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5 Qs with Bucs Nation

The NFC South in a perfect nutshell, plus playoff hopes

Bobby Joe Edmonds Buccaneers

The Panthers open their 2023 series against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tomorrow, so we did the usual five questions series with Bucs Nation. There’s plenty below about promising rookies, the impact of Baker Mayfield, and other tidbits about the game that are worth reading, but I want to draw particular focus to the following quote for Bucs writer Evan Wanish:

There are some fans who are still on board with making the playoffs and I completely get that. On the other hand, there are those who are ready to declare the season over and start focusing on the draft. It is crazy to believe that with all the struggles the Bucs have had this year that they are so close to leading this division.

It’s the NFC South experience in a paragraph. That was the Panthers fate almost every year under Ron Rivera and even for much of the seasons under Matt Rhule. The Panthers are struggling to tread water in the worst division in the NF, but their path to consistent playoff runs is obvious if they can just learn to swim. After all, it is part of how Tom Brady and the New England Patriots remained relevant every year, even when their rosters were subpar.

The Carolina Panthers just fired their head coach and a majority of Bucs fans want to do the same. What was the turning point in Tampa where Todd Bowles lost the fans?

I think it has to be the loss against Houston in week 9. The Bucs took the lead with 46 seconds left only to have it ripped away by C.J. Stroud. That marked their 4th straight loss at the time and it really left a sour taste in fan’s mouths.

Bowles’ specialty is obviously defense and his unit being shredded by a rookie QB was the final turning point for fans when it comes to Bowles’ job security. Now just because the fans want Bowles gone doesn’t necessarily mean he will be let go. The Bucs still have a chance to make the playoffs and Bowles would likely be safe if that were to happen.

Time will tell whether or not Bowles will keep his job, but the clock is ticking.

How’s our old pal Baker doing? Tampa Bay’s season seems to have nose dived from a hot start to a “fire the coach” middle.

Mayfield has been decent for Tampa Bay. Despite some inconsistencies, he has been able to protect the football throughout the season, even though the turnovers have become a little more of an issue the past few weeks. While his ceiling is limited, his floor has been an average to slightly above average starter, which is what the Bucs were looking for in the offseason. For only signing a 1 year, 4 million dollar deal, he has been a solid signing for the Bucs and will be under consideration to be back in 2024 especially if the team retains Bowles.

The Panthers are not currently known for having an offensive line. Vita Vea is going to be a problem. Who else should the Panthers be worried about on defense?

The two rookies Calijah Kancey and Yaya Diaby have really made an impact this season and they have even earned more playing time as a result. The two have combined for 7 sacks this season and continue to be a bright spot for Tampa Bay.

Against a Panthers O Line that has struggled this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kancey and Diaby have another great showing

Even the 1-10 Panthers aren’t technically out of playoff contention via the NFC South crown. How are Bucs fans feeling about being only 1.5 games out of the division lead?

There are some fans who are still on board with making the playoffs and I completely get that. On the other hand, there are those who are ready to declare the season over and start focusing on the draft. It is crazy to believe that with all the struggles the Bucs have had this year that they are so close to leading this division.

Somebody has to win the NFC South and it could be the Bucs, but it has to start this week with a win against a division opponent if they want any shot.

The spread on Draftkings Sportsbook has moved one point in favor of the Panthers (from the Bucs as -6 point favorites to now -4 point favorites) since odds opened. Nobody in their right mind bets on the Panthers winning a game, so what is leading to the lack of confidence in the Bucs against what has been the absolute worst team in the league?

I think Bucs fans have just seen this story too many times. Last year the Panthers fired Matt Rhule a few weeks before playing Tampa and then earlier in the week before playing them they traded Christian McCaffrey but it did not matter as the Panthers beat the Bucs 21-3. Teams always play harder for an interim coach, combined with the Bucs struggles against teams fans felt they should have beaten and that’s what leads to the lack of confidence.

At the end of the day, I think the Bucs find a way to win and keep their playoff hopes alive for another week. Give me the Bucs 20-14 in a nail biter.