They set the expectations high in Tampa with a 9.5 over-under win projection. And I’m sure many of you out there are betting on the Bucs making the playoffs if you’re betting the over here.
And I’m also sure many of you are also predicting the team to go all the way in 2020.
Like many looking to bet the over-under for win projection in 2020, placing a bet on the Buccaneers looks like a good idea. And while nothing is a shoo-in, it is safe to think Tom Brady will just reach the postseason.
When was the last time Brady failed to take his team to the playoffs? Hey, history is on your side here. Age 43 or not.
But it is more than just history. Here are 4 factors that will reinforce your thinking why the Buccaneers are a safer wager at the NFL betting sites to sail over their projection.
1. Pirates of the Air Raid
This unit can’t get any better. You already had Mike Evans, Curtis Godwin, Cameron Brate, and O.J. Howard on the team where Godwin and Evans were the star acts.
Now, you insert Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback to play the game and his sidekick, Rob Gronkowski, another surefire Hall of Famer.
Sure, the NFC South is full of dangerous passing units. Even the lowly Carolina Panthers can pull off something special on offense.
But no one has the quantity of weapons as the Buccaneers. Yes, the Saints have Michael Thomas and the Falcons have Julio Jones. The Saints have Alvin Kamara and the Falcons have Calvin Ridley.
The Panthers have Christian McCaffrey and D. J. Moore, who combined for 205 receptions.
But the Bucs have one of the NFL’s best-receiving duo in football and probably the best tight end trio.
This doesn’t even count dark horse candidates like Justin Watson and Scotty Miller.
Because Tom Brady made a career elevating talents like these over his 20 seasons (18 as a starter) in New England, following Sith Lord Belichick’s Patriots system. So anyone with potential will produce better with a guy like Brady under center.
Each of these talents minus Brady and Gronkowski are returning to the team, making them even more of a threat. They know the system, so the lack of off-season practices won’t affect them.
Who cares? You can’t say they’re Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but they’re Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. They are in the rare class of NFL players who can just strap on a pair of shoulder pads come Week 1 and somehow mesh with any set of teammates.
But with Gronk coming back after a one-year layoff? Hey, you might not want to bet against a Gronk-sized flop in 2020.
2. Running Game Piracy
Most outsiders believe the Buccaneers defense struggled in 2019 judging upon the fact they allowed 28.6 points per game. And when you look at the numbers, you will see why this was the case, even if numbers can hide some truth.
Let’s take a look.
The defense ranked 30th in pass defense and 29th in points allowed. They also ranked 28th in turnover differential and seventeenth in interceptions.
Much of this came because of former quarterback Jameis Winston’s lack of ball security, allowing himself to toss 30 passes to the other team.
Brady’s arrival, even if age is getting to him, will cut the interception total in half. Brady will throw somewhere between 10 and 15 interceptions, which puts last season’s differential into the plus, not the minus category.
Brady’s ball security also means the Bucs won’t face pressure of defending a short field.
And the front seven in Tampa is no joke, with proven talents like Vita Vea and veterans Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston. Talents who can start on any NFL roster.
Then at linebacker they have Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett, Devin White, and Jason Pierre-Paul. You can honestly place all four into the Pro Bowl in 2020. David and White led the team in tackles. Barrett led the league in sacks with 19.5 and Pierre-Paul logged 8.5 sacks.
It is also appropriate to mention the team’s total run defense finished first in the NFL with 73.8 rushing yards allowed per game.
But again, when you have blue-chip linebackers like White and David converging along with a solid push from Suh, Vea, and Gholston, you’re stopping the run.
Now that the Bucs don’t figure to be the turnover machine on offense in 2020, look for improvement from the pass defense, even the weak secondary.
Offense must fight for more yardage with longer fields, given Brady’s tendency to make better decisions than his predecessor. Never thought we’d ever say Brady had a predecessor not named Drew Bledsoe. This will leave more points on the field for opponents and will also create better field position for the Bucs.
3. Two-Dimensional Offense
Sure, Tom Brady leads a stellar passing game but don’t forget about the running game. Yes, they still struggled, but Ronald Jones put together a decent season considering his offensive line still wasn’t up to par.
Jones rushed for 724 yards and 6 touchdowns at 4.2 yards per carry. And it happened behind a subpar offensive line.
Enter Tristian Wirfs and Rob Gronkowski, 2 players whose run blocking skills are well-documented. Wirfs was a bull of a blocker in college and while we know Gronk for his receiving skills, he too was one of the better run blockers among tight ends.
Adding Wirfs and Gronk alone will make Jones even more of a productive runner.
But Jones is getting help in the backfield with Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a third-round pick out of Vanderbilt.
While Brady loves to check down to his backs and he has a good pass catching back in Dare Ogunbowale, he also has a pair of backs that are quick and productive in Jones and Vaughn, along with improvements in the offensive line to allow production.
It seemed like the Bucs went one-dimensional too often over the 2019 season, and they passed at least 62 percent of the time. However, Winston also carried the ball 59 times for 250 yards.
This means Winston either called his own number or dropped back to pass almost 68 percent of the time. Far too one-dimensional, especially for a team that also ranked 22nd in the NFL with 47 sacks allowed.
4. Dances With Third Place Finishers
The Buccaneers must love their schedule. Sure, there are challenges facing the likes of the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons twice a year. Things don’t get much easier as the Bucs face the AFC West, which can contain 4 explosive offenses.
Those final 2 games of the schedule. While teams know who they will play in 14 of their 16 games years in advance, something else decides those final 2 games.
Where one placed in the division the previous season. And given the Bucs third place finish in the NFC South in 2019, they get to play the other teams who finished in that same slot.
The Giants are a major work in progress, with a new coaching staff and a quarterback who has yet to play often with his starters at the skill positions. The Giants are one of those teams who will see a crash course in the preseason knocking out off-season workouts.
The Rams still boast a powerful offense, but they aren’t as deep as the Bucs. They boast a receiving duo as powerful as Evans and Godwin, but they don’t have the depth at the position. The same goes for the tight end and running back positions.
But they also took a major blow on defense when they lost 2 of their 3 best pass rushers in Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews, who accounted for almost 40 percent of the team’s sacks.
As for the Buccaneers, they get to match up against teams a cut below them from a talent standpoint, especially the Giants. The Rams will pose more of a challenge, but on paper, the Bucs defense matches well with the Rams offense.
It is safe to say Brady’s arrival changed everything in Tampa Bay. While they project the Bucs to win more games than they managed over the past 12 seasons, Brady gives them a legitimate shot to sail over their projection.
You can’t guarantee anything in the NFL, but any team that has Tom Brady, even a 43-year-old Brady, becomes a safe bet. Given the fact Brady has more talent at the skill positions than he did during his last years in New England gives more of a reason to bet the over.
So, what do you think about Brady and the Bucs? Safe bet that they have the talent necessary in 2020, or is time finally up for the Brady and Gronk show?