The Bucs performed better than expected in year two under Raheem Morris. Can they take the next step and contend for the playoffs in 2011? Al Dannity gives his take.
The players The draft was a mixed bag for the Bucs with two great picks early but few bargains with the potential to break out from the later rounds. First the good news, Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers just made Tampa Bay’s defensive line a lot more frightening. In a division with two big time quarterbacks, Tampa Bay now have weapons that will disrupt the passing game of opponents such as Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Free agency could make the Bucs even stronger on D. Tampa Bay needs to spend money in order to stay above the NFL salary floor, that means one or two high priced acquisitions could be on their way. Nnamdi Asomugha may want to start checking out McMansions in Florida as Tampa Bay could certainly do with his services, and not just because the man can play defense.
Focussing on defense made sense as the Bucs got a lot out of their younger offensive contributors last season. LeGarrette Blount looks like he was an absolute steal while Mike Williams (not the Seattle one) has developed as a potent weapon for Josh Freeman. We’ve seen hot young teams in Tampa Bay endure slumps before, the Bucs need to ensure they avoid the mistakes of the past and get ready for a jump to the next level.
Mark your calendar Tampa Bay won’t be overawed by any of their opponents leading up to the bye week but Raheem Morris knows that it will be a testing seven week stretch. Starting at home against Detroit, the Bucs then take on the Vikings, Falcons, Colts, 49ers, Saints, and Bears before stopping to catch their breath in Week 8.
The biggest test of the year comes in Week 11 at Green Bay but the post-bye slate also features both of Tampa Bay’s games against the Panthers. I doubt Carolina will be as bad as last season but the Bucs need to win both of these games if they are serious about making the post-season.
The verdict NFL betting fans were perplexed by Tampa Bay last season. They were upstarts getting wins nobody expected but also a team prone to struggling against some of the league’s weaker sides. I like the Bucs to improve on the latter front this season and there are enough winnable games at home for them to stay in the hunt for the NFC South deep into the season. Last year 10-6 was good enough for third in the division but saw them fall short of the playoffs. It promises to be another close call in 2011, with Tampa Bay teasing fans all year long between possible 9-7 and 11-5 finishes. Against my gut, which always warns me against matching the previous season’s record, I’m going with my head and saying it’s another 10-6 year for Tampa Bay.