Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2017 Record: 5-11 (4th, NFC South)
2018 Record: 3-5 (4th, NFC South)
Outlook: From a certain perspective, the Buccaneers had to feel like they were only a half-step away from being serious playoff contenders coming into 2018. Tampa Bay’s 5-11 record in 2017 included seven losses by six or fewer points.
From another perspective, this is the NFL. Everybody’s good. Everybody’s close. The margin between a mediocre team and a playoff team is razor thin, and narrow losses don’t mean squat. Any Redskins fan old enough to remember the Norv Turner Era knows that.
And any Redskins fan old enough to remember the past seven days knows that the difference between a division title and a losing record can be a few key injuries.
Anyway, the ‘17 Bucs were a top-ten team in terms of offensive yardage, but were dead last on the other side of the ball (although they were a far-less-bad 22nd in scoring defense). This year, the Bucs sit at #7 in scoring with a healthy 28.6 PPG mark. After returning Jameis Winston to his starting quarterback role following his suspension, Tampa has benched him and re-rediscovered Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzmagic boasts a splendid, sea-captain-esque beard to go along with his 112.9 passer rating. He has presided over some impressive offensive showings—showings that haven’t always translated into victories. Mike Evans and old friend DeSean Jackson are having strong years, with Evans on pace for over 1,500 receiving yards and Jackson averaging a scary 22.4 yards per catch.
But the reason the Bucs haven’t been able to win most weeks owes to the numerous question marks on the defensive side of the ball. Gerald McCoy made the Pro Bowl last year and was one of the only bright spots. The always-formidable pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul has racked up eight sacks already. On the other hand, the Bucs used their first draft pick on defensive lineman Vita Vea, who has been, uh, underwhelming. Another of the few standouts for Tampa Bay in 2017 was young linebacker Kwon Alexander, but Tampa lost him for the season to a torn ACL. Starting safety Chris Conte wound up on IR after week three.
In all, the Buccaneers are dead last in the NFL with an awful 275 points allowed. They’re on pace to give up 550 points. Granted, scoring is up around the league, but keep in mind that nobody in the NFC gave up even 400 points last season.
How Worried Should We Be?: Terrified. Yes, there is a lot wrong with this Bucs team, and they’re the worst of the bunch in the tough NFC South. But, especially on the road, there are so many unknowns about the Redskins right now that I think this is a matchup that has to be a little terrifying. After the disastrous game against the Falcons that saw three offensive starters lost for the season, including Brandon Scherff, who was having an All-Pro-caliber season, I need to see how this team responds before I feel confident about anything again.
The Scherff injury in particular could do serious damage. The Redskins’ running game, which has been solid behind a resurgent Adrian Peterson, may suffer mightily without Scherff, Shawn Lauvao, and Trent Williams. For a team that has a mediocre passing attack, losing a lot of potency on the ground is obviously a major problem. The Bucs have a terrible defense, which will hopefully help Alex Smith and company find much better rhythm, but those defensive deficiencies don’t come close to assuring a Washington win.
Let me put this another way to illustrate the problem the Redskins face on Sunday. The Buccaneers have scored at least 26 points in all but one of their games this year. The Redskins have failed to score more than 24 points in all but one of their games this year.
The talented safety duo of D.J. Swearinger and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be crucial this week in limiting the Bucs’ deep passing attack. However, even if the defense holds Tampa Bay to an uncharacteristically low offensive output, the shorthanded Redskins’ offense will very likely need to do something it has failed to do 87.5% of the time this year in order for the Skins to win.
I’m hoping for the best, and it’s not crazy at all to think the Redskins might come out on top, but the burden of proof is on Washington to show that it can overcome the latest rash of all-too-familiar hard-luck injuries.
How worried should the Redskins be about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
This poll is closed
Not too worried