This SR’s Fab 5 column on the Bucs is exclusively serviced by Discount Garage Doors – the official garage door company of PewterReport.com. If you are in need of a new look for your garage doors or if you are in need of repairs, turn to Discount Garage Doors. Whether it’s a broken cable or springs or a crooked door, Discount Garage Doors can help you out. Click here for a list of locations as Discount Garage Doors services 17 Florida counties and The Villages.
Summer is almost here and that means HURRICANE SEASON in Florida! Get your home and your garage doors outfitted with hurricane protection kits today. Call 866-420-DOOR or visit DGDoors.com to view Discount Garage Doors list of services and garage doors that can be installed to improve the look of your home. And remember, Discount Garage Doors offers FREE service calls. Don’t wait – call today!
Mention PewterReport.com and SAVE 10% OFF your order or service call at Discount Garage Doors!
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. How Good Are The 2018 Bucs?
Last year, the Buccaneers were supposed to continue to elevate from a 9-7 season in 2016 and make the playoffs in 2017. Tampa Bay was the chic team and media darling – not just here locally, but also around the nation, especially on NFL Network. Many media outlets, including PewterReport.com, predicted a 10-6 season.
If only we had listened to Tampa Bay Times columnist and my good friend Tom Jones when he suggested we “tap the brakes on the Bucs’ bandwagon last May before Hard Knocks came to town, before Jameis Winston injured his throwing shoulder and before the Bucs defense became allergic to opposing quarterbacks.
By the way, Jones joined yours truly, Mark Cook and Trevor Sikkema this week on the latest Pewter Nation Podcast – shameless plug – to discuss that infamous column that got Bucs fans all worked up last summer, and the team’s prospects for the 2018 season. So instead of winning 10 games, the Bucs won only half of that in 2017, including a dramatic, come-from-behind win over NFC South champion New Orleans to end a dreadful season on a very high note.
Will Tampa Bay be able to pick up from where it left off in Week 17 and be able to beat the league’s top teams? It will need to do so in order to bounce back and make a playoff run in 2018, especially in the rugged NFC South division.
So after watching two months worth of shoulder pad-less outings that really amount to flag football practices – let’s face it … the defense didn’t make a single tackle in 10 OTAs (organized team activities) and three mandatory mini-camp practices – here is what I think. The Bucs could legitimately wind up anywhere from first to fourth in the NFC South.
Yes, if it all comes together, the Bucs could be the surprise team in the NFC and dethrone the Saints to win the division. There is enough star power, experience and hunger on this roster on both sides of the ball for that to occur.
But don’t expect a 12-4 or an 11-5 season. Barring a rash of major injuries I don’t see Tampa Bay losing more than nine games (7-9) – or winning more than 10 (10-6). The Bucs’ schedule this year is really tough, especially the start of it with games at New Orleans and then home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
With more talent along the defensive line and in the secondary through free agency and the draft, I don’t see how the Bucs can be a double-digit loss team this season. There’s too much talent on the team for even bad coaching to screw it up.
I’m convinced the Bucs will be significantly better. Having Brentson Buckner coach the defensive line, and Todd Monken serve as the offensive coordinator will pay meaningful dividends.
And while there is enough talent for Tampa Bay to win the division, I don’t envision New Orleans, Atlanta or Carolina necessarily getting worse in 2018, either – unless a rash of major injuries occur. That means it will be a dogfight. If the Bucs bounce back, as I expect them to, it won’t be easy winning the NFC South, which is without a doubt the toughest division in the NFL with four teams being legitimate playoff contenders, with the cellar dweller in the division perhaps being only 7-9 or 8-8.
The dog-eat-dog attrition I expect in the NFC South could leave this year’s division winner at only 10-6 with the three other teams hovering above .500, at .500 or just below .500. I’m not ready to predict the Bucs’ record until I’ve seen this team in pads and in the preseason, yet somewhere between 7-9 and 10-6 seem quite reasonable.
And don’t say the preseason is meaningless. Winning games in the preseason is meaningless, but you can still gauge a team’s strengths and weaknesses in the preseason.
In the 2017 preseason, the Buccaneers couldn’t score touchdowns in the red zone, couldn’t sack the quarterback and couldn’t run the ball consistently last August. All three of those negatives seamlessly seeped over into the regular season.
Because the OTAs and mini-camp practices are without pads, I have no idea if the offensive line is more physical and can establish a stronger, reliable ground game, although I suspect it is.
I also have no idea if this revamped defensive line can sack the quarterback with more regularity, although I believe it will.
I also have no idea whether Jameis Winston can get the ball in the end zone more frequently when Tampa Bay is in the red zone, although given the amount of time the Bucs have practiced it this offseason I think that will be the case.
I also have no idea if Winston can get a handle on his turnovers, which is a big one, considering he averages 14 interceptions per season – nearly one per game – and eight fumbles per season, although I think head coach Dirk Koetter and Monken will learn how to navigate around Winston’s mistakes the way Mike Holmgren learned to do that with gunslinger quarterback Brett Favre up in Green Bay.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot can go wrong to mess up this supposed bounce-back season in Tampa Bay.
Untimely injuries to major players often derail NFL teams’ seasons.
If Winston gets suspended for a few games to start the season – with a schedule that does the Bucs no favors – and the offense struggles to score points.
If the 2018 draft class doesn’t deliver like it’s expected too, especially at cornerback where Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart are expected to provide an upgrade.
If Chandler Catanzaro is no better than Nick Folk, and Tampa Bay’s nightmares when it comes to field goals and extra points continue.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Be excited – but be cautiously optimistic about these Buccaneers.
Wait for them to show you they can be the team we all believe they can be before you buy in to any hype. Mired in a 10-year playoff drought team, this team has not earned the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t believe in them just yet.
But believe that the Bucs will be better than 5-11 in 2018. This year will be a step in the right direction. How big of a step remains to be seen.
If Tampa Bay doesn’t bounce back with this much talent on the roster I think there will be regime change, I think I’ll find another team to cover in 2019 – and suggest you find another team to root for next season, too.