People left, right and center are chiming in on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers performance this season. Today it's Adam Schein's turn, who penned a column for NFL.com naming the Bucs a "rare" sleeper team. Apparently sleeper teams are now rare, and people question the existence of the concept entirely. News to me, but it makes for an interesting framing, I guess.
Tampa is going to be right in the mix all season long. I see these young Bucs winning nine games (great minds think alike, mom!) and seriously competing for a playoff spot. I think they are the second-best team in the NFC South (behind the reigning NFC champion Panthers). And in five years, Bucs fans will look back on the 2016 season as the building-block campaign that catapulted them toward sustained success.
Las Vegas and Football Outsiders don't really see it, though, and I've seen people name the Bucs a sleeper pick every single year. Bill Barnwell, formerly of Grantland, has a particular knack for picking the Bucs as a potential breakout team year after year. Somehow, those picks never pan out.
Which in no way means the Bucs aren't a valid sleeper pick this year. Of course they are: they have a talented young quarterback in his second year, added both veteran and rookie depth to their struggling defense, patched holes on offense and ehm...added a kicker. They clearly want to run the ball and lean on Doug Martin and Charles Sims on offense, but that's not a bad thing given the numbers they put up last year. This is far from a perfect team, but a few key players returning from injury and staying healthy could go a long way.
At the same time, we've seen the song and dance of adding lots of on-paper talent and then failing to produce once the actual games start a little too often to be entirely scepsis-free, here.