Why They Should Be: Forgiving Schedule
Of course when looking at projected win totals, the actual opponents that the Buccaneers will face is very important. And, in a piece of good news for Bucs fans looking for another year of relevance, the schedule this year is favorable for Tampa Bay. With contests vs the Texans, Colts, Titans, Bears, and Packers, there is opportunity for the Bucs to exceed expectations.
Especially in a still-weak NFC South that hosts a Saints team that perennially disappoints, a Panthers squad with a rookie QB still getting his footing, and the Falcons – who have a recent history of absolutely mishandling their top on-field talent - there is plenty of room for optimism in Tampa Bay.
There is absolutely a chance for the Bucs to shock people and not only avoid a poor season but in fact make a push for the playoffs.
Why They Might Not Be: Lack of Leadership
Losing Brady hurts. And it’s not just about his contributions on the field, Brady was famously known for being the ultimate teammate. He drove everyone to be better, and players played harder and worked smarter in order to live up to his expectations. That’s what a great leader does. With Brady gone, the Buccaneers have a crisis in leadership.
The best players on the team, Mike Evans, Lavonte David, Tristan Wirfs, Vita Vea, are either quieter keep-their-head-down kind of guys (Evans and David) or almost too jovial and laid back (Wirfs and Vea) to be effective leaders. The offense has lost Brady’s fire, and the defense used to draw motivation from the passion and energy of Devin White. But White publicly requested to leave Tampa Bay this offseason, undercutting his effectiveness as a leader of that locker room.
And anyone who’s watched Todd Bowles’ coaching style knows that he’s not the guy to provide that spark for the team. Bruce Arians was at one point, but his health and reduced role in the organization means that it's hard for him to be there to do that job. If the Bucs are going to embrace the underdog mentality and shock the world this season, they need to find someone to lead them to that promised land. It’s hard to know if they have that person yet.
Why They Should Be: Consistency in the Secondary
While many have maligned the depth and inconsistency of both sides of the line for Tampa Bay, the Bucs have done a commendable job in the defensive secondary. In fact, the secondary has quietly turned into one of the best in the league and a bright spot for these Buccaneers.
The foursome boasts three returning players in superstar safety Antoine Winfield and the extremely underrated CB duo of Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean. Joining them, and rounding out the group, is last-year’s breakout star for the Seattle Seahawks - Ryan Neal. This group doesn’t really have an exploitable weakness. They are physical, rangy, and capable of shutting down very talented passing attacks.
Especially when complimenting the fast and smart playstyle of Lavonte David in the middle of the field, this group boasts enough talent to seriously worry opposing offensive game planners. It’s another facet of this team that should elevate it far beyond the level of the worse teams in football.