Buccaneers focused on Seahawks, not playoff prospects
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Tampa Bay's Dirk Koetter wants no part of a discussion about playoff prospects or aspirations.
The Buccaneers (5-5) have won two straight to climb back into contention for what would be their first berth in nearly a decade. However, the coach says his team can't afford to think about anything other than what's staring them in the face right now. And, that's a matchup against the first-place Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1).
Koetter bristled when he was asked if he detected a ''playoff intensity'' from the Bucs in practice this week.
''I want to feel a Seattle Seahawk-type of intensity because it's going to take the most intensity we've got to be with Seattle on Sunday,'' the first-year coach said. ''That's all that really matters right now.''
Jameis Winston also shrugged off questions about the playoff race .
''We've got to get a `W' before we even talk about a `P,'' the second-year quarterback said, mindful that the Bucs were in a similar position a year ago, when they started 6-6 only to lose their final four games.
Winston had one of the best performances of his career in last week's confidence-bolstering 19-17 road win at Kansas City. The Seahawks have won three straight, including beating New England on the road, but figure to be far from full strength health-wise.
Nine players on Seattle's injury report, including safety Earl Thomas and cornerback DeShawn Shead , missed at least two days of practice in preparation for the Bucs.
Russell Wilson wasn't one of them, though. He's played through a string of injuries and has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league during the Seahawks' winning streak with 902 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in victories over the Bills, Patriots and Eagles the past three weeks.
''There's been some significant injuries to a lot of the guys, and we've been able to overcome those situations and those injuries and still find ways to win, still find ways to play in the game and play at a high level,'' Wilson said, adding the focus in on doing ''whatever it takes to win and continue to play great football.''
Some things to know heading into the 13th meeting between franchises that entered the NFL as expansion mates in 1976:
THANKS, RUSSELL: Winston and Wilson had a long conversation at last season's Pro Bowl, and Tampa Bay's young quarterback came away impressed with his Seattle counterpart and Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater. ''Russell is a true professional, and he does his job the right way. I learned so much from him as far as what to eat, what a Pro Bowl quarterback should be like,'' Winston said.
DEPLETED DEFENSE: The Seahawks will be without defensive end Michael Bennett for the fifth straight game, unable to get him back from minor knee surgery in time to face his former team. Losses in the secondary likely will be more impactful. The Seahawks are expected to be without Thomas and Shead. Both suffered hamstring injuries in last week's win over Philadelphia. If Thomas doesn't play, it will be the first game he's missed in his career, snapping a streak of 106 consecutive starts. Steven Terrell likely would fill in for Thomas at free safety, while the combo of Neiko Thorpe and Jeremy Lane would take Shead's role opposite Richard Sherman.
BACK ON TRACK: Tampa Bay rookie PK Roberto Aguayo has rebounded from a shaky start to his pro career to begin show why the Bucs drafted him in the second round. Since misfiring on four of his first eight field goal tries, Aguayo has made nine of his last 10, including going 4-for-4 in last week's win at Kansas City. ''This is what I do best. I've done it for a long time. Sometimes you've got to realize that,'' Aguayo said. ''With the transition into the NFL, you try not to put an excuse on anything. You've just got to get through it. People can say, `Was it this? Was it that?' At the end of the day, you've got to grind through it.''
FOLLOW ME: Don't be surprised to see Mike Evans added to the list of wide receivers shadowed by Sherman. With the injuries in Seattle's secondary and how often Winston looks toward Evans, it makes sense for the Seahawks to put Sherman on Evans. Already this season, Sherman has followed the likes of Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones and Jordan Matthews for long stretches. ''It gets you more action,'' Sherman said. ''You get more targets. You get a chance to be more involved in the game. You get a chance to get into a rhythm.''
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