Earlier this week, ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas made an interesting observation in his NFC South Blog about the Buccaneers’ current 3-4 record. Yasinskas points out, probably from personal recollection as a former Buccaneers beat writer, that Tampa Bay was also 3-4 in each of the three seasons from 1999-2001. Those are the last three times the Bucs had started a season 3-4 until 2012.
Yasinskas says the Bucs’ 3-4 record this year may be a good omen, as all three of the 1999, 2000 and 2001 teams used that record as a starting point for a playoff run. The 1999 team finished 11-5 and made it to the NFC Championship Game while the 2000 and 2001 teams earned Wild Card berths after 10-6 and 9-7 finishes, respectively.
The point left unsaid, and probably because it was fairly obvious, is that all three of those teams went immediately from 3-4 to 4-4. As a matter of fact, the 1998 Bucs also started out 3-4 before evening their record after eight games, and though that squad missed the playoffs at 8-8, it was the last team eliminated from the NFC field. The ’98 Bucs concluded their regular-season with a 35-0 win at Cincinnati and needed an Arizona loss to get into the postseason, but learned during their flight back to Tampa that the Cardinals had pulled out a last-second win.
Obviously, the 2012 Buccaneers would rather be 7-0 than 3-4, and they have several teams they’ll have to climb over in order to get into the playoffs. But at least the team’s history with 3-4 starts is encouraging…they key, it seems, is to win Game #8. The Bucs play at Oakland on Sunday.