Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 6/11/2014
It's quite possible that the Tampa Bay Bucs have been the biggest mess in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season. The end of the Raheem Morris era couldn't have gone much worse as Tampa started the 2011 campaign 4-2 before losing 10 straight. That led the Bucs to fire Morris and turn to Rutgers' Greg Schiano, presumably because he could install some discipline. His approach might have worked well in the college ranks, but it rubbed a lot of the Bucs the wrong way. Things were so bad last year in Tampa that the team had three players diagnosed with MRSA from the team locker room.
Schiano was dumped after a 11-21 record -- his fate was sealed by a 0-8 start last season -- in two years and the Bucs know at least they have a truly professional staff led by former Bears coach Lovie Smith now. He also spent 1996-2000 as the linebackers coach in Tampa under Tony Dungy. Smith was 81-63 from 2004-12 in Chicago and reached one Super Bowl, a loss to Dungy's Colts. Smith's Bears teams tended to collapse down the stretch in his final few years, and he was canned after 2012 despite a 10-6 record.
Smith is the guy calling all the shots, but the Bucs also hired a new GM this past winter in Jason Licht. He spent the past two years with Arizona. Licht doesn't have final say over Tampa Bay's 53-man roster -- Smith had that written into his contract. But overall it does feel like this franchise is finally on solid ground again. Not sure that has been the case since Jon Gruden's days.
It seems like forever ago, but the Bucs went into last season still thinking Josh Freeman could be the franchise quarterback. Now the keys to the offense have been given to Josh McCown. The career backup was one of the best signal-callers in the NFL last year in about half a season as the No. 2 to injury-prone Jay Cutler with Chicago -- Bears fans found it ironic that Smith lured McCown away from the Windy City when one criticism of Smith there was he couldn't develop quarterbacks. McCown already has been anointed the starter, and he's got some very good talent. Vincent Jackson has had at least 1,224 yards receiving in each of his two seasons in Tampa. Mike Evans was the team's first-round pick out of Texas A&M, and he and Jackson give the Bucs a huge 1-2 duo at receiver much like McCown had with the Bears.
Running back Doug Martin was spectacular as a rookie in 2012 but struggled and lasted only six games last year. The guy still has skills. Apparently, however, the Bucs like their entire stable of running backs because new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, the former Cal coach, plans to use a running back by committee. The Bucs drafted West Virginia running back Charles Sims in the third round in May and return Mike James and Bobby Rainey. I still think Martin will get the majority of touches.
Smith made his name on defense in the Tampa-2 zone scheme with the Bucs and Bears, and the team will re-integrate that bend-but-don't break system. Smith hired former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier as his coordinator when Dallas wouldn't let Rod Marinelli leave for that opening. Frazier, like Smith and Marinelli, is a disciple of Dungy. The Tampa 2 needs great players up the middle -- nose tackle, middle linebacker and safety -- to thrive. The Bucs in their heyday had that with Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. The current team has no one like that, but tackle Gerald McCoy. linebacker Lavonte Davis and safety Dashon Goldson are three of the better players at their positions in the NFL. The Bucs also were active in free agency, landing defensive end Michael Johnson from Cincinnati and cornerback Alterraun Verner from Tennessee (after releasing Darrelle Revis). This group should be better than last year's that finished 21st in scoring. Like Smith's Bears, the Bucs will allow yards but will be very aggressive in trying to force turnovers.
2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Schedule Analysis
The Bucs are about right in the middle with the 14th-easist schedule . Their opponents were 123-131-2 in 2013 with a winning percentage of .484. The road schedule (.445) is much easier than the home one (.523). Tampa is a 2-point underdog for Week 1 against visiting Carolina. The Panthers had no trouble sweeping the Bucs last year, winning 31-13 in Tampa and 27-6 in Charlotte. Rookie Mike Glennon, now the backup, started both games for the Bucs at QB. He completed 44-of-72 for 455 yards with a touchdown and interception while being sacked eight times.
Whether the Bucs are a playoff-caliber team should be clear after Week 2 as they host the Rams following the Panthers and can win those first two. It's also certainly conceivable that Tampa could start 0-2. It better not, because the next three are on the road: Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New Orleans (all losses I would expect) before hosting the Ravens. The bye is Week 7, and then the easiest stretch of the year: vs. Minnesota, at Cleveland, vs. Atlanta, at Washington, at Chicago (Smith's and McCown's return to the Windy City). However, then four of the final five are against playoff teams: vs. Cincinnati, at Detroit, at Carolina, vs. Green Bay, vs. New Orleans.
2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Bucs are +7500 to win the Super Bowl, +3800 to win the NFC title and +700 to win the NFC South (long shot). Tampa has a wins total of 7, with the "over" a -135 favorite. Evans is the +600 second-favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year and +25000 to lead the league in receiving yards. McCown is +10000 for NFL MVP and the same price to lead the league in passing yards. Jackson is +2500 to lead the NFL in receiving yards. Martin is +1600 to lead the NFL in rushing.
2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Picks and Predictions
This is another tough team to gauge. I don't doubt the Bucs will be better and more disciplined than last year with Smith now in charge. Most NFL experts
gave Tampa one of the highest grades in the NFL in terms of free agency. I am not sold on McCown. He was fantastic in Chicago but hadn't ever been before
that. Yet I also believe Martin has a big bounce-back season. I would project a 7-9 record and thus a push, but suppose 8-8 is more likely than 6-10, so go
"over" there. Can't recommend any division or NFC title odds or individual player awards.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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