When Tom Brady briefly retired in February, the outlook for the 2022 Bucs modified dramatically. The roster nonetheless featured loads of younger expertise, nevertheless it was by no means going to be simple to interchange the seven-time Tremendous Bowl champion. Whether or not Tampa Bay was going to experience with Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask or secret choice C, the workforce’s playoff prospects had been in query.
Then, 40 days later, Brady returned. That modified every thing as soon as once more, with the Bucs getting yet another yr out of their Tremendous Bowl window. With Brady again beneath middle, Tampa Bay did work in free company. Wants had been addressed, depth was constructed and the roster was reloaded for an additional run on the Lombardi Trophy. That’s why the Bucs’ place in Professional Soccer Focus’ tier rankings heading into the 2022 season is not any shock.
The highest tier of PFF’s rankings consists of “True Contenders” and that’s the place the Bucs discover themselves. Tampa Bay got here in at No. 2, behind solely the Buffalo Payments. Right here’s what PFF’s Sam Monson needed to say about the place Todd Bowles and his workforce are:
“Till we see actual proof of Tom Brady‘s decline, we have now to imagine that he’ll stay as one of many really elite quarterbacks within the recreation, which makes the Bucs fast contenders yearly he’s on the helm. Brady’s un-retirement paved the best way for a number of different gamers that had been scheduled to hit free company to return, and the workforce patched up the holes that did seem within the draft. Including a receiver similar to Russell Gage, who was an underrated weapon in Atlanta and averaged 1.96 yards per route run final season, might make an actual influence on the offense.”
Are The Bucs’ The Prime Canines In The NFC?
Whether or not or not the Payments are actually the highest workforce within the NFL, PFF’s rankings tag the Bucs because the NFC’s finest. They’re ranked simply forward of the Rams, who beat them in final yr’s NFC Divisional playoffs earlier than successful the Tremendous Bowl. Los Angeles holds a three-game successful streak over Tampa Bay. Sean McVay appears like Todd Bowles’ kryptonite. The Rams are the defending Tremendous Bowl champions. So, ought to the Bucs be the favorites within the NFC forward of them heading into 2022? Monson appears to suppose so.
“The defending Tremendous Bowl Champions are already being disrespected! Earlier than we go overboard, keep in mind that the Rams had been the No. 4 seed a yr in the past and wanted Matthew Stafford to up his play from an 80.7 common season PFF grade to 89.5 within the postseason to go on the run that they did. The Rams additionally misplaced crucial components of the roster, as Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr., Sebastian Joseph-Day and Von Miller now play elsewhere. The Rams added Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner to assist offset these losses, however there’s a superb probability that, at finest, they’ve taken a sideways step in an offseason the place a number of contenders received higher.”
It’s an fascinating level that Monson makes. Did the playoff Rams over-perform as in comparison with the common season Rams? It’s attainable. They received the Tremendous Bowl nonetheless, however they might very properly fall again all the way down to earth in 2022. That’s extra hypothesis, after all. The opposite level is extra concrete. Los Angeles’ roster skilled some turnover this spring, with some important losses. A few large strikes in response ought to assist. However Monson appears to consider McVay’s workforce took a “sideways” step whereas different groups improved.
The final two Tremendous Bowl champions will face off at Raymond James Stadium in Week 9. That’s when Tampa Bay will get an opportunity to show that it can beat Los Angeles. However with the 2 groups presumably being the favorites to satisfy once more within the NFC Championship Recreation subsequent January, that could be the larger one. However proper now, PFF likes the Bucs to symbolize the NFC in Tremendous Bowl LVII.
Heavy Favorites In The NFC South As soon as Once more
Tampa Bay lastly returned to the highest of the NFC South in 2021. It was the Bucs’ first division championship since 2007, they usually’re heavy favorites to get one other one this yr. When shopping PFF’s tier rankings, it takes some time to search out one other NFC South workforce after the Bucs at No. 2. Subsequent in line are the Saints, who are available at No. 20. They’re the ultimate workforce within the “Eyes On The Playoffs” tier.
Monson factors to Jameis Winston as an “unknown issue” whereas questioning how the Saints will transfer ahead now that each Sean Payton and Drew Brees are gone. New Orleans is one other workforce that Tampa Bay can’t appear to beat – not less than not within the common season. The Bucs have misplaced seven straight to the Saints exterior of the playoff win in 2020. However Tampa Bay remains to be anticipated to be the a lot better workforce in 2022.
The Panthers discover themselves within the “Rebuilding” tier. They arrive in at No. 29, with a heavy concentrate on their quarterback competitors between Sam Darnold and Matt Corral, “a participant the remainder of the NFL didn’t need for over 90 picks.” And slightly below the Panthers are the Falcons, who verify in at No. 30.
With its failure to land Deshaun Watson, Atlanta has a query mark on the quarterback place. The workforce traded longtime starter Matt Ryan to Indianapolis and can now determine between Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. There actually isn’t a cause to anticipate both Carolina or Atlanta to compete this yr. The battle for the NFC South ought to as soon as once more come all the way down to Tampa Bay and New Orleans.