Jameis Winston can start making space in his trophy room for the 2015 Rookie of the Year Award. His transcendent play in recent weeks has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sniffing something much sweeter, though: A potential playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
The Florida State alumnus and Heisman winner tied a rookie record with five touchdown passes Sunday, each to a different receiver. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter orchestrated an offensive attack that bludgeoned the Philadelphia Eagles, 45-17, to the tune of 521 yards of total offense, the second-most yards in franchise history. Lovie Smith’s Buccaneers have won three of their four games this month, and are making noise in the NFC South.
“We’ve talked a lot about being relevant again,” Smith said after the game. “Well, we’re relevant again.”
Winston has unquestionably kicked his game into a higher gear since the team’s 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, leading the team to a 4-2 record in the weeks since, while averaging a quarterback rating of 70.9.
With Winston and Co. humming through their schedule, what’s the likelihood of the Buccaneers continuing their recent success over the remainder of the season?
Tampa Bay is favored in just two of its six remaining games. The Buccaneers have a 2.9 percent chance of earning the 5-seed and a 0.6 percent chance of earning the 6-seed, according to NFLProject.com. In the chart below, also provided by the site, the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons — teams in the NFC South — are far more likely to earn a playoff berth than Tampa Bay.
While the Buccaneers have been competitive in recent weeks, most projection models believe the success will be short-lived. There’s a tough road ahead if Tampa Bay wants to play in the postseason, but the Buccaneers, as Smith noted, are relevant again.