After seven games of the regular NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sit at the top of the NFC South. By most teams’ standards, that would be satisfactory, and it would leave a platform to progress into the playoffs.
Bucs fans are, however, not pleased. Their team was among the favorites to win the Super Bowl this season, and a 3-4 record leaves those hopes in the balance. What has gone wrong, and what can Tampa Bay do to make sure they make it to the postseason?
Ahead of the 2022 NFL season, the Buccaneers were second favorites to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February. According to NFL odds from around the industry, the Buffalo Bills led the way, with the Bucs leading a chasing pack that included Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and reigning Super Bowl champions, the LA Rams.
Considering that there was such expectation surrounding the franchise, an opening record of 3-4 is not great. They may top the NFC South, but this is an open section. The Atlanta Falcons have also gone 3-4, while the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints both sit on 2-5.
If there is no improvement, there is a real danger of Tampa Bay missing out on the playoffs.
Shouldering the Blame
One man doesn’t make a team, but veteran quarterback Tom Brady has carried franchises for much of his illustrious career. The seven-time Super Bowl winner has continued to defy the clock, but there have been serious questions about his contributions in 2022.
For the first time in over 20 years, Tom Brady is struggling to produce the kind of performance that can get a team over the line in tight situations. Would a Brady of the past have been able to turn the Bucs’ record of 3-4 into something more dominant?
There are off-field issues, too, and it’s all led to rumors of a potential retirement, even before the season is done. Whatever happens with Tom Brady, Tampa Bay needs to ensure that they have an adequate replacement.
The quarterback is pivotal, but the entire Buccaneers team has been criticized over their form. Tom Brady gave an insight into the camp when he admitted that ‘no-one feels good’ following their 21-3 defeat to Carolina Panthers in Week 7.
Brady will always attract the bulk of media headlines, but the entire Bucs team needs to accept responsibility. Running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 100 yards in their victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 but has since exceeded 50 yards just three times.
Fournette’s average is a dismal 3.5 yards per carry. In those first seven games, the rushing unit as a whole has only exceeded 50 yards on four occasions. It’s no surprise to learn that Tampa Bay is bottom of the league in this respect.
Those stats identify a clear area for improvement, but there appears to be a lack of confidence running through this Buccaneers roster.
When Tom Brady reversed his decision to retire, many Bucs fans hoped that he would inspire Rob Gronkowski to do the same. Brady and Gronk previously played at Tampa Bay and have won four Super Bowls together.
Despite his relatively youthful age of 33, Gronkowski stays out of the game, and his absence is keenly felt in this Tampa Bay team.
Injuries have also played a part. Russell Gage, Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin have all spent time away from the field at some stage this season. All are representatives of the receiving team, and this is another reason why Tom Brady has only thrown nine touchdown passes through eight games.
Bucs Looking to Arrest the Slide
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ overall record of 3-4 also masks a worrying statistic. After four games of the new NFL campaign, that tally stood at 3-1. They’ve lost three straight games, and further losses will see them slide down the division.
It’s inevitable that Tom Brady is the man most firmly under the spotlight. Contrast that set of nine touchdown passes this season with the exceptional total of 43 from last year, and there is one clue to the problems at the Raymond James Stadium.
There’s even a suggestion that Tampa Bay is suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. This can be a recognized phenomenon, but it generally happens in the season after the win, not two years later.
There are other issues, too: Injuries haven’t helped, and there is a need for quality reinforcements in key positions.
Whatever happens in the next few months, this will almost certainly be Tom Brady’s final season in the NFL, and the Buccaneers are going to need a very effective draft and set of trades if they are going to remain competitive.