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 were worried about any rust from the Buccaneers’ season being delayed by a week, worry no more. Tampa Bay dominated the bumbling Chicago Bears at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 29-7.
You don’t have to look far to find the story of this one. The Bears were sloppy, and the Bucs made them pay. Tampa Bay’s first TD came one play after Chicago fumbled while deciding to scoop up a punt. A Mike Glennon (remember him?) fumble led to another touchdown. And the icing on the cake, if you will, was Robert McClain picking off Glennon, and running it back for a “pick six.”
And that was all in the first half.
Mike Evans is poised for a gigantic year. He caught his first TD pass of the season following the fumbled punt return, and finished with 93 yards on the day. The addition of DeSean Jackson is huge. Even though D-Jax only had 3 catches, his presence allows for a lot of 1-on-1 coverage for both receivers, and Evans is already reaping the benefits.
Jacquizz Rodgers had a decent day that included a 1-yard touchdown run. Speaking of the running game, can we please get rid of Charles Sims? He’s terrible, and I’ve been saying that for a while.
So, what about Jameis Winston? I’ll call his day ‘efficient.’ He did have the nice TD to Evans, and he didn’t throw a pick. But he still needs some work on the deep ball. There were several times where he missed an open receiver on a long ball.
For the defense, it was all about the turnovers. Good thing, because Glennon was finding open receivers, and had a number of dropped passes. But if you can take the ball way, who cares?
Nick Folk made all 3 of his field goal attempts. But he missed an extra point. Oh, Roberto Aguayo, where are you? That’s right – he’s unemployed. He could’ve been on the field for this one, but he didn’t make the Bears’ roster after the Bucs let him go.
It’s great to win the opener. It gives us fans hope that this season will be special. Next week: the Bucs head to Minnesota to play the Vikings.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers needed this game in the worst possible way. And they got it.
With the exception of one play, the Bucs dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning 36-10.
After the defense looked downright awful the past two games, they actually decided to show up against Chicago. They sacked Jay Cutler four times. They forced four turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by the much-maligned Chris Conte. They also forced a safety, and shut out the Bears in the second half.
So what was that “one play?” Cutler completed a Hail Mary for a touchdown on the final play of the half that made it a seven-point game. But on the first drive of the third quarter, Jameis Winston pulled off another magic act. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure it’ll be on every NFL highlight reel. He escaped a bunch of Bears, avoided a major sack, scrambled around and launched one downfield that Mike Evans came down with. That was the play of the game. Two plays later, Winston threw a long TD pass to Freddie Martino (who?) and the Bucs were in control the rest of the way.
It was great to see Doug Martin back on the field. The Bucs need him desperately. And while the running game struggled mightily behind a makeshift offensive line, he did find the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
But this day was really about the defense finally showing up and playing a good game. And heck, it’s about time the Bucs won a game at Ray-Jay. They only won one of three consecutive home games.
Tampa Bay is now 4-5. Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans all lost, so this was good day all the way around for the Buccaneers. A tough trip to Kansas City awaits next Sunday.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For those of us who love taking road trips to see an NFL game, it’s always fun when the NFL schedule is released. It came out this past week. Here’s how 2016 is shaping up for the Bucs:
SEPTEMBER 11 @ Atlanta 1:00
SEPTEMBER 18 @ Arizona 4:05
SEPTEMBER 25 L.A. RAMS 4:05
OCTOBER 2 DENVER 4:05
OCTOBER 10 @ Carolina 8:30 (Monday Night)
OCTOBER 23 @ San Francisco 4:05
OCTOBER 30 OAKLAND 1:00
NOVEMBER 3 ATLANTA 8:25 (Thursday Night)
NOVEMBER 13 CHICAGO 1:00
NOVEMBER 20 @ Kansas City 1:00
NOVEMBER 20 SEATTLE 4:05
DECEMBER 4 @ San Diego 4:25
DECEMBER 11 NEW ORLEANS 1:00
DECEMBER 18 @ Dallas 1:00
DECEMBER 24 @ New Orleans 1:00
JANUARY 1 – CAROLINA 1:00
A number of things stand out to me immediately:
*The Buccaneers have to make three trips to the western time zone. I can tell you from past experience: things haven’t gone well over the years when they head west.
*Is it me, or does Tampa Bay have more 4:00 games than usual, whether it be 4:05 or 4:25? Even three of the home games are late kickoffs.
*They have to play both Super Bowl teams from a season ago. Obviously they get Carolina twice since it’s a division opponent, but the world-champion Broncos also visit Ray-Jay.
*Cold weather doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, although we’ll see what mid-November in Kansas City is like.
*Wouldn’t it be sweet if the season finale against the Panthers was for the NFC South title? Hey, a guy can dream.
I like to head to Tampa in November or early December. So I’m eyeing the games against the Bears or Seahawks, two teams I have never seen in person before. We shall see.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Times
Let’s flash back to November 22 for a moment. The Bucs were in Philadelphia, and turned in their best performance of the season, a 45-17 thrashing of the Eagles. Tampa Bay improved to 5-5, and was very much in the playoff hunt in the NFC.
Today, the Buccaneers are 6-9, and will miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
So what happened? Since that impressive performance at Lincoln Financial Field, the Bucs have dropped games to the Colts, Saints, Rams and Bears. We’re not talking Patriots, Panthers or Cardinals here. We’re talking about games that were winnable, and yet Lovie Smith’s team didn’t get the job done, aside from a victory over a Falcons’ team that just knocked off Carolina.
The biggest disappointment down the stretch has arguably been the biggest one all season: the play of the defense. Now we know why Smith says he needs his defenders to force turnovers. When they don’t, the other team seems to march down the field at will, particularly through the air, regardless of whether the quarterback is Drew Brees or Case Keenum. The secondary is awful, regardless of who’s back there. There’s no question the suspension of Kwon Alexander hurts. But I can’t picture the loss of one player having that much of an impact.
Tampa Bay is -4 in the turnover ratio. Somehow it feels worse than that. Over the past five games, the Bucs have forced a grand total of one takeaway.
Should Lovie Smith be fired at the end of the season? I think he should, but my gut says he won’t. The team did triple its win total from a year ago. But consider this: Smith is calling the shots on defense this year, and I have seen absolutely no improvement in this unit from 2014. None.
Smith is 8-23 in two seasons in Tampa. His predecessor, Greg Schiano, went 11-21 before receiving his pink slip. If Schiano got fired for that record, then why should Smith get a free pass? There’s a growing “rumbling” (for lack of a better term) on blogs and social media that the fans would like to see offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter promoted to head coach. He has done a nice job this year with an offense that includes a rookie quarterback, and Jameis Winston wouldn’t have to learn a entirely new offense. So why not give Koetter a shot? You’d keep the rhythm on offense, and it would allow them to give the other side of the ball a much-needed shakeup. There is talent on defense (Lavonte David for one) but the scheme is not working out.
One final note: the Bucs’ season finale against Carolina is now scheduled for 4:25 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. Carolina is coming off its first loss of the year, and needs to win to clinch home-field advantage. Why can’t they just play the game at 1:00 and get the torture over with?
In football, when you turn the ball over more than your opponent, you generally lose.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers turned it over three times. And Tampa Bay lost to Chicago at Ray-Jay, 26-21
All of the miscues were costly. The first turnover was Doug Martin fumbling after catching a pass. That led to a Bears’ field goal. The second was Jameis Winston throwing a pick down by the goal line, ending a long drive in which the Bucs could’ve extended a one-point lead. Then late in the third quarter, Martin coughed it up again. Chicago went on to score the go-ahead touchdown, and the Bears never trailed after that.
Then there was the bad shotgun snap that meant a longer field goal attempt for Connor Barth, which he missed. The kicking situation is suddenly starting to look like it did at the beginning of the year.
Lovie Smith prides himself on winning the turnover battle. Consider this: the Bucs only have one takeaway in the past five games. Tampa Bay’s defense came into the game allowing the opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 70% of their passes. On Sunday, Jay Cutler was successful on 74% of his attempts (20-for-27.)
More rants coming in the Monday Column.
Photo Courtesy: buccaneers.com
So it’s been a few days since the Bucs lost to the Rams on Thursday night. But I’m just now able to offer some commentary on the game, so here goes:
Without question, the top order of business in the offseason for Tampa Bay should be revamping the secondary. Simply put, it is awful. I am sick and tired of seeing the Buccaneers make ho-hum quarterbacks look like superstars. On Thursday night, it was Case Keenum who looked like Tom Brady. This season, the Bucs are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete about 70% of their passes. On Thursday, Keenum completed 82%. This is Case Kennum we’re talking about!
Tampa Bay was penalized nine times. In other words, it was a typical night for the most undisciplined team in football.
Don’t be fooled by the Bucs gaining over 500 yards of total offense. Most of that came in the fourth quarter, when St. Louis had a big lead. If you like fantasy football, then okay. I don’t play it, nor do I care about it.
I can’t finish this article without mentioning those uniforms. Apparently this is something the NFL has been doing in the Thursday night games (it goes to show how much I watch these matchups.) But I like my football without ketchup and mustard, thank you very much.
On to Chicago…
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images