Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Game of Quarters

Which "quarter" of the season has been best for the Bucs through their history and in recent years? That and more in the Week Five mailbag.

A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' game against the Broncos.

For most NFL teams, in most in-season weeks, Tuesday is the player's day off. It's a chance to rest, regroup and – win or lose the previous weekend – turn the page to the next opponent.

It's also a perfect time for us to discuss the hottest topics surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And for that reason, the One Buc Mailbag is back! Every Tuesday, I'll be fielding a handful of questions from the fans, but you can send them in all throughout the week. The easiest way is to hit me up on Twitter (@ScottSBucs, using #BucsMailbag), but if 140 characters isn't quite enough to get your point across, you can also send an email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

This week, fans want to know about quarter-season records, Jameis Winston's TD/INT pace and Kwon Alexander's Pro Bowl chances. Let's get to it.

1. Scott, over the past 5 years I'm curious to know how often the BUCS had an in season winning record per year. May be easier by quarter. #BucsMailbag

- Rodney Smith via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

With a last name like that, Rodney, you'd fit in really well at One Buc Place right now. However, I'm not completely sure what you're asking me here. Do you want me to identify the various points from 2011-15 that the Buccaneers were above .500? I can do that, but I think we both know it's not going to be a very favorable list, as recent seasons haven't gone as well as the team would have hoped. If that's what you're asking, here they are:

  • Sept. 25, 2011: 2-1, .667
  • Oct. 3, 2011: 3-1, .750
  • Oct. 9, 2011: 3-2, .600
  • Oct. 16, 2011: 4-2, .667
  • Oct. 23, 2011: 4-3, .571
  • Sept. 9, 2012: 1-0, 1.000
  • Nov. 11, 2012: 5-4, .556
  • Nov. 18, 2012: 6-4, .600
  • Nov. 25, 2012: 6-5, .545

The Bucs were 5-5 and 6-6 at different points in 2015 but never got over .500. If you want to include this season, they were 1-0 after Week One.

You bring up quarters, by which I assume you mean quarters of the season. We might find something interesting to look into there if we break every season down into its four quarters – that is, Games 1-4, Games 5-8, Games 9-12 and Games 13-16. Let's go back 10 years just to make it more interesting. Here are the Bucs' winning quarters (3-1 or 4-0) in that span.

  • 2007, Q1: 3-1
  • 2007, Q3: 4-0
  • 2008, Q1: 3-1
  • 2008, Q3: 4-0
  • 2010, Q1: 3-1
  • 2010, Q4: 3-1
  • 2011, Q1: 3-1
  • 2012, Q2: 3-1
  • 2013, Q3: 3-1
  • 2015, Q3: 3-1

Judging from that list, you might surmise that the first and third quarters of the season have been the most successful for the Buccaneers in recent years. Let's take a look at that from a cumulative standpoint; in other words, across seasons, do the Bucs have a quarter of the schedule in which they have historically recorded a better winning percentage? We'll break it down over the last five years, as you requested; over the last 10 years as I just did; over the 20 years to get us back through the Super Bowl era; and all-time.

I'm not going to include this season's results even though the first quarter is finished because we don't know how it will compare with the other three quarters of 2016 yet. To make this thing cleaner, I'm also not going to include the first two seasons, 1976 and 1977, because they had 14-game schedules not so easily broken down into quarters. Those were two basically lost seasons, anyway, due to very unfavorable expansion rules that made it hard to build a team from the ground up. I am going to include the nine-game 1982 season and the 15-game 1987 season because I can't think of a good reason to exclude the results other than they aren't as clean as the 16-game seasons; cancelled games will just be missing from the appropriate quarters.

So here's what we've got:

Screen-Shot-2016-10-04-at-45203-PM.png

Wow. It looks like the third quarter of the season has been when the Bucs have played their best, both throughout team history, during the Super Bowl peak and even now. Let's keep that in mind if the Bucs get their season back on track over the next four games and hit the halfway point in the thick of the race. Perhaps Tampa Bay can pull away in the third quarter.

On the other hand, the fourth quarter of the season has been a real problem in more recent seasons. Throughout team history, the fourth quarter hasn't been any worse than the second quarter, but over the last five years it has been by far the Bucs' toughest time of the year.

 2. Jameis Winston is "on pace," as you like to say in some of your articles, for 32 touchdown passes this year but also 32 interceptions. Those would probably both be team records I'm guessing. We're going to need those touchodwns to win a lot of games I think, specially if Doug is out for awhile longer, but I doubt the team will go far if he has that many interceptions. Where do you think he will end up in both of those things?

- Mike Lawrence via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com*It's an all email mailbag today. As Mike shows here, you can flesh out your question a little more when you're not limited to 140 characters. Rodney above probably could have sent that in on Twitter – he even used the hashtag in his email – but maybe he's just not on Twitter. Who knows? Anyway, either method works for me. *

Mike, you're right on the Winston "paces" (you're also right to be skeptical of a pace just one quarter of the way into the season), as he has eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions so far. When you've played exactly four of 16 games, it's really easy to extrapolate those numbers to a full-season total: Just multiply by four.*You're half right on the team records. Thirty-two touchdown passes would indeed be a new Buccaneer single-season record, surpassing the 27 that Josh Freeman had in 2012. However, Vinny Testaverde tossed 35 interceptions in 1988, which is not only a Buccaneer record but the second-most by any QB in one season in NFL history. George Blanda had 42 for Houston in the AFL in 1962; Testaverde's total is the record since the 1970 merger. Nobody's even hit 32 since Minnesota's Fran Tarkenton did it in 1978. And I don't think Jameis Winston is going to get remotely close to that total in 2016. READ: 4 KEYS TO A BUCCANEER TURNAROUND*

I'm not just saying that because I'm some kind of Buccaneer homer sticking his fingers in his ears and saying, 'La la la la la.' The key is Winston's interception percentage. At 4.5%, it is not good. It is second-worst in the league to the Jets' Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is at 6.5%. Others in that vicinity are the Rams' Case Keenum at 4.1% and the Panthers Cam Newton and Jaguars' Blake Bortles, both at 3.8%.*But that interception percentage pales to those who have thrown 30 interceptions in a season. That's happened 11 times and the lowest interception percentage in any of those seasons was 6.3%, by the Jets' Richard Todd when he was picked 30 times in 1980. *

Winston has already thrown 177 passes through four games which – believe me – was not the plan coming into the season and it's not the desired path going forward. He threw 110 passes in the Arizona and Los Angeles games combined. He's on pace ("on pace!" yay!) for 708 pass attempts, which would be the second-highest total in NFL history to the 727 that Matthew Stafford tossed in 2012. Even Drew Brees has never thrown 700 passes in a season!*When the Buccaneers get their ground game back into gear, and when they are facing fewer second-half deficits – those aren't *guaranteed outcomes, but I believe they will happen – Winston will be throwing far less often, and in much more favorable situations. Both his attempts per game and his interception rate will come down, which means he won't get anywhere near 32. Winston had seven interceptions after four games last year and finished with 15. Given that I believe he's a better quarterback in his second year, I'm going to say he goes from eight this year to somewhere in the 14-15 range again this season. As for touchdowns, the Buccaneers have 10 offensive TDs through the first four weeks. They've also faced three of the league's top 12 scoring defenses so far, while their next six games are all against teams that are ranked between 18th and 28th in that category. Extrapolating the Bucs' current pace of offensive TDs to 16 games, you get 40, which is probably a little low, but we'll accept it. So far, 80% of Tampa Bay's offensive touchdowns have been passes. Even if we drop that down to 70% for the full season, that would make 28 TD passes out of the total of 40 scores. READ: BUCS SEEK TO RE-ESTABLISH RUN GAME**

So I'll go with 28 touchdowns for Winston, which I think is conservative, but I don't want to be accused of being over-the-top optimistic. And, after all, 28 touchdown passes would be a new Buccaneer single-season record.3. Could Kwon Alexander make the Pro Bowl this year. He's my new favorite Bucc, although I still love Lavonte David. I'm thinking that Kwon might have more of those big type of plays that catch peoples eye, like the pick-six against LA. Go Bucs! Gotta beat those Panthers!

- Karen Stills via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com*I appreciate that Karen apparently likes defense; maybe she was weaned like many Bucs fans on that great defense of the '90s and early '00s and still believes that's the way to win championships. The current Buccaneers team has a lot more offensive stars (or stars-in-the-making) than many previous iterations, but there will always be those that love defense first. Anyway, Karen, I think the most important part of that equation will be the Buccaneers finding a way to win more ballgames. It's easier for a young player to break through in Pro Bowl voting when his team is drawing attention for winning. Look at Lavonte David, who didn't make one until his fourth season despite being a first-team *Associated Press All-Pro (a more exclusive honor, actually) in his second year. **

You're right about one thing: It's going to take a bunch more splash plays. Right now, Alexander is the only player in the NFL who has at least 30 tackles plus two sacks and an interception. It won't stay that way, however. Alexander will need to add to those sack and interception totals to stay on voters' minds, because simply racking up the tackles (while important to the Bucs' efforts) won't draw enough attention.*There are a couple of other factors to keep in mind here, especially when comparing Alexander's chances to how long it took David to get recognized (and only then as an alternate after another player dropped out). For one, Alexander plays middle linebacker so he won't have the problem that David has run into as a 4-3 outside linebacker, in that he has been lumped in with all of the league's 3-4 edge-rushers like Von Miller. On the other hand, that means Alexander will be in direct competition with the likes of Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Eric Kendricks and Seattle's Bobby Wagner, with only a few spots to fill. I would have put NaVorro Bowman on that list, too, but Bowman is now out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. The other thing to keep in mind is that the league is going back to an AFC vs. NFC format for the Pro Bowl this year. That means fewer overall spots to fight for if the NFC happens to have more all-star caliber inside linebackers this year. And that may be the case with Kuechly practically guaranteed a spot. Others that Alexander will have to beat out include Kendricks, Wagner, the Rams' Alec Ogletree and the Bears' duo of Jurrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. *I rarely think it's a good bet to predict this early in a season that a young player will make his first Pro Bowl appearance. That said, enough splash plays and Kwon Alexander could be booking a trip to Hawaii…er, I mean Orlando. Same difference.

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