It’s that time of the year, a few weeks before the regular NFL season begins, that team previews abound. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t received much confidence with national experts, but most football purveyors are busy watching and favoring teams that were performing at top levels in 2009.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2010 season in a snap:
With an improved defensive line and wide receiver corps, the Bucs should win between seven and nine games, but miss the playoffs. The best hometown guess is they win eight games and keep head coach Raheem Morris smiling at his job for next season.
As a team in the NFC South the Bucs play New Orleans, Atlanta, and North Carolina twice. The Saints and the Falcons are powerhouses, but the Bucs host the Saints as the last game of the regular season. The Saints may not repeat as Super Bowl champs, but they are likely to make the playoffs and won’t be playing their starters during the final game of the season.
The Bucs go against all four teams in the AFC North and NFC West plus lining up against two struggling teams, the Washington Redskins in the NFC East and Detroit Lions in the NFC North.
The schedule affords a young team an opportunity to sustain multiple wins. While that agenda may not be a requisite for being a playoff contender, it’s good for building confidence and a core unit that boosts results.
The NFL has a long season for muscles and joints and that’s only if a player stays healthy. Any team can sustain too many critical long-term injuries. If teams go into playoffs with many healthy starters, it’s the best scenario coaches could ask for. Injuries can change everything, including predictions.
A gelling defense and offense are crucial to collecting wins, but a strong defense can keep a grappling offense in games. The Bucs defense has improved with a mix of rookies and veterans.
Obviously veteran standouts like CB Ronde Barber (20), LB Barrett Ruud (51) and others from last year are important to growing team, but some key personnel will lift the Bucs to a .500 season:
Top defensive draft picks DT Gerald McCoy (93) and DT Brian Price (92) will make a difference. Wide receivers Mike Williams (19) and Arrelious Benn (17) add much to the receiver corps, made better by Sammie Stroughter (18).
Free agent addition S Sean Jones (26) is a known hitter and huge man G Keydrick Vincent (66), acquired from the Panthers, continues to move the line.
Contributors lifting the defense are LB Quincy Black (58), LB Geno Hayes (54), S Tanard Jackson (36), and CB E.J. Biggers (31).
Another good year from miracle man RB Cadillac Williams (24) will help QB Josh Freeman (5) mature faster. A healthy TE Kellen Winslow (82) and C Jeff Faine (52) add steady dimension to the offense.
It’s encouraging to watch RB Kareem Huggins (32) perform at top levels.
Others will rise to the occasion called the new season as the roster is trimmed from 80 to the final 53. Some will disappoint.
It’s the NFL, known as not-for-long, where much is uncertain. Even the number of games that count is questionable if next season is made two games longer after negotiations this year.
Two more games that count and two games of preseason to prepare may be good for fans, but not so good for players who toss their bodies into harm’s way when the points count.
One thing is certain: fans are eager for the first hikes of the season, with hopes of cheering their team, that one team to take the last snap for winning points in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
Taking eight Buccaneers 2010 wins into 2011 will do much to realize playoff efforts next season. If the young team somehow makes the playoffs this year, it could be an astounding omen for the future.
Eight wins for Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans will bring smiles to fans and players who endured last season.
Photo credit: Kellen Winslow by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com