Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
NFL: DEC 13 Vikings at Bucs
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In this series, we’ll break down different scenarios that could, should, and will happen before the Tampa Bay Bucs get a chance to play them out.

The 2023 NFL season has officially arrived. The excitement and buzz of a new year of football is in the late-summer air. Tampa Bay’s post Tom Brady era begins Sunday and their first opponent of that era — the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bucs are set to battle the Vikings, on the high seas, Sunday afternoon to start their season. As the Bucs ready themselves for some Naval warfare, let’s look at some things that could, should, and will play out in this game.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tampa Bay Bucs
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield could shock a lot of people. This ‘could’ may have as much to do with the ever-growing piles of doubt being heaped on top of Baker Mayfield, as much as his actual performance. Mayfield’s first (yes, I purposefully said first) offseason in Tampa has been consumed by national skepticism.

Imagine winning the Heisman trophy, against all odds. Imagine then being the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, against all odds. After being picked number one, you’re cast in a starring role of a film that resurrects the franchise that drafted you. Against. All. Odds. Then you find yourself starting for a new team with better pass catchers than your old team and the expectation is the team will be bad? Whilst doing so, you’ll be worse?

Baker Mayfield may not be great this season, the Bucs may not have a winning record, but in stretches he has been able to produce at a high level. With some of the lowest levels of expectation Mayfield has ever had to live up to, combined with the colossal levels of doubt available for motivation, Baker could shock some folks this Sunday.

NFL: AUG 01 Tampa Bay Bucs Training Camp
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bucs should have a brand-new offensive identity. Not only is the team transitioning away from names like Brady, Fournette, and Brate to make way for newcomers like Mayfield, or young exciting talent, like Otton and White, but this Sunday will mark the start of a new era of offensive coordinating as well— Tampa Bay, of course, parting ways with Byron Leftwich and then joining forces with Dave Canales. Most sincerely believe the change will be a welcomed one. The expectation is the Bucs will become a much more balanced team, favoring a successful running game and working a lot of their passing offense off of play action and scripted movements of the pocket.

This style of play is a long way from the offensive system in place on Byron Leftwich’s watch. If the preseason provides any viable outlook at all, Tampa Bay should have themselves a whole new offensive identity.

NFL: DEC 13 Vikings at Bucs
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Justin Jefferson will be Tampa Bay’s main focus. Every Bucs fan would like to stand up and beat their chest saying, “Mike Evans is the best wide receiver in the NFL!” Any Bucs fan, on a lie detector, will tell you Justin Jefferson is better. The bad news for Tampa is Jefferson may not just be better, he may be the best. Over the past two seasons, Justin Jefferson has had 18 touchdowns, over 230 catches, and just a shade under 3,500 yards. His statistics are absurd. They read like numbers from Madden. Statistically, Jefferson’s worst year is comparable to some of Evans’ best, just for perspective.

To be fair to Tampa Bay, and their defense, Jamel Dean is coming off his best season as a professional and Carlton Davis does have a history of showing up against big-name pass catchers. Davis’ past performances against Deandre Hopkins (holding him to 23 yards, in his prime), Michael Thomas (shutting him out in their lone career postseason bout), and even his matchup just last year against Ja’Marr Chase (where he came away with an interception and just 60 yards allowed) are all credible points to made in Tampa’s favor.

Additionally, in the interest of full disclosure, this is not the first time Tampa’s secondary will see Jefferson. During his rookie season, Justin Jefferson waged battle with Tampa’s corners. The Bucs held their own, holding the star rookie to just 39 yards on four catches.

While the Bucs do have a decent amount of money invested in a respectable cornerback tandem and familiarity with Jefferson, it would be foolish to underestimate the problem he represents and deny that he will be Tampa’s main focus.

Those are some things that could happen, should happen, and will happen this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. With that being said, we’d like to hear from you. Do you agree with our list? Do you disagree? What are some things you foresee playing out in Minnesota this week?

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By admin