It's really hard to not like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011.
For most of the franchise's existence, they've existed only to lie down for the stronger, more accomplished teams in the league. But today, the Bucs are a young, talented, capable group that works hard for their charismatic coach, a bit of a young underdog himself.
It appears now that they're developing a little bit of swag, too. How else do you interpret second-year receiver Mike Williams saying, "We're a young team, but we're guaranteeing the playoffs"?
I love seeing that kind of statement. It wouldn't be as endearing coming from an established veteran who's been there before, but from Mike Williams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Hell yes.
And I don't love it because I think he's right or he's wrong, but because it's a sign that the season's about to start, and that start brings a wave of optimism for fans and players that's only so commonly shared once a year. For the next six to nine days, everyone's got a chance. Everyone believes.
As for this particular prediction, why shouldn't Williams have that kind of confidence? The Bucs were 10-6 last year and just missed the holy land. Now they're one year better. They're one year more experienced. He absolutely should believe that the Bucs are playoff-bound.
Not that it's relevant -- I think the optimism is the thing to focus on here -- but I disagree, and it has less to do with the Bucs than it does with their division. The Bucs are good, but the Saints and Falcons are among the elite. I can't feel all that confident about a team's playoff chances when they're third best in their division.
But still, good for you, Mike Williams. Go make it happen, sir.