Respect is never given, respect is earned. Nobody knows that better than the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A lesson they learned last season after going from potential playoff contenders at the beginning of the season to 5-11 pretenders at the end of it. After going 9-7 in 2016, the Bucs were crowned as “offseason champs” before the 2017 season even began being featured on Hard Knocks, being talked up by Kay and the boys on Good Morning Football every day and being heralded as a team on the rise by almost every sports media outlet in the country. Last year, this team bought into the hype and the attention and thought they had arrived. This year, it’s just the opposite. Nobody believes in this team right now. Not the NFL Network. Not ESPN. Not Las Vegas. Not even Kay and the boys. They went from “favorites” to “longshots” in less than a year. Nobody believes in this team. That is, at least nobody outside of One Buc Palace.
Last year, the Eagles were considered “underdogs”. Nobody expected them to win the Super Bowl, not when the season started and especially not when their franchise QB Carson Wentz went down with a season ending knee injury. They ended up embracing that title. They ran with it to the extent of wearing dog masks throughout the playoffs. They relished in it. They used it as motivation. That’s exactly what the Bucs need to do this season. The doubt and negativity needs to be fuel for their fire.
So what’s the fuel, you ask?
The USA Today predicts the Bucs to have another 5-11 season.
The Sporting News says they’ll go 1-15 and end up with the #1 pick once again.
Athlon Sports has them finishing last in the NFC South.
Sports Illustrated thinks they could finish anywhere from 3-13 to 11-5, “if Jameis and Dirk can get their act together”.
Fansided has them at #32 in their NFL Power Rankings and say that “they’re the only team in the NFC South that still needs a franchise quarterback”.
MyBookie.com has the over/under for their total wins this season set at 6.5 wins. They also have them at 40-1 odds to win the NFC and 90-1 odds to win the Super Bowl.
How’s that for a lack of respect? That’s pretty ugly even for a team that was 5-11 last year, especially when seven of those losses came by 7 points or less. Even the NFL didn’t show the team any love with the schedule handing them the 4th toughest in the league. They even gave them three teams to start the season that finished a combined 37-11 last year, which from what I hear is the most difficult 3-game start to a season for any team in the modern Super Bowl era. The Saints were 11-5, while the Steelers and Eagles were both 13-3. Is it a coincidence that Jameis Winston just happens to be suspended during those first three games? I don’t think so. But like I said before, respect has to be earned. And it’s time for the Bucs to earn it.
Jason Licht had specific agendas in this offseason. His first priority was to solidify the trenches. Both sides needed work, physically and mentally. They needed to be nastier and tougher up front on offense so he signed free agent center Ryan Jensen and drafted Alex Cappa. On defense, he wanted to stop the run first and then get to the quarterback on third downs. He hopes that he accomplished that by signing free agents Mitch Unrein, Beau Allen and Vinny Curry, trading for Jason Pierre-Paul and drafting Vita Vea. All of them are strong run stoppers and JPP is one of the elite defensive ends in football when it comes to rushing the passer. Another thing they have in common is that most of them have Super Bowl experience. Unrein played in one with the Denver Broncos. Pierre-Paul won one with the New York Giants. And Curry and Allen both won it with the Philadelphia Eagles last season. So he didn’t just find guys that can play, he found guys who know how to win. Guys who know how to earn that respect. Guys that know what it takes to get where these Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to go and haven’t been in 15 years. Sure, they’re considered “longshots”. But that’s just how THIS Bucs team likes it. That’s just how THIS Bucs team wants it. I think they showed the New Orleans Saints and put the rest of the league on notice on Sunday, that they deserve some R-E-S-P-E-C-T this time. Now they need to do it all over again next week in their home opener against the World Champs!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!