Buccaneers Season Win Total Prediction
Jameis Winston’s rookie season produced some fine individual numbers, but very little in the way of collective success for the Buccaneers. Is Tampa Bay poised to turn the corner in 2016?
With training camps about to begin, handicappers aren’t so certain. Online sports book Bovada.lv puts the Bucs’ win total at 7.5. Last season, the team finished 6-10. Only two organizations in the NFC, San Francisco and Dallas, fared worse.
In an effort to emerge from the basement, though, Lovie Smith was dismissed. Dirk Koetter now takes the helm, and he obviously has a lot with which to work in Winston. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 draft threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first campaign, starting all 16 contests. Those statistics were good enough to warrant a Pro Bowl berth, even though Koetter clearly would like to see improved decision-making. (Winston hurled 15 interceptions over 535 attempts.)
The former Florida State standout boasts an impressive supporting cast, too, starting with Doug Martin. Tampa Bay and the tailback reached agreement on a long-term contract in March. Martin just racked up the second-most rushing yards in the NFL and added 32 catches. Simply put, he’s an all-purpose machine who seems to have overcome the spate of injuries that threatened to curtail his career in the early going.
On the outside, Mike Evans possesses beastly talent. Surprisingly, however, the Texas A&M product dropped 11 balls last year. His TD receptions even dropped from 12 to three. Yet, reliable complementary options do exist in Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. At 33, Jackson could be on the verge of a decline. Seferian-Jenkins, though, presents matchup problems galore at tight end. The only problem pertains to keeping him on the field, as the Washington native has missed 16 of 32 possible affairs.
Understandably, countless questions surround the defense. Smith actually disappointed in that specialty area of his, so we’ll see what ex-Atlanta head coach Mike Smith brings to the table on that side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David continues to serve as the anchor, but he should receive a lot more help from the front four moving forward. General manager Jason Licht addressed said weak spot by adding Robert Ayers, who notched a career-high 9.5 sacks for the Giants in 2015. The Bucs also took Noah Spence with the 39th overall selection in April’s draft. Spence created havoc as an edge rusher at Eastern Kentucky and contrasts mainstay Gerald McCoy’s brawn-based approach along the interior quite nicely.
On the back end, first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves promises to jump into the mix immediately. While a bit undersized, he’ll undoubtedly learn numerous pointers from veteran Brent Grimes. Licht deserves major kudos for landing Grimes, who picked off 13 passes in three Pro Bowl seasons with Miami, via free agency.
Very few guarantees exist in the NFC South, and Tampa Bay’s sudden infusion of talent heightens the excitement around South Florida. Nonetheless, we’re not quite convinced that the multitude of fresh faces can coalesce in time for a legitimate playoff run this fall. A .500 finish remains within reach, but our crystal ball ultimately reveals seven victories.
MONDAY NFL FREE PICK: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS UNDER 7.5 WINS (-140)