Getting past your bogey team
This Sunday's encounter with the Atlanta Falcons has all the bearings of a real crunch match, a true impact game, one that will have serious repurcussions on the playoff aspirations of the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For the Atlanta Falcons have become the Bucs' current biggest rivals. The two games that are circled on the schedule when it appears, the one team that you want to see the Bucs beat more than any other.
This of course dates back to last season when the two Atlanta games were close-run affairs, either of which could have gone a different direction and seen Raheem's men take the final playoff berth instead of the Green Bay Packers.
The road game in the Georgia Dome came down to a 4th down play when LeGarrette Blount was stopped inches short of the goal-line in a six-point game. The home game was decided by a 102-yard kick return and then Josh Freeman being picked off inside the Falcon 30 late in the game. Close but no cigar.
Although there are three good teams in the NFC South, the Bucs don't look at the Saints in the same way as they do the Falcons. Perhaps road wins in the Super Dome the past two seasons have helped pacify any anti-Bayou feelings but there just does not seem to be that edge in New Orleans v Tampa games as there does when the Bucs play Atlanta.
But of course Atlanta have not always been a traditional rival and have certainly not always been a bogey team. In terms of the latter, I always think back to 1997 and three encounters with the Green Bay Packers that all turned out badly for Tony Dungy's men.
Having started the season 5-0, the Bucs led the NFC when they went to Lambeau Field for a match-up with the defending Super Bowl champions. Trent Dilfer threw a deflected pick that was returned 77 yards for a touchdown by Gabe Wilkins and a late rally fell short in a 21-16 Packer victory.
Two months later and the Bucs, Packers, Channel 4 and sideline presenters Gary Imlach and Lee Roy Selmon were back again for the re-match, this one going Green Bay's way by a 17-6 margin that was not really even that close and saw Trent go out injured to be replaced by the legend in his own lunchtime that was QB Steve Walsh.
But the Bucs made the post-season as a wild-card team and having beaten the Lions in the final game ever at the Old Sombrero, travelled to Lambeau once more for a game with their hoodoo team. And again the Packers were too strong as the Bucs made early mistakes on offense and special teams and fell 21-7 to their Wisconsin nemesis.
It was not until Monday Night Football in December 1998 that the Bucs would finally beat the Packers and slay their bogey team. The 2011 version need to do the same thing to the Falcons this weekend and put themselves a leg up in the race for the NFC South division title.
You've been great, enjoy Blondie.