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NFL - US Sports: Can Brady lead the Bucs to the Super Bowl?

So the G.O.A.T wasn't kidding when he said he felt he could play until he was 50, but can Tom Brady really lead the Bucs back to the Super Bowl in 2022?

Aside from his own 40-day dalliance with daddy daycare, there's been plenty of upheaval around the NFC South Division champions this offseason.

But the Buccaneers, +700 to win Super Bowl LVII, don't lack talent or big-game temperament - particularly at the most important position on a football field.

Time marches on

It would be some story if the soon-to-be 45-year-old engineered another deep playoff run.

But Brady, +900 to be Regular Season MVP, he did it two years ago - aged 43 - with restricted mobility in one knee.

After many months spent rehabbing from his post-Super Bowl LV surgery, he has only recently been able to practice fully on that joint.

So could the quarterback that led the league in passing yards, attempts, completions and touchdowns be even better in 2022? 

Well, there's usually no substitute for experience and Brady's poise under pressure is pretty much unrivaled in sport.

But while time seems to stand still for him, particularly in clutch moments, it's not the case for the Bucs' supporting cast - many of whom have approached or gone past their use-by dates.

Personnel changes

Tampa Bay sustained some significant losses on offense this year with starting guard Ali Marpet and tight end Rob Gronkowski retiring while guard Alex Cappa and running back Ronald Jones moved on.

On defense, safety Jordan Whitehead, cornerback Richard Sherman, lineman Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul all departed too - leaving their new co-defensive coordinators Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote in charge of a very young unit.

Maybe some of those Super Bowl winners had lost a step, or a tiny bit of their appetite, but it won't make replacing them any easier for Tampa Bay.

Coaching changes

"No risk it, no biscuit," is an oft-quoted idiom from the mouth of Super Bowl-winning Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who moved upstairs to allow ex-DC Todd Bowles his chance to call the shots this year.

Arians rarely risked it on fourth down - as has become fashionable in the NFL these days, and Bucs fans are hoping Bowles shows a more aggression in similar situations going forward.

Bowles' record as a HC at the New York Jets was nothing special, but he runs a tight ship and that may be just what the team needs after some ill-disciplined moments in 2021.

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Brutal schedule

The Buccaneers face the toughest opening to the season of any of the 32 teams as they immediately go up against the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Kansas City Chiefs.

The toughest test among those may come from the Saints, who have had a hold on the Bucs - and Brady - in recent times.

New Orleans swept last season's series as outright underdogs to extend their winning streak in the matchup to seven straight games

Overall, Tampa Bay face the fourth hardest schedule based on their opponents' win-loss record from last season (.535) so Brady will have to be at his best almost every Sunday.

NFC the easier conference?

But, with seven of the 12 most favored teams in Super Bowl betting in the AFC - which is generally perceived to have greater depth than the NFC this year, Tampa Bay are in the easier conference.

AFC teams may have lost the past two Super Bowls, but the conference had been good for five of the six prior Lombardi Trophy winners.

The NFC is top heavy with the Buccaneers and Packers ahead of the rest in terms of Super Bowl prospects and the championship game could see Aaron Rodgers rivalling Brady in a battle of the old-timers.

Weird omens

Football fans are always looking for good omens going into a new season and there are couple of reasons for optimism in Tampa Bay.

Super Bowl LVII will be held at State Farm Stadium in Pheonix for the third time and you can guess who played in both of the two previous showpieces at the venue. Brady's record with the New England Patriots in those games is 1-1, but he is a perfect 3-0 for titles in years that Jennifer Lopez gets married.

So when celebrity couple Ben Affleck and J-Lo tied the knot in Las Vegas this month, Bucs fans were celebrating too.

It first happened in 1997 when Brady was in college and his Michigan Wolverines won the national title, then again when he led the Patriots to Super Bowl glory in the same years that Lopez exchanged rings with her second and third husbands.

Maybe fourth time will be a charm for both Brady and 'Bennifer'.

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