2021 NFL Predictions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached the promised land and ended their long trophy drought by clinching the Super Bowl in 2020-2021.
Through the acquisition of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and other key pieces, the NFL franchise went from an afterthought to the team on everyone’s lips.
Success in the NFL, however, does not last for very long. Teams that achieve the impossible can find themselves at significantly longer football odds to win it all the following season.
Below are 2021-2022 NFL predictions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with an emphasis on three strengths and two weaknesses that could lift up or derail their season.
Strength: Tom Brady
Anyone who attempts to explain Tampa Bay’s 2020-2021 success without mentioning Tom Brady is doing a disservice to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
When Brady won his Super Bowl trophies and rings with New England, his success was explained away as belonging to coach Bill Belichick and the outstanding Patriots system.
Now that Brady left the Patriots, went to an underperforming Buccaneers, and led them to Super Bowl success in record time, there are no question marks remaining about his quality.
Even at 44 years old, Brady is one of the best QBs in the league. He threw 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season, better numbers than his 2019 season. While he may not be better 2020-2021, a similar performance would see the Buccaneers go very far this season.
Strength: Wide Receivers
Even the best quarterbacks in the NFL require great targets if they are to achieve significant yardage all season. Brady has two outstanding targets in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
A quick look at Evans’ stat line shows that he does not have a single season where he earned less than 1,000 yards in his entire NFL career. Godwin is similarly consistent, with 840 yards being his lowest total since his rookie year.
Given Brady’s history with the Patriots, where he had great success throwing to tricky receivers in combination with outstanding wide men, Evans and Godwin are a match made in heaven for the quarterback.
If the Buccaneers can keep these two healthy all year, they are likely to score enough points to beat nearly every team in the NFL home or away.
Strength: Experience of Success
One of the potential issues for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 was their lack of playoff experience and success. Apart from Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and a handful of other players, most of their roster had experience of playoff failures or none at all.
Now the entire roster knows precisely what it takes to compete in multiple playoff games, both at home and away, and emerge victorious. Such experience stands the Buccaneers in very good stead in the 2021-2022 season. Even if they hit a rough patch or find themselves behind in a playoff game, their players can cast their minds back to 2020-2021 for inspiration.
In the NFL, teams that know how to win are often the ones that do emerge victorious. Having the tools to succeed is part of the equation, but understanding what to do in pressure moments can separate serial winners from the also-rans.
The Bucs have a wealth of experience in their locker room. Last year, they relied on Brady and Gronk telling everyone else what it feels like to win playoff game after playoff game. Now nearly every player on their roster carries that understanding onto the field.
Weakness: Super Bowl Hangover
Winning is a double-edged sword. Teams that win playoff games and Super Bowls have the tools, experience, and hunger to win again. On the flip side, teams that achieve success in the NFL can also find themselves unable to replicate those highs in the future.
Complacency is a significant problem for many teams in the NFL. The history books are full of NFL teams that won a single Super Bowl or great players who did enough to win one ring. Those teams had the quality to win more trophies, but they lacked the mental toughness, discipline, and desire to put in the necessary work to repeat their success.
When you add in the fact that every team will want to beat the Buccaneers, their players are in for a tough 2021-2022 season. Even with a great start under their belt, having gone 4-1 in their opening five games, the Bucs cannot afford to become complacent.
The slightest drop in standards can prove fatal in the NFL. Teams will spend hours going over game footage of the Bucs, hoping to find a chink in their armor. If their performance levels drop by even five or ten percent, a lot of their wins could turn into losses.
Weakness: Father Time
Great players know how to perform at a high level, even as their bodies begin to decline. That is why someone like Tom Brady is still phenomenal into his 40s.
The problem is that father time waits for no one, even the greatest players of all time. Eventually, every player’s day in the sun comes to an end. That may happen to several of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ star players.
The defensive line has several key players who are the wrong age, including 32-year-old Jason Pierre-Paul and 34-year-old Ndamukong Suh. Those two are pivotal to the Bucs landing any pressure on opposition QBs. If their level drops, Brady may have to score 5 or 6 touchdowns a game to win NFL games.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is another who is not long for the NFL. He rarely plays every possession for the offense, but his absence through injury may have a detrimental effect on the team as the season progresses.
If he is fit for the playoffs, the Buccaneers are in a strong position. If they lose Gronk, while the likes of Pierre-Paul and Suh falter, they may not be the same team anymore.
That is without questioning whether Brady, for all his superhuman qualities, may begin to experience the effects of age as well.
Final Prediction: No Super Bowl Repeat
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the reigning Super Bowl champions and have made a 4-1 start to the 2021-2022 NFL season.
Despite an impressive beginning to the new campaign, a roster of talented players, and Tom Brady in the quarterback position, the Bucs are far from unbeatable.
A mixture of injuries, fatigue, and other teams stepping up their level will eventually lead to the Bucs failing to repeat their Super Bowl win.