Bruce Arians has already had a wild tenure as Tampa’s head honcho, and he hasn’t even reached the second season of his run with the Buccaneers. Tampa was a wildly entertaining team to watch most weeks last season with Jameis Winston becoming the first quarterback to throw for 30+ TDs and 30+ INTs in the same season. He also cashed in at +1500 odds for leading the league in passing yards (5109). The Buccaneers missed the playoffs (-700 odds) after finishing 7-9 overall with a disappointing 2-5 home record. Tampa ended up as the only team without a home cover all season (0-5-2 against-the-spread) as they finished with an overall 5-9-2 ATS mark.
Tampa’s defense started to surge in the second half of the season under DC Todd Bowles, which led to a 3-1-2 ATS finish after a 2-8 ATS start. Winston’s reckless style resulted in a league-high 12 overs in 16 games as the Bucs scored 28.6 points per game (4th-most) and they allowed 28.1 points per game (4th-most). Tampa parted ways with the 2015 #1 overall pick Winston this off-season, and they brought in a pair of G.O.A.T.(s) in Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Brady and Gronk will look to reverse Tampa’s 3-6 record in one-score games from last season while adding to their 2-1 record in games decided by three or more scores.
The Buccaneers have seen their 2020 win total skyrocket to nine and a half wins this season, which is three victories north of their 2019 season win total. Tampa climbed over last season’s mark by half of a victory with their Week 15 win over the Lions. The Buccaneers are big favorites to end their 12-year playoff drought (-200 to make the postseason), which is the longest drought in the NFC and the second-longest drought in the league — the Browns haven’t made the playoffs in 17 years. Entering training camp, I have the Buccaneers power rated as the fifth-best team in the NFL (+1400 to win Super Bowl LV), as the third-best team in the NFC (+700 to win the conference), and as the second-best team in the NFC South (+160).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||@New Orleans Saints (+4)||4:25|
|2||Carolina Panthers (-8.5)||1|
|3||@Denver Broncos (-1.5)||4:25|
|4||Los Angeles Chargers (-6)||1|
|5||@Chicago Bears (-2.5)||8:20 (Thurs)|
|6||Green Bay Packers||4:25|
|7||@Las Vegas Raiders||8:20 (Sun)|
|8||@New York Giants (-3.5)||8:15 (Mon)|
|9||New Orleans Saints (-2.5)||8:20 (Sun)|
|11||Los Angeles Rams||8:15 (Mon)|
|12||Kansas City Chiefs||4:25|
Key Off-season Moves
Tom Brady (QB)
Rob Gronkowski (TE)
Tristan Wirfs (OT)
Antoine Winfield (S)
Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB)
Joe Haeg (OG)
Jameis Winston (QB, NO)
Breshad Perriman (WR, NYJ)
Peyton Barber (RB, Was)
Carl Nassib (DE, LV)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9.5 (-125/+103)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
Tom Brady has to reach only 10 wins to clear his season win total this season, which sounds easy for him considering he’s typically had to win between 11-13 games to clear his win totals in New England. The Buccaneers are the hottest team in the betting markets this off-season as their win total shot up from seven and a half victories to nine and a half and their Super Bowl odds shortened from +5000 to +1300 odds. Brady will have the best receiving corps of his career with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski all at his disposal.
Brady left behind New England’s league best defense from 2019, but he won’t have to play hero ball in Tampa Bay this season like his predecessor Jameis Winston consistently did last season. The Buccaneers have the league’s most underrated defense heading into the 2020 season (they’re my most-owned fantasy D/ST in BestBall10s). They ranked fifth in defensive DVOA and seventh in yards per play allowed (5.1) last season. Tampa has a formidable pass rush led by Shaq Barrett, athletic LBs led by Lavonte David, and they have a young, ascending secondary.
This Buccaneers defense will look so much better this season without Winston consistently putting them in terrible spots. With Winston at quarterback, the Buccaneers defense had the league’s worst averaging starting position last season at their opponent’s 31.7-yard line. With Brady at quarterback, the Patriots defense had the league’s best average starting position last season at their opponent’s 25.2-yard line. Tampa’s defense had no chance to excel with Winston the last five seasons as the Buccaneers owned a -35 turnover differential in that span. The Patriots owned a +56 turnover differential in that same time, which works out to a NINETY-ONE turnover difference between the two teams.
The Buccaneers and the Saints have an extremely important season opener, which could have ramifications on the NFC South later in the season. The Bucs obviously won’t have too much time to work out the kinks, but I think it could work in their favor since the Saints will be coming into the game blind without any tape on this new-look Tampa offense. The Buccaneers also benefit from having a much easier non-divisional road schedule (@Den, @Chi, @LV, @NYG, @Det) compared to their non-divisional home games (LAC, GB, LAR, KC, Min).
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Buccaneers are looking to become the first team to reach the Super Bowl in their home venue as Super Bowl LV will be held at Raymond James Stadium this season. Tampa Bay added a quarterback who has won six Lombardi Trophies and who has appeared in nine total big games, but he isn’t the same Tom Brady that we’ve seen throughout his career as he enters his age-43 season. Brady saw his YPA dip to an 18-year low of 6.6 yards last season and he attempted passes 20+ yards downfield at just a 10.1% rate. We’ll find out if New England’s offensive struggles last season were a product of Brady’s cast or if it was a decline in his play.
Brady will surely have better receivers around him this season, but he won’t have the luxury of playing behind one of the league’s best O-lines any longer. The Buccaneers will also have a wide-open backfield competition as they look for a reliable lead runner, and it looks like Brady may have to play without an excellent receiving back at his disposal as he has in recent seasons with James White.
This crazy off-season/preseason is also going to make it much tougher for Brady to get on the same page with Bruce Arians and this entire offense. Brady was a creature of habit in New England, especially during the back half of his Patriots career, with rookies and first-year players often struggling to get on the same page with him. Brady is starting fresh with Arians as his play-caller and with this entire offense outside of Rob Gronkowski. The big question is how long it will take for the offense to get on the same page with Brady. The timing could mean the difference between the Buccaneers going over or under their season win total.
The NFL didn’t cut the new-look Buccaneers any breaks when it came to their schedule this season. It could take the Buccaneers some time to get on the same page with their new offense, which will be made tougher with six road games (@NO, @Den, @Chi, @LV, @NYG, @Car) in their first 10 games. Tampa also has an extremely late bye in Week 13, which is a bit of a negative since they have a 43-year-old QB playing in 12 straight games. The Bucs could also use an earlier bye week if they’re having some continuity issues with their offense.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Tom Brady: passing yards (4300.5), passing TDs (29.5), MVP (+1600)
Fantasy Points Projections: passing yards (4425), passing TDs (29.5)
Best-case scenario: We learn that Brady’s dip in performance last season was a product of his weak cast of receivers as Brady steps right into Tampa’s lineup and torments NFC defenders playing with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
Worst-case scenario: Brady’s descent into retirement speeds up in his 21st season. He’s unable to take advantage of his loaded cast of receivers in his first season outside of the Patriots organization.
Mike Evans: receiving yards (1150.5), most receiving yards (+1400), OPOY (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1190), receptions (77)
- Best-case scenario: Tom Brady shows new life throwing downfield with one of the best vertical elements in the game and Evans quickly becomes his new favorite red-zone weapon. Sorry Gronk.
- Worst-case scenario: Evans really feels the loss of reckless QB Jameis Winston as Brady continues to play in a controlled fashion after attempting 20+ yard passes at a meager 10.1% rate last season.
Chris Godwin: receiving yards (1200.5), most receiving yards (+1200), OPOY (+3300)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1285), receptions (88)
- Best-case scenario: Godwin steps into Julian Edelman’s old slot role playing with Tom Brady, and the fourth-year WR comes close to maintaining his torrid pace from last season.
- Worst-case scenario: Godwin plays more on the perimeter this season with Scott Miller and Tyler Johnson playing in the slot in 11 personnel, and his production falls off without the aggressive Jameis Winston.
Rob Gronkowski: receiving yards (600.5), receiving TDs (5)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (590), receiving TDs (7)
- Best-case scenario: Gronk is healthy and his career is revitalized after a year away from the game. He sees the lightest coverage of his career in the middle of the field playing next to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
- Worst-case scenario: Gronk’s year off doesn’t help his body. He struggles to make it through the season while playing more as a blocker than as a receiver with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate also involved in the passing attack.
Best Bets and Leans
The Buccaneers are likely to be the most fascinating team to follow early in the season as we see Tom Brady switch teams for the first time in his 21 years in the league. The Bucs may be fascinating this season but that doesn’t mean we have to bet on every team future and player prop that involves this mysterious new Buccaneers offense. The Buccaneers and the Browns were the only teams that failed to make the playoffs during the 2010s, but they should start this decade off on a better foot with a loaded roster and Tom Brady at quarterback. I’d lean toward the Buccaneers posting over 9.5 wins with this suddenly loaded roster, but I won’t be wagering on them with such little playing and practice time to implement Brady’s new scheme.
The Patriots reached double-digit victories for 17 straight years with Brady on the roster, dating back to 2003. The nine-and-a-half win threshold for the Bucs may look a little short then, but Brady will face much stiffer competition in the NFC South this season compared to his perennially easy slate of AFC East opponents. We should know by midseason if New England’s offensive struggles last season were a product of Brady’s cast or if it was a decline in his play. Brady’s cast won’t be the issue this season with his best cast of receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and his buddy Rob Gronkowski. Brady might be starting to show some cracks in the foundation but when in doubt, I’ve found it’s best to avoid betting against him.
Best Bets: None
Leans: Buccaneers over 9.5 wins (-120, FoxBet)