Coming off a disappointing performance by Tom Brady in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears, can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still win a Super Bowl with their defense struggling and the Hall of Fame quarterback battling inconsistency?

Between blowing up at teammates and an uncharacteristic mental gaffe on fourth down, Tom Brady didn’t look right on Thursday Night Football against Chicago. Signed to a lucrative contract this offseason, the future Hall of Famer was inconsistent once again and made the kinds of mistakes we see from players on the decline.

Coming off a disappointing performance, with some inconsistent outings this season, things don’t look great right now for Tampa Bay. With the schedule about to get even tougher, are the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers still a Super Bowl contender?

Tom Brady’s stats highlight volatility of Buccaneers’ offense

Since taking the field for the Buccaneers, Brady has shown a frustrating amount of inconsistency. At times, he looks like an elite quarterback capable of competing for another NFL MVP award. He’ll also go through stretches, especially when pressured, where throws outside the numbers are late and he makes poor decisions.

  • Week 1: Brady threw a costly pick-six in the season-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints. During that start, he averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt and posted a 78.4 quarterback rating with two interceptions. Bruce Arians wasn’t pleased with the outing, but it was evident this offense needed time to develop chemistry.
  • Week 2: In his second start, Brady dealt with more inconsistency. While his timing with Mike Evans was on point, he took unnecessary risks and whiffed on a few throws. The Bucs won, but Brady’s 80.3 quarterback rating and 6.2 yards per attempt left something to be desired.
  • Week 3: After throwing three INTs in his first two starts, Brady looked sharp against the Denver Broncos. He hit 297 passing yards with three scores and a 115.8 quarterback rating, numbers that would have been even better if not for drops.
  • Week 4: It was a tale of two halves for Brady against the Los Angeles Chargers. He completed just 15-of-29 attempts for 106 yards, with another pick-six, in the first two quarters. He recovered after halftime, with three touchdowns and over 250 passing yards in a comeback victory.
  • Week 5: Brady was under siege against Chicago and playing without star receiver Chris Godwin. He was entirely dependent on checkdowns, unable to get out of the pocket and make plays. In the end, the constraints on the Buccaneers’ offense cost them in a 20-19 loss.

Overall, it’s been an up-and-down season for Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense. He hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations some had for him entering the year. But this is the reality for a 43-year-old quarterback, even an all-time great.

As Philadelphia Eagles legend Brian Westbrook brings up, inconsistent performances are inevitable. But while Father Time has diminished some of Brady’s skills, leading to deterioration and even a few mental mistakes.

“Now, we’re talking about a 43-year-old quarterback, trying to ramp it up every single game and there’s going to be games where he has just great games,” Westbrook said. “Then there’s going to be other games where he just not going to have it and that just happens with age. Remember, Father Time is undefeated. There’s a possibility that Tom, through the course of the season, will have some arm fatigue, he’ll have some mental fatigue.”

There’s still reason for optimism. Brady joined the Buccaneers for a few reasons, with the supporting cast and coaching staff playing a pivotal role in the decision. Arians has one of the best offensive minds of his generation and a healthy receiving duo of Evans and Chris Godwin is exceptional.

While Brady’s days as a top-four quarterback are over, he remains a top-10 quarterback and can even play above that level. The numbers coming into Week 5 showed that, when given time, he can still execute this offense and put up a lot of points with protection and a reliable receiving corps.

  • Tampa Bay entered Week 5 with the fifth-worst drop rate (6.9%) in the NFL and several of those drops (13) have come in the end zone.
  • According to Next Gen Stats, Brady holds a respectable 65.6% expected completion rate.
  • Before Thursday’s loss to Chicago, Brady completed 13-of-24 attempts of throws 20-plus yards down the field. Furthermore, per Player Profiler, Brady leads the NFL in money throws (15) and is third in deep ball attempts (23).
  • After five games, Brady has an 88.4 grade from Pro Football Focus.

Given the Buccaneers dominated at the line of scrimmage before Week 5, we’d expect the protection issues aren’t a long-term concern. Even better news, Godwin has a great chance of returning in Week 6 and Evans will only get better as his injured ankle heals.

One thing is for certain, Brady needs to eliminate some of the mistakes and missed throws. Set to face a grueling stretch on the schedule, the blame will fall on Brady’s shoulders if the Buccaneers can’t deliver.

Buccaneers 2020 schedule

Assuming the Buccaneers avoid a COVID-19 outbreak, far from a guarantee, the team faces a difficult stretch through November. With Tampa Bay not scheduled to have time off until their Week 13 bye, these next seven games are pivotal.

  • Week 6 – vs. Green Bay Packers
  • Week 7 – @ Las Vegas Raiders
  • Week 8 – @ New York Giants
  • Week 9 – vs. New Orleans Saints
  • Week 10 – @ Carolina Panthers
  • Week 11 – vs. Los Angeles Rams
  • Week 12 – vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay will be without defensive tackle Vita Vea for the rest of the season, a massive blow for their defense. The timing couldn’t be worse with the secondary struggling and matchups against Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes looming. On top of that, the Packers, Raiders, Saints, Rams and Chiefs should easily be able to run on the Buccaneers.

Sitting at two losses already, the Buccaneers could easily drop four of their next seven games. Frankly, only the Week 8 matchup against the Giants looks like a certain victory.

With Vea and O.J. Howard sidelined for the year, the Buccaneers can’t afford additional season-ending injuries. There will be more pressure on Brady to perform and less wiggle room for him to make mental mistakes or deliver inconsistent performances.

There’s still a chance the Buccaneers could host Super Bowl LV in their own stadium, but this doesn’t look like a championship-contending team right now.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick