Losing faith is much easier than gaining it. Even an athlete who is widely considered the greatest football player of all time can be heavily doubted. Tom Brady’s sublime first season in Tampa Bay seems like a distant memory, and for good reason. Tampa Bay’s roster, nor its production, mirrors that of its squad that brought home a Lombardi Trophy in 2021. Piling on with negativity would be easy, but things may not be as gloomy as they seem. Let’s shine a light on the hope that may begin to surround Tampa Bay in the latter stages of the season. With all things considered, a successful season may not be as outlandish as some would expect.
-The Perks of the NFC South:
There will not be two playoff teams to come out of the NFC South. That seems to be enough to qualify it as one of the NFL’s weakest divisions. Although the Buccaneers currently sit with a losing record at 5-6, they hold the best record in their division. The Atlanta Falcons are technically on their heels, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that Tampa Bay will withstand the Falcons’ efforts and remain in the division’s driver seat. If that scenario transpires, the Buccaneers will have punched their ticket to the playoffs. It’s impossible to compete for a championship without an invitation. For Tom Brady and his crew, it seems garnering an invitation to the playoffs is very attainable, despite the rocky start.
-A Wide-Open Conference:
Does experience matter? If so, various NFC title contenders should be nervous entering the postseason. Following Week 12, the NFC playoff picture appears as:
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
- Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
- San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
- New York Giants (7-4)
- Washington Commanders (7-5)
If the playoffs started this next weekend, the majority of the franchises would be lacking valuable postseason experience. The two outliers would be San Francisco and Tampa Bay. Since 2019, the 49ers have won four playoff games, compared to the Buccaneers’ five playoff victories. During that same span, the other five squads have constructed near-opposite resumes. Between the Eagles, Vikings, Cowboys, Giants and Commanders, none have won a playoff game between 2019-2021. The Buccaneers must know the pressure is on, but it’s hard to imagine more ideal circumstances than a potential playoff route full of inexperienced playoff teams. There’s no doubt this season has been ugly thus far, but can one say that Tampa Bay doesn’t have a fair shot at another playoff run against those rosters? It seems irresponsible to pronounce the Buccaneers’ NFC title aspirations dead when looking at their potential playoff foes.
–The Quarterback Comparison:
When zooming in on the NFC playoff picture, the lack of dominant quarterback play is apparent. The shortage makes sense when considering the depth of quarterback stardom in the AFC, but it’s still important to note the NFC’s circumstances regarding the position. There’s no need to dive-in on Tom Brady’s accolades and resume, as it is important to consider those around him. Looking at the current NFC playoff picture, Brady could possibly face Jalen Hurts, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Dak Prescott, Daniel Jones and/or Taylor Heinicke. With that said, how many potential quarterback matchups would favor Tampa Bay in the playoffs? An optimist would say all six, and a pessimist wouldn’t be able to justify anything under four. It’s not everything, but is it reasonable to count-out one of the greatest playoff performers against unproven opponents? Writing off Brady in this spot seems questionable at best.
So, are the Buccaneers good? The answer is probably not. However, potential playoff parameters could allow the underperforming roster to transform into a threat. Tampa Bay is down, but surely not dead.