Bucs QB Jameis Winston has put in a lot of effort this off-season preparing to dig his Bucs from the division cellar
Tampa Bay finished the 2015 season in a typical letdown fashion that this team became known for during the 80’s and 90’s. The club lost four-straight games to secure their fifth-straight losing season and begins 2016 at the bottom of the NFC South totem pole, led by a slew of new coaches.
The schedule opens tough for Dirk Koetter and his Bucs, with games against the Cardinals, Panthers and Broncos, but Jameis Winston gives this team hope for a much more consistent season. Books have moved their early win total from 6.5 to 7.5 during the past few months, too, and Buc-believers are getting plus money on the “Over”.
LAST YEAR’S RECORD & 2016 NFL FUTURES
Win-Loss: 6-10 SU and 7-9 ATS
Over/Under: 9-7 O/U
Noteworthy: Tampa Bay ranked 4th overall last year in ‘Rushing Yard Margins’ (+34.8 RYPG), averaging 135 RYPG. Only the Seahawks (+60.2), Panthers (+54.2) and Bills (44.0) rushed for greater margins than they allowed on defense.
Winston had a good rookie year for the Bucs and with the two playmakers he has in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, things should continue to progress in 2016. Tampa Bay’s offense features a solid pair of backs in Doug Martin and Charles Sims and if the O-Line continues to open holes, these two will make teams pay. Left guard Logan Mankins retired so the Bucs signed JR Sweezy (Seahawks), but check his status. Sweezy had off-season back surgery and when this went to print he was still yet to practice.
The Bucs defense was average at best in 2015 and they are a coin flip to get much better in the year ahead. Mike Smith takes over for Leslie Frazier and he inherits a group that was 30th in stopping third downs, 30th in the red zone and 26th in scoring. Tampa was also a highly penalized group on both sides of the football (7th most on D; led NFL on offense), but Smith should have an immediate impact on that aspect. From 2008-14, Smith’s seven years in Atlanta, the Falcons averaged just 4.85 penalties per game (lowest in the NFL during that span).
Tampa spent four of its first six draft picks on defense and they acquired several free agents such as DE Robert Ayers (Giants) and CB Brent Grimes (Dolphins). Each should start in Week 1 and top pick, CB Vernon Hargreaves, has spent time working with the first teamers at camp. Alterraun Verner is Tampa’s holdover at corner and this secondary needs to start making plays if the team wants to compete in the South.
BUCS BOTTOM LINE: SLOW STARTERS
The Bucs are 5-28 ATS since 2011 when falling behind 7-0 (or greater). That’s the third-lowest win percentage in football the past five years (Titans, Texans) and includes a 2-11 ATS mark since 2014. They have no proven ability to make adjustments or overcome early deficits and Tampa faces six teams this year that ranked top 10 in ‘First Quarter Scoring’.
Circle three of Tampa’s road games at Arizona (Week 2), Carolina (Week 5) and Kansas City (Week 11). The spreads will be big but each of those teams ranked high in first quarter scoring last season and will likely do the same in 2016. Touchdown-plus road dogs in this spot are only 35-percent ATS the past five years with the Bucs going 2-6 ATS.
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