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Bucs coach Lovie Smith: Playoffs have started for us

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit as an intriguing playoff candidate.

The Bucs, at 6-6, currently reside a game outside the final Wild Card spot, but a young team, led by Jameis Winston, has gelled with enough time to make a run.

"We finished up the third quarter of our season with a 3-1 record, and we have a big four-game stretch starting up," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said after Sunday's win, via the Tampa Tribune. "As we see it, the playoffs started. And we feel like we have to win out.

"... In that locker room we believe we can do it."

With the Atlanta Falcons falling off the map and the woeful NFC East not getting two teams into the playoffs, the Bucs are the most likely to push their way into the postseason discussion.

Tampa's schedule sets up beautifully for a December run. The Bucs are at home against a spiraling New Orleans Saints team this week, at the quarterback-less St. Louis Rams, home to the enigmatic Chicago Bears and at the Carolina Panthers -- who could be resting players if they have the No. 1 seed wrapped up and aren't playing for an undefeated season.

Still, the Bucs need the Minnesota Vikings and/or Seattle Seahawks to stumble. With tough games remaining for the Vikes, it's not inconceivable that Lovie Smith could bring a rookie quarterback to the playoffs in 2015.

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