NFL

Matt Cassel detailed why he believes Tom Brady and the Bucs are Super Bowl contenders

"When you’re winning games and playing with confidence, that’s a dangerous combination in the playoffs."

Matt Cassel and Tom Brady were teammates with the Patriots. Tom Landers/Globe Staff

Former quarterback Matt Cassel, who filled in for Tom Brady in 2008, believes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl.

Cassel, who is now an analyst for NBC Sports, elaborated on why he expects Brady and the Bucs to succeed. He said the Bucs are playing their best football right now, their offense is extremely explosive, and their defense is capable of pressuring the quarterback.

“When you’re winning games and playing with confidence, that’s a dangerous combination in the playoffs,” Cassel wrote in a piece published Wednesday.

Before looking ahead, Cassel flashed back to the beginning of the season when Brady and his Tampa Bay teammates were still figuring it out. He said the relatively slow start was “to be expected” with Brady learning a new system after 20 years with the Patriots.

Cassel pointed out that Brady had to get comfortable with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and how he calls plays. He knew that rapport would take time to build, and he wasn’t surprised it eventually led to concrete results.

“With no offseason and going right into camp, he probably wasn’t able to have the same impact of putting his stamp on the offense,” Cassel wrote.

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Cassel said that any team would take Brady’s numbers – 40 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, 4,633 yards, and a 102.2 passer rating. He noted that, unsurprisingly, Brady plays his best when he has the best weapons around him, and this year is no exception.

He called this Bucs group of pass-catchers – which features Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown, among other options – the most talented Brady has ever played with outside of the 2007 season.

In that year, which is widely regarded as one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had, Brady threw to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Benjamin Watson, among others, and racked up 50 touchdown passes en route to winning the Most Valuable Player Award as the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season.

Cassel said Brady is now so comfortable with Tampa Bay that he’s not thinking about what he’s doing, he’s just going out and playing. His knowledge and experience level have paid dividends, Cassel said, and he understands how to attack defenses and get the ball to the right person.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he was able to get caught up to speed pretty quickly,” Cassel wrote.

He said Brady doesn’t care about the regular season and prioritizes winning Super Bowls. Now that the Buccaneers officially have that chance, Cassel expects even more greatness from Brady and Co.

No. 5 seed Tampa Bay opens the playoffs against fourth-seeded Washington on the road this Saturday, at 8:15 p.m., and Cassel believes Brady will be ready.

“When the playoffs come around, Brady brings another level of intensity,” Cassel said. “The meetings are a little more intense, because he knows what’s at stake.”

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