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Can the Buccaneers get into the playoffs? ESPN says no

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set up for short- and long-term success: they have a few superstars, a new quarterback, they addressed all of their needs, and the players are in their second year in a system -- more comfortable and able to play faster, although that may not apply to the offense under Dirk Koetter. More than that, the Bucs are playing in a division that saw a 7-8-1 team take the division crown, and an eventual two-win team that wasn't officially eliminated until week 13 of the regular season.

In fact, that same team now has a number of factors working in its favor: the many close games it lost last year should swing closer to 50/50 -- no team can consistently win close games over the long term. And the fact that their offensive coordinator should be healthy for the entire season should be helpful as well.

Even so, ESPN's beat writers give the Bucs no shot at winning the division whatsoever. Not even with Jameis WInston in the house. The Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints -- none of whom were significantly better than the Bucs last year -- all get some play. The Buccaneers don't even get a single mention and on serious consideration.

The Bucs may not be likely to win the division, but it's far too early to rule it out. And it's certainly ludicrous to consider the other three teams to be much more competitive given the utter dreck we saw coming out of this division last year.