It doesn’t take a NASA engineer to understand that the Bucs play in a tough division. When you consider that the Panthers and Falcons played in back to back Superbowls recently, and that legendary QB Drew Brees, who already has a ring, led the Saints to the division title in 2017, it’s understood.
Consider that all three of those teams made the playoffs last year, too?
Yep. Tampa Bay doesn’t have to be reminded.
Going 1-5 against that division of playoff teams last year?
So, when NFL.com and writer Greg Rosenthal put out Tuesday that the NFC South was not only a strong division, but the best in the NFL, the Buccaneers would agree:
NFL Divisional Power Rankings:
— NFL (@NFL) June 5, 2018
This is the only division where all four teams are realistic threats for double-digit wins, which comes back to their quarterbacks. Productive passing games are more consistent from year to year than strong defenses, and this is a division led by quarterbacks: Matt Ryan and Cam Newton have won two of the last three MVPs, while Drew Brees was playing at a championship level last season. The 2017 Bucs finished fifth in drive success rate, according to Football Outsiders, with a fluky dead-last ranking in lost fumbles per drive torpedoing their season. No lead is safe in a division with quarterbacks this good.
It should be considered that in their 9-7 season of 2016 (Dirk Koetter’s first as head coach), Tampa Bay was 4-2 in the division and was on the cusp of a playoff berth late in the year. However, they regressed a year ago overall, and specifically against the teams that they are the most familiar with.
If the Bucs want to improve in the upcoming year, they know it begins in the South. And, the schedule maker put them in New Orleans right off the bat in week one in a place (the Superdome), where they’ve won only one time in their last seven attempts.
Tampa Bay did defeat the Saints dramatically with a TD in the final 10 seconds in the season-ender in Tampa last year. So, they do have that memory to rely on to begin this season.
Yes, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, and Drew Brees are three tough challenges to face every year, but in an important year for Koetter’s job status, Jameis Winston’s future/salary, etc., they have to be ready to face it and win.
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