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Another Buccaneers home loss makes Atlanta game a must-win

There have been three occasions this season where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hosted a home game and entered the game with high expectations. And each time, the Buccaneers have come away with a loss.

This third loss on Sunday may have been the toughest. Instead of maintaining pace with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South heading into a very important Thursday night tilt against those same first-place Falcons. Tampa Bay is 3-4 overall, while the Falcons beat the Packers to snap a two-game losing streak and are 5-3 overall.

While the Buccaneers are just game back in the loss column from the Falcons and have already defeated Atlanta in the season opener, this is a critical game for the Buccaneers. A loss on Thursday gives the Falcons a two-game lead in the loss column. While there would be eight games to play, the Buccaneers will have blown half of their home games, which would not be a good sign for success heading down the second-half of the season.

It is becoming a trend no one in the Buccaneers’ organization likes to hear. The team lost another home game. At one time, the Buccaneers had one of the best home-field advantages in the league. Now, it is like a resort for visiting teams.

Tampa Bay hasn’t had a winning record at Raymond James Stadium since Barack Obama was first elected to the White House in 2008. The Buccaneers were 6-2 at Raymond James that season and finished the year 9-7. In fact, the Buccaneers are 12-28 in their last 40 home games.

The Buccaneers are one of three teams not to have won a home game this season. While there is a lot of season left, the Buccaneers need to find a way to start winning at Raymond James.

“It’s tough, but I appreciate the fans sticking around,” said Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who is 3-8 at home as a professional. “We were so close. I felt that this team fought hard. Me personally, the quarterback play wasn’t good enough. But that team effort was outstanding. Hopefully, the fans respect that.”

All week prior to the Oakland game, Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter sent a plea to the fans to not let the Raiders’ fans overtake the stadium. In Tampa Bay’s last home game against the Broncos, by the time the game was over, there was nothing but blue and orange jerseys in the stands. But Koetter also acknowledged the Buccaneers need to start giving the fans something to be proud of. That comes with wins.

But there are other reasons why the Buccaneers need to start winning at home. Teams that don’t win at home rarely make the playoffs. There has only been one team that had a losing record at home to ever make the playoffs. That was the 2011 Denver Broncos, who finished that season with a 3-5 home mark. Since then, every playoff team has had at least a .500 (4-4) mark at home.

“We’re going to start focusing in on Atlanta,” Koetter said. “We’ve got a short week and that’s what we’ve got to be thinking about. We’re a long way from being done. I’m hurting right now. Those guys are hurting but we’re not even to the halfway point (of the season). I’m disappointed we lost, but I’m proud of how we competed. The fans were awesome (Sunday). Hats off to them. That’s what it’s supposed to look like. We’ve got to do our part. I’ve got to do better.”

The Buccaneers need a win at home Thursday against an opponent they have had success with. A win would provide a good tonic to end the first half of the season.

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