FAB 3. Bucs’ 2018 Game-By-Game Predictions
You’ve probably read my prediction for the 2018 Buccaneers in this week’s PR Roundtable. I forecasted an 8-8 finish for Tampa Bay, but if you haven’t read the article yet, you can to find out what other Pewter Reporters Mark Cook, Trevor Sikkema and Andrew Scavelli predict. Here’s what I came up with on a game-by-game basis for the Bucs to arrive at my 8-8 prediction.
Week 1: Tampa Bay at New Orleans
I know that Las Vegas has the Bucs at 10-point underdogs in their season opener on the road at New Orleans. This game is a complete toss-up for me as conventional wisdom tells me the Saints could very well romp the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bucs in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but my gut tells me that Tampa Bay has something in store for Drew Brees and Co. I just feel like the Bucs have more to prove and that the Saints will overlook them even though they shouldn’t after a less-talented Tampa Bay team beat them in last year’s season finale. A Chandler Catanzaro game-winning field goal gets the season started off right for the red-and-pewter-clad pirates.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 1-0
Week 2: Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia
If you haven’t thought I was crazy yet for picking the Bucs to upset the Saints in Week 1 on the road, you’ll probably believe it after I tell you Tampa Bay will start the season 2-0 after beating the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in Tampa Bay’s home opener. Will Nick Foles be at quarterback or will Carson Wentz be cleared to play in this game? It doesn’t matter. The Bucs, who are riding high after a 1-0 start, have momentum and overtake a depleted Eagles team that might be having a Super Bowl hangover. Not having Alshon Jeffery helps the Tampa Bay defense hold Philadelphia under 24 points in the win.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 2-0
Week 3: Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh
Are the 2-0 Bucs this year’s surprise team? That will be the storyline heading into this big Monday Night Football game match-up against a veteran Steelers team. Expect a shootout as Pittsburgh’s offense will be hard to handle, but its defense has holes in the secondary and can be exploited. Tampa Bay believes the hype and comes out overconfident, only to fall short in a high-scoring affair as Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have their way with the Bucs secondary.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 2-1
Week 4: Tampa Bay at Chicago
The Bucs have easily handled the Bears in their last two meetings at Tampa Bay, winning by a combined score of 65-17. But this game is in Chicago and the Bears defense has been significantly upgraded with the addition of Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack and inside linebacker Roquan Smith, the team’s first-round pick. The Bucs plan on inserting Jameis Winston back into the starting lineup on a short week following their Monday Night Football loss, and an aggressive Bears defense will be waiting. Winston shakes off the rust, but not in time as Tampa Bay loses a close one in the Windy City to head into the bye week 2-2.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 2-2
Week 5: BYE WEEK
Week 6: Tampa Bay at Atlanta
A promising 2-0 start quickly turns into a three-game losing skid with a disappointing loss at Atlanta. The Falcons may be the best team in the division and use home-field advantage to dispatch the Buccaneers by 10 points, as Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are hard to contain. For the first time all year Tampa Bay’s offense sputters as the Bucs fall below .500.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 2-3
Week 7: Tampa Bay vs. Cleveland
Tampa Bay needs a bounce-back win to stop its losing streak and Cleveland is the perfect tonic. This year’s Browns team is not the one that went 0-16 last year. This is a more talented team capable of winning on any given Sunday as long as wide receivers Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry are playing on offense and defensive end Myles Garrett and linebacker Christian Kirskey are playing on defense. This game is far from an easy victory, but the Bucs pull away in the fourth quarter to get back to their winning ways.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 3-3
Week 8: Tampa Bay at Cincinnati
Some believe the Bengals could contend for the AFC North crown, but I don’t see it. I think they are the third-best team in the division behind Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Bucs catch fire in Cincy and have their most resounding win of the season as the team plays well in all three phases of the game. Stringing together back-to-back wins is important to get over .500, but in order to make the playoffs Tampa Bay needs to go on a winning streak.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 4-3
Week 9: Tampa Bay at Carolina
While New Orleans and Atlanta are the top two teams in the NFC South, Carolina will struggle to be a .500 team this year due to its less than stellar offense. Yet Tampa Bay struggles in Carolina where it has won just once in the past five years since 2012. Seven of the last 12 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, with Tampa Bay winning four of those close games by a combined 16 points. Expect a close game, and a Carolina win – much to the Bucs’ chagrin.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 4-4
Week 10: Tampa Bay vs. Washington
The Bucs get back on track at home against the Redskins, who may be one of the worst teams in the league this year. Tampa Bay gets a resounding win that builds confidence as the team is once again over .500. Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans has a big day against the Redskins’ questionable secondary that Winston exploits all day.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 5-4
Week 11: Tampa Bay at New York Giants
The one thing the Bucs have failed to do all season is get on a winning streak. Tampa Bay will win two games in a row, and then suffer an untimely loss. This unfortunate theme happens here again – this time in New York as the Bucs have a hard time containing wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. The Giants lost on a last-second field goal in Tampa Bay last year, but return the favor this season.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 5-5
Week 12: Tampa Bay vs. San Francisco
Jimmy Garoppolo’s hot finish to last year has the 49ers as the hip pick to surprise and make some noise this year. But the torn ACL suffered by prized free agent running back Jerick McKinnon will hurt San Francisco’s offense. The 49ers aren’t as bad as they were before Garoppolo’s arrival, but they shouldn’t pose a threat to the more talented Buccaneers, who once again get over the .500 mark with a victory.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 6-5
Week 13: Tampa Bay vs. Carolina
The Bucs get some pay back against the Panthers in another close game. Not only does Tampa Bay get a key win to move to 7-5 on the year and maintain playoff positioning, the Bucs are now 2-2 in the NFC South division, which is key for the postseason. Little does Tampa Bay know it will be the last victory it will taste in nearly a month.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 7-5
Week 14: Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans
The Bucs have a chance to get to eight wins and avoid a losing season with a home win against the Saints, but New Orleans has revenge on its mind after suffering an upset at home in Week 1. Drew Brees is on fire and he’s hard to stop when he’s on a roll as Tampa Bay’s defense has an off day and the offense can’t keep up on the scoreboard. Once again, the Bucs fail to win three games in a row.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 7-6
Week 15: Tampa Bay at Baltimore
Baltimore looks primed to have a good year after going undefeated in the preseason. Joe Flacco played better with competition from Lamar Jackson, the Ravens’ first-round pick, and running back Alex Collins is a fast, physical runner. The weather will be cold and potentially snowy up in Baltimore, and that gives the Ravens the advantage in this contest as the Bucs plummet back to .500 in frustrating fashion.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 7-7
Week 16: Tampa Bay at Dallas
Two years in 2016, the Bucs’ playoff hopes died in Dallas on a nationally televised game that was flexed for Sunday Night Football late in December. That year Tampa Bay finished 9-7 and just missed the postseason by one game. Unfortunately for the Bucs, history is going to repeat itself. Same place, same time, same outcome as Tampa Bay loses a close one in Big D. Not only will the Bucs not make the playoffs, they won’t finish with a winning record, which could put Dirk Koetter’s job in jeopardy.
Bucs Lose – Tampa Bay’s Record: 7-8.
Week 17: Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta
The Bucs finally go streaking this season, but it’s the wrong kind of streak – a three-game losing streak. The pressure is on to save Koetter’s job, as four straight losses would certainly put him in peril. For the Bucs, it’s a disappointing end to the season as the team was 7-5 just a month ago. Tampa Bay plays for Koetter and plays for pride and ends up back at .500 with an 8-8 record.
Bucs Win – Tampa Bay’s Record: 8-8
The Bucs’ 8-8 record is a three-game improvement from last year’s 5-11 record. Will that be enough to prevent a regime change in Tampa Bay? That’s up to the Glazers.