Now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the otherside of their bye week, things are going to start moving pretty fast. We’re through the first quarter of the season, but there’s still a lot of road left and plenty of potholes that could send the Bucs careening off into a ditch.
As it stands now, the Bucs are 3-1 and in sole possession of the NFC South. There’s a lot to feel good about, especially after the way the team was talked about this offseason. Even with everything breaking the Bucs way so far, the Saints and Falcons are pacing right behind Tampa Bay at a time when the schedule gets a lot harder than it has been the first few weeks of the season.
The margin for error is extremely slim, and we’re about to learn a lot about the Bucs in the coming weeks and how the team responds to some of the tests the lie ahead. There’s a path for the team that has them continunting to not only control the division but grow as legitimate contenders, but there’s a flip side in which the team could undo a lot of the progress that has been made and fall back into being the team the doubters expected them to be.
Make no mistake, the next five weeks very well could make-or-break the Bucs season.
Predicting Buccaneers next five games after 3-1 start
Week 6: Buccaneers vs. Lions prediction
Both the Bucs and Lions have a lot in common, and their Week 6 matchup feels like a schoolyard brawl where whoever walks away the winner will leave the ring with serious credibility. A notch in the win column isn’t the only thing on the line, as the reputation boost that would come with a victory is almost impossible to overstate.
Tampa Bay’s game against Detroit is a chance to truly announce itself as a legitimate contender in the NFC that needs to be taken seriously. The Lions delivered on the hype they created last season and are playing like one of the best teams in the league. Jared Goff and Ben Johnson have the offense on fire, and the defense brings back memories of what it was like to watch the Super Bowl unit find its stride and come together.
Detroit is not going to be an easy out, and the weapons they have across the board will prove challenging for the Bucs. Jameson Williams is back and adds to an arsenal of Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam La Porta, and both Jasmyn Gibbs and David Montgomery form one of the most dangerous backfield duos in the league. That’s before you get to the brooding defense that will eat every kneecap in sight and still have a hunger for more.
The Bucs can’t simply compete in this game and feel good about it, they’ll need to win in order to remain in the conversation as a contender in the NFC. What the Bucs risk by losing this game is exposing themselves as potential frauds who fold in big games against good teams.
That being said, a win over Detroit would make them impossible to ignore, and confirm that they’re a truly great team on the rise.
Buccaneers record: 3-2
Week 7: Buccaneers vs. Falcons prediction
Divisional matchups are always tough, but the Buccaneers should be able to handle business against a Falcons team that is over-performing this season.
Give Atlanta credit, as the Falcons have managed to start the year 3-2 and have shown some flashes on offense. Desmond Ridder hasn’t been a total disaster and Bijan Robinson is the superstar he was advertised as coming out of Texas.
That being said, nothing about Atlanta is scary beyond surface level. The Falcons barely scratched out wins over Green Bay and Houston, winning by a combined margin of three points. In the games Atlanta has played actual good teams — Jacksonville and Detroit — it lost by double digits.
Bijan is the real deal and will be a tough matchup for the defense, and there will be cause for concern of the secondary is still banged up and thing. But if the Bucs neutralize Robinson and force Ridder to be the difference maker, the game is already mostly over at that point. Divisional games should never be taken for granted and the Falcons will likely already be fighting for their playoff lives in Week 7 which makes them dangerous. It doesn’t make them scary and hardly makes them a team the Bucs can’t use as tune up before heading off to another measuring stick game against a Super Bowl contender.
Buccaneers record: 4-2
Week 8: Buccaneers at Bills prediction
This might be the most important game on the Bucs upcoming schedule because it serves as yet another measuring stick to determine just how good the team is in the Big Picture. The game against Detroit will tell us a lot about where Tampa Bay is in the NFC, but the game in Buffalo will go a long way in revealing just how far along the team is to being considered true contenders.
Losing to Philly in Week 3 was a gut check after starting the season 2-0, but we were still young enough in the season to not be too bothered by the loss. After all, the Eagles are in a completely different dimension than the Bucs, yet Tampa Bay managed to stay within two touchdowns which felt like a bigger victory than it otherwise might have been. A similar result against Buffalo would be acceptable, but it also serves as a chance for the Bucs to show that they’ve made tangible progress since they last ran into a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Much like the Eagles game, the Bucs don’t need to win in Buffalo to send a message. Avoiding a blowout embarrassment is the goal, but a win isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Buffalo isn’t untouchable, something we saw last year when they lost to the Vikings at home and have already seen this season with losses to the Jets and Jaguars.
If the Bucs defense answers the bell with an elite performance and the offense manages to stay out of its own way, it’s possible this is a winnable one-score game in the fourth quarter. That alone would be considered a win, and would go a long way in giving the Bucs confidence to make a run through the NFC the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Buccaneers record: 4-3