With a 7-5 record, Tampa Bay is a team that could make a deep run in the playoffs this year with a strong enough showing in December to qualify for the postseason. However, one factor that will make it very difficult to see the Buccaneers making it to the Super Bowl or even winning playoff games is its shaky defense.
It seems that the Buccaneers have a tale of two defenses with some of the best play showing up at times, such as the team’s 38-10 win against Green Bay, but then in other games, such as the 38-3 loss to New Orleans, Tampa Bay looks horrible on the defensive side of the ball. So will the Bucs defense play well enough all year long to keep the Buccaneers relevant when it comes time for the playoffs this January? Well, it is now time to start to evaluate how the Buccaneers are at each position.
The Buccaneers have the No. 1 rushing defense (74.2 avg.) and the third-most sacks in the league with 34 thanks to the play of Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett up front, among others. Pierre-Paul leads the team with 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions, while Suh and Gholston have already surpassed last year’s sack numbers with four and two QB captures, respectively. The Bucs will need to continue to remain stout against the run and get after the quarterback in December.
Inside linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David have put up great tackle numbers this season with 109 from White and 90 from David so far, and both are capable of making splash plays. But over the last month of the season the Bucs are 1-3 and neither David nor White has produced a takeaway or a sack during that span. More is needed from Tampa Bay’s fast and athletic linebacking duo to help the defense in the coming weeks.
Tampa Bay’s secondary has be picked on by the likes of former Super Bowl quarterbacks Drew Brees, Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes over the last month with all three QBs combining for 10 passing touchdowns in wins over the Bucs. Outside of getting torched by Pro Bowler Tyreek Hill, Carlton Davis III has played really well for the Bucs and leads the team with four interceptions. Better coverage and more plays are needed from Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting. Tampa Bay’s safeties Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Jordan Whitehead need to come up with more plays in the secondary with greater regularity. While the Bucs’ next opponents, the Vikings, Falcons (twice) and Lions all have losing records, they have dangerous quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford.
Are the Bucs worth betting on down the stretch with a defense that has been hit-and-miss during the season? A key thing to look at is the Tampa Bay team also is one that will have some great expert NFL predictions that hold true with a good defense showing up, instead of the bad one. Once the Bucs defense gets great play on a consistent basis Tampa Bay could end up being a threat to make the Super Bowl.