When it’s the off-season it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. What teams will look like. How new coaches will change things. A fresh start for every team in the league. The coming season will be no different for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a time of great hope and even greater speculation.
Recently ESPN writer Bill Barnwell wrote an article predicting what Vegas over/under win totals for all 32 teams in the NFL. In this article he suggested that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win total would be at 6.5 games. This was the seventh lowest win projection in the league.
Barnwell cited various reasons for this prediction. These included an unreliable quarterback, a bad defense and a difficult division to succeed in. All fairly logical reasons, and a number of wins that I don’t think is crazy.
Why I’m taking the over
With that being said, I’ll likely be taking the over on this win total. Keeping in mind things will change as the off-season goes on. Free agency will alter my opinion (both who the Bucs bring in and who they let walk away) as well as the upcoming draft. Keeping that in mind, here is why I’d put my money on winning more than six games.
The biggest reason for this is new head coach Bruce Arians. He has proven to be on of the better offensive minds in the NFL and has been nothing but successful as a head coach. He alone would lead me to believe the Bucs have more than six wins next season.
The “X” Factor
Why am I so confident in this? Look no further than his time as head coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Arians took over a 5-11 team (with a roster that was much less talented than the one he inherits in Tampa Bay) and in his first year led the to a 10 win season. In fact, Arians never won fewer than seven games in his time with the Cardinals.
The man they call “the quarterback whisperer” now takes over one of the most explosive passing offenses in the NFL. This bodes well for franchise quarterback Jameis Winston who has been inconsistent over his four year career. I would expect his numbers to be on the rise with Arians in town.
Arians became the Steelers offensive coordinator in 2007 and was tasked with fixing a young Ben Roethlisberger who threw five more interceptions (23) than touchdowns (18) in 2006. His first year under Arians guidance, Big Ben threw for 32 touchdowns (second most of his career to date) and 11 interceptions.
He saw similar success with a rookie named Andrew Luck who went to the pro bowl in his only year under Arians. Carson Palmer saw the best years of his career with Arians, throwing for the three highest totals of yards in the three years Palmer played double digit games. Expect Winston to see similar growth.
The one variable?
The one thing that could really hold the Bucs back in 2019 is the defense. To say this unit has struggled in recent years is an understatement. They’ve ranked 23rd, 32nd and most recently 27th under the former coaching staff. Enter defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Bowles is known for his aggressive approach and molding his defense to his players strengths. Despite his failures as a head coach, Bowles has thrived as an assistant. He lead Arizona to the 6th ranked defense in 2013 and was voted assistant coach of the year in 2014 before leave to be head coach of the New York Jets.
The last thing that leads me to believe this Bucs team will surpass six wins in 2019 is the talent on the roster. As is right now the Bucs have half a dozen former pro bowlers under contact for next season. They also have some young stars in the making like O.J Howard, Ali Marpet and Vita Vea. And with the off-season still ahead to continue to add talent, it seems more likely that the roster only gets better heading into the season.
This is the year
For years the Bucs have been thought of as a team on the rise, only to fall short time and time again. I take no issue with one of the worst projected season in the NFL next year because they haven’t earned that respect yet. However, I’d put my money on the Bucs winning over 6.5 games next year. The roster is talented and they are being led by a coaching staff that is proven to be very good. I expect that 2019 will finally be the year that the Bucs exceed expectations and potentially, make a playoff push.