Through my perspective, there is something different about these Buccaneers. They’ve “won” an offseason before, but this offseason suggests that it may be time to take them seriously.
The Buccaneers have not participated in an NFL playoff game since the 2007 season. Yet, the growing sense is that will change this season and may lead to a deep postseason run. If you like predictions, you’re in the right place, and here is the 2020-21 season prediction for the Bucs.
2019-20 season rundown
The hiring of Bruce Arians as head coach prior to last season was an important acquisition, especially for the Buccaneers’ offensive production. The offense was third overall in total offense and scoring offense, but their season was ultimately marred by former starting quarterback Jameis Winston being the first QB in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He also established an NFL record seven pick-sixes thrown in a single season.
On defense, a cheap free agency signing of former Denver Bronco edge rusher Shaquill Barrett gifted the Buccaneers defense with the league’s sack leader with 19.5. The young defense was also fifth in the league in takeaways, but had trouble keeping opponents off the scoreboard (No. 29 in scoring defense).
A 2-6 start by the Bucs ended in 7-9 fashion but the last play of the season was a profound summation of both Winston and the team itself. First play in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons concluded with Winston throwing a pick-six to Falcons linebacker Deion Jones and closed the curtain on the inconsistent season.
Offseason Key Additions
QB Tom Brady - Age aside, Brady is still the most reliable quarterback that the Buccaneers have had in a very long time. A change of scenery and an upgrade at skill positions for Brady can be the right mixture for a unit that has an abundance of potential.
TE Rob Gronkowski - A significant and attention grabbing addition just about a month ago that ended Gronkowski’s early retirement and gave the Bucs offense a jolt of explosiveness. Don’t let Gronkowski’s time off fool you. He maintained good football shape and a year off from the battering of the NFL can do wonders for his nagging injury recovery.
OT Tristin Wirfs (Rookie) - The 20th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was exactly what the Bucs needed on a below average offensive line. Wirfs will start off at right tackle but is pretty interchangeable at both tackle spots.
FS Antoine Winfield Jr. (Rookie) - The team’s second round selection may prove to be their best draftee amongst this year’s draft class. Winfield is a savvy safety prospect that has a habit of making not only a number of takeaways but takeaways at the critical juncture of a game.
Offseason Key Departures
QB Jameis Winston - Whenever Winston was playing at his best, he was able to make plays for the Tampa offense. On the other hand, he was a walking turnover and was a legitimate liability at times.
Key games on the schedule
Week 1 - at New Orleans Saints: The Brady era commences in New Orleans and a lethal shootout may be the likely portrayal. What a way for Brady to introduce himself by waltzing into New Orleans and getting an important division win.
Week 6 - vs. Green Bay Packers: A matchup that will play a considerable part in the NFC playoff race.
Week 12 - vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The defending Super Bowl champs are on the road and will be a legit barometer test to how good the Bucs can actually be.
Week 15 - at Atlanta Falcons: The first of two contests between the teams in the final three weeks of the season. If both are in playoff position at this point, playoff seeding is in the balance here.
I’m drinking the kool-aid and if it results in me looking foolish, then so be it. Yes, it is easy to look in the past and declare that the Buccaneers have festive offseasons all the time, resulting in the Bucs watching the playoffs instead of playing in them. But remember how the Minnesota Vikings added an aging but Super Bowl-winning former league MVP at quarterback in 2009? Remember how that helped close the gap for a team that already had young talent and just needed a hint of playoff experience at the most important position?
Well, to me, this is just that and even more. The Bucs didn’t just add some ordinary Joe. They added a player who some perceive to be the greatest QB of all-time.
Brady was not his best in New England last season but neither were the weapons around him, and now he has clear upgrades in Tampa Bay at receiver and tight end. His presence brings a winning mentality to a team that desperately needed it.
If defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can improve the secondary after being a poor unit last season, then the Buccaneers can find themselves in a lot of ball games. Which makes a clutch passer like Brady the difference between closing out a game and falling short.