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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Second Season Begins | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about the Bucs' all-time playoff record, our opponent in the Wild Card Round, news around the league and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles will be the last teams to play during the NFL's Super Wild Card weekend, which puts them in an interesting position heading into Monday night. By then, the Buccaneers and Eagles will know specifically what ticket they can punch with a victory.

The Buccaneers are the fourth seed in the seven-team NFC field, and the Eagles are fifth. That means the outcome of their game will not affect the Divisional Round seeding the way the other two games will and the league will likely release it's schedule for the following weekend after Sunday night's game between the Rams and the Lions, with one marked as "Buccaneers or Eagles."

There are four possible Divisional Round matchups for the winner of the Bucs-Eagles game. Dallas is playing Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. If the Cowboys and Lions both win, the Bucs or Eagles would go to San Francisco. If the Cowboys win but the Lions lose, the destination would be Dallas. If the Lions win but the Cowboys lose, the destination would be Detroit. And if both the Cowboys and Lions lose, the Bucs-Eagles winner would be at home in the Divisional Round against the Rams.

That last result is obviously the most appealing to Monday's winner, but of course it is also the least likely in that it requires two upsets by road teams in Dallas and Detroit. That's not to suggest that neither the Rams nor the Packers have a shot in their respective games; in fact, neither of those outcomes would surprise me much. However, history suggests it's a long shot, considering it's been 15 years since something similar happened.

This is the fourth season that the NFL has had a seven-game playoff field in each conference, a setup that allows for only one team to get a bye (in the NFC this year, that's San Francisco). All of the other three division-winning teams get first-round home games against a Wild Card team. For the fourth or fifth seed to get a second home game, both the second and third teams have to lose their first game. That hasn't happened in the first three years of this format, though the NFC came close last January when the Wild Card Cowboys and Giants beat the Buccaneers and Vikings, respectively. However, the second-seeded 49ers held serve so the fifth-seeded Cowboys had to go to San Francisco.

From 1990 through 2019, the NFL had six playoff teams in each conference and the top two both got first-round byes. That meant it was impossible for a team seeded third or lower to have a home game in the Divisional Round, because the first and second-seeded teams were waiting for them at their homes. However, it was possible for any team other than the sixth seed to get a home game in the Conference Championship Game if both of the top seeds lost in the Divisional Round. Possible, but uncommon, as it only happened twice.

In 2008, the #3 Cardinals beat the #2 Panthers and the #6 Eagles upended the #1 Giants, sending Arizona home for the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles. In 2006, the #3 Colts beat the #2 Ravens and the #4 Patriots beat the #1 Chargers to set up an AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis with the New England as the visitors. This wasn't an extremely surprising outcome, as the AFC was very top-heavy that season. The Chargers went 14-2, the Ravens were 13-3 and both the Patriots and Colts were 12-4.

From 1978 through 1989, the NFL took five teams from each conference into the postseason, three division winners and two Wild Cards. In this format, the two Wild Card teams played each other as the only game in the first round. The winner of that game and the division winner with the worst record were the road teams in the next round. If both of those teams won in that round, the third division winner would be at home for the conference championship game. This happened just once, in 1987. The Vikings won the Wild Card game and then beat the top-seeded 49ers in the second round, while #3 Washington upset #2 Chicago. That led to the Vikings visiting Washington for the NFC Championship Game.

From the 1970 AFL-NFL merger through 1977, four teams in each conference made the playoffs but up through 1974, the home games in the playoffs were determined by alternating division assignments, not win-loss records. That changed in 1975 to the current approach, but there were no instances of lower seeds getting conference championship games in those three seasons.

Under the current format, the winner of the Buccaneers-Eagles game could even be the host for the NFC Championship Game. For that to happen, the Bucs-Eagles winner would have to defeat the Rams in the Divisional Round while the Packers went to San Francisco and took care of the 49ers. That would send Green Bay to either Tampa or Philadelphia.

That's the dream scenario. It's possible, but similar scenarios have not played out very often in the past.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

What is the Bucs all time record in the wild card round?

- @abimarinberg (via Instagram)

Bucs record for home playoff games?

- @abimarinberg (via Instagram)

Might as well lump these two from the same Bucs fan together.

The Bucs have played in the Wild Card Round eight times, as an actual Wild Card team in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2020 and as a division winner in 2005, 2007, 2021 and 2022. They won in '97, '20 and '21 and lost the other five, so the Buccaneers record in the Wild Card round is 3-5.

The Bucs have played 10 playoff games at home, not counting Super Bowl LV against Kansas City, which is considered a neutral-site game even though it was played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. They won one and lost one at home in the 1979 and 2021 playoffs. They won single home playoff games in 1997, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2022, winning the first three and losing the next three. That adds up to an even 5-5 record in home playoff games. I say we use the Super Bowl as a tiebreaker and call it 6-5.

In your opinion why have the eagles nose dived over the last 6 weeks or so?

- @toria435 (via Instagram)

Somebody like Dave Spadaro of the Eagles and the team's website would probably be a better person to ask, as he's been there for the whole ride and I have only sporadically looked closely at that team. In his recent "takeaways" article after the Eagles' Week 18 loss to the Giants, which completed a 1-5 finish to the regular season, Spadaro touched on apparently persistent defensive woes, a recent rash of injuries and turnovers. Here's a couple excerpts:

"How does the defense put things together for the playoffs? This has been a season-long project and now there is zero margin for error. What can the Eagles count on when they play Tampa Bay? It starts with stopping the running game, something the defense did extremely well back in September, holding the Bucs to 41 rushing yards on 17 carries."

"Obviously, the Eagles have to eliminate the turnovers (the Eagles gave it away four times on Sunday and finished with a minus-10 in the turnover department for the season), the missed tackles, the field goals in the red zone, etc. A team that has many veterans who played in the Super Bowl in February knows that it has to collectively raise its game. There is a path here. The playoffs are a new season and while the Eagles would have preferred reaching the postseason with some momentum, they have a heartbeat."

Those turnovers sure seem like a big part of it. During the Eagles' 1-5 skid they committed 12 turnovers and only created four takeaways on defense. That negative-10 turnover ratio on the season is the sixth worst in the NFL. It could be even worse, because Philadelphia has only allowed 56 points off its 28 giveaways, a 2.0-point average that is the fifth best in the league. Still, the Eagles hurt themselves on offense a lot more down the stretch than they did in the first half of the season.

And overall, the defensive results have not been at all what the team expected. The Eagles were second in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed in 2022 on their way to the Super Bowl, and they racked up an astonishing 70 sacks, 15 more than the second-place team. That defense did lose a couple players in free agency, including defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, slot corner C.J. Gardner-Johnson and safety Marcus Epps. They drafted Jalen Carter as a replacement for Hargrave, and he has been outstanding, but the Eagles have had a hard time getting above-average play from the off-ball linebacker spot. Philadelphia's pressure rate on defense is still good but the pass-rushers aren't getting home as often, with "only" 43 sacks in 2023.

It's not just Spadaro noting that the Eagles have had a problem on defense, particularly in the second half of the season (they certainly had no problems in Week Three in Tampa!). The Eagles themselves made that clear by switching defensive play calling duties from Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai to Senior Defensive Assistant Matt Patricia in mid-December. The Eagles have allowed 390.7 yards per game over the last six weeks, fourth most in the NFL, and have surrendered 20 touchdowns, the most in the NFL.

Playing without cornerback Darius Slay for a month certainly hasn't helped a pass defense that slipped to 31st in the NFL by the end of the regular season. The offense was without running back D'Andre Swift and wide receiver DeVonta Smith in Week 18 and wide receiver A.J. Brown left the game early with a knee injury. Those are the top three producers in the Eagles' offense.

And then maybe we should look at the schedule. The first two losses in the skid were to the 49ers and Cowboys. The lopsided nature of those defeats is a bit concerning but it doesn't exactly send up alarm bells to lose those two games. The third loss was a last-minute shocker against Seattle and backup quarterback Drew Lock, in a game where the defense actually held the Seahawks to 297 yards. A win over the Giants followed in Week 16. The surprise was the back-to-back losses to the Cardinals and Giants to close it out. The Eagles defense had its worst performance of the season in the 33-25 loss to Arizona. We might not want to read too much into the loss to the Giants because, after the injuries started to pile up and the game was starting to look meaningless due to Dallas hammering Washington at the same time, Philly pulled Jalen Hurts and some other starters.

But you know what? The Buccaneers have had two unproductive games in a row on offense but they still believe they can get back to the type of football they were playing in the month before that. Similarly, I imagine the Eagles believe they can recapture the defensive form that allowed them to hold the Bucs to 174 yards and 11 points back in September.

Not bucs related, but is this the craziest 48 hours in head coaching history?

- @trent_beckham (via Instagram)

Absolutely bonkers. Three of the most celebrated football coaches of all time vacating their posts in a span of less than two days. First the Seahawks announced that Pete Carroll would move from coaching into an advisory role, something Carroll later said he "fought" against happening. Not long after that, Nick Saban announces that he's stepping down as head coach at the University of Alabama, where he coached for 17 years and won six national championships. (He also won one at LSU in 2003.)

The Carroll and Saban moves were true stunners, something the vast majority of us never saw coming. That wasn't quite the case with Bill Belichick and the Patriots, for whom a separation had been widely speculated for much of the season. Still, when perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history leaves his post (it was termed a "mutual" parting) after 24 seasons and six Super Bowl championships, it's a momentous occasion.

The thing is, we're just getting started. Does Belichick want to continue coaching, and just how many of the current open head coaching jobs will he be linked to. Will Carroll be satisfied with an office upstairs or does he still have the jones to be on the sideline. Both men are north of 70 years old but certainly don't seem as if they have slowed down.

There's likely to be plenty more drama ahead, but to have all of that happen in two days? Yes, I would agree, the craziest ever.

Is it true Ko Kiefts full name is Konstantine Kieft?

- @ryfass (via Instagram)

No he says his full first name is Ko. Ko Jason Kieft. It is derived from the name of a great grandfather of his, Jakobus.

Perhaps there's a joke in this question, but if so I'm missing it.

Why is yaya diaby not in the race for droty

- @dominichall5603 (via Instagram)

Oh, I think he's in the running, but not necessarily near the front of the pack. I think some voters will consider him given that he led all NFL rookies with 12 tackles for loss and finished third with 7.5 sacks. Of course, voters for these types of awards tend to fixate on sack or interception totals, and if Diaby is third then there are two other guys who are obviously going to get a lot of attention as well. That's Kobie Turner (9.0) and Byron Young (8.0) for the Rams, and Turner in particular was hot down the stretch, when voters were starting to think about their ballots.

Then there's the elephant in the room. If you want to win a rookie of the year award, you better make sure you're drafted in the first round. The last DROTY who was not a first-round pick was Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard in 2018, and he was the fourth pick of the second round. You have to go all the way back to Erik McMillan in 1988 to find a DROTY who was picked after the second round, and there's only a couple second-rounders along the way.

Diaby was a third-round pick. Is it a great thing that the Buccaneers got a player who should receive DROTY attention in the third round? Hell, yeah! Is that draft position potentially hurting Diaby's award chances? I can't prove it, but I believe it.

I just looked up updated odds on Defensive Rookie of the Year. I see Jalen Carter listed as the favorite, Will Anderson as second, Devon Witherspoon as third and Christian Gonzalez as fourth. Those were the ninth, third, fifth and 17th picks in the draft, respectively.

Who has been on the team the longest

- @huntervarner23 (via Instagram)

I am assuming you mean among the players. Currently, that would be Lavonte David, who was drafted in the second round in 2012 and is now in his 12th season with the Buccaneers. Next is Will Gholston, who was drafted in 2013 and is in his 11th Buc season, and third is Mike Evans, a 2014 draft pick in his 10th season.

If you mean all time, as in who recorded the longest tenure with the Buccaneers at any point in franchise history, it's Ronde Barber. He holds the Bucs record for most seasons played at 16 (1997-2012), as well as games played (242).

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