The Buccaneers finished 7-9 last season and are now poised to play for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. That’s quite the turnaround for a team that returned a majority of the same players and coaches from the previous year. One change, though, can be pointed to as the most likely reason for their newfound success.
Last season, Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston became just the eighth quarterback (twelfth time it’s been done overall) to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. He also became the inaugural member of the NFL’s 30-30 club, which means 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. That’s a dubious record to hold as an NFL quarterback and, while not the only reason, is probably at least partially responsible for why they elected not to bring him back in free agency.
Enter Tom Brady. Brady, fresh off of 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, was looking for a fresh start with a team with weapons to assist him. Boy, did the Buccaneers fill that need. Mike Evans is a three-time Pro Bowler, and Chris Godwin posted 1,300 yards and a Pro Bowl last season. Throw in Ronald Jones II, former first round-picks Leonard Fournette and OJ Howard, and you’ve got a deep offense that takes the pressure off of 43-year-old Brady. Throw in trading for Brady’s favorite weapon from his time in New England, Rob Gronkowski, and you can see why they were Super Bowl picks in the off-season.
Add that tremendous offense to a defense that was first against the rush last year and beefed up their secondary this year, and it’s not hard to see why they’re in the Super Bowl. This is as complete a team that was in the playoffs, evidenced by good team wins over the Washington Football Team, the New Orleans Saints and the top seeded Green Bay Packers (latter two were road victories).
But the real key here, and probably the largest reason to bet on them, would be Brady. Brady is vying for his seventh Super Bowl ring, which would be more than any other franchise has to its name. Even after shuffling into the fifth seed and eking out their first win over the 7-9 Football Team, the Buccaneers are still standing. And that’s even more proof of something we’ve learned after watching the last 20 years of Tom Brady’s career: You better have a really good reason to pick against Brady in the playoffs.
Brady is 33-11 in the playoffs. That kind of success is incredibly hard to beat. If you’re looking for a reason that Tampa Bay is going to win, despite facing the best team from this season in the Chiefs, look no further than number 12.