In the NFL, there are no consolation prizes or moral victories. That said, you get better as a football team by learning from your mistakes, playing at a high level, AND by getting another team’s best shot.
Regardless of the final score, for the length of time at which the game is still winnable by either team, this will be a playoff atmosphere. The Bucs cannot be eliminated by anything this week if they win, let alone something happening in the first set of games. The same goes for the Seahawks, so they will both be fully motivated.
THERE IS NO REASON TO BE MAD AT OR JEALOUS OF THESE AFC AND NFC WEST TEAMS. They shouldn’t care if your team is 12-4 and going on the road, the West teams don’t make the rules. You could argue the Seattle cupboard was bare when Pete Carroll. You could argue that St. Louis is in year 2 of a 4 year rebuilding process in response to the horrific drafts of the Linehan years. They don’t make the rules. Be mad at the NFL.
Onto the game.
When Tampa is running: The magic number seems to be 19 for LeGarrette Blount. The Bucs are 4-1 when he gets to that number. Are there sometimes circumstances that get in the way of that? Sure. The weird thing is, he has only had 2 catches, both of them week 7 against the Cardinals. They must not trust him in these situations. They need to get him more touches. The Seahawks defense has guys that have been pretty good in the past – Marcus Trufant and Lofa Totupu – and present – Chris Clemons, along with two really talented young players – Aaron Curry and Earl Thomas. Seattle’s run defense is pretty average, having allowed 13 TDs and 4.0 ypc. I’m tired of predicting Greg Olson to have a good gameplan and get Blount rolling. That said, it almost happened last week and I think the conditions will be right to get the run game going, particularly because Seattle isn’t a team to jump out to a big lead or take away the run. Edge: Tampa, slightly.
When Tampa is throwing: We hear every week from Raheem or Greg that they gotta give Benn the ball or they gotta let Josh get a chance to win it. Well, this week, Josh Freeman will step up and prove his mettle while he fights for his team’s postseason hopes. You could argue that he tried to do that last week and got handcuffed by his coach and by a pass interference call that the NFL admitted took away a touchdown. Edge: Tampa.
When Seattle is running: I’m not sure what the problem is with this run game. You consider running a failure when you can’t pick up third and short, when you get 26-28 or more carries and can’t get to 100 yards. In Seattle’s case, they are really inconsistent running the ball. They are going up against the Tampa team that is dead last with 4.9 ypc allowed. The Seahawks have been beaten by at least 15 points in all 8 of their losses, so the offense often has to play catch-up and abandon the run. Since week 6 against the Cardinals, the Seahawks have only had one rusher go over 20 carries and it was Marshawn Lynch against the Panthers with 21 carries, 83 yards and 3 TDs. They’ve won their last four games that they’ve gone over 100 yards in. Unfortunately, those four games were the only such games since week 2. Edge: Seattle, slightly.
When Seattle is throwing: Matt Hasselbeck really struggled down the stretch last season and struggled a lot this year. It’s safe to say that he’s fallen enough that he is no longer in that second tier of quarterbacks. Hasselbeck has dealt with injuries to his receivers all year and will have his top target Mike Williams in there for this game. The Bucs have had a few issues with tight ends and the Seahawks have one of the best receiving ones, John Carlson. With Hasselbeck’s legacy and his days as a starting quarterback both on the line, I expect offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and him to take advantage of a ravaged Tampa secondary that has failed to get an interception in 3 of the last 4 games. Edge: Seattle.
PREDICTION: These are two teams that have trouble getting a complete game out of their teams. Sometimes, Hasselbeck and the offense play good and the defense can’t keep them close. Last week, the defense did a decent job but Hass kept turning it over to the Falcons. Neither of these teams were expected by outsiders to be in this position and neither team will be satisfied with missing the playoffs. I give the edge to the Buccaneers and I think they’ll make one or two more big plays and that will be the difference. Buccaneers 24, Seahawks 21.
(Chris writes for Buccaneers Gab)