Mid-Season Report: Schedule

How will the Buccaneers finish the season?
How will the Buccaneers finish the season? /
How will the Buccaneers finish the season?
How will the Buccaneers finish the season? /

Well Bucs fans, we’re now officially mid-way through the season with the Buccaneers standing at a solid 5-3. This has been a very strange season thus far, going into the year if someone had told NFL fans that the Bucs would be the best team in Florida, that Michael Vick would lead the NFL in QB rating and that the Cowboys would have fired their coach mid-way through the year we would have all thought this was over half a decade ago or that the guy telling us this had been hanging out a lot with Jerramy Stevens.

But it’s all true. Wade Phillips is gone, Michael Vick has a 105 passer rating (next is Vince Young, like I said, strange season) and the Buccaneers are a game better than the next best team in Florida, the Miami Dolphins. Now it’s worth nothing, that’s a qualitative assessment based on record only. Without starting a fight I can say honestly I don’t know that would hold true on the field, the Dolphins are arguably the best 4-4 team in the league (look at their losses, Baltimore, New York, New England and Pittsburgh) but that’s another discussion. The record dictates the Bucs are better, we’ll go with that.

At 5-3, the Buccaneers have a legitimate shot to make a run at the playoffs in the second half of the year. Right now they sit just a game back in the NFC South after coming up just short on a late game drive against the Falcons. The rest of today and tomorrow we’ll break down and grade the Buccaneers at mid-season. We’re going to start by taking a look at the Buccaneers remaining schedule and trying to predict what the rest of the season may hold.

Remaining Schedule

Carolina Panthers- This is a very winnable game for the Buccaneers. Already the Bucs have gone on the road and beat Carolina, and for the season the Panthers have been absolutely terrible. This is the type of game where the Bucs need to show their newfound maturity and handle their business. They’re the better team, beat the teams you’re supposed to.

At San Francisco 49ers– On paper this seems like another very winnable game but that comes with two very important caveats. The 49ers are still a very dangerous team, even despite their poor record AND, perhaps more importantly, that’s a long flight. Tampa is not a team that is exceptionally well disciplined, and this sort of trip against an underrated opponent could be a huge trap game.

At Baltimore Ravens– This is going to sound overly pessimistic, but don’t count on this game. If the Bucs can go into Baltimore and steal a win that’s incredible. But going into Baltimore and beating this Ravens team is an extremely tall order, especially for such a young team. I doubt it happens.

Atlanta Falcons- This game could consititute a must-win depending on whether the Bucs come into this game reeling from a two-game losing streak or not. This is a winnable match-up, but it’s going to be a close, gritty battle and the Bucs are going to need to play one of their best games to win it.

At Washington Redskins- This should be another winnable game for the Bucs. Washington has struggled this season and they appear to be pretty well into a QB controversy. If the Bucs can avoid distractions and play a solid game they should come out of DC victorious.

Detroit Lions- Depending on whether the most overrated QB in the game, Matthew Stafford, is healthy by then or not this could be the first match-up between Josh Freeman and Stafford, who came from the same QB class two years ago. Regardless though, this isn’t a team the Bucs can sleep on but still a game they should win.

Seattle Seahawks- This is another game the Bucs should and, more importantly, need to win. The Seahawks have not looked great this season, the NFC West is ridiculously weak this year and the Seahawks will have to make one of the longest flights in the continental US in order to get to Tampa. The Bucs should take this one.

At New Orleans Saints- Chances are, this game will carry major playoff implications. Both teams look to be in the hunt for an NFC playoff spot and this game could decide who gets it. Last year the Bucs won in New Orleans and shocked the Saints. It’s going to be a lot more difficult to sneak up on New Orleans this year though.

Final Thoughts: I think the Bucs have at least four wins in the second half of their schedule. Games against Carolina, Washington, Detroit and Seattle should all be solid victories as long as the Buccaneers handle their business. Obviously on any given Sunday, any team can beat another. But Tampa goes into all four of those games the favorite in all probability.

The biggest step for the Bucs in the second half of the season is going to be believing that they are indeed the best team on the field. If they do that, and they play disciplined (something this team struggles with) they should go no worse than 4-4 and finish the year 9-7.

Arguably the biggest game on the Bucs schedule will be the road trip to San Francisco, that’s another winnable game but it will push the Bucs to the brink. If Tampa can win on the road against the 49ers they will be in position to go 10-6 without having to win against either Atlanta or New Orleans. Obviously winning either of those games would have major implications, but with the schedule the Bucs have in front of them, neither of them constitute must-wins if this Tampa team can just handle its business. 10-6 will get you into the playoffs in the NFC, no doubt.

Prediction: 10-6

I think the Buccaneers will go 5-3 over their final eight games. I think they will drop a winnable game in a goofy fashion but I also see them beating either Atlanta or New Orleans too. I don’t think they have a prayer in Baltimore, or in the playoffs for that matter, but I think they will at least get there. Sorry if that’s not fun to read, but I’d be lying if I said I thought this team could go into the playoffs without being able to stop the run and enjoy any degree of success there. Still, 10-6 would be one hell of a season and probably enough to garner Coach of the Year consideration for Raheem Morris.