As crazy as these last three-to-four months have been for the world, the NFL’s craziness tried to keep up. And wouldn’t you know it, a lot of the craziness of this offseason has revolved around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In case you—somehow—haven’t kept up with the insanity that has been Tampa Bay’s offseason, let’s catch you up. The Bucs signed Tom Brady, signaling the end of the Jameis Winston era. They then traded for tight end Rob Gronkowski. And suddenly, with those two transactions, they became hot picks for the 2020 playoffs. It’s not hard to see why, of course, with Brady and Gronk joining an already-talented group in Tampa. But it’s still pretty unfamiliar territory for the Bucs, at least as far as the last 13-15 years go.
So, that brings us to the game-by-game predictions for 2020 from NFL Network’s Adam Rank. He broke down the Bucs schedule week-by-week to determine their final record for the season, then went ahead and gave a little bit of a bonus prediction for the playoffs. Let’s see how Tampa Bay will fare in Rank’s eyes:
Rank, as many folks do, believes the Bucs will drop their season opener in New Orleans against the Saints. It’s not necessarily a bold prediction, as the Saints will be the team to beat in the NFC once again. But Rank goes on to say that he thinks it will take some time for Brady to adjust to Bruce Arians’ offense, which might lead to a slow start for Tampa Bay. He has the Bucs beating the Panthers in Week 2 before falling on the road in Denver to the Broncos in Week 3. So, through three games, that leaves them at 1-2. Not great, considering the hype surrounding them.
After falling under .500 through three games, Rank has Tampa Bay playing some catch-up for the next few weeks. He has the team beating the Chargers at home in Week 4 to get back to .500, but predicts a Thursday Night Football loss in Chicago for the Bucs that will bring them back down to 2-3. The next week, he has the Bucs beating the Packers at Raymond James Stadium to get back to 3-3.
Starting to Slip...
This is where Rank’s predictions seem to differ from others’. In the first game of the Bucs’ three-week prime-time stretch, he has them falling to the Raiders in Las Vegas, dropping them to 3-4. Then comes a Monday Night Football loss to the Giants in New York. 3-5. If the Bucs are 3-5 at the halfway point in the season with an 0-5 road record, the fan base may implode.
Rebounding in a Big Way
Don’t worry, though, Bucs fans. Rank has your team getting hot late in the season. His predictions have Tampa Bay getting back to .500 with back-to-back wins over the Saints (at home) and the Panthers (on the road). From there, they continue to rise to the occasion with home wins over the Rams, the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and the Vikings. Heading into the final three weeks of the season, the Bucs are at 8-5. That’s not bad considering the 3-5 start...
Down the Stretch
At 8-5, Tampa Bay would presumably be within range of a playoff spot. Rank’s predictive Week 15 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta would hurt, but it wouldn’t destroy all hope. Because with wins over the Lions and the Falcons in Weeks 16 and 17, Rank has the Buccaneers finishing the 2020 regular season with a 10-6 record. How they got there, though, was certainly a wild ride.
Back in the Playoffs
So, Rank has the Bucs making their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season, finishing second in the NFC South with a 10-6 record. He gives them the NFC’s No. 6 seed and says, because of how they played down the stretch, they could be one of the more dangerous teams in the playoffs.
- A 2-3 start for the Bucs, while not all that crazy to think about, would feel like a disappointment.
- A loss to the Giants to drop them to 3-5 would cause absolute pandemonium within the Tampa Bay fan base. It would probably be best to stay off social media if that happens.
- A five-game winning streak to kick off the second half of the season—with wins over the Saints, Panthers, Rams, Chiefs and Vikings—is a tough ask. If the Bucs start slow, they’d have to do some serious bouncing back to get themselves back into the playoff picture.
- Breaking it down, Rank has the Bucs going 2-6 on the road and a perfect 8-0 at home. They haven’t had home-field advantage actually be much of an advantage in quite some time and have never finished undefeated at home. Their best home record was 7-1 in 1999. So, 8-0 would be unprecedented.
- All things considered, 10-6 is a fair expectation, one would think. The Saints are still the favorite in the NFC South—and the NFC—but seeing Tampa Bay back in the playoffs after such a long drought would surely lessen the sting of losing out on the division again. Once they get in the playoffs, with Tom Brady, who knows what could happen?
Thoughts on Adam Rank’s game-by-game predictions, Bucs Nation?