Today's question: What's the main reason the Bucs are 4-6?
DEFENSE HAS DECLINED
Thomas Bassinger, @tometrics: The Bucs’ pass defense gives up too many big plays. Tampa Bay has allowed 57 pass plays of 16 or more yards. Only the Colts and Chiefs have allowed more. This isn’t just an early season problem; the Jets executed six and the Dolphins executed seven. In fact, Miami had gains of 45, 49 and 61. Quarterbacks have too much time to throw.
YOUTH (LACK OF LEADERSHIP)
Ernest Hooper, @hoop4you: The Bucs remain a relatively young team and its veteran leaders may lack the outspoken style needed to galvanize the team. The completely flat start against Arizona and the mind-numbing loss to Buffalo can be traced in part to this void. The modest two-game winning streak came in part reportedly from DeSean Jackson and the usually quiet Lavonte David speaking up. Some is good, more is better. I hope Jackson and David keep it up.
Rick Stroud, @NFLStroud: When they perform the autopsy on the Bucs 2017 season, there won’t be one cause of collapse. But the thread running through the year was that quarterback Jameis Winston was injured, and as such, ineffective. The Bucs were 2-2 with the NFL’s top passing offense when a few missed kicks vs the Patriots led to a loss. No shame in losing to New England 19-14 because everyone does. Then came the injury to Winston, who should’ve sat out the next few weeks. He played and the Bucs went 0-4 and scored a total of nine points in the first half of those games. The Bucs finally admitted he couldn’t physically make the throws he needed to make and shut him down. When you can threaten teams down the field, the run game goes nowhere. The defense is on the field too many plays. You fall behind and lose games. Winston being hurt, playing hurt is the biggest reason for 4-6.
Greg Auman, @gregauman: Fans went into 2017 expecting the Bucs defense to start right where it left off at the end of 2016, having figured out what Mike Smith wanted. We’ve only seen glimpses of that high-level defense — all too often, they can’t get to the quarterback and can’t get off the field on third down. The lack of a run game, Winston’s shoulder injury, those are also key elements of why the Bucs aren’t better, but it starts with an inconsistent defense.
THE OFFENSE HAS BEEN OFFENSIVE
Tom Jones, @tomwjones: When I say the offense has been offensive, I mean it has been insulting. The injury to Winston has been a big reason why. Few teams can lose their starting quarterback and expect to be productive offensively. But the Bucs were having offensive woes before Winston got hurt. They simply couldn’t muster points — and that, ultimately, is what matters — more so than yards gained. It’s about putting the ball in the end zone and the Bucs just haven’t done that enough, especially early in games. Seems like most weeks, the Bucs have a field goal or two at the half. That just isn’t going to cut it.
JAMEIS OR NO JAMEIS, IT'S THE 'D'
Martin Fennelly, @mjfennelly: The third most obvious answer is they have 4-6 talent and coaching. The second most obvious answer is Winston injury. But the obvious answer is a wildly inconsistent defense. They just can’t match up with some teams. The lack of a pass rush and quality defensive backs hurts them. Teams with decent QBs and multiple weapons take the Bucs apart. Brent Grimes can do only so much back there, even though he has done a lot. There are people on this defense who make noise — Grimes, David, Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander — but it’s not enough to forge a consistent unit.