Witty's 2011 Predictions for the Bucs Regular Season

Let's just see how off the mark I get...

Week 1 vs. Detroit:

The Lions are coming off of perhaps their most positive season in years.  Yes, they went 6-10, but the second half of their season was downright scary to play against them as SUH! became the feared DT sacking machine that scouts knew he was.

The question regarding the Lions is going to be "Just how good will their offense be?"  QB Stafford has yet to finish a full season off the injury list, for one thing.  He's got an All-Pro target in WR Calvin Johnson to throw at, and last year Johnson had a sweet catch-happy day against an injury-ravaged Bucs secondary.

The question for the Bucs is going to be "Are they going to come out of the gate with engines at full power?"  Looking back to previous seasons, I can't recall the last time the Bucs came out of preseason without serious rust/shaky play hampering their opening day play.  While their defense is healthy facing the Lions this time - with CB Talib covering Johnson hopefully for the whole game - there's still a question if Freeman and the offense are comfortable enough to rack up a ton of points in case the game with the Lions turn into a shootout.

I doubt it will be a shootout - just hoping, really - and if it's a close game then the Bucs have a good shot at opening the year with a win.  Home field will count.  Bucs 20 - Lions 17

Week 2 at Minnesota:

The best feeling about this game is that Minnesota is clearly in rebuild-mode in the Post-Favre Era.  Their passing offense has IMHO a good number of question marks, and their defense is adjusting to new coaching.  Can't say entirely how tough the Vikings will be, but of the road games this looks like the first best chance at a road win.  Bucs 27 - Vikings 16

Week 3 vs. Atlanta:

Must-win for the Bucs.  Atlanta is built this year to secure a playoff spot, hell it's built for a drive to the Super Bowl.  But I can't hold any illusions about this: Matt Ryan is a Pro-Bowl caliber QB, they made a serious move to add receiving talent by drafting WR Jones, their defensive unit has few holes I can see, and beating Tampa in our house goes a long way toward the Falcons earning a postseason bid.  It'll be a close loss.  Bucs 17 - Falcons 24

Week 4 vs. Indianapolis:

The Monday Nighter game, the team prize for having a 10-6 season last year.  In the bad news/good news category, Colts QB Peyton Manning has serious neck surgery that's taking him out of play for 2-3 months.  Question is, can the Colts win without him? (recent history suggests "no")  Bucs will be looking to rebound after the Falcons' visit, and this is going to be a night for Freeman to become a marquee name.  Bucs 33 - Colts 20

Week 5 at San Francisco:

Just to note: Yes, the Bucs have a hard time winning on the West Coast.  It's going to hurt that they've played a day late vs. Indy and are working a short practice week.  There's just something also about how the 49ers are still in rebuilding mode after the last 5-10 years but perfectly poised to have all that acquired draft talent finally work for them.  It all comes down to 1) just how back QB Alex Smith may be if he's even starting by this week, and 2) how dysfunctional the newly hired coaching staff is going to be by this point.  Something about this smacks of being a nightmare game.  Bucs 10 - 49ers 16

Week 6 vs. New Orleans:

The OTHER team in the NFC South that the Bucs HAVE to beat in order to clinch a playoff spot.  Brees is still Brees.  Their RB situation may or may not be resolved at this point, and if it is the Bucs could be in for a long afternoon.  The question here is going to be if they've fixed some of the defensive gaps they had the last few seasons.  Bucs 20 - Saints 31

Week 7 vs. Chicago at London:

I blame Manchester United.

Actually, I blame a league office that's obsessed with trying to market American Football to the European market.  Guys.  YOU TRIED IT TWICE ALREADY.  They have futbol (aka SOCCER).  Deal with it.

Regarding the game, the Bucs might be in a better mood to win than the Bears at this point.  Bucs 24 - Bears 14

Week 9 at New Orleans:

Having the bye week before this might help.  Shaking off the jet lag from the London trip might not.  Avenging ourselves of the earlier loss at home will help.  The possibility of the Saints having a few key players out with injuries by this point will help more.  Bucs 28 - Saints 20

Week 10 vs Houston:

I think this is the first time the Texans come play us at Tampa.  Not sure, please remind me if they've visited before.  Meanwhile, the Texans have been one of those "gosh they look nice" dark-horse candidate teams to surprise us every year, only to collapse due to sheer bad luck, poor coaching, and unsolved gaps of talent on their roster.  Home field advantage for the win.  Bucs 27 - Texans 24

Week 11 at Green Bay:

Ah.  The Bay of Pigs War, our old Norris division rivalry.  Scary road game to attempt against a Super Bowl champion team that the scouts feel got better this season.  It may come down to which team has the worst injury roster at this point in the season.  Bucs 13 - Packers 27

Week 12 at Tennessee:

If there's anything good to feel about this matchup, it's that the Titans is one of those teams on the rebuild-mode program.  There's a new coach, questions at QB, youngsters on the defense...  The Bucs could win this road game.  Bucs 35 - Titans 16

Week 13 vs Carolina:

The team we hate.  WE HATE EM!  AAAAAAAAH! (foams at the mouth)  They had a lousy team last year, and are yet another rebuild-mode team on our playlist.  That's the good news.  The bad news is, this is a rivalry game and the Panthers are gonna want to spoil the Bucs' hopes for a playoff spot.  Better news is, the Bucs are still more talented across the board than these guys.  Bucs 35 - Panthers 9

Week 14 at Jacksonville:

This could be a team making a serious run for the AFC South title by this week.  While there might be a question as to which QB is starting this game - McNown or the rookie Gabbert - the Jags tend to have an underrated and scary-good team across the board.  Bucs 20 - Jaguars 27

Week 15 vs Dallas:

Part of me is wondering if Dallas is going to be a rebuild-mode/yet-another-wasted-lineup/self-destruct type of team, or if they're in oh-hell-they're-playing-like-its-1990s-again type of team.  The other part of me is thinking the Football Gods will continue mocking Jerry Jones until he succumbs to his ego and takes over head-coaching duties like he always wanted.  Meanwhile... Bucs 31 - Cowboys 15

Week 16 at Carolina:

The only bad thing I can think of about this game is the weather: not the coldness of North Carolina but the possibility of high winds you get during a cold front.  Bucs will be hopefully be in a playoff spot hunt by this game and ought to be in full-power mode to win.  Bucs 17 - Panthers 7

Week 17 at Atlanta:

You bastard game-schedulers.  I have the Bucs at 10 wins at this point, and given the odds that the Falcons and Saints are struggling around that win count for ownership of the NFC South crown... oh man the stress will be here.  Throw in the odds of teams in the East and North divisions fighting for the wild card slots and there's a lot of pressure riding on this game.  AT ATLANTA.  A team probably trying to secure a 1 or 2 Seed for the NFC playoffs and needs this win as badly as the Bucs do.  And Atlanta, sad to say, has better talent where it counts...  Bucs 20 - Falcons 24

Bucs finish with a 10-6 season.  It may not be enough to secure a playoff spot if the good teams in the East - Eagles, Giants - and the North - Packers, Bears, maybe even Lions - have about the same win-loss records as the good teams in the South will.  The Bucs may well be sitting at the seventh spot wondering why the hell an 8-8 team like St. Louis gets to play in the postseason...

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