NFC Bucs In Trouble

Updated NFC Playoff Picture: Bucs In Trouble?

Written by on November 25, 2020

Could the Tampa Bay Buccaneers actually miss the NFC playoffs despite having a star-studded offense with Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski? Probably not, but something is sure wrong with the Bucs in primetime games this year.

Bucs In Trouble? | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis

On Monday night, the Bucs lost 27-24 at home to the Rams to fall to 1-3 in primetimes games straight up – the lone win was rather lucky at the New York Giants – and 0-4 against the spread. Tom Brady threw a pair of interceptions in the loss and the offense he is leading looked disjointed and physically overmatched by the Rams.

Brady is 0-for-19 on pass attempts of 20-plus yards over the past month and head coach Bruce Arians said Brady might be getting confused by coverages, resulting in interceptions. Arians attributed the first of Brady’s two interceptions on the night to Brady getting hit and failing to get enough on the ball. “The last one was just a misread of the coverage,” Arians said.

Arians was asked after Monday’s loss if he would consider taking away offensive play-calling from coordinator Byron Leftwich and he said no.

“I thought [Leftwich] called a good ballgame,” Arians told reporters. “We just have to execute better. When guys are open, we have to hit them and we can’t misread coverage. We have to protect a little bit better when we do have guys deep and let [Tom Brady] hit that guy instead of having that pressure that cost us an interception. As a collective, everybody has got to play better.”

Tampa Bay (+330 at Mybookie to win conference title) currently sits sixth in the NFC at 7-4 and it would be tough for the Bucs to miss the playoffs, but they are looking at all road games in the postseason as they aren’t catching New Orleans for the NFC South title. This week, the Bucs opened as 3-point home underdogs vs. the Super Bowl-favored Kansas City Chiefs in what could be the last time Brady and Mahomes ever face off. Brady has won two of the previous three meetings including playoffs.

New Orleans is atop the conference at 8-2 and is the +260 favorite to win it despite not knowing when starting QB Drew Brees may return from ribs and lungs injuries. Taysom Hill got his first NFL start this past Sunday and led a 24-9 win over Atlanta. Coach Sean Payton’s decision to start Hill over fellow backup Jameis Winston was heavily scrutinized, since Hill had attempted only 20 passes in his four-year NFL career, including the playoffs. Against Atlanta, Hill completed 18-of-23 passes for 233 yards, while rushing 10 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns.

Hill has been in the Saints’ system since 2017, and even though he has plugged in at several other positions – on the punt and kickoff teams, at tight end and receiver – the vision always has been for Hill to play quarterback.

The Saints have seven consecutive games since a Week 3 loss to the Packers. Starting this week, they play three consecutive road games, but all of them are against very beatable opponents: Denver, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The Rams (+800) are 7-3 following Monday’s impressive win in Tampa and would be the No. 2 seed in the NFC as things stand by winning a tiebreaker with Seattle atop the NFC West. However, with Arizona also a good team, the division is totally up for grabs and might not be decided until the end of next month, when the Rams finish their season with consecutive games against the Seahawks and Cardinals.

Green Bay (+500) leads the NFC North at 7-3 and is all but a lock to win that with no other team above .500 in the division. The Packers led the Colts 28-14 this past Sunday at the half yet lost in overtime, giving the Saints a leg up in the conference and sending the Packers tumbling down to the third spot. In 99 previous games with a 14-point lead, Aaron Rodgers’ teams had won 96 times.

The rest of the NFC field for now would be No. 4 Philadelphia (+3300; leading the NFC East despite a 3-6-1 record), No. 5 Seattle (+450), No. 6 Tampa Bay and No. 7 Arizona (+1200).

Even after last Thursday night’s loss to the Seahawks, the Cardinals remain on track to be one of three NFC West teams to earn a playoff spot. Seattle, meanwhile, visits Philadelphia on Monday night to conclude Week 12.

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