It has been 18 years, down to the week, since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shellacked the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl 37. Up until last Sunday, neither team had earned an opportunity to return to the promised land.
Now, the Buccaneers have come full circle, shifting from a Super Bowl-winning team to a struggling one, and all the way back up to a Super Bowl contender over these 18 years.
Appetite for Self-Destruction
In the same span, the Raiders have not had the same success. Before their move to Las Vegas, the Raiders had one playoff appearance (2016) to Tampa Bay’s two (2005, 2007) and tied their count of playoff wins (zero).
While some of Tampa Bay’s success can be attributed to the addition of the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, it must be noted that the Buccaneers have developed a full team around their quarterback. The Bucs proved the depth of their team against Green Bay last weekend as, in a less-than-stellar performance, Tom Brady threw three interceptions and still emerged victorious.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line is noted as one of the best run-stopping lines in the NFL, and their linebackers have received similar acclaim. The Buccaneers’ offensive line and receiving corps are also top tier, and their underutilized run game is enough to get the job done.
But what can be said about the Raiders that is also being said about the Buccaneers? Not much. As of now, Las Vegas boasts a top-10 yard-gaining offense(11th in passing & 15th in rushing), but drags a bottom-five defense behind it.
Both teams spent more than enough time at the bottom of their division over the years. Yet, the Bucs’ success could serve as a blueprint for the Raiders.
While Tampa Bay’s offense and defense established themselves at similar times, the Raiders reminded lopsided. It remains feasible that Las Vegas is a few players and coaching decisions from fielding a competent defense. The average defense could lead to a playoff team.
The question marks for the Raiders’ defense will certainly be answered this season. Gus Bradley should quickly show fans how close the Raiders’ defense hovers near passable. In turn, that would also answer questions about Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock’s drafting ability.
With a team this close to making the playoffs, it is frustrating to say “this will be the year we breakthrough” over and over again. The Raiders are making promising moves and should be in a prime position to get over the hump.