Have injuries lessened the Bucs’ chances?

by Gary Shelton on December 25, 2021

in general

Arians' team faces injuries.TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

Around him, the weapons are falling. The Bucs aren't as dangerous as they were yesterday, or the day before.

So in the franchise's search for the post-season, can they hang on?

Look at it through the eyes of Tom Brady. He is coming off a shutout loss, and injuries have crippled the attack of the Bucs. He is in the huddle with leftovers and wannabes, and the league is fresh out of sympathy.

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Mike Evans, a thousand-yard machine, is gone. Chris Godwin, who had taken over as the primary receiver, is gone. Nickname Lenny, Leonard Fournette, is gone. The kids haven't stepped up. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off a dreadful game. Antonio Brown is just getting back.

On the other side of the ball, Devin White hasn't been as splashy as expected, and Shaq Barrett can disappear, and the secondary is playing tackle-the-man-with-the-ball. Antonio Winfield is out. The Bucs are 10-4, and an inch away from the division title, but they suddenly look vulnerable.

Can Brady overcome all of that?

Well, sure he can. He needs one more win in a schedule that includes two shots at Carolina and one at the Jets. But the playoffs aren't the only goal here. The goal is to be in shape to do some damage in the post-season. That's a lot of injuries to overcome to do so.

When Brady came to the Bucs, along with illustrious resume, one of the attractions was the receiving corps of Evans and Godwin. The Bucs added Gronkowski, Fournette and Brown to make the league nervous.

Somehow, they don't seem scared anymore.

Part of the problem, of course, is the kids. We half-expected Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson to be ready to ascend. We thought Ke'Shawn Vaughn was waiting for his chance. Someday, wasn't tight end O.J. Howard going to get it? But injuries have exposed flaws in all of them.

George Young, the late general manager of the New York Giants, used to say "it's a game of attrition." And he was right. The best teams in the post-season are often the healthiest.

That's the truth. With every key injury, a team's title chances are lessened. Take a receiver away, and a quarterback loses accuracy. Victory becomes more laborious. Nothing is smooth. Nothing is easy.

For the Bucs, that is the challenge. As of now, they're healthy enough for the post-season.

But are they healthy enough to advance?

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