With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming off back-to-back impressive victories, have the Bucs finally become serious playoff contenders?
By: Trevor Grout
Let’s be honest here… a few weeks ago I didn’t think we’d be having this conversation, but it’s shocking how a few weeks can change how you see something.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has been dominant the last few weeks. Sure they were more than likely going to beat the Chicago Bears that’s where the dominance began….sort of. I am more talking about how for the last two weeks, against top teams in the NFL, they have looked good. Okay, so maybe saying they look good is an understatement. This is a team only a few weeks ago gave up over 1,000 yards in games against Oakland and Atlanta. Not to mention over 500 passing yards to Derek Carr in the Oakland game.
Since the Atlanta game the Bucs are on a three game winning streak, including ending a 10 game home winning streak the Kansas City Chiefs had prior to the Bucs game. Let’s also consider the fact for much of the Seattle game, Russell Wilson was in the negative in passing yards due to the Bucs defensive line sacking him a total of six times.
The defense has come alive in the last few weeks allowing the offense to not have to carry the burden and be able to play more of their game plan. While I want to say this this turn-around has been all on one side of the ball or the other. Football is a team sport and this team is a family if you ask Jameis Winston.
So with the way the defense has finally found its groove and with Jameis playing as well as he did a year ago, this team should absolutely be taken seriously in the NFC / NFL playoff race. While I don’t think they will make a deep run…they will make a playoff run if they continue the level of play they’ve been at the last few weeks.
By: Anthony Pugliese
Before the Tampa faithful try to tear me apart, hear me out. The recent wins against the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks were quite impressive. By saying no, it doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the playoff conversation, but they still have a little bit to go to be considered serious playoff contenders.
Good teams find a way to win. That’s what the Buccaneers have been doing the past few weeks, but don’t let the recent success be the blinders to your realistic side. This is still the same pass defense that many people, including myself, were essentially ripping apart before the last three weeks. A three week sample is a good insight into the potential of the defense, but not the actually identity they posses. Although I agree they have played quite inspired the last few weeks, especially against the Seahawks, thinking this defensive unit is good enough to carry the Buccaneers to the playoffs is foolish.
The offense falls into the same boat. Although the growth and development of Jameis Winston has been outstanding thus far in his NFL career, the offense as a whole isn’t a unit capable of making the playoffs if the defense reverts to their old ways.
The biggest flaw, and understandably so, with Jameis Winston is that he is too dependant on Mike Evans in the passing game. There are times where Jameis has his mind made up that he is going to throw to Mike Evans regardless of the situation, and it gets him in trouble. Take Sunday’s win against the Seahawks for example. With a chance to put the game away while in the red zone, Winston stared down and threw to Evans, despite double coverage, resulting in a interception in the red zone.
This turnover didn’t hurt the Buccaneers, as the defense took care of business after the turnover, but it isn’t the first time that Winston has relied on Evans despite the coverage he faces. All the blame for that doesn’t belong on Winston’s shoulders, however, as Evans is a borderline elite receiver and there is a huge dropoff in talent at the wide receiver position after him. Adam Humpries is a skilled receiver, but is better suited for the slot, not the #2 spot.
Also let’s not forget about the ground game. Although he has been hurt, Doug Martin, even when playing, as not been as dominant as he has been in the past. Sure, injuries could easily could be attributed to his dropoff, but the running game as a whole as been decimated by injuries this year, and been part of the reason the offense has struggled at times. A healthy and dominant Doug Martin could propel this offense, especially with how well the offensive line has been playing, to a whole new level.
The upcoming games against the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints could easily swing my vote. If the defense can contain their passing attacks led by the skilled veterans Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees, and Doug Martin can build off a solid start against the Seahawks in week 12, ask me again, and I may be singing a different tune.