The moment has arrived. It’s time to predict Tampa Bay’s 2020 record.
The most exciting offseason in Tampa Bay history is coming to a close. The Bucs look like a contender on paper, but as we all know, paper doesn’t win championships.
So, how will the Bucs fare this year in our eyes? Evan and Jon both picked the correct record last year and are looking to strike gold again this year, but the rest of the crew are looking to hit their own bullseye, as well.
Let’s dive in and find out what the staff thinks the Bucs’ final record will be in 2020.
Evan: Boy, oh boy. Isn’t a crazy time to not only be alive, but to be a Bucs fan as well?
This team reached levels of hype not seen since after the Super Bowl when it signed Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski over the offseason. Now, everyone is looking to Tampa Bay as one of the league’s contenders.
But there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we find out who this team really is. Turnovers, penalties, sacks, bad defense, and inopportune misses in the kicking game helped define the 2019 season and the team’s 7-9 record. We still need to see if Tampa Bay has corrected those issues.
Despite all of that, we saw the Bucs go on a four-game win streak and improve on defense as the year went on. Now, it’s a matter of determining whether or not the final eight games—where the Bucs went 5-3—were real or a fluke.
I do think the Bucs make the playoffs and I do think they improve on last year’s record, but it may not be the record most expect when 2020 is all said and done. But a trip to the postseason should offset any potential disappointment.
I definitely wish I had Jason’s optimism, that’s for sure!
Record prediction: 10-6
David: The hype surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is real. We’ve heard it before, and felt it before, but this time it’s different. This time, it’s not about if the right players do the right thing. We know the team has the right players, they just have to stay healthy. Every team faces that challenge.
The only real question is how long it will take for this team to come together and become an efficient unit. Mostly on offense. If the defense plays like it did in 2019, then it’s playoff caliber. If it gets better, their chances of making noise in those playoffs gets better and better.
Once Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and Scotty Miller all get on the same page, look out.
Record Prediction: 11-5
Jason: Anyone that is anyone is behind this team as being the real deal. Colin Cowherd declaratively stated, “this is not a rebuild!” Several of the players have sounded off with several quotes on how confident they are with not only the player talent, but their coaching, strategy and cohesion even amidst dealing with the adversity of the pandemic quarantine period.
We’ve heard Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan come out with propaganda to squelch the Bucs talk. There’s been a lot of talk and recognition by many other teams around the league and their all turning their heads. This team is fully stocked and loaded in all elements of the game to truly make a playoff run for the Lombardi.
The Buccaneers have the hardest schedule they’ve had in years. Not only is the NFC South one of the toughest divisions in the league, but we’re also facing the NFC North champs, Green Bay Packers and the reigning Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the competition, this team is primed and ready to compete. I’m an optimist, so I’m going bold with......
Record Prediction: 12-4
Jon: It’s an exciting time to be a Buccaneer fan. They appear to finally have a competent coaching staff, and their most notable off-season addition was swapping out Jameis Winston for future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. However, significant question marks remain with the rest of the roster.
On offense, the biggest issue remains tackle. Left tackle Donovan Smith isn’t awful, but he’s not above average either. Rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs is very talented, but rookies make mistakes. The tackle play we can expect is not a recipe for success with a 43-year-old mostly immobile quarterback who doesn’t like to take hits. Tampa Bay fans won’t miss Winston’s interceptions but I’m confident they’ll miss his ability to extend plays. I’m a fan of Ronald Jones but I’d be lying if I said he was a proven commodity. I will stick to my summer prediction that I’ll be surprised if the Bucs get more than four games out of Rob Gronkowski, who I think is a shell of his former self. I think it’s a safe bet that this offense won’t turn it over as often as Winston did, but I don’t believe they’ll be as prolific at scoring (think more punts).
That leads us to the defense, who I believe will need to carry this team to keep them in games, and to do that they will need to be elite. On defense the talent looks good on paper, but I’m concerned. The defensive line is aging. For the parts that aren’t, I think fans would have to be happy if Shaq Barrett produced half of his 19.5 sack performance from last season. Vita Vea is one of the best nose tackles in the game but his pass rushing has been woefully short of what Tampa needs to justify where they drafted him. It’s time for him to show it. JPP can’t stay healthy anymore and Ndamukong Suh doesn’t have a lot of pass rush ability left either. In short, I don’t think the Bucs will have the elite pass rush they need. That leaves the secondary to make up for it. I think they’ll be good, but elite? My issue here is that after the last decade, I need to see a Buccaneer defense show, from start to finish, that they’re good before I believe it makes sense for anyone to predict them to be elite. I think Todd Bowles is the right coach, but time is up. The Bucs are all in on the next two seasons, and they may only get this one out of Brady. It’s now or never.
Lastly, the competition. Just in their own division, due to Drew Brees returning for one more hurrah, the Saints are more talented. The rest of the NFC is similarly stacked. With a recent rule change, now seven teams from the conference will make the playoffs, and there’s going to be 2-4 good teams that don’t make it. Last season three of the division champs in the NFC went 13-3 and the wildcards were 11-5 and 10-6. For the Bucs I think 13-3 is out of reach and 10-6 may not be enough, with 9-7 a real possibility. I think the Bucs are right on the bubble. The good news is all you have to do is get into the dance. Once you do, you never know what can happen.
Record Prediction: 10-6
Bailey: The lads have said it all, at this point. There’s a reason for all of the hype surrounding the 2020 Bucs. Even before the additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay seemed headed in the right direction. A strong finish to 2019 by the young and hungry defense gave everyone plenty of reasons to be excited about the future, as long as Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul were kept around. Not only are they both back, but so is Ndamukong Suh. Those three guys, along with other key defenders like Vita Vea, Lavonte David, Devin White and all of those young up-and-comers in the secondary, should have the Buccaneer defense playing some good ball under Todd Bowles in 2020.
As for the offense, the talent has obviously been there. With Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, the Bucs already had a strong group of pass-catchers. Jameis Winston, even with his turnover problems, helped lead an offense that was top-five in total offense, No. 1 in passing offense and top-three in points per game last year. Swap him out for the G.O.A.T., and you can presumably expect fewer turnovers and improved offensive efficiency in 2020. Plus, adding Gronk to the mix while continuing to develop guys like Ronald Jones II and Scotty Miller should have this offense in good shape this year as well.
The thing is, though, we’re talking about the Bucs. This team’s history is so full of losing that it’s taken a toll on me and my expectations. There are naturally doubts that are circling around in my head. What if things don’t click? What if injuries pop up? What about the schedule? It’s not exactly an easy one. And how many times have the Bucs “won” the offseason only to disappoint when the real season rolls around?
But this time is different. It has to be different. This is Tom freaking Brady we’re talking about here. I don’t care if he’s 43 years old or 58 years old—I’m confident in his ability to make the most of the talent Tampa Bay has on its roster. Does that mean I expect him to lift a Lombardi Trophy in Raymond James Stadium next February? Maybe not, but I do think the Bucs finally get back to the playoffs under his direction. And hey, if you get to the postseason, anything can happen from there.
Record Prediction: 11-5
Chris: For the first time in a long time, I’m hopeful about a football season. Not only are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers relevant in the national conversation, but this may be the best roster they’ve put together in a very long time. To look exclusively at the offense, it’s absolutely unreal the roster that Jason Licht was able to put together. The addition of Tom Brady not only solidified that this team wants to win, they made it pretty clear that they want to win now, and to be honest, I think they will. After an up and down season in Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay, I think they finally have what it takes to ramp this offense to the next level.
This is shaping up to be one of, if not the best, supporting casts that Brady has ever played with. This, coupled with the air it out style of offense that Arians loves to run, makes me think that a lot of these receivers (tight ends included) will have a career year. While the tight ends have always been ignored in an Arians offense, I think that the addition of Brady will really spark the creativity for their use. With Gronk, Howard, and Brate leading the charge at the position, they better get creative. Otherwise, they’d be doing a disservice to the best tight end room in the NFL. As for the receivers, Evans and Godwin already speak for themselves. However, based on what we’ve seen so far in training camp, Scotty Miller may make a name for himself in 2020.
Now to look at the defense. Todd Bowles turned around one of the most historically inept defenses in only a years time. While the secondary started off quite shaky, they finished the year with a bang. As for the front seven, the return of Shaq, JPP, and Suh should strike fear into the hearts of every running-back the Bucs face this year. A league leading rush defense, combined with an ever improving secondary, should thrust the Bucs into at least the top half of the league’s defenses (top 10 as I predict).
One area of concern for me is the often under-discussed unit, special teams. While kicker Matt Gay had a fairly ok rookie season, the struggles through training camp muster up memories from the days of Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk, and Chandler Catanzaro. For whatever reason, the Bucs can never find a consistent kicker, despite spending 2 draft picks on them in recent years. In addition, the entire unit was quite lackluster in almost every area in 2019. While this is by no means horrific, special teams can really change the outcome of games.
I look for the Bucs to win some close ones, but lose some games that they should’ve won, in typical Bucs fashion. The years of losing really take a toll, and that’s why I can’t see them taking home a #1 seed. However, I think they’ll finally make the playoffs, something they haven’t done in a VERY long time.
Record Prediction: 10-6
James: So, David made me do a record prediction on the Locked On Bucs podcast the day the schedule dropped. Since I was forced into doing one then, I’m not going to go back on it now.
Adding Tom Brady is by far the biggest addition to this team. Protecting the football, his experience, his ability to get the ball out of his hands so quickly - it all adds up to maximizing one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. I mean good grief - Mike Evans has had 1,000 yards receiving in every year of his career with quarterbacks Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Jameis Winston, and Ryan Fitzpatrick - none of which have led this team to a postseason berth.
But it wasn’t just the quarterback’s fault. No, no, no. The defensive side of the ball has been a bad punchline for nearly a decade. Not anymore. On top of that, there isn’t as much pressure on them to try and make up for the high number of turnovers on offense (sorry, Winstonites - though all the picks weren’t 100% on Jameis, there is no question in my mind that the quarterback position this year will throw far fewer than Winston has in his first five seasons.)
Ultimately, it’s the balance between the two. The offense won’t be putting as much pressure on the defense by giving the ball away while the defense is expected to keep pressure off the offense by not being a complete sieve like we’ve seen in recent years. There aren’t any teams on the Bucs’ schedule that I don’t believe this team can’t beat, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some nail biters.
I think they lose the opener in New Orleans as the Bucs will be trying to get their legs under them with a new quarterback in a new system going up against a team that knows each other as well as any team in the league. I think they lose to Kansas City. Mahomes is a problem for everyone and as good as this secondary looked, Tyreek Hill’s speed is unguardable. And I think they lose in their last game of the year against Atlanta because the number one seed will already be locked up.
Yep. I’m calling it now and putting my name on it - the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win the NFC South and the road to the Lombardi Trophy literally will have to go through Raymond James Stadium from the divisional round to the confetti falling on the pirate ship.
Record Prediction: 13-3
Gil: Everyone’s enthusiasm and optimism here is great. James is just on a whole nother level with his prediction, though. But you know, there are a lot of things, as Jon noted, that remain questionable.
I won’t repeat exactly what he said, but I do echo his feelings on the secondary. They’re still young and while they played very well as the 2019 season progressed, uncertainty remains. Fortunately, the same aggressive system implemented by Todd Bowles suits Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean.
Where I differ slightly is on the offensive side of the ball. I do feel from a wide receiver and tight ends standpoint Tampa Bay will be just fine. And it will be because of Brady. Another group that will be fine because of him will be the offensive line. The veteran quarterback can go through his reads much faster and gets rid of the ball at a quicker rate. This will allow the offensive line enough time to protect the 43-year-old. Sure, there will be some pressure and sacks given up. But it won’t be like how it was when Winston was under center. Oh, and RoJo will be just fine.
Still, even with guys like Brady and Gronkowski, there is still a lot of room for Tampa bay to grow. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic.