The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have anything to play for in Week 18 after clinching the NFC South on Sunday, but that doesn't mean Tom Brady is eager to rest for the playoffs.
Speaking to reporters after Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers, Brady said it "would bother me" not to play on Jan. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Head coach Todd Bowles didn't rule out Brady, but said the coaching staff would go over their injury situation before getting together to "talk this week" and make a decision about who will play.
The first three quarters against the Panthers looked a lot like the rest of this season has for the Bucs. They trailed 21-10 after a Shi Smith touchdown catch with 14:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Brady took over after that, throwing for 152 yards on the next two drives combined. He hit Mike Evans for two long touchdown passes that gave Tampa a 24-21 lead with 6:46 left to play.
After a Sam Darnold turnover deep in Panthers territory, Brady iced the game with a one-yard touchdown run with 1:58 remaining. The 45-year-old finished with a season-high 432 yards passing.
Evans caught all three of Brady's touchdown passes and finished with 207 receiving yards.
Over the course of his career, Brady has never sat out the final game of the regular season when he has been healthy.
Tampa's 8-8 record ensures this will be just the second time in Brady's career as a starter that his team will win fewer than 10 games in a season (9-7 in 2002 with the New England Patriots).
If the Bucs lose to the Falcons in Week 18, it would be the first time a Brady-led team finished the regular season with a losing record. The 2000 Patriots finished 5-11 in his rookie season when Drew Bledsoe was the starter.
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, the Buccaneers are locked into the No. 4 seed and will host either the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Round.