The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic related to the Tampa Bay Bucs each week.
This week’s topic: If the Bucs win this week, can they run the table?
Scott Reynolds: No, I Don’t See A 9-7 Finish
The Buccaneers have gone on a five-game winning streak before during the 2016 season, which was Dirk Koetter’s first year as head coach. Tampa Bay finished that year 9-7 and one game out of the playoffs. But for the Bucs to finish 9-7 again this season and remain alive for postseason play it would take a six-game winning streak to accomplish that feat. That’s only been done one other team in team history, which was in 1999 with a pretty special group of Buccaneers en route to an 11-5 finish and loss in the NFC Championship Game.
No, I don’t see the Bucs continuing their two-game winning streak with four more wins to end the season. Is it possible? Technically yes, but it’s also technically possible for me to win the Powerball if I play the lottery. So it’s possible if Tampa Bay somehow defeats 10-2 New Orleans, which is the toughest opponent remaining on its 2018 schedule. But even with a victory over the Saints on Sunday that would be more improbable than last week’s 24-17 win over the Panthers, the Bucs would still have to go on the road for back-to-back weeks and notch wins over two playoff-hungry teams in Baltimore and Dallas, which both have 7-5 records, before returning home to face 4-8 Atlanta in the season finale.
Tampa Bay’s defense has been phenomenal at home this year, allowing just 17 points per game, but the problem has been on the road, where the unit is surrendering an astounding 38 points per game. The Bucs defense has made huge strides under defensive coordinator Mark Duffner at home, but has yet to show improvement on the road, surrendering 30 points at Cincinnati, 42 points at Carolina, and 31 points at New York against the Giants. I’ll believe the defense has really improved when I see fewer points given up on the road. That’s the next hurdle for the Bucs defense, but the good news is that neither the Cowboys nor the Ravens have high-scoring offenses, yet both are balanced like the Bengals and the Giants were.
I just don’t like what it would take for the Bucs to make 9-7 in a reality, which is continuing to reduce turnovers on offense, taking the ball away on defense to win the turnover margin, sound coaching decisions by Dirk Koetter, and the fact that the Bucs have to go on the road and steal two wins. Keep in mind that the Bucs are 1-5 in the road with five straight losses. Can this Buccaneers team win out? It’s technically possible, but highly unlikely. I just don’t see this particular Tampa Bay team ending the season with six straight victories, which would match a franchise record, but I would love to be proven wrong. I think a 7-9 finish is more likely.
Mark Cook: Anything Is Possible … But No
To win six games in a row by any NFL team, is a very difficult task. There have been some streaks this season in the NFL, but they were by teams that are more talented and less beat up than Tampa Bay. While the Bucs’ win over Carolina was impressive, the Panthers aren’t the Saints. Not even close.
Hey, if the Bucs beat the Saints it would be great, right? While we don’t cheer one way or the other, our lives – and jobs – would be much easier if the Bucs finished 9-7. And there are without question, a lot of guys on this team you would like to see succeed because you witness the hard work they put into it. But wanting Tampa Bay to win out is something I just don’t foresee happening. Even if the Bucs beat the Saints on Sunday.
The thing that causes me the greatest concern is Tampa Bay’s defense. While the Bucs got four takeaways against the Panthers on Sunday, and recorded four sacks, to think they can duplicate that performance against Drew Brees and the Saints is pretty farfetched. New Orleans needs this win to try and keep pace with the Los Angeles Rams for homefield advantage in the NFC.
I just flat don’t trust this defense. The Bucs still have so much to prove before I could even entertain the idea of them running the table. I suppose if the remainder of the schedule were all home games then there would be a glimmer of hope, but they aren’t. And for whatever reason, this is a much different defense on the road than at home. Like a 20 point a game difference.
While the likelihood Tampa Bay runs the table isn’t very good at all, I do see a way that Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht can manage to stick around in 2019. But it really starts with Sunday’s game against New Orleans. Win that one, then beat the Falcons in the last game of the year, and all of a sudden the team finishes 7-9, two games better than last year. While the overall season would still be disappointing, a 7-9 record gives the Glazers something to think about, and I believe they give this group another year – with some possible tweaks to the coaching staff.
Even with a win over New Orleans on Sunday I just can’t believe the Bucs run the table and win at Baltimore, at Dallas and at home against Atlanta. And if Koetter and Licht do stay, you better believe the hot seat they will be on entering 2019 will catch on fire with a slow start next year.
Trevor Sikkema: Can They? Sure
If the Bucs win this week then absolutely they can run the table. Now, it doesn’t get any easier with their next two games on the road against two 7-5 teams that will also be fighting for potential playoff positioning in the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys. But if Tampa Bay can beat the New Orleans Saints, all bets are off.
I want to preface things by saying that beating the team with the No. 1 overall draft pick (San Francisco), beating a team that is limping towards the end of their season on a now four game losing streak (Carolina) and then beating the New Orleans Saints as they attempt to stay in the hunt for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs are very different things.
The Bucs have been playing well on defense at home, but again, the Saints are a different animal. Plus, they’re coming off just their second loss of the season and have had 10 days to prepare for the Buccaneers. But that is also why I say if the Bucs can beat the Saints, then yes, they have a chance to run the table because that means they can beat anyone, given the day.
How likely is it? Well, the predictor machine gave them about a one percent chance to run the table two weeks ago, but so far so good. Winston will likely have to maintain his turnover-free campaign while ramping up the scoring to keep up with the Saints’ offense. That will be a telling tale, as will the fact that the Bucs defense will have to stay aggressive while not being as far ahead on the scoreboard as they’ve been.
It will take a gutsy defensive game plan and the game of the season from Winston to beat the Saints again this time around in Tampa Bay, all things considered. But if they can do it, you better believe their playoff hopes are still alive.