Almost Like Another Bye

The bye week rolled around after just four games for the Buccaneers this season, and it’s no secret that an early bye is thought to be a disadvantage, all other things being equal.  A week off can be perfectly-timed at any part of the schedule, if a team happens to have some significant injuries to contend with.  Still, the later it is in the season, the more likely it is your roster will be banged up and needing a rest.

The Bucs certainly weren’t complaining in Week Five.  They were coming off a three-game losing streak, and the extra preparation time probably helped them put together a dominant return performance against Kansas City in Week Six.  Tampa Bay has won two of three since the bye, dropping only a skin-of-their-teeth shootout decision against New Orleans, and the season appears to be on an upswing since that week off.

And here the Bucs are, in Week Eight, enjoying another weekend off.  “Enjoying” is certainly the right word, because the idle days give them time to savor their 36-17 victory in Minnesota on Thursday night, one of the Bucs’ most satisfying performances in recent history.  Coaches and players had to cram a week’s worth of preparations into just a couple days to get ready for the Vikings, but that hard work now pays off in a chance to rest, recharge and relax.

In this case, the team’s second “bye” could be particularly well-timed because the upcoming week brings another of the NFL’s most difficult challenges – a trip across three time zones to play on the road.  Tampa Bay’s next game is at Oakland, where the franchise has never prevailed in four chances.  Road teams have a poor record in Thursday night games, a trend Tampa Bay bucked this past week, and West Coast trips for East Coast teams aren’t particularly favorable, either.  At least this time, the team will be well-rested before it takes that long flight.

And, of course, even a few extra days can be important for players trying to put nagging injuries behind them.  That doesn’t appear to be an enormous issue for the Buccaneers right now, but there are a few players who will appreciate the rest.  DE Michael Bennett, the team’s sack leader, sustained an ankle injury on the last defensive snap of Thursday’s win over Minnesota and will have a few extra days to stay off his feet.  Bennett said on Friday that he was “fine,” and he will no doubt appreciate a long weekend before he has to get back to practice.  The same is true for CB Brandon McDonald, who has been limited lately with his own ankle injury.

Buccaneer players and coaches might even get a chance to do some TV scouting on Sunday, as the Raiders play at the Chiefs at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.  Even if they choose to get away from the game for the whole weekend, the Bucs will start their “Raiders Season” on Monday fully refreshed, and ready to continue their resurgence in the NFC playoff chase.

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