By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
After retiring from coaching in 2018, Bruce Arians returned to the NFL a year later after realizing the commentary business wasn’t made for him and his trademark Kangol cap just yet.
So Arians would begin to quietly, or not so quietly, float his desire to return to coaching and he wasn’t shy when he said that the Browns of all teams are the one team he’d really like to come back to coach.
The Browns, as they tend to do oh so often, passed on Arians to retain the services of Freddie Kitchens, a man that could be outcoached by the “Ask Madden” feature on any version of the Madden NFL game from the past decade.
What that says about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, we’re not quite sure of, but after realizing going to the Browns wasn’t going to happen, Arians eventually made his way to the Sunshine State like many retirees before him.
However, instead of enjoying retirement, Arians elected to try to salvage Jameis Winston’s career, and while Jameis did provide a number of good memories for the Bucs during his brief tenure there, he provided many more instances of befuddling decision making and laugh out loud gaffes with the football.
Famous Jameis would throw for 30 touchdowns in 2019, and an-NFL high 30 interceptions, becoming the first QB to be enshrined in the 30/30 club and the first quarterback to throw 30 picks in a season since Vinny Testaverde accomplished that feat 32 years ago.
It was the type of performance that sent Arians and the Bucs into the offseason eyeing the biggest free-agent move in team history — the signing of the “GOAT”.
Buccaneers 2019 Season Review
If you asked any fan of the Buccaneers a season ago if they believe Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski would re-unite and link up with the Bucs a year later, they probably would have looked at you with the same confused look of Tucker Carlson.
But in the words of the brilliant Matthew McConaughey as he was aimlessly driving around in a Cadillac talking to himself for a strange duration of time, “Sometimes you’ve got to go back, to actually move forward.”
And, in a large sense, this is exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in 2019 to set them up for their potential move into Super Bowl contendership today.
The Bucs 2019 season would begin with the hiring of the aforementioned Bruce Arians, who would take over the reins for Dirk Koetter, who was fired after leading the Bucs to a 5-11 finish in 2018 and who was single-handedly responsible for the one time Mitchell Trubisky looked like a competent NFL quarterback.
Arians would come to Tampa inheriting a wealth of offensive talent, however, and the fiery coach knew that if he could get Jameis Winston’s career back on track that the Bucs could potentially have something special in the making.
Instead, Jameis continued the maddening inconsistent play that had plagued him all throughout his career leading into 2019. One week he would look flawless in a 55-point offensive explosion against the Rams, a few weeks later he’d toss 5 interceptions at home in a 11-point loss to a bad Carolina team.
After leading Tampa Bay to a 2-6 start, Jameis would get on a hot streak and rattle off five wins over his next six starts to pull the Bucs back to .500 and give them an outside shot at a playoff berth.
Alas, Jameis would once again revert back to “Bad Jameis” and end the season losing back-to-back games against the Texans and Falcons, the latter of which ended on a pick-six on the first play of overtime.
It couldn’t have been a better way to end the 2019 Bucs season if they tried.
However, a perfect storm of sorts was about to come together. The Patriots were also about to suffer a fateful loss in Week 17, one that would be the domino to ‘Touchdown Tom’ going to ‘Tompa Bay’ with an old friend, with hopes at one last chase at a seventh ring.
One Step Closer to Residency at Del Boca Vista
QB Tom Brady (Patriots)
TE Rob Gronkowski (Trade/Patriots)
RB LeSean McCoy (Chiefs)
OT Joe Haeg (Colts)
Will Forever Have PTSD from a Creamsicle and Anything Related to Pirates
QB Jameis Winston (Saints)
DE Carl Nassib (Raiders)
WR Breshad Perriman (Jets)
RB Peyton Barber (Washington)
Buccaneers 2020 Offensive Preview
After adding Tom Brady, LeSean McCoy, and Rob Gronkowski, there’s no question that the Tampa Bay Bucs are the overwhelming favorites to dominate the 2011 NFL Season.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay (and apparently the rest of Earth), the calendar now reads 2020, so it remains to be seen if adding the early 2010 All-Stars to their already healthy sampling of talent on the offensive side of the ball will be what gets Tampa over the hump and back into the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Nonetheless, the changes on paper to the Bucs offense are very exciting to see, and Tampa Bay will absolutely be one of the dominating storylines during the 2020 NFL Season.
Bruce Arians’ offense comes with the warning label, “no risk it, no biscuit” and Tom Brady will be asked to run Arians’ vertical offense, which differs from the quick-passing game that Brady made a name for in Foxboro.
If Brady’s arm is still up for the challenge, Arians’ offense could prove to be quite fruitful for the 43-year old legend.
Tampa comes into the season with the best wide receiver group in football, and outside of the 18-1 Pats, this is the best group of offensive talent Brady has ever got to play with.
The Bucs WR’s are headlined by 7th-year veteran Mike Evans, who only has gone over 1000 yards receiving in every single season since becoming a pro, all while catching 48 touchdowns in his first six years as a Buccaneer. These stats are even more impressive considering the big target has only played one full season in his entire career.
Evans is joined at wide-receiver by Chris Godwin, who absolutely blew up in Arians offense, catching 86 balls for 1333 yards and nine touchdowns. Godwin comes into the 2020 season with a new jersey number (14 from 12) and raised expectations as to what type of production he may see with a quarterback that threw for only 29 interceptions over the last four seasons, compared to the turnover machine he began his career with.
Then of course, there’s Gronk.
Rob Gronkowski made waves back in the offseason when he announced he intended to un-retire from the NFL and requested a trade to join up with his BFF, one Thomas Brady. The trade request was of course granted, and Gronk is back.
The eccentric tight-end and future Hall of Famer will link up with former Bucs first-round pick O.J. Howard and TE Cameron Brate, giving Tampa Bay three outstanding tight-ends, two of which come with frightening athleticism.
However, in Arians’ scheme, tight-ends have notoriously struggled, and Howard spent most of the offseason on the trading block before Tampa Bay ultimately decided to keep him around for now. It does merit paying close attention to how Arians will try to implement two tight-ends in his offense, or if he will still consider moving his young TE to fill a hole elsewhere on the roster.
If there’s any worry with the new-look Bucs offense besides age and a glut of talent at tight end, it would come with their running game as 2018 second-round pick Ronald Jones has struggled to find his footing in the NFL, and LeSean McCoy’s best days are well behind him.
While Jones did show a lot of improvement in 2019, the same issues hovering over O.J. Howard hover over the third-year back as he’s not the best fit in the passing game, which is where Arians really depends on his backs. Should Jones continue to struggle in his third season, rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn could find himself getting many more reps in the offense.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line also has a few question marks, particularly at right tackle where Iowa rookie Tristan Wirfs will start the season, but Brady’s quick release and ability to dissect defenses should be able to mask some of those weaknesses. The production Brady gets out of what may be his worst stable of running backs yet will likely be the deciding factor to just how good this Buccaneers offense can actually be.
Buccaneers 2020 Defensive Preview
When Bruce Arians came to Tampa, he brought his good friend and former Jets head coach Todd Bowles with him to oversee the defense. Bowles did a masterful job in turning around a defense that ranked dead last in nearly every worthwhile statistic in 2018, and the Bucs defense would be highlighted in 2019 by their league-leading rush defense. The run-defense was so good, Bowles nearly showed actual human emotion on the sidelines a season ago.
But while teams couldn’t run the ball on Tampa Bay a year ago, they didn’t have much difficulty throwing it. The Bucs would field the 30th ranked pass defense in 2019, surrendering over 270 yards a game and a passer rating above 90. While Jameis Winston was blamed for a lot of Tampa’s woes a year ago, the woeful pass defense did him no favors and constantly put the young quarterback in a position where he had to throw his way out of deficits.
Had it not been for Tampa’s outstanding pass-rush of Shaq Barrett (19.5 sacks in 2019) and Jason Pierre-Paul (8.5 sacks), Tampa’s pass defense could have been really bad.
The Bucs enter 2020 with not much change on the defensive side of the ball, as the Bucs front seven remains completely intact from a season ago. Shaq Barrett returns to the Bucs after having the franchise tag placed on him prior to the beginning of free agency, and the team brought back Ndamukong Suh for his run-stuffing and ankle-stomping abilities.
Tampa features two of the best inside linebackers in football, with 2019 1st round pick Devin White teaming up with perennial Pro Bowler Lavonte David in the middle of the Bucs defense.
All their questions on the defensive side of the ball again come from their secondary, and the team will look for 2018 2nd rounder Carlton Davis, as well as 2019 2nd rounder Sean Murphy-Bunting, to patch up the many holes in the Bucs secondary in 2020.
However, with a potentially explosive offense in the making, Tampa Bay may find themselves in a lot of instances where they are playing with a good-sized lead that would allow for their ferocious pass-rush to freely tee off on the opposing quarterback, which can only help a young secondary still learning their way.
Buccaneers 2020 Outlook & Prediction
Well, one thing is for certain with the 2020 iteration of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: this team will be must-see TV all season long. Tampa’s success will begin and end with how their 43-year old starting QB plays. Many believe that Brady was starting to show signs of finally wearing down, while others believe him when he says he can play until he’s in his mid-40’s.
If Tom Brady is able to tap into the fountain of youth (which may or may not be one of his TB12 product offerings, I haven’t checked lately), and Rob Gronkowski can also have a few drinks from that same pool, the pieces are in place for Tampa to get back to the postseason for the first time in 13 years.
However, if Brady goes full 2015/16 Peyton Manning, the Bucs are in potential danger as unlike Peyton at the end of his career (and even Tom at the end of his Patriots’ career), Brady does not have a historically good defense to carry him any longer.
We believe Tampa ends the playoff drought, but they will not become the first team to host the Super Bowl, paving for one hell of a 2021 offseason from Florida’s west coast.
Buccaneers Projected 2020 Finish: 10-6, 2nd NFC South
Buccaneers 2020 Betting Preview
The Bucs figure to get a whole lot of attention in the futures market this season. Here are the bets we like the most for the “Tompa Bay” Buccaneers in 2020.
- Tampa Bay Bucs OVER 9.5 Wins — (-125) at DraftKings Sportsbook
As we said above, Tampa Bay absolutely has the potential to not only go over this number but to potentially be a bonafide Super Bowl contender if things break right for them. While we still don’t like their running backs or their secondary, Brady just has too many weapons at his disposal and a third-place schedule to churn through to where Tampa finishing 10-6 or better seems more likely than not. We’ll eat the juice here and take the over on Tampa’s 2020 win total.
- Rob Gronkowski OVER 5 TD Receptions — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
In Gronk’s nine-year career thus far, he only failed to top five touchdowns in a season three times. Two of these seasons, he missed more than half the season with an injury, and in 2018 he missed several games to injury again. Essentially, what you’re betting on here is Gronk’s health. If Gronk is on the field for double-digit games, he’s going over this number. We think Gronk manages to play in at least 12 games this season, making this one of our favorite future props of the season.
- Chris Godwin to Lead NFL in Receiving Yards — (+1400) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Bucs have no shortage of weapons, and Mike Evans will also be a favorite of Tom Brady, but Godwin (no pun intended) could be a godsend for the 43-year old QB. Godwin is an absolute machine in the passing game and will eat up the short-intermediate passing game where Brady feasts. Michael Thomas is still your short favorite in this category for a reason, but don’t discount Godwin’s chances to post his best season yet with a QB that was tailor-made for him.