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8-8 is now a ‘bold’ prediction for the Buccaneers

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minicamp Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t had a winning season since 2010, which is not a good thing, to put it mildly. There’s been some level of optimism in every year since, and the Bucs have disappointed every time. I think we can forgive analysts for being a little pessimistic, then, though most are still predicting around an 8-8 finish for the Bucs.

One such analyst: NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison, who’s making ‘bold predictions’ for every year. His supposedly ‘bold’ prediction? Dirk Koetter will win as many games this season, as Lovie Smith did in his two seasons. Which means an 8-8 finish, at least.

No more losing seasons in Tampa Bay. Well, maybe not forever. In terms of 2016, however, the Bucs will at least break even. They'll split with the Panthers. They'll finish ahead of the Falcons, too, who many feel will be better in Year 2 of the Dan Quinn era. The key is not Jameis Winston taking a step forward (although if the quarterback regresses, that could be problematic). It's the improvement of the defense, which finished 26th in points allowed in 2015. With free agent Robert Ayers and rookies Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence in the fold, we can do better than 26th, fellas.

How low we have fallen, that a two-game improvement in wins is now bold. That is just pathetic.

But that pathetic sheen is not going to disappear until Tampa Bay actually starts winning games. Jameis Winston should help, there. As should the improvements on defense and, in particular, Mike Smith’s presence. We’ll find out whether that’s enough over the next months.