The 7-8, first-place Bucs will ring in 2023 with a massive home game against the 6-9 Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Tampa Bay can repeat as NFC South champions with a win that would lead to a home game at Raymond James Stadium during Wild Card Weekend.
It’s far from a given that the Bucs beat the Panthers, especially if their Week 7 meeting is anything to go by. Todd Bowles’ team came into that game with a mediocre 3-3 record, but Carolina teetered at 1-5 with a new interim head coach in Steve Wilks following the firing of Matt Rhule. And despite seemingly having the advantage – especially after Christian McCaffrey was traded that week – the Bucs were beaten by a score of 21-3. It was one of the low points of their season and now they have a chance to make it up by beating the Panthers for another division title.
After beating the Cardinals 19-16 in overtime on Christmas night, the Bucs will be looking for another holiday win on New Year’s Day. They’ve only won back-to-back games twice this season, and none of their wins (other than a 19-3 win over Dallas in Week 1) have come easily. But as frustrating as everything has been for this team in its first year under Bowles, another division championship is nothing to scoff at.
Outside of “NFC South champions” hats and t-shirts, there’s a lot more at stake for the Bucs this Sunday. Of course we are talking about personal milestones and records. Last week, Tom Brady became the first player in NFL history to reach 250 regular season wins, Lavonte David tied John Lynch for fifth-most games played in team history, and Carlton Davis tied Donnie Abraham for fourth-most passes defensed in the league. history of Bucs.
What’s at stake in Week 17? Let’s get into it.
With a win, the Bucs will secure back-to-back NFC South championships for the first time in their history. It would also be the team’s eighth-ever division title.
The 2022 Bucs also plan to lay off several previous teams in the layoff category before the end of the season. They need five sacks to pass the 2004 team (45.0) for fifth in franchise history, while seven more will put them ahead of the 2019 and 2021 teams (47.0) for the third place.
Brady is now 694 yards from passing Vinny Testaverde (14.820) for second in team history. He is also two wins away from Doug Williams (33) for second by a Bucs quarterback.
Fournette is one rushing touchdown away from Ronald Jones II (18) for eighth in franchise history.
The veteran running back of the Bucs is also one to receive a touchdown away from tying Adger Armstrong, Michael Pittman and Charles Sims (six) for fourth by a running back in team history. Another receiving touchdown would also tie him to Charles Sims for the most (four in 2015) by a Tampa Bay running back in one season.
White is just three catches away from James Wilder (48 in 1981) for third by a running back Bucs rookie.
Evans’ landing drought continued in Arizona, so he’s still 21 points from passing Michael Husted (502) for second in team history.
With his 136th career start on Sunday, Evans is just one away from Mike Alstott (137) for sixth in franchise history.
And, of course, Evans is still chasing that 1,000-yard mark with two games left to play. He still needs 83 yards for his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He already holds the record for most 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start a career (eight and more), but a ninth would tie Tim Brown for the second-longest streak in NFL history.
Godwin needs one touchdown of any kind to tie Jimmie Giles (34) for fourth most total touchdowns in team history. His next receiving touchdown will also tie him with Cameron Brate (33) for third all-time.
With seven more receptions this season, Godwin passes Mike Evans (96 in 2016) for third in a single season in team history. And with 10 receptions, he passes himself (98 in 2021) for second in a single season.
Brate hasn’t found the end zone yet this season, but his next touchdown puts him tied with Jimmie Giles (34) for fourth-most total touchdowns in team history. His next receiving score will also tie him with Giles (34) for second highest in franchise history. And with seven receptions left, he passes Giles (279) for the most ever by a Bucs tight end.
Otton is just two receptions away from tying Alex Smith (41 in 2005) for second by a Tampa Bay rookie.
If Smith can compete on Sunday, it will be his 124th career start, leaving him six behind Warren Sapp (130) for eighth in team history.
Gholston is about to play his 152nd game as a Buc, putting him six points clear of Mike Alstott (158) for eighth all-time.
If Vea can get back on the field, he will continue his hunt to become the first Bucs inside defender to record double-digit sacks in a season since Warren Sapp was 16.5 in 2000. Vea needs 3.5 more during the final two Tampa Bay games.
David will play in his 165th game as Buc on Sunday, passing John Lynch (164) for fifth in franchise history. His 165th career start puts him at 18 behind Paul Gruber (183) for third in Bucs history.
With 4.5 sacks left, David will pass Jason Pierre-Paul and Brad Culpepper (33) for eighth in team history. And after last week, he needs five more passes defensed to tie Carlton Davis and Donnie Abraham (64) for fourth all-time.
Davis is now just one pass defended away from passing Donnie Abraham (64) for fourth in team history. He will then set his sights on second place, currently held by Derrick Brooks (84).
If Dean can return from his toe injury to play the Panthers on Sunday, he will have a chance to get the one pass defense he needs to tie Brent Grimes (41) for ninth in franchise history.
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