What it means: Thick in the middle of the playoff race, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did the inexcusable. They lost at home to the Detroit Lions, a team that hadn’t won on the road since Josh Freeman was two years old. All right, I’m stretching that a little. But the Lions stopped the longest road-losing streak in NFL history at 26 games. That drops the Bucs to 8-6. They’re still in the playoff picture. But, next week’s game with Seattle no longer looks like a certain win. Maybe it’s best the Bucs don’t make the playoffs anyway. The way they’ve been getting hit by injuries lately, a playoff game likely would be an ugly loss to end the season. Maybe it’s best the injuries caught up to the Bucs before they could get into the playoffs.
Déjà vu: Speaking of the injuries, the current Bucs remind me a lot of the Carolina Panthers back in the 2005 season. John Fox did his best job as a coach that season, somehow finding a way to get the Panthers all the way to the NFC Championship Game, even though Carolina was down to running backs you’d never heard of before. Fox got everything he possibly could have from that team. But, when the Panthers went out to Seattle for the title game, they simply ran out of gas. It appears that’s kind of what’s happening with the Bucs this season. Raheem Morris has gotten everything he possibly can from this young team. Heck, the Bucs already might have more wins than they realistically should have. Although the future looks incredibly bright for the Bucs, it’s fair to say that any defense that allows Drew Stanton to throw for 252 yards and Maurice Morris to run for 115 has hit a wall and needs an offseason to fix what’s broken.
What’s next: The Bucs host the Seahawks the day after Christmas in a game that was flexed to the 4:15 p.m. time slot. The game still has playoff implications for both teams. But Raymond James Stadium, which has had its share of empty seats this season, will be far from full. It was going to be that way no matter what. But the loss to the Lions makes it even less appealing.