It's a lost season now. There is really no other way to portray it. Their playoff hopes are shot and even if they win their last two games the best the Buccaneers can do this year is finish 8-8, which isn't winning.
Sometimes, though, even in the midst of a lost season such as this will be, a team manages to find some of the elements most often required of winners in this league. And so it is with the 2012 Bucs.
As they prepare to play out the string of what will go down as yet another lost season, let's take an accounting of some of the winning pieces the Bucs found throughout the course of the year.
An offensive identity. This Bucs team didn't just talk about it, they did it. They used a solid ground game to set up a deep passing game and they did it effectively and consistently despite the loss of some key cogs.
A game-breaking running back. The Bucs traded back into the first round on draft day to get Doug Martin and all he did was remind most everyone that watched him of Emmitt Smith.
A big-play wideout. Vincent Jackson may already be the best receiver in Bucs history, and it's not just on the field where he makes his money. Few have done more to make all the players around him better.
A run defense. The Bucs went from worst in the league last year to first this year in this critical area, a sign the system and personnel they have established the foundation for a solid defense.
A replacement for Derrick Brooks. It's rare that you find the blend of speed, instincts and technical savvy that Brooks possessed, but the Bucs seem to have found it in rookie WLB Lavonte David.
A legitimate three technique. Gerald McCoy might not have produced the kind of stats his critics crave but he consistently disrupted offenses the way the Bucs need him to and that's all that really matters.
A new culture. Coach Greg Schiano's first objective was to establish a foundation for winning by instilling structure, discipline and accountability into a team that was greatly lacking those characteristics. He did that.
A franchise quarterback. The Bucs weren't quire sure what they had in Josh Freeman after last year but now they know. He is definitely the quarterback to lead them for the foreseeable future.
Bucs fans have grown quite frustrated with the play of Freeman in recent weeks, but St. Louis Rams veteran head coach Jeff Fisher says Bucs fans have no reason to be upset or frustrated.
"There should be nothing but optimism with Josh because I think he has a tremendous future ahead of him,'' said Fisher, whose plea for patience seems to have some validity to it.
Of all the quarterbacks drafted in the top three rounds since 2002, only seven have produced a better passer rating in their first three seasons as a full-time starter than Freeman has.
The seven with better marks are Aaron Rodgers (99.4), Matt Schaub (94.2), Philip Rivers (93.5), Carson Palmer (91.5), Ben Roethlisberger (88.1), Joe Flacco (87.9) and Matt Ryan (86.9).
Freeman's 84.8 rating is so far better than those compiled by at least 30 other quarterbacks during their first three years as starters and Freeman started his three-year run as a full-time starter at the age of 22.
Of the magnificent seven that outperformed him, only Roethlisberger started his first three-year run as a full-time starter at the same age. Rodgers, Rivers and Palmer started theirs when they were 24, which is how old Freeman is now.
Given those numbers and the fact QBs such as Drew Brees (83.0), Matt Stafford (82.6) and Eli Manning (75.6) did not fare as well as Freeman has so far, Fisher seems to have been right in pleading for some patience.