The "Power Core" Pre-Season Power Rankings #10
Somewhere in between Pittsburgh's 10 sacks and Donovan McNabb's field day in the playoffs, the Buccaneer front office deemed Tony Dungy expendable. The most important man in Buccaneer history had been held accountable for his team's inability to take the next step. What followed was a Fractured Fairy Tale-esque sequence of events that saw not one, not two, but three top head coaches all offered deals to lead the Bucs. Parcells said "Yes" and then said "No." Then Jon Gruden said "Sure" but Al Davis said "Not on your life." Steve Mariucci said "Maybe." But then Davis changed his mind and performed a Grinch That Stole Christmas turnaround and allowed Chuckie to enter Whoville for a hefty price.
#10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9 - 7) Third in the NFC Central
And the countdown begins! At #10 you may think I put the Bucs a little low on the radar. Yes, they've got Jon Gruden to fix their pathetic offense. Yes, they've added Joe Jurevicius and Keenan McCardell. Yes, Michael Pittman was added to the running back corps. And yes…a little scary though…yes Warren Sapp is being tried out as a Tight End. But, I don't believe all the problems last year were on the offensive side of the ball. Donavon McNabb proved that point in the wild card round last year.
The Good: Gruden and the above-mentioned offensive acquisitions should give Brad Johnson a ton of weapons to play with. This offense will in theory be 10x better than the offense of Tony Dungy. Keyshawn Johnson had a marvelous season last year, making the Pro Bowl and finishing with a career high 106 receptions and 1,266 yards. McCardell gives Gruden a solid #2 and Jurevicius fits snugly as the #3. This team also plays in a weak conference, the NFC South. Only New Orleans should give them problems, and even the Saints won't be able to match the Bucs' talent level. Although they had a sub-par year, the defense should be a solid, albeit aging, unit once again. Terrell Buckley will be an upgrade at cornerback over Donnie Abraham.
The Bad: The defense played uninspired for much of the season. It seemed as though, unless they were playing St. Louis, a full 60 minutes were not given. Warren Sapp spent much of his time smiling for camera shots while face up on the turf. I'm not sold on the running back situation. Michael Pittman is not a marquee back and Mike Alstott is fumble-prone. Alstott's also getting slower each year. Pittman, for all of his trash talk ("No linebacker can cover me one-on-one"), isn't what I'd call a vital threat
The Ugly: Chuckie in South Florida just doesn't register with me. I mean Gruden was so Oakland Raideresque that I don't know if the genteel folk of Western Florida can handle him.
Synopsis: Expect to see the Bucs in the playoffs. Exactly where is much harder to hypothesize. Much depends on the offense performing as expected and the defense rebounding. An optimist would say this team is a Super Bowl threat, but a realist (and that's me) sees this team as a division winner and will probably be bounced in the divisional playoffs. 10 - 11 wins.