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Bucs may be most inconsistent team in league

Buccaneers' Freeman is pressured by Bears' Moore as Buccaneers' Joseph follows the play during their NFL football game at Wembley Stadium

REFILE - CORRECTING TYPO Tampa Bay Bucaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman (C) is pressured by Chicago Bears’ D.J. Moore (R) as Buccaneers’ Davin Joseph follows the play during their NFL football game at Wembley Stadium, in London, October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Paul Hackett (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


We’re evaluating the “state of the season” when every team hits their bye week.

We’ve already looked at the Bears and Raiders this week. Now up: The maddening Bucs.

Yungry, with emphasis on young

The Bucs entered this year with the youngest roster in football. While they have solidified their 10-6 record from a year ago in some ways, their incredible inconsistency speaks to their youth.

The Bucs have impressive home wins over Atlanta and New Orleans. They also have stinkbombs like the blowout loss in San Francisco and the lackluster effort in London against the Bears.

Sometimes the two sides of the Bucs come out in the same game, like the comeback win in Minnesota. You never know what you are going to get out of this 4-3 team. They can play a tight game with anyone, whether its the Saints or Colts.

Freeman’s foibles

No player symbolizes the up and down Bucs season more than quarterback Josh Freeman. He’s forcing too many passes, and starting games slowly. He’s throwing shorter passes and more interceptions. (His ten picks lead the league.)

Part of the issue is certainly Tampa’s receiver crew: Mike Williams, Preston Parker, Arrelious Benn, and Kellen Winslow don’t get a ton of separation. The bigger issue has been Freeman’s decision making.

Promising young defense

The Bucs envisioned their young defensive line leading the team. They are on their way. Rookie Adrian Clayborn is a keeper. Gerald McCoy was showing signs of improvement before he was hurt. Michael Bennett has quietly played well and rookie linebacker Mason Foster has seamlessly replaced Barrett Ruud.

Struggling secondary

The Bucs can be attacked through the air. Aqib Talib hasn’t had a great season. The same is true for cornerbacks E.J. Biggers and Ronde Barber. The Bucs don’t rank in the top 20 in points scored or allowed. They are 28th in yards allowed. They are -1 in turnovers. How is this team 4-3?

Tough schedule ahead

Six of Tampa’s final nine games are on the road. That starts with a huge road game in New Orleans, then a home game against the Texans before heading to Green Bay. It’s easy to see them 5-5 after ten weeks. The Bucs probably need to win in New Orleans for a realistic chance at winning the division.

The division schedule ends with road games in Carolina and Atlanta. Tampa has work to do before that finale truly matters.

This looks like a growing year for the Bucs, with 8-8 more likely than a playoff appearance.