The Bucs and Chiefs, who placed second once again, were the only two teams to garner first-place votes, with Tampa’s lowest vote being second place. Both squads faced stern challenges in their respective contests, as the Bucs needed a last-second field goal to top the Cowboys while the Chiefs responded to a double-digit deficit against a competitive Cleveland team.
Tampa should have an easier time keeping their spot this week against a Falcons team that finished 29th in this edition of the power rankings, falling from their initial place of 25th. Atlanta looked completely unprepared and overwhelmed by the Eagles, who faced just as many question marks as it during the offseason. A 32-6 loss at home will probably inspire the Falcons to play better, but they face a tough task turning it around against an elite opponent who benefits from added rest.
In other news around the NFC South, the Saints leaped up the rankings from 17th to 12th after they embarrassed the Green Bay Packers, 38-3, on a neutral field in Jacksonville. Sean Payton once again proved he’s one of the elite game-planners in the league, as New Orleans crushed the Packers on the ground while allowing former Buc Jameis Winston to thrive as a game manager to the tune of 5 touchdown passes and no turnovers. Unfortunately, tales of the Saints’ demise might’ve been a tad exaggerated.
The Carolina Panthers also put forward a positive effort in their 19-14 victory over the New York Jets. While it wasn’t often pretty, Carolina showed an improved defense full of young budding studs. Sam Darnold looked solid in his revenge game, though he still has plenty to prove against more legitimate competition. The win nudged them from 26th to 23rd.
Circling back to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers have the opportunity to bury a rival early on, both in these power rankings and, more importantly, in the division. A strong week of practice to clean up penalties and self-inflicted mistakes will be critical, or else they might be staring down the wrong end of an upset.