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Like it or not, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots will be compared and contrasted through the 2020 season. That's what happens when the greatest quarterback of all time moves from one team to the other.
The Patriots won five more games than the Buccaneers in 2019, and the last time Tampa Bay earned more victories than New England, Jon Gruden coached Chris Simms to the 2005 division title. Yeah, it's been a while. This year, though, oddsmakers have both priced at nine victories, and the Bucs are slight favorites to win more games:
|Team to win more games||Odds|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-125|
|New England Patriots||+105|
Here's a breakdown of each team's chances to win more contests in 2020:
It's as simple as it is unavoidable: Tom Brady's presence changes everything.
The Buccaneers' offense ranked inside the top 10 in touchdowns per drive in 2019 but a league-worst 41 turnovers tanked the team's chances to consistently put up points. The Patriots' offense was below average in most metrics, but a top-three turnover margin kept the team's scoring in the league's top tier.
The turnover differential wasn't just a matter of volume, either. In 2019, Jameis Winston (626) had just 13 more attempts than Brady (613) but threw 22 more interceptions. Brady also ranked second in drops by his receivers (34), while Winston tied for 17th (23). Pair the Hall of Famer with All-Pro weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and Tampa Bay's offense could threaten to post top-five numbers.
It's easy to rag on the defense, which allowed the fourth-most points in 2019. But, again, it all leads back to the quarterback. Because the Bucs committed so many turnovers, their defense was consistently put in tough situations; Tampa Bay faced the worst average starting field position of any defense last season.
The Buccaneers actually tied for sixth in fewest yards allowed on a per-play basis (5.1), and they ranked fifth in turnovers forced (28) and in defensive DVOA, which measures total efficiency. They also boasted the league's best run defense, which should sustain next year with Ndamukong Suh expected to re-sign.
The biggest concern, really, is continuity. Tampa Bay returns much of its starting offensive and defensive units from a year ago, but the biggest change defines everything. Can Brady rediscover his pre-2019 form in a new system? Can the defense produce under more "normal" circumstances? Will heightened expectations break a team with just one winning season since 2010?
If you think New England will waltz to another 10-win season in 2020, take a fresh look at the roster.
Let's start with a positive: The Patriots' secondary was elite last year, and it remains mostly intact heading into 2020. On the strength of the back-end unit, New England's defense allowed the fewest yards (23.4), points (1.02), touchdowns (1.08), and plays (5.13) per drive, which helped supplement a lackluster offense.
However, that underwhelming offense projects to get worse in 2020 without any major additions and an unproven quarterback under center, even if Brady didn't look as sharp in Year 20 as he did in Years 1-19.
Brady isn't the only significant loss during a tumultuous free-agency period. The Patriots also parted with key linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr., starting nose tackle Danny Shelton, starting center Ted Karras, and a handful of depth pieces from last year's 12-win group.
Losing those linebackers is especially concerning for the Patriots' pass defense, which was dominant not just on the back end but in the middle of the field, too. Without an athletic unit patrolling the hashes, teams can avoid Stephon Gilmore and Co. and target the underneath routes - or, as many teams did, run right into the teeth of New England's undermanned front line.
Dante Scarnecchia was another key loss, as he retired this offseason after spending 27 of the last 29 years as the team's offensive line coach. The Patriots haven't needed to invest much in their line thanks to the brilliance of Scarnecchia, who managed to patch together an above-average line seemingly every year. With him gone, Jarrett Stidham (or whoever starts) could face a rough year with few weapons and a shaky O-line.
Things change fast, and even two weeks ago, this would have seemed bizarre. To some, maybe it still does. But the Buccaneers enter 2020 with a well-built roster, progressive coaching staff, and plenty of upside.
New England enters 2020 with the NFL's toughest schedule based on 2019 records and won't have the same dominant defense to lead it through the gauntlet. That's to say nothing of how the loss of Brady looms over the organization. Maybe this team gets to 10 wins again, but Tampa Bay is a much safer bet to reach that mark.
Pick: Buccaneers -125
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.