Dec 302013
 

Mike ShanahanIt’s that time of year… the day following the end of the regular season when NFL head coaches get shown the front door. We’ll keep a running commentary of any coaches fired over the course of the week leading up to the Wildcard Round.

Here are our coaching casualties to date:

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

OK, so the Texans got the jump of Black Monday a few weeks back by ousting Kubiak, which was a long time coming. Kubiak’s job was hanging on precarious threads a few times in the past, and even when the team was successful they managed to find ways to underachieve. But this year’s total collapse was the final straw in Houston. Bill O’Brien is the early front-runner, but the Texans will be looking at several candidates, including former Bears’ coach Lovie Smith.

Rob Chudzkinski, Cleveland Browns

I’m not sure I get this one. Sure, the Browns were 4-12 this season and can be accused of under-performing, but I’m not entirely sure that Chud was the problem. The team has been laden with personnel issues from the previous regime, and is still lacking consistent quarterback play. Given that the Browns fleeced the Colts for a first-round pick, I would have loved to see what Chud could have done with the addition of two first round picks and an improving defense next season. But the Cleveland brass seems to have needed a scapegoat, and Chud gets the honors.

Mike Shanahan, Washington Football Club

Like there was any doubt about this one. Sure, Daniel Snyder hates to part with money, but it was pretty obvious he would pay just about anything to be rid of Shanahan and his staff. Let me be honest, I think Shanahan is one of the most overrated coaches in NFL history, two Super Bowl wins not withstanding. His 55% winning percentage includes two Super Bowl wins, which he never would have gotten without John Elway, and he has had seven losing campaigns (along with three 8-8 seasons) in his twenty year career as a head coach. He finishes 24-40 after four years in Washington, along win one playoff appearance in last year’s loss to Seattle.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings

It’s hard to argue with this one after the Vikings fell off a good 2013 campaign, and the year was undermined by Frazier’s inability to settle on a quarterback that he could get consistent play from. The team went from 10-6 last year to 5-10-1 this season. Coupled with the Vikings’ refusal to extend his contract after last season’s success, Frazier looked like a prime candidate to lose his job as the Vikes plummeted in the standings. Early reports link Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase (both of the Broncos) as possible replacements.

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay

Public discussion was back and forth on whether or not the Bucs had done enough at the end of the season to save Greg Schiano’s job. They didn’t. The Bucs cleared house on Monday, sending Schiano and his staff packing along with GM Mark Dominik. This may clear the way for Schiano and his sunny disposition to wind up at Penn State if an when Bill O’Brien leaves. The Bucs went 4-12 this season, and Schiano’s two-year tenure with the team netted an 11-21 record.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

Speaking of sunny dispositions and overrated coaches, Jim Schwartz is out in Detroit, and for good reason. The demise of the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season left the Lions an inside track to a division crown and playoff spot. The team’s response? To close the season with a 1-5 record over the last six games to finish at 7-9. While Schwartz deserves some credit for dispelling the culture of losing from the Lions, he failed to instill discipline in his team on or off the field, and was sometimes a coaching catastrophe on the sidelines. Schwartz had only one winning season in his five years in Detroit (10-6 in 2011), finishing with a 29-51 mark.

Along with the casualties, the New York Jets have given a vote of confidence to Head Coach Rex Ryan, in that they are allowing him to return in 2014 after a very good run by the Jets this season. There is still no word on a contract extension, but either way it is fair to assume that Ryan will once again be coaching for his job in 2014.

We are still waiting word on the fates of Leslie Frazier (Minnesota), Mike Munchak (Tennessee), Jim Schwartz (Detroit), Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay), and Jason Garrett (Dallas). My money is on Garrett and Munchak keeping their jobs, and Frazier, Schiano and Schwartz losing theirs. (Update: Right on Frazier. Right on Schwartz. Right on Schiano.)

(Update: Right on Garrett as well. Jerruh has committed to another year of him as GM, Garrett as coach, and a recovering Romo at QB. What could possibly go wrong?? Here’s to another 8-8 season, at best.)

Sep 032013
 

Peyton ManningLet me get our annual writer’s picks started with my own. After an off-season of controversy and roster turnover, my beloved Patriots enter the 2013 as a certain favorite in the AFC East and are likely to make another deep playoff run. With an improving defense to help offset offensive uncertainty, the Patriots look solid but uncertain. Even as a die hard fan, it’s hard to envision the Patriots winning the Super Bowl this season.

Baltimore made some strategic decisions after winning the Super Bowl, and have sought to put all of their eggs in the Joe Flacco basket, which I find problematic. While they have cobbled together what is likely to be a top ten defense again, the offense after Ray Rice looks problematic. Letting Anquan Boldin leave was a huge mistake, and the loss of Dennis Pitta for most of the season is a huge blow to this team.

Thus, the Broncos look like the class of the AFC, even if their defensive front seven leaves me a little bit squeamish. I know people are thinking the offense will be unstoppable with Wes Welker complementing Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker as receivers for Peyton Manning, but the loss of Dan Koppen leaves the line a little shaky and I am not sure the running game will consistently produce. Still, the Broncos would appear to have the edge in the battle for the Super Bowl.

On the NFC side, the 49ers will be a fashionable pick, but Colin Kaepernick no longer has the advantage of being an unknown, and now defenses will get their chance to adjust to his style of play. The loss of Michael Crabtree hurt, forcing Boldin into the role of being a primary receiver rather than a complement. The Niners can run the ball and have a stout defense, so they have to be considered a favorite to get back to the big game. That’s possible, but San Francisco may not even win their division given the resurgent Seahawks, who have their own answer to Kaepernick in Russell Wilson, who seems to be a star in the making. Like the 49ers, the Seahawks have an efficient receiver corps that doesn’t scare people but manages to get the job done, and a bruising running game embodied in Marshawn Lynch with a sleeper in reserve Christine Michael. The Seattle defense looks to be just as good as the one in San Francisco, so this team must be considered a serious threat.

Finally, we get to Atlanta,, who flamed out in the playoffs last season after a very successful regular season campaign. The Falcons added Stephen Jackson in the off-season and have the best receiving tandem in the league in Julio Jones and Roddy White, complemented by the ageless Tony Gonzalez. The defense is the big question mark on this team, with a re-engineered secondary and a lack of impact players in the front seven. It’s entirely possible that the Falcons will make it to the Super Bowl, but it would be really helpful if they could gain the top seed and avoid the 49ers and Seahawks for as long as possible.

This is a wide open year in the NFL, with no one clear favorite to win it all, so it should be an exciting season. But for those of us craving some certainty this year, let me provide it for you; the Jets will end the season by jettisoning Mark Sanchez, they will have already figured out that Geno Smith isn’t the answer, and Rex Ryan will be in search of a coordinator job.

So with all of that said, here are my 2013 predictions:

AFC EAST
New England124
Miami79
Buffalo610
New York Jets214
AFC NORTH
Cincinnati115
Baltimore97
Pittsburgh97
Cleveland79
AFC SOUTH
Houston115
Indianapolis97
Tennessee610
Jacksonville313
AFC WEST
Denver124
Kansas City88
San Diego511
Oakland214
NFC EAST
Washington106
New York Giants97
Dallas97
Philadelphia511
NFC NORTH
Green Bay106
Chicago106
Minnesota88
Detroit79
NFC SOUTH
Atlanta133
New Orleans97
Carolina79
Tampa Bay79
NFC WEST
Seattle115
San Francisco106
St. Louis88
Arizona610
AFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Cincinnati over Indianapolis
Houston over Baltimore
Divisional Round
Denver over Houston
New England over Cincinnati
AFC Championship
Denver over New England
NFC PLAYOFFS- Wildcard Round
Washington over Chicago
San Francisco over Green Bay
Divisional Round
Atlanta over San Francisco
Seattle over Washington
NFC Championship
Seattle over Atlanta
SUPER BOWL
Denver over Seatttle
NFL POST SEASON AWARDS
Most Valuable Player -Adrian Peterson
Offensive Player of the YearDrew Brees
Defensive Player of the YearJJ Watt
Offensive Rookie of the YearTavon Austin
Defensive Rookie of the YearDesmond Trufant
Comeback Player of the YearMaurice Jones Drew
Coach of the YearBill Belichick
Jul 032013
 

GiRIt has been a while since I penned one of these articles, and our summer has not been as active as I would have liked, but we have survived through a full season and off-season, and training camp is now just a couple of weeks away! There is still plenty more to write to get people caught up with their favorite teams and with current NFL news, but I thought I’d take a moment to bring you up to get our readers caught up on our current plans.

32 Previews
Yes, we still have more previews coming. We’ve made it through 13 teams so far and have 19 more to go, but the pace is slowing a bit as time has become an issue. The Rat is working on his dissertation proposal, and some work related projects, as well as getting ready for some time away, so the articles will resume shortly but at a slower pace. Keep checking back for your favorite team!

Time Away
The Rat and Rat’s Widow are heading off on a tropical holiday to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Let me tell you folks, the Rat is a lucky man, and I am looking forward to a week away where we can relax and re-charge our batteries. We’ll share a picture or two once we are there.

FILE:  Indianapolis Colts Fire Vice Chairman Bill PolianBill Polian is a &%$&%#% hypocritical moron
OK, perhaps this is a topic worthy of its won article, but I want to get this off my chest now. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article about Aaron Hernandez, and interviewed the former Colts general manager for the piece. According to Polian, “There were questions there, which is why a guy of that talent lasted until the fourth round,” he said. The Colts  “never got that far” in their evaluation of the player. “We were not in the Hernandez business.”

Wow… isn’t Polian prescient? If only every general manager could predict that someone who has a history of marijuana use and fighting might escalate to murder… well, then that person would be a genius. Apparently Bill Polian is a genius.

So… Genius… maybe you can explain to the rest of the world why it is that you drafted Rae Carruth with your first round pick in the 1997 draft. That’s right… the same Rae Carruth who went on to hire a friend to murder his girlfriend (Cherica Adams) and their unborn child so that he would not have to pay child support. Adams spent a month in the hospital after being shot five times, and Carruth posted $3 million bond on the condition that he would turn himself in if Adams died. When she did die he then fled, and was found hiding in the trunk of a car in Tennessee.

At the time of the draft, Polian stated that Carruth was simply too good a talent to pass up, and the Panthers grabbed him up. So where was your Spidey Sense then, idiot? It’s not surprising to me that Polian would take a shot at the Patriots, given his former roles with the Bills (division opponent), Panthers, and Colts (conference rival). But maybe next time Polian should consider whether or not his own history drafting a troubled player should temper his comments about the decisions of other teams. Unfortunately, Polian’s desire for the spotlight seems to preclude any consideration of reason.

A note on Aaron Hernandez
Let’s sum up my feelings on Aaron Hernandez and the New England Patriots. First, Hernandez’ talent made him a steal in the fourth round, and none of his earlier behaviors suggested that the guy would become a(n) (alleged) murderer. In his three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez caught 175 regular season passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns, which compares quite favorably to the three year career stats of Rae Carruth, who caught 62 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns, but I digress…

The Patriots took a calculated risk to select Hernandez, just as many teams take such risks in every draft and in every free agency period. If the Patriots are to be questioned at all, it is for signing Hernandez to a big money extension based solely on his word that he was a changed man. Patriots’ players are freely describing Hernandez as a loner with an angry streak who chose to hang around high school friends rather than spend time with his teammates. This also didn’t suggest that Hernandez would become a murderer, but raises questions as to why the Patriots felt he was worth a big money extension similar to the one given to Rob Gronkowski.

But to suggest that this situation speaks poorly of the Patriots’ organization is rubbish. When the news first broke that Hernandez was being investigated, Patriots’ brass got together and decided he would be released if he was charged with any crime; that is quite a statement when there is as much money at stake as there is in this case, but the Patriots felt the public relations perception was more important than the money. It took the Patriots only ninety minutes to push the paperwork through for his release on the day of his arrest, and the Patriots immediately offered a jersey exchange program so that parents would not have to explain why their children could not wear the jersey of their favorite player. It’s a small gesture to be sure, but one that the Patriots control, and which is in keeping with a conscientious organization. Hernandez may have made a mockery of the public perception of the Patriot Way, but the organization  proved it was bigger than any of its players. That’s all I can ask for as a fan.

Jul 032013
 

BarThree guys visited a Boston area bar after hearing that the bar was dispensing it’s last bottle of a special fifty year old scotch. When the three men arrived, the bartender informed them that he was down to his last bottle, and there was only one shot of whiskey left. The bartender agreed to serve the whiskey to the gentleman who could make the best argument for why he should be the lucky recipient.

The first man was a 75 year old Catholic priest with three months to live. He said that he had taken his vows of celibacy and poverty seriously, and always put others before himself. He pleaded with the bartender to make this shot of whiskey his earthly reward for serving God.

Moved nearly to tears, the bartender asked the second man why he should get the whiskey. This man was a 40 year old Irishman in slovenly condition, who informed the bartender that he used to be a successful businessman until his alcoholism cost him his job, his family, and his home. The man promised to offer rehab that very day, and he vowed to spend his life helping other alcoholics if he could simply have this one last taste.

The bartender was again moved, and knew he was going to have to make a hard choice. He turned to the third man and asked why he should have the last of the scotch.

Without a word, the man shot the bartender, shot the priest, and shot the alcoholic. He then drank the last of the scotch, cleaned out the cash register, and left on his way to work.

The moral of this story? Never go drinking with Aaron Hernandez.

Reminder: The Rat’s Tale is a recurring parody feature that appears on Gridiron Rats. No one was actually harmed in the writing of this article. Yeah, the Rat knows he is going to burn in Hell for this one.

Jun 282013
 

Hernandez JerseyThe New England Patriots have announced a free exchange for any fans who own a #81 Aaron Hernandez jersey.

“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” said New England Patriots spokesperson Stacey James. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.” Details of the exchange are provided here.

There is no word on whether or not fans wearing a Hernandez jersey will be permitted to enter Patriots’ games. It’s entirely conceivable that the organization will require fans to remove a Hernandez jersey in order to make Hernandez’ name recede into Patriots’ history, as well as to avoid ugly confrontations among fans.

Either way, it’s a classy move on the part of the organization, and another example of the Patriots trying to do the “right thing” in responding to an ugly situation.

And trading in your Hernandez jersey is a lot better than driving it out to an industrial area a mile from your house and shooting it.

Jun 282013
 

Mark Sanchez is lucky that it’s not a slow news week in the NFL.

Mark Sanchez

That’s right, the same Sanchez of butt fumble fame has decided to make his butt… well… the butt of further jokes. The video is from a private party that Sanchez had with two young women, and he can be seen flashing his naked butt for their homemade video.

The video doesn’t show Sanchez killing anyone, not is he committing a crime or (likely) violating any team rules. But for the guy known as the worst starting quarterback in the league who has made more news with his GQ spread than with his play on the field, it is not a good look.

Of course the person who might be loving this video the most is Geno Smith, the quarterback the Jets drafted to replace Sanchez.

Jun 282013
 

Aaron HernandezAt some point, the Aaron Hernandez saga will move into a quiet mode as the two sides prepare for trial, which some believe could take as long as a year from now to commence. But that isn’t today. So here are the developments from yesterday.

1. In a development that was not a surprise to anyone, Aaron Hernandez cleared waivers yesterday, meaning that he is now an unrestricted free agent. Not that it matters. After he cleared waivers, the NFL issued a statement that it will take no action on Hernandez until a team does try to sign him. “NFL clubs were advised today that if Aaron Hernandez enters into a player contract prior to the resolution of the charges pending against him, the contract will not be approved or take effect until Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a hearing,” the league said in a statement.  “The purpose of the hearing would be to determine whether Hernandez should be suspended or face other action prior to the charges being resolved.”

2. The SUV seized by police in their investigation of the 2012 double homicide has been identified as having been rented by Hernandez at the time of the 2012 murders. The fact that the police have been able to jump start a year old cold investigation suggests that one of Hernandez’ “associates” may well be cooperating with the authorities.

3. If that is the case, it is likely Carlos Ortiz, identified as having also been arrested in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd. Ortiz has allegedly admitted possessing a firearm in North Attleborough on June 17 and is believed to be one of the men initially questioned by police at Hernandez’ home. Ortiz was arrested at the Connecticut home of of Hernandez’ uncle, the same home searched by police earlier this week. Ortiz waived extradition to Massachusetts, and has a history of convictions for larceny and criminal mischief.

4. Police are also searching Ernest Wallace, who is being described as an accessory after the fact. Wallace is considered armed and dangerous.

5. Finally, police have returned to search Hernandez’ home yet again, this time in relation to the 2012 double homicide.

UPDATE: Ernest Wallace has been captured by police in Miramar, Florida.

Jun 272013
 

Just when you think the case of Aaron Hernandez can’t get any more bizarre, it does, and then does again. Here are the developments just from today:

Aaron Hernandez1. A photo (left) posted on TMZ began making the rounds last night of Hernandez while still at the University of Florida, holding a .45 caliber Glock, trying his best to look the part of a thug.

2. According to Bristol County Assistant District Attorney William McCauley, that same Glock may in fact be the murder weapon. “There was a photo that was shown on the Internet of the defendant holding a Glock .45,” McCauley said. “That Glock… there’s good reason to believe the firearm that killed Mr. Lloyd was a Glock because the Glock has a rifling system that is different than most firearms.” These comments were made today, the same day that Hernandez’ appeal to be allowed bail was denied by Judge Renee Dupuis.

3. According to CNN, Hernandez is now being investigated by authorities for a possible connection to a double slaying in Boston’s South End in July, 2012. This revelation comes a day after authorities executed a search warrant on one of Hernandez’ relatives in Connecticut. According to reports, the Boston Police Department has located and impounded a silver SUV with Rhode Island registration that police have been trying to find for almost a year, that’s linked to the scene of a double homicide in 2012, and investigators believe that Hernandez was renting the SUV at the time of those killings.

All of a sudden, a case that was simply baffling yesterday makes a bit more sense today. It is not much of a stretch to conclude that Odin Lloyd was aware of Hernandez’ role in the 2012 slayings, and that Hernandez feared that Lloyd would end up  revealing Hernandez’ involvement. Yesterday I found myself thinking that it was a huge leap to kill someone simply because they could not be trusted any longer, which was the impression given in the reports that Lloyd had been seen by Hernandez talking to people that Hernandez did not like in a Boston club. But when we add in the notion that Lloyd might have been able to implicate Hernandez in a double homicide, it is much easier to imagine Hernandez reaching the conclusion that he had to kill Lloyd to protect his secret, and it also helps explain the text messages and conversations described by the prosecution in the arraignment yesterday.

With respect to the 2012 killings, investigators believe a fight broke out at Cure, a club in the South End of Boston, between two men and a group that included Hernandez. The two men, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, left the club with three other men in a BMW sedan in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012. Abreu, who was driving, stopped at a traffic light on Shawmut Avenue, about to make a left onto Herald Street, when a silver or gray SUV with Rhode Island license plates pulled alongside the sedan. Someone from the SUV opened fire, killing Abreu, 29, and Furtado, 28. It is that SUV that investigators believe they can tie to Hernandez.

All of this, of course, is speculation, and Hernandez is entitled to due process of law and the presumption of innocence. But if it turns out that these dots are connected, and that Hernandez is guilty of three murders, then what we have at hand is probably the single worst criminal professional athlete in the history of the four major sports.

Jun 262013
 

Aaron HernandezAaron Hernandez is not having a good day.

This morning nine officers from the North Attleborough and Massachusetts State Police arrested Aaron Hernandez at his home this morning in connection to the murder of Odin Lloyd, leading him away in handcuffs with Hernandez in red shorts and a white tee shirt. A defiant Hernandez went peacefully into a police cruiser. A video of the arrest can be seen here. Charges have not been released, and are being kept under wraps until his arraignment today.

The New England Patriots wasted no time in responding to the development. Just an hour and a half after his arrest, the Patriots released Hernandez and issued the following statement:

“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation.  We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing.  We support their efforts and respect the process.  At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”

It is believed that Hernandez’ lack of cooperation with the police investigation led to the police conducting an aggressive arrest in daylight in front of cameras, rather than offering him the opportunity to surrender himself to police. While the criminal process affords Hernandez the right of being presumed innocent until guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt, in the court of public opinion it is very clear that Hernandez is guilty of something; the only remaining question is “what”.

The Patriots’ decision to release Hernandez is not without consequence to the team. The team will have no opportunity to realize a salary savings in 2013 for Hernandez. The Patriots paid Hernandez a  $12.5 million signing bonus in his 2012 contract extension worth a total of $39 million.  It is unclear as to whether or not the Patriots will try to void the deal paying $3.25 million in a deferred payment due on March 31, 2014, and whether they’ll try to wipe out base-salary guaranteed of $1.323 million in 2013 and $1.137 million in 2014. But in this case, the Patriots believe that taking the moral high road is more important than the money, and it is hard to argue against that point. It’s possible that the Patriots have a sense of the charges to be announced, which at this point one would think would include at least obstruction of justice, but might include conspiracy to commit murder and/or murder.

This article will be updated today as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: According to Pro Football Talk: “For 2013, the Patriots will carry a $2.5 million charge for the portion of his $12.5 million signing bonus, paid last year.  Hernandez’s base salary of $1.323 million is fully guaranteed, and so the cap number will remain $4.073 million unless and until the Patriots can finagle a way to avoid paying him.”

North Attleborough Courthouse

UPDATE: Here’s a picture of the North Attleborough court room where Hernandez will be arraigned. Courtesy of Wesley Lowery of the Boston Globe.

UPDATE: I’ve been watching the arraignment live, and Aaron Hernandez has been formally charged with six counts, including the (first-degree) murder of Odin Lloyd and five related gun charges (carrying a firearm without a license and possession of a large capacity firearm). The prosecutor offered a highly detailed summary of the events and the investigation. I was a little surprised to hear that when the police first arrived and knocked to question Hernandez, he refused to answer the door, and instead watched the police from inside his home. From what is said by the prosecutor, it sounds like at least one of Hernandez’ “associates” flipped on him and provided detailed information about conversations taking place in Hernandez’ home and in his car. Further, the prosecutor can place the murder weapon in Hernandez’ hands, based on his own surveillance system. It should be noted that Hernandez does not possess the necessary permit to own any weapons.

Hernandez ArraignmentBased on the evidence presented, Hernandez would appear to be a calculated and brutal, cold-blooded murderer. To expect to get away with what he is accused of doing suggests that Hernandez is either stupid or just used to getting away with things. During the arraignment, Hernandez stood there looking on, appearing utterly emotionless. If anything, Hernandez appeared bored by the prosecutor’s accounting of the evidence.His only display of emotion was to blow his girlfriend a kiss as he was escorted out of the court room. Hernandez can have his presumption of innocence in the criminal courts, but I couldn’t help but watch these proceedings and believed I was watching a thoroughly evil human being. I can only hope that justice is found in the criminal trial that will be coming.

The prosecutor asked for remand while the defense of course offered that Hernandez was not a flight risk. The judge ultimately decided that Hernandez should be held without bail, to which I wholeheartedly concur. The judge did agree to the defense’s request for a gag order on the case, which seems a sensible precaution for both sides in such a public case.

 

Jun 212013
 

Darrelle Revis13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 389 points scored, 13th in points, 9th in yards (10th passing, 15th rushing)
2012 Defense: 394 points allowed, 23rd in points, 29th in yards (32nd passing, 1st rushing)

Key Additions
CB Darrelle Revis, S Dashon Goldson, WR Kevin Ogletree, DT Derek Landri, LB Jonathan Casillas, T Gabe Carimi, RB Brian Leonard, RB Jeff Demps, TE Tom Crabtree, TE Zach Miller, DT Andre Neblett, CB Michael Adams, CB Jonathan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, T Akeem Spence, DE William Gholston

Key Losses
S Ronde Barber, TE Dallas Clark, G Derek Hardman, DT Michael Bennett, DT Corey Irvin, DT Roy Miller, CB EJ Biggers, DB Brandon McDonald, T Jeremy Trueblood, WR Arrelious Benn, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Quincy Black, RB DJ Ware

Why 2013 will be better
Lavonte David and Mason Foster lead a talented front seven on defense. With the best run defense and the worst passing defense in the league last season, it wasn’t hard to figure out where the Bucs would spend their energies in the off-season. Enter Revis and Goldson, who immediately improve a porous secondary by a lot, and who will serve as anchors for Eric Wright and Mark Barron. Adding Banks brings in depth with a ball-hawking corner. Suddenly a defensive liability looks much improved as long as Revis is healthy, and the Bucs defense promises to be one of the better units in the league. On offense, the line was riddled with injuries in 2012, yet still performed as a top ten offense. With a healthy and deep offensive line, Josh Freeman should have plenty of time to find favorite weapons Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Adding Ogletree is a solid move. Doug Martin had a fantastic rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as catching 49 passes out of the backfield.

Why 2013 will be worse
Freeman has been a model of inconsistency so far in his NFL career, and this is a make or break season for him in Tampa. Glennon is arguably one of the best quarterbacks from a thin quarterback draft, but isn’t ready to take the team over just yet. So the Bucs will live and die this season on a signal-caller who is 11-20 as a starter over the past two seasons with 43 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions. With Dallas Clark gone, the Bucs are thin at tight end, where Luke Stocker is the best choice among few options. Otherwise, the Bucs have a deep roster and appear ready to compete.

Outlook
If we can assume that Josh Freeman simply serves as a neutral force, the Bucs appear prepared to challenge the Falcons and Saints in the NFC South. However, quarterback play is a significant predictor of team success, and the Bucs could go in either direction as a result. They ended 2012 losing five of their last six games, but have dramatically improved their pass defense, assuming Revis returns to a level close to what he played at with the Jets. If the offensive line stays healthy, this team should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Their window appears to be anywhere from seven to ten wins, but I’ll set the over/under at nine.