It's been six years since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last made it to the playoffs. 11 years since they last won a playoff game. When is the pain and/or numbing sensation of "we know this story" going to end? If Gil Brandt is right, this year. In listing the teams most likely to end their playoff drought, the Bucs come in first place.
In Smith's nine years coaching the Bears, Chicago had 310 takeaways -- the most in the NFL during that span. That makes him a natural match for a Tampa Bay squad that posted a turnover differential of plus-10 last season, an excellent number augmented by 21 interceptions. In fact, Smith is really walking into an ideal situation, with expectations relatively low and talent levels sky-high. There's a good chance we'll see the Bucs competing this postseason, especially if the Carolina Panthers slip back to earth in the NFC South.
Yaaaay, more positive news on the Buccaneers. Or analysis, I guess. Most of you seem to agree, with 68% projecting the Bucs to get to 10+ wins. And that doesn't include the people who think 7-9 wins means playoffs, either. Positivity reins in Tampa.
Unfortunately, I have to be Buzz Killington. After all, the biggest problem for the Bucs this year is going to be their division. The New Orleans Saints always have a tremendous offense, and they had a quality defense to go with it last year. The Atlanta Falcons have Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones -- and they've restocked their offensive and defensive lines. The Carolina Panthers return a dominant defense, and Cam Newton can make up for a lot of deficiencies on offense.
Doing better than one or even two of those teams should be a realistic goal. But will that be enough to earn a wildcard in an NFC that features the 49ers, Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals all in one division? That's a tough sell. So to make the playoffs, the Bucs are probably going to have to win their division. They'll have the defense to do so. Here's to hoping the offense will be competent enough to get them there.