Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Clinch NFC South Title with Win in Charlotte

With a Week 16 road win over the Panthers on Sunday, the Buccaneers clinched the 2021 NFC South title, ending the Saints' four-year hold on the division and guaranteeing at least one playoff game at Raymond James Stadium

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It's official: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will get a chance to defend their Super Bowl LV title.

On Sunday, the Buccaneers clinched their first NFC South title since 2007 by beating the Carolina Panthers, 32-6, in Charlotte. The victory improved Tampa Bay's record to 11-4 and eliminated their last competition for the division crown, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints play the Miami Dolphins on Monday night but, with a 7-7 record, can get no more than 10 wins by season's end. The Panthers and Atlanta Falcons had been eliminated from division contention two weeks earlier.

The Saints had won the previous four NFC South titles and held a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buccaneers this season if the two teams had finished the season with identical records. The Saints could still make the playoffs as Wild Card team and the possibility remains of a playoff rematch between those two division foes after Tampa Bay's win in New Orleans in the Divisional Round last season.

By winning their division, the Buccaneers guaranteed themselves at least one home game to start the playoffs. The NFC division winner with the best record at the end of the season will get the only first-round bye but the other three division winners will all start with home games against Wild Card teams. As a Wild Card tam last year, the Buccaneers memorably won three straight road games before becoming the first team in NFL history to both play in and win a Super Bowl in their own home stadium.

The Buccaneers will be seeking their third Super Bowl title in this year's postseason, after winning Super Bowl XXXVII following the 2002 season and Super Bowl LV last February. In an effort to be the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since New England and the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Tampa Bay worked aggressively this past offseason to keep almost their entire Super Bowl-winning roster intact. That included using the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin (now on injured reserve) and re-signing such core contributors as Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Succop, Leonard Fournette and Ndamukong Suh. The team also signed quarterback Tom Brady to a contract extension through the 2022 season after he won his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl ring as well as the Super Bowl MVP award.

This marks the 12th time that the Buccaneers have qualified for the postseason. The franchise made it to the playoffs for the first time in 1979, just four years into its existence, then returned in 1981 and 1982. After a drought that lasted for most of the '80s and the first half of the '90s, the franchise saw a resurgence after it was purchased by Malcolm Glazer. The Buccaneer went back to the playoffs in 1997, then for four straight years from 1999-2002. The last of those four years culminated in the Bucs' first visit to, and victory in, the Super Bowl, as they defeated the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in the title game.

This is the first time since that first Super Bowl victory that the Buccaneers have been back to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The 2003 team followed up the franchise's first championship with a 7-9 record and also had a losing record in 2004 before returning to the playoffs in 2005 and then again in 2007, both times as division champions. Tampa Bay has now won seven division titles in 46 seasons, three as members of the NFC Central (1979, 1981 and 1999) and now four as members of the NFC South (2002, 2005, 2007 and 2021).

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