If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers really want to turn things around this season, they’ll have to win at home. So, as new head coach Dirk Koetter takes over, what’s a reasonable expectation to have for the Bucs’ 2016 home record?
It’s no secret that the Buccaneers have struggled in recent years. They haven’t finished with a winning record since 2010 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007. At the root of Tampa Bay’s struggles is the inability to win consistently at Raymond James Stadium. In the last two seasons, the Bucs are 3-13 at home. In 2014, the team went 0-8 in front of its home fans.
Had there been some more home victories over the last two years, it’s possible that Lovie Smith would still be the team’s head coach.
The fact of the matter is, winning at home is a must. Just look at the teams with the best home records since the start of 2014:
New England 14-2
Denver 14-2 (8-0 in 2015)
Green Bay 13-3 (8-0 in 2014)
Kansas City 12-4
Carolina 12-4 (8-0 in 2015)
It’s clear that the top teams in the league have no problem winning games at home. So, if the Bucs want to get back in the mix and compete, things will have to change this year. What can fans expect from Tampa Bay at “RayJay”?
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Looking at the eight regular season home games, a reasonable goal for the team would be a home record of 5-3. It’s a two-game improvement from going 3-5 in Tampa a year ago, which, with the schedule they have to face, would be a good accomplishment. Here’s a game-by-game prediction of the team’s 2016 home slate:
Week 3: Sunday, September 25 vs Los Angeles Rams
The Bucs have lost to the Rams in back-to-back years, falling victim to the tough L.A. pass rush and getting beaten by backup quarterbacks Austin Davis (2014) and Case Keenum (2015). That won’t be the case this year. An improved Buccaneer defense under Mike Smith will hold no. 1 overall pick Jared Goff in check and Tampa Bay will do enough on offense to open up the home schedule with a win. (1-0 at home)
Week 4: Sunday, October 2 vs Denver Broncos
The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos come to Tampa in week four without either of their two quarterbacks from last year, but still come with the same dominant defense. It’s doubtful that Von Miller‘s contract issues go unresolved, so while the Bucs could hang in against what should be a weak Denver offense, they won’t be able to do enough against Miller and company. (1-1 at home)
Week 8: Sunday, October 30 vs Oakland Raiders
The Bucs return home from a two-game road trip with a bye week mixed in to face the up-and-coming Raiders. Oakland is poised for a big year behind quarterback Derek Carr and defensive standout Khalil Mack, but Tampa Bay catches them at a good time. The Raiders will be on their second of two straight games on the East Coast, and 1:00 games in the east are tough for West Coast teams. (2-1 at home)
Week 9: Thursday, November 3 vs Atlanta Falcons
Although it’ll be a short week for the Bucs, their chances in this one are still good. They swept the Falcons a year ago and will get their second shot at their division rivals on Thursday Night Football, two years after being embarrassed by them on a Thursday night. Tampa Bay will be inducting John Lynch into its Ring of Honor at halftime, meaning the crowd will be live and the team will be ready. (3-1 at home)
Week 10: Sunday, November 13 vs Chicago Bears
After a longer preparation period for the Bucs, this should be another winnable game. The Bears are another team that has beaten Tampa Bay two years in a row, but this is another chance for Koetter’s squad to prove that it has turned the corner. With some momentum going for them and a fan base that will be buying into their team, the Bucs can keep it going in what should be another tight game. (4-1 at home)
Week 12: Sunday, November 27 vs Seattle Seahawks
As mentioned here, this matchup with the Seahawks could be a big deal for the Bucs. Seattle is among the elite in the NFC, which is where Tampa Bay wants to be. A close game could go a long way for confidence and the Bucs will see where they measure up. But, the Seattle defense will likely prove to be too much to overcome. (4-2 at home)
Week 14: Sunday, December 11 vs New Orleans Saints
The Bucs split two games with the Saints a year ago. Oddly enough, their win came in the Big Easy and the loss came in a tight game at home. This will be the first meeting between the two teams over the next three weeks and it should favor the Bucs. Tampa Bay appears to be the more talented team, but beating Drew Brees is always a tough task. Jameis Winston, Doug Martin and the rest of an improving offense can get it done in front of the home fans. (5-2 at home)
Week 17: Sunday, January 1, 2017 vs Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay has a lot of improvements to make if it wants to unseat the Panthers at the top of the NFC South. Last year, Lovie Smith’s defense was shredded in both meetings with Carolina and Jameis Winston threw a combined six interceptions in the two games. While the Bucs might be able to keep it closer this year, it’s hard to foresee them beating a team led by Cam Newton and a defense as good as Carolina’s. (5-3 at home)
How do you think the Bucs will fare at Raymond James Stadium in 2016? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @ThePewterPlank.