From 2008-2019 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't make the playoffs a single time. Now in the 2021-22 season the team is defending its Super Bowl title and hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.
It's the second year in a row Tampa Bay squares off against a team from the NFC East in the first round. Last season, the Washington Football Team gave the Bucs a scare before Tampa Bay ultimately escaped with a 31-23 win.
This time though the path to a repeat Super Bowl will run through Raymond James Stadium, at least here in the first round. The Bucs finished the regular season as the #2 seed and thus take on the #7 seed Eagles.
These teams actually met earlier this year in Philadelphia where the Bucs won a game that wasn't really as close as the score indicated. Tampa Bay was up by three touchdowns in the third quarter before letting the Eagles claw back to within six points in the 28-22 victory.
Tampa Bay and Philly have already met four times in the playoffs, splitting them down the middle. Bucs fans will remember the most recent of those meetings, the 2002 NFC Championship Game where Ronde Barber's unforgettable 92-yard pick-six sealed a 27-10 win in the last game ever played at that Eagles stadium. Tampa Bay would go on to win its first Super Bowl.
This Sunday weather could also play a factor. The forecast calls for an 80% chance of rain with the possibility of strong wind: something that could limit the passing attack.
If rain makes it more of a run game, it's worth noting the Eagles have the top rushing attack in football with 25 TDs on the ground, while the Bucs have given up the third-fewest rush yards, which could make for an interesting dynamic.
The Bucs will hope to be much closer to full strength by Sunday as well. RB Leonard Fournette, LB Lavonte David, LB Shaq Barrett, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul were all at practice this week. The more of those players that can be good to go for this game the better, particularly on the defensive side of the ball when it comes to limiting the Eagles running game.
If the Bucs win Sunday they would play the second-lowest remaining seed in the NFC in another home game. This means the Bucs cannot play the Packers (the top seed plays the lowest remaining seed in the division round) or the San Francisco 49ers (should San Francisco win they would be the lowest remaining seed and face Green Bay). That means Tampa Bay will most likely face the Dallas Cowboys in the second round (assuming they beat the Niners at home). However, the Bucs could also play the winner of the Arizona Cardinals vs. L.A. Rams if Dallas can't get the job done.
Kickoff Sunday is set for 1 p.m. from Raymond James Stadium.