The 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially in the playoffs. The only downside to the situation is the fact they can’t improve their seeding.
They are locked in at No. 4 in the NFC playoff picture. So, the silver lining is the obvious fact that they can’t drop any further, either.
Therefore, a hot topic of conversation that’s involved the Buccaneers centers on whether or not they should play their top guys in Week 18. We already know how Tom Brady feels – he wants to play.
And while head coach Todd Bowles touched on things during his postgame presser on Sunday, he didn’t fully dive into the topic.
That changed on Monday. Reporters asked plenty of questions about Bowles’ personnel plan for the season finale and things were crystal clear by the end of the presser.
“If they’re healthy, they should plan on playing,” Bowles told reporters Monday.
The idea of sitting guys comes purely from the idea of avoiding more injuries before the postseason begins. The Buccaneers have dealt with major injuries to key players all season long, so it does make sense to sit the starters against the Atlanta Falcons.
But, at the same time, execution, chemistry, and a lack of experience have haunted the Buccaneers just as much as the injuries have. This team needs as many reps in a real-game setting as possible.
Yes, injuries are scary, but teams can’t let them dictate/affect decisions such as this.
“I mean, it’s football,” said Bowles. “You can’t play 16 games and then worry about the 17th. You can’t play three preseason games and 16 games and practice every day and say you may get hurt in the 17th game. You can get hurt the first week, you can get hurt in training camp…
“We signed up to play football and coach football, that’s what we’re going to do. Everybody that loves football, that loves to play, will play the game. Injuries are going to happen.”
Bowles is 100% right in his thinking and he’s 100% right in his decision to play his top guys. Based off what we’ve seen this year, there’s no way the players or the staff should feel comfortable with a week off before the playoffs.
One can easily argue it’s both counterproductive and counterintuitive.
“I think reps are so big in this league – especially with the practice schedule that we have, it’s not as physical as it’s been before,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich told reporters Thursday. “So as many of those communication game reps you can get, I think the better. I really do.”
“Every game’s important for one reason or another,” Tom Brady said Thursday. “Spring practice is important, offseason workouts are important. Everything’s important. To minimize the importance of a game makes no sense to me. I don’t see it that way. It’s a very tough game. I’ve prepared this week like I prepare every single week. It’s a tough defense.
“We didn’t play great against them last time. They have some good players, really well-coached. They haven’t had the type of year they wanted but they’ll try to finish strong. I believe that. So that’s what we’ve got to try to do, too.”
There’s also the issue that the Buccaneers really can’t afford to rest too many players. No NFL team can with the 55-man rosters provided on game days.
No one is saying everyone has to play the full four quarters, either. This isn’t a deal where the first players to step on the field also have to be the last. As long as the Buccaneers manage the roster appropriately, this is the right way to go.
This team still has a lot of work to do and there is only one game left on the regular season schedule. Missing out on the one last chance to receive live-game reps would be a mistake.
Fortunately for the Buccaneers, that won’t be the case on Sunday.
Featured image via Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports