When the NFL regular season began, popular thinking was that the NFC South would be a division up for grabs. After starting out with just two wins in their first five games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now find themselves in the thick of the playoff race.
Tampa Bay has won five out of its last seven games, stringing together a four-game winning streak. This puts the ball club in a tie with the Atlanta Falcons for first place in the NFC South.
One important factor in this huge turnaround is the improved play of second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. During the team’s three-game losing streak, Winston’s numbers were not very good. The former Seminole was 80 of 150 for 827 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
His completion percentage during that time was a 53.33 percent with a quarterback rating (QBR) of 58.94 percent. The mistakes combined with the absence of running back Doug Martin hindered the team’s offensive balance.
Since then however, the Florida State product has been putting up solid numbers, leading the second-half surge. In the past four games, he has six touchdowns and three interceptions with a QBR of 100.89.
The Bucs have missed the playoffs the past eight seasons and haven’t won a postseason game since their 2002 Super Bowl run. This four-game winning streak is Tampa Bay’s longest since 2012 and the team is now two games over .500 for the first time in six years.
“It feels great, but we have not arrived,” Winston said after Sunday’s 28-21 win over San Diego Chargers. “We have to keep playing one game at a time.
“We have to take advantage of the opportunity. We cannot stop now,” he went on. “We have to keep going. We have to keep playing. I believe we will because we’re playing so well as a family right now and it’s really inspiring.”
It will take a conscientious effort by offense, defense and special teams — along with continued play ‘as a family’ — to stay on this run. The Bucs are 2-4 at home and host their division rival New Orleans Saints this Sunday.