The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 season got off to an unusual start right off the bat in the first week when Hurricane Irma forced their first game in Miami against the Miami Dolphins to be rescheduled for Week 11.
As a result, three of the first four games for the Buccaneers were played at home, including one that was just played Thursday against the defending Super Bowl Champions the New England Patriots.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Outlook After Four Games
The game was a tale of attrition as both teams were missing significant contributors to one side of the ball. The Buccaneers two of their top three defensive players were unable to play.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury and hasn’t played since the first game against the Chicago Bears. The Buccaneers have not ruled out Alexander for their next game against the Arizona Cardinals, but given that he’s missed three games, they have to assume he will miss the game.
Another linebacker Lavonte David will not be back for a while as he is expected to miss a month with an ankle sprain. He played in the first two games against the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings but he has missed the last two games against the New York Giants and the Patriots.
The Buccaneers were forced to start Adarius Glanton and Devante Bond against the Patriots. Glanton has been respectable and had his best game against the Patriots with seven tackles and a sack. Bond however, played just 15 snaps on defense because the Patriots threw the ball 40 times compared to 23 rushing attempts.
The Buccaneers also played without their two best safeties in Keith Tandy and T.J. Ward. Tandy played in the first three games of the season, but missed the Patriots game because of an injured hip. Ward, who was signed just prior to the start of the season, has missed the last two games also because of a hip injury.
The Buccaneers passing defense went against a Patriots receiving corps that was playing without Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Edelman has been out with a torn ACL and Gronkowski was held out of the game with a thigh injury.
But outside of an impressive interception by rookie Justin Evans, who replaced Tandy as a starter, the Buccaneers approached the Patriots passing game with caution. The defense succeeded in allowing the Patriots to score just 19 points, but quarterback Tom Brady was still able to rack up 303 passing yards without his two best weapons.
The Buccaneers defense was already the main question mark coming in to this season, but now injuries are hitting their best players. The challenge is to keep their defense intact for their remaining 12 games, seven of which are on the road.
Otherwise, the schedule sets up favorably with the Thursday Night Football game out of the way. They now have ten days to rest and enter the consistent portion of their schedule.
The Buccaneers will also have the best offense on the field in every game except for their two matchups against the Atlanta Falcons. Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers are on the schedule, but neither quarterback has the weapons to match the Buccaneers.
Tampa also has to feel optimistic about making the playoffs in the NFC. Three of the teams that made it last year look significantly weaker this year.
The Giants, who the Buccaneers just beat 25-23 last week, have seen the most shocking drop off with with a winless September. The Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys, who were division winners in 2016, have also opened the door with 2-2 starts.
Three new teams in the NFC have the chance to be in the postseason and the Buccaneers have as much offensive talent as any of them.