TAMPA – Last year's surprising 10-6 finish has dramatically changed the betting odds surrounding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into the 2011 season.
A year ago, coming off a 3-13 slate, the Bucs were listed as 300-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl and faced 25-1 odds to capture the NFC South.
But with young quarterback Josh Freeman leading the way, Tampa Bay tied a franchise record by going 6-2 on the road and barely missed out on the final NFC playoff spot after winning in New Orleans for the second consecutive season.
"Just looking at the Bucs, they have the offensive core to be a contending team,'' said Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook manager Jay Kornegay. "With Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount, they contain the offensive weapons to move the ball. The weaknesses they had, mainly on the defensive line, were addressed in the draft. Only time will tell if these players can actually make a difference.''
The Bucs are now listed at 30-1 to win 2012 Super Bowl at Indianapolis. And while Atlanta and New Orleans are 6-5 co-favorites to win the division, Tampa Bay's odds have shrunk to 4-1, with Carolina the NFC South longshot at 20-1.
Kornegay said the Las Vegas Hilton will post predicted over-under win totals for each team by the end of May. That number was 5.5 for the Bucs a year ago, but Tampa Bay registered its sixth win by mid-November before going on to post the biggest turnaround in the NFL last season.
"However, the 10-6 record is misleading since they didn't beat anyone with a winning record until the Saints at the end of the season,'' Kornegay said. "Some look at them as 'fool's gold,' but we like them. We think Freeman is the real deal and can lead this team to the playoffs.''