A Championship-winning coach and many of the old guard have gone, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to squeeze one more glorious year out of Tom Brady in 2022.
Article originally published on 05/09/2022
The seven-time NFL Championship winner's retirement u-turn after just 40 days last spring makes them instant contenders again.
There is plenty of talent on the Bucs' roster, but few players are right at the peak of their powers with many on the downhill slope and others yet to really develop into reliable leaders - which could create some problems.
Other veterans are not returning and Bruce Arians' exit puts new head coach Todd Bowles under the microscope.
Brady wants more of an emphasis on running the ball and it would be wise not to lean too hard on the mercurial abilities of the 45-year-old and a wide receiver corps that may not be as strong as in past years.
However, as long as they reach the playoffs with the greatest of all time in reasonable shape - then anything can happen.
|What:||NFL Season 2022/23|
|Where:||All across the U.S.A with three games scheduled for London, one for Munich and one in Mexico City.|
|When:||8th September 2022 - 12th February 2023|
|How to watch:||The vast majority of games are live and on-demand with NFL Game Pass, while selected games are available via Sky Sports, Channel 5 and Amazon Prime.|
BUF Bills 6/1, TB Buccaneers 7/1, KC Chiefs 10/1, LA Rams 11/1, GB Packers 12/1.
1st NFC South (13-4)
The Bucs will expect to win the NFC South again - but the New Orleans Saints are primed to bounce back after missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
The Saints, 7/2 for the division, have dominated the Bucs, who are 1/3 to retain the title, in recent times and seem to have found a formula to confuse Brady, so their battles could be crucial.
The 45-year-old returns off a stellar campaign in which he finished with the most regular season passing attempts, yards and touchdowns of his career while setting an NFL regular-season record for completions.
The former New England Patriots star is 8/1 to be named regular season MVP and even with a question mark over Chris Godwin's return from an ACL injury, he should have more offensive weapons to utilize than back-to-back winner Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay.
The Cowboys are first up for the Bucs in 2022 with two of the strongest teams in the NFC due to meet in Dallas for a primetime Sunday night matchup on 11th September.
History is certainly on the Cowboys' side as the two teams have faced off 20 times, including twice in the postseason, with America's Team victorious on 15 occasions.
Brady got the better of Boys QB Dak Prescott in last season's regular season matchup, which finished 31-29 and was also played in Week 1, at Raymond James Stadium.
The Cowboys are 21/20 on the Money Line with Tampa Bay at 4/5 for the win.
The Bucs face a brutal opening to their schedule with a road trip to the dangerous Saints following the Cowboys clash before they then host home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers - all within the first four weeks.
There's a hotly-anticipated rematch of last season's Divisional Round defeat against the defending Champions Los Angeles Rams in Week 9 at Raymond James Stadium.
And the Bucs take part in the first NFL regular season game to be staged in Germany when they meet the Seattle Seahawks a week later.
Bowles' men will have eight games against 2021 playoff teams on their schedule, including four on the road.
Bowles - 28/1 to win Coach of the Year - became Arians' heir apparent after fine-tuning the Buccaneers' defense during three successful years under the veteran head coach in Tampa.
The former defensive co-ordinator was an unsung hero of the Bucs' NFL Championship win two seasons ago.
Now he gets a chance to oversee the whole show and prove that he has learned from mistakes made during his previous head coaching stint at the New York Jets.
WR Julio Jones (Tennessee Titans)
S Keanu Neal (Dallas Cowboys)
OT Fred Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals)
WR Russell Gage (Atlanta Falcons)
TE Kyle Rudolph (New York Giants)
OG Shaq Mason (New England Patriots)
DT Akiem Hicks (Chicago Bears)
S Logan Ryan (New York Giants)
OLB Carl Nassib (Las Vegas Raiders)
RB Ronald Jones (Kansas City Chiefs)
WR Tyler Johnson (Houston Texans)
WR Antonio Brown
TE Rob Gronkowski
TE O.J. Howard (Houston Texans)
OG Ali Marpet
OG Alex Cappa (Cincinnati Bengals)
DT Ndamukong Suh
DE/OLB Jason Pierre-Paul
CB Pierre Desir
S Jordan Whitehead (New York Jets)
P Bradley Pinion (Atlanta Falcons)
|Defensive MVP||Shaquil Barrett|
DT Logan Hall (2nd Round)
OT Tristan Wirfs
Brady completed 485 of 719 passes for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns, all NFL-highs, and Arians suggested it was a "travesty" he didn't get the MVP award.
He also broke the NFL single-season completion record, which had been held by former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees since 2016.
Barrett just pips Pro Bowl nose tackle Vita Vea for defensive MVP honors after finishing the 2021 regular season with 51 tackles, 10 sacks, four pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 15 games.
Right tackle Wirfs was named to his first career Pro Bowl in 2021 and also garnered a 1st-Team All-Pro selection.
The 23-year-old started all 17 games for the Buccaneers, before suffering an ankle injury in the Wild Card round of the playoffs that kept him out the remainder of the postseason.