On February Tom Brady played in his 10th Super Bowl, double the amount of his closest Quarterback challenger, John Elway with 5, what’s going to stop him making it for the 11th time?
The Year Just Gone
It was a weird year for everyone in the NFL, the worldwide pandemic played havoc with the entire season from shortened training camps, no pre-season games and player testing multiple times per week. It meant that those on a new team had little time to acclimate to their new surroundings and that seems to have been the case for Brady early on. He threw multiple interceptions, didn’t seem to be in rhythm with his receivers and generally looked like a 42 year old man.
They entered the year with a top 10 easiest schedule according to opponents win totals at the USA betting sites and they managed to turn an early loss around by making the playoffs as the 5th seed and beating 3 elite QBs on the road to make the big game where they out-played the Chiefs.
The signings which Brady coaxed to the team played a big part, Rob Gronkowski was wrestling last year, he scored twice in the Super bowl, Antonio Brown was without a team and facing charges from the police, he scored in that game. The big time players turned up on the big stage when they were needed.
Will Those Guys Stay Around?
This is the key to their 2021 season really. Remarkably after winning the championship, the Bucs are in a good place to sign up their players for the coming season, they sit 11th in cap space with around $15m in space for the coming year according to overthecap.com, which gives them a little space to be able to sign up any of the players who need it.
Gronk and Brown are both free agents, once again the wide receiver class is deep in the draft so they could replace Brown with a rookie, I doubt they’ll get AB for $1m again as they did for this season.
They’ve got a lot of work to do in FA as a lot of their studs are due to be free agents, as well as Gronk and AB, Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Ndomakung Suh are all out of contract and will command high pay-cheques, and on the offensive side Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette will all need signing up, it seems like they’ll be franchise-tagging Godwin for next year.
How’s Their schedule?
The good thing for them with regards to the cap is that their divisional rivals, the Saints and the Falcons are WAY over the cap ($70m and $37m) and will have to lose talent to get themselves anywhere near able to get to the require budget going into the year. That will weaken them and while the Panthers could make a splash bringing in a better QB they’re still in transition as it stands.
The year just past the NFC South faced the NFC North and the AFC West, both of which featured teams with at least 13 wins. This season they’ll be going up against the Easts, both the NFC and the AFC East, which I think most will agree seems like an easier test on the face of it.
So their division will likely be weaker, the schedule they’ve got for next season seems weaker, it looks good on the schedule side of things for the Bucs to make another run at the post-season.
So, What’s Going to Stop Them?
Losing their own talent could have a detrimental effect on the team going forward, there’s a lot of stars who will need paying, but they drafted well in 2020 and will be looking to add more talented young players this season.
Brady is going to be 44 when the season starts in September and while it’s clearly not a good idea to over-look him based on age, there’s surely going to be a point where it plays a part in his decline.
The bye-week this year fell well for the team as well, it was one of the latest in the league and their play had started to drop off before they had the time to rest, it freshened them up for the run-in and meant they went into the play-offs quite healthy on the whole.
Can Brady Make His 11th Super Bowl?
It’s foolish to write Brady off despite his advancing years and things clearly clicked at the end of the season. They’ve got a solid defense which restricts teams and he didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.
Can he make it to the big game again in the 2021 season? The Super bowl odds seem to think they’ve got a good chance, currently installed as the second favorites behind the Chiefs and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the two teams meet in LA in February next year.