by Bovada Sports on
Here's what we know about the NFC South Division for the 2014 NFL season: the Carolina Panthers won't win it. How do we know that? No team has ever repeated as the champion in that division. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the longest drought of winning the South, last in 2007. Yet if you believe many NFL experts, the Bucs will have a shot at ending that in 2014.
The Buccaneers are 28/1 on Bovada's NFL futures to win the NFC and 50/1 to win the Super Bowl. Their current 2014 wins total projection is 6.5.
Few teams will look as different on and off the field than Tampa Bay this year, which will also have new uniforms. Coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik were fired after the team was 4-12 in 2013, its third straight losing record and sixth straight missing the postseason. Former Bears coach Lovie Smith, an ex-assistant under Tony Dungy in Tampa, is the new head coach and Jason Licht the new GM.
Smith and Licht were very busy after taking over. The Bucs decided to cut Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, whom the team gave up a 2013 first-round draft pick and 2014 fourth-rounder for before last season. Revis was still a good player but wasn't willing to negotiate the $16 million he was due for 2014. He also wasn't considered a great fit in Smith's defensive scheme. Revis landed nicely on his feet in New England. Tampa Bay also traded starting wide receiver Mike Williams to Buffalo. He played in just six games last year due to a hamstring injury and also had some off-field problems. Look for Tampa Bay to address receiver with its No. 7 overall pick in the draft.
"Winning" free agency during the offseason often doesn't lead to success in the NFL, but by most accounts the Bucs had the best grade in terms of additions. The team signed one of the best defensive ends on the market in Cincinnati's Michael Johnson and top cornerbacks in Alterraun Verner (Titans). The Bucs also added a projected starting offensive tackle in Anthony Collins (Bengals), No. 1 center in Evan Dietrich-Smith (Packers) and starting tight end in Brandon Myers (Giants).
The biggest addition, however, was luring free agent quarterback Josh McCown away from the Bears. One reason Smith was fired by Chicago after the 2012 season was because the offense usually struggled under him so it's somewhat ironic Smith would go after a Chicago QB. McCown is a 34-year-old journeyman who thrived under Chicago's Marc Trestman last year. He played in eight games and started five in place of the injured Jay Cutler.
McCown set a Bears record with 36 completions in a loss to the Rams and ranked third in the league with a passer rating of 109.0. Smith says McCown is his starter heading into camp over Mike Glennon, who was solid as a rookie in 2013 but obviously wasn't picked by Smith in the draft. McCown has some great weapons to work with in receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin.
Tampa Bay's 2014 schedule doesn't look too daunting. It has an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .484, which is the 14th-easiest in the NFL. The Bucs play six games against playoff teams from last year: home and away against Carolina (Week 1 in Tampa versus the Panthers), home and away against New Orleans, and home to Cincinnati and Green Bay.