A Modern Race To 10

May 11th, 2024


Danger, danger.

The much-maligned NFC South is poised to make the wrong kind of NFL history this fall unless at least one team raises its game.

Mediocrity can’t survive another year, Ira Kaufman explains.

We all know the past two seasons have been rather forgettable in this division, with the Bucs, Falcons, Saints and Panthers combining for a 56-80 record. In 2022, teams from the AFC North went 14-2 against Tampa Bay’s division, with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati each posting a 4-0 clean sweep.

Somebody has to step up in 2024 — and league history tells us someone will.

The Bucs won the division at 8-9 two years ago. Last season, Tampa Bay’s 9-8 mark was good enough as the Bucs won a tie-breaker with New Orleans. In most years, every division winner has at least 10 victories. There are exceptions, but not many, even when teams played only 16 games — or 14 games prior to 1978.

Like Raheem Morris said in 2010, before his second year on the Buc sidelines, “It’s all about a race to 10.” That’s when I asked Morris whether he was counting the preseason. Yes, it was a smart-aleck remark, but Morris smiled and took it in stride.

Now, it’s not so funny.

If you don’t factor in the 1982 strike year that featured only nine regular-season games, there’s never been a single franchise since the 1970 merger that captured three consecutive division titles without registering at least one double-digit win season.

It’s never happened.

“We’ve got to outrun the South,” Morris told his Atlanta players this spring. “Let’s be real. We win the South, we go to the playoffs. You get in the playoffs and you don’t know what the heck can happen … you just don’t.”

The NFC South collectively hasn’t had a winning season since 2017.

As a group, the NFC South hasn’t finished better than .500 since 2017, when the Saints (11-5), Panthers (11-5) and Falcons (10-6) each made the postseason. The AFC South has also gone through a rugged stretch, but at least Houston reached the 10-win mark last season behind rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.

If form holds, someone in the NFC South will win at least 10 games this season. The Bucs have been outliers in back-to-back seasons, but divisions generally don’t stay down for long.

Morris figures to be a better head coach the second time around while the Panthers hired first-time head coach Dave Canales, who served one year as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator. How Dennis Allen survived for another year in the Crescent City remains an enduring mystery.

In Tampa, Canales was known for his unbridled enthusiasm and upbeat approach. Given his personnel issues in Carolina, Canales will need all the optimism he can muster.

“I think we got better,” he says, regarding the entire NFC South. “Adding (offensive coordinator) Klint Kubiak to New Orleans and you look at Tampa adding a guy like Liam Coen, making sure they got Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans back, plus Antoine Winfield. Some of the youth they drafted on defense last year. They’re going to be tough to deal with.

“I have the highest respect for Raheem, he’s a fantastic coach. They added Kirk Cousins. This is a dangerous division. People are going to be really surprised by the NFC South this year and the level of football that comes out of it.”

For all the claims of disrespect emanating from One Buc Place, there remains a feeling around the league that winning the NFC South the past two seasons doesn’t rank as a major accomplishment. Far more impressive was trouncing the Eagles and throwing a scare into a very good Lions team on the road in the playoffs.

Morris wasn’t wrong when he described the division quest as a race to 10.

Division champions traditionally sport double-digit win totals. That has been the NFL standard for more than five decades, so someone figures to step up this fall.

Todd Bowles

In his first year as an NFL coach, Todd Bowles led the 2015 Jets to a 10-6 mark that fell just short of a postseason berth.

They won the race but fell short at the ultimate finish line.

Most Buc fans would embrace a 10-win season this fall. While it wouldn’t guarantee a fourth consecutive NFC South title, a 10-7 record would at least muzzle the division’s horde of skeptics for a while.

And yes, the sounds of silence would be so rewarding.

18 Responses to “A Modern Race To 10”

  1. toad bowels Says:

    Good luck with your knee surgery next week, Ira.

  2. MadMax Says:

    We will win the south once again and probably get deep in the playoff picture….ya’ll see how we killed the draft!

    We got this, rest assured my fellow Bucamaniacs, WOOOOOOOOOOO!

  3. Dave Pear Says:

    Todd is a losing head coach for two teams and still has a job. (Excuses from snowflakes to follow)


  4. Defense Rules Says:

    Based on our projected 2024 strength of schedule Ira, it may take more than 10 wins this year to grab the NFC South crown. CBS Sports ranked our division as having the easiest SOS:

    o Buccaneers (tied #27) – opponents 2023 record: 138-151
    o Panthers (tied #29) – opponents 2023 record: 135-154
    o Saints (tied #31) – opponents 2023 record: 131-158
    o Falcons (tied #31) – opponents 2023 record: 131-158

    Bucs play 8 teams who had a winning record in 2023. No guarantee they’ll duplicate that in 2024 obviously, but all but 1 of them (Saints) have a pretty good shot at a winning record (Eagles, 49ers, Ravens, Cowboys, Chiefs, Lions). Of the 9 teams we play who had a losing record last season (Commanders, Broncos, Raiders, Falcons twice, Panthers twice, Giants & Chargers), there are no gimmies. As per usual, whoever does best within the division will probably win it.

  5. heyjude Says:

    So right, definitely would embrace a 10 win season.

    Canales only had one year. The sports media seem to be all in on him winning, but no one knows how he will do for sure. Raheem seems to be doing well.

    Bowles isn’t going to say anything negative about another coach, player, team. He is a humble and nice guy. The sports media have been bandwagon on Cousins, until surprise they drafted Penix. Haven’t heard too much since. Cousins is another nice guy, but we have no idea how he will do either. He is not Brady. Looking forward to the sounds of silence too!

    As always, thank you Defense Rules for the stats. Along with the inaccurate ref calls, there are no gimmies. That is for sure.

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    We have to win the games we are supposed to win:

    Panthers 2x, Saints 1x, Falcons 1x, Giants, Broncos, Raiders, Commanders

    And 2 that we aren’t…….two of these…..Falcons, Saints, Chargers, Eagles, Cowboys, 49rs, Chiefs, Ravens, Lions

    We will have to be at our very best to win 10 games…..but doable.

  7. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    Barring injury Bucs are wining the division.

  8. George R Says:

    I know Bowles isn’t the a great coach but is he the best coach in the South? Would we want Allen – Hell no. Canales no, not enough experience. Morris – he lost here before.

    To think the Bucs have the best QB and possibly the best coach in the South.

  9. JimBobBuc Says:

    We need to stay healthy and sweep the division. Trying to be realistic, I see 11 wins.

  10. garro Says:

    Don’t worry Ira. Bowles cost us 2 wins last year all by himself.

    If he does’t screw us up this year it’s in the bag. I truly believe we will be a better team on both sides of the ball this year.

    Go Bucs!

  11. Beeej Says:

    I believe we can compete with Detroit and Philly now, less so Niners and Chiefs

  12. adam from ny Says:

    if the bucs don’t win 10 ball games this year they don’t win the division…

    someone’s gonna win 10 this year…

    and my ceiling number for the entire division is 11…

    the only teams winning possibly 10 or 11 are our bucs or atlanta…

    personally i see our ceiling once again at 10 games this year…such a tough schedule…

    and i see our floor at 8-9…while last year i had the floor at 7-10…

    i think we win 10 this year and take the division over a 9-8 falcons team…

    yeah i know it’s way early – but i like our squad and our recent picks

  13. Proudbucsfan Says:

    I’m in the group that thinks we will get 11-12 wins our running game is going to be better and our defense will be better. Todd Bowles has improved.

  14. unbelievable Says:

    Meh, I mean sure 2 years in a row with a division winner not in double digits is definitely an outlier, but plenty of divisions have been absolute trash over the last 2 decades.

    The AFC East was a joke for years outside of the Patriots.

    The NFC East was absolutely terrible not too long ago.

    AFC South was been mostly garbage for the last decade.

    The NFC West had several years where everyone was average at best.

    Before Mahomes and a couple years with Manning on the Broncos, the AFC West was a complete joke with terrible teams too.

    It happens everywhere. It comes in cycles

  15. unbelievable Says:

    In fact I’d say the AFC North is really the only division that has been consistently competitive for years and years.

  16. RBUC Says:

    How can any team have 49ers,Chiefs,Ravens,Lions,Eagles,Cowboys,Chargers(with Harbaugh as HC) on their schedule and it’s considered an easy schedule ☠️🚩/&”@#%?

  17. Adam's Angry Says:

    I vehemently disagree.

    Raheem Morris will NOT be better. There’s nothing to indicate he will be better. As a matter of fact, his hiring makes me so happy that we have locked in about 3 seasons of Falcons ineptitude.

  18. Joe Says:

    Raheem Morris will NOT be better. There’s nothing to indicate he will be better.

    Well, Rah may not be better. You could be correct.

    But Joe can assure you: Zac Robinson > Artie Smith.