Tom Brady provided one of the biggest surprises of the NFL off-season by retiring and then later reversing his decision to call time on his prestigious career. There were only 40 days between the two announcements. Following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, the GOAT ultimately could not end his time in the league.
With a loaded Buccaneers roster still in place, expectations were high for the franchise despite the retirement of head coach Bruce Arians. Todd Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Arians, who opted to move upstairs into the front office. The transition was meant to be seamless, yet the campaign has proven to be a challenge for the NFC South outfit.
Brady and the Buccaneers have struggled on offense throughout the season, and it’s only the issues of the teams around them in the NFC South have kept them on course for the playoffs. The Buccaneers are considered underdogs in the NFL odds for the Super Bowl, but everyone in the league knows that you can never count out Brady. At the age of 45, he could be on course for his most dramatic charge to the crown yet as he bids to win an eighth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Why Have the Bucs Struggled?
From the outside looking in, Brady does not have poor statistics. After 10 games, he threw for 2,802 yards and 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions, which, although not remarkable, is hardly disastrous on paper. However, the Buccaneers have had huge issues scoring points in the redzone, notching only 16 touchdowns over the course of the campaign. They are ranked just 27th in scoring offense, mustering a staggeringly low 18.3 points per game.
Tampa Bay have incredible talent on their roster, starting with Brady along with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But, the whole operation has been out of sync, which has not been helped by Brady’s absence from training camps due to personal reasons.
The offensive line suffered key losses due to injury, with Ryan Jensen ruled out of the term before the season even began. Alex Cappa left for the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, and his absence has been magnified by Aaron Stinnie’s season-ending ACL injury. As a result, the Buccaneers have had huge issues running the ball with Leonard Fournette out of the backfield.
In the past the Bucs were a machine in the redzone, largely due to Fournette and tight end Rob Gronkowski. But Fournette has been largely ineffectual and Gronkowski has not been replaced following his retirement.
This has further increased the pressure on Brady, who has not been his clinical-self. The 45-year-old has not been helped by his receiving corps, who have also been inconsistent. It has been a recipe for chaos and disaster on offense.
The season is, however, still salvageable. Recent results leave the Bucs at 5-5 after 10 games.
The Bucs may have hit a low point after scoring only three points against an inferior Carolina Panthers team. Brady has started to find a semblance of rhythm, and he is a very dangerous player when he is firing on all cylinders, especially when he feels aggrieved. He will have heard the criticism and will be ready for another run towards the Super Bowl.
The Buccaneers have control of the NFC South, and the terrible level of competition should allow them to book a post-season spot without being spectacular.
The NFC is not stacked with talent proven under the spotlight of the big occasion. The Philadelphia Eagles are the runaway train at the top, but who knows how quarterback Jalen Hurts will react to being the potential first seed in the conference. The first big game Kirk Cousins plays will be one of his first with the Minnesota Vikings. The New York Giants are hardly a behemoth, while the Cowboys have always found ways to unravel in the past. The San Francisco 49ers look solid, but Jimmy Garoppolo has also struggled under the bright lights.
Although the Buccaneers have been well below the standard expected, they are certainly more than capable of flicking the switch to use their experience and quality to win the NFC Conference and return to the Super Bowl.