1. You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
And by Mr. Grinch, I mean the NFL. The Buccaneers were the latest to fall victim to 'this league' suffering their first shutout since 2012… which also came against the New Orleans Saints. The Bucs fell to 10-4 on the season after losing 9-0 on Sunday Night Football but the good news is that not only has the playoff picture not really changed, Tampa Bay wasn't even the only one with a surprise result on the day. The Arizona Cardinals, who led the entire NFC for most of the season, fell to the one-win Detroit Lions during the 1pm slate of games. That also gave the Bucs a little bit more breathing room for the second seed in this year's playoffs.
That grace should be extended to an offense that coming into the game, led the league in points scored and yards per game. A slew of offensive injuries slowed them down Sunday night and the unfortunate news that wide receiver Chris Godwin's season is over after tearing his ACL came Monday. But Head Coach Bruce Arians said they should get Mike Evans back 'soon' and that his hamstring injury doesn't look to be significant. He also hopes Leonard Fournette will be ready to go for the postseason. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is rejoining the team and the Bucs have three games left with two against the Carolina Panthers and one against the New York Jets to lock up the division and a playoff berth. According to NFL Research, of the 78 teams since 1990 to start their seasons 10-4, all 78 have made it to the postseason and as we saw last year, it doesn't matter how you get in – just that you get there.
2. The defense is definitely on the nice list.
The loss has detracted from the fact that the Bucs' defense allowed just nine points the entire game. That was three field goals – despite finding themselves in some close-call situations. At the end of the day, New Orleans converted just three of 16 third-down attempts for just an 18.8% success rate, which comes a week after the Bucs let up a 15.4% third-down conversion rate against Buffalo. The Saints had just 61 yards rushing and were 0-for-2 in the red zone. After letting up two field goals on two of New Orleans' first three drives, the Bucs forced six-straight punts and only let up three more points the rest of the game.
Inside linebacker Lavonte David led the team with 11 combined tackles, three of which were for loss, and a sack. For reference, David had just two tackles for loss coming into the game. Safety Jordan Whitehead and inside linebacker Devin White both had eight combined tackles on the day and both recorded at least one tackle for loss themselves. In all, the Bucs had 10 tackles for loss on the Saints throughout the course of the game. The only thing they didn't do, unfortunately, was score.
3. One more win.
Even with the injuries the Bucs will deal with in the coming weeks, all it takes is one more win to lock up the division. Tampa Bay travels to Carolina this coming weekend. They have the Jets at their place the weekend after and return home for the regular season finale again against the Panthers. It will also hopefully allow guys to get healthy and return in time for the postseason.