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Are the Bucs a Lock for the Playoffs?

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Brady Era Begins in Tompa Bay

Yes, we can brace for the beginning of another name change, only this time it is not a team nickname like the Redskins, but rather the actual city to which the team is attached. Tampa Bay is now Tompa Bay because of the arrival of the GOAT, Tom Brady, as the quarterback leading the Bucs from a desolate football wasteland to what many believe will be the pinnacle of NFL supremacy this season. A sacrifice of this magnitude is pretty much standard operating procedure when you beseech a god to do your bidding. 

Okay, so we kid, of course, but Tampa’s prayers have been answered and as another extra added spiff, Bucs’ fans will also get to see the greatest tight end of all time, Rob Gronkowski, catch passes from his old New England buddy, Tom Brady. Two of the greatest NFL players ever to lace up the cleats, now both members of the Tampa Bucs. A bounty of riches to be sure…or is it?

Will Tom be Terrific in Tampa?

What has been lost in the euphoria of the Bucs’ winning the Tom Brady Sweepstakes, is that TB12 will be 43 when the season kicks while his sidekick, Rob Gronkowski, is three years past his prime and a year removed from the game after retiring upon the close of the 2018 season. Unless a year away has healed his body and mitigated any deleterious effects Gronk felt during his last NFL campaign, we should not expect a whole lot from the former perennial Pro Bowler and future Hall-of-Famer. Gronkowski was a shadow of his former self in 2018 and no football player, other than quarterbacks, gets better when they are on the back side of 30. 

As for Brady, eventually, Father Time will win the day, and last season we saw Tom Terrific toss the ball away without allowing plays to fully developfar more frequently than in the past. While it is true his receiving corps was young and unpolished, coupled with absolutely no talent at the tight end position to block or catch, Brady was cautious to a fault. He appeared more concerned about making mistakes than making plays, but with a dearth of offensive talent and a decimated offensive line, it is hard to fault his strategy. 

But all of that said, how much of that had to do with Brady being half a click slower processing plays, unlike in previous years when he would scan the field like a heat-seeking missile searching for its target? If true, the paper-thin passing windows he has routinely creased throughout his career may no longer be nearly as routine, while his ability to surgically check down receivers could very well yield to an increased focus on survival rather than success. 

As long as we’re eschewing lollipops and rainbows for doom and gloom, let’s also consider that Tampa’s first-round pick, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, might not be the immovable force the Bucs believe he will be in his rookie campaign. If the big boys in the trenches cannot protect Brady then it could be a very early, and painful, end to his debut season in Tampa Bay. 

But let’s flip the coin and look on the bright side. Currently odds are universally bullish on the Bucs making a deep run this season. Let’s consider that what was a 7-9 team just a year ago is now +115 to win the NFC South, trailing New Orleans by just a whisker at +110, and the fifth choice to win the Super Bowl at +1200, behind the Chiefs, Ravens, Saints, and 49ers. 

Brady has exactly what he lacked last season in New England – an arsenal of pass-catching weapons. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin give Brady one of the best 1-2 punches in the entire league while the combination of Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard is light years ahead of the no-name tight ends he worked with last year in New England. 

If Brady can stave off middle age for one more year while Gronkowski’s one-year sabbatical proves to be his fountain of youth, and Tristan Wirfs lives up to his lofty billing as one of the top tackles in the draft, then it could be a super season, in more ways than one, for the Bucs. 

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