With the recent developments in the Jameis Winston/Uber controversy and the possibility of a 3-game suspension looming, I’ve seen quite a lot of Bucs fans saying silly things like “This season is already over,“ “Sign Tebow!”, or “Where’s Kaepernick?“. I’ve even seen one “prominent” Tampa Bay sports writer saying that the Bucs should’ve drafted Marcus Mariota in the first place and the team should release Winston immediately.
Yes, it’s gotten that ridiculous.
Well instead of bashing Jameis or drowning in disappointment, I am here to be the voice of reason. I’m here to talk some of you Bucs fans down off the ledge. This season isn’t over. In fact, it hasn’t even started yet. We’re not even into training camp for God’s sake. So how can anyone already be writing this season off because ONE player from a 53-player roster might be missing the first 3 games of the season?
It sounds absurd.
Look, I realize that losing a starting quarterback is a big deal for any team. I’m not that naive. I am, however, realistic. A starting QB may be “the man“ on a football team but he’s still only one man. There are 52 other men on the roster who still have to step up and do their jobs every single week in order to win football games. So what makes this situation any different? Football is a team sport. In fact, it’s the ultimate team sport. Losing one man can’t and won’t make or break a season.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, those first three games might be their toughest stretch of the entire season. Kicking things off in New Orleans for a divisional game before coming back home to play Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football. Three 2017 playoff teams in the first three weeks of the season and Jameis Winston could miss all of them. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it will hurt. Luckily for us though, Winston wasn’t the one who had to beat any of those teams. And Ryan Fitzpatrick OR Ryan Griffin won’t have to either.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to beat them…as a team.
Still no easy feat. Especially without their starting QB. History has shown that losing a starting quarterback can have serious repercussions on a team’s season. Look at the Green Bay Packers last year losing Aaron Rodgers. However, history has also shown that the team’s reaction to losing their starting QB can also affect their season. The Patriots went 3-1 while Tom Brady was serving his 4-game suspension for “Deflategate“. Last year is another great example with Philly. When Carson Wentz went down with a serious, season-ending knee injury, the Eagles could’ve folded up shop. They didn’t. And they went on to win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles, their backup quarterback. The Bucs can do the same thing this season. All Dirk Koetter needs to do is keep this team together and make sure they’re prepared for their opponent each and every week. It will be the players’ jobs to execute on the football field.
That responsibility will not only fall on each of the other 52 players shoulders but the shoulders of the Bucs’ captains and other leaders as well. Players like Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, Mike Evans and Lavonte David will have to step up. Fortunately for the Bucs, they signed two free agents this offseason that was a part of that Eagles franchise that overcame losing their starting quarterback in defensive end Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Beau Allen. Hopefully, their insight and experience can help this team overcome their situation.
Here’s my thoughts on the schedule taking this likely suspension under consideration. If the Bucs can get through those first three games with at least one win, there’s still a good chance that they could finish the season with double-digit wins. If they can steal a win in New Orleans and then split the two home games, even better.
After the MNF game with the Steelers, the Bucs travel to Chicago to play a Bears that finished 2017 with a 5-11 record. If Jameis is suspended for the 3 games, then this would be his first game back. If Fitzpatrick OR Griffin can get at least one or two wins in the first three weeks, another here could put them at 2-2 or maybe even 3-1 heading into their Week 5 bye.
After the bye week, the next quarter of the season includes three of four games on the road starting off in Atlanta for another early division game against the Falcons. Then it’s back to Raymond James for a showdown against the Browns before heading back out on the road for back-to-back games against the Bengals and Panthers. With Jameis now back under center and in midseason form, the Bucs should be able to win at least two of these games. The Falcons game will be tough, but the next two games are very winnable. They could be 4-3 or even 5-2 heading to Carolina in Week 9. A win there could end up being really important as it’s the last division road game and could put them at 2-1 in the NFC South with all three division home games left.
The third quarter of the season brings three of the four games in front of the home fans starting off with one of the only “gimme“ games (if there is such a thing in the NFL) on this year’s schedule against the Washington Redskins. Then it’s on the road for what has the potential to be a good game against the Giants before coming back home for back-to-back games against the Niners and the Panthers. I think the Bucs can go 3-1 through this stretch which could put them at 8-4 or maybe even 9-3 heading into the final quarter of the season.
The last four regular season games of 2018 will likely decide whether the Bucs make the playoffs this year. With two of the four games being divisional home games against the Saints and Falcons and the other two being winnable road games against the Ravens and Cowboys, I think the Bucs need to finish this quarter at least 2-2 which would get them their first 10-win season since 2010 and possibly their first playoff birth since 2007. Now, 10-6 may not be good enough to win the NFC South, but 11-5 with a 5-1 division record very well could be which would also be their first time since the 2007 season.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Yes, 11-5 is a bit optimistic. Especially starting the season without Jameis. And I know after what happened last season, it’s tough for us Bucs fans to be this optimistic about anything. But there really are plenty of reasons for us to be excited about this upcoming season. The exciting, talented rookie Ronald Jones in the backfield. A new look, nastier offensive line. A receiving corps with another year under their belt. A vastly improved, highly experienced defensive line. One of the best young, linebacking groups in the entire league. A deeper, more talented secondary. And a dependable, veteran kicker. It all adds up to a team that could end up surprising a lot of people this season, including the Vegas oddsmakers who have the Bucs winning only 3 games this year with an over/under of 6.5 games.
I think this team will shock the NFL in 2018, and this Bucs fan will have a front row seat for it!
But until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!