Happy Thanksgiving, Bucs fans.

It truly is a happy holiday this year in Tampa – despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of the crappy things this country has had to deal since virtually the start of 2020.

And no, it’s not a happy holiday just because the Tampa Bay Lightning won its second Stanley Cup, and the Tampa Bay Rays made it to their second World Series.

It’s because the Buccaneers are good this year.

Finally.

It took a while, didn’t it?

Notice I said good – not great.

Your Buccaneers are a good team this year in Year 2 of the Bruce Arians regime, and the first with the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, under center. They won’t become great until next year, when Brady has another year in Arians’ system and the Bucs dethrone the Saints to win the NFC South.

Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
Bucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

This year Tampa Bay will finish second fiddle to New Orleans in the division, but will make the playoffs.

The Bucs are 7-4 so far this season, and thanks to a top-heavy NFC conference, Tampa Bay would really have to screw things up in December to miss the playoffs. Even if the team slips to 7-5 with a loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Bucs have a chance to win out in December against some lesser teams like Minnesota (4-6), Detroit (4-6) and Atlanta (3-7) twice. That would put Tampa Bay at 11-5 and assure the team of a long-awaited playoff berth.

The Bucs are right where I thought they’d be, dating back to my original game-by-game predictions from my SR’s Fab 5 column from September 4.

I got most of those predictions right, such as Brady and the Bucs losing to Nick Foles – yes, I called Foles taking over for Mitchell Trubisky by Week 5 before the season started – and I correctly predicted Tampa Bay getting swept by New Orleans, but sweeping Carolina, and starting the season 3-2. In fact, the only two games I didn’t accurately predict the outcomes of were Green Bay (I forecast a loss) and Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams (I predicted a win).

I had the Bucs at 7-4, which is where they are now, and at 7-5, which they’ll be on Sunday night after losing to the Chiefs. I predicted a loss to Minnesota, but three straight wins to end the season. That gets the Bucs to 10-6, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win every game after the bye week, and making it a December to remember in Tampa Bay.

But this isn’t about me or my predictions.

This is about your Buccaneers being better than they were a year ago, and that’s something to be thankful for.

Jameis Winston had thrown 22 touchdowns and 20 interceptions through 11 games in 2019 and that was a big reason why Tampa Bay was 4-7. Brady has accounted for 28 touchdowns (25 passing, three rushing) with only nine interceptions by comparison.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

I know Arians made some waves on Tuesday when he said “it’s just a matter of each and every week if the quarterback plays well or not,” on his weekly Bucs radio show, but it’s true.

Arians publicly putting some of the blame on Brady – and deservedly so – might be a new phenomenon for the future first ballot Hall of Famer and might ruffle some feathers, but when Brady plays well the Bucs win. It’s really that simple.

And when he doesn’t play well, as was the case in Tampa Bay’s 27-24 loss to L.A. on Monday Night Football, in addition to two games against New Orleans and the Chicago game, the Bucs lose.

That’s been the case in Tampa Bay under Arians, whether it’s Brady or Winston at the helm of his quarterback-driven offense.

General manager Jason Licht has selected some really good talent over the last couple of drafts, including nose tackle Vita Vea, inside linebacker Devin White, cornerback Carlton Davis III, and this year’s first-round pick, right tackle Tristan Wirfs; and acquired others like outside linebackers like Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett and tight end Rob Gronkowski among others to put this team into playoff position. That’s something to be thankful for, along with an improved defense coached by Todd Bowles.

Oh, and Licht finally got a real kicker in Ryan Succop, and that’s really something to be thankful for.

With the team’s next win, progress will have officially been made over last year’s 7-9 record, and the Bucs will have their first non-losing season since the team went 9-7 in Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach in 2016.

Two more victories and the Bucs are winners again.

Three more wins and Tampa Bay is likely in the postseason.

Four more triumphs and the Bucs are assuredly playoff-bound.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

What I’m thankful for is that the narrative around the Bucs is changing along with the team culture. Not only do I appreciate not even writing about draft stuff in October or November because the Bucs are winning in 2020, I also like that Tampa Bay isn’t really beating itself anymore.

Sure, Brady’s two interceptions against the Rams were self-inflicted wounds, especially the one at the end of the game, but Tampa Bay had just two penalties for seven yards on Monday night and have become a much more disciplined team. In fact, the Bucs haven’t had more than 39 yards of penalties in any game over the past six weeks since the Bears game.

Gone are Bucs teams from the past decade that were reminiscent of the Keystone Cops, where we all witnessed a comedy of red and pewter errors for three hours each Sunday.

Tampa Bay just flat out narrowly lost to a good, playoff-bound L.A. team on Monday night the way some of the playoff-caliber teams under Tony Dungy or Jon Gruden would do on occasion. What’s here are heightened expectations in Tampa Bay, and that’s refreshing.

It’s been a couple years – a dozen to be exact – since fans were upset after a close loss to a very good football team by a 7-4 Bucs squad. The fans – like the players – now expect the team to win.

This Tampa Bay team is on the rise. A foundation is being laid that should keep the Bucs as a good or great team for years to come – even after Arians and Brady retire.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s enjoy this transitional year in Tampa Bay and an expected playoff push by the Bucs.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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Pete Wood
1 month ago

Thank you for seeing the glass as half full. I think the Bucs are having a really good year and are one year away.
But,
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, some pewter fans gotta complain about the Bucs until the day they die.

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drdneast
Reply to  Pete Wood
1 month ago

Enjoyed your perceptive poem.

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German Buc
1 month ago

While I am with you, Scott, that the QB deserves always praise or blame based on the outcome, I tend to say most of the blame for the recent losses is on the coaching staff. I’ll give everyone a pass for game #1 – new team, COVID,… – but after that, we have been outcoached by CHI (which we outplayed but lost to Refs), NYG (which we outplayed to a W), NO (have we even arrived at that game??), and now by LAR. Being unprepared as a coach and expecting your QB – even if he is the GOAT –… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  German Buc
1 month ago

Agree on all points. Not totally taking Brady off the hot seat but if Arians has proven anything in 2yrs is that he’s a terrible game manager, he’s stubborn to a fault & too slow to recognize needed adjustments.. Scotts tooting his own horn a little about his predictions but if Brady doesn’t forget its 4th down in Chi-Town we are 8-3 and I don’t think anyone predicted That. And I’m Not talking about the record.

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drdneast
Reply to  German Buc
1 month ago

Couldn’t agree with you more and I don’t think the analysts in the booth on Monday night would either.
If we don’t have the worst OC in the NFL he is surely in the bottom 5.
Don’t forget in the Bars game, all four of our top WRs were either out or hobbled by some sort of injury.

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Buccorona
1 month ago

Thanks Scott, for this optimistic, realistic, thankful perspective on the Bucs. We do have much to be thankful for. After Green Bay, it looked like a ripping season ahead, but the loss to New Orleans was crushing and the Bucs were out-coached again by the Rams – as PR predicted, which brought us crashing down to earth. But, we’ve come a long way from last year and it’s fun again. So, Go Bucs.

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The Wall
1 month ago

Scott- It surprises me that you are seemingly laying the blame for our losses on Brady. Yes, he deserves a big part of the blame for Monday’s loss but we have been out coached in each loss. While I am thankful that the Bucs will probably make the playoffs, they will never win a Super Bowl unless the coaches are willing and able to change. My message to BA is, “Put down the magnifying glass and pick up the mirror”

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drdneast
Reply to  The Wall
1 month ago

Nice. Well said.

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toucan
Reply to  The Wall
1 month ago

Our D-backs had a terrible game. Kupp was open all night.

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Pete Wood
1 month ago

Somebody has taken it upon himself or herself to downvote every single optimistic post. Sheesh. Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. Grinch.

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peter benet
1 month ago

As a New England fan who’s followed TB12 to Tampa, I’m grateful for an exciting team to root for, although bitterly disappointed by each loss.
I’m particularly thankful for Pewter Report, the only media outlet holding the coaching staff responsible for the underperforming of this incredibly talented team.

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plopes808
1 month ago

Agreed, there is definitely a lot to be thankful for. Licht has finally got his drafting technique down and the team has improved in skill level. Now, we just need to hope that Lefty gets his offensive game planning in order with more experience. As for Bowles, he’s been around long enough to stop calling a scheme that doesn’t work. Not sure what it will take but somehow he needs to get it together if we want to make a deep playoff run.

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awwdembucs
1 month ago

This team REALLY needs a bye week. Good luck with KC. Go Bucs

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scubog
1 month ago

Your dead-on with your assessment Scott. After over four decades cheering for a mostly over-matched team and hoping the opponent would beat themselves, I know this Bucs team has a good chance to win every week. That’s a significant “culture change” for this fan base. I know folks here feel the need to point the old Laugh-In show’s “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” at someone and I suppose to some extent, I do on occasion. After years of going to work Monday morning and instead of hearing “Good morning (Scubog), was confronted with “What happened to your Bucs?”, I feel… Read more »

toucan
1 month ago

Overthrowing a long pass to Brate directly into the hands of a Ram safety was a ridiculous way to end any chance of winning the game. Very Jameis-like and a bit shocking, given all we needed was a FG to go overtime

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SenileSenior
1 month ago

I checked out many pre season predictions for our Bucs. I of course had high hopes but did not really know what to expect this year. I could see the talent level “on paper” as well as anybody I guess. I saved your prediction though, Scott. I’ve been observing how well you did. Anyway, before last week I felt that how we did against the Rams would tell me where we Buccaneers stand in relation to the rest of the league. If we lost that would mean we would probably still make the play-offs but there was a VERY slim chance that we were going all of the… Read more »