Not since 2003 have we been able to say or write that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter an NFL season as the defending Super Bowl champions. But that’s exactly the case 18 years later as the Bucs won their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history in just their third overall playoff appearance since Jon Gruden, Brad Johnson and an all-time defense were crowned.
You could argue that a target was on Tampa Bay’s back when Tom Brady signed with the team last offseason, but it’s emblazoned now after Brady captured his seventh Super Bowl ring. Let’s dive deeper into their 2021 campaign.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2021 Schedule
The Bucs’ schedule features arguably the most anticipated game in the history of the league. On Oct. 3, Tom Brady returns to Foxborough in Week 4 to face the New England Patriots for the first time since spurning them in free agency following the 2019 season. After 20 years together, Brady and coach Bill Belichick meet for the first, and likely last, time in New England.
The NFC South will face the NFC East this year and other notable opponents will include the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. But perhaps their biggest clash (outside of their trip north to Gillette Stadium) will come in Week 14 when the Bucs welcome Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo Bills in a very realistic potential Super Bowl preview.
The Bucs will open up the first-ever 17-game regular season at home against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, and below is the rest of their slate in its entirety.
|Week 1||Sept. 9||vs Dallas Cowboys|
|Week 2||Sept. 19||vs Atlanta Falcons|
|Week 3||Sept. 26||at Los Angeles Rams|
|Week 4||Oct. 3||at New England Patriots|
|Week 5||Oct. 10||vs Miami Dolphins|
|Week 6||Oct. 14||at Philadelphia Eagles|
|Week 7||Oct. 24||vs Chicago Bears|
|Week 8||Oct. 31||vs New Orleans Saints|
|Week 9||Nov. 7||Bye week|
|Week 10||Nov. 14||at Washington Football Team|
|Week 11||Nov. 22||vs New York Giants|
|Week 12||Nov. 28||at Indianapolis Colts|
|Week 13||Dec. 5||at Atlanta Falcons|
|Week 14||Dec. 12||vs Buffalo Bills|
|Week 15||Dec. 19||vs New Orleans Saints|
|Week 16||Dec. 26||at Carolina Panthers|
|Week 17||Jan. 2||at New York Jets|
|Week 18||Jan. 9||vs Carolina Panthers|
Tampa Bay Buccaneers News & Picks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 Summary
The Bucs opened their 2020 campaign with a loss in New Orleans, ultimately getting swept in the regular season by Drew Brees and Co., which included an embarrassing blowout loss at home on Sunday Night Football. It marked the most lopsided loss of Brady’s career, but the seven-time Super Bowl champ had the last laugh when Tampa Bay knocked New Orleans out of the playoffs in the NFC Divisional Round, ending Brees’ career in the process.
The Bucs and Saints were neck-and-neck for the division lead throughout much of the season, with New Orleans pulling it out by a game. Tampa Bay finished 11-5, earning the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoff picture. From there, the Buccaneers hit the road to knock off Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay to advance to the Super Bowl, beating the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium to become the first team to ever be crowned on their home turf.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Key Players
Coach Bruce Arians and the Bucs’ front office used a “run it back” philosophy this offseason, re-signing as many of their own as they could to remain a contender while the window is still open with Brady under center.
Re-ups went to the likes of Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin (franchise tag), Antonio Brown, Donovan Smith, Ndamukong Suh, Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Rob Gronkowski, all of whom decided to stay put in an attempt to accomplish the rare repeat, some at less money than they could have gotten on the open market.
But all of those re-signings might not have been possible had Brady not created more than $19 million in cap space by signing a one-year extension with three voidable years thereafter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers New Additions
Because Tampa Bay opted to bring back many of its own, there aren’t many notable free-agent acquisitions worth mentioning. The Bucs did make Joe Tryon, a defensive end from Washington, the last pick of the first round in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In the second round, they drafted Brady’s potential successor when they selected former Florida quarterback, Kyle Trask. Trask went 49 picks after the Patriots took Mac Jones to be their QB of the future and another SEC slinger tasked with filling TB12’s shoes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Key Subtractions
Judging by the previous two sections, we can keep this short. Tampa Bay lost fringe starters Joe Haeg and Ryan Smith, but the goal was to bring the band back together and the Bucs did just that.
The Buccaneers are the favorites to win the NFC South, which would be their first divisional title since 2007. The Saints are coming off a string of four straight NFC South crowns, but Brees rode off into the sunset setting the stage for a QB competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.
Another division staple moved on when the Atlanta Falcons traded Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans and the Panthers moved on from Teddy Bridgewater in favor of Sam Darnold. Carolina offers some enticing value with the return of Christian McCaffrey and the potential upgrade at QB, but this is clearly Tampa Bay’s division to lose.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
As noted, the Brady bunch is back in full with some additional depth. This was an offense that boasted the second-best aerial attack in the NFL and scored the third-most points per game last year.
We didn’t even mention Mike Evans or the return of O.J. Howard, which reinstates, arguably, the best tight end room in the league (joining Gronk and Cameron Brate). Gio Bernard rounds out the running back group, providing a third option behind Fournette and Ronald Jones, potentially mixing in with second-year back Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense
The last time we saw this defense in action, they were stifling Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and the vaunted Chiefs in the Super Bowl, allowing just nine points back in February. They tied for the fourth-most sacks and created 25 turnovers a year ago, tied for fifth in the league.
Bringing David and Barrett back solidifies the team’s linebacker corps as one of the best in football, while their front is a veteran contingent capable of wreaking all kinds of havoc.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers FAQs
Can the Buccaneers repeat?
They’re absolutely on the short list of NFC contenders and will compete in a division going through some major restructuring. With Tom Brady at the helm, you’ve always got a shot.
Where are the weaknesses?
The defense was their calling card down the stretch, but they’re older and lack elite talent on the backend.
Can Brady win a fourth NFL MVP?
His most recent NFL MVP nod came in 2017 and if he were to win again, he’d become the oldest to accomplish it by six years. He’s tied for the fourth-shortest odds, behind only Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen. We’d be more bullish on a Super Bowl MVP than a regular-season one.