It seems like every year there is at least one team that comes from the cellar to surprise the NFL world. With that knowledge, most experts try to guess which team could do it before the season starts.
I’m guessing no one even considered Tampa Bay as a possibility.
The team was downright putrid in 2009 as a young quarterback and young head coach suffered through a team short on talent and answers. In fact, many questioned whether or not Raheem Morris should even be brought back for a second season after a 3-13 campaign.
Those people probably aren’t admitting who they were anymore.
Josh Freeman is coming into his own and attracting a lot of attention in league circles as one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars. Freeman has a strong arm, is accurate, tough to bring down, and has shown an ability to make the plays that need to be made in the clutch.
With rookie sensation Mike Williams getting better as the weeks go on and a plethora of options at running back in Earnest Graham, Cadillac Williams, and LeGarrette Blount, the Buccaneers offense is busting at the seams with potential.
The defense, like the offense, has a lot of young talent but is also infused with a veteran presence. Young guys like Aqib Talib, Gerald McCoy, and Barrett Ruud are given guys like Ronde Barber, Sean Jones, and Stylez White to look up to.
That mix has created a unit that, although still attempting to find an identity, has been able to support its offense well enough to be in position to make a playoff push.
But, is this young team an actual contender?
We all love rooting for the underdog, and as impressed as I am with Freeman and Morris, I just cannot say right now that the Bucs are legitimate contenders.
One reason is their age. Young guys like that have a hunger to win, but they’re not sure how to win. They’re winning games in the regular season against teams they should beat, and that’s a start, but so far they have not beaten anyone worth discussing.
So far, the Buccaneers have beaten the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers (x2), Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and San Francisco 49ers. Their three losses have come against the Pittsburgh Steelers (38-13), the New Orleans Saints (31-6), and the Atlanta Falcons (27-21).
All that says to me is that the Bucs aren’t ready to hang with the big boys of the league at this point in time.
They’re certainly a team to look out for next season, but because of their age and being stuck in the NFC South behind the Saints and Falcons, I don’t see the Bucs even making the playoffs this season.