By Eric Schmidt

Not many fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought that talk of a possible playoff berth as late as the first week of December for the club was going to be possible this season. However slim the chances remain for the Buccaneers appearing in post-season, the talk remains. Tampa Bay is currently seeded 9th in the NFC and lose out on a tie-breaker with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, with all three teams sitting with a 6-6 overall record.

The first order of business for the Buccaneers is to win out all four of their remaining games. The loss last Sunday in Denver was almost expected, but the loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons in Tampa did a lot of damage. Seattle and Chicago, two teams ranked above them in the playoff seedings both lost.

Tampa Bay has been a vastly improved team this season but some glaring holes remain with the pass rush and pass defense. The offseason and the 2013 NFL Draft will have to focus on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.

Defense has cost the Buccaneers several key games this season and if they could have found a way to manage just one more win during the regular season, they would be in a much better position heading into the final four games.

New York Giants– The Buccaneers held a 27-13 third quarter lead over the Giants and had picked off Eli Manning three times in the first half. Manning rallied the Giants in the final quarter, throwing three touchdowns and ending the day with 510 passing yards, a vision of what opposing quarterbacks would do to the Buccaneers secondary this season.

Dallas Cowboys– Perhaps the best defensive effort of the season for the Buccaneers. Tampa held the Cowboys to 38 rushing yards and forced three turnovers. This loss was squarely on the offense which managed the lowest point output of the season, 10 points.

Washington Redskins– The Buccaneers rallied late to go up 22-21 but left too much time on the clock for Redskins dynamic rookie QB, Robert Griffin III. Billy Cundiff kicks a 41 yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining.

New Orleans Saints– Despite allowing four straight touchdown drives by the Saints in the second half, the Buccaneers scored with four minutes remaining and had a chance to tie the game with the final possession but a controversial call nullified an apparent Buccaneers touchdown.

Atlanta Falcons– The Buccaneers held the lead over Atlanta at the mid-way portion of the fourth quarter but allowed the Falcons to march down the field and score the game winning touchdown. Tampa was questioned about their late-game clock management and attempting a 56 yard field goal into the wind late.

Denver Broncos– The Buccaneers were actually competitive in the first half of this contest. Former Buccaneers head coach calls Manning “The Sheriff” but in the third quarter on Sunday he resembled a surgeon against the Buccaneers defense. To the Bucs credit, they did score late and did attempt a low percentage onside kick.

I doubt that the Buccaneers can sweep all of their last four games and qualify for the playoffs this season. The Seattle Seahawks play three of their last four games at home, a place Seattle has not lost this season. The Chicago Bears hold a two-game advantage over the Buccaneers. Despite the fact that they play three of their last four games on the road, they will be facing the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions.

Tampa Bay has just one win over a team with a winning record this season, but the improvement of this year’s club has been evident. Tampa Bay has not been dominated in any contest this season, losing just once by 8 points.

It’s been a promising season for the Buccaneers this season. Questions surrounded the hiring of first-year head coach Greg Schiano in the offseason, but this year’s team has responded to his style of football, removing any doubts about his hiring.

Schiano and his staff will head into the offseason with one complete NFL season under their belt. With a few more additions to the defense and another successful draft, the Buccaneers should be right in the mix for a playoff berth in 2013.





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