The NFL season is a quarter of the way complete and the Buccaneers are 1-3. They have a Pro Bowler sidelined by injury on both sides of the ball and their quarterback's turnovers problems have resurfaced.
With a Monday Night Football game at NFC Champion Carolina looming, the Times' Bucs/NFL coverage team looks at the road ahead:
Record the next four games
Tom Jones @tomwjones
1-3. And I'm not sure which game they will win. But injuries on defense and an offense that keeps turning the ball over is not exactly the recipe for success.
Rick Stroud @NFLStroud
2-2. The next two road games will be tough for the Bucs. But as RB Doug Martin and perhaps Robert Ayers and Luke Stocker return from injuries, the outcome will be better.
Greg Auman @gregauman
2-2. A win at Carolina is unlikely, but the Bucs can win at San Francisco, and should be able to split two home games against the Raiders and Falcons. That would put them at 3-5 at the midway point in the season, with an easier schedule in the final eight games, including two late dates against a bad Saints defense.
Thomas Bassinger @tometrics
2-2. It'll be good for the Bucs to get away from Tampa for the next few weeks. They've lost 15 of their past 18 at RayJay. Carolina's vulnerable, even at home. The Panthers have turned the ball over 10 times this season, trailing only the Jets (13) and the Bucs (11). I think the Bucs can hang with the Raiders, who have won three games by a total of nine points.
Martin Fennelly @mjfennelly
1-3. At 1-6, Bucs win week 9 shootout against Falcons, with Jameis revived, with defense locking things down, holding Matt Ryan to 357 yards of passing and three touchdowns.
Ernest Hooper @hoop4you
4-0, if they beat the Panthers. 0-4 if they lose to the Panthers.
Bucs will make the playoffs if
They can start running the football with authority again and allow Jameis Winston to get into a rhythm of throwing the ball 25 to 30 times a game instead of 40-45 (or more) times a game.
Winston cuts down on his turnovers and Doug Martin comes back and is the factor back he was last season when he rushed for 1,400 yards. The Bucs need balance on offense. Martin provides it.
They radically improve on both sides of the ball. That means Winston scales back on his turnovers in a big way, and the defense is just as dramatic in creating takeaways (plural) every week to help the offense out. Even in a division that's perhaps the NFL's worst, especially on defense, it still seems like a tall order.
Roger Goodell decides to expand the playoff field to 14 teams in each conference?? It'll take a remarkable run, but it can be done. The Texans and Chiefs both made the playoffs last season after starting 1-3. Houston won seven of its final nine; Kansas City won 10 in a row. I don't see it happening, not with Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson left on the schedule.
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Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and several other quarterbacks are injured. And if the Bucs win nine more games.
I win the PowerBall Lottery, buy the team and give away free tickets to all my rowdy friends.