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Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter will determine Buccaneers' "Cinderella" season

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NFL.com has been going through teams that could potentially have a so-called Cinderella season. You know: your stepmom and stepsisters bull you, try to prevent you from going to a ball, you get a dress from your godmother, you get to the dance, meet the prince, and then run away at midnight. That's how the story ends, right? I mean, that is how it always ends for the Bucs, anyway.

Okay, back to the Cinderella thing. Conor Orr thinks the Bucs are more likely to have a good season and miss the playoffs than really make it very far, but he does think Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter are key to the team's season. Shocking, I know. Who'd think a quarterback and head coach would be important for any team's prospects?

The team sacrificed a lot to keep Winston on track, including the puzzling and aggressive move to fire coach Lovie Smith and replace him with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Winston, though saddened by the firing of Smith, is on record expressing how happy he is to keep the same playbook. That will help, but can Koetter rally a team like Smith could? People easily forget that Smith oversaw the vast improvement of a bad Buccaneers team last year. There are two schools of thought among NFL decision-makers on the move, but the encouraging one suggests Koetter has been a hidden gem for more than half a decade. Had the Falcons powerhouse not crumbled so swiftly when he was OC in Atlanta, Koetter would be a head coach somewhere else.

Realistically, the Bucs odds of really making it very far this season aren't very great. That, at least, is what analysts and oddsmakers keep telling us. Fans tend to have a different view, but no one ever accused us of being particularly realistic, of course.

The question is mostly: how much will Jameis Winston improve, and how much will Mike Smith improve the defense? If Winston takes a few crucial steps, the offense should be humming. And on defense, the Bucs have the personnel to put together some pretty good performances. But if Winston's development falters, or Mike Smith turns out not to actually be an improvement over Lovie Smith -- well, then the Bucs may have a bit of a problem, and they'll end up running away from the big dance again.