Tampa Bay Buccaneers predictions, odds, and preview for the 2023 season

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2023 season preview and predictions

This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.

Wes Reynolds: The Bucs adopted an all-in approach during Tom Brady’s three seasons in Tampa adding veterans and pushing money forward in an attempt to maximize a short window. It clearly worked with a Super Bowl and two division titles. However, this is where the pain could begin from a salary cap and retooling standpoint. Eventually, they could figure it out, but will head coach Todd Bowles be allowed to see it? 

Offense

Due to the salary cap constraints that helped them get a Lombardi Trophy three years ago, Tampa Bay had to go the economical route in replacing Brady. Baker Mayfield signed a one-year deal to compete with 2021 second-rounder Kyle Trask for the starting quarterback gig. The offensive staff was overhauled by Bowles. Byron Leftwich was fired as offensive coordinator and Dave Canales comes in from Seattle after serving 13 seasons under Pete Carroll, most recently as QB coach/passing game coordinator.

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are still one of the league’s best receiving duos and tight end Cade Otton could have a breakout campaign. Rachaad White split carries with Leonard Fournette last season but is now the primary feature back for a unit that was the worst in the NFL with 3.4 ypc.

Up front, Tristan Wirfs shifts from right to left tackle to replace Donovan Smith. Ryan Jensen returns as the anchor at center. 2022 second-rounder Luke Goedeke likely takes over at right tackle. However, the two other spots on the OL are up for grabs.

Defense

Although the Bucs have many salary cap issues, they were able to re-sign linebacker Lavonte David and corner Jamel Dean. Shaq Barrett also returns after missing half of last season with a torn Achilles. The defense should still be solid although it is aging.

Vita Vea (6.5 sacks last year) will have to shoulder more of the load up front for a run defense that has slipped from the elite units over the past few years. Calijah Kancey (Pitt) was drafted in the first round this spring to help out Vea. Greg Gaines was signed from the Rams and will be moved from tackle to end in the 3-4 scheme. Logan Hall disappointed last year as a rookie but did bulk up in the offseason.

Devin White is David’s running mate at inside backer. More is expected out of 2021 first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka from a pass rush standpoint.

Carlton Davis, along with Dean, are both high-priced corners, so more takeaways are expected. Antoine Winfield Jr returns to his safety role along with Ryan Neal, who was signed from Seattle.

Outlook

After three consecutive playoff appearances, back-to-back NFC South titles, and a Lombardi Trophy, the Buccaneers are heading into the great unknown as Brady’s second retirement seems final. There are remnants of the Super Bowl-winning squad from three years ago, but this team is at a crossroads between retooling and rebuilding. Bowles is clearly on the hot seat, although he was not able to select his own staff having taken over for Bruce Arians with Arians’ coaching staff. While Brady’s production declined, the team will miss his leadership and will have to rely on either a third-year backup or Baker Mayfield, who is on his fourth team in six years. Tampa also draws a first-place schedule having to face other division winners like Philadelphia, Buffalo, San Francisco, which will be difficult for a team in transition. A bad start could lead to a lot of these veterans thinking about their next move.

This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.

Michael Lombardi: The Bucs will go from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield, which is like staying at the Four Seasons one night to joining Tom Bodett at the Motel 6 the next. Mayfield has been better this summer than he was last year, only throwing one incomplete pass all preseason and getting the ball down the field for a 7.1 yards per attempt average. Mayfield was bad for the Panthers last year, even in the summer, averaging 6.1 per attempt. He struggles to get the ball down the field, seeing the open receivers and being accurate with the throw. 

Since his rookie season, when he averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, he has steadily declined. In his last season in Cleveland, he was at 7.2; last year in Carolina and Los Angeles, he was at 6.5. Defensive coordinators push the pocket inside on Mayfield, limiting his visibility and forcing the ball to sail. Mayfield needs to be in a play-action passing game to have any kind of success, and the problem in Tampa is they finished 32nd in every rushing category last year with Brady under center. Based on the summer results, the Bucs don’t seem as though they have improved their run game, averaging 3.3 per carry on 91 attempts. They are trying to run the ball, but they just don’t seem good enough up front, and teams are expecting them to run especially with Mayfield at quarterback. 

Player to Watch: QB Kyle Trask 

Mayfield ended up winning the starting job for the Buccaneers, but Kyle Trask will very likely see the field in the near future. The 2021 second-round draft pick completed 45 of 69 passes for 509 yards, two touchdowns and only one pick in the preseason. And the reports out of training camp were that he did a much better job of protecting the football than Mayfield did. Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales also glowed about how much the game has slowed down for Trask, who is doing a much better job of going through his reads in his second year in Tampa Bay. With Mayfield being nothing more than a stop-gap option under center, Trask will soon get a chance to prove to this Buccaneers front office that he can be their future at the quarterback position. – Zachary Cohen

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