FAB 2. Bucs’ 2017 Season Is Even Worse Than You Think
Tampa Bay’s 2017 campaign began with high expectations and an appearance on Hard Knocks. Then came the postponement of the season opener at Miami due to Hurricane Irma, a right shoulder injury to starting quarterback Jameis Winston that contributed to a five-game losing streak and another four-game losing streak that featured a bumbling, stumbling ref on Monday Night Football game that was late in placing the ball down for Tampa Bay’s game-tying field goal attempt, which went wide right.
It’s been a wild year. “It’s been a sh*tty year,” according to wide receiver Mike Evans.
He’s right. The Bucs severely under-performed with just four wins when most most fans and media members were penciling in at least 10 wins before the season started.
Sure, there have been some close calls. Switch out kicker Nick Folk for Pat Murray and the Bucs possibly beat the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football. If not for a fumbled snap in the red zone in Green Bay and the Bucs may have won against the Packers in regulation instead of losing in overtime. If Peyton Barber hadn’t fumbled at the Atlanta 5-yard line on Monday Night Football there’s a chance the Bucs beat the Falcons, the other Super Bowl participant from a year ago.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Good teams find a way to win close games. That’s why they are called good teams.
Bad teams invent ways to lose close games. That’s why they are called bad teams.
Make no mistake. The 2017 Bucs are a bad team.
A talented team, yes, but a bad team nonetheless. A deep dive into the four wins and 10 losses by this year’s Buccaneers team reveal that the victories came against four of the worst teams in the NFL.
First came a win against the 4-10 Chicago Bears, followed by a victory against the 2-12 New York Giants. After a five-game losing streak against teams that would later have winning records with the exception of the 4-10 Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay prevailed against the 5-9 New York Jets and the following week versus the 6-8 Dolphins in Miami.
Here is a rundown of the Bucs’ triumphs and defeats this year:
Tampa Bay’s 2017 Wins
NY Giants (2-12)
NY Jets (5-9)
Tampa Bay’s 2017 Losses
New England (11-3)
New Orleans (10-4)
Green Bay (7-7)
So what are the takeaways? Well, the Bucs are 4-1 against teams with losing records, which is good. If you want a winning record in football you have to win the winnable games – the games you should win.
But what is disturbing is that Tampa Bay is currently 0-9 versus teams with a .500 record (Green Bay) or winning records. That’s awful, especially compared to last year when the Bucs were 9-7 and were 6-3 against teams with losing records and a modest 3-4 versus teams with winning records.
Take a look at Tampa Bay’s wins and losses from a year ago:
Tampa Bay’s 2016 Wins
San Francisco (2-14)
Kansas City (12-4)
San Diego (5-11)
New Orleans (7-9)
Tampa Bay’s 2016 Losses
LA Rams (4-12)
New Orleans (7-9)
Last year, the Bucs scored a key win at eventual NFC South division champion Atlanta to start the season, and beat two other playoff teams in Kansas City and Seattle. You can’t take away victories, but it should be noted that reserve safety Keith Tandy had four crucial fourth quarter interceptions in the Bucs’ last three wins of the season against San Diego, New Orleans and Carolina. Take Tandy and his four fortunate and timely picks off the team and last year’s 9-7 team suddenly become a 6-10 Bucs squad.
I’m not going to go as far as saying that last year’s 9-7 record was done with smoke and mirrors like the 2010 Bucs team, which was 10-6 and featured four fourth quarter wins against four bad teams that year – St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Arizona. But in hindsight, Tampa Bay had a much easier schedule last year with seven games against teams with winning records and it was able to capitalize on that. It’s fair to say that the Bucs took advantage of last year’s more favorable schedule.
This year, the Bucs have already played eight games against teams with winning records and have two more on deck when they travel to Carolina for a game on Christmas Eve and then play New Orleans at home on New Year’s Day. The Bucs won’t be favored in either of those games and could finish 0-10 games against teams with a winning record in 2017. That number could grow to 0-11 if 7-7 Green Bay finishes with a winning record.
That’s a damning stat against head coach Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff, in addition to the team’s inability to win close games this year. Six of the Bucs’ eight games that have been decided by a touchdown or less have resulted in a loss this year. Last year, Tampa Bay was 6-4 in games that were decided by seven points or less.
If Koetter is trying to make an argument for staying on as Tampa Bay’s head coach for a third year he can’t point to a single quality win this year to help his cause.