How will Bucs’ do down their stretch run?

by Gary Shelton on December 7, 2020

in general

Jones has been better when the Bucs have won./JOE MESTAS

Monday, 4 a.m.

Here in the stretch run, the Bucs are wobbly but upright. You can see the playoffs from here.

But can they?

There are four games to play, and all of them are against average (or less) opponents. Surely, that bodes well, doesn't it? Surely, you can count on the Bucs to make a cameo in the post-season, can't you? From there, you can argue about the degree of disappointment.

Still, they will win out.

Won't they?

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Well, maybe not. Not if Sunday's play was an indication.

Minnesota, next week's opponent, beat Jacksonville (doesn't everyone?) to get to 6-6. That's only one game behind the Bucs. Surely, that's not a slam dunk of a game, not when the Bucs have lost three of their last four (the Vikings have won three of their last four).

The Falcons, who the Bucs play twice, lost to the Saints (the Bucs have done that twice themselves). But they've won three of their last five, and under former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris, they seem to have renewed interest in the season.

The Lions beat the Chicago Bears (who beat the Bucs this season) on Sunday. They won 34-30, their second victory since October.

So, yeah, when a team is playing like the Bucs are playing, nothing is to be taken for granted.

You want another reason to think that the Bucs will struggle to win out on this season. The quarterbacks.

If you haven't noticed, the Bucs haven't been very good against the pass lately. Their rush has slowed, and their pass defenders have been exposed. Their inside linebackers are fine tacklers, but they don't cover particularly well.

That hardly makes opposing quarterbacks Matt Ryan (twice), Kirk Cousins and Matt Stafford worried about their games. Cuosins has a rating of 103.9.Stafford is at 94.4. Ryan is at 91.5.

Then there are the receivers. The Flacons have Julio Jones, who has given the Bucs fits, and Calvin Ridley. Minnesota has Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Detroit as D'Andre Swift and Danny Amendola.

That alone can make it a tough day at the yard.

So can the Bucs win four games? Or at least three?

Much of it will depend upon their running game. In their seven victories this year the Bus have averaged 108 yards rushing per game. In their five losses, they've averaged 63. The good teams aren't impressed by their offensive line.

Fortunately, the Bucs are in better position there. The Falcons are 14th in the league against the run. The Vikings are 25th. The Lions are 28th. The Bucs should be able to move the ball, and they should be able to score.

Can they measure up to their slow starts or their awkward finishes?

Perhaps. But four in a row is a difficult task when a team isn't playing well.

I say they win three. I still think they make the playoffs.

I don't think they last long.

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