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One analyst predicts the Buccaneers will make the playoffs

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Playoffs are a realistic expectation, finally.

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making the playoffs. That, at least, is what they will tell you. It’s also what NFL.com’s Adam Schein predicts will happen this year, though he’s been optimistic (and wrong) about the Bucs before.

With Jackson, Howard and Chris Godwin joining Pro Bowler Mike Evans and the underrated Cameron Brate in the passing game, Jameis Winston will emerge as a legit star in Year 3. Nick Folk giving Roberto Aguayo competition will help focus and straighten out the kicking game for close contests. The defense is solid, especially with Gerald McCoy as a man on a mission.

I tend to agree, and it’s not even delusional optimism speaking. I’m not sure that replacing Roberto Aguayo will make all that big a difference overall, but certainly the team is better now than it was last year—and the Bucs were very close to making the playoffs then.

NFL seasons are, of course, hard to predict and dependent on a lot of luck. WIth just 16 games, you don’t get a lot of margin for error. A few bad throws at the wrong time, and suddenly you’ve lost three games. A few lucky bounces of the ball at the right time, and suddenly you’ve won three.

Those elements are impossible to control and therefore impossible to predict. But we can predict a few things: Jameis Winston is a good quarterback who’s likely to get better this year. DeSean Jackson adds speed to the Bucs’ offense. O.J. Howard adds versatility. The defense is mostly the same, but better health should help the pass rush, and Justin Evans could turn out to be a gem.

All of those predictions don’t need to come true for the Bucs to have more success than last year. Just one or two would be good enough—to do better, and to get to the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season.