Are Tom Brady's Buccaneers Super Bowl Bound?
After going 7-9 last season, it seems like it is Super Bowl or bust in Tampa Bay
Over the next six weeks or so, we’ll be preparing for the kickoff of the 2020 NFL season on September 10 by attempting to answer the most important question facing all 32 of the league’s franchises in order of finish from worst to first. Today’s team, the Buccaneers.
No. 22: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 Record: 7-9
Points For: 458 – Points Against: 449
Projected 2020 Over/Under Win Total: 9.5
Last season, no head coach in the NFL elected to throw the ball more than Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians. Quarterback Jameis Winston attempted a league-high 626 passes in 2019, leading him to finish second in the NFL with 33 touchdowns and first in both passing yards (5,109) and interceptions (30).
Now Winston is in New Orleans backing up 41-year-old Drew Brees, and Arians has 43-year-old Tom Brady as his starting quarterback.
With Brady under center, Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich likely won’t have to pass quite as frequently with Brady as they did with Winston, at least partially because they won’t have to make up for as many points off turnovers. That said, the Buccaneers, who don’t figure to have a strong running game despite the recent addition of LeSean McCoy, are still going to air it out early and often.
And when they do, Brady will have targets aplenty: the Bucs have one of the best pass-catching corps in the NFL, with wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller to go along with tight ends Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and new addition Rob Gronkowski. Though Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donté Stallworth might argue differently, Tampa Bay’s receiving options are probably the most-talented group Brady has ever had.
Even though Brady posted the fewest touchdowns (24) he’s thrown since 2006 last year, his arrival should be a huge boost to an already potent offensive team. In fact, Tampa was the only club with a sub-.500 record (7-9) but a positive point differential (+9) in 2019.
On the other side of the ball, the Bucs finished 15th in total defense, coming in first against the run and 30th against the pass. While defending the pass may continue to be an issue, Tampa Bay selected safety Antoine Winfield Jr., the son of three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, in the second round of the draft and are returning a cornerback trio (Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting) that was making strides at the end of last year under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Better on defense and better on offense, the Buccaneers face higher expectations than they have in at least the last decade, and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 2007, if that’s all they can accomplish, will be viewed as a failure.
“The competitive urgency index is: OFF THE CHARTS,” NFL.com’s Adam Rank wrote in June. “You don’t pull moves like this to win the NFC South. You do it to win the Super Bowl. Bruce Arians didn’t come back to coaching because he likes the pressed Cuban sandwiches in Ybor City. The idea is to win now. Like immediately.”
Taking all of that into account, is the addition of TB12 enough to help propel the Bucs to a berth in Super Bowl LV? (The game, by the way, is being played in Tampa Bay.) Were this a regular year with a normal offseason that would have provided ample time for Brady to develop chemistry and trust with his new teammates, the odds of the Bucs going all the way would be pretty good. As is, it seems like more of a coin-flip, especially because the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will likely run through experienced teams like the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints.
Of course, it’s also foolish to think that Brady, who has made it to the Super Bowl in more than half of his trips to the playoffs (nine out of 17) over his 20-year career, won’t be able to bend the odds in his favor, as he has so many times before. If he does, Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance will be a de facto home game for Tampa Bay, and you have to think the Buccaneers would be favored to win it.
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