Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in the NFL playoffs in 2014 if…

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a statistic regarding the history of the NFC South that always bears repeating.

Whether you are aware of this fact or not, this is the only current division in the league that has not been won by a team in consecutive years. In fact, dating back to its inception with realignment in 2002, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all won the title three times.

That’s pretty amazing.

Now let’s take a look at more recent times. Over the last three seasons, the Saints (2011), Falcons (2012) and Panthers (2013) have all taken a turn at winning a division title.

In each of those three seasons, the Bucs have finished dead last in the NFC South standings. Keep in mind that this franchise is the only club in the division to finish in the basement in consecutive years.

So what’s a team to do? For the third time in six seasons, Tampa will open the season with a new head coach and this time a familiar one to Buccaneers’ fans. From 2004-12, Lovie Smith was the leader of the Chicago Bears and led that franchise to Super Bowl XLI. Earlier in his career, Smith was the Bucs’ linebackers coach under Tony Dungy from 1996-2000.

Now he’s in charge of a franchise that since winning Super Bowl XXXVII back in ’02, is a combined 73-103 over the past 11 seasons and has not won a postseason game since pounding the Oakland Raiders to win the franchise’s lone NFL championship.

A year ago, the Buccaneers opened the season with eight straight losses and closed the year with three straight defeats in their 4-12 campaign. But with Smith in town and a bevy of new faces on the roster, things could be on the upswing with this team sooner than later.

This is the seventh part of a 32-team series in which we’ll look at the “if, and & but’s” of each team’s chances to make the postseason.

And Tampa Bay will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007…

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