So, You’re Saying There’s a Chance? (Bucs Season Preview)


No one is giving the Buccaneers much of a chance this season, but that might not be such a bad thing.

Bennett Carollo, Staff Writer

The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season is just around the corner, with the first regular season game at New Orleans taking place on September 9th. Oddly enough, despite this return to Sunday tradition approaching quickly, there is a very noticeable lack of buzz surrounding the Bucs, both locally and nationally. At least, compared to last year.

It’s amazing how much can change in 365 days. At this time last year, it was impossible to turn on channels like ESPN and NFL Network and not hear experts proclaiming that 2017 would finally be the year that the Bucs would return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This is because Tampa Bay was coming of a pleasantly surprising 9-7 2016 season, finishing just a single win shy of a playoff spot and making them a popular pick to be a team on the rise. If that wasn’t enough, the Bucs were chosen in 2017 to be the featured team on HBO’s Hard Knocks, a show that takes viewers inside a different NFL team’s training camp each year. All this publicity and hype had Bucs fans everywhere, myself included, hopping on the bandwagon. Next stop: playoffs. Of course, we all know now that the Bucs did what they do best and let their fans down again, going a dismal 5-11, while every other team in the NFC South made the playoffs at their expense. That’s right; the team they said had nowhere to go but up REGRESSED by four wins. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken put it best when he said that the Bucs “drank the Kool-Aid” in 2017, referring to how they believed all the great things they were hearing about themselves and assumed they could just show up and be great.

That brings us to this season, where the Bucs are once again in their usual position of being ignored by experts and playoff-predicters everywhere. In fact, Tampa Bay has been given the longest odds out of any NFL team to win the Super Bowl at 200-1. No doubt, a big reason for their doubters is the three-game suspension the league hit starting quarterback Jameis Winston with. However, there is reason to believe that this setback is actually no setback at all. The backup QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, went 2-1 in a brief three game starting stint last season. Winston started the other THIRTEEN games and only managed one more win than Fitzpatrick. In addition, the Tampa Bay front office wasn’t quiet in the offseason, revamping a weak defensive line with additions like Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, and Vita Vea. Other new faces include kicker Chandler Catanzaro and center Ryan Jensen. Moreover, the Bucs have gone out and dazzled in two preseason victories. The aforementioned Winston has looked very solid in the preseason, as he is Pro Football Focus’s top-rated quarterback thus far. Running back Peyton Barber has also showed signs of being the guy who could revitalize a run game that was pitiful for Tampa Bay last season, as he has gained 53 yards on 10 carries. While some might argue that preseason is irrelevant and not a good test of a team’s skill, winning of any kind is encouraging for Bucs fans because quite frankly, the team hasn’t done much of it since winning the franchise’s lone Super Bowl in 2002.

When you put all of this together, an optimistic fan could see where Tampa Bay could surprise everyone again and make a run a one of those elusive playoff spots. Sure, the media tells us that the chances of this happening are slim to none, but they’ve been wrong before. In a way, it would almost be classic Bucs to shine the brightest when the lights aren’t even on them.