Dave Carney 10/27/2020
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NEW – 1st time in my Top 5 this year)
Before the season started I *stupidly* pegged the Bucs for an astounding 15-1 record working through my much maligned “Football Matrix”. When the season started off with a very disappointing showing against the Saints, followed by several less than stellar performances (some of which did lead to wins) I wasn’t sure about Tampa Bay and Tom Brady. Fast forward three weeks, with a close loss to the Bears 20-19 (which seemed to wake the team up) the Bucs have blown out two good teams in the Packers and Raiders and look to keep improving to the point where if they played any other team right now, I’d have to take the Buccaneers to win. Gronk who looked washed now looks like he’s found his groove, the defense, wow, what else can you say, and the offense will keep getting better especially with the addition of Antonio Brown. Even if Brown is only 75% of what he was with the Steelers, the usage of him as a distraction alone will be enough to power the Bucs offense to yet another level. Tampa Bay is a force to be reckoned with and the NFC better be ready.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (Up from 3)
Pittsburgh continues to showcase they may have the most complete team in the NFL. O-line, D-line, skill positions and special teams, the Steelers have it all. Sunday the Steelers held off previously undefeated Tennessee in a battle of AFC powers, winning 27-24. Big Ben is doing well enough to be a consistent threat, James Connor emerges as the best dual threat RB outside of Alvin Kamara, and Chase Claypool (2nd round pick out of Notre Dame) are all having outstanding seasons. With Mike Tomlin at the helm, and the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC’s most competitive division, the Steelers are legit and looking to improve each and every week. As an opponent, that is not good news. As a fan, you’re a pretty happy camper right now.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (Down from 1)
It was hard for me to push KC down 2 spots for thoroughly dominating the Denver Broncos on a snowy Sunday 43-16. But that’s exactly what I did after watching Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh respectively. Kansas City will face all comers with a gusto and a play style that is fun to watch and hard to match. However, I can’t help but thinking they’re going to have to toughen up even more on the defensive side of the ball when the weather turns even worse, and they play deeper into the postseason. Watching Tampa Bay destroy the Raiders in Las Vegas, just weeks after Vegas laid it to Kansas City in Kansas City I was left wondering how KC would respond to a punch in the mouth by a team like the Steelers or the Bucs. That’s why I took the bold step of dropping the Chiefs down to 3 this week. If Denver were a better, more healthy team, perhaps I wouldn’t have considered it, but again, watching Tampa Bay run the Raiders into the ground, and watching the Steelers hold off the undefeated Titans I felt compelled to do so.
4. Green Bay Packers (BACK in Top 5 after dropping out last week)
Welcome back to the pack, Packers! A week ago I had to drop Green Bay after the woeful embarrassment in Tampa Bay. Nobody can hold that against me. This week I’ve got the Packers back in the number 4 slot after doing exactly what they NEEDED to do. Go to Houston and thrash the one-win Texans 35-20. After the Tampa Bay loss I had questions about coaching (why didn’t LaFluer stick to his offense?), the defense (where the f*ck were they?), and Aaron Rodgers (why did it look like he quit?). Sunday as the Packers ran up and down the field on the Texans, and their defense pummeled Deshaun Watson, I was convinced. The Packers loss to the Bucs was indeed the wake-up call Rodgers said the team needed, and the Packers were the team we thought they were early on. Green Bay proved to me on Sunday they can mix it up (Jamal Williams filled in superbly for Aaron Jones) and go with the proven (DeVante Adams had 13 catches & a career high 196 yards), and still come out on top of what “should” have been a good team this year. The Packers will still have to find out if they can keep up with another dynamic play caller in Kyle Shannahan coming up soon and the power running attack of the 49ers, but if Green Bay can get a win or at least not get housed, I think they’ll stay in the Top 5 most of the season.
5. Baltimore Ravens (SAME)
The Ravens had a bye a week after HOLDING on to beat the Eagles 30-28. Baltimore still has a lot going for it. Last years’ MVP Lamar Jackson, a solid overall offensive and defensive game, a great head coach. For those reasons and their record, the 5 spot is still warranted by me. However, I’m becoming more and more convinced the Ravens may be a “regular season” team more than a team built for playoff success, which has been brought up to me several times by my colleague Grant Bilse (Wisco Sports Show). I don’t know if that is a true, or fair assessment, but it may be. If the Ravens do however dispatch the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend (my number 2 team), then I will have no choice but move the Ravens up, and put a button in some of my concerns for right now. Lamar Jackson and company may not be able to do it in the postseason, but then again we really don’t know. In Jackson’s 1st NFL season he resurrected a left for dead Ravens club and took them to the playoffs (yes they lost). Last season Baltimore was riding high and got knocked off by a red-hot Titans team. If they can’t get over the hump this season then perhaps those criticisms will all be proven true, but with Week 7 in the books, I still have Baltimore in my Top 5 NFL teams.