Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme: “Brady’s gonna fall off this year.”
Much like Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules, at the end of “Pulp Fiction,” people have said that shit for years, yet year after year the Brady deniers come out of the woods to spew the most heinous, disrespectful nonsense. Whether it was Max Kellerman and his infamous “cliff theory” in 2016, or the Miami Dolphins allegedly choosing Ryan Fitzpatrick over Brady in 2020, the three-time MVP has continued to defy expectations at every step. But, hey, a year after he led the league in yards, touchdowns, and completions, all while finishing second in MVP voting, THIS will be the season we see the decline!
According to Caesars’ Sportsbook editorial content writer, Max Meyer, the Buccaneers’ under 11.5 wins is the most lopsided bet at Caesar’s with 87.8 percent of bettors believing that Brady will not reach 12 wins in 2022.
OK, so let’s break this down from a fundamental standpoint. The first thing I want to note is that Brady was so confident in his abilities that he was willing to go to the Miami Dolphins, who have arguably a worse receiving corps, definitely a worse offensive line, definitely a worse defense, are definitely in a tougher division, and have a rookie head coach — all at the age of 45. Yeah, I know he wanted to be with his family, but Brady also wants to win. He loves winning, and he was willing to abandon a team he’d won a Super Bowl with in order to play with an objectively worse offense in a harder division. That should tell you everything you need to know about his confidence in his abilities this season.
That’s just Brady though. There are other factors that go into how well a team will do in the upcoming season. Obviously, the Buccaneers are worse off than they were a year ago. The team has lost guard Alex Cappa, guard Ali Marpet, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receiver Antonio Brown, and there’s a good chance that wide receiver Chris Godwin will miss time as well as he rehabs an ACL tear. There are also injury concerns with left tackle Tristan Wirfs after he had to undergo ankle surgery during the playoffs last year. The Bucs may not have replaced all of those losses, but the additions of Russell Gage and Julio Jones minimize the potential damage at the wide receiver position, and second-round rookie guard Luke Goedeke will also hopefully shore up any holes that may have been left when Marpet retired. There are still some holes, but nothing that can’t be overcome as long as injuries don’t ravage the team’s talent.
The defense has more or less stayed the same. Sure, the absence of Jordan Whitehead will hurt, especially after the monumental impact he displayed last year, but once again, that’s not a loss that the Bucs can’t overcome.
Let’s think about their schedule now. The Bucs will have eight games against playoff teams from 2021 this season (Cowboys, Bengals, 49ers, Cardinals, Rams, Packers, Chiefs, and Steelers). While only four of those games will be at home, the four that will be on the road are against the Cowboys, Steelers, 49ers, and Cardinals — arguably the four worst teams on this list. I also don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each of these teams (aside from maybe the 49ers) got worse during the offseason. Plus, the Cardinals game will be happening in December. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2″ drops in late October, so we know Kyler Murray won’t be at his full potential.
The Buccaneers do have some other tough games though, particularly against the Ravens, Browns, and Saints. Obviously, the Bucs and Saints will go home and home with each other since they’re in the same division. As for the Browns and Ravens, the Bucs do have to face Baltimore on a short week (Thursday Night Football), but the game will be in Tampa. We don’t know who the Browns quarterback will be when the Bucs face Cleveland in Cleveland, but even if Deshaun Watson is able to take the field for this game, it will be against a Bucs squad coming off their bye week. They’ll be fresh and relaxed. Meanwhile, the Browns will be coming off a road matchup against Buffalo. They might be pretty beat up.
Sure, the Saints might have Brady’s number. So, let’s assume the Saints win both those games. Brady also struggles early in seasons, right? So, let’s assume that he goes 2-2 to start the season. The Bucs will beat the Falcons, Steelers, and Panthers. Let’s say they lose to the Ravens and Rams. That’s already four losses, with the fifth coming against the Saints three weeks later. They’ll beat the Seahawks, probably beat the Browns given everything I said in the last paragraph (also a great matchup since the Bucs’ defense is stifling against the run), lose to the Saints, and beat the 49ers (unless Trey Lance blows expectations out of the water), then they’ve got two tough games against the Bengals and Cardinals before finishing off the season against the Panthers and Falcons. By my estimate, the floor for the Buccaneers is 10-7, a game and a half lower than where the over-under is set at Caesar’s. However, let’s say they beat the Saints once this year (which I don’t think is impossible). They probably beat the Cardinals anyway. They could beat the Bengals, Rams, and Packers as well. They could go as high as 14-3, two and a half games higher than where the over-under is set.
I’m not guaranteeing that the Bucs win 12 or more games next season. As I said, I can see them going as low as 10-7. However, for 87.8 percent of bettors to assume the Buccaneers won’t win 12 or more games, would imply that the Bucs are in a much worse position now than they were a year ago. In his two years in Florida, the Bucs’ worst record has been 11-5. That’s during a 16-game season. It’s very likely they could’ve won 12 if they’d played a 17-game schedule in 2020.
I think 11.5 wins is a solid place to put the over-under for the Bucs’ win total in 2022. That said, I’d expect a near 50-50 split on the matter, not the near 90-10 we’re currently seeing. Brady has never fallen off in the past, and while that day will eventually come, what has he done to make us assume that it’s coming this year?