TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ brief competitive window seemingly came to a close when Tom Brady announced his retirement on Feb. 1, leaving the franchise without a suitable option at QB.
But of course, Brady’s retirement lasted only 40 days. Through social media, the seven-time Super Bowl champion and three-time league MVP announced that he was coming back for a 23rd season.
Brady’s decision vaulted Tampa Bay right back to the tier of Super Bowl favorites at multiple sportsbooks. The Bucs, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers are widely viewed as the main Super Bowl 57 favorites.
With the 2022 NFL season right around the corner, there is hope that Kansas Sports Betting will launch at some point in the second half of 2022. If it goes live, residents of Kansas would be able to place wagers through top sportsbooks like FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, and PointsBet.
Tampa Bay must play the entire AFC North that features three Super Bowl contenders plus an always-competitive Pittsburgh Steelers team. They’ll play the entire NFC West (three teams from the division made the playoffs last season), the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs.
Not to mention that the Bucs must get past a pesky New Orleans Saints team that holds a 4-1 record against Brady since he joined Tampa.
The way-too-early prediction here is that the Buccaneers will finish with an 11-6 record. Again, they’ll find it awfully difficult to replicate last season’s perfect mark (for regular season contests) in one-score games.
Tampa Bay will open up with a Week 1 victory in Dallas, but a road loss to New Orleans will drop them to 1-1. After getting past Aaron Rodgers’ Packers in Week 3, the Bucs will fall to Mahomes and a retooled Kansas City team in Week 4.
The Bills are the betting favorites to win Super Bowl 57 at +650 on FanDuel. The Buccaneers lead all NFC teams with +750 odds, and Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs are third at +950.
The 2021 Buccaneers brought back every starter from their Super Bowl 55 championship team, but there were a few notable changes this offseason. The main one, of course, was the head coach position.
Bruce Arians stepped down as Tampa’s head coach and passed the role over to his longtime assistant and defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles. Arians announced that he was moving into a front office role.
Tampa GM Jason Licht was able to bring back Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, workhorse running back Leonard Fournette, superstar wide receiver Chris Godwin and top corner Carlton Davis. Slick receiver Russell Gage and veteran defensive lineman Akiem Hicks were added in free agency.
The Bucs are built to win now. It’s Super Bowl or bust for a team that is two years removed from a championship season. So, how will Brady and company fare in what should be an event-filled 2022 campaign?
Prediction: 11-6 Regular Season Record
Tampa Bay benefitted from a rather soft schedule last year, but things will be much different in 2022. They have the fourth toughest strength of schedule for this season, as their opponents combined for a .535 winning percentage.
The Buccaneers finished 13-4 last season, but luck certainly played a key factor in that. They were 6-0 in one-score games during the regular season, whereas the 2020 squad dropped three one-score games.
A friendly stretch of games (vs. the Atlanta Falcons, at Pittsburgh and at Carolina Panthers) will help the Bucs jump to 5-2. However, Lamar Jackson and the feisty Baltimore Ravens’ defense will catch them off guard in the short week with a victory on Thursday Night Football.
It’s tough to project the Buccaneers’ Week 12 road game against the Cleveland Browns. If Deshaun Watson plays that game, a victory on the road will be that much tougher for the Bucs.
But if Watson is suspended, and if the Browns are forced to start a backup for this game, it should result in a Tampa Bay victory. For now, we’ll predict that the Buccaneers get past the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Bucs will bring a four-game winning streak into Week 14, before finally losing to Brady’s boyhood team in the San Francisco 49ers. Joe Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals will outlast Tampa in a Week 15 December thriller.
The Bucs will sit at 8-6, but they’ll close out the season with three straight W’s: At Arizona Cardinals, vs. Panthers and at Falcons. It’ll be enough for the Buccaneers to claim the No. 2 seed in the NFC for the second straight year.
Only the Packers, with a record of 12-5, will finish ahead of Tampa Bay for tops in the NFC. However, the Bucs’ hope for a second Super Bowl in three years will end with a heartbreaking divisional round loss at home to the 49ers.