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
Before the season began, it was understandable why so many Bucs’ fans were expecting a playoff year in 2017. After all, Tampa Bay did go 9-7, and added a lot of firepower on the offensive side of the ball.
The Buccaneers finished 5-11.
So what happened? Was the bar set too high? I don’t think so, based on the success of last season. But let’s break down what turned out to be a disappointing season in Bucs’ country.
Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball. This was the biggest area of concern on 2016, the feeling that Mike Smith’s unit couldn’t stop anybody. Well, in 2017, they still couldn’t stop anybody. Guess where the Buccaneers finished in total defense (based on total yards allowed per game.) They were dead last. When it came to stopping the other team on third down? Yep, dead last. Guess which team had the fewest sacks in the NFL? That would be Tampa Bay. The defense gave up nearly 24 points a game, which puts them in the bottom ten in that category. Sometimes stats can be misleading. These aren’t.
And yet, Dirk Koetter said Monday that he expects Mike Smith to return with him next season. Right.
Offensively, this was supposed to be the year Jameis Winston made the jump to the next level. He’s shown flashes of brilliance. The biggest one that comes to mind was just a day ago, when amazingly he led his team 95 yards in the final two minutes (with no timeouts) to beat the eventual NFC South champions. But the turnovers are a problem – a big problem. He continues to force the ball into double coverage (even triple coverage.) And the fumbles are just as big an issue. He has to do a better job hanging on to the football. Period.
Finally, there was the disaster known as special teams. Nick Folk started the year as the team’s kicker, taking over for Roberto Aguayo. Folk was just as bad. He single-handedly cost the Bucs the game against the Patriots. Patrick Murray returned and stabilized that position a bit, though he missed some important kicks down the stretch. And we won’t soon forget the other mishaps: allowing 100+ kickoff returns in each of the last two games, the punt block that the Saints ran back for a score in the Superdome.
So where do the Bucs go from here? I was hoping Mike Smith would get fired, but Koetter says that’s not going to happen. Koetter also said he’s going to keep calling the plays. Good Lord. The Buccaneers have a top-ten pick in the draft. They need help just about everywhere, but fixing the defense should be the first priority (though other areas aren’t far behind.)
Finally, I conclude with some thank yous. Thank you Gene Deckerhoff, Dave Moore, TJ Rives and the rest of the people at the Buccaneers radio network for keeping me entertained all season long. Thank you to bloggers like JoeBucsFan and Pewter Report for their excellent coverage during the season (and offseason.) If you don’t follow them on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do.
But most of all, thank you to my readers who come here for my sometimes silly take on my favorite football team. Without you, I would not be doing this. I live in the greater Boston area, and not everyone here is a diehard Patriots fan. I just wish there were more Buccaneers’ fans around here. This blog will remain mostly dormant until the NFL Draft. But if something big happens before then, I’ll offer my take here.
Happy New Year, God Bless, and Go Bucs!
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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
With another loss in the loss column, we’re getting closer to finding out what happens to Dirk Koetter and his cast of characters at the end of the season.
The Buccaneers lost again last night. For the second week in a row, the score was 24-21. For the second week in a row, the defense couldn’t stop anybody or get any pressure on the quarterback. Oh, wait: that’s been the case all season.
I’ll be honest: I thought the Bucs would get blown out by the Falcons. That didn’t happen. Jameis Winston was outstanding, having arguably his best game of the season, even with his teammates dropping like flies due to injuries. But Tampa Bay did what 4-10 teams do. The fumble by Peyton Barber in the red zone was costly. Twice the Falcons put the ball on the ground – including once in the Bucs’ end zone – and twice they couldn’t come up with a key takeaway. As for Patrick Murray’s missed 54-yard FG attempt that would’ve forced overtime, well it’s been that kind of year. At least Murray’s been light years ahead of guys named Aguayo or Folk.
So, what’s my big takeaway from this one? Mike Smith’s defense still stinks. Sure, he didn’t let Julio Jones go for 250 yards this time (but did you notice the times he was all alone in the middle of the field?) So, Smith contained Jones, but he had no answer for Devonta Freeman. If anyone deserves to get canned in two weeks, it’s Mike Smith. Koetter may very well be done as well. But if I had to pick one to get rid of, it’s the defensive coordinator.
Photo Courtesy: USA Today
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.
This time, the Buccaneers waited until overtime for the pain and agony to become official: a 26-20 loss to the Packers in Green Bay. Let me count the ways:
Jameis Winston gift-wrapped a Green Bay touchdown when he fumbled the ball right into the arms of Dean Lowry, who took it to the house. Winston almost cost the Bucs more points in the fourth quarter due to miscommunication on a snap in the red zone. He’s lucky he recovered the fumble, and ended up throwing his second TD pass of the game to Cameron Brate, which put Tampa Bay in the lead with about six minutes to go.
That brings me to my next point: Mike Smith’s joke of a defense couldn’t hold on to that slender lead late in the fourth. The Packers tied it with a field goal, then won it on the first possession of overtime. And on that drive, did you happen to notice the shoddy tackling? Someone remind me again why Smith is still on the staff.
Of course, after the Green Bay field goal made it 20-20 with about two minutes to go, Jameis and company got the ball back, with a chance to go down the field and win the game. They didn’t even come close.
While the Buccaneers have solved their field goal kicking situation, they had a punt blocked that led to a Packers’ touchdown. Another mistake that you cannot make in any game, much less this one.
And then there were all of the penalties, and all of the sacks – seven of them in all – that cost the Bucs big-time. The pass protection was a mess, yet they managed to have a nice game on the ground courtesy of Peyton Barber. Go figure.
Last year, the Bucs finished 9-7. This loss means they will not match their win total of last year. It’s just one more sign of what a disappointment this season has been.
Next week, they’ll host the Lions and Ray-Jay. Buccaneer Bri will be making his annual trip down south for that one. So be on the lookout for some photos, videos and hopefully other fun stuff next Monday.
Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
I’m getting sick and tired of writing about the same old problems with this team every time they lose.
The offense can’t score early in the game. The defense can’t stop anybody from scoring. The play-calling leaves a lot to be desired. And after this latest loss to Atlanta, the Bucs are now further cemented in the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7.
Let’s start with Mike Smith’s pathetic defense – you know, the one that allowed at least 30 points for the fifth time this season. Look: Julio Jones is a great wide receiver – one of the best in the game. But how do you let a guy like that torch you for over 250 yards? You’d think it’d be worth double-covering him every now and then, even if it means man-to-man coverage on another receiver like Mohammed Sanu. You have to make someone other than Jones beat you, and Smith didn’t give that scenario a chance to play out.
This defense also has to be the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down. The Falcons were 11-of-14 on third down in this game. That is insane. And it’s been happening all year long. And let me tell you: we’re not talking 3rd-and-short, either. A lot of these conversions require double-digit yards, and the Bucs are letting their opponents convert with ease. How many times to do you a see a Tampa Bay defender playing so soft, that all the receiver has to do is run about two yards to move the chains before the defender even lays a hand on him?
Forcing turnovers is still an issue, though they did get a big one in the fourth quarter that nearly led to the Buccaneers coming all the way back from 21 points down.
That leads me to my next point: Dirk Koetter’s play-calling. After the turnover, the Bucs marched down the field and into the red zone. With about seven minutes to go, Tampa Bay had 2nd and 2 from the 19. Koetter called three straight pass plays – all of them incomplete. This was their big chance to tie up a game they had no business even being in, and they couldn’t get two yards in three plays? As for his decision to go for it on 4th down instead of kicking the field goal, I’m a bit torn. If you kick the field goal (and yes, we have a guy that can kick now) then you’d be trailing by four, meaning you’d still need a touchdown to win the game, not to mention stopping the Falcons’ offense. So I was actually okay with the decision to go for it, but I did not like the play-call at all.
Naturally, Atlanta got the ball back, marched right down the field and scored the you-knew-it-was coming insurance touchdown.
But that’s not the only questionable play-calling. Tampa Bay has two really good tight ends on this team: Cameron Brate and rookie O.J. Howard. Can someone explain to me why neither of them saw a pass thrown in his direction for the entire first half?
I really don’t see how Koetter and Smith still have jobs at the end of this lost season, especially Smith. The defense was the biggest problem last year; they’ve done nothing to fix that. On offense, they’ve got all of these weapons, yet they consistently struggle out of the gate. I know Jameis Winston is injured, but it’s been this way even when he’s been in there. That ultimately has to fall on the head coach.
OK – rant over.
Next week: the Battle of the Bays, at Lambeau Field.
Photo Courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers