TAMPA, Fla. -- Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a preview of what to expect in the second half:
First-half snapshot: After going 9-7 in 2016 and having arguably one of the best offseasons in the NFL, the Bucs had enormous expectations heading into 2017 and have completely underachieved. Despite putting up the third-most passing yards per game in the league (272.6 yards), the offense is averaging just 18 points a game -- 21st in the league. The defense is struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks, to stop the run and get off the field on third down. Tampa Bay's only wins have come against teams that are now a combined 4-11. Head coach Dirk Koetter said players are "frustrated, disappointed, confused -- the mood that you would expect from a team that had very high expectations and has lost five in a row." Grade: Bring on 2018
Midseason MVP: Linebacker Lavonte David. He’s only seen action in six games because an ankle injury, but nobody has done more with less playing time than David. His four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries are the most in the NFL, and his 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown was a catalyst in helping the Bucs overcome, what was at one point, a 31-0 deficit against the Arizona Cardinals, a game they almost won.
Best moment: Opening the season with a 29-7 win at home against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 offered hope that the Bucs would fulfill their promise and finally reach the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. The season has been all downhill from there, with the exception of a last-second 25-23 win against the New York Giants and quarterback Jameis Winston putting up three second-half touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills.
Worst moment: Pick your poison on this one. The Week 3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was an agonizing day for the defense, allowing a 142.1 passer rating and 369 passing yards to Case Keenum. In Week 6 against the Cardinals, the Bucs were down 24-0 in the first half -- the second-largest point differential in a half all season -- before making it close in a 38-33 loss. In Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers, the Bucs scored a mere three points, the first time since 2014 they failed to score an offensive touchdown. The ugliest of all might have been the Week 9 scuffle with the New Orleans Saints, in which Winston and Evans were involved in an altercation with Saints players. At that point in the game, they were down 31-3. Evans was suspended for one game for his role in the incident.
Second-half outlook: The Bucs' first eight opponents this year are a combined 37-28 through Week 9. Their remaining eight opponents are a combined 36-30, and that includes four division games, so this won't get much easier. Play on both sides of the ball has been wildly inconsistent. The offense is moving the ball but making too many mistakes. Winston's shoulder issues continue, and he will miss the next few weeks, making it that much more difficult for the offense to improve. The defense also has to start getting more takeaways like it did last season when it finished with 29. At 2-6 and down 0-2 in their division, this hole will be nearly impossible to escape.