Where the defending champs stand heading into a week off and the work they still have left to do
This season, Tampa is also 6-2 and heads into its bye week in first place in the NFC South. Whether Tom Brady and Co. can make it two titles in a row remains to be seen, but the Bucs have shown so far that they have the potential to make a deep run.
Coming out of the bye week, Tampa will face four straight teams with losing records before a showdown with the Bills on Dec. 12. That means they’ll have some time to clean things up, both this week in practice and against seemingly overmatched competition. The timing’s good, too. The Bucs are coming off a loss to the Saints in which they committed a highly uncharacteristic 11 penalties that cost them 99 total yards. Eight of those penalties came on defense, where the defending champs have been decidedly average in most categories.
By the Numbers:
Record: 6-2 (No. 1 in NFC South)
Rushing offense: 95.6 yards/game (No. 24 in NFL)
Passing offense: 327.5 yards/game (No. 1 in NFL)
Scoring offense: 32.5 points/game (No. 2 in NFL)
Rushing defense: 78.0 yards/game (No. 1 in NFL)
Passing defense: 257.8 yards/game (No. 20 in NFL)
Total defense: 335.8 yards/game (No. 8 in NFL)
Scoring defense: 22.9 points/game (No. 15 in NFL)
Bucs’ 2021 Attendance Numbers
The Buccaneers have played four home games and four on the road. They only have one more home game before mid-December, a Monday Night Football tilt against the Giants.
- The Bucs are averaging 65,116 fans per game, good for 20th in the NFL and an average capacity of 98.9%. Raymond James Stadium has an official capacity of 65,890.
- While 20th in fans per game may not sound impressive, it represents a dramatic improvement over 2019, the last year of full attendance pre-COVID. That season, the Bucs ranked 30th (third-to-last) in the NFL, bringing in only 51,898 per game and filling Raymond James Stadium to less than 80%. The 65,000+ fans per game this year represents better than a 25% improvement. It seems to be a reasonable guess to assume that winning the 2020 Super Bowl and having the GOAT under center are two big reasons why more fans are showing up.
- So far, 260,465 total fans have passed through the turnstiles at Tampa Bay home games, putting the Bucs at 17th in the league in total attendance, though the top two teams (Cleveland and New England) have played five home games.
- Through four road games, Tampa Bay is attracting 69,512 fans per game, which is eighth in the league.
Getting Their Money’s Worth
The Bucs are on the hook this year for $179,321,690, which ranks 28th in the league, according to Spotrac. That’s about $7 million below the league average of $186,159,502. Their highest-paid players this season by total compensation are:
QB Tom Brady: $27,545,588
LB Shaquil Barrett: $20,000,000
WR Chris Godwin: $15,983,000
LT Donovan Smith: $14,250,000
LB Jason Pierre-Paul: $12,800,000
What TB12 is doing at age 44 is well-documented, but no less unbelievable. Long after most of his contemporaries have retired, he leads the league in passing yards (2,650), completions (231), and touchdowns (25). He’s also completed 67% of his passes for a QB rating of 108.6. It helps that he has someone like Smith, who has become one of the best at his position, on the offensive line.
It helps that Godwin, the third-highest-paid guy on the team, is sixth in the league in receptions (50) out of 69 targets. Teammate Mike Evans has made his 39 receptions count, ranking second in the NFL with eight touchdowns. Evans is making $12.5 million this year.
On the other side, Shaq Barrett is proving he was worth the big deal he signed earlier this year. He leads the team in sacks (5.5) and, according to Pro Football Focus, is fifth among linebackers with 40 pressures. By his side is the veteran Jason Pierre-Paul, who has been through it over the years, and that hasn’t changed in 2021. He missed two games with a shoulder injury and is playing through a broken finger, but still finding ways to be productive.
Tampa Bay’s Fantasy Outlook
Brady’s numbers — and by extension, fantasy value — are impressive enough on their own. As it stands, Brady is the No. 2 overall fantasy football player in standard PPR formats (201.9 points on ESPN) and No. 1 in non-PPR. Leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns will do that.
Factoring in that he’s been without Antonio Brown the last two weeks and Rob Gronkowski missed a month, you have to believe that coming out of the bye week, he’ll be poised to keep putting up big numbers.
Conversely, a healthy Buccaneers squad could mean that Godwin sees fewer targets (though, let’s be honest, the guy is still lighting it up; he’ll get his looks). Evans, who is tracking toward a career year, is in a similar boat.
But that was all to be expected this season. What fans didn’t see coming was Leonard Fournette emerging as a virtual must-start at running back.
With Brady under center, the Bucs are an overwhelming pass-first team — make no mistake — but Fournette is the No. 1 guy on the ground. He has more than twice as many carries as anyone else on the team, going for 439 yards and four touchdowns.
Next up for the defending champs? A Week 10 trip to Landover for a date with the Washington Football Team. As it stands, Bruce Arians’ boys are eight-point favorites.