The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to run it back.
The Super LV champions are returning all 22 offensive and defensive starters for the 2021 NFL season in an effort to repeat as champions. The 2003-2004 New England Patriots were the last back-to-back Super Bowl winners and even they didn’t do it with the same cast of starters both seasons. In fact, the Bucs are the NFL’s first reigning champions to return all 22 starters since the 1977 Oakland Raiders who, it’s worth noting, did not repeat as Super Bowl winners.
So, can the 2021 Buccaneers do the seemingly impossible and win Super Bowl LVI? Let’s take a look:
Why the Buccaneers WILL win Super Bowl LVI
— The Bucs failed to win the NFC South in 2020, finishing second behind the New Orleans Saints. Thus, schedule makers have favored Tampa, handing it what ESPN projects as the NFL’s easiest slate, with their opponents boasting a .465 winning percentage in 2021. The Bucs’ schedule gives them time to peak, as they’ll be able to beat weaker opponents without necessarily playing their best football in the early months of the campaign.
— The Buccaneers will benefit from the consistency and familiarity they developed last season because it frees coaches and the front office to target specific areas for improvement in 2021, rather than seeking home-run solutions to bigger problems. The incremental gains they can make in 2021 might be enough to propel them past other Super Bowl contenders.
— Because Tom Brady, duh. The NFL’s biggest winner inspires teammates to follow his lead on and off the field. Whereas complacency and a loss of hunger often dooms reigning champions, the ever-fiery Brady demands the Bucs maintain their lofty standards every day in practice. This should translate into more on-field success.
Why the Buccaneers WON’T win Super Bowl LVI
— The Bucs didn’t play like world-beaters until the end of the 2020 season. Winning the Super Bowl after finishing second in their division with an 11-5 record in the regular season shows they heated up and ultimately peaked at the right time. Expected all 22 starters to raise their collective game and conquer the league again is folly, as it’s rare for 11-win teams to win the Super Bowl once … let alone twice in any given time span.
— Father Time waits for no man. The Bucs are a veteran team, with the likes of Brady, 44, Antonio Brown, 33, Rob Gronkowski, 32, among their most high-profile offensive players and Jason Pierre-Paul, 32, and Lavonte David, 31, leading their defense. If Tampa Bay’s younger stars don’t raise their respective games, its veteran-led machine might encounter some hitches as the season progresses.
— This is sports, not a romance novel. Teams must retool and/restock in order to repeat as champions. The Bucs, as of now, haven’t done that and could endure a rude awakening from their 2020 dream as a result.