After opening the 2011-12 regular season with four wins in their first six games, few online sports betting experts could have predicted that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would drop 10 straight, fall to the bottom of the NFC South, and end up firing head coach Raheem Morris. The Buccaneers’ collapse can be blamed on a mix of injuries, inconsistent play, and overall immaturity from one of the league’s youngest teams. The latter two are expected to change under new head coach Greg Schiano and his staff, and after the team went all out in free agency to address several needs, Tampa Bay is expected to be a contender in the NFC South once again.
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sullivan
Defensive Coordinator: Bill Sheridan
Owner: Malcolm Glazer
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
Super Bowl Wins: 1
Quarterback Josh Freeman took a step back in his second full season as the Buccaneers’ starter. Although he threw for a career-best 62.8-completion percentage and a career-high 3,592 passing yards, Freeman had just 16 touchdown passes compared to 22 interceptions for a 74.6 passer rating. Part of the problem was a sketchy offensive line and lack of playmakers around him, something that Tampa Bay seemed to address in free agency. The Buccaneers signed guard Carl Nicks out of New Orleans to team with Davin Joseph on the line, and hope that Jeremy Trueblood can live up to his potential on the edge. Freeman will also have a new No. 1 wide receiver in Vincent Jackson, who along with Mike Williams gives this team a solid one-two punch on the outside. Tampa Bay drafted Doug Martin out of Boise State in the second round to team with LaGarrette Blount and help a running game that ranked 30th in the NFL last season, as a more consistent rushing attack will help give Freeman more time in the pocket.
Grade: B +
Unlike in the past when the Buccaneers’ defense was consistently regarded as one of the best units in the league, this group has struggled mightily the past two years. Tampa Bay ranked 21st in the NFL against the pass and owned the league’s worst rush defense, giving up far too many big plays in key situations. The Buccaneers drafted safety Mark Barron with the seventh overall pick hoping that he will be a Pro Bowl safety and leader that can have a major impact against both the run and pass, but he is going to need some help in front of him to reach his potential. Tampa Bay has a key piece in cornerback Aqib Talib provided that he could stay out of trouble, and after picking up David Wright the secondary should be better. Second round pick Lavonte David is expected to start from the outset at linebacker, and the return of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will be a huge boost o the front seven after he missed most of last season due to injury. Adrian Clayborn and Michael Bennett will provide the Buccaneers with an excellent pass rush off the edge, and if they can be better in the middle of the field and against the run, it should have an NFL betting ripple effect against the pass.
Grade: B -
The Bucceneers have one of the best punters in the league in Michael Koenen, who averaged 45.1 yards per punt and landed 24 inside the 20. Kicker Connor Barth set club records by hitting 26-of-28 field goals, and was actually tendered with the franchise tag for his work. The one area that Tampa Bay can improve on in special teams is the return game, with Martin one candidate to challenge Sammie Stroughter and Preston Park for touched in the return game after the team couldn’t register a single return touchdown a year ago.
Grade: A -
The NFC South is always tough, and the sportsbook schedule certainly isn’t kind to the Buccaneers with games against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, Cowboys, Redskins, Chargers, Broncos, and Eagles outside of the division. Tampa Bay certainly has the talent level to compete for a playoff spot this season, with consistency being the key to how well they take with their new head coach Schiano.
Projected Record: 8-8 (Third in NFC South)
2012 Regular Season Schedule
Week 1 – vs. Carolina (4:25 PM ET)
Week 2 – at New York Giants (1:00 PM ET)
Week 3 – at Dallas (1:00 PM ET)
Week 4 – vs. Washington (4:25 PM ET)
Week 5 – BYE WEEK
Week 6 – vs. Kansas City (1:00 PM ET)
Week 7 – vs. New Orleans (1:00 PM ET)
Week 8 – at Minnesota (Thursday, 8:20 PM ET)
Week 9 – at Oakland (4:05 PM ET)
Week 10 – vs. San Diego (1:00 PM ET)
Week 11 – at Carolina (1:00 PM ET)
Week 12 – vs. Atlanta (1:00 PM ET)
Week 13 – at Denver (4:05 PM ET)
Week 14 – vs. Philadelphia (1:00 PM ET)
Week 15 – at New Orleans (1:00 PM ET)
Week 16 – vs. St. Louis (1:00 PM ET)
Week 17 – at Atlanta (1:00 PM ET)