Here we go again - another NFL season
After slagging off general NFL writers for not knowing enough about each team to write a realistic preview, don't come looking here for a full preview of all 32 teams.
Suffice to say that one of the so-called top teams will disappoint with a losing season, and one of the supposed cellar-dwellars will come out of nowhere with a winning season.
It is this kind of uncertainty that leads Chris Berman to declare "that's why we play the game". If everything was certain in life, then the other 30 teams outside of the Patriots and Packers might as well not even bother playing the rest of the season as the paper pundits have declared them ready for Indianapolis in February now.
12 months ago there were not many people who had the Bucs down for a 10-6 season. Of course there were the optimists and die-hard fans who always believe the Bucs will prevail, even when the Polish Pop-Gun was starting behind center.
And then you had the real haters out there who expected every game to be a defeat because of the coaching/ownership/players/fans (delete where appropriate) or all four if you were a true disbeliever (here forever known as a Bromfield-Sterbenz when proven to be completely and utterly wrong).
Roy Cummings summed up the most accurate prediction for the 2011 Buccaneers when he said that they could well be better this season, yet finish with a worse record. By the end of last season, the Bucs were one of the best teams in the league and were finishing strong. But that does not automatically mean this progress will continue starting Sunday against the Lions.
I think the pass rush will make the defense a lot better and I do expect Josh Freeman to continue to ascent to greatness with a plane ticket to Hawaii by the end of the season, but I do foresee an 8-8 season for our Bucs in 2011. Because the schedule is harder and expectations are far higher too. And no-one will take the Bucs lightly any longer.
The more I think about it, this season reminds me of 1998. The 1997 team were coming off a surprising playoff season and everyone had Tony Dungy's team down as the next best thing in the NFL. It did not quite work out that way and the 98 Bucs took a step back before making the Championship game the following season.
And this is what I think will happen in 2011. A maturation of a very young and incredibly talented team perhaps taking one step back to go two forwards. There will be good moments, there will be bad ones. The haters will jump on the latter of course but that is simply a sad by-product of the internet in that they now have a mouthpiece to spout their hatred.
But for the real fans, the true believers in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it will be another step in the right direction irrespective of 8-8 not being as good as 10-6. It will involve another trip to London, it will massively involve in the Bucs UK. And ultimately in 2012, I believe it will involve a very serious run at another Vince Lombardi Trophy.
You've been great, enjoy Fiction Factory.