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The 2021 Schedule for the Super Bowl Champs

This is arguably my favorite day in the NFL offseason: the day the schedule comes out.  It’s time to start planning road trips.

The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers are slated for five games in prime time.  That’s the same as last year, but the game in Vegas got moved to the afternoon because of COVID-19.  It all starts Thursday night, September 9, against the Cowboys.  Were you hoping for the Saints or Bills?  Nope – it’s Dallas.  Why?  Dallas means TV ratings.  End of story.

But the headliner comes in week 4, when Tom Brady and company come up here to New England to play the Patriots on Sunday Night football.  Can you picture all of the hoopla for that one?  Well, you should, because it’s going to happen.  The Bucs also have prime time game scheduled against the Eagles, Giants and Saints.

Last year, the Bucs played Atlanta twice in the last three weeks.  This year, it’ll be Carolina.

OK, enough said.  Here it is:

Sept. 9    DALLAS

Sept. 19  ATLANTA

Sept. 26  @ L.A. Rams

Oct. 3  @ New England

Oct. 10  MIAMI

Oct. 14  @ Philadelphia

Oct. 24  CHICAGO

Oct. 31  @ New Orleans

BYE WEEK

Nov.14  @ Washington

Nov. 22  NY GIANTS

Nov. 28  @ Indianapolis

Dec.  5 @ Atlanta

Dec. 12  BUFFALO

Dec. 19  NEW ORLEANS

Dec. 26 @ Carolina

Jan. 2  @ N.Y. Jets

Jan. 9  CAROLINA

NFL Draft: Bucs Choose OLB Tryon

We’re not used to the Buccaneers picking at the very end of the first round of the draft.  But that’s what happens when you win the Super Bowl.  And with the 32nd overall pick, the Bucs went with a pass rusher: outside linebacker Joe Tryon from Washington.

Because I am not big on studying draftees, as usual, the first thing I said was “who’s he?”  Now that I’ve read up on him, I know that he didn’t play at all last year because he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.  In the previous year, he was a stud, with eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

I’m okay with this pick.  The Bucs brought back all of their stars from their Super Bowl team, so they’re adding depth on defense.  And if he can be as effective as fellow husky Vita Vea, then all the better.

Good News on Brady and Lavonte

This has been a big week for the Super Bowl champs, with news regarding three of their star players.

We’ll start with today’s news.  Tom Brady has extended his contract.  He’ll be playing with the Bucs beyond this upcoming season.  Second, Lavonte David signed a two-year contract extension that will ensure his career in Tampa will last more than a decade.  He and Devin White make up arguably the best linebacker duo in the league.  And earlier this week, the Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.

As Bruce Arians would say, they “ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Yes, there are many more players that are set to become free agents.  Some of the biggest include Shaq Barrett, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette and Ryan Succop.  But this is at least a good start toward keeping the nucleus together.

Photo courtesy: @tombrady

Some Post-Super Bowl Thoughts on the Bucs

Now that I’ve had a chance to let the Super Bowl victory sink in, and watch the Buccaneers turn into big-time party animals during their boat parade, it’s time to hand out some postseason honors.  There is no rhyme or reason to any of these categories; I’m just going to do these at random.

Offensive MVP: Tom Brady

How could a 43-year old quarterback leave a team he’s been with for 20 years, join one that hadn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade, and end up winning a Super Bowl in his first year with his new team.  When your name is Tom Brady, of course.  Brady looks like he could play until he’s 50 (though he probably won’t.)  As you would expect with him, there was a lot more good than bad.  The number of turnovers from the quarterback position dropped off dramatically compared to his predecessor, Jameis Winston.  After going 7-5 through the first 12 games, Brady led the Bucs on an 8-game winning streak, and their second Super Bowl title.  And you’d be crazy to say he didn’t help others elevate their games.

Defensive MVP: Devin White

When the Bucs drafted this guy two years ago, we the fans said, ‘he’d better be the next Derrick Brooks.’  Well, he’s on his way.  White was sensational in his sophomore year in Tampa, leading the team in tackles.  And that’s with missing the regular season finale and the wild card game against Washington due to COVID.  White’s INT late in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl was the cherry on top of a tremendous season.  Or, maybe the official dessert was getting to ride his horse around Ray-Jay for a victory lap after the parade.  It was well-earned.

Best rookie: Tristan Wirfs

This is the guy the Buccaneers took in the first round of the 2020 draft.  What a pick this turned out to be.  One big question I had going into the season was, how well could the offensive line protect Tom Brady?  Wirfs got the job done, and then some.  You didn’t hear a lot about him during telecasts.  That’s because he was doing his job, and not committing penalties.  Antoine Winfield Jr. will get a lot of praise for his work in the secondary – and his little feud with Tyreek Hill – but I’m giving Wirfs the ever-so-slight edge.

Best special teams player: Ryan Succop

You all know how dreadful the Bucs’ kicking game has been over the years.  Succop is another player they picked up in free agency.  In 2020, he made 28-of-31 field goals during the regular season.  That’s 90%.  He was 9-for-9 in the playoffs.  He brought an enormous deal of comfort to a position that has been a weak spot for a long time.

There are many more honorable mentions, but these are just a few.  I’m sure you’re all aware of all the free agents the Bucs have to deal with.  But that’s for Jason Licht to handle in the coming months.  In the meantime, just keep reliving the moment, because who knows when this will ever happen again.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!!!!

They did it!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9. It’s the Bucs’ second championship, and first in 18 years.

Tom Brady is your MVP. He still has it at age 43.

But to me, the real MVP is Todd Bowles. The defense played the game of its life, keeping Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense out of the end zone.

Go crazy, Bucs fans. Enjoy this for awhile!

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

THE BUCS ARE IN THE SUPER BOWL!

It’s been a little more than 24 hours since the Buccaneers punched their ticket to Super Bowl LV.  I admit: it still doesn’t seem real yet.  It still hasn’t sunk in.

When Tom Brady came to Tampa during the offseason, we all knew this was the goal.  But much impact could a 43-year-old quarterback possibly have on a team that hadn’t even made the playoffs in 13 years?

Well, now we know.  An 11-5 record.  A wild card berth.  Three straight playoff wins on the road against three division champions, including the top-seeded Packers on Sunday.  And now, a Super Bowl on their home field against the defending champs, the Chiefs.

The NFC Championship game in Green Bay was, in many ways, a typical 2020 game for the Bucs.  They looked outstanding for 30 minutes, then hung on for dear life in the second half.  Heck, Brady threw three interceptions on three straight possessions.  But the Packers converted those miscued into just six points.  And who know what would’ve happened if Green Bay had not decided to kick a field goal with just over two minutes remaining, trailing by eight, with the ball inside the Bucs’ 10-yard line.

But none of that matters now.  Our Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be making just their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  We all remember the last one; in 2002, they went to San Diego and blew out the Raiders.  Now, they face superstar Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City.

But we’ll dive more into the matchup later on.  For now, let’s just cherish the moment.  It is no longer a dream; the Bucs are in the Super Bowl.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Countdown to the NFC Championship Game

Here we stand, about 48 hours from the NFC Championship game between the Buccaneers and the Packers in Green Bay.  Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers.  Around 6:30 Sunday night, we should know whether the Bucs will be playing in Super Bowl XV, in their home stadium.

The Bucs got some good news and bad news on Friday.  First, the good news: nose tackle Vita Vea, who was thought to be out for the season, has been activated for the game.  This will give a big (literally) boost to Tampa Bay’s defense as they face a potent Green Bay offense.

On the downside, Antonio Brown has been ruled out.  Fortunately, the Bucs still have plenty of weapons in the passing game to make up for his absence.

This is only the fourth time ever that Tampa Bay has made it to the NFC title game.  The Bucs are 1-2 all time, with the last one being the victory over the Eagles in the 2002 season that sent the Buccaneers on their way to becoming Super Bowl champs.  They lost their other two appearances – in 1979 and 1999.

These two teams have only met one other time in the postseason.  In January 1998, the Bucs went to Lambeau Field and lost, 21-7, in the divisional round.

Never before has there been a ‘Battle of the Bays’ with so much at stake.  These two teams used play each other twice a year, back in the old NFC Central days.  I expect a terrific ballgame in Green Bay on Sunday.

ONE WIN FROM THE SUPER BOWL!

Bucs fans: our team is one win away from playing in the Super Bowl.  One more win.

The only thing standing in the way is a victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.  Of course, that means a trip to frigid Lambeau Field.  But it can be done.

On Sunday, the Bucs knocked off the Saints in the divisional round, 30-20.  This is the same New Orleans team that humiliated the Bucs on national TV in week 9.  But the same unit that got shredded in that game – the secondary – was the difference in Sunday’s victory.  Tampa Bay forced four turnovers, and the offense turned those miscues into 21 points.  The Buccaneers, on the other hand, played turnover-free football, and ran the ball effectively.  The offensive line also turned in another solid performance.

This will be Tom Brady’s 14th trip to a conference championship game, and his first in a pewter uniform.  This will be the Bucs’ fourth appearance in the NFC title game.  The last time was in January of 2003, when they shut down Veterans Stadium in Philly by beating the Eagles.  They would go on to beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl.

Never before has a “Battle of the Bays” meant so much.  Tampa Bay beat Green Bay handily during the regular season, but the Saints also did that to the Bucs.  Brady and a few others are used to playing in the cold, so I expect them to be ready.  Buckle up: this ride isn’t over just yet.

Photo courtesy: @jwhite_333 (Jordan Whitehead’s twitter)

ON TO THE DIVISIONAL ROUND!

The Buccaneers aren’t ready to go home just yet.  And they keep ending long droughts.  First, they made the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.  And now, they have their first postseason win since the Super Bowl season of 2002.

Tampa Bay beat Washington, 31-23, in the wild card round Saturday night.  The Bucs will either travel to New Orleans or host the Rams in the divisional round.

Tom Brady was his usual awesome self.  The offensive line was terrific against a fierce Washington defensive front.  It’s a shame that RG Alex Cappa got hurt and may not play next week.  Mike Evans – who didn’t look like he would play again this season after that injury in the Atlanta game – was spectacular.

On the flip side, the secondary was also its usual self, but I don’t mean that in a good way.  If they let Taylor Heinicke tear them apart like he did, imagine what Drew Brees will do to them.  Oh, wait – we already know the answer to that one.  Chris Godwin dropped a bunch of passes.  I’ll give him a pass for now, because he’s usually one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league.

As I write this post, the Saints are leading the Bears at the half, 7-3.  So, we won’t know for another hour and a half who the Bucs will be playing next.  But after tonight, there will be eight teams left standing, and Tampa Bay is one of them.

Photo courtesy: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Go 11-5; Wild Card Game Up Next

If you had told me last winter that the Buccaneers would win eleven games in 2020, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Even after they picked up Tom Brady, I had the question: does he still have it at age 43?

Oh, yes, he does.  And the Bucs’ offense is on fire heading into next weekend’s wild card game in Washington.

Brady finished the regular season with 40 touchdown passes, including four more against the Falcons.  Chris Godwin is amazing.  Antonio Brown is heating up.  RoJo scored again.  But there is concern about Mike Evans, who injured his knee shortly after clinching his 7th straight 1,000-yard season.  He’s the first player in NFL history to begin a career like that.  But will the Bucs have him when they take on the Washington Saturday night?

Tampa Bay will be favored in the wild card round.  But even though the Bucs are playing a 7-9 team, don’t think for a moment that this will be a cakewalk.  Washington’s bread and butter is on defense, especially up front.  They are very, very good.  The Bucs’ offensive line needs to be stellar.

Tampa Bay has already snapped a 13-year playoff drought.  Now they’ll try to win a playoff game for the first time since the 2002 Super Bowl season.

Photo courtesy: Associated Press