For a division that has typically been dominated by the Atlanta Falcons or New Orleans Saints, it’s hard to fathom the woeful Buccaneers putting up much of a fight against their divisional rivals. Although the Falcons of yesteryear were abysmal to say the least, they have a stacked offensive roster to help them bounce back assuming they can reconfigure their defense to effectively stop the rush. While it may seem that the NFC South may be unforgiving to a rebooted team like the Buccaneers, they have made considerable strides to give themselves a fighting chance to compete not only in their division but also within the NFC Conference as a whole. Between bringing in head coach Lovie Smith and acquiring veteran back up passer Josh McCown from the Chicago Bears, the Buccaneers have garnered the two most important pieces for their team to become successful in the long run. While their aspirations for even a wild card berth may seem farfetched initially, their desire to reinvigorate themselves may be just enough to make them a legit competitor once again.
Although McCown may not have the most experience when it comes to being the unconditional starter for a professional football franchise, his clutch performances with the Bears during last season can’t be denied. In his eight starts last season, McCown threw 13 touchdowns and only one interception while completing 66.5% of his passes. While McCown may not have the prolific receiving corps he did back in Chicago when he was throwing to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, he at least has young receivers that could make a name for themselves with McCown throwing well timed passes their way.
Even if McCown adjusts to his new team with ease, he won’t have it easy especially within the first few weeks of the season. During the first week of the season, the Buccaneers will have to contend with a stout defensive opponent in the Carolina Panthers, while weeks 4-6 have the Buccaneers going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Although it may be unfair to expect the Buccaneers to make it through their first six games with a winning record, a 3-3 split wouldn’t be disastrous, as they would get a BYE week during the 7th week of the season with their next two games of the season being against the lowly Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns. Still, even with this type of reprieve, it’s hard to know how arduous the Buccaneers full schedule will actually be. If the Steelers continue to remain stagnant as they have within the last two years, even on the road the Buccaneers would have a favorable chance to come out on top assuming their offense is efficient enough to contend with a Steelers defensive line that is still fairly formidable. Conversely, the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings could be sleeper opponents if they can find a young passer in the NFL draft that can resurrect their respective franchises to at least being moderately competitive. Ultimately, the Buccaneers shouldn’t feel any trepidation when it comes to looking at their schedule week by week. Instead, this franchise needs to take one game at a time regardless of their opponent to make the proper adjustments, as there will inevitably be some kinks to work out initially.
In the end, the Buccaneers are still trying to decipher their true competitive identity while remaining optimistic that their new head coach and starting quarterback can lead them valiantly to a well-deserved playoff berth. Although it may be too early to make definitive statements about the integrity of the Buccaneers roster, the fact that their offense is made up of youthful athletes at least gives the Buccaneers a foundation to build off of for the foreseeable future. If this team can remain patient while making wise choices when the draft finally comes around, the Buccaneers could easily explode onto the scene as an underrated scrappy contender that isn’t afraid to take down the alleged juggernauts that stand in their way.