Coming off yet another double-digit comeback win, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to get some revenge and clinch the division title Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Here’s everything you need to know about this high-stakes NFC South showdown:
Banners and bragging rights
As Bruce Arians would say, this is a “hat and t-shirt game,” as the Bucs have a chance to clinch the division championship with a victory.
A win would give them back-to-back NFC South titles for the first time, and a third consecutive trip to the postseason.
The Bucs would be the No. 4 seed in the NFC, giving them the opportunity to host a first-round playoff game against the top wild-card team.
Considering how disappointing this season has gone for Tampa Bay compared to preseason expectations, finishing on the positive note of a division crown would be a huge win.
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Mike Evans is inching ever closer to another 1,000-yard season, needing just 83 yards to eclipse the mark this year.
He’s already the only player in NFL history to start his career with eight consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards, so he’ll extend his own historic mark if he’s able to make it happen again over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Even with all of Tampa Bay’s offensive struggles this season, and a connection with Tom Brady that has seemed off at times, Evans is still on the doorstep of yet another 1,000-yard campaign, which would further boost his already-strong case for the Hall of Fame.
Brady’s home finale?
It’s still unclear what Tom Brady plans to do after this season, but if the Bucs were to lose Sunday, it might be the last time Bucs fans get to see him play a home game at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa Bay would need help to get into the playoffs should they fall to the Panthers this week, and Brady’s contract with the Bucs expires after this season.
Whether he would retire or play elsewhere remains a mystery, but a win Sunday would ensure that this isn’t the last time Brady treats the home crowd at RJS to his presence as their quarterback.
One of the low points of Tampa Bay’s season so far was a 21-3 road loss to Carolina earlier in the season, and this rematch gives the Bucs a chance to avenge that defeat in the best way possible.
It’s never fun to be upset by a division rival with a dismal record, but if given their chance to pick, it’s a good bet Tampa Bay would prefer to win this one in front of their home crowd, with the division title on the line.
Carolina is running the ball as well as anyone in the NFL right now, and they’ll want to pound the rock early and often against Tampa Bay’s banged-up defensive front.
Tampa Bay’s lackluster offense will have to make the most of their possessions, scoring touchdowns instead of field goals, and keeping their defense fresh for the fourth quarter.
This one should be an ugly slugfest, with the team that makes the fewest mistakes coming out on top.
With the division on the line, it’s hard to bet against Tom Brady and the Bucs in their regular-season home finale.
Bucs 20, Panthers 17