According to Preview Sports' NFL preview magazine, the Buccaneers had the league's most productive offseason
The Sporting News calls the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 'safe' pick to reach Super Bowl XXXVI. Apparently, a lot of magazine editors are playing it safe this year.
TSN splashed the Buccaneers across their Training Camp issue this week, clearly signaling their intentions. Sure enough, the inner pages tout Tampa Bay as that magazine's pick to win the Super Bowl in January.
The Sporting News is not alone. Take a quick scan of the sports periodicals at your local bookstore and, if you're a Buccaneers fan, be prepared to walk away with a smile.
There is, of course, The Sporting News' separate annual Pro Football publication, which stays true to its sister magazine by picking the Bucs to defeat Denver in New Orleans six months from now. Their take? The defensively-strong Buccaneers have improved their offense more than the offensive-minded Broncos have improved their defense. TSN's Pro Football magazine even goes so far as to predict the Super Bowl MVP: Warren Sapp.
Street & Smith's, one of the venerable masters of the NFL preview magazine trade, sees eye to eye with TSN, predicting a Super Bowl victory for Tampa Bay over Denver. Claiming that the 'future is now' in Tampa, the magazine noted the steep rise in the Bucs' talent level in recent seasons. "Once in need of help everywhere they looked (in the draft)," penned Street & Smith's, "the Bucs are now cherry-picking in search of that one final piece that will put them over the top."
Pro Football Weekly's Preview 2001 publication likes the same two teams, although they predict a Denver win over Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. According to PFW, the Buccaneers will tie Philadelphia for the best record in the NFC with an 11-5 mark. These long-time NFL analysts also rate Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Warren Sapp as the NFL's best at their respective positions.
But enough of that (very mild) pessimism. Back to Bucs as champs with Athlon's Pro Football 2001 Edition. Rather than Denver, Athlon sees the Bucs unseating the defending champion Baltimore Ravens. This publication was also impressed with the Bucs' offseason maneuvers, saying the biggest obstacle still facing the team is the difficulty of handling the expectations that come with being the NFC favorite.
Preview Sports' 'Pro Football 2001' publication doesn't make playoff or Super Bowl predictions on its pages, but, like all the others mentioned here, does tab the Bucs as likely NFC Central Champions. Preview Sports believes that no team in the NFL improved as dramatically during the offseason as did the Buccaneers.
There are no standings predictions in Lindy's 2001 Pro Football publication, either. Rather, Lindy's uses a complex, position-specific rating system to compare the 31 teams on a 1-100 scale. With 1-10 ratings of the head coach, the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, special teams and 'intangibles,' Lindy's comes up with composite scores. By this system, Baltimore got the highest grade at 73.5, followed by St. Louis at 73.0 and then Tampa Bay at 72.5. However, if you remove the somewhat arbitrary intangible rankings – the Bucs were downgraded a point for the weight of their expectations while Baltimore gained two points and the Rams held even – the Bucs have the highest coach-and-player ratings at 73.5.
Even Sports Illustrated, which has not yet printed its preseason NFL predictions, had a prominent Buc flavor this week. The team's stellar cornerback, Ronde Barber, is profiled in a story regarding the relationship between him and his twin brother, New York Giants running back Tiki Barber.
The team will have to wait to see their standing in SI's eyes, but there's no denying that the Buccaneers are a hot preseason commodity. All it takes is a quick stroll to the newsstand to see that big things are expected from Tampa Bay in 2001.