Why the Bucs Will Make the Playoffs:
Scheduling seems to be the biggest reason why the Buccaneers may reach the playoffs in 2010. A lot of the games Tampa have remaining on their schedule are clearly winnable. There are no pushovers in the league at this point but the Bucs will like their chances in a number of the below games:
@ San Francisco
@ New Orleans
The match-ups with the Falcons and Saints will go a long way in determining who wins the NFC South, but because the Buccaneers only have 2 losses at the moment, losing all 3 wouldn't put them out of contention. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if all three teams made the postseason this year given the status of the NFC North and West. The NFC East has three contenders as well, with the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins figuring to be in the mix as the season wears on.The next 4 weeks will be vital for the Buccaneers. If they can manage to go 2-2 in those contests, they will be 7-4 and will then have three out of the final 5 contests at home. A 3-2 record is possible over these last five games, which would finish the year off at 10-6. That would most likely earn a wild card birth to the postseason. The last time the Buccaneers were a wild card team was in 1997, when they also finished 10-6. We all know this dicusscion comes with an asterisk, given the events of 2008. For those living under a rock and somehow only having access to this blog, 2 years ago our Bucs sat at 9-3 with 4 games to go only to plummet to 9-7 and miss the playoffs for the 4th time in 6 seasons. Lets all hope history does not repeat itself. After last week's win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Buccaneers playoff chances according to Football Outsiders currently stand at 40.5 percent.
On the field, there is hope that the Buccaneers will improve their current level of performance. Josh Freeman grows on a weekly basis, the young players on offense continue to show signs of being dynamic playmakers, and players on both sides of the ball are giving 100% effort for 60 minutes every single game. The defense has been showing slight signs of being able to stop the run in recent weeks, a positive sign that the coaches and players can hopefully improve upon. They have plenty of poor quarterbacks remaining on the schedule, so there is a possibility that the playmaking will continue. There will be more growing pains as the season progresses, but the amount of positives that the team has shown is encouraging to say the least.
Why the Bucs Won't Make the Playoffs:
A lot of the problems the Buccaneers have are incurable at this point in the season. Yes, they found their answer at running back, but the makeshift offensive line is not all of a sudden going to learn how to block better and create more holes for LeGarrette Blount and protect Josh Freeman longer. Freeman should continue to progress along with his young receiver group however and produce more touchdown drives. Also look for Kellen Winslow to have more of an impact as the season wears on. Rookies tend to have more upswings and downswings than veterans, and Freeman may look to K2 in crucial situations down the stretch. While the offense appears to be the strength of the team, it's the defense that will most likely cause the demise of the 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They melted like hot butter against the Steelers and Saints, and have yet to prove they can stop opposing offenses for any great deal of time. The young talent on defense has yet to develop in any meaningful way (see McCoy, Gerald), and our Bucs rank near the bottom of many defensive categories. The secondary has done a fair job making plays considering the lack of a pass rush, but it's hard to imagine keeping up their average of 2 interceptions every game. The bottom line is that this team needs more talent in order to become a perennial contender, and the lack of talent at the moment may be the reason why the Bucs come crashing down to earth after a positive start.
Prediction: No one would disagree that the Buccaneers are somewhat fortunate to be 5-2. However through this good fortune we have discovered a lot about our team. Josh Freeman and his young playmakers have breathed life into what is described by most as a rebuilding year. Luck may run out on the Buccaneers at some point in 2010, but fans should be very pleased with the progress they have made so far. An 8-8 or 9-7 finish seems to be the most likely outcome for this team as a result of their limitations. Considering the 3-13 train wreck that was 2009, Bucs Nation should be very proud if that turns out to be the case. The excitement should continue to build towards a promising 2011 if the second half of this season is as successful as the first.