The Bucs are Tied For First Place! Believe It!

Bucs fans: we are in for one heck of a final quarter of the season. That’s because in the third quarter of the season, they were a perfect 4-0.

By beating the Chargers 28-21 on Sunday, and with the Falcons losing to the Chiefs (thank you Eric Berry), the Buccaneers are now tied with Atlanta for first place in the NFC South.

Who would’ve thought it a month ago?

This was one of those games where somehow, someway, Tampa Bay found a way to win. Take the defense, for example. At times, they looked the defense from the first half of the season, giving up two long touchdown passes to Philip Rivers. And they got ridiculously lucky in the fourth quarter when a wide open Chargers’ receiver dropped what would’ve been a potential game-tying touchdown. On the flip side, Lavonte David came up with a Pick 6 that put Tampa Bay in the lead in the third quarter. And with about three minutes to go in the game, Keith Tandy picked off Rivers in the end zone. The Bucs were able to run out the clock.

Jameis Winston had another good day: 280 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. He made plays when he had to. And he’s doing it with a running game that is still struggling big time.

Roberto Aguayo? He missed another field goal. Good Lord. It was a 31-yarder. That should be a chip-shot for every single kicker in the league. He’s lucky the Bucs were successful on a 2-point conversion after Cameron Brate’s TD. That “offset” Aguayo’s screw-up. He has missed six FG’s and two PAT’s this season. If the Chargers had tied the game in the fourth quarter, I would’ve been on the floor praying if the game came down to Aguayo’s leg. Thankfully it didn’t.

So the bottom line is this: the Bucs and Falcons are tied at 7-5 atop the NFC South. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. They split those two games. I think the next tiebreaker is division record. Right now the Bucs are 2-1 in that department, but three of their last four are against division opponents.

And lastly, next week’s game against the Saints will be my annual trip down to Ray-Jay. I can’t wait. And for those who fans who are going to the game and didn’t hear the news this past week, it is now a 4:25 kickoff instead of 1:00.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

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Three Wins in a Row! Bucs Are In the Playoff Hunt

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

 

Some Thoughts on the Buccaneers’ 2016 Schedule

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