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At least the Buccaneers aren’t being blown out

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The Bucs keep losing close games, which suggests good things about the future.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot to say about this Tampa Bay Buccaneers, most of it not very good. One thing is positive, though: the players never seem to have given up, and the team hasn’t really been blown out since week nine—when Jameis Winston was trying (and failing) to play through an injury.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times made the case today that the Bucs never ‘quit’, though I’m not sure how we can tell incompetent or overmatched players from those who have given up, exactly. I certainly can’t evaluate that difference consistently.

Still, for what it’s worth, the Bucs haven’t been embarrassed much this season. They’ve lost, certainly, and there were a lot of ugly games, especially when Jameis Winston was injured. The Bucs should have won a lot more, too, but they were competitive in a lot of games.

That, in and of itself, doesn’t really get us anything right now. Sure, the Bucs came close to winning more games, but there’s no playoffs, nor even a winning situation. Close or blowout losses, they’re still losses.

There’s one reason to keep this in mind, though: there’s no evidence teams can actually consistently win close games on skill. Usually, teams that win a lot of close games one season, will revert back to the mean the year after.

This makes intuitive sense if you think about the difference between a win and a lossin close games: a missed kick, a bad punt, a single throw, a bad call by the refs. Any one of those can decide a game, and you only need a little bit of extra or less luck to change a win to a loss.

That explains why a lot of teams that barely make it into the playoffs, collapse the next year. And why teams can turn themselves around quickly. Here’s to hoping the Bucs manage to do the latter. They may not even need to fire Dirk Koetter to get that done.