipate it to only get better from here on out. Playoff experience would have been a nice bonus for an exciting and fairly successful season, I just don’t think they would have had enough juice to take down the Hawks if they had made the playoffs.
If we had played the Lions, on the other hand……