Everyone bought the hype.
Ten wins. Playoffs. A division title.
Maybe even something more.
You remember the buzz. The NFC South had produced Super Bowl teams in consecutive seasons. This season, it would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' turn.
They were a team on the rise.
Well, it seems the bold proclamations weren't so wise.
If only someone or something had warned us.
As it turns out, something did.
"Madden NFL 18."
That's right. A video game.
Laugh all you want. "Madden" was right. We were wrong.
Back in August, the Tampa Bay Times peered into the future. We powered up the PlayStation, grabbed a controller and launched the game. We simulated the 2017 regular season 10 times.
"Madden" wasn't impressed by the Bucs.
Maybe it didn't see them win nine games last season. Or read articles gushing over a potentially explosive offense. Or watch the "Hard Knocks" infomercials.
No way, the game said.
More like six.
Just a fluke?
Not so fast. We've done this exercise before. And "Madden" has been so close, it's scary.
In 2015, it predicted five wins. The Bucs won six.
In 2016, it predicted eight wins. The Bucs won nine.
Its predictions for Jameis Winston aren't looking too bad, either.
The real Winston is on pace to complete 61.8 percent of his passes, gain 4,235 yards, average 7.5 yards per attempt, throw 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and earn an 88.3 rating.
"Madden" Winston completed 59.5 percent of his passes, gained 3,779 yards, averaged 7.5 yards per attempt, threw 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and earned a 91.3 rating.
There's still time. Maybe the Bucs turn this thing around and win seven of their next nine games. From 2-5 to 9-7.
Probably not, though. Take it from the video game.