Also-rans can win, but they have to be good

by Gary Shelton on January 11, 2023

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

The problem isn't a flawed record.

The problem is a flawed team.

We have reached the part of the program where the Bucs point to history, where they talk of wild cards and mediocre teams in other seasons. And it is true that other random teams have occasionally won a Super Bowl.

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On the other hand, the seven non-division winners who have won the Super Bowl turned out to be pretty good teams who were in the same division of teams that were better in the regular season.

The Bucs, however, have spent a season proving their mediocrity before limping to the NFC title. And there's the difference they must overcome Monday night against Dallas.

This is a Bucs' team that won only eight games -- including fourth quarter comebacks against the Rams, the Saints, the Cardinals and Carolina, all teams with losing records. They cannot run the ball. They cannot run block. The pass rush is sporadic. The secondary gets lost. They start slow. They bog down in the red zone

Can a team overcome so many flaws on its roster? And if so, why hasn't it happened before?

Oh, other teams have managed. Kansas City won the fourth Super Bowl despite not winning its division (it was a season too early to be called a wild-card) by getting hot in the post-season. It was an 11-3 team filled with Hall of Famers.

There was the 2010 Packers, who won all four road games on their way to Aaron Rogers' only Super Bowl win. But that team was 10-6.

The 2007 Giants were the ultimate underdog, winning four road games, the last one over the undefeated Patriots. But there was talent on that team, too. They won 10 regular season games.

The 2005 Steelers won four road games, beating Seattle in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh was 11-5 in the regular season.

The 2000 Ravens, with a terrific defense, won 12 games. Still, they were a wild card and had to win four straight road games.

The 1997 Broncos were 12-4, but that left them in the wild card. They beat the Packers in the Super Bowl, 31-24.

The 1980 Raiders were 11-5. They beat Philadelphia 27-10 in the Super Bowl.

There, then, is the difference. Those wild card teams averaged 11 wins. This one won eight.

Oh, you can't blame the Bucs for hoping. They're at home. They beat Dallas earlier in the year. They're relatively healthy. They wouldn't have to play Philly or San Francisco until the NFC title game.

And so they will tell you that records no longer matter. That yesterday's disappointments won't be reported. Good for them for believing.

Other losing teams have said the same. Both the 2020 Deahawks and the 2014 Panthers had losing records but won a game. The 2020 Washington yeam made it but lost.

But it's a long, rough road the Bucs have to travel. The team that has had trouble putting two games together would have to win four in a row.

The odds are large against them.

On the other hand, they're still alive to talk about them.

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