I have an ongoing wager with a TFM staffer that a certain NFL team from North/Central Florida will not make the playoffs this season. I think you can guess which staffer, and his blindly beloved team (namely their quarterback) I’m talking about. But the real roster on the rise in the part of Florida formally reserved for Gator football before the heartache of Urban Meyer’s one-year retirement (to spend time with his family, as an ESPN traveling commentator) now has a second relevant team: the Buccaneers.
Yes, those same Bucs that picked #1 overall just last year with their selection of Jameis Winston, prying him away from a lucrative offer with Deadliest Catch to quarterback what was seemingly one of the most inept franchises in all of football. The Bucs, going through more retreads as coaches than a 2 am.m drunken stroll through the contacts, now begin the Dirk Koetter era, a man perhaps best known for failing at Arizona State.
However, Koetter has resurrected his career with highly successful offensive coordinator stints around the league, namely grooming Matt Ryan in Atlanta. The Bucs, a roster more fucked than Benghazi just two years ago, now feature perhaps the best young trio in the game in Winston, WR Mike Evans, and resurgent running back Doug Martin. Martin, left for dead by most prognosticators and fantasy drafts, had the best season of his career in a contract year last season, averaging almost 100 yards of total offense per game in his first fully healthy season since his rookie campaign.
On defense, with the fall of Suh in Miami, the Bucs might have the league’s best interior lineman in Gerald McCoy and an absolute star linebacker somehow nobody talks about: Lavonte David. With the addition of veteran corner Brent Grimes and the continued maturation of what is one of the league’s most youthful rosters, the Bucs trajectory points towards steady progression.
But this season I see a massive jump. Winston displayed composure and decision making off the field finally matching his on-field performance so far as the face of the franchise, abstaining from the litany of bizarre indiscretions that had supermarket surveillance working overtime in Tallahassee. Winston has kept a low profile, exactly as was promised to team executives leading up to his selection. Add in the newly mighty Doug muscle hamster Martin, a healthy Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and the return of tight end Austin Sefarian Jenkins, and the Buccaneers are perhaps the most talented young offense in the league.
The Bucs also have a favorable schedule. That’s how life is in the NFC South. The Panthers will regress some, the Saints aren’t getting any younger at quarterback, and the Falcons still have Ryan throwing INTs. In addition to getting to play in the NFC South, they get to play the Chargers, Raiders, Bears, 49ers, and Cowboys. That kind of schedule sets up nicely to find themselves sitting pretty for a playoff berth.
I see the Bucs finishing 10-6, ranking in the middle of the pack in most offensive and defensive categories, with Koetter’s first season a resounding success. The kind of second season for Jameis that justifies a nice crab leg dinner..
Image via YouTube