Football seems to be right around the corner. The Buccaneers have now wrapped up OTA’s and Mini Camp. Next up is a much deserved 6 week rest period. After that rest, it is back to the grind in late July when it officially becomes the “Hard Knock” life for these Bucs. The best we have to look forward to during this period is preseason action which gives you a little sample of real football. But enough about things that are not that exciting, let’s talk about the regular season and more importantly, let’s give predictions for each of these games starting with a trip to south beach. (Editor’s Note: If this does not feel as premature as your first encounter with someone you were super attracted to than you might be a little too into speculation.)
Week 1: @Miami Dolphins
Ah, football is finally back, the leaves are beginning to fall and every team has the hope that this will be “Their Year.” For this Bucs team, it is all about making the playoffs. That mission starts with a trip down south. The Bucs will take on the in-state rival the Miami Dolphins. First off, expect a sea of red courtesy of some people here at WTB, the Buccaholics, the StickCarriers and the resurgent fan base that the recent changes and optimism has created. We appreciate the fans getting this excited about a season that they are getting a big group together made up of fans to go down and cheer on those Bucs! In this game, I expect the team to start off a bit slow and sloppy at times. Maybe Miami has a 10-3 lead at halftime. That is when Jameis Winston turns around in the locker room, looks at Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and Desean Jackson and says “Let’s go”. The Bucs go out and dominate the fish in the second half as the defense makes some big plays down the stretch and the offense finds it’s rhythm. PREDICTION; Bucs win 24-20 to start off the year 1-0.
Week 2: Vs Chicago Bears
Can you feel it? I know former Bucs and current Bears Quarterback Mike Glennon can. This will be Glennon’s official return to Tampa and this time his bank account is a whole lot bigger. Remember how the Bucs started off slow in week 1? Yeah, not happening against this bad Bears team. Expect the Bucs to attack the Bears defense hard and score some early touchdowns courtesy of Desean Jackson and Cam Brate. Vernon Hargreaves also gets his first pick-six of his career as the Bucs steamroll Glennon and the Bears. PREDICTION; Bucs win 31-14 and advance to 2-0.
Week 3: @Minnesota Vikings
This game will be the toughest challenge in the new season. The Vikings don’t turn the ball over much and have legitimate threats in the receiving game with Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. This game will also be littered with “coulda, woulda, shoulda” as Dalvin Cook will take the field. Their defense is still one of the best in the league so expect this game to be a real low scoring contest with the Bucs kicker (whoever that may be) making a big difference late in the game. PREDICTION; Bucs win 16-10, move to 3-0 and the excitement is real.
Week 4: V s New York Giants
This is the first big-time test. It happens when old man Eli Manning and the Giants come to town. Last week’s game was low scoring, expect this one to be different. The Giants had a similar off season as the Bucs. They signed a high profile receiver in free agency and drafted a tight end in the first round of the NFL draft. Eli makes one more play than Jameis does and it breaks the hearts of many Bucs fans. PREDICTION; Bucs lose 35-31, fall to 3-1 on the year.
Week 5: Vs New England Patriots (TNF)
Well, it gets tougher for this team; much tougher. Following a heart breaking loss and a short week this is not the greatest time for the Bucs to be playing the defending Super Bowl champs. Tom Brady and the hood always find your weakness and use it to their advantage. Expect the Bucs to hang in their but the Pats are the Pats and it will not change right now. PREDICTION; Bucs lose 31-23, fall to 3-2 on the year.
Week 6: @Arizona Cardinals
After two straight loses fans begin to worry a bit. The Bucs now have to travel out to Arizona again and face the Cardinals. Last year, the Bucs went in to Arizona and really stunk it up losing 40-7. This year, however, it is a different Bucs team. The Bucs and Cards should be going back and forth, trading field goal and touchdown drives until the final two minutes when Jameis Winston hits Mike Evans for a touchdown with 30 seconds left and the Bucs rebound in the desert. PREDICTION; Bucs win 28-21 to improve to 4-2 on the year.
Week 7: @Buffalo Bills
This should be the first game the Bucs play in which the weather may not be favorable. This Bills team is easy to figure out but hard to shut down. The Bills like to really run the ball a lot with Lesean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor but the game plan is simple. Shut down McCoy, win the game. If they do not shut him down and he runs wild it could be a long day for the Buccaneers. With the additions of Chris Baker and Stevie T, this team should be better at stopping the run. PREDICTION; Bucs win 21-17 and improve to 5-2 on the year.
Week 8: Vs Carolina Panthers
Finally, the Bucs will play their first divisional game of the season when the Panthers come to town. Expect the Panthers to try and run the ball a lot with rookie running back and the 8th overall pick Christian McCaffery and Vet Jonathan Stewart, oh and that quarterback of theirs can also run a bit. The Panthers, however, can also pass the ball with weapons like Kelvin Benjamin and second round pick Curtis Samuel. This game will be a real test for the Bucs defense. This is the way to look at it, whoever wins the turnover battle will win this game. Time for Jameis to step up. PREDICTION; Bucs win third straight to keep the fans from worrying while improving to 6-2 and 1st place in the NFC South.
Week 9: @New Orleans Saints
This game is a real tricky one. Nobody really knows about the Saints. They had a solid offseason but also lost receiver Brandin Cooks. This game will be a shootout. Expect Brees to play better than Winston because of the run game Brees has. It is also just so tough to beat Drew Brees and that offense in the dome. PREDICTION; Bucs lose 34-28 and fall to 6-3 and are now trailing the Falcons in the NFC South race.
Week 10: Vs New York Jets
Well, this game could not have come at a better time. The Bucs will need to rebound and what better way to rebound than to play the worst team in the league. The Jets have gotten rid of many faces included Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Pryor and Nick Mangold. On paper, the Jets offense is the worst offense I have ever seen. Their Quarterbacks for this year are, Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. No matter which QB the Bucs play they will not have a problem and will cruise to an easy win. PREDICTION; Bucs demolish the Jets 42-13 to improve to 7-3.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @Atlanta Falcons
Here we go, the big match-up everyone has been waiting for. The battle for first place is happening in Atlanta as the Bucs will play in the Falcons new stadium for the first time. This game will be a big test for both the offense and defense. Expect Mike Evans to have a big day as he always does against the Falcons. Sadly it is not enough to overcome Atlanta’s offense. PREDICTION; Bucs lose 31-24 and fall to 7-4 and the Falcons are now sitting on top of the NFC South.
Week 13: @Green Bay Packers
This is most likely going to be the coldest game the Buccaneers will play in all year. Playing the Packers is tough, beating the Packers in Lambeau is really tough. Beating the Packers in Lambeau in December is nearly impossible. This game will be very tough for the Bucs. This game will likely be played in 25-30 degree temperatures and that does not bode well for the Bucs. Not only will the weather be a problem, the team they are playing will be as well. The Packers did not get into the NFC Championship game last year all because of luck, they have the second best quarterback in the NFL and a solid offense with a defense that can hurt you if you let it. Let’s hope the Bucs are ready for this. PREDICTION; Bucs lose 31-20 and drop to 7-5.
Week 14: Vs Detroit Lions
The Bucs are back home after a rough 2 game road trip. They will really need to tighten up if they want to make the playoffs. That starts with beating a Lions team that many believe will take a step back this season. This game will be no walk in the park however as Mathew Stafford and Golden Tate make Detroit’s offense a threat and Ziggy Ansah is scary on the defensive side of the ball. This will be a solid game and it will be a game that the Bucs win. PREDICTION; Bucs win 24-23 and improve to 8-5 on the season.
Week 15: Vs Atlanta Falcons (MNF)
Here is a big game with a lot at stake. The division race will be very tight at this point and this game may very well decide it. It is also the last time the Bucs will be on a prime time game during the regular season. Super Bowl winning coach Jon Gruden will be inducted into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor on this night as well. This game will be one of Tampa’s most complete of the season. Everything will be clicking, the offense will be able to drive the ball down field while the defense will be able to force turnovers. No, this game will not be a blowout butBucs fans should be sent home happy. PREDICTION; Bucs win 34-24 and advance to 9-5 and are in a great spot for a playoff position.
Week 16: @Carolina Panthers
Quite some time has passed since Roberto Aguayo’s game-winner here. Now, the Bucs are back and he may not even be the kicker for this team; crazy. This game will be a tricky one for the Bucs. Carolina is better and this is in their home stadium. Expect this game to be back and forth but ultimately Bucs fans are left heartbroken for the second straight Christmas Eve. PREDICTION; Bucs lose 23-21 and drop to 9-6, making the next game a must win.
Week 17: Vs New Orleans Saints
The Bucs will finish off the year at home vs the Saints in a game that could decide whether or not the Bucs make the playoffs. I expect this team to know that they need to win and they will go out and do it. New Orleans pretty much ended the Bucs playoff hopes last year. They will not this year. They will not against this Bucs team. PREDICTION; Bucs win 28-17 to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Buccaneers will make the playoffs in the 2017-18 season. This team will see the rise of players like Jameis Winston and Ali Marpet while also seeing development from others like Ryan Smith and Chris Godwin. The Offense will be much improved with Desean Jackson and he will make an immediate impact. The defense will be fully taken over by 3 players by the end of the season, those players are Kown Alexander, Noah Spence and Vernon Hargreaves. It will give Bucs fans a glimpse of the future and boy oh boy is the future bright. But for now, sit back, relax and watch this team finally get the wins that the fans deserve to see. GO BUCS!