Under the Microscope – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We start a new season of Under The Microscope with the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unlike some recent squads who brought home the Lombardi Trophy, the Bucs have managed to keep most of their important positions intact. Pundits who would rather regurgitate than think will tell you that Tampa Bay is a favorite to repeat as Super Bowl Champs. I’m here to tell you that it’ll be tougher than everybody thinks. OK, class, let’s switch on our microscopes, shall we?
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)
Note: I will be using last year’s stats until week 5.
|Rushing Offense||97.3 (27)||6 (t31)|
|Passing Offense||215.3 (15)||23 (t14)|
|Rushing Defense||97.1 (t5)||8 (3)|
|Passing Defense||155.6 (1)||10 (1)|
|Turnover Stats||Upcoming Schedule|
|38 takeaways (t3)
21 giveaways (t6)
+17 overall (t1)
The first thing that makes repeating so hard is the first-place schedule that the champ draws the following season. Start with five preseason games, including a trip to the other side of the world for the American Bowl. The Bucs looked good and posted a 4-1 preseason record, but I’ll tell you what that means: absolutely nothing. When the bullets are live, this team will have a big red target painted on them and everyone will be taking their best shot. A Monday night opener in Philly’s new stadium will be hard to win, period. And with an early bye week, these champs could be wearing out down the stretch. They could easily come out of the first half with a 6-2 record, but 13 straight games is tough on any team.
Brad Johnson, QB – Johnson’s value lies in his consistency. He’s not going to have any 300-yard, 4 TD days. Coach Gruden doesn’t need him to do that and that’s not what he’s there for. Johnson takes care of the ball and completes the short passes and crossing routes that keep opposing defenses honest. Tampa’s defense is spectacular, so Johnson doesn’t have to be.
Michael Pittman, RB – Some say he should have been the MVP of the Super Bowl. While that’s up for debate, don’t expect Pittman to repeat his 124-yard rushing performance again this year. Although he is the starter as week 1 approaches, his looming court appearance and inconsistency last year give the coaches plenty of reason to split up the carries. Gruden’s offense has never been a 1-back type of system anyway. Don’t expect any big games out of Pittman and don’t expect him to stay out of jail once his legal process (finally) concludes.
Thomas Jones, RB – Jones was picked up in the offseason as soon as the Bucs realized they had a problem child on their hands in Pittman. Despite numerous chances to be #1, Jones was Pittman’s backup in Arizona and will continue that role with the Bucs, at least until Pittman is fitted for a fresh orange jumper and given a number much longer than his current 32. This will be an RBBC approach, so expect him to get some touches, but don’t play him until there is a change in the depth chart.
Mike Alstott, RB – Good ol’ Mr. Reliable, Mike Alstott. Continually voted to the Pro Bowl as the NFC’s best fullback, not for his blocking abilities but for his rushing stats. In TD-only scoring leagues, Alstott is the back to have from this team. He’s great near the goal line and occasionally surprises with a 100-yard game. But don’t expect much in week 1 against Philly, or any time in the early season while the Bucs try to figure out what they have at tailback.
Keyshawn Johnson, WR – Keyshawn has accepted his role in Tampa’s very un-Jets-like offense where he sees fewer balls and reduced numbers. Seems that a Super Bowl ring will do that for even the most demanding of players. Keyshawn is as consistent and reliable a player as you can hope for at the WR position. Just don’t hope for too many TD’s or 100-yard games.
Keenan McCardell, WR – McCardell is a solid #2 guy. With Gruden’s balanced offensive scheme, most weeks McCardell will put up numbers similar to Keyshawn’s. A good choice for a #3 on your fantasy squad, as long as he can stay healthy.
Joe Jurevicius, WR – A crowd favorite, a tough guy, and subject of one of last year’s heartwarming playoff stories. Unfortunately, none of that translates into fantasy value. There’s got to be someone else you can keep in reserve for your team.
Ken Dilger/Ricky Dudley, TE – Both get in the game, both will have a few chances to catch a ball, but neither one can provide any consistent scoring for your fantasy squad. Again, there has to be someone better that you can pick up.
Defense/Special Teams – I’ll say the same thing I said last year until it changes. Quite simply, the best fantasy defense in the game. They score more than the offense on a good day. Get ’em if you can and don’t look back.
The Bottom Line
No one on Tampa’s offense is going to blow you away. There are a few consistent performers worth having on your squad, namely Brad & Keyshawn Johnson. The running back situation is a total mess right now, stay away from it until you can see a few week’s worth of stats and make some kind of statement about who is going to play. And if you used that early pick and snagged the defense, play ’em every week. Like you didn’t already know that.
Next Week … The microscope will focus in on the other Super Bowl participant, the AFC Champion Oakland Raiders. Can they make one more run at the title before they take advantage of the group rate on walkers and reading glasses? Find out in next week’s Under the Microscope!