Tampa Bay lost, 19-14, to New England on Thursday to fall to 2-2, but after finishing with a winning record last season, expectations haven’t diminished; in fact, they’ve grown.

“Oh, I think they’re sky-high,” Buccaneers sideline reporter and pre- and postgame host TJ Rives said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think everybody believes this team can be a 10- or an 11-win team (and) contend (with Atlanta) to win an NFC South title. Carolina is also 3-1. The expectations are you’re going to be able to play with those teams in these division games and have a chance at the playoffs and take the next step.



“Every year is different,” Rives said, “but this team started 1-3 a year ago and was banged up the same way with injuries and put it together in October and November and won five games in a row to get in the playoff picture late in the year before missing out at 9-7. To get this 2-2 start, you want to win all your games. Everybody does. They didn’t win tonight, but the season has still got 12 games left and it’s conceivable the Bucs can be a 10- or 11-win team. They’re that talented. Let’s see if they take that next step and become a playoff team.”

The Bucs have alternated wins and losses this season. They beat the Bears, lost to the Vikings, beat the Giants, and lost to the Patriots. They play each of their next two games on the road: at Arizona (2-2) and at Buffalo (3-1).

New England (3-2), meanwhile, will face the Jets (2-2) in East Rutherford on Oct. 15 in what could be a pivotal AFC East matchup.

“You got to give New England a lot of credit,” Rives said. “Their defense has been awful, they lost at home on Sunday, they had to get on an airplane on Wednesday, and they did what they had to do tonight. Their defense was better. Brady was good enough – another 300-yard passing game. You tip your hat to the Patriots. That’s the reason why Brady and Belichick will go into the Hall of Fame together. They may have their own wing in Canton before it’s over with all they’ve accomplished.”

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