Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have slipped to sixth favorites for the 2021 Super Bowl after a narrow 20-19 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears. The Thursday night loss to Chicago appears to have derailed any momentum the Bucs had built in the opening weeks of the campaign, with their record in the NFC South now 3-2.
The defeat to the largely unfancied Bears has seen Tampa’s NFL betting odds to win the Super Bowl drift to as high as +1800 with FOX Bet. The change in mood by the leading sportsbooks towards the Buccaneers is due largely to the inconsistent performances of iconic quarterback Tom Brady. Brady arrived in Florida during the offseason to tremendous fanfare, bringing an end to his two-decade-long association with the New England Patriots.
Brady’s inconsistencies letting the Bucs down
Unfortunately there have been many signs in the opening five weeks that Brady is becoming a shadow of his former self. In Week 1, his debut performance saw him average a mere 6.6 yards and he even chucked in an expensive pick-six as part of an opening day defeat to the Saints. The following week, Brady averaged even lower with just 6.2 yards per attempt. Although the Bucs ran out Week 2 winners, Brady was ponderous on several occasions and missed out on several potential throws.
After some indecision in Week 2, Brady looked to be back to his old self just seven days later, dominating the Denver Broncos, racking up a 115.8 quarterback rating compared with 80.3 in Week 2. 297 passing yards was not to be sniffed at by the Bucs, but it looked like something of a false dawn after his display in Week 4 against the Chargers. Another “Jekyll and Hyde” performance saw him throw yet another pick-six and complete less than 50% of his attempts in the opening two quarters. However, he led the Bucs’ fightback against the Chargers late on, throwing three touchdowns to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Unfortunately for Tampa and Brady, he was unable to follow up that form from the third and fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears. The Bucs were missing their key wide receiver Chris Godwin, which left Brady somewhat hamstrung for offensive options. In fact, Brady had to be content with checkdowns, such were the restrictions imposed on the Bucs offense by the Bears. It was unsurprising that the Bears would eventually edge out the Bucs in a super-tight encounter.
It could be argued that the expectations of Brady – imposed on him by Bucs fans and NFL analysts alike – have been far too high. In fact, expectations of the Bucs as an entire franchise may be too much. Overall, Tom Brady’s individual performances have lived up to his age. Although he may be a shoo-in for a Hall of Fame place after his retirement, the facts of the matter are that he is an ageing 43-year-old quarterback playing a young man’s game. “Father Time” was always likely to catch up with Brady. It just needed him to move out of his New England comfort zone to do so. In all probability, Brady will experience both mental and physical arm fatigue during the regular season. He has achieved all there is to achieve in this sport. He’s no longer in it for ambition, he’s in it purely for the love of the game. It’s not like he needs the money either. His lifestyle will be just fine after his Bucs career. Just take one look at the home of former NFL star Crawford Ker to see just how these athletes live once they’ve hung up their boots. Nevertheless, the Bucs’ season relies on them being able to rack up enough wins when the going is good.
Injuries could also rob the Bucs of a legitimate Super Bowl shot
Another reason that the Bucs have less favor in the eyes of the sportsbooks is that all three of their wins so far have come against teams ranked no higher than 18th by the DVOA system. Injuries are also threatening to wreak havoc within the Tampa roster. Aside from the missing Chris Godwin, the Bucs were also without Mike Evans and Scotty Miller against Chicago and defensive tackle Vita Vea also sustained what looks likely to be a season-ending ankle injury against the Bears. As the injury list grows and the pressure mounts on the struggling Brady to perform, only the most rose-tinted Bucs fan would be seriously considering betting on them to compete for the Lombardi Trophy on home soil in February.