Sports Specs with Sam

Hyped-up Buccaneers will face a deep, competitive NFC

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Arguably the biggest storyline in the NFL heading into the 2020 season is Tom Brady, as he will now play on a new team for the first time in his career.

The excitement surrounding Brady’s new tenure as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer escalated a couple weeks ago when the team added Rob Gronkowski, one of the most dominant pass catchers in the NFL — when healthy before his brief retirement. 

Despite the Buccaneers being the most hyped up team in the National Football Conference in 2020, this does not mean they can expect to dominate the conference with their offensive firepower.

Unlike the American Football Conference, which is pretty top heavy right now — the Chiefs and Ravens are above everyone else as the top contenders — the NFC is loaded with teams with a legitimate chance at a Super Bowl run.

There were three 13-3 teams in the NFC last year: San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans.

San Francisco was a dominant force in their run to a Super Bowl appearance last year when they crushed the Vikings and Packers in their two NFC playoff matchups. Yet, there are several other teams besides them that have the talent to dethrone them next year.

New Orleans took an unexpected first round loss to the Vikings last year in the first round of the playoffs after being many analysts’ favorites to win the conference headed into the postseason.

New Orleans has suffered its fair share of postseason letdowns in recent years, but they should still be legitimate contenders in the NFC next year.

The Saints will be the toughest opponent for Brady and the Buccaneers in the NFC South division. 

Brady has not had a single divisional opponent as tough as New Orleans in over a decade in New England — they won the AFC East in 11 straight seasons.

In his first season on an NFC team, Brady will be an underdog in his division.

Outside of Tampa Bay’s division, The NFC North also boasts two playoff teams from last year in Green Bay and Minnesota.

The Vikings have lost several core members of their defense this season (many of whom were getting old) and traded Stefon Diggs, one of their most dangerous offensive weapons.

However, they had one of the best overall drafts in the entire NFL by many accounts and should still be a team that can beat anyone when they play up to their potential, as they proved against New Orleans in the playoffs last year. 

Green Bay has had a controversial offseason so far, but they were one game away from the Super Bowl last year and Aaron Rodgers will be coming into this season with a chip on his shoulder.

The Seattle Seahawks will continue to be a competitor next year, as Russell Wilson continues to play at an MVP-caliber level.

The Rams suffered a setback of a season last year after their Super Bowl appearance the year before. It would not be a surprise for Sean McVay’s team to make a come-back next year and find themselves back in the thick of the competition in the NFC.

The NFC East was probably the weakest division in all of football last season. Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys’ new coach, said he will try to take full advantage of a very talented offensive team that added more weapons in the draft.

Philadelphia was also a serious contender in the very recent past and they could easily jump back into the thick of things if they can stay healthy next year and if Carson Wentz plays to the level he is capable of.

All of these teams should consider themselves legitimate contenders next year, which means Brady and Gronkowski have a tough road ahead of them in the NFC.

There is no questioning Tampa Bay’s talent on offense, with Brady under center and a crop of pass catchers that includes Gronkowski, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard.

However, Brady turns 43 before this season starts and the aging process for NFL players in the late stage of their careers can happen out of nowhere and very quickly.

This will also be Brady’s first season learning a new offensive system ever in his career since his rookie year. It is yet to be seen how he will fare away from his former coach Bill Belichick’s mastermind.

Aside from the offense, Tampa Bay needs to improve greatly on the defensive side if they want to be a competitor in the NFC.

Last season the Buccaneers had the best run defense in the NFL and the worst pass defense.

Strengthening their pass defense is a priority for the Buccaneers to be a Super Bowl contender in 2020.

They addressed the cornerback position in the draft in 2018 and 2019 and drafted Antoine Winfield Jr., a safety from Minnesota, in the second round this year to try to improve in this area.

This young group is not going to become great overnight, but for them to be a realistic contender in an NFC among so many offensive juggernauts, their pass defense will have to at least go from terrible in 2019 to average in 2020.

There is no denying the star power on offense, but the Buccaneers have their work cut out for them in 2020.

Janssen can be reached at [email protected]