The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be ready to Siege The Day, but will they be able to seize a playoff berth in Jameis Winston’s first season in the NFL? Excitement is running high with Winston at the helm, as the Bucs are trying to reverse a trend that has seen the franchise go from 7-9 to 4-12 to 2-14 in the last three years, while going 4-14 in the NFC South during that span.
The problem on offense is that Winston didn’t throw a touchdown pass in three preseason appearances and completed a paltry 48.9 percent of his throws. Also consider that Tampa Bay has three rookies starting on offense in Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet along a shaky offensive line, and one rookie starter on defense in Kwon Alexander. There will be a learning curve and growing pains for all four. Good NFL teams don’t start four rookies.
On special teams, punter Jacob Schum and kicker Kyle Brindza beat out veterans with NFL experience, but neither one of them has punted or kicked in a regular season NFL game yet. Schum has yet to punt out of his own end zone when it counts, and Brindza has yet to kick a 53-yard game-winner as time expires.
It’s never a good thing when nearly 10 percent of your roster is comprised of last-minute waiver wire claims. That’s the case in Tampa Bay as the Bucs claimed a league-high five players on Sunday.
The Bucs hope all of the roster changes they’ve made this offseason are for the better and improve the team’s record from last year’s disappointing 2-14 record. PewterReport.com offers up its predictions for all 16 games in the Buccaneers’ 2015 season and predicts a 7-9 record in Lovie Smith’s second year in Tampa Bay.
WEEK 1 – Buccaneers vs. Titans
Tampa Bay and Tennessee square off in the season opener with dueling rookie quarterbacks. Marcus Mariota outplays Jameis Winston in Week 1, but the Bucs defense is more stout than the Titans defense and Doug Martin runs wild to help secure a win at Raymond Jameis Stadium in a low-scoring game. The Bucs start off the season with an important victory to help build some confidence. WIN – BUCS START 1-0
WEEK 2 – Buccaneers at Saints
The Bucs have lost seven straight to the Saints, but had New Orleans on the ropes twice last year, including an overtime defeat in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Tampa Bay drafted Winston to go toe-to-toe with the NFC South quarterbacks like Drew Brees, but he’s not ready to beat him after just two regular season games. The Bucs lose a close one. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 1-1
WEEK 3 – Buccaneers at Texans
The Texans offense can be corralled by the Bucs defense, but Houston’s defense overwhelms Tampa Bay’s young and inexperienced offensive line. J.J. Watt has his way with the Buccaneers and Winston has his worst game as a pro as the offense succumbs to several turnovers. Tampa Bay loses back-to-back road games. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 1-2
WEEK 4 – Buccaneers vs. Panthers
Tampa Bay returns home to get its first division victory since 2013 and its first win against Carolina since 2012. The Bucs defense continues to play well and Winston bounces back from a bad game to help Tampa Bay win its second home of the season and get back to .500. WIN – BUCS RECORD IS 2-2
WEEK 5 – Buccaneers vs. Jaguars
The Jaguars are better from a year ago thanks to the play of second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. The Bucs are better from a year ago thanks to the rapid development of Winston. This game goes to overtime, but Tampa Bay prevails at home thanks to Winston’s late-game heroics and head into the bye week as a winner. WIN – BUCS RECORD IS 3-2
WEEK 6 – Bye Week
WEEK 7 – Buccaneers at Redskins
The Bucs begin a two-game road trip with the Redskins and start facing off against NFC East times. Tampa Bay won at Washington last year and has the confidence and the talent to pull it off again. The Redskins are a team in turmoil and that helps the Bucs to a three-game winning streak in blowout fashion. WIN – BUCS RECORD IS 4-2
WEEK 8 – Buccaneers at Falcons
The Bucs face off with the Falcons for the first time in 2015 and new head coach Dan Quinn has Atlanta playing much better than a year ago. The Bucs fail on both sides of the ball, but it’s not as bad as it was a year ago in Week 3’s 56-14 loss at the Georgia Dome. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 4-3
WEEK 9 – Buccaneers vs. NY Giants
Tampa Bay sees New York strut into Raymond James Stadium and end the Bucs’ home-winning streak at the three games. The Bucs defensive backs struggle to contain Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, and quarterback Eli Manning plays better than Winston. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 4-4
WEEK 10 – Buccaneers vs. Cowboys
The Bucs lose back-to-back NFC East clashes as Tampa Bay runs into a buzz saw with Tony Romo and Dallas’ offensive line, which negates the Bucs’ pass rush. Dez Bryant and the Cowboys’ running backs by committee are a handful for Tampa Bay as Dallas prevails by a touchdown in a high-scoring affair. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 4-5
WEEK 11 – Buccaneers at Eagles
The Bucs hit the road for back-to-back clashes with 2014 playoff teams, starting in Philadelphia to close out the NFC East slate. Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense keeps Tampa Bay’s defense off guard and there is no running room for Martin. The Bucs are blown out for the first time this season. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 4-6
WEEK 12 – Buccaneers at Colts
Tampa Bay’s road woes continue as the team travels to Indianapolis to take on a Super Bowl contender in the Colts. The Bucs lack confidence after four straight losses and that plays a role in another stunning defeat. Quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton have their way with the Bucs defense as Winston struggles on the road continues. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 4-7
WEEK 13 – Buccaneers vs. Falcons
The Bucs return home desperately needing to snap a five-game winning streak, which began in Atlanta. Tampa Bay has a chance to seek revenge on the Falcons and does in blowout fashion as the Bucs get a boost from their special teams and a dominant performance from their defense, which forces several takeaways. WIN – BUCS RECORD IS 5-7
WEEK 14 – Buccaneers vs. Saints
Tampa Bay gets revenge on New Orleans and snaps an eight-game losing streak to Brees and the Saints. Winston and the offense rise to the occasion and out-gains and outscores New Orleans to help keep the Bucs’ slim playoff hopes alive. The real positive is that the Bucs have won four NFC South games, including one over every divisional foe, after going winless last year. WIN – BUCS RECORD IS 6-7
WEEK 15 – Buccaneers at Rams
The Bucs travel to St. Louis for their only nationally televised game of the season against the Rams on Thursday night. However, the short week leaves Tampa Bay fatigued, especially on the offensive line, which is ravaged by the Rams’ potent front four led by Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. The Bucs’ playoff chances are dashed as they hope to at least finish with a .500 record. LOSS – BUCS RECORD IS 6-8
WEEK 16 – Buccaneers vs. Bears
Tampa Bay should have beaten the Bears last year in Chicago, but saw a halftime lead slip away with several turnovers in the third quarter. The Bears are in a transition year with new head coach John Fox, who is deciding whether he can win with QB Jay Cutler. The Bucs get revenge on the Bears and help Fox figure it out by picking of Cutler and sacking him multiple times. WIN – BUCS RECORD IS 7-8
WEEK 17 – Buccaneers at Panthers
The Bucs have one last chance to sweep an NFC South divisional opponent, but that has to happen on the road in Charlotte, which has been a tough place for Tampa Bay to play. Cam Newton and the Panthers could be in the mix for a playoff spot and will bring their “A” game. Unfortunately, that means a loss for the Bucs, which finish the season with a losing record for the fifth straight year. LOSS – BUCS FINISH 7-9
BUCS 2015 SEASON SUMMARY
The Bucs finish the season with 7-9, which is a five-win improvement over last year’s dismal and disappointing 2-14 finish. However, Tampa Bay’s hopes for being a surprise playoff teams are dashed in large part to five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. However, the Bucs finished 3-2 down the stretch and have some momentum heading into 2016 as Winston improved throughout the year. Aside from winning four NFC South division games, Tampa Bay also finished the year 6-2 at home after going winless at Ray-Jay in 2014. That’s the first time the Bucs have had a winless season at home since 2008 when Jon Gruden was head coach. A 7-9 season can’t be considered a success in Tampa Bay, but it’s a step in the right direction for Smith and the Buccaneers.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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