Super Bowl or bust just sounds silly, right? I mean, some of the greatest players to ever play the game of football went their entire careers without a Super Bowl. Some of the best teams don’t even win. Can it really be fair at all to give any team that kind of bar to hurdle?
Well, when you’re the reigning champion with the greatest quarterback of all time and the entire starting lineup and coaching staff came back for another run at the trophy, how can the bar be anything less?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made quite the turnaround in just one calendar year. Everyone will point to the Tom Brady signing as “when it began” but the Buccaneers’ run to making history started well before then. Brady was the icing on the cake, but so much of that young, talented roster was already in place; Brady was the glue that brought and held it all together.
The Buccaneers are in a similar position now as they were entering last season. Their head coach, Bruce Arians, still has his all-star staff around him, most notably Byron Leftwich at offensive coordinator and Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator. He still has great chemistry with general manager Jason Licht and the rest of that front office, as was evident by their ability to bring all starters on offense and defense back for another season. However, this year, the division should be theirs for the taking.
Last year, the Buccaneers didn’t even win the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints were on top of the division, just like they had been the previous three seasons. New Orleans boasted a 12-4 record while the Buccaneers finished at 11-5. This year, the Buccaneers should be better, but the Saints are likely taking a step back. Drew Brees is no longer the quarterback in New Orleans, and with that change will likely come regression. The Atlanta Falcons are going through a big identity and culture change with a new head coach and new general manager. The Carolina Panthers will likely take another step forward under Matt Rhule, but they still seem to be a year or two away from really being a contender.
As for the rest of the NFC, there isn’t much competition for the Buccaneers. The NFC East should be better than the dreadful showing their four teams boasted last year, but none are likely juggernauts. The Green Bay Packers remain a team to beat, so long as Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. But the rest of the NFC North isn’t imposing. As for the NFC West, they should have four very competitive teams, but will any be able to best Tampa? The Los Angeles Rams might be the Buccaneers’ best challenge there, as they beat the Buccaneers in Tampa last season and now have an even better quarterback.
On the other end of the league, the Kansas City Chiefs will certainly be looking for revenge against the team that blew them out 31-9 in the Super Bowl. But the rest of the AFC is strong as well. Thankfully for Tampa, they won’t have to go through any of those teams in the postseason and will just have to match that conference’s best in the final game, if they get there.
The Buccaneers do travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams this upcoming season. They also notably host the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts. But, if you take last year’s records into the equation, the Buccaneers have the 29th-easiest schedule in the league.
As previously stated, giving someone Super Bowl or bust expectations seems unfair. But this current Buccaneers team is built for a championship because they’ve already won one with this exact group. Every year is different, but the goal for this team shouldn’t be. They’re going for two.
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