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NFL betting preview: No. 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is the seventh in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Sept. 5 season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.

Since the NFL expanded to eight divisions in 2002, 25 teams have gone from worst to first in their division, including at least one team in 15 of the past 16 seasons.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of eight candidates to turn things around this season, and Westgate sportsbook manager Ed Salmons likes their chances to win the NFC South under first-year coach Bruce Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year.

“I like Tampa a lot. Bruce Arians is a good coach wherever he’s gone, and they already had a good offense,” he said. “One thing with Bruce Arians, his players all like him and respect him. The other coach (Dirk Koetter) had no respect in the locker room.”

Arians is arguably the league’s best quarterback whisperer, developing four Pro Bowl QBs in Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. If Arians can get the best out of mercurial Bucs QB Jameis Winston, who has thrown 58 interceptions in 56 career games, Salmons said Tampa Bay can easily eclipse its win total of 6½ and contend for the division crown.

“Winston reminds me of Roethlisberger. He makes so many silly mistakes. If Arians gets those away from him, he has a shot to be really good,” Salmons said. “This is the division known for teams going from worst to first. People like Atlanta, but I don’t get it. Atlanta has a lot of injuries already. Carolina has some upside. The more and more I look at New Orleans, I’m not sure. Drew Brees’ arm strength is so down.

“I certainly think Tampa can win nine or 10 games.”

Wiseguys at CG Technology also are high on the Buccaneers, who led the NFL in passing last season and return receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard.

“We’ve had a couple pretty sharp guys betting the Bucs over and to win the division,” CG Technology sportsbook director Tony DiTommaso said. “We’re at 6 (over -180). We’re probably going to have to go to 6½ flat (-110).”

After the Colts went 2-14 in 2011, Arians helped guide them to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth in 2012 after going 9-3 as interim coach.

After the Cardinals went 5-11 in 2012, Arians led them to a 10-6 record in 2013.

Picks

Over 6½ (-110)

Make playoffs? Yes (+500)

Win division (12-1)

More Betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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