The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.
Table of Contents
This week’s topic: Predict The Bucs’ Finish
Scott Reynolds: Bucs Go 3-1 To Finish 10-6
Coming off the bye week, Tampa Bay needs to snap a two-game losing streak, and a three-game losing streak at home with a win over a surging Minnesota team at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday. The Vikings have won five of their last six games to improve to 6-6, and if they prevail, they will move ahead of the Bucs in the NFC wild card race by virtue of a tiebreaker as both teams would be 7-6. However, the only quality win the Vikings had during that stretch was at Green Bay. Every other team Minnesota beat had a losing record, and it took two come-from-behind victories over Carolina (4-8) and Jacksonville (1-11) last week to get the Vikings to 6-6. I think a rested and inspired Bucs team beats the Vikings.
The problem for Tampa Bay occurs the following week at Atlanta. The Falcons are 6-2 against the Bucs over the last four years, and swept Tampa Bay in 2017 and ’18 before splitting the series last year. Matt Ryan has proved to be tough at home during his illustrious career, and Atlanta is playing better, going 4-3 under interim head coach Raheem Morris, who began his NFL coaching career in Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl with the Bucs in 2002. The Falcons have won two of their last three home games, including a 43-6 drubbing of the Las Vegas Raiders three weeks ago prior to losing a hard-fought game against New Orleans, 21-16. I think the Bucs lose at Atlanta, but beat the Falcons at home in Week 17.
The Bucs will also beat the Lions up in Detroit. Without a head coach and not much to play for, the Lions will be thinking about the holiday season and shouldn’t give Tampa Bay much of a fight. A loss at Atlanta the week prior will give the 8-6 Bucs all the motivation they’ll need to move to 9-6 when traveling to Detroit. A 3-1 record in December will give the Bucs a 10-6 finish, which will be good enough for Tampa Bay to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007 as the No. 6 seed.
Mark Cook: Bucs Win Out, Go 4-0 Down The Stretch
How good is this Tampa Bay football team? How good is this coaching staff? How good is this front office? With four games to go and coming off of a bye week, we are about to find out. The Bucs will be favored in all four remaining games, and really good teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat. First up are the Jekyll and Hyde Vikings that have come back in each of their last two games in the fourth quarter behind QB Kirk Cousins throwing for over 300 yards in both contests. Those games were against the Panthers and Jaguars, two teams they had no business trailing against to begin with. This is also a Minnesota football team that lost to Dallas. Yes, Dallas. So on paper at least, the the Bucs are the better team and should be able to win, even if it turns into an ugly win.
The next opponent scares me the most – the surging Falcons. Well, surging might be a stretch, but they have played much better since Raheem Morris took over for the fired Dan Quinn. Football is a game about match-ups as much as anything, and the Flacons offense and the Bucs defense isn’t a good match-up for Tampa Bay. Still, Atlanta is 4-8 for a reason. The Bucs will face them following the Vikings and then two weeks later to close the regular season. Again, good teams beat teams they are better than. Sandwiched between the two games with Atlanta is a trip to Detroit for the second year in row. Like the Falcons, the Lions are 5-7 for a reason. They aren’t very good.
I don’t expect a Super Bowl run this season for the Bucs. They have been exposed and shown to have too many deficiencies to win it all in 2020. But anything less than the playoffs would be a huge disappointment. Good teams beat the teams they should beat. The Bucs are a good team. Maybe not great, but good. Good enough to run the table and finish 11-5.
Jon Ledyard: Tampa Bay Wins Out En Route To 11-5
Make no mistake, the Bucs absolutely should win the next four games, heading to the playoffs at 11-5, likely as the fifth seed. If this team comes out of the bye with new focus, ready to compete and put aside the mistakes that have plagued it in its 7-5 start, the Bucs can still be one of the more dangerous teams in the NFC. All the pieces are in place for that kind of a run.
Still, it’ll be harder than it looked a month ago. The Vikings have won five of their last six to claw their way back to .500, although narrow, last-minute victories over the Panthers (4-8) and Jaguars (1-11) after falling to the Cowboys (3-8) may not inspire a ton of confidence. Still, Minnesota has a quarterback playing well and two devastatingly good receivers, which has been a recipe for disaster for the Bucs defense of late. Atlanta is also playing much better football under Raheem Morris, and even Detroit managed a comeback victory and 34 points against a good Bears defense on Sunday.
So the task is more difficult than it looks on paper, but the time for excuses has passed. If you believe the Bucs are a playoff team, they should win at least three of four. And if you believe they can truly compete for a Super Bowl in a parity-ridden NFC, you’ll pick them to win all four. I’ll still take it week-to-week with my game predictions, but as it stands right now coming out of the bye, if the Bucs can dodge COVID-19 outbreaks, they’ll be 11-5 at season’s end.
Matt Matera: Bucs Finish 3-1 For A 10-6 Record
It would normally be understandable to be most worried about next week’s game against the Vikings, but with Minnesota’s lackluster overtime victory over a one-win Jaguars and the Bucs having a week off to recharge the batteries, I’m confident that Tampa Bay comes out re-energized with a playoff push ahead. It’s really just a matter of what type of defense the Bucs play, because they only drop this if they let quarterback Kirk Cousins get hot playing soft-zone instead of getting in his face up the middle with linebacker Devin White getting home.
We’ve talked about the Bucs not being consistent enough this season, however, the Detroit Lions haven’t been consistent since they became a franchise. The Bucs are just too talented of a football team to lose to a team like the Lions. As we’ve seen this year, Tampa Bay will beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, but struggle against the league’s best.
The thing that makes it so interesting when trying to accurately pick a Falcons game is that they’re one of the most unpredictable teams to watch. They’ve gone 4-3 since firing head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff, with two of those losses coming against the Saints. A 24-9 defeat in Taysom Hill’s first start for New Orleans followed by a 43-9 thrashing of the Raiders just shows how all over the place they Atlanta can be. The Bucs haven’t swept a series over the Falcons since 2015 and have lost five of their last six match-ups against them. Does adding Tom Brady change that stat even when they play each other twice in four weeks? I think that trend continues as the Bucs drop one in Atlanta in Week 15, but win the last game of the season at home to get into the playoffs.
Taylor Jenkins: Bucs Rattle Off Four Straight, Finish 11-5
Coming off of two consecutive losses and a bye week, I think the Bucs are fully capable of winning all of the remaining games on their schedule. It’s not because I think that Tampa Bay is some unbeatable force, but I just believe that they’re a much better team than the Falcons and Lions and good enough that they should handle the Vikings with relative ease if they can avoid beating themselves.
Next up the Bucs face a surging Vikings team, winners of five of their last six contests, but their last two have been narrow victories over the Panthers and Jaguars with just one win over a team that’s .500 or better on the year. Then Tampa Bay will face the Falcons twice over their last three games with a trip to Detroit to in between.
The Lions currently sit at 5-7 but are also moving past a recent firing of the team’s general manager and head coach. Detroit answered the call, winning against the Chicago Bears this past weekend following the coaching change, but Tampa Bay is the better team in this match-up. And then the Falcons, a team that the Bucs have only swept twice since 2007. Atlanta has some narrow losses that may prove the team to be better than their 4-8 record shows, divisional meetings between the two teams are always dogfights and the Falcons are much-improved since the firing of head coach Dan Quinn including a huge 43-6 win over the Raiders in Week 12, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Bucs pull both games out. I don’t think the Bucs are perfect,