By Eric Ronnebeck
Improvement in the National Football League is unlike anything else in sports. Maybe it’s the 52 man rosters; maybe it’s the high player turnover; maybe it’s the high front office/coaching turnover. Regardless of the root issue, expecting an NFL team to improve from one year to the next is reserved only for those teams with important roster spots already in place. That means that if a team has a legitimate quarterback, or a strong offensive line, or a shut down defense, then you can expect the team to build around that and get better. If you’re an NFL team with big question marks at those spots, it’s a different story. Instead of annual improvement, your team spends years asking questions like; “Is this guy our franchise quarterback?” or “Is this group of players good enough to build around?” This brings us to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How good is their defense? Is Jameis Winston a franchise quarterback? When are they going back to the orange creamsicle jerseys with the swashbuckler on the helmet? Read on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (3-5)
A convincing 31-24 win in Week 1 over the Atlanta Falcons had football fans talking about the Bucs and what seemed like a definitive step forward for the franchise. However, three straight losses in the following three weeks erased any of those thoughts and the Bucs are 3-5 after Week 9. It’s pretty easy to bash on all the shortcomings of this team but ultimately the explanation for why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 playoff hopes are done, lies in their remaining schedule. Eight games remain on the schedule for the Buccaneers and at 3-5, it stands to reason that in order for the Bucs to make the playoffs, they will have to win a total of at least nine games to have a shot at a Wild Card. Ten seems like a more realistic number of wins to make the playoffs but for today, lets just say its nine wins.
First up are the Chicago Bears. Both the Bears and the Bucs can come up with a surprising win over a more talented team and for that reason, this game is a toss up. Let’s say it’s a win for the Buccaneers. 4-5
Next, the Bucs travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. The Chiefs have a great defense and the Bucs offense is one big question mark: Chiefs win. 4-6
Then the Seahawks come to town. Just read what I wrote about the Chiefs for this game. 4-7
Next up is another road game, this time against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are a feisty team with a good offense. I don’t see the Bucs winning here. 4-8
I can probably stop going through the Bucs schedule but I think we’re past that, so let’s just finish it.
The Buccaneers final, four games are: Saints at home, at Dallas to face the Cowboys, at New Orleans to play the Saints, and home against the Panthers. I think it’s likely that the Bucs go 1-3 to close out the season but it’s possible that they split these last four games and go 2-2, so let’s say they do. This puts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finishing at a very boring 6-10.
A record like that means no playoffs and no high pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. If Jameis Winston can make improvements to his game over the final eight games, then this year won’t be a total waste for the Bucs.
As I mentioned last week, the Carolina Panthers keep winning and that’s keeping them out of this column. Strangely enough the Saints are also winning, keeping them out of this column. Strangest of all is that no team from the NFC East has made it in because they’re all, more or less, bunched together. I expect that to change by the end of next week.