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
Of all the games remaining on the Buccaneers’ schedule, Sunday night’s game against Dallas was the one I least expected them to win.
Still, this 26-20 defeat hurts. It hurts a lot.
Depending on what happens in the Redskins/Panthers game tonight, the Bucs may no longer control their own destiny in the NFC playoff race. A Washington win puts the ‘Skins a half-game ahead of the Bucs. Tampa Bay is also now one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South.
Why did they lose to the team with the NFC’s best record? Well, you can’t turn it over four times. Two of those miscues led to ten precious points. Jameis Winston lost a fumble and threw three picks (one of them was an INT on a Hail Mary at the end of the half, but still.)
There was also the dumb head-butt by Winston that cost his team 15 yards when they were in the red zone late in the first half.
The right tackle position continues to be a big problem, albeit one that I have not talked about much on this blog. Winston didn’t have much time to throw on many occasions; heck, I saw him in person running for his life against the Saints the previous week down at Ray-Jay. This team needs Demar Dotson back a.s.a.p.
And the defense, which had been forcing turnovers at will during the five-game winning streak, only got one takeaway against Dallas. The Bucs couldn’t turn it into points.
And yet, late in the game, trailing by six, the Buccaneers still had two more chances to drive down the field and win the game. But they didn’t come close to the blue-painted end zone at the other end of the field.
On a side note, I got a chuckle out of Ezekiel Elliott jumping into that huge Salvation Army kettle after his touchdown run. Yes, he got flagged for it, but if you’re going to throw flags for silly stuff like that, then the Lambeau Leap should draw a penalty every time. Think about it.
So in order for the Bucs to make the playoffs, they have to win their final two games, at New Orleans and at home against Carolina. That’s the first order of business. They may/may not need help, depending on what the Redskins do tonight. But in order to win the NFC South, the Buccaneers would need the red-hot Falcons to lose their last two. Atlanta finishes with the Panthers on the road and the Saints at home.
Don’t give up yet, Bucs fans.
Photo Courtesy: AP
If the season ended today, the Buccaneers would be in the playoffs as the #6 seed in the NFC.
I hate the dreaded phrase “if the season ended today,” even when it applies to the Bucs. There are still four games left, and things can (and will) change.
Let’s start with the obvious: if the Bucs run the table the rest of the way, they will be in the playoffs as at least a wild card.
But they’ve got their sights set on winning the division. Right now, they’re tied with the Falcons at 7-5 atop the NFC South. Tampa Bay has a tougher schedule the rest of the way, since it has to play Dallas (that game has been moved to prime time in case you haven’t heard.) Atlanta does not play a team with a winning record the rest of the way. If what I just read on the team’s official website is true, if the Bucs and Falcons both win out, Atlanta would win the division based on record against “common opponents.”
That’s way too complicated for me, but anyway…
It is also my sense that the Bucs are still not getting much national attention, though that is slowly starting to change.
The final push to the postseason starts with Sunday’s game against the Saints at Ray-Jay. I will be there to see it in person. A quick check of Ticketmaster finds there are still a LOT of seats available, especially in the upper deck on both sides. Dear Bucs fans: I know you’ve been hesitant to support the team in recent years because they’ve been lousy. That’s not the case right now. This is a very big game. There is no excuse for the stadium not to be sold out. Let’s fill the place up on Sunday.
Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Buccaneers would beat the Chiefs and Seahawks back-to-back, I would’ve said you’re crazy.
If you would’ve told me a month ago that the Bucs would score just 14 points against Seattle – at home – and still win the game – I would’ve said you’re crazy.
Well, there is nothing crazy about the way Tampa Bay is playing right now. The Bucs beat a very good Seahawks team at Ray-Jay on Sunday, 14-5. Yes, it’s one of those oddball-looking scores but you won’t find me or any other Bucs’ fans complaining about it.
This one was all about the defense, which was getting shredded week after week during the first half of the season. But in the last three games, we’ve seen a complete turnaround. On Sunday, they sacked Russell Wilson six times, picked him off twice, and kept the Seattle offense out of the end zone. One of those interceptions was by Alterraun Verner, who was on the field just two days after his father passed away. If you haven’t seen his reaction yet, you’ll have a tough time not crying. It was a scene very reminiscent of Kwon Alexander’s performance in Atlanta one year ago.
As for the offense, Mike Evans caught two more touchdown passes from Jameis Winston, both in the first quarter. The offense didn’t do much the rest of the way, but the strong performance of the defense bailed them out.
So where do things stand with five games to go? The Bucs are 6-5, still one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South. They are a half-game behind Washington for the #6 seed in the conference. Their remaining games are against the Saints (twice), the Panthers, the Chargers and Cowboys. Yeah, I had to sneak that Dallas reference in at the end. It won’t be easy, but the Bucs are peaking right now; they just have to keep it going.
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
Sometimes, being lucky is better than being good. Heck, I’ll take luck any day of the week.
That was the case in the Buccaneers’ 10-6 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday. It was ugly. The Bucs did not play well offensively. Neither did the Cowboys. But Tampa Bay finally saw a break go its way for a change.
There was Jameis Winston, five yards away from a potential game-winning touchdown. He scanned the field. He couldn’t find anyone open. So he took off for the goal line, leaping high into the air. The problem was, the ball didn’t stay with him the whole time. It was a fumble. Dallas recovered in the end zone.
But hold on – what’s that yellow thing on the field in the end zone? Nah, it couldn’t possibly be a penalty on the Cowboys, because these are the Bucs, and they find every way imaginable to lose games. But a funny thing happened: the referee signaled holding against the defense.
It’s about time Tampa Bay caught a break. And on the next play, Winston took advantage of the second chance on a brilliant play-call: a bootleg that saw him walk into the end zone untouched.
But the final outcome still hadn’t been settled. There was that final heave into the end zone, intended by that Dallas receiver who seems to be known more for his temper these days than his pass-catching ability. The pass was picked off by Bradley McDougald, who was playing the ball the whole way, although it looked like he gave Dez Bryant a slight push.
That was break number two. Can you imagine if the refs had called pass interference on that play? Dallas would’ve had the ball at the 1, with a few seconds left to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Instead, the Bucs have already doubled their win total from all of last year. Their next two games are on the road, at Philadelphia and Indianapolis. They may not have to face either Sam Bradford or Andrew Luck. I’m not suggesting they’re going to win either one of those games, but their chances are better than they were before Sunday.
I hope that ends up being another break.
Photo Courtesy: AP
For a moment, it looked like another agonizing defeat for the Buccaneers. Instead, they beat the Cowboys in a game that made you wonder, “how the heck did they pull that out?”
Tampa Bay beat Dallas, 10-6, with Jameis Winston scoring on a bootleg in the final minute.
All of the action happened in the final half of the fourth quarter because….well, there isn’t a whole lot to talk about otherwise. The Bucs were driving late in the fourth quarter when Winston threw behind his intended receiver, and was picked off for the second time in the game. He hadn’t committed a turnover in four games until now.
But the Bucs got the ball back, and marched down to the Dallas 4-yard line. On 3rd and goal, Winston sprinted toward the goal line and leapt through the air, much like he did last week against the Giants. But this time, he lost the ball, seemingly on his own, and Dallas recovered in the end zone.
Game over, right? Wrong. The Cowboys’ Jeff Heath was flagged for defensive holding, giving the Bucs a second chance. Winston walked into the end zone untouched on the next play to give the Buccaneers the lead.
Gave over, right? Nope – these are the Bucs. A personal foul penalty against the Buccaneers on the kickoff (they ALWAYS seem to get flagged on special teams!) gave the Cowboys the ball with decent field position. They marched into Bucs territory when Matt Cassel threw one deep for Dez Bryant in the end zone. But Bradley McDougald came up with the game-saving interception. Did McDougald give him a little push? Yes. But on the other hand, he was looking back at the ball the whole time. Geez, it’s about time Tampa Bay caught a break.
With the win, the Buccaneers improve to 4-5. In the Monday Column, I talked about the defense needing to step it up. This was, by far, their best performance of the season. They held the Cowboys to two field goals and 216 total yards. Yes, they caught a break with Tony Romo being out with an injury. But still, this unit has let so-so quarterbacks light them up this season, so it was nice to see them come up big in the clutch.
Photo courtesy: buccaneers.com