We’ve made it, folks. Training camp since the end of July, the never-ending pre-season. It’s done and here we are on the precipice of the start of the 2018 NFL Regular Season for your Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How will the Bucs do in 2018? Our team of writers gets together to give you their thoughts on the 2018 season.
No, it isn’t easy. The League did the Bucs no favors in scheduling three teams will 11 or more victories as Tampa Bay’s first three opponents in 2018, then suspending the team’s starting quarterback for said three games. No team has ever started the season with a tougher slate (based on previous season records).
After the gauntlet, the Bucs head to Chicago to face an improved Bears team before they have an early bye week. Will Jameis start the Bears game or will Tampa Bay want to ease him in Week 6 after the bye?
It’s a good question and really depends on how the Bucs fair those first three games.
After the bye, three of the next four are on the road, two against divisional rivals.
Things appear to loosen up a little in Week 10, as the Bucs will face only 2017 non-playoff teams and their division rivals the last 8 games of the season. If the Bucs can survive the first half of the season, they’ll have a chance to compete down the stretch.
The New Guys
You know the names. JPP, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, young draft picks like Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart. Unlike last season and seasons before that, it appears many of the choices Jason Licht made this off-season may pan out. They all won’t. They never do. Ronald Jones needs to find his NFL game. Vita Vea needs to get healthy. Ryan Jensen needs to display the aggressive, feisty talent that made him the highest paid center in the league. The entire pass rush needs to gel and become a force to be reckoned with.
This team is very optimistic that the additions will not only make this team stronger but bring the veteran leadership to get through tougher times.
The Old Guys
A more inspired Desean Jackson? Jameis Winston better than ever? Gerald McCoy ready for a career year thanks to the help he finally has? Peyton Barber is ready to be the man? Chris Godwin about to explode? These are the whispers you hear among the hallowed halls of One Buc Advent Health Training Center (or whatever they’re calling it these days).
You’re either getting better or worse, you rarely stay the same and for the Bucs, there’s a lot of things trending up. Can it be put all together?
The biggest question whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will finally break their decade-long playoff exile is if this coaching staff can put the pieces together. Can Dirk Koetter check his ego and let the Offensive Coordinator continue to call plays (as he masterfully has done this pre-season)? Will Mike Smith stop coaching passively and allow his talented team to go hunt the quarterback?
It’s pretty much universal that the Bucs have enough talent to compete in the NFC South, it’s whether or not it can be put together into a cohesive unit. Last season, the hype and distraction short-circuited the focus of this team and they fell well short of expectations. The word around camp this year has been discipline. Focus. Do your job.
Even “Eat A W” Jameis has come in with a Brady-like calm demeanor, “Leading from the back”, as Koetter said and his play on the field has benefited from it. Perhaps this coaching staff has finally figured out how to reach these guys or maybe it turns on them really quick.
We’ll find out.
Predictions from the WTB Staff
As you all know, Old School doesn’t do season predictions, but the rest of us certainly do. So bookmark this article for mocking and laughter later.
Simon Alexander: I’m going 7-9. Tough one to call, despite current apparent progression in the offense and a stronger defense – the loss of Jameis for the first 3 games and strength of schedule may prove too tough this year. We’ll be competitive for the most part but will fall away in the final quarter of the season.
Jon Hinkle: I’ll go 11-5, NFC South champs and a playoff berth but no Super Bowl…yet. That comes next year! Actually, that’s only if Monken continues to run the offense. I think this defense does take the next step. I think they double their sack total from last year. The offense looks like it will be a handful for almost any defense. We finally have a kicker who will win those close games. Jameis looks determined and focused on proving his critics wrong. They’re going to shock the NFL this season.
Evan Wanish: They go 8-8, no playoffs, Winston has a career year. Chris Godwin and OJ Howard turn into young stars. The downfall is the tough schedule and the defense not being able to gel as quickly as they need to.
Steve Shute: The Bucs could finish anywhere from 5-11 to 10-6; it all depends on how quickly their line play comes together – on both sides of the ball – in the first month of the season. I can see this passing attack becoming one of the NFL’s elite units, but they’re in a division that’s stacked with them (Atlanta and New Orleans immediately come to mind, and they visit the Saints in the first game of the season).
I’ll settle on 9-7, just missing the playoffs in a simply brutal NFC. Enough to keep Licht and Koetter for another go – and a division title – in 2019.
JC De La Torre: I’ve always been on the optimistic side of things when looking at the football season. Last year I was certainly sucked in by the hype and predicted an 11-5 season. No one could see the train wreck about to occur but perhaps we should have. A young team buying into the hype machine, throw in Hard Knocks – how many times did Koetter moan about the team not being focused at practice? It was a recipe for disaster.
Spin to 2018 and everyone is counting out the Bucs, even their own fans. 0-3 seems to be pre-ordained in the stars. One national publication predicted 2-13-1 as a final record. Seriously? 2-13-1?
I don’t think this team is going 0-3 to start the season. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me to see them go 2-1. I think they weather Jameis’ suspension and the tough first half, then really hit their stride the second half of the season. They’ll finish 10-6, good enough for a wildcard in the ultra-competitive NFC, ending the drought and finally getting to the playoffs.