The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started off the 2017 with an unfortunate first-round bye due to Hurricane Irma threatening Miami and rest of the state of Florida. The Bucs are now expected to open the season at home in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears.
Regardless of the weather-based obstacles the Bucs will face at the start of the season, Tampa Bay has the talent and the hunger to make the playoffs this year – the team’s first appearance since 2007. What will the Bucs’ record be, and which teams will Tampa Bay beat? Find out in Mark Cook’s Bucs’ 2017 Season Predictions.
Week 1: BYE WEEK
Week 2: Bucs vs. Bears – Sept. 17 – 1:00pm – Fox
After Hurricane Irma put a literal damper on the season opener that was rescheduled, the Bucs finally take the field fresh and ready. The Bucs timing might be a little off to start the game as the Bears will have a game under their belt, but Mike Glennon will look like Mike Glennon (safe and not taking down field shots), and the Bears will melt in the Tampa heat giving the Bucs a decisive win behind a solid offensive performance.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 1-0
Week 3: Bucs at Vikings – Sept. 24 – 1:00pm – Fox
The Bucs hit the road for the first time and visit the Vikings who look to be an improved team with Sam Bradford at the helm for the second straight season. Expectations are high in Minneapolis, but are higher in Tampa and the Bucs pull out a win with a last-minute Nick Folk field goal. Vikings’s rookie running back Dalvin Cook will have a great game, but the Bucs defense will come up big in the second half as the Bucs start the season with two wins.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 2-0
Week 4: Bucs vs. Giants – Oct. 1 – 4:05pm – Fox
The battle for supremacy for the second best wide receiver in the NFL (Julio Jones is still No. 1, barely) takes place on the first week of October in Raymond James Stadium as Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants come to town to face Tampa Bay. The game will be a back-and-forth contest and the team with the fewest turnovers will win this relatively low-scoring contest. Jameis Winston will win this match up against Eli Manning, and Mike Evans will prove to the nation he was the best receiver in the 2014 NFL draft.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 3-0
Week 5: Bucs vs. Patriots – Oct. 5 – 8:25pm – CBS/NFL Network
One of the most anticipated games, by fans and scalpers, comes to Raymond James and a national television audience will witness one of the game’s best young quarterbacks take on the old man who plays 15 years younger. Winston versus Brady will be the storyline and despite the Buccaneers coming off a hard fought win over the Giants just five days early. The Bucs will make a statement that they are a team to be reckoned with and a legit playoff contender.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 4-0
Week 6: Bucs at Cardinals – Oct. 15 – 4:05pm – Fox
Confidence is at an all-time high for this football team as they travel to Arizona, however, the fatigue and emotional last two weeks takes a toll on the team and they come out flat. Bruce Arians and his Cardinals will be in need of a win and the trip nearly all the way to the west coast is a recipe for a let down, and the Bucs can’t match their franchise record of opening the season with five straight wins, as they take the loss.
BUCS LOSE, TAMPA BAY IS 4-1
Week 7: Bucs at Bills – Oct. 22 – 1:00pm – Fox
The Bucs travel to Buffalo an angry team knowing they should be undefeated and they take it out on the seemingly always rebuilding Bills. Quarterback Jameis Winston has a nearly perfect game, and the Bucs defense will be playing with the confidence of the 2016 post-bye week defense and the Bucs will dominate Buffalo.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 5-1
Week 8: Bucs vs. Panthers – Oct. 29 – 1:00pm – Fox
Tampa Bay won a squeaker against Cam Newton and the Panthers to close the 2016 season, but this a different Panthers team and there is something to play of this year. The Bucs defense struggles early to contain rookie Christian McCaffrey, and Newton will make plays with both his feet and arm, but the Bucs put together a strong fourth quarter to pull out an ugly – but satisfying – win and start the season 6-1.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 6-1
Week 9: Bucs at Saints – Nov. 5 – 1:00pm – Fox
The Bucs had one of their most impressive wins in several years when the limited the Saints and Drew Brees to no touchdowns, but then had one of the most disappointing losses in a while when they couldn’t clinch a playoff spot with a tough Christmas Eve loss. The disappointment in the SuperDome continues again this year as Brees and their potent offense out duels Winston. But they will have a chance for revenge on New Year’s Eve.
BUCS LOSE, TAMPA BAY IS 6-2
Week 10: Bucs vs. Jets – Nov. 12 – 1:00pm – CBS
The Jets are a great team for a bounce back game as they come to Tampa struggling and already looking ahead to next season. Tampa Bay’s defense will hold the Jets to less than 10 points and the offense will keep rolling as Winston is becoming a legitimate NFL MVP candidate. The Bucs rolls easy and send the Jets fans who came to Tampa Bay on a vacation home in a bad mood.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 7-2
Week 11: Bucs at Dolphins –Nov. 19 – 1:00pm – Fox
Tampa Bay finally gets to face the Dolphins after their season opener was rescheduled due to Irma, and like a bad storm the Buccaneers blow into Miami and leave with a win. Will Jay Cutler still be the starter? It won’t matter who lines up under center as the Bucs defense will be playing confidently and limit Miami’s run game.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 8-2
Week 12: Bucs at Falcons – Nov. 26 – 1:00pm – Fox
The Bucs ride into the new Mercedes Benz Dome flying high and loaded with momentum, but perhaps are too over confident. The Falcons make a statement, reminding the young Bucs they are still the defending NFC South champs, and Winston has his worst game of the year as the noise inside the new dome makes it difficult to operate. Atlanta wins soundly and Tampa Bay leaves with a bitter taste in their mouth, already looking forward to their rematch at Raymond James later in the season.
BUCS LOSE, TAMPA BAY IS 8-3
Week 13: Bucs at Packers – Dec. 3 – 1:00pm – Fox
Green Bay has never been especially kind to the Buccaneers, and fighting the ghosts of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr proves to be difficult once again. Of course Aaron Rodgers and Co. have something to do with that as well, in addition to the coldest game of the season. The offense struggles to get things going, and the defense has no answer for Rodgers who is battling Winston for MVP honors.
BUCS LOSE, TAMPA BAY IS 8-4
Week 14: Bucs vs. Lions – Dec. 10 – 1:00pm – Fox
The mediocre Lions come into town and find an angry Bucs team waiting for them. Despite the Bucs being upset with two straight losses, the Lions capitalize on some early errors and take a lead into halftime. After a rousing Winston halftime speech, the Bucs respond on both sides of the ball and blank the Lions in the second half giving them a much needed win and gets their season back on track.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 9-4
Week 15: Bucs vs. Falcons – Dec. 18 – 8:30pm – ESPN
The battle for NFC supremacy comes down to a late December nationally-televised game against the Falcons. The contest is a back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading scores. The Bucs defense comes up big in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay pulls ahead and secures the win behind two Gerald McCoy fourth quarter sacks.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 10-4
Week 16: Bucs at Panthers – Dec. 24 – 1:00pm – Fox
This game is one one I went back and forth on. The Panthers are no slouch of a team and the pressure will be on for Tampa Bay to go on the road and win a Christmas Eve game. Last season it didn’t pan out in New Orleans, but this is a better football team. The game will be a low-scoring affair, and most likely comes down to the fourth quarter, just as both games against Carolina did last year. And like last year, the Bucs prevail.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 11-4
Week 17: Bucs vs. Saints – Dec. 31 – 1:00pm – Fox
With 11 wins, the Bucs have clinched a playoff berth, but they want more. Just getting in isn’t enough as they want home field advantage. The Bucs march into the playoffs with force as they blast the Saints as the game is essentially over before halftime. Jameis Winston has another 300-yard game, Doug Martin runs for another 130 and Tampa Bay racks over nearly 500 yards of offense as they wait for the rest of the games to play out over the final weekend to see where they sit in the playoff seeding.
BUCS WIN, TAMPA BAY IS 12-4