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What's Next: Division Title in Hand, Bucs Take Final Trip to New York

Tampa Bay, having clinched the NFC South in Charlotte in Week 16, will finish up its 2021 regular-season home slate next Sunday with a trip to the Meadowlands to play the Jets as they continue to battle for NFC playoff seeding

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) aims a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/WIlfredo Lee)
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) aims a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/WIlfredo Lee)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the 2021 NFC South Division champions but, as Head Coach Bruce Arians said after their Week 16 win at Carolina, they want to raise three banners this year. And thus, with a potential repeat of their 2020 NFC and NFL championships still on the table, the Buccaneers have a lot of work left to do.

That work begins in the Meadowlands in Week 17, as the Buccaneers take their final regular-season road trip of the season to take on the New York Jets. The game is set for Sunday, January 2, with kickoff at 1:00 p.m. ET. The Bucs will be trying to complete a five-game sweep against AFC opponents this season after previously beating New England, Miami, Indianapolis and Buffalo, but more importantly they'll be trying to keep pace in the overall NFC seeding race.

While the Buccaneers clinched their own division on Sunday with a dominating 32-6 win in Charlotte, the Dallas Cowboys also locked down the NFC East with a blowout win over Washington, one day after the Green Bay Packers secured the NFC North title. The Los Angeles Rams have taken over first place in the NFC West from the slumping Arizona Cardinals, and now the Bucs, Cowboys and Rams are all 11-4. The Packers lead the way at 12-3. While Green Bay is now the overwhelming favorite to take the top seed and the first-round bye that comes with it, the next three spots are still very much up for grabs. For at least one more week, the Buccaneers still have a lot to play for.

They'll face a Jets team that is coming off an invigorating 26-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that pitted the first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft against each other. Zach Wilson's Jets beat Trevor Lawrence's Jaguars more on the strength of Wilson's legs than his arm. Wilson ran for 91 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown, as New York rolled up a stunning 273 yards on the ground. Rookie running back Michael Carter gained 118 yards on just 16 carries and the Jets averaged 7.6 yards per carry.

Wilson, the second-overall pick out of BYU, has had an up-and-down debut season, unsurprising for a rookie quarterback thrown directly into the starting lineup. He threw for 102 yards on 14-of-22 passing in Sunday's win, with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Overall, Wilson has completed 56.7% of his passes for 2,013 yards, seven touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 67.9 passer rating. His leading target, with 50 catches, is Jamison Crowder, but fellow rookie Elijah Moore has come on strong in the second half of the season and now has a team-leading 538 yards and five touchdowns on 43 receptions.

The Buccaneers' win in Charlotte in Week 16 gave them 11-plus wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Now the Buccaneers have a chance in Week 17 to match their team record for single-season victories with a 12th win next Sunday in the Meadowlands. They already have the NFC South title in hand but their biggest goals are still ahead of them.

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