table of contents
- Sullivan In Command Of Bucs’ Explosive Offense
- Bostad Is Working Wonders With Tampa Bay’s O-line
- Pewter Prospect: OT Brennan Williams
- Pewter Prospect: CB David Amerson
- 2012 Buccaneers Midseason Awards
- Dominik’s Vision For Bucs Offense: The Tampa Bay Colts
- 2012 Bucs Defensive And Special Teams Midseason Grades
- 2012 Bucs Offensive Midseason Grades
- Catch 22 (If You Can)
- Point-Counterpoint: Can The Bucs Make The Playoffs?
Point – Bucs Have Positioned Themselves For The Playoffs
By Mark Cook
Scott, call me crazy, but I see a chance for the Buccaneers to make the playoffs – this year. It may be a slim shot and a lot of things would need to fall their way, but there is a chance nonetheless.
First of all, the NFC is fairly weak this year. At 4-4 the Buccaneers are only a half game out of the wildcard race with eight games remaining. The Buccaneers trail the 5-4 Seahawks and Vikings, and with the head-to-head tiebreaker they are a leg up on Minnesota if they finish with the same record.
So with Tampa Bay sitting at 4-4, they would need to go at least 5-3 over the last eight games to likely make the postseason. Is it possible? Let’s take a look at the next eight opponents.
San Diego is certainly feeling the effect of losing their downfield vertical threat in Vincent Jackson. The Chargers still have weapons offensively and the game on Sunday most likely will be another shootout. But with the Buccaneers playing at home, and feeling confident after winning two in a row on the road, the Bucs should take this one.
The Buccaneers beat the Panthers 16-10 to open the season and did so with an offensive that wasn’t even coming close to firing on all cylinders. The 16 points scored by Tampa Bay against Carolina was the second-fewest of the season. Ron Rivera could be in trouble in Charlotte.
Undefeated Atlanta is certainly the team to beat in the NFC, and perhaps the entire NFL. But there are chinks in the armor. It took fourth-quarter comebacks to beat both the Panthers and the Raiders at home this season, so it isn’t unconceivable that the Buccaneers could take at least one from the Falcons. The Bucs have a better chance at home than doing so in the 2012 season finale at the Georgia Dome.
Peyton Manning is back to leading the NFL is passing and the Broncos defense is getting better each week. This game looks like the toughest one on the remaining schedule, but it’s not impossible to think the Buccaneers could pull off a surprise in Denver and come home with a win. Tampa Bay has already won in two tough places to play at the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome in Minnesota and the Black Hole in Oakland.
Philadelphia is overrated and done in terms of making a playoff push. It looks like this may be the time for Andy Reid and Michael Vick’s tenure with the Eagles to come to an end. With the Buccaneers celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Super Bowl this game, expect a sellout and a big Buccaneers win.
Tampa Bay’s trip to New Orleans will be tough. The Saints have begun to climb out of the huge hole they created earlier this year, when they began the season 0-4. But the Buccaneers and Saints have split games the last four years, with the Buccaneers winning on the road two times. It won’t be easy, but a win in the Big Easy isn’t impossible.
The Buccaneers will celebrate with an early Christmas present and should take care of the Rams easily in the confines of Raymond James in the home finale. St. Louis showed some signs of life early on, but with Tampa Bay still in the playoff hunt in Week 16, the Bucs will have all the incentive to prevail.
Looking at these eight opponents I can easily see five wins Scott – the Chargers, one against the Falcons, at Carolina and the final two home games against Philly and St. Louis. That would put the Buccaneers at 9-7 and give them a shot at the playoffs.
And this is based on how the Buccaneers are playing as we speak. It is clear there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially defensively. There is no telling how much better the Buccaneers can get before the season. The one thing most around the league will agree with is the Buccaneers are steadily improving. With eight games left, why wouldn’t the improvement continue?
Scott, I know this season was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and without a doubt it is. But why can’t the Buccaneers dream big? Why can’t they capitalize on a better-than-expected 4-4 start to get to 9-7, or dare I say 10-6?
Looking at playoff picture it is conceivable that a 9-7 record would get the Buccaneers the final wildcard spot. People may ask, so what? How far can they go just barely qualifying and squeaking in? Ask the 2010 Green Bay team how far a No. 6 seed can go. The Packers won the Super Bowl despite being a sixth seed.
And Scott, I’d like you ask Greg Schiano which of the remaining games he thinks his Buccaneers will lose. I can say without a doubt he feels his team can win them all. Isn’t that what all great coaches should think?
Counterpoint – Bucs’ Playoff Push Will Fall Short In December
By Scott Reynolds
Mark, I love your optimism. It’s much more interesting to follow a team that is still alive for the postseason than one that is getting its butt kicked while losing 10 straight games to end the season. Oh how the 4-4 Buccaneers of 2012 are much different than that of the team a year ago that was also 4-4 at one point.
There’s an old saying in football that goes like this – offense wins games, defense wins championships. The Bucs have triumphed in three out of their four wins this year thanks to their suddenly prolific and high-scoring offense. In victories against Kansas City, Minnesota and Oakland, the Bucs offense scored 38, 36 and 42 points, respectively.
While Tampa Bay’s defense certainly helped the cause in the 38-10 win against a woeful Kansas City team, the defense was the main reason for the Bucs’ 16-10 opening day win against Carolina. But in three of its four losses this year, Tampa Bay’s defense has given up 24 points or more. The Bucs lost at home, 24-22, to Washington, and 35-28 at home to New Orleans, while falling at New York, 41-34.
Most playoff teams have great defenses. New England, Green Bay and New Orleans have been the exception to the rule over the years, but each of those franchises have Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks in Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees to lead the way and make up for suspect defenses. All three of those quarterbacks happen to be Super Bowl champions, too. While improving, Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman isn’t in that class yet.
I think the Bucs offense is good enough to win four more games by itself, but I have real reservations about Tampa Bay’s defense doing its part in the month of December against some of the NFL’s upper echelon quarterbacks. While the linebacking corps has been much improved with the development of middle linebacker Mason Foster and the addition of weakside linebacker Lavonte David, and defensive end Michael Bennett has single-handedly generated a pass rush, the cornerback position remains the weakest on the team in terms of experience and talent when it comes to depth. It’s for this reason that the Bucs will struggle in December after keeping things interesting in November with probable wins against San Diego and Philadelphia.
Yet even the Chargers and Eagles can’t be classified as easy wins because Philip Rivers and Michael Vick are dynamic quarterbacks that will be facing Tampa Bay’s 32nd-ranked pass defense. Without former starting cornerback Aqib Talib, who was traded to New England two weeks ago, and the possibility of losing fellow starter Eric Wright to a four-game suspension for Adderall if Jay Glazer’s report on Fox Sports was correct, the Bucs just don’t have the defensive backs that can effectively cover the likes of Steve Smith, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Eric Decker, Desean Jackson and others down the stretch.
If the Bucs were facing more Christian Ponders and Brady Quinns and fewer Mannings, Ryans and Breeses in December I’d like their chances of making the postseason. Instead, I see the Bucs’ winning a maximum of eight games this year and that means splitting the remaining contests with wins versus San Diego, Carolina, Philadelphia and St. Louis. That means Tampa Bay will lose at New Orleans, at Denver and get swept by Atlanta.
Mark, even if the Bucs won against the Saints or managed to steal a win against the Falcons, I’m not convinced that a nine-win Tampa Bay team could make the postseason. Remember that in 2010 the 10-6 Buccaneers failed to earn the final playoff spot.
I think the two wild card teams will come out of the NFC West (either San Francisco or Seattle) or the NFC North (Chicago, Green Bay or Minnesota) rather than the NFC South, and it hurts the Bucs that they won’t have the chance to get a head-to-head victory against any NFC West or NFC North teams down the stretch in what would essentially be a playoff elimination game.
Whether it winds up being seven, eight, nine or 10 wins, the Buccaneers will be a much improved football team in Greg Schiano’s first season as head coach. And a stronger-than-expected finish to the 2012 campaign will set Tampa Bay up for a playoff run – in 2013.