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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Predictions

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be looking to bounce back from a miserable 2013 campaign that saw them open the season 0-8 and eventually finish up at 4-12. It was Tampa Bay’s third straight year with a losing record and the 3rd time in the last 5 seasons that they won 4 or fewer games.

Last year was the final straw for head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik and it may have been just what the Buccaneers needed to turn the corner. Tampa Bay went out and hired a proven winner in Lovie Smith, who compiled an 81-63 record over 9 seasons with the Chicago Bears. They also brought in long-time NFL executive Jason Licht to serve as the teams new general manager.

As you would expect with a complete overhaul at the top, the Buccaneers were highly active in the offseason with adding free agents and getting rid of players who didn’t fit the new staff. The big question is whether or not Smith can make this team competitive in his first year on the job. Before I give my opinion on where I think Tampa Bay is headed in 2014, lets take a closer look at what they will be sending to the field on both sides of the ball.

Last Season
NFC South
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
T-3rd
4-12
6-10
4-4
2-6
8-8
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
32nd
17th
+10
18.0
24.3
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
WR Mike Evans, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, RB Charles Sims, G Kadeem Edwards, OT Kevin Pamphile
Additions
QB Josh McCown, TE Brandon Myers, OT Anthony Collins, G/OT Oniel Cousins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, DE Michael Johnson, DT Clinton McDonald, ILB Dane Fletcher, CB Alterraun Verner, CB Mike Jenkins, S Major Wright
Losses
QB Dan Orlovsky, FB Erik Lorig, WR Mike Williams, OT Donald Penn, G Davin Joseph, G Gabe Carimi, C Jeremy Zuttah, C Ted Larsen, OLB Dekoda Watson, OLB Adam Hayward, CB Darrelle Revis
2014 Preview
2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/7 Panthers
+1.5
0.47
9/14 Rams
-2.5
0.55
9/18 @ Falcons
+5.5
0.31
9/28 @ Steelers
+3.5
0.36
10/5 @ Saints
+7.5
0.22
10/12 Ravens
-1
0.51
Week 7 BYE
-
-
10/26 Vikings
-3
0.59
11/2 @ Browns
+2.5
0.45
11/9 Falcons
PICK
0.50
11/16 @ Redskins
+2.5
0.45
11/23 @ Bears
+5
0.32
11/30 Bengals
PICK
0.50
12/7 @ Lions
+6
0.29
12/14 @ Panthers
+6.5
0.28
12/21 Packers
+3
0.41
12/28 Saints
+1
0.49
Estimated Wins: 6.70

One of the first things that Smith did when he was named the new head coach, is go out and recruit free agent quarterback Josh McCown to come to Tampa Bay. McCown played in 8 games (started 5) with the Bears last year and would go to throw an impressive 13 touchdowns to just 1 interception. The big downfall with McCown is that he’s 35 and not exactly a proven commodity. If McCown fails to deliver, look for the Bucs to turn to 2nd year signal caller Mike Glennon, who impressed with 19 touchdowns in 13 starts as a rookie.

While Tampa Bay has a big time playmaker on the outside in veteran wide out Vincent Jackson, they knew that they needed more weapons if McCown was going to succeed. That’s why they used the 8th overall pick in the 1st round to select Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, who has a great mix of both size and speed. While there’s not much talent behind Jackson and Evans at receiver, the Bucs have a solid trio of tight ends who figure to contribute. As a rookie Tim Wright surprised and finished 2nd on the team with 54 receptions for 571 yards and 5 touchdowns. He will be joined in 2014 by free agent pickup Brandon Myers and 2nd round rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

A big positive that came from last year was the talent that emerged out of the backfield when star running back Doug Martin went down with a season-ending injury after just 6 games. Both Bobby Rainey and Mike James showed flashes with 100-yard performances and with Martin back healthy, the Buccaneers have all kinds of depth in the backfield.

Whether or not Tampa Bay will be able to use that talent at running back to it’s full potential, will come down to the play of the offensive line. A unit that received a makeover in the offseason. The Buccaneers cut starting left tackle Donald Penn and left guard Davin Joseph, plus they traded away starting center Jeremy Zutah and guard Carl Nicks left the team prior to training camp. To help fill the voids, Tampa Bay signed free agent left tackle Anthony Collins from Cincinnati and center Evan Dietrich-Smith from Green Bay. While the Bucs get back talented right tackle Demar Dotson, there’s major question marks over who is going to step in at the two guard spots. If Tampa Bay doesn’t get this unit straightened out, the entire offense will suffer as a result.

Even with an offense that struggled to move the football in 2013, the Buccaneers defense held their own. Tampa Bay finished 17th in yards allowed (348.0) and 21st in scoring (24.3 ppg). Not great numbers, but given how much they were on the field it wasn’t as bad as it looks on paper.

The stop unit figures to even better with Smith now in charge. Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has been added as the new defensive coordinator and will implement the Tampa 2 that helped guide the Bucs to a Super Bowl back in 2002.

After finishing tied for 23rd in the league with just 35 sacks, Tampa Bay went out and signed free agent defensive end Michael Johnson away from Cincinnati, who was a much more disruptive pass rusher than his 3.5 sacks last year would lead you to believe. Johnson joins a defensive front that features an emerging star at defensive tackle in Gerald McCoy. They also get back starting defensive end Adrian Clayborn and have added in Clinton McDonald to compte with Akeem Spence for the starting nose tackle spot.

At linebacker the Buccaneers have to be ecstatic about what they have seen in just two short seasons from outside linebacker Lavonte David, who is coming off a monster 2013 campaign. David not only led the team with 144 tackles, he registered 7 sacks and 5 interceptions. Mason Foster returns alongside David at middle linebacker, but Tampa Bay did lose starting outside linebacker Dekota Watson. The unit is counting on veteran Jonathan Casillas to step in and start in his place.

In one of the more interesting moves of the Bucs’ offseason, the team released one of the best corners in the game in Darrelle Revis, just one season after trading the 13th pick in the 1st round to bring him to Tampa Bay. While Revis wasn’t a great fit for the Tampa 2, it was surprising to see them let him go for nothing.

The good news is that the Buccaneers were able to replace Revis with talented free agent Alterraun Verner, who is coming off a great season last year with the Titans. Second year pro Johnathan Banks will return as the other starting corner, while the hard-hitting duo of Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron are back at safety. The unit looks to be solid, but will need a strong pass rush to reach its full potential.

Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl XLVIX
7
33 to 1
75 to 1
Odds Courtesty of Bovada
Predictions

While I’m not convinced the Buccaneers are going to be a threat in the NFC South with New Orleans and Atlanta looking to be a step ahead of both Tampa Bay and Carolina, there’s no doubt that this team will be a lot more competitive than it was in 2013. Bringing in a proven head coach that will get the respect of the players from Day 1 and adding a quarterback capable of leading the offense were two big steps in the right direction. However, I have major concerns with the offensive line holding them back, plus I’m not sold on Evans having the impact many are expecting in his rookie season.

It’s not just the offense that I’m worried about. A lot of people are expecting Tampa Bay to be dramatically better on defense this year, but you have to keep in mind that they are learning an entirely new scheme. My biggest concern comes in the pass rush. The Tampa 2 relies almost exclusively on the front four to put pressure on the quarterback. While they have a big time talent in McCoy, I don’t know that Johnson and Clayborn will do enough for this unit to be a force.

There’s also a ton of pressure on the Buccaneers to come out and win their first two home games against the Panthers and Rams. If they don’t start strong, this team could be looking at another dismal start, as they have to go on the road to face the Falcons, Steelers and Saints over the next three weeks. The schedule doesn’t get a whole lot easier from their. Over their final 8 games, they have to go on the road to face the Redskins, Bears, Lions and Panthers, while hosting the Falcons, Bengals, Packers and Saints.

I know a lot of people are projecting Tampa Bay to flirt with a .500 record, but I’m not one of them. For me it comes down to the lack of talent o the offensive line, a defense that will be in transition and a schedule that just doesn’t allow for them to get any momentum. I have the Buccaneers going a mere 6-10, which will have them finishing 3rd in the NFC and coming up just short of their season win total of 7.

Projections
NFC South Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
3rd
2-4
6-10
UNDER 7
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