J.T. Olsen – Bucs Report – Special to Sports Talk Florida
The preseason is over. We are now just over a week away until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to the field to kick off the 2023 season. This is as clear of an outlook as we can have entering the year.
At this point we can more accurately make predictions regarding every NFL team. Granted there are still many questions to be answered around the league, but we have as much information as we possibly can before we start seeing these teams in action.
With this in mind, here are my game by game predictions for the 2023 Buccaneers season based on what we know right now.
The Vikings squeaked out a lot of close games last year on their way to a 13-4 record. They were then immediately bounced out of the playoffs by a New York Giants team that wasn’t particularly good. I think the reality of how good this Vikings team is lands somewhere in the middle.
The combination of Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson, who I believe is the best wide receiver in the NFL, is a lethal duo. Add in TJ Hockenson at tight end and it’s easy to see why this was one of the best offenses in the NFL last year. However, the loss of Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook and one of the worst defenses in the NFL makes me favor the Bucs in this game.
The Bears were the worst team in the NFL last season. Let’s not forget that they held the number one overall pick until trading it to Carolina for a king’s ransom. And while that certainly helped them improve, it’s hard to imagine them making a massive jump.
The combination of third year quarterback Justin Fields and newly acquired DJ Moore are one of the more exciting pairs in the NFL. Chicago also invested big money into linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the offseason. Despite these building blocks, the Bears are still weak in both trenches and will likely be sub .500 again.
To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. The Eagles are fresh off winning the NFC and a Super Bowl appearance. On paper, this should be a comfortable Eagles victory.
Not so fast, my friend. The Buccaneers have the defensive line that can go toe to toe with Philly in the trenches and the cornerbacks that match up well with the Eagles dynamic duo of receivers in Devonta Smith and AJ Brown. Let us not forget that the last time these two met the Bucs knocked these birds out of the playoffs.
With that said, I think this game will be closer than some expect, but give me the more talented team.
Saints Vs Bucs has been one of the best rivalries in the NFL in recent years. There have been blowouts, dirty hits, fights and playoff eliminations. This is always a game that can go either way.
Many view the Saints as the team to beat in the NFC South this year. The addition of Derek Carr and the long awaited return of Michael Thomas has given this offense a lot of buzz. I personally don’t think the New Orleans roster is as good as they’ve been hyped up to be, but going on the road in a rivalry game is always tough.
The Buccaneers are coming off their bye week for this game. They will also be wearing their throwback creamsicle jerseys against their former NFC Central rival. I have no doubt that the Bucs will be fired up for this game.
They will have to be as they host a Lions team that is on the rise. Detroit features a power running game that is hard to deal with and one of the best receivers in the NFL in Amon-Ra St Brown. With that said, I don’t trust Jared Goff on the road going against a top defense.
I have massive questions with both Atlanta’s quarterback situation and their pass rush. Considering that these are the two most important positions in football, that could be a serious problem for the Falcons.
However, they are elite in other aspects. One of the best rushing offenses in the NFL last year will only be improved this year with the addition of Bijan Robinson. The secondary is also looking strong with the addition of Jesse Bates. I’m just not sure that’s enough to overcome their flaws against a good team.
The last time these two teams met was a classic game between two contenders. It ended in a walk off touchdown in overtime by the Bucs. This game should also be pretty entertaining.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to call the Bucs contenders, these are two teams who I expect to win their division. Because this game is on the road and Josh Allen is a legitimate MVP candidate, I favor the Bills in this one.
The Texans are starting a rookie quarterback in CJ Stroud. They also drafted Will Anderson in the top three of the most recent NFL draft. They picked twice in the top three of that draft because they were a bad football team.
While I like both Stroud and Anderson as building blocks, I just don’t see much talent on the roster overall. This team has been directionless for so long and it will still require a few drafts before that changes.
Tennessee was the top seed in the AFC just two years ago. They have top end talent such as Derrick Henry, Kevin Byard, Harold Landrey and Jeffery Simmons. This is not a team to be overlooked.
However, it feels like this team has just been coasting along on the backs of their stars and hasn’t done anything to improve their roster. Now that some of that talent is getting older and slowing down, we saw the record plummet last season. I expect that trend to continue this season.
At San Francisco
If I had to pick a team to win the NFC this year, it would be the 49ers. The defense is excellent and so is the offensive system. They are such an impressive roster that they have seemingly made the quarterback position irrelevant.
We saw that first hand last season when the Bucs suffered a brutal blowout loss to San Francisco. I believe this version of the Buccaneers is better than last year’s, but still not good enough to beat a team of this caliber.
This offseason has been nothing but controversy for the Colts. Drafting a rookie quarterback early who looked incredibly raw in college. The Jonothan Taylor fiasco and where he will play this year. Every step for them has looked like a misstep.
This results in one of the worst overall rosters in the NFL. And while there are certainly aspects of this team that I like, including a new coaching staff, it’s hard for me to see this team winning more than a handful of games this season.
The Panthers are looking like a solid, well rounded team this year. Their defense looks strong and they are now led by number one overall pick Bryce Young on offense. This team looks like they are trending in the right direction.
With that said, I do believe they will be somewhat limited by a rookie quarterback and a lack of weapons around him. No matter how much I like Young, he is still a rookie and there will be a ceiling as to what he can achieve in year one. Against a Todd Bowles defense, I expect him to make a big mistake or two.
Oftentimes I feel like it best to predict a split with division rivals. Teams know each other so well and as long as the talent level is close I expect each team to win at home. I’m not sure that is the case here.
The Buccaneers have the speed at linebacker and the defensive line to limit this Falcons running game. And with questions in the front seven, I expect the Bucs to be able to move the ball fairly well.
At Green Bay
I see the Packers very similar to how I see the Bucs. A strong overall roster with questions at quarterback that need to be answered. However, they both run a similar offensive system that should help their signal caller.
I could easily see the Bucs winning this game. However, Lambeau Field in December is a different beast. We have seen the Bucs head north and beat the Packers in the playoffs recently, but I will give Green Bay the benefit of the doubt.
The Jags and the Bucs are in some ways very similar and in some ways very different. While the Jaguars are rising in the NFL rankings, there is no doubt that the Buccaneers have fallen from where they were two years ago. As it lands now, they are probably around the same caliber of team right now.
Two things the Jags have that the Bucs need is a proven coach who has won a Super Bowl and a star franchise quarterback. All things equal, those are the two things I will always bet on. For that reason, I’ll give this one to the Jags.
Vs New Orleans
There is a chance that the Saints are already out of the playoff hunt at this point. There is a chance the Bucs are as well, but obviously in the way I view it at this point I don’t see that happening. Regardless, it’s hard to tell how much this game will mean to one or either of these teams.
Let’s assume both teams are fighting to get into the playoffs. I thought the Saints had the edge at their home field and by the same logic I will give the edge to the Bucs in this one. These games are always difficult, but the Buccaneers are a better roster.
At this point in the year Bryce Young will have basically a full season under his belt. Every game will matter for Carolina as they look to gain experience and because they don’t have a first round pick to care about. Add in that the Bucs are on the road and this has all the makings of a more difficult game the second time around.
I truly believe that the Panthers are the second best team in the division and they have the brightest future right now, assuming Young pans out. Regardless of if the Bucs have a playoff spot locked up or not I think this game is Carolina’s to lose.