TAMPA, Fla. – You can feel it being inside the Bucs Locker room this week. I wouldn’t call it intensity; I’d call it awareness of just how big Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Lions is in that crazy atmosphere of Ford Field.
“It’s heightened awareness,” Bucs QB Baker Mayfield said. “Obviously, it’s always a great atmosphere for the playoffs, because of what is on the line, what is at stake.”
You lose, you go home. You win, and it’s on to the NFC Championship game. The Lions are a 6.5-point favorite and beat the Bucs 20-6 in Week 3. But again, playing before a frenzied Lions fanbase that set a Ford Field decibel level last week will be a surreal experience for all those in attendance. Bucs left tackle Tristan Wirfs believes it’ll be unlike anything they’ve dealt with before.
“It’s gonna be a crazy atmosphere,” Wirfs said. “It’s gonna be super loud. We’ll just do our best to bring our own juice. It’s gonna be big.”
The Lions are riding high and fans in Motown and the surrounding area haven’t been able to celebrate a playoff win in 32 years. Now that the Lions took care of business last week and are playing a team they already beat, fans are thirsting for more.
Tampa Bay fans have been spoiled with a Super Bowl win with Tom Brady leading the way and three years in a row of now winning the NFC South. But this was a team that many so-called experts figured would only win six games or less. So the Bucs are basically playing with house money right now.
“Crazy, ” said Bucs cornerback Zyon McCollum. “I mean, this is rare, and there aren’t a lot of teams left. We’re all good, so we’re amped, hyped up, anyway you look at it.”
The Bucs have less time to prepare and have to travel, but every player I talked to in the Bucs locker room said it’s a privilege to still be playing and they’re not going to let this opportunity slip by. It’s going to be bonkers inside Ford Field come Sunday at 3:00 pm.