Sunday, March 18, 2018
  • Bucs Beat
  • Rick Stroud and Greg Auman

NFL Playoffs: What playoff teams have that the Bucs don’t

TAMPA — How far away are the Bucs from being a playoff team?

Maybe farther than you think. It's not just the 5-11 record or the difficulty of competing in the NFC South, which from top to bottom is clearly the best division in football.

If you examine this year's post-season participants, particularly those that entered the divisional round this weekend, there are many components Tampa Bay lacks to hang with the best in the NFL. To put it mildly, the Bucs are several great players shy of becoming a great team.

Each team is constructed differently, but the best have obvious components the Bucs sorely lack: a shutdown corner who can shadow the opponent's top receiver; an edge rusher who can pile up sacks; a team that is stout against the run; a strong running game, often with a marquee back, to provide balance on offense.

(LISTEN: Rick & Tom break down the NFL Divisional playoffs)

There are other less tangible elements the Bucs will need to concentrate on this offseason. There needs to be a premium on teamwork and chemistry, absent from the locker room in 2017.

But it's obvious several teams that reached the postseason threaded the needle with the draft and free agency which catapulted them from an also ran to elite this year.

For the purpose of this exercise, we're basically going to exclude the New England Patriots from the conversation. That's a unique creation between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. No roster in the playoffs may be more devoid of household names and gaudy statistics than the Patriots and they're the gold standard.

That said, let's take a look at what it will take for the Bucs to make the playoffs — besides a miracle:

(RELATED: Guess where Roberto Aguayo has resurfaced)


Eight of the 12 teams that entered the playoffs had a quarterback in the top 12 of the league in passing yards, led by Brady with 4,577.

While the Bucs' Jameis Winston has to improve protecting the football and making throws downfield, he finished 13th in passing yards with 3,504 while missing three games with a shoulder injury and playing hurt in three others.

Behind Brady in passing yards was the Saints' Drew Brees (4,334), the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (4,252), the Falcons' Matt Ryan (4,095), the Chiefs' Alex Smith (4,042), the Rams' Jared Goff (3,804), the Jaguars' Blake Bortles (3687) and the Vikings' Case Keenum (3,547).

The outlier is the Titans' Marcus Mariota, who had a down year with 3,232 yards passing and more interceptions (15) than touchdown passes (13). But he was a No. 2 overall pick in 2015 behind Winston and has one playoff victory to his credit.

(RELATED: Is Jameis Winston a franchise quarterback?)


Not surprisingly, 10 playoff teams finished among the top 13 in rushing yards per game. Teams always strive for balance offensively. The best ones achieve it. Here's where those playoff teams ranked in rushing yards per game:

1. Jaguars (141.4)

3. Eagles (132.2)

4. Panthers (131.4)

5. Saints (129.4)

6. Bills (126.1)

7. Vikings (122.3)

8. Rams (122.1)

9. Chiefs (118.9)

10. Patriots (118.1)

13. Falcons (115.4).

By comparison, the Bucs ranked 27th by averaging 90.6 yards on the ground. Most of those playoff teams had a marquee running back. Six were among the top 10 rushers in the league, including the top five:

The Chiefs' Kareem Hunt (1,327 yards)

The Rams' Todd Gurley (1,305)

The Steelers' Le'Veon Bell (1,291)

The Bills' LeSean McCoy (1,138)

The Saints' Mark Ingram (1,124)

Hunt, the Jags' Leonard Fournette, the Saints' Alvin Kamara and the Panthers' Christian McCaffrey are rookies. The Titans got it done by committee with Derrick Henry (744 yards, five TDs) and DeMarco Murray (659 yards, six TDs) splitting the load.

The Bucs will part ways with Doug Martin, who has failed to rush for 500 yards in four of his past five seasons. The only running back sure to return is Peyton Barber. Drafting a game-changing running back should be a priority for the Bucs.

(RELATED: Just how good was O.J. Howard's rookie season?)


Six of the playoff teams finished in the top 10 in total defense, including four of the top five — Vikings (1), Jaguars (2), Eagles (4) and Steelers (5). By comparison, of course, the Bucs had the worst defense in the NFL, allowing 378.1 yards per game.
More importantly, the top four defenses against the run all made playoffs — Eagles, Vikings, Panthers and Titans.

But nothing improves your chances of making the postseason like the ability to rush the quarterback. And no team was worse at doing it than the Bucs, who finished last in the NFL with only 22 sacks.

The top five teams in the NFL in sacks — Steelers, Jags, Panthers, Rams and Titans — all reached the post-season. Specifically, what it takes is pressure off the edge.

Sacksonville led the way with defensive ends Calais Campbell (14.5 sacks) Yannick Ngakoue (12) and Dante Fowler (8). Campbell signed a four-year, $60 million contract with $30 million guaranteed as a free agent from the Cardinals. At age 30, it was a gamble that paid off.

But whether you're talking about the Vikings' Everson Griffin (13 sacks), the Saints' Cameron Jordan (13), the Steelers' Cameron Heyward (12), the Panthers' Mario Addison (11) and Julius Peppers (11), the Falcons' Adrian Clayborn (9.5) and Vic Beasley (4), the Eagles' Brandon Graham (9.5) or the Chiefs' Justin Ho"`uston (9.5), pressure came off the edge.

The Bucs' plans went out the window when Noah Spence played in only three games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury while 32-year-old Robert Ayers produced only two sacks. Without an edge rusher, the Bucs are going nowhere.

(RELATED: The Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to the Bucs' ofeseason priorities)


At 34, Brent Grimes was the Bucs best cornerback and tied for the team lead with three INTs. But he is a free agent and contemplating retirement. Though not a pre-requisite, a shutdown corner helps your chances of playing in January.

The best examples in the playoffs are the Vikings' Xavier Rhodes, the Saints' Marshon Lattimore, the Falcons' Desmond Trufant and the Jags outstanding duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, a free agent from the Texans.

The Bucs used a first-round pick in 2016 on Vernon Hargreaves, who has one career interception and has been reduced to a slot corner. The combination of pass rush and tight coverage is what wins in the NFL.
Clearly, the team with the second-longest playoff drought still has a long way to go.

Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud

Man fired from cannon at Raymond James Stadium

Man fired from cannon at Raymond James Stadium

There’s nothing unusual about cannon fire at Raymond James Stadium. Shooting a guy out of a cannon? Unusual. To promote it’s new, pirate-themed, multiplayer video game Sea of Thieves, Xbox was in Tampa on Tuesday to fire David “The...
Published: 03/13/18
Bucs to let center Joe Hawley become a free agent

Bucs to let center Joe Hawley become a free agent

The Bucs, continuing to open up more salary-cap room in advance of free agency, are opting not to exercise the 2018 option on veteran center Joe Hawley.Hawley, 29, started 29 games at center in 2015-16 but was inactive for all but four games in 2017,...
Updated one month ago
Mike Mayock sees Minkah Fitzpatrick as match for Bucs at No. 7

Mike Mayock sees Minkah Fitzpatrick as match for Bucs at No. 7

What will the Bucs do with the No. 7 pick in the draft in two months?NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock did another of his marathon conference calls with NFL writers — he was 90 minutes in when we came up in the queue — and mentioned A...
Updated one month ago
Bucs awarded compensatory draft pick in seventh round

Bucs awarded compensatory draft pick in seventh round

The Bucs finally have a compensatory draft pick.For the first time since 2011, Tampa Bay has played the free-agent game well enough to be awarded a comp pick — after the seventh round, 255th overall, the next to last in the draft.Comp picks hav...
Updated one month ago
Bucs need a backup plan at quarterback; best bets are Ryan Fitzpatrick or (maybe) Mike Glennon

Bucs need a backup plan at quarterback; best bets are Ryan Fitzpatrick or (maybe) Mike Glennon

TAMPA – Finding a quarterback is a big priority for the Bucs this off-season. That's not a misprint. No, they're not looking to replace Jameis Winston. Far from it. But they may need to find their version of the Eagles' Nick Foles — excep...
Updated one month ago
Despite warnings to stay in school, Chase Litton confident about draft prospects

Despite warnings to stay in school, Chase Litton confident about draft prospects

As he made the tough decision whether to return to Marshall for his senior season, quarterback Chase Litton reached out to the NFL's advisory committee, which gives underclassmen a sense of where they're likely to be drafted should they leave early."...
Updated one month ago
Bucs won’t tender injured LB Adarius Glanton, DB Jude Adjei-Barimah

Bucs won’t tender injured LB Adarius Glanton, DB Jude Adjei-Barimah

The Bucs have started the internal decisions that lead up to the start of free agency in three weeks, letting two restricted free agents recovering from injury —  LB Adarius Glanton and DB Jude Adjei-Barimah — know that they won't be...
Updated one month ago
Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

TAMPA  — With no witnesses and no video evidence, Tampa Police have stopped investigating a case from Christmas Eve that had a truck belonging to Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson found wrecked and abandoned in a mall parking lot with hollow-po...
Updated one month ago
Bucs QB Jameis Winston uninjured in car wreck

Bucs QB Jameis Winston uninjured in car wreck

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was not hurt in a car wreck last week in which he was cited for careless driving.Winston, 24, was driving on the Veterans Expressway near Waters Avenue in northwest Tampa on Feb. 13 when his Ford F250 truck rear-ended ...
Updated one month ago
Bucs sign ex-New Hampshire RB Dalton Crossan

Bucs sign ex-New Hampshire RB Dalton Crossan

February signings in the NFL usually face long odds to stick on rosters in the fall, but the Bucs added to their running back depth on Thursday, signing former New Hampshire star Dalton Crossan.Crossan, who turns 24 on Sunday, went to training camp l...
Updated one month ago