The Buccaneers' eventful offseason, which included the earth-shaking signing of Tom Brady, has convinced many analysts that they are going to leap to double-digit victories this season
What does the addition of Tom Brady mean for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020? According to a good number of NFL analysts it means a very real shot at a return to the postseason.
Adding the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history was certainly the Buccaneers' splashiest move since the end of the 2019 season (or, perhaps, ever) but it wasn't the only thing team management has done to maximize its chances for a championship. The Buccaneers also traded for Brady's favorite touchdown partner in tight end Rob Gronkowski, moved aggressively to keep free agency from dismantling its defensive front line and found their likely answer at right tackle in the first round of the draft with the trade up and selection of Tristan Wirfs.
All of that has been enough to convince many experts - not to mention a video game - that the Buccaneers will make a leap from their 7-9 finish in 2019 to double-digit wins and a shot at playing in January for the first time since 2007.
Here's what they're saying:
• ESPN's Ryan Clark goes through the Bucs' schedule game by game and comes out with an 11-5 record
Clark has Tampa Bay losing the Tom Brady-Drew Brees showdown in New Orleans in Week One but paints a very enticing picture of the Buccaneers' home opener in Week Two.
(Video Transcript) "I think that's a win. Listen, you look at this team, it's going to be raucous in Tampa Bay. There's going to be people all on the ship, there's going to be cannons blaring, it's going to be a great atmosphere and they're going to be excited about Tom Brady and this new-look team. I think the Carolina Panthers might actually get pummeled there.
• ESPN Staff Writer Jenna Laine gets to the same 11-5 record as Clark by a slightly different path
Clark's five losses for the Buccaneers were both Saints games, a home game against Kansas City and a road game against the Panthers. Laine predicts four of the same five losses but has Tampa Bay beating Brees and the Saints at home while losing to Green Bay at Raymond James Stadium. Thus, both Clark and Laine (not that Clark and Lane) have the Bucs going 6-2 at home and 5-3 on the road.
Laine: "The 2020 season is full of rematches of games Brady has been victorious in. He will see Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 8 after last defeating them 31-17 in 2018 in a game that was tied in the fourth quarter and did not feature Rob Gronkowski, who was injured. Brady is a career 1-1 against Rodgers, whom he called "one of my favorite guys to watch."
• USA Today's Nate Davis sees the Bucs getting to 10-6 and earning a Wild Card berth
Davis goes through the NFL's 256-game schedule and predicts the winner of each one, which thereby produces a full set of standings. That approach produced 10 wins for the Buccaneers but not a division title because the Saints came out with a 12-4 mark. The Buccaneers are the first of two Wild Cards in Davis's projections, the second being the 9-7 Eagles.
Davis: "QB Tom Brady's arrival has made them the league's unexpected darlings, ones boasting a franchise-record five games in prime time. Could take time for a new offense - it's assimilating unretired TE Rob Gronkowski and rookie OT Tristan Wirfs and RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn - to jell. But even in a highly competitive division, the Bucs appear to have ample firepower to end a 12-year playoff drought and make a serious push beyond that."
• Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports has the Bucs finishing 10-6, too, and thinks they will be drawing a lot of attention
Dajani uses the game-by-game method to get to 10 wins for the Buccaneers, though they have to end on a two-game winning streak to get to double digits after dropping consecutive games to Minnesota and Atlanta right after their Week 13 bye.
Dajani: "No, it's not the Baltimore Ravens or the Kansas City Chiefs, the team everyone is excited about in 2020 is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bruce Arians and Co. ditched Jameis Winston for one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and they are hoping that Tom Brady can get the Buccaneers to the postseason for the first time since 2007.
"It's not just Brady that's heading to Tampa Bay either, as tight end Rob Gronkowski has decided to come out of retirement to help the Buccaneers as well. Can this New England Patriots dynamic duo find instant success in Tampa? Will Brady be able to establish a nice relationship with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin? If so, this Buccaneers team could be a legitimate contender in the NFC."
• Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport puts the Buccaneers at 10-6, too, but doesn't have them surpassing the Saints "yet"
Davenport sees the Saints winning a fourth consecutive NFC South title with a 12-4 record, followed by the Buccaneers two games back, then the 8-8 Falcons and the 3-13 Panthers. Given his predictions for the other three NFC divisions, Davenport would have the Buccaneers battling it out with the 10-6 Vikings and 10-6 Seahawks for the two Wild Card spots.
Davenport: "Beginning with a Week 1 matchup against the Saints in New Orleans, there won't be a more scrutinized team in the league in 2020. The Bucs' two battles with Drew Brees and the Saints will be must-see TV. So will home dates with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 6 and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 12.
"The Bucs have offensive weapons galore and the NFL's best run defense from a year ago, but their run game and secondary are still question marks. Even with Brady in the fold, the Buccaneers aren't as good as the Saints. At least not yet."
• Nick Goss of Yahoo Sports is even higher on the Bucs' chances in 2020, getting them to 12-4
Goss splits the Bucs schedule into home and away lists and predicts that the team goes 6-2 in both of those categories. The culprits on the home schedule are Green Bay and Kansas City, while the two losses on the road would be in the division at New Orleans and Atlanta.
Goss: "Oddsmakers also agree that Tampa Bay is a real threat to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2020. They have given the Buccaneers the fifth-best odds to win Super Bowl LV.
"The Bucs, however, don't have a particularly easy schedule next season Sure, the NFC South isn't great outside of the Bucs and New Orleans Saints, but Tampa Bay has to play a tough NFC North in 2020, as well as a showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs as part of four games versus the AFC West."
• Bill Enright of Sports Illustrated doesn't predict a final record but sets the Bucs' projected wins total at 9.5
Enright points out that the Buccaneers have the fourth-toughest home schedule in the league but the third-easiest road schedule.
Enright: "Expectations are sky high for Tampa Bay with Tom Brady & Rob Gronkowski's arrival. The question that should be asked is if the defense can meet those expectations as well. This team really needs young linebacker Devin White to take a leap forward while cagey veteran linebacker Lavonte David definitely can't begin to show his age."
• Sports Illustrated's Jordan Heck also used "Madden NFL 2020" to simulate the NFL season and a 10-6 record was just the beginning for the Buccaneers
In the Madden-verse, the Buccaneers are 10-6 as in many predictions above, but in this case they take the NFC South title on a tiebreaker from the Saints, who also finish 10-6 and get a Wild Card berth. The rest of the conference postseason field consists of the Cowboys, Vikings, Bears and Rams.
The Bucs have to play the Saints in the playoffs again, hosting a Wild Card game and barely getting by in a shootout. A road win at Minnesota sets up the NFC Championship Game in Dallas, in which the Buccaneers also prevail. That leads to a Super Bowl matchup with the Titans, which Brady and the Buccaneers take, 13-10.
To say that the Madden simulation is high on a Brady-led Buccaneers squad is an understatement. In addition to the Super Bowl win the Buccaneers also have the league MVP in Tom Brady and the NFC's top defensive back in Jamel Dean.
Heck, on the Super Bowl climax: "It was a defensive battle for most of the game, but Tampa Bay was able to do just enough on its last drive of the game. Brady led the Bucs down field and drained the clock for a game-winning field goal by Matt Gay. Brady ended up as the Super Bowl MVP, finishing 12-of-17 for 143 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers."