Aqib Talib out for the season – are the Bucs finished?

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 12: Cornerback Aqib Talib #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers watches play against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on October 12, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

It’s a stretch to say that a team is finished when they lose their top cornerback for the season. But when it comes to Aqib Talib and the Bucs, it may be reality.

Talib tore a tendon off his hipbone (tore a tendon off his hipbone? I literally shuddered while writing that) in the Bucs’ 28-24 loss to the Falcons on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. He’ll avoid surgery, but he won’t recover in time for the playoffs if Tampa earns its way into the postseason.

Which is going to be awfully difficult without Talib.

At 7-5, the Bucs are very much in the hunt in the NFC. But the Falcons swept the season series with Tampa and now have a two-game lead in the NFC South. The Saints are right behind the Falcons at 9-3, while the Eagles/Giants and Packers are vying for that sixth and final spot at 8-4.

A lot can happen over the last four weeks of the season, but the Bucs have an uphill climb ahead of them. From a production standpoint, Talib was the best corner in the league not named Darrelle Revis or Asante Samuel. Two weeks ago, he held Anquan Boldin to three catches for 27 yards and no touchdowns. Three weeks ago, he held Michael Crabtree to just one catch for 15 yards and five weeks ago he limited Roddy White (one of the best receivers in the NFL this season) to four catches and 49 yards.

Granted, the Bucs don’t exclusively play man-to-man under Raheem Morris but when they do, Talib locks onto the opposition’s No. 1 reciever. He leads the Bucs in interceptions (six), pass breakups (11) and has easily been the team’s best defender.

Fortunately for Tampa, it plays the Redskins, Lions, Seahawks and Saints over these next four weeks. But the Bucs could have used Talib for the likes of Santana Moss, Mike Williams (if he’s healthy) and especially Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Ronde Barber is still a quality corner (even for his age), but the drop off from Talib to E.J. Biggers is enormous.

The Bucs are in trouble.

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