Nick Ballistreri previews the Tampa Bay Bucs after an offseason in which they signed the GOAT, Tom Brady, to add to an already stacked offense.
What a time to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. After finishing 7-9 a season ago, the Bucs went all in this offseason. It was a foregone conclusion that the team would move on from quarterback Jameis Winston. There was no denying Winston’s talent. The former #1 overall pick has shown flashes of greatness, but in between those flashes was inconsistent, turnover-prone play.
Enter, Tom Brady. He’s the winningest quarterback in NFL history, with a record of 219-64 for a winning % of 77%. That’s ridiculous. Now, some people credit much of his success to the coaching of Bill Belichick, but to me that’s unfair. Let’s give credit where it’s due. With 6 Super Bowl wins under his belt, Brady will attempt to lead this Tampa team to the Super Bowl, which just happens to be played in his new home stadium.
We’ve already talked about the addition of Tom Brady, and how it may be just what the doctor ordered in Tampa. Head coach Bruce Arians has a history of elevating the play of his quarterbacks, and the Bucs have hopes that he can help Brady reach the level he was at after struggling through the last couple seasons. He will have plenty of help on this offense.
The Bucs have arguably the best combination of wide receivers in football with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Godwin is coming off a breakout season in which he caught 121 passes for 1,333 yards and 9 touchdowns. Evans battled through some injuries, but still put up a 67-1,157-8 line. Good luck covering those two. Godwin should fit right into the slot role that Julian Edelman filled over the years in New England.
The moves weren’t finished. The team reached out to future Hall-of-Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, and convinced him to come out of retirement to join his old friend Tom Brady. While it’s naive to think that Gronk will reach his prime levels, he will be another threat for Brady to throw to.
When everybody thought this team was done making moves, they went out and signed former Jaguar, Leonard Fournette. While Fournette will be splitting carries with incumbent Ronald Jones, he is coming off a season in which he ran for 1,152 yards and 3 touchdowns. This offense will be fun to watch.
While the offense will carry this team, the defense has some players that when motivated, can make life difficult for opposing offense. They re-signed Shaquill Barrett after his 19.5 sacks led the league, and also brought back Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh. Their defense line should be able to give quarterbacks fits.
The questions lie in the secondary. A season ago, the defense only intercepted 12 passes, and the secondary leaked yardage like a damaged pipe. For this team to reach the heights they expect to, they are going to have to have a consistent pass-rush to help their young secondary. In the NFL Draft, they selected safety Antoine Winfield Jr in the 2nd round to help on the back-end.
Let’s call it how it is. This team has the talent, coaching, and now experience, to win the Super Bowl. The question is whether their newly acquired players can acclimate to their environment in time for a first year run.
My answer is yes, and no. I think the Bucs will be much improved. Their offense will be able to score points on a consistent basis, but in my opinion, Brady just isn’t the quarterback he was a season ago. He’s 43, and threw for just over 4,000 yards a season ago. Additionally, their division is no cake-walk. Along with the Bucs, the Saints and Falcons both have hopes of winnings this division, and the Panthers are on the upswing. None of their 6 divisional games will be a gimme.
The oddsmakers are giving the Bucs a fighting chance to win the Super Bowl. Their odds are +1400, but in my opinion, I’d stay away from that. They’re +150 to win the division, but I’m also shying away from that.
Prediction: 10-6, NFC Wild Card
I have the New Orleans Saints winning the division. They have the experience and camaraderie of a team that knows they are going to do big things this year. The Bucs will be much improved. Going from Winston to Brady will be an upgrade, and the team will take care of the ball much better. To me, the better play here it taking the Bucs to go over their 9.5 win total.
The Super Bowl seems like a long-shot to me, but if they get off to a hot start to build some confidence, anything is possible.