Earlier this off season I set the over/under on wins for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season at six. I staked out the 6 games I thought they might win but in all honestly I thought there was a chance they could lose one of those so had anyone asked I would have probably said I was taking the under.
Now that I have had the benefit of seeing the team play this preseason I have changed my mind. I am now predicting that the Bucs will win 7-8 games this year. Yesterday I said I had them with 7 and a possible:
I'm officially taking the over now for the Bucs. If you know anything about playing spades I'm taking them for 7 and a possible. Right now I believe we can and will beat Cleveland, St Louis, Carolina at least once, Arizona, Washington, Detroit, Seattle and its possible we will beat Atlanta once.
But Elliot in the comments section pointed out the Steelers game as a another possible win that I hadn't counted. So the reality is I'm actually leaning more towards 8 but I will go with 7 and a possible for now.
I'm sure the question is why am I taking the over now when so many people have such a negative outlook on the Bucs for this year (Peter King just predicted they would go 2-14). Am I being overly optimistic? Am I trying to inflate the Bucs' prospects because I used to play for them? Am I just trying to be contrarian? Or maybe I might have just bumped my head?
No...on all counts.
Here is why I'm taking the over now. I see how much this team has improved in one year. From the players to the coaching staff this team looks very different to me from the one that went 3-16 last year. Gone is the horrendous Jim Bates defensive scheme and in its place I see a stingy defense with full of playmakers.
Gone is the zone run blocking scheme and in its place I see a lot more counters and split bellys and power Os which is what our offensive line was made for.
One of the most important changes is that Mike Nugent and his inconsistent field goal kicking is gone replaced by Connor Barth who has now become a weapon for us.
Overall I see a team that has more of a sense of direction and more focus than I saw last year.
Oh and we are a lot more talented as well.
Now when I think of the team I think of weapons. Weapons on both side of the ball. Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow, Kareem Huggins, those guys are weapons. Gerald McCoy, Aqib Talib, Geno Hays, Quincy Black, those guys are weapons. Instead of being on our heels, this year we are going to be the ones attacking. And it turns out that we even have some quality depth at key positions like center which we didn't have last year.
And then when you look at our schedule and you watch these preseason games you realize that there are some teams that we are simply better than. I would put the Browns, Seahawks and Rams in that category. There are other teams that we are at least as good as and we get to play them at home. I would say the Panthers, and Lions fit that bill. Then you have the teams who have a problem at quarterback. The Steelers will have to use Dennis Dixon or Byron Leftwich and nobody knows who the Cardinals will have at quarterback by the time we play them. Then you have the Redskins who still have to learn how to play a 3-4 and don't have a lot of offensive weapons around McNabb, and you have the Falcons who we played tough in two games last year barely coming up short both times.
In the end out of that group 7 or 8 wins are not only possible, they are likely.
Several things could of course change this outlook including injuries, but for right now I feel very comfortable taking the over. I know some people will scoff at that but it won't be the first time. If I turn out to be wrong I will have no problem coming out and admitting that I was. The real question as I see it however is what if I'm right? Will the nay sayers admit THEY were wrong?
Somehow I doubt it.
But here is your chance. What's YOUR prediction for the Bucs record this season? Let me know in the comments section and we can compare notes in January.