The Tampa Bay Bucs’ margin for error coming into the season was fairly excessive for a workforce that had low expectations and a quarterback the remainder of the league handed on. They’ve a receiving corps that’s wholesome, deep and stuffed with playmakers to go together with a protection that’s additionally wholesome and rife with big-time expertise. All Baker Mayfield needed to do was facilitate and never actively sabotage the offense (that’s the operating sport’s job).
Nicely, he was greater than that in Wild-Card Weekend’s finale, torching the Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary in a flak jacket that, from the suitable angle, seems to be like a fats swimsuit. It’s the right aesthetic for a redemption story. (See: Frasier, Brendan in The Whale.) If you happen to have been a casting director trying to revive an actor at his low level, that was Mayfield final season.
It’s like that two-year span of Colin Farrell’s profession when he did Telephone Sales space (the Browns), Daredevil (the Panthers) and S.W.A.T. (the Rams). Ideally, Mayfield can keep away from the Miami Vice and Alexander pratfalls, however this can be a fairly good begin for the Baker Mayfield actuality tour.
The infrastructure in Tampa wasn’t going away with Tom Brady, it simply seemed prefer it was cratering on account of accidents final season, and an over-reliance on an outdated QB. The speeding assault really got here round within the remaining stretch of 2023 when the Bucs gained 5 of six (now six of seven) to take the division and now a playoff sport.
Second-year operating again Rachaad White and the offensive line confirmed extra consistency, tallying 503 yards, good for 70 per sport, throughout this seven-game run. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but within the 11 outings prior, White solely accounted for 559 yards, or 50-yard per contest. That much-needed stability might be examined towards a Lions workforce that allowed the second fewest speeding yards within the league this yr.
If Detroit slows down White, it’ll fall to Mayfield — or possibly a few Jared Goff turnovers — to ensure that Tampa Bay to achieve the NFC title sport. The Lions’s cross protection is suspect on high of already being banged up and there’s a ton of potential for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and different Bucs cross catchers to make performs. Clearly, don’t sleep on the Tampa protection, however issues might be harder than the Eagles in a full tailspin sans AJ Brown, and this piece is actually about Mayfield.
He’s obtained sufficient swagger to win the beginning spot, and if the roster has the requisite expertise, preserve it. Tampa, solely a sport over .500 within the common season, has a peculiar confidence about them. Baker is Brock Prudy, however with a persona and a laundry record of character defects. (Inform me proper now Mayfield couldn’t go 12-5 with Kyle Shanahan calling the performs, and I’ll let you know you’re a liar.)
If Al Davis was nonetheless alive, Mayfield would’ve been in Las Vegas two years in the past. There aren’t too many modern sports activities figures that may readily be described as swashbuckling, however it applies on this case. Mayfield is principally Captain Jack Sparrow: There’s a skinny line between pirate guile and drunken idiot that he straddles in an all the time entertaining approach.
For the uninitiated, on this analogy, the Eagles are Norrington, or possibly Gov. Weatherby Swan. If you wish to promote me on Jason Kelce as Barbossa, I’ll permit it. No matter pisses off Philly followers extra.
Now, Baker Mayfield’s bloated cadaver sails into the Motor Metropolis for an opportunity to tear out opposing followers’ hearts and throats. There’s a sneaky underdog believability to this Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ workforce, and whereas a proficient roster is the primary cause for that, it begins with the quarterback.