One Advantage the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Have over Each Divisional Foe in 2012
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the 2012 with the expectation of improving on 2011's dismal 4-12 record.
They paid the big bucks for elite players such as Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson, traded around in the early rounds of the draft to secure prime talent, and most importantly, have an all-new coaching staff centered around discipline and character.
But as great as this all may seem, the Bucs actually need to win games if they are to be respected as present/future playoff contenders.
The first step to the playoffs is beating divisional opponents.
The NFC South may be one of the NFL's toughest divisions, featuring the Bucs, Panthers, Falcons and Saints, but Tampa Bay has a fair chance of defeating each of those teams in 2012.
The Panthers have one of the league's most explosive offenses.
At quarterback, they have Cam Newton, who is entering his second season, and looking to prove that his mammoth rookie year (4051 passing yards, 706 rushing yards, 35 total touchdowns) was no fluke.
Steve Smith leads a decent receiving corps and as for the running backs, Carolina boast DeAngelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart, two very talented backs in their own right.
As good as this offense was, the Panthers were actually outscored 406-429 last year. Their defense was among the league's worst, weak against both the run and the pass.
All the Bucs have to do to win over Carolina is play offense. They have a diverse offense, balanced between the run and the pass. Josh Freeman has Vincent Jackson to throw to deep, Mike Williams as his No. 2 WR, and a bunch of capable youngsters backing them up. The run game will be split between LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin, two different, but equally capable footballers.
Vary the assault, spread the ball around and the "W" is Tampa's to lose.
Quarterback Matt Ryan may not have won a playoff game in his four years in the league, but he is still the biggest reason why the Falcons should be considered favorites to win the division this year.
Each year since he entered the league, the Boston College product has improved noticeably. With a more experienced Julio Jones and the always-fantastic Roddy White, Ryan has two incredible wide receivers to throw to.
Question marks surround Michael Turner, the team's 30-year-old running back. Now that Turner has passed the dreaded age threshold for running backs, how will he contribute to the Falcons? Will he still be able to put up 1300-yard seasons?
The key to beating the Falcons is beating them at the line of scrimmage. Atlanta has a weak offensive line, making them very vulnerable. When the New York Giants dominated the line of scrimmage in the NFC Wild Card game last January, they were able to keep Matt Ryan's offense from scoring a single point, stopping them on multiple fourth-and-short rush attempts.
The Bucs have a defensive line that has the strength to dominate just like the Giants did. Adrian Clayborn will control the right end, Michael Bennett the left, while Gerald McCoy and one other will hold the middle.
An aging running back and a suspect offensive line makes the game plan for the Bucs very simple—attack the line of scrimmage!
It'll be very, very hard for the Bucs to keep the Saints' offense in check.
That is a fact.
As long as New Orleans has Drew Brees throwing to Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Darren Sproles, the Saints will have a lethal pass attack.
Even their run game is paramount. In terms of pure yardage, the New Orleans RBs combined for 2127 rushing yards, good for sixth in the league. In addition, the Saints tied for the fewest rushing fumbles in the NFL.
What the Saints don't have is a pass defense. They were the league's third-worst in 2011, and did little to improve that with personnel changes during the offseason. Sure, Curtis Lofton is a good MLB, but he won't make up for the flimsy secondary.
Here's where Vincent Jackson's talent as a deep threat will really pay dividends for the Bucs. A simple spread system will be more than the Saints defense can handle.
The Bucs must keep the ball in the air if they are to win against the New Orleans Saints.
Well, that's it.
So I guess there's nothing left to say... except for this:
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