The 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have matched their 2002 Super Bowl-winning team’s regular-season record of 12-4, giving them a share of the team’s record for most victories. But the season hasn’t yet come to a close!
In this year’s NFL season, the Buccaneers will finish with a record of either 13-4 or 12-5, depending on how the last week of regular season play goes. The Buccaneers have already clinched the NFC South title and will be at least the third seed in the conference playoff field regardless of the outcome of this game.
When it comes to postseason seeding, though, a win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium and a Rams defeat to the 49ers at the same time would propel Tampa Bay into the NFC’s second spot, which is something that the squad is ready to go all out for.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski stated, “It’s vitally crucial to win on Sunday.” “We must go out there and give it everything we’ve got. Things like our playoff seeding are at stake. Because of this, it’s a significant factor. So, you want to be the highest seed you can possibly be, and we have a chance to go up in the seeding.
It’s up to us to go out there and play our best football and give ourselves the greatest shot at a playoff spot.”
In the path of the Buccaneers’ quest for a record 13th victory are the Panthers, who the Buccaneers defeated by 26 points just two weeks ago in Charlotte.
With a six-game losing run going into the season finale, Carolina hasn’t exactly been rolling in victories, even though they’ve had to deal with several injuries and players on the COVID list. Since their tight victory over a Jets club with four wins, the Buccaneers have watched how their opponents have risen to the occasion whenever they face the reigning champs.
Instead of playing down to their opponents, the Buccaneers believe they have played up to them.
‘Not necessarily,’ Kevin Minter remarked. Some people take advantage of us. The Jets came into our game and put on a show, easily one of their best performances of the season.
We knew going into the season that we would be a target every Sunday, so we just have to continue that and keep improving every week. We’ve got to carry it and improve every week. It doesn’t matter what occurs.
That includes the Panthers, who upset the Cardinals in November and have the league’s second-ranked defence along with such talented offensive players as wide receivers D.J.
Moore and Robby Anderson and running back Chuba Hubbard are on their roster. However, Sam Darnold’s rookie season in Carolina hasn’t gone quite as planned, but he’s had some excellent performances and will be driven to put together another one in the last week.
A similar sentiment could be used to Jets rookie Zach Wilson last week, and Wilson had one of his greatest performances against the Buccaneers. There is no assurance that Sunday’s game will go the same way as the Bucs’ blowout victory two weeks ago.
“Every game is unique,” he says. Antoine Winfield, Jr., a safety for the New York Giants, remarked, “They’re going to bring it every week.
” If they win, it’s going to be a significant game for us, too. It makes no difference what we did the week before or the week before that. “We’ve got to be on our A-game for this new game.”
The Buccaneers will face the same opponent twice in the final three weeks of the regular season for the second consecutive year. Two weeks ago, Tampa Bay beat Atlanta, but one of those two victories took a big second-half comeback. It’s rare to face the same team twice in a week, and it raises the question of how much one side will try to shock the other.
According to Head Coach Bruce Arians: “It’s a little bit different. The Falcons did it with us last year and it’s occurred before. ” We’ve met them before and they’ve met us. It’s not as if you’re going to completely change your strategy because you just played them and they’re so well-known. “You’re the finest at what you do.”
This season, the Buccaneers have done one thing better than they ever have before: win games consistently. To win a second straight Super Bowl victory is going to need a lot of hard work, but that’s a problem for next week.
For the time being, the Buccaneers will utilize the 17th game to try to become the first team in NFL history to win 13 consecutive games, a feat that could serve as a springboard for a postseason push.
ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
Two weeks ago, the Buccaneers beat the Panthers 32-6 in Charlotte to keep their hopes of sweeping the season series against the Panthers alive. This would be the first time since 2002 that the two teams have shared a division.
The Bucs now trail the Panthers, 24-18, in the all-time series, thanks to this decision. At Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the Panthers enjoy a 12-game win streak over the Buccaneers. Before the construction of Raymond James Stadium.
the Buccaneers faced the Panthers twice, although both times were on the road, including a game at Death Valley that the Bucs won by a score of 20-13 in the Panthers’ first season.
Tampa Bay and Carolina have had a one-sided head-to-head rivalry in the brand new NFC South Division for nearly two decades, albeit that side often switches back and forth. Thirteen of the 16 season series between these two clubs between 2002 and 2017 concluded in a sweep, including everyone from 2009 to 2017. In 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017, it went Carolina’s way. In 2002, 2010, 2012, and 2016, the Buccaneers won the sweep.
With a 9-3 start to the season, the Buccaneers went on a four-game losing streak in 2008, despite making the playoffs the year before. A sweep by Tampa Bay in 2020 capped off a two-year stretch that saw the series divided twice in 2018 and 2019.
After their 32-6 victory at Bank of America Stadium in Week 16, the Buccaneers have a chance for another one. Only two field goals were allowed by the Buccaneers’ defence, which sacked quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Cam Newton a combined 12 times.
Safety Jordan Whitehead had an important interception and three pass breakups as well. A 55-yard touchdown run by Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the Bucs’ longest of the season, and a 62-yard reception by developing wideout Cyril Grayson sparked the Bucs’ offence, which finished with 95 total yards of offence.
Tom Brady’s first win as a Buccaneer came in September of last year when the Bucs beat the Carolina Panthers at home, and it was the first of 15 victories that would lead to the team’s Super Bowl victory.
Leonard Fournette rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, while Carlton Davis and Jordan Whitehead each intercepted Teddy Bridgewater in a 31-17 victory. The Buccaneers’ rematch with the Panthers in Charlotte in November was a high-scoring battle highlighted by Ronald Jones’ record-breaking 98-yard touchdown run.
The Buccaneers outscored the Panthers by a whopping 10 points in a row to win by a score of 46-23.
Christian McCaffrey was two yards shy of the goal line as Vernon Hargreaves knocked him out of bounds during a fourth-down all-or-nothing run off a direct snap in Week Two of 2019 in Charlotte.
Four weeks after the Buccaneers’ 20-14 victory in Tampa, the Panthers defeated the same opponent 37-26 in London.
The Buccaneers’ game in London in 2019 was officially counted as a home game. It was the first time the Panthers and Buccaneers have met outside of the United States, however, they had previously met at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium in 1995 for the first time.
Shaq Barrett’s three sacks, Chris Godwin’s 121 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and Peyton Barber’s strong rushing performance all contributed to the Bucs’ prime-time victory in September of 2019.
In 2002 and 2005, Tampa Bay clinched victories over Carolina in the series. Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson missed the game against Carolina because he was sick with the illness near the half of the 2002 Super Bowl campaign. The Buccaneers had just suffered another crushing defeat at Philadelphia.
Martin Gramatica’s two-deep field goals late in the fourth quarter rescued the Bucs from a 9-6 deficit. When the Buccaneers visited Bank of America Stadium in 2005, they were in the middle of a three-game road swing late in the season and won by a score of 20-10 in a battle for first place.
Ronde Barber became the first cornerback in history to record 40 interceptions and 25 sacks in a career with a sack and a vital interception in that game.
- Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht was a member of the Panthers’ scouting staff in 1998.
- Tampa Bay’s inside linebackers coach, Mike Caldwell, played 11 seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, and the last of those was in Carolina in 2003.
- Buccaneers CB Ross Cockrell played for the Panthers in 2019, appearing in 14 games with 11 starts and recording two interceptions.
- Carolina Tight Ends Coach Brian Angelichio held the same position on Greg Schiano’s staff with the Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013.
- Carolina Defensive Line Coach Frank Okam played in the NFL as a defensive tackle, seeing action in 25 games with six starts from 2008-11. The last 12 of those games and all six of his starts came with the Buccaneers during the 2010-11 seasons. Okam went to training camp with the Giants the following season but did not play again in the NFL.
- Panthers cornerback Rashaan Melvin began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with the Buccaneers in 2013. He was with the Bucs throughout 2013 and for the first month of 2014 but did not see action in a regular-season game.
- Carolina linebacker Julian Stanford had a stint on Tampa Bay’s practice squad in 2015.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
- Head Coach Bruce Arians
- Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
- Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles
- Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
- Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
- Head Coach Matt Rhule
- Offensive Coordinator/Senior Offensive Assistant/Running Backs Jeff Nixon
- Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow
- Special Teams Coordinator Chase Blackburn
KEY 2021 ROSTER ADDITIONS
- S Andrew Adams (FA)
- RB Kenjon Barner (FA)
- RB Leon Bell (FA)
- RB Giovani Bernard (FA)
- LB K.J. Britt (5th-round draft pick)
- WR Jaelon Darden (4th-round draft pick)
- CB Pierre Desir (FA)
- CB Dee Delaney (FA)
- OL Robert Hainsey (3rd-round draft pick)
- WR Breshad Perriman (FA)
- CB Rashard Robinson (FA)
- CB Richard Sherman (FA)
- LB Grant Stuard (7th-round pick)
- QB Kyle Trask (2nd-round draft pick)
- OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (1st-round draft pick)
- RB Ameer Abdullah (FA)
- CB A.J. Bouye (FA)
- T Brady Christensen (3rd-round draft pick)
- QB Sam Darnold (T-NYJ)
- G Pat Elflein (UFA)
- T Cameron Erving (UFA)
- DE Morgan Fox (UFA)
- CB Stephon Gilmore (T-NE)
- K Lirim Hajrullahu (FA)
- CB Jaycee Horn (1st-round draft pick…on injured reserve)
- RB Chuba Hubbard (4th-round draft pick)
- DT DaQuan Jones (UFA)
- LB Frankie Luvu (FA0
- G Michael Jordan (W-CIN)
- WR Terrace Marshall (2nd-round draft pick)
- CB Rashaan Melvin (FA)
- QB Cam Newton (FA)
- DT Daviyon Nixon (5th-round draft pick…on injured reserve)
- OLB Haason Reddick (UFA)
- CB Keith Taylor (5th-round draft pick)
- TE Tommy Tremble (3rd-round draft pick)
ADDITIONAL 2021 CHANGES OF NOTE
On the field, the Buccaneers have managed to keep “the band” together while also retaining nearly their entire coaching staff for the next season in 2021. Antwaan Randle El, an offensive assistant, left to join Dan Campbell’s staff in Detroit as a receivers coach.
There were two additions to Arians’ staff: Offensive Assistant A.Q. Shipley and Assistant Wide Receivers Coach Thaddeus Lewis.
He helped Jason Licht in his efforts to maintain their Super Bowl-winning roster together as director of football administration.
Mike Greenberg was promoted to vice president of football administration in the offseason. This will be Greenberg’s 12th season in the league.
• The Buccaneers’ 2021 home schedule will be played in front of crowds ranging from empty stands to about 25 per cent capacity after they played their 2020 home schedule in front of empty stands or about 25 per cent capacity.
There is no limit to how much we can do. The defending champions have already sold out every home game this season; the last time every game at Raymond James Stadium sold out was in 2009.
After a decade-long absence, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to the field in 2020 with a new set of jerseys and pants that were significantly influenced by the team’s design during its first Super Bowl period.
During last season’s campaign, the squad had four different colour schemes to choose from: pewter against pewter, white against white, and red against pewter. In 2021, the Buccaneers will debut a fifth uniform option, consisting of a red jersey paired with white pants, when they host the Saints on Sunday Night Football in Week 15.
Following an extensive search that featured 15 candidates, the Panthers hired Scott Fitterer as their new general manager to begin the new year. Former Seattle Seahawks Vice President of Football Operations Marty Hurney was fired in December, and Fitterer was brought in to replace him.
Dan Morgan, who served as director of player personnel for the Buffalo Bills from 2018 to 2020, was also appointed as an assistant general manager by the Panthers. Morgan had worked with Fitterer in Seattle before.
In the offseason, Carolina did not make any major changes to Matt Rhule’s coaching staff, but they did make one notable adjustment early this month. Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady was let go during the bye week after joining coach Gregg Rhule in 2020 after leaving LSU.
Jeff Nixon, who had previously served as the team’s senior offensive assistant and running backs coach, was named the team’s play-calling coordinator by head coach Mark Rhule. Nixon served as Baylor’s play-caller from 2017 to 2019.
After Jeff Peetz left to become the offensive coordinator at LSU, the Panthers hired a new quarterbacks coach in 2021. Texans and Lions defensive coordinator Sean Ryan was hired by Carolina for the 2017-18 and 2019-20 seasons.
Both Tony Sparano, Jr., and Kevin M. Gilbride, sons of former NFL head coaches, have joined Carolina’s coaching staff as assistant offensive line coaches and defensive analysts, respectively. Frank Okam was elevated from assistant defensive line coach to defensive line coach in Mike Phair’s place, as well.
Since the Buccaneers’ last meeting with the Panthers, the Panthers have undergone two major quarterback changes. The Panthers acquired Sam Darnold from the Jets in April in exchange for the former third-overall pick in 2018 and a 2021 sixth-round pick as well as 2022 second and fourth-round picks.
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina’s own 2020 starter, was then sent to Denver as part of a separate deal. Before being placed on the injured reserve, Darnold appeared in nine games. After that, the Panthers chose to rewind the clock by re-signing Cam Newton, the team’s all-time leading rusher. While he was in New England for the 2020 season after being released by the Panthers, Newton lost out to rookie Mac Jones for the Patriots’ starting quarterback position.
The Panthers’ last four games, all losses, have been started by Newton. It’s possible that Darnold, who just recently returned to practice, will be activated in the coming week.
Christian McCaffrey’s season was wiped out by injuries for the second year in a row, forcing the Panthers to find a backup running back. McCaffrey was limited to seven games in 2021 after suffering an ankle injury and missing time with a hamstring injury.
Running back Chuba Hubbard, a fourth-round draught pick has taken centre stage, with Ameer Abdullah joining the team in October after the Vikings released him.
It’s Time to Sow! There is no hope for the Buccaneers to capture the NFC’s lone first-round bye, but they still have a division title and a home playoff date. In the meantime, they still have a big reward to go for in Week 18, and that’s a great motivator for the final game of the season.
To put it another way, Bruce Arians claimed he would not “balance” thinking about resting players with achieving that final objective. “No such thing exists. There isn’t any equilibrium, “On Monday, he said this. “If you want to win, you have to play to win. It’s a big deal if you make it to the second round.
Nobody is getting a break. We’re aiming for victory.” They are currently ranked third in the NFC rankings, but if they win the Panthers and the 49ers beat the Rams this weekend, they will leapfrog the 49ers into the second seed. NFL rescheduled the Bucs-Panthers game to 4:25 to ensure that neither team would know if a win was still crucial before kickoff.
The second seed’s importance is self-evident: In the playoffs, if you win your division, you are guaranteed at least one home game, but if you obtain the second seed, you are guaranteed a second home game, if you win the first one. And if the team that meets Green Bay in the second round, following the Packers’
locked-in first-round bye manages to pull off the shock the second seed would even have a shot at playing the conference championship game at home. Buccaneers are thinking about all of this as they await Panther’s arrival Sunday.
Another Invasion of the Backfield? – The huge disparity in pass protection between the Buccaneers’ and Panthers’ offences was a major component in the visitors’ 26-point triumph two weeks ago. Even though Carolina has one of the best pass rushes in the league, Tom Brady was not sacked and was only hit twice on 30 dropbacks. Tampa Bay’s defence, on the other hand, sacked and hit Carolina quarterbacks Cam Newton and Sam Darnold 11 times in total.
As a result of the Buccaneers’ season-high number of sacks, they were able to keep the Panthers to only 266 passing yards. Carolina gave up another seven sacks against the Saints the next week and saw an increase in their sack rate per pass play to 8.99 per cent, which is seventh-worst in the league.
A knee injury just before halftime in Week 16 sidelined Bucs edge rusher Shaq Barrett, who had one of those seven sacks, making him unavailable for Week 18. As a result of the shoulder issue that has plagued him all season, fellow starter Jason Pierre-Paul is also out of the last two games.
Buccaneers may be able to put pressure on Darnold in a different way, however. A career-high 2.5 from Will Gholston led the way with four of the seven sacks produced in Week 16 by interior defensive linemen.
In their defeat over the Saints, the Panthers were once again stung by a lack of offensive cohesion. Gholston, Vita Vea, and Ndamukong Suh all have a chance to slow Carolina down once more if they stay together.
Priorities for the Panthers – In their season finale against the reigning champions, the Buccaneers learned the hard way that even a club that is closer to the first round of the draught than a playoff place can summon plenty of motivation and extremely competitive play.
As they did against the Jets, Tampa Bay will be expecting a similar challenge from the Panthers on Sunday.” This means the Panthers must be thinking about their future as they wind down their disappointing 2021 campaign.
In his second season in charge, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule hopes to see his squad show the development he believes they are making. Carolina must find a solution at the most crucial position after alternating between the 2021 trade acquisition of Sam Darnold and returned franchise hero Cam Newton. In light of the Panthers’ familiarity with Newton, Rhule announced early this week that Darnold will make his second consecutive start in Week 18. Despite a promising start, Darnold cooled off and eventually had to be placed on the injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury.
He has a 70.2 passing rating and a 7-12 TD-INT ratio going into the final game of his debut season in Charlotte. However, even if Carolina wins on Sunday, they will still be in the top 10 of next year’s selection and maybe evaluating whether or not they should take a new franchise quarterback in the first round of the draught.
Once again, Brady’s (New) Bunch Tom Brady threw for 400 yards against the Jets in Week 17 and threw to the likes of Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson, Leon Bell, Breshad Perriman, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who combined to catch 216 passes. After Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette,
and Mike Evans went down with injuries in recent weeks, the Buccaneer’s offence was forced to adjust. Despite this, Evans returned to the game against the Jets and played 56 snaps. The reshuffling will continue in Week 18, mostly due to the departure of Antonio Brown and the ankle injury to Ronald Jones. On offensively, the Buccaneers may need a few more players to step up to Grayson’s now elevated
responsibility. If Jones is unable to play, it might be Vaughn and Bell who take over. On the depth chart for Tampa Bay, Perriman, who played just 11 snaps last week, is labelled as a starter.
Scotty Miller, who had 501 receiving yards in 2020 but hasn’t played much in 2021, could be the one.
Rob Gronkowski’s 115-yard haul and Cam Brate’s second score in as many games could be the reason for the team’s recent success. There is still a lot of untapped potential in O.J. Howard, and he might play a bigger role in the playoffs and Week 18. This week’s Bucs offence will look very different than it did just a few weeks ago, or even a few weeks ago before that.
Even though they’ve won five of their last six games and allowed 16.6 points per game on defence, the Buccaneers’ defence has been lacking recently in two key aspects.
The Buccaneers looked like they were on their way to a third straight No. 1 rushing defence rating this season, but they’ve allowed more than 112 yards per game in their last 11 games, including 150 to the Jets on Sunday.
This season has seen the Buccaneers record 27 takeaways, but only four of those have occurred in their final five games, and only one of those was the fumble that ended the Jets’ game last week.
It’s been since Week 12 that the Buccaneers’ defence hasn’t forced more than one turnover and hasn’t produced a turnover-related touchdown or takeaway. Buccaneers won four straight games with just one turnover but can’t expect that formula to continue working in the playoffs.