The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to kick off their 2021 season as defending Super Bowl Champions. There has been much talk about how the Bucs are expected to put a much better offense on the field this season as well as an improved defense. That’s scary on all fronts, especially for the opposition.
So with that said, we’ll dive right into Bucs Nation’s predictions for the 2021 season.
1. Tom Brady passing stats - 4,500 yards, 35 TDs, and 10 interceptions
Bailey: Give me alllll the overs here. Brady totaled 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns and 12 picks last year, and that was without a real offseason to work with his new teammates and coaches. With any other quarterback, it would be reasonable to expect a dropoff in an age-44 season. But this is Tom Brady.
David: I’m taking the over across the board. Brady threw for higher numbers last year in his first season under Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich. Quarterbacks notoriously do poorly in their first years with Arians, so improvement isn’t out of the question. As scary as that might be.
James: Under, over, under. I think Brady ends up just a little over where he was last year in terms of passing yards but over on the touchdowns. In fact, he may go over what he did last year. I also believe he’s more efficient in this offense than he was last season allowing him to throw for fewer interceptions. My guess is he finishes around 4,200 yards, 44 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions.
Gil: I’m going under on the yardage, maybe a push on the touchdowns, and under on the interceptions. It won’t be that Brady and the Bucs are successful this season. It’s the fact that I don’t see the Bucs offense carry the team as they did a couple times in 2020, or having to play from behind as often nor in shootouts. The veteran quarterback split his touchdowns equally in halves in each half of last season. It’ll be the same kind of balance, but with an improved running game his arm won’t have to throw as much.
Mike: I’ll take under, over, over. With a full offseason of prep work, the expectation is this offense will be more efficient and balanced than last year. You hope to see the run game become more productive and take control of games late in tandem with the defense. If that happens more often than not, Brady’s yardage should fall somewhere in that 4,300-4,400 range. Touchdowns should easily reach 40+ with the bevy of offensive weaponry, but interceptions are always bound to sneak up in this offense as well. I see somewhere between 11-13.
2. Antonio Brown receiving stats - 500 yards, 6 touchdowns
Bailey: This is an easy over for me. Tom Brady loves him some Antonio Brown, and the two just click. The veteran receiver joined the team late last season and looked comfortable right away. Not to mention, with the attention the opposing defenses will have to pay to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, I’m thinking Brown may even have a chance to be the team’s top producer at the position.
James: Over. Way over. I honestly believe Brown could finish as the team’s leading receiver. There’s three players on this team that will end up at or around the 1,000 plateau and that is Brown, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin. I also think Brown could end up as the touchdown leader. Brady has targeted him quite a bit throughout training camp and in the game against Houston. Another year in the system will make him an even more viable option than he was down the stretch last season - and that’s a dangerous thing to think about.
David: Hard not to take the over on this one as well. Brown nearly hit these numbers last season after missing the first half of it. This year, the Brady and AB connection looks strong, so there’s no reason - outside of injury - these two won’t connect for close to twice this stat line.
Gil: This is hard for me. Why? There are so many receivers to throw the ball to on this Tampa Bay team. Evans, Godwin, Gronkowski, Brate, Miller, Howard, Bernard out of the backfield, little Jimmy down the street, fan boy Tom in the stands, and so on will all catch footballs from Brady. There is also a chance of a less-than-active passing game but for the right reasons thanks to the running game. Brown cashed-in last season after his buddy Tom helped him reach incentives on his contract by looking for him often near the end of the season. In eight games with the Bucs, he recorded 483 yards on 45 receptions with four touchdowns.
The last team to have three 1,000-yard receivers was the 2008 Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston. After those guys, there wasn’t much else including the lack of a running game. That’s not the case in Tampa Bay.
But I guess I am still going over on the yards (slightly), over on the touchdowns.
Mike: Massive over on yards, and I think touchdowns are a push. Brady absolutely adores AB, they were bunkmates for a good part of last year after all. With the latter supposedly feeling much more healthy and in shape, he should be more effective on a week-to-week basis. The Buccaneers have an excellent shot at having three 1,000-yard receivers. Godwin and Evans will likely remain interchangeable 1A and 1B in the redzone, so I could see AB getting in the 5-7 range, score-wise.
3. Ronald Jones II/Leonard Fournette rushing stats - 1500 yards, 15 touchdowns
Bailey: Under. As much as I like Jones and as nice as it is to have Fournette complementing him, I’m not sure combining for those numbers is in the cards this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got close to 1,500 yards—with Jones tallying about 800-850 while Fournette gets himself around 600—but the 15 combined touchdowns is where more of my doubts lie. Gio Bernard’s presence is also something to take into account, as we’re likely to see a larger role for him than we saw for LeSean McCoy in 2020.
David: My first under. This is good because I was getting worried I was bitten by the ‘homer’ bug. Rojo and Lenny looked great down the stretch, and even without Jones for the end, Fournette carried the workload splendidly. But Giovani Bernard didn’t come to be the next LeSean McCoy in Tampa. He came to be better. Which means more work, and fewer touches for the first two.
Gil: Over. That doesn’t mean Bernard won’t be involved. It just means that after Fournette proved to be valuable when it mattered most and after having that sit down and talk with Arians last season there was a different Fournette we witnessed. The offense is high on him, and still very high on Jones. I think hitting or surpassing 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns between the two is not a stretch.
James: Under. Though RoJo finished close to 1,000 yards last season, the addition of Gio will cut into their opportunity to get the ball. On top of that, Fournette was pretty hot and cold throughout the season. So even if RoJo hits the 1,000 mark I don’t think Regular Season Lenny will make up the rest of the difference to hit 1,500. Most of the touchdowns scored are going to come through the air and I don’t see the two of them getting 15 on the ground. Let’s not forget how good Brady is at the quarterback sneak, either.
Mike: I like the over on this one for yardage. Jones should finally push that 1,000-yard plateau if he can stay healthy for all 17 games (remember, it’s not 16 anymore). Lenny will definitely get enough work in to go over 500 yards. They might come close to the touchdowns, but I’m not feeling as confident given how much Tampa likes to throw deep in enemy territory.
4. Mike Evans receiving stats - 65 receptions, 1,100 yards and 10 TDs
Bailey: Over, under, under, I guess. It’s hard to project how the ball will be spread around this year—as it was last year, too. Chris Godwin should be the top candidate to lead the team in catches, plus a full season with Antonio Brown and—hopefully—O.J. Howard could cut into Evans’ numbers as well. But seven seasons into his career, Evans has never finished with fewer than 67 catches and I don’t see that being the case this year. As for his yardage, don’t take me taking the under as me saying he won’t hit the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth year in a row. With an extra game, I’m not betting against him to do so. I just don’t know that he gets all the way to 1,100. As for touchdowns, well, there are simply so many options at receiver and I don’t feel comfortable predicting double-digits from No. 13.
James: Push, under, under? I still think Evans finishes over 1,000 yards yet again but I think it parallels last year where the feat is not accomplished by much. I also think with Brown in the mix as well as Rob Gronkowski having a better understanding of the offense from the start, we’re going to see a dip in Evans’ touchdown total this season.
Gil: I’m saying over on all fronts here. Evans has proven time and time again that despite being spied on or doubled, sometimes triple covered he beats defenders with his hands. I think that Brady will have fun throwing him the football this season and will easily go beyond this stat line.
David: One doesn’t simply bet against Mike Evans. His ability to rack up seven-straight 1,000-yard seasons to start his career is amazing given the quarterback play he was doing it with during stretches. Add an extra game to the mix, and this record is as good as extended.
Mike: I’m with David. Evans is going to get his 1,000 yards. He’s too good not to produce consistently, and the record clearly matters to the team as well. Touchdowns might be a struggle given so many other mouths to feed, so I’ll go under on that one.
5. Chris Godwin receiving stats - 60 receptions, 800 yards, and 6 TDs
David: Back on my ‘over’ streak here. Godwin was injured for much of 2020 and still got himself a healthy 840-yards and seven touchdowns. He’s healthy again, hopefully stays that way, and has an extra game of catching passes from Tom Brady. Easy call.
James: Over. Godwin will have a stat line similar to that of Evans. Over 1,000 and probably around that 8 touchdown total. Godwin is the Swiss Army knife that Brady will look to in any and all situations. He’s a move the sticks guy, an outside guy, and an inside guy. Their chemistry had a hard time getting off the ground last year due to the injuries Godwin suffered early in the season, but they got it together down the stretch. Brady also said that Godwin has the best hands of any receiver he’s ever played with. Don’t be surprised if Godwin’s production is higher than Evans this season.
Bailey: Overs across the board. I really feel like Godwin will lead the team in receptions and I could see him finishing right around the 1,000-yard mark. The only thing that gives me pause is the touchdowns, but it seems like he and Brady have a strong connection. Seven or eight touchdowns seems about right for the man that Tampa Bay will have to lock up with a long-term deal after this year.
Gil: Over. A full season with a healthy Godwin will prove to be a great experience for Brady and the passing game. Godwin will be included in the fun.
Mike: Godwin is going to earn his big-money contract this year with authority. If he remains healthy, he very well could be the team’s leading receiver in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He’s a beast out of the slot and Brady has made some special connections with him already in their short time together.
6. Shaquil Barrett sacks - 12
Gil: I’m going with the over here. I think Barrett will be driven by the new incentives in his contract and while it may not be the performance of a couple seasons ago, he’ll get more than 12 sacks. And that’ll be because the improved secondary will force the opposing quarterbacks to hold on to the ball longer.
Bailey: I’m going with the under. It’s not that Barrett won’t be productive, and I can even see him getting back to double-digits after just missing it last year. But the Bucs have more depth at the position now with the addition of first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who will probably rotate in and keep the starters fresh more often than Anthony Nelson has in the past.
David: This is a tough one, and I’m going to take the under, but not by much. I think Shaq gets double-digits, but the Joe Tryon-Shoyinka hype is real, and he’ll eat some of those sack numbers.
James: Under for the exact reason David pointed out, but also because of the guy on the other side. Jason Pierre-Paul is at 100% for the first time since his arrival in Tampa and he told reporters he was playing at about 70% last year. A fully healthy JPP means even more production from his side of the ball.
Mike: As much as I’d love to predict another 19-sack campaign, I’ll take the under here. Shaq is an excellent player, and he should get back into double digits. That said, this defense schemes so many different looks and relies on basically everyone to rush the passer, so you’ll probably see sacks spread out much like last year.
7. Devin White - 100 solo tackles, 10 sacks
James: I’m going under, but I’m not happy about it. White will finish as one of the best linebackers in the NFL this season from a statistical standpoint, but I think he comes up just shy of 100 solo tackles and just shy of double-digit sacks.
David: It’s the word ‘solo’ for me. He did have 97 of them last year, but man that’s a lot of solo tackles on a defense that swarms to the ball carrier. I’m going under.
Bailey: Under, but only just. The man is just a beast and it really felt like he hit his stride down the stretch and into the playoffs last year. I think he ends up with 85-90 solo tackles and perhaps seven or eight sacks. One thing is for sure, though — he’ll be the heartbeat of the Tampa Bay defense and he’ll have a lot to say all year long.
Mike: Over on the tackles, under on the sacks. Getting double-digit sacks as an interior linebacker is absurd, but White is certainly talented enough to do it. I would just have to see it to believe it. Given White’s ability to giddy up all over the field, him leading the NFL in solo tackles wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
Gil: OK so, I’m going over. I really don’t think it’s so far-fetched this kid gets 100 solo tackles. The dude is all over the field and has no issues running down ball carriers upfield because he is just that damn fast. Add in an extra game, those 97 tackles from last season turns in 100-plus and 10-plus sacks.
8. Carlton Davis/Sean Murphy-Bunting interceptions - 8
Bailey: Let’s go with the over because, well, why not? There are graves to be dug, right? Davis blossomed into an absolute stud last year and Murphy-Bunting got hot in the playoffs and picked off a pass in three straight games, and I like their chances to terrorize opposing quarterbacks again in 2021. I can see one grabbing five and the other getting four, but don’t make me pick which one will be which.
David: I’m going to go under here with the caveat that if this was eight takeaways, I’d go with the over. They just won’t all be interceptions.
James: I’m taking the under here as well. They’ll have plenty of pass breakups, but don’t forget that Antoine Winfield Jr. will be lurking back there as well which will take away from some of the interceptions that the corners may be able to get.
Gil: I’m going over. Davis had four while Murphy-Bunting had one in 2020. I feel Murphy-Bunting has been progressively improving and as quarterbacks learned to throw away from Davis, I think opportunities will land elsewhere. I think these two will combine for more than eight interceptions.
Mike: Unless Davis made a deal with Medusa to free his hands from stone, I don’t see him doing much better than last year’s career-best 4 picks. He’ll remain among the league leaders in passes defensed. SMB was indispensable in the playoffs with his timely takeaways, but 2 or 3 seems like a more realistic expectation. So, I’m taking the under.
9. Team wins - 12
Bailey: Hammer that over! With there now being 17 games on the regular season schedule, the Bucs can lose four games and still finish with more than 12 wins. That’ll take some getting used to, as will predicting this team to win 13 games. I may never get used to that.
David: Over. This team is really good. Expert analysis.
James: Over. I made the prediction on 10 Tampa Bay’s “The Blitz” that the Buccaneers would finish 14-3 and I’m sticking with it.
Gil: Over. As David pointed out, easy expert analysis here as well.
Mike: This team has all the talent and confidence required to win 13-15 games, especially with the rest of their division seemingly in limbo. Anything under that is a disappointment.
10. Sleeper Predictions
Gil: Would it be that much of a sleeper pick if I say Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will surpass 10-plus sacks in his rookie season? Because he will, and he will do so convincingly. I was big on another rookie last season by the name of Antoine Winfield, Jr. This staff knows how to prepare their guys and know how to put their players in position to succeed. And in continuing my streak from last year in predicting big years for Buccaneers rookies, I’m doing so with Tryon-Shoyinka in 2021. Let’s also throw in double-digit tackles for loss as well as rookie of the year.
I’m telling you all. He’ll eat and eat often especially when he has Jason Pierre-Paul or Shaq Barrett lined up on the other end of the defensive line.
Bailey: Would it be a sleeper prediction to say that the Bucs will have more than one player voted into the Pro Bowl this year? I’m still not over the absolute farce of last year, when Jason Pierre-Paul was the team’s only Pro Bowl selection. But that won’t be my sleeper prediction here. Instead, I’ll focus this on Tristan Wirfs. As a rookie in 2020, he allowed just one sack. Let’s say he goes a step further this year and doesn’t allow any at all.
David: My sleeper prediction is going to be that Ross Cockrell ends up second on the team in interceptions. Given that he had zero last year, it would be quite the improvement, but that’s what we’ve seen from Cockrell this preseason. His versatility as a safety and cornerback only adds to his opportunities for Todd Bowles to get him on the field, and I think it pays dividends for the 30-year old defensive back.
James: O.J. Howard will have a bounce-back season. After having a down year in 2019 and a promising start derailed by injury in 2020, we’re going to see a more involved and reliable Howard in 2021. He won’t lead the tight ends in yards or touchdowns, but will provide a solid option to move the chains and in the end zone - which will give a glimpse into the future of his career, whether that’s with Tampa or elsewhere.
Mike: Lavonte David will have the best season of his career. Everyone forgets about Lavonte, and we, as a society, cannot allow this egregious oversight to continue year after year. You can argue Devin White being more dynamic, but David is absolutely still the better, more consistent football player. With the Bucs thrusting themselves into the spotlight and David being further motivated by winning for the first time, I see the perfect storm. David will remain among the league leaders in tackles, run stops and forced fumbles while grabbing a couple interceptions. Not only will he finally be rewarded with a Pro Bowl nod for the first time since 2015 (currently his only one, gag), but he’ll take first-team All-Pro honors for the first time since 2013 as well.
What are your predictions for the 2021 season? Let us know in the comments below!