Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) at New York Jets (0-0)
Buccaneers games might be the toughest to predict in the NFL because of how inconsistent Josh Freeman is. He used to just be incredibly inconsistent on a year to year basis. Josh Freeman posted a touchdown to interception ratio of 10/18 in 2009, 25/6 in 2010, and 16/22 in 2011. They went 3-13, 10-6, and 4-12 in those 3 seasons respectively. However, last season, he was at the point where you didn’t know what you were getting from him on a weekly basis.
Last season must have felt like 4 different seasons for Buccaneers fans as it was a microcosm of Freeman’s career. They started 1-3, after losing their last 10 to finish 2011, and it looked like more of the same. However, after the bye, they ripped off wins in 5 of 6 games and looked like a potential playoff team. They lost a close one at home to Atlanta and then in Denver, but those were two of the best teams in the league so they still looked like they were in good position. That was until they lost at home to the lowly Eagles, and then got blown out by the Saints and Rams, to push their losing streak at 5. They finished out their season with an impressive win in Atlanta.
Freeman started the year with a 5/4 TD/interception ratio in their first 4 games, then had a 16/3 ratio in their next 6, and then a 5/9 ratio on that 5 game losing streak, before having a decent game against Atlanta. In wins, he had a 97.6 QB rating, which is comparable to Tom Brady’s and Ben Roethlisberger’s. In losses, that rating was 71.4, which is comparable to Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez. The Buccaneers have more talent around Freeman this season, even with Carl Nicks still out with injury, but Freeman makes this team very tough to predict and he should end up being the limiting factor.
They have not seemed confident in Freeman this off-season, drafting Mike Glennon in the 3rd round, symbolically putting Freeman on the hot seat, and then calling out Freeman publicly and literally putting him on the hot seat. The cherry on top is they took away his captaincy right before the season starts. That’s incredibly rare. I’ve never heard of that happening. Quarterbacks aren’t always a captain on a team, but once a player is captain, he usually stays captain as long as he’s with the team. It’s just a further sign that Freeman will probably be benched at some point this season, unless he surprises. They just seem sick of being unsure what they’ll get from him on a weekly basis, even if his career numbers and overall performance average out alright.
As for this game, I do lean towards taking Tampa Bay, just based on NFC supremacy. The NFC went 37-26 against the AFC last season, and, even though they lost the one that mattered, the Super Bowl, they were the clearly better conference. This season, the talent disparity might be even bigger. I have the Buccaneers winning just 6 games, but if they were in the AFC, they might make the playoffs, even with all of their quarterback problems.
They added Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to their secondary this off-season and could get big seasons from youngsters Johnathan Banks and Mark Barron back there as well. They return Adrian Clayborn, Davin Joseph, and Carl Nicks from injury, though the latter is still out with a staph infection. The loss of Michael Bennett hurts them, but he was their only serious loss. Of my top-200 players, they have 7, which is above average (Revis, Goldson, Nicks, Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy). They should cover this game, but I’m not confident enough to put anything on it.
Also, one note, I’m changing how I do picks this year. I’ll be grouping my picks into high confidence, medium confidence, low confidence, and no confidence picks. I’ll also have one pick of the week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 New York Jets 9
Pick against spread: Tampa Bay -4