The Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule is now out. Now it’s time to dissect it, decide which games are most winnable, and for out-of-town fans like me, think about which game to head south to see.
My first thought after taking a look at this: ouch! What a tough five-game stretch to open with. The Bucs face four playoff teams, starting with the division champion Saints in the Superdome, followed by the Super Bowl champion Eagles in the home opener. Then, they get the Steelers on a Monday night. How does a Bucs’ team that went 5-11 last season end up on MNF? Oh, that’s right, they’re playing the Steelers, which will give the idiots at BSPN something to crow about while at the same time dissing Jameis Winston, even if Winston gets off to a good start.
Tampa Bay goes to Chicago in September. It sure beats December. But Baltimore in mid-December could be interesting to say the least.
There is a stretch of three straight home games in late November/early December. And wouldn’t it be interesting if the finale against the dirty birds from Atlanta is meaningful? One can dream, anyway.
Here’s the schedule:
Sept. 9 — @ New Orleans
Sep. 16 — PHILADELPHIA
Sept. 24 — PITTSBURGH (Monday)
Sept. 30 — @ Chicago
Oct. 14 — @ Atlanta
Oct. 21 – CLEVELAND
Oct. 28 — @ Cincinnati
Nov. 4 — @ Carolina
Nov. 11 – WASHINGTON
Nov. 18 @ NY Giants
Nov. 25 – SAN FRANCISCO
Dec. 2 – CAROLINA
Dec. 9 – NEW ORLEANS
Dec. 16 — @ Baltimore
Dec. 23 — @ Dallas
Dec. 30 – ATLANTA
If you’re like me, you’re still trying to comprehend how the Buccaneers beat the Saints in the season finale.
Jameis Winston threw three more interceptions, including a horrendous one into triple coverage. The Bucs gave up a 100+ yard kickoff return for the second week in a row (but scored their own special teams touchdown in the fourth quarter.) A missed extra point by Patrick Murray was looming large. There’s no way Winston would drive his team 95 yards in the final two minutes.
Oh, but he did. Yes, the recent turnover machine hit Chris Godwin on a deep ball with nine seconds left in the contest to win it. And before all of the Saints fans in attendance could wipe away their tears of disbelief, they found out they’d won the NFC South anyway, because Carolina choked against Atlanta.
This Godwin kid is pretty good, the more I see of him. He’s made some acrobatic catches, and with the disappointing season turned in by Desean Jackson, Godwin could be the number-two receiver on next year’s team.
Was this game perfect? Of course not. I mentioned the interceptions and the kickoff returns. Mike Smith’s defense is still a sieve. The lack of a pass rush was a problem all year, though they did sack Drew Brees twice.
But it was nice to finally win a game. I’d much rather see them win than intentionally lose to improve their draft pick order. Heck, this team needs help just about everywhere, so any decent player will do at this point.
Coming on Monday: my ‘year in review.’ As you might expect, with a 5-11 season, it won’t be pretty. But tonight is a night to be joyous, because the boys in Pewter finally won another game. Happy New Year, and good night.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
How many ways can a football team lose a game? When you’re 4-11, you find new ways every single week.
There were the Buccaneers, nursing a four-point lead in the closing minutes on Sunday against the Panthers. They had a chance to extend it to seven. Patrick Murray – who had already made four field goals – missed one that would’ve put Tampa Bay up by seven.
Admit it: you just knew Carolina would go down the field and win the game after that. That’s what 4-11 teams do. There was Chris Baker – jumping offside on 4th down – giving the Panthers new life. Then Cam Newton – arguably my least-favorite player in the NFL – fumbling the shotgun snap, only to pick it up and run it into the end zone for the game-winner.
Carolina 22, Tampa Bay 19.
Winston continues to struggle with ball security. He lost three more fumbles, the last of which led to a meltdown which I’m sure is already on every highlight reel across the country. And lest we forget about the 100+ yard kickoff return that featured several missed tackles by the Bucs.
Does all of this sound familiar? It should. I’ve been writing about it all season, and Bucs fans have been seeing it for themselves all year.
Anyway, from all of us at Buccaneer Bri (which is actually just a one-man band for those who don’t know) Merry Christmas. Some of us have to work our real jobs on Christmas Eve, and that group includes me. And to my fellow fans: one more week of this torture!
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images
That didn’t take long. We have our first big headline of the season.
Roberto Aguayo, the kicker taken by the Buccaneers in the second round of last year’s draft, has been kicked off the team. The Bucs made the move after he missed a PAT and a field goal in last night’s preseason opener in Cincinnati.
I don’t think any of us fans are surprised by this. Aguayo has been scrutinized – and criticized – ever since Tampa Bay moved up in the draft to select the kicker in 2016. Last year, he missed nine field goals and two extra points. And while he did make some clutch kicks (the one to win the game at Carolina comes to mind) that was not nearly enough to save his job.
So now what? Don’t think the kicking competition is over. Currently, Nick Folk is the only kicker on the roster. But you can be sure the Buccaneers will bring in someone else to challenge him. I get the impression the team isn’t 100% sold on Folk, but we shall see.
Photo courtesy: Associated Press
There will be no playoffs in Tampa this year. But at least the Buccaneers won more games than they lost. We haven’t been able to say that in six years.
The Bucs edged the Panthers in the season finale on Sunday, 17-16. The game wasn’t decided until the Bucs prevented Carolina from getting a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left.
It’s always nice to beat Cam Newton, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
This game was all about the defense. It was the defense that intercepted Newton three times, including Brent Grimes’ pick-six that put gave the Bucs the lead for the first time. The other two came from Keith Tandy, who really played very well down the stretch.
It was the defense that sacked Newton three times.
It was also the defense that allowed the Panthers to tie the game in the closing seconds, but came up with the big play when Ron Rivera decided to go for two and the win (by the way, I applaud Rivera for going for it; he had nothing to lose in that situation.)
Jameis Winston struggled for much of the day, but his TD pass to Mike Evans broke a 10-10 tie late in the fourth quarter. Winston is the first player in NFL history to start his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He also set a franchise record with 28 touchdown passes. But he also threw a pick and lost a fumble, and overthrew a lot of receivers. In the end, I guess you could say he did just enough to get the win.
While Mike Evans gets all the headlines for the receivers – and rightfully so – let’s give some props to Adam Humprhies: 10 catches for 94 yards.
Robert Aguayo was an adventure yet again. Of his three field goal attempts, he made the first, missed the second, and had the third one blocked. GM Jason Licht is going to have to make a decision about Aguayo’s future. My gut tells me it won’t happen in the offseason, but he just didn’t perform as well as any kicker should, let alone a second-round draft pick.
It’s been a fun season, Bucs fans. In my next column (whenever I get some free time) I’ll put a bow on the 2016 Bucs with the best and worst of the past four months.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So now we know the deal with Doug Martin – why he was surprisingly inactive for the Saints game, and in turn the finale against Carolina this weekend.
Martin released a statement late this afternoon, saying he’s been suspended four games for violating the league’s drug policy. Not only that, he’s entering rehab for it. Martin’s suspension starts with Sunday’s game against the Panthers, then he will have to sit out the first three games of 2017. What happens to him after that remains uncertain.
Wow. I didn’t see this coming.
Martin was the league’s second-leading rusher last year, but this season has been a disappointment. He missed a bunch of games due to injury, and when he has been on the field, he just hasn’t been the same.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
I had a bad feeling about this game even before it started.
First, the bottom line: the Bucs can no longer win the NFC South, and they would need the mightiest of miracles to get a wild card. They spent their Christmas Eve by losing to the Saints in the Superdome, 31-24.
Let’s look at the reasons why Tampa Bay lost this game. First, the defense did a 180 from the way it played against Drew Brees and company two weeks ago. When I saw them in person, the Bucs picked him off three times. On Christmas Eve, Brees shredded the defense like other teams did in the first half of the season. They also allowed over 120 yards on the ground, including two TD runs by Mark Ingram. It was one big play after another for the explosive Saints’ offense.
How about that sequence at the start of the second half? Remind me again why Josh Huff is still on this team. He screwed up another kickoff, pinning the Bucs back near their goal line. Before you could blink, Jameis Winston threw a floater that was picked off, and Ingram was back in the end zone on the very next play. A six point halftime deficit was suddenly 13, and the Buccaneers never recovered.
Winston also threw another pick in the third quarter when the Bucs were in New Orleans territory.
It’s easy to second-guess, but I question Dirk Koetter’s decision to go for the onside kick with 2 minutes to go. The Bucs had all three timeouts left. You figure the kickoff would result in a touchback, so they wouldn’t lose any time there. They could’ve stopped the Saints in their territory, burned their timeouts, and gotten the ball back in decent field position with one last shot. In the end, it didn’t matter because the Saints got a first down. But even if they had stopped him, Tampa Bay would’ve had a much longer way to go after the Saints’ punt.
Now, back to the bad feeling I had before the game started. It came as a surprise to me – and apparently the players from what I’ve read – to find out that starting running back Doug Martin was inactive, and that it was a coaches’ decision. We don’t know the truth as of this writing, but I sure hope Koetter had a good reason to bench his starting running back with the team’s playoff chances hanging in the balance. Martin has not been the same as last season; there’s no question about that. But I’d love to know the back story behind all of this.
So, we have one more game to go. The Buccaneers host the Panthers in the season finale. There is some ridiculous scenario that would allow the Bucs to back into the playoffs next weekend, but it’s not likely. But if Tampa Bay is going to be a playoff team down the road, it has to win games like the one Saturday night. It’s as simple as that.
Photo courtesy: USA Today