The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked ready to take the NFC South by storm. A winning record in 2016, a young quarterback ready to step up… The Bucs were definitely a team on the rise heading into 2017. But a 2-3 record is certainly not what Tampa Bay had in mind at this point in the season, so what is the problem? And is it too late for the Buccaneers to turn it around?
The little things
As a whole, the Bucs haven’t played that bad. There are certainly teams with a better record who haven’t played as well as Tampa. But they still have their problems, and these issues will need to be addressed if they want to rebound from their early troubles.
The Buccaneers offense hasn’t been that bad, although they can’t run the ball, earning only 82.4 yards per game on the ground (30th in NFL). But they are actually averaging more yards per carry (3.9) than in 2016 (3.6). The offense is putting the ball in Winston’s hands more this year, which has resulted in Tampa averaging the second most yards through the air (299.6), and scoring a tick better than a year ago (23.6 this year compared to 22.1 in 2016).
The defense looks similar to last year as well. They are giving up 24.2 points per game this year, where last year they gave up an average of 23.1 to opponents. The Bucs passing defense has definitely let them down; they are one of two teams giving up over 300 yards a game passing. They also can’t get to the quarterback, with only six sacks as a team this year (worst in the league). The real issue is the defense can’t seem to get off the field; teams are converting on third down 46.2 percent of the time against the Bucs’ defense. Only the 49ers and the Saints are worse on third down this year.
The biggest problem for the Buccaneers, annoyingly enough, has been their field goal kicking. Amazingly, the Bucs have missed five field goals already, which has been a key factor in at least one of their losses this year. Losing a game because of missed field goals is unacceptable in this day and age. In a league that has such overwhelming parity, being able to trust a kicker is an absolute necessity. The Bucs released Nick Folk as their kicker and have replaced him with Patrick Murray, hopefully he can solve their kicking woes the rest of the season.
The comeback is coming
Tampa Bay has a tough schedule in general. As things currently stand, the Bucs don’t have an opponent left on their schedule with a losing record, which is astounding. Add the fact that Jameis Winston is banged up with an AC joint sprain and you get a bad situation.
But Winston’s injury is day-to-day, and he will only be out for one game, if at all. The Buccaneers also have not faced a division opponent yet, and the NFC South is as inconsistent as Nick Folk’s kicking. Last season Tampa Bay went 4-2 in division play and if they can correct their issues, I think they can once again beat their NFC South rivals. Tampa Bay has five winnable games in the next five weeks, and I’m predicting that the Buccaneers win all five and take control of this division.
They aren’t done just yet.
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