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32 Teams in 32 Days: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football

Is This the Year the Playoff Drought Ends?

It has been almost a decade since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been in the playoffs; as a Bucs fan, it’s felt like three. Along with this, last season was the first time since that 2007 season that Tampa had a winning season. Bucs fans were satisfied with a 9-7 record but now after finishing a tiebreaker short of that elusive playoff berth, the team is expected to break through in 2017. Stability along the coaching staff, an improving defense, and an offense filled with talent mean this is the year to make that jump. Although, we know nothing is given in the NFL and Tampa Bay will have to get through a much deeper NFC to make the playoffs.

If you’ve been watching Hard Knocks on HBO, you’ve seen a much different atmosphere in Tampa Bay than in recent years. Training camp has an extremely competitive vibe and the losing culture seems to have completely vanished under second year Head Coach Dirk Koetter. With franchise quarterback Jameis Winston leading the way, I am not worried about a losing mentality entering the Tampa Bay locker room again. Sports networks and writers everywhere are labeling the Bucs as their dark horse playoff teams but bias aside, this team has the potential to do more than just make it there.

 

The Offense

Quarterback Jameis Winston is a good one; he can make all the throws and is an excellent leader. He is expected to lead this team to the playoffs in year three, usually a defining season for a QB. If he cuts down on his interceptions, Winston has the potential to contend for an MVP award as early as this season. Expect at least a top ten QB season from him. Backing him up appears to be the infamous interception-machine Ryan Fitzpatrick…yikes.

The offensive line wasn’t great in run blocking or pass protection last year but has potential. Ali Marpet will move from guard to center and allow J.R. Sweezy to slide in at right guard. This should be at least a league average unit in 2017.  

The running back situation is an interesting one as starter Doug Martin will miss the first three games with a suspension. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims will likely shoulder the load in his absence. Peyton Barber and 5th rounder Jeremy McNichols are both nice young players to look out for.

The receivers are what will make the offense great if they are able to reach their potential. Pro-Bowler Mike Evans headlines a talented wide receiver room. Free Agent DeSean Jackson gives Winston a legitimate deep threat to go with Evans and reliable slot receiver Adam Humphries. Look out for 3rd Round Pick Chris Godwin who is having a very good camp. To go with the wideouts, the Bucs could feature two Tight Ends in Cameron Brate and 1st Round Pick O.J. Howard. Winston will have no shortage of options in the passing game this season.

The Defense

The defensive line will be effective in 2017 as DT Gerald McCoy and company will be disruptive in the run game and passing game. McCoy will be paired with Free Agent DT Chris “Swaggy” Baker and veteran DE Robert Ayers. Last year’s second round pick Noah Spence can make some noise at DE as a pass-rusher.

The Buccaneers have two studs at linebacker with MLB Kwon Alexander and WLB Lavonte David. These two should have great seasons for this improving defense. The third linebacker will be a question mark with third rounder Kendell Beckwith potentially getting the job.

This defense, particularly the defensive backs, will have to prove that last year’s turnover total was not a fluke. Brent Grimes will have to keep defying father time as the number one corner like he did last season. Second-year corner Vernon Hargreaves looks more comfortable in the NFL, signaling a big second year. The safeties are a question mark as Keith Tandy and Chris Conte will need to play well again to keep their jobs. Second round pick Justin Evans has not played well this preseason.  

 

Team Schedule and Season Outlook

Best Case Scenario: 11-5

Jameis Winston competes for the MVP thanks to his new weapons and another year of experience. The defense continues to force turnovers and make Winston’s job easier. The balance of the team could overwhelm most opponents, leading to a division crown.

Worst Case Scenario: 8-8

If the defense flops and Jameis continues to make mistakes, the tough NFC South could haunt this team. This division has the best quarterbacks in the league and should never be taken lightly. Although, this roster is just too talented to go sub-.500 even in a deep NFC.

My Predictions

Week 1: @ Miami

Result: W (1-0)

Week 2: vs Chicago

Result: W (2-0)

Week 3: @ Minnesota

Result: W (3-0)

Week 4: vs New York Giants

Result: W (4-0)

Week 5: vs New England

Result: L (4-1)

Week 6: @ Arizona

Result: W (5-1)

Week 7: @ Buffalo

Result: L (5-2)

Week 8: vs Carolina

Result: W (6-2)

Week 9: @ New Orleans

Result: L (6-3)

Week 10: vs New York Jets

Result: W (7-3)

Week 11: BYE

Week 12: @ Atlanta

Result: L (7-4)

Week 13: @ Green Bay

Result: L (7-5)

Week 14: vs Detroit

Result: W (8-5)

Week 15: vs Atlanta

Result: W (9-5)

Week 16: @ Carolina

Result: L (9-6)

Week 17: vs New Orleans

Result: W (10-6)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should finally break the drought this season as I have them as a Wild Card at 10-6. With some good early season tests against the Patriots and Giants, we should see if this team has what it takes rather early. The division games will ultimately be the difference between no playoffs, a wild card, and the division crown. This team is very balanced while most of the other contending teams have more holes. The talent, coaching, and leadership should shape into success in Tampa this season and beyond. I believe Jameis Winston and company can get it done and get back to playing into January.

 

 

     

 

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Scott Riley View All

Hello sports fans and welcome to Sports Fan Entertainment! My name is Scott Riley and I am currently attending Iona College in New York. While I'm from the northeast, most of my teams reside in Florida (Bucs, Magic, Mets, Florida Gators). You can expect weekly NFL analysis and predictions from me as well as some NBA content! Hope you all enjoy SFE as we have big things ahead!

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