Peter King has probably forgotten more about the NFL than I’ll learn, but I had to re-read his 2022 Power Rankings column twice because I couldn’t believe where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were ranked.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady sets up behind his offensive line
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Coming in No. 6 on King’s annual post-free agency and NFL Draft push, the Bucs are still a Top 10 team according to the author, but he has some concerns about it staying on the league’s top-shelf.
“I just don’t take for granted that 45-year-old Brady will just pick up where he left off,” King wrote. “Even with bottom-feeders Carolina and Atlanta to get fat off, the Bucs will be seriously challenged by the Saints (4-0 versus Brady and Tampa in the regular season in the last two years) for division supremacy, even post-Payton. It worries me, too, that both starting guards, Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa, left in the offseason. Brady’s a statue, and anything that affects his protection is an issue. Career backup Aaron Stinnie and ex-Pat Shaq Mason have big jobs to do at left and right guard.”
On the surface, the concerns are legitimate.
NFL teams have long tried to get pressure up the middle against Brady because that’s the best way to impact his ability to deliver the ball. So losing two starters in that part of the line is certainly cause for concern.
But to call Stinnie a career backup is a little understating of what the player has done.
Stinnie may have never carried a full-time starting job, but he has multiple playoffs starts protecting the very quarterback in question.
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But really, it appears Tampa Bay is getting looped into a general devaluation of the NFC.
“Have you noticed a trend in the NFC,” King asked in his writing. “Every top contender is somehow diminished. The Rams without Von Miller…Packers without Davante Adams. Dallas without Amari Cooper and Randy Gregory. The Saints without…Sean Payton. Arizona without Chandler Jones, Christian Kirk and, for a six-game suspension, DeAndre Hopkins. The Bucs are part of that trend…Rob Gronkowski’s future is uncertain, and they might be without Chris Godwin—recovering from Jan. 3 ACL surgery—at the start of the season.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver, Chris Godwin
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Again, the two new guards aren’t as troublesome to me – and apparently to many – as maybe King is making them out to be.
Rob Gronkowski hasn’t signed on for 2022, but it sure does feel like he’ll be back.
And while Godwin missing time is concerning for sure, the Buccaneers put up 27 or more points in each game they played without him in 2021.
Perhaps the most troubling part of King’s rankings isn’t how much he’s doubting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ ability to rebound from such losses with as much talent on the roster as they have, but the fact he has the Los Angeles Chargers ranked four spots higher as his No. 2 team for the 2022 NFL Season.