On Sunday, the Buccaneers picked up their fourth win in a row, defeating San Diego on the road and moving into a tie with Atlanta for first place in the NFC South. Atlanta owns the tiebreaker currently, but if the season were to end today Tampa Bay would make the playoffs as a Wild Card team in the NFC.
As the Buccaneers continue to come on strong at the end of the year, members of the media are beginning to buy into Tampa Bay's playoff aspirations. On NFL Network, former coach and current analyst Brian Billick was asked the question: Are the Buccaneers for real?
"Absolutely, particularly with the way they're playing defense," Billick answered. "We know Jameis Winston and Mike Evans are a hot combination. Jameis Winston is really getting into a rhythm here, he's not having those wild swings of four touchdowns one game and then three interceptions the next. But the defense is the difference here. Let's remember their two big wins right now - at Kansas City and at San Diego. You know how I value big wins on the road. This Buc defense, since Week 5, leads the league in turnover differential. That's worth noting.
"We know how good Philip Rivers is. No team has put down Philip Rivers this way offensively since Week 2 against the really good Denver defense. I think Tampa Bay, along with an offense that's getting going … they got big plays from Doug Martin, Jacquizz Rodgers is coming off an injury for the last couple weeks. They are getting hot at the right time."
Both Tampa Bay and Atlanta sit at 7-5, with Atlanta being 3-1 in the division and the Buccaneers being 2-1. The Bucs won't meet the Falcons again but will have three more division games down the stretch, including two games against the Saints over the next three weeks.
There is still plenty of football to play, but the Bucs are on track to extending their season well into January.