The Buccaneers are one of the best teams in the NFL going into the 2021 season, but fans shouldn’t hold their breath for an elusive undefeated season.
Despite a fairly weak schedule for the first half of the season that should provide the Bucs with no shortage of wins to tac on their record, this Buccaneers team will absolutely not be the first team to go undefeated since the 1972 Dolphins.
Despite bringing back their entire Super Bowl-winning roster, which would obviously give them an advantage over past teams that nearly completed a perfect season, there are three key reasons why it simply will not occur.
The top reason is Tom Brady. It’s no secret that Brady’s arrival and on-field performance was the main factor in Tampa’s historic turnaround last season. However, many would argue that his most significant contribution to the team was his years of experience with winning and the gritty logistics of what it takes to consistently win Super Bowls.
Brady understands how little the regular season, individual awards, and personal statistics matter regarding ultimately winning a Super Bowl. That being the case, it’s very unlikely that Brady may even play every game this season, and why should he? If the team is already going to make the playoffs and has home-field advantage locked up, which shouldn’t be a problem given their personnel and position in the division, why risk getting key players hurt late in the season?
Ultimately, this will result in some games, most likely towards the back end of the season, in which the Bucs could rest the oldest QB in the league coming off knee surgery, opting to instead give Blaine Gabbert some time at the helm.
As has been seen throughout the league more and more in the modern era, without an effective QB, losses are likely to occur, so minimizing those risks when possible is prudent.
The second reason why undefeated is unlikely is the season extension. With an extra game, that equals a lot more opportunities for injuries in that specific game, but even more dangerous is the possible ramifications of the wear and tear on the bodies of players.
The NFL season is long, and every year after the Super Bowl, we hear the same stories about how players spent the playoffs playing through minor and major injuries. Just look at the Bucs from last season.
These occurrences will only be exacerbated by the 17th regular-season game this season, which means that teams will need to be even more diligent when it comes to resting players whenever possible.
The Bucs should not hesitate to take advantage of their position in a weaker division this year, where they will have undoubtedly earn a playoff spot, and ensure their players are well-rested and healthy for the real test during the playoffs.
Despite winning the Super Bowl, Tom Brady was one hit away from being out indefinitely for their entire playoff run last year, and the Bucs should rest players even at the expense of losing meaningless games whenever possible to try and avoid similar situations this coming year.
The third reason why a perfect season seems impossible is Bruce Arians’ decision-making. Arians will always prioritize player health and playoff readiness over regular-season awards.
Much like Brady, Arians and the rest of the Buccaneers are starting to learn that there is only one stat or award during the season that matters; the final score of the Super Bowl.
Every other aspect is secondary to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, so there is reason to believe that Arians will coach to player development later in the season once the playoff picture becomes clear, rather than coaching for stats and records.
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