3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Throughout my drafts of these rankings, I had the Bucs as low as 9th and as high as–well, this is as high as I’ve had them.
After the first time I ranked them at No. 3, I moved them back down again, but this team feels much more dangerous than, say, the Texans, Bills, Chargers, and Falcons. Of course, it could all blow up in Tampa’s face if Tom Brady gets hurt, which, despite his knack for staying on the field, could happen, considering the brutality of the game and his age (43).
And if that happens? Blaine Gabbert takes over.
But this ranking is based more along the lines of Brady staying healthy, of Rob Gronkowski staying healthy, of the Bucs continuing to do well what they did well in 2019 and cutting down (or out) the mistakes that haunted them, such as throwing 30 interceptions.
Brady inherits possibly the best wide receiver duo in the entire NFL with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Evans, who’s just one of two players ever to begin his career with six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, is a beast of a human at 6-foot-5, 231 pounds, and the six-year pro already owns the franchise records for career receptions (462), career receiving yards (7,260), and career receiving touchdowns (48). He should improve with a more stable quarterback tossing him passes.
Godwin, a 6-foot-1, 209-pounder, enters his fourth season out of Penn State. He started breaking out in 2018, but really took a step forward last year when he hauled in 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.
Gronkowski, meanwhile, returns after a one-year retirement to join forces with fellow tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Howard, a former first-rounder out of Alabama, saw his numbers shrink last year while Brate still proved worthwhile, catching 36 passes, four of them for scores. In the past five seasons, Brate, who went undrafted out of Harvard, has caught 27 touchdown passes.
So, Brady has some weapons–better weapons than he’s had for years in New England.
And don’t sleep on the defense, a unit that got much better as the season progressed last year. Sure, the unit finished 29th in scoring defense, but also finished 15th in yards allowed. Shaq Barrett was a revelation last season in breaking the team’s single-season sack record, and Lavonte David and Devin White are a fantastic linebacking duo. The secondary, a young group, has question marks, and yet look poised to break out.
Tampa’s going to be a tough team to defeat. And the Bucs should return to the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2007.