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Thursday, September 2,2021

NFL Preview: Florida Outlook? Sunny

By Mark Tudino  
Given we are a monthly publication, the timing of some of our content can make season previews a challenge, nonetheless we will gaze into our crystal ball and make some serious (if not bold) predictions for the state’s NFL squads. This year presents us with a shortened pre-season (yeah!) and a longer 17-game regular season, which will extend the schedule well into February (Football near Valentine’s Day? Boo!) But the Leviathan known as the NFL does what it wants, so with no further delay, the envelopes please:

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Usually I’d start with the home team and give them the proper run, but it’s hard to ignore the defending Super Bowl champs, so let’s start there. Coming off their 31-9 throttling of the Chiefs in SB LV, the Bucs have been vocal about repeating (something not done since 2004). They return all 22 starters and will add former number one pick at TE, O. J. Howard to the mix. Add in a relatively soft division in the NFC South, and the ingredients are there for a deep playoff run. By the way, the last team to repeat as Super Bowl champions? The 2004 New England Patriots, quarterbacked by some guy name Brady, wonder whatever happened to him? Prediction: 14-3, NFC South Division champions.

MIAMI DOLPHINS: The buzz around the Dolphins this year will center on the (hopeful) development of QB Tua Tagovailoa. Thrust into the starting lineup last year in week six – and benched at times – Tua had a roller coaster campaign. He has the characteristics you want in an offensive leader: smart, charismatic and leads by example, but the whispers still center on his ability to translate his success at Alabama to the NFL. Was he a beneficiary of outstanding collegiate talent, where he need only not make mistakes and throw the ball to guys running five yards past their defenders?

Is he big enough to take a pounding behind an averageat-best offensive line? What about his arm strength? All valid questions. But the addition of college teammate speedster WR Jaylen Waddle, and possession specialist Will Fuller tell me the organization has bought into Tua’s potential. So have I. Despite competing in the rugged AFC East, Miami finishes second to the Bills with a strong 11-6 campaign.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Normally a team that finishes 1-15 would not garner more than a few throwaway lines for a prediction. Words like “hopeful,” “optimistic” and “challenging” would be found in previews. But two things happened in the off-season to change that outlook. First, the team stunk so badly, they ended up with the top pick in last year’s NFL draft, allowing them to pick once-in-a-generation QB Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson. Big, strong and tough, TL16 (as he’s known) is expected to be the guy calling signals for at least the next 10 years. Then just before the draft, Jags management snagged threetime national championship coach Urban Meyer to run the team. A no-nonsense guy who’s won at every place he’s been, Urbs will deliver – if he’s given the players to help him compete. College guys jumping to the NFL don’t always succeed (see Steve Spurrier, Lou Holtz and Dennis Erickson) but I have a hunch this move will, in time, pay dividends. The Jags play in the manageable AFC South, and with a little luck, will not finish last. Prediction: 5-12, third in the AFC South.

So, that’s it pigskin fans.

Get ready for tailgating, stands full of fans, and a Valentine’s Day Eve Super Bowl. My kickoff cocktails are ready, how about you?


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