With both teams missing star players, today's game could come down to whose remaining stars make the big plays
You think the 2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are up against the wall?
Try the 1982 Bucs, who, on December 18th, had just two victories. That team beat the Buffalo Bills on December 19, 24-23, and went on, amazingly, to make the postseason.
Huh?, you ask. Well, in that strike-shortened season, a 5-4 record was enough to put a team into the crudely-fashioned 'Super Bowl Tournament.' That may seem to have little relevance 18 years later, but it marks the last time the infrequently-played Buffalo-Tampa Bay series carried any postseason meaning for the Buccaneers.
That game is also instructional in how it ended: Hall of Fame-bound DE Lee Roy Selmon forced a crucial fumble in the final minute to preserve the win for Tampa Bay. If the 2000 Buccaneers are to kick start another playoff run, starting today against Buffalo, it just might take big plays from the biggest players.
Buffalo is 22nd in the league in protecting its quarterbacks…DT Warren Sapp has 11.5 sacks and needs just two more to break the team's single-season record. On the other hand, the Bills are the third-hardest team to run against, but diminutive RB Warrick Dunn is eager to prove he can handle the rushing load alone without injured comrade Mike Alstott.
CB Donnie Abraham, who tied for the NFL lead in interceptions last year with seven, has six this season and is within striking distance of the team record. Timely picks off QB Rob Johnson could swing the tide, but Buffalo has thrown just five interceptions all season. LB Derrick Brooks needs to contain the Bills persistent rushing attack; QB Shaun King has had strong performances in virtually every Buccaneer win; C Jeff Christy has to deal with massive Buffalo nose tackle Ted Washington; and so on.
However, some of the two teams' strongest performers will not be able to sway the outcome. Strong safety John Lynch is likely to join his Pro Bowl teammate, Alstott, on the sideline, though he was not de-activated on Friday. Buffalo will be without DE Phil Hansen, RB Sammy Morris and CB Antoine Winfield.
Neither team is looking for excuses, however. Both are simply looking for a final push before the mad December playoff scramble. Chances are, in 2000, you won't be able to wait until December 19 to start your postseason run.
This crucial game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. today, and you can follow all of the action in our special Gameday section. Follow this link to get pregame reports from the Bucs' locker room and details of the game after each quarter. You'll also find injury information, lineups, stats, game photos and much more in the Gameday section.