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Buccaneers top Locked On preseason power rankings

The defending Super Bowl champs fittingly hold the top spot as the season approaches

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

For years, Buccaneers fans didn’t have to scroll very far to find their team on most sites’ weekly power rankings. Turns out that winning a Super Bowl with the one of the greatest of all time at quarterback will quickly change perceptions.

The Buccaneers claimed the No. 1 spot on the inaugural power rankings compiled by the partnership between the Locked On Podcast Network and TEGNA sports departments. The lowest vote they garnered was third, so it’s generally agreed upon that Tampa should have elite potential once again this season.

The poll also named three key players, with Tom Brady, Lavonte David and Mike Evans all getting shout-outs. Brady’s place is obvious, as he looks to parlay a full offseason of work into an even better performance than his stellar 2020 season, which saw him set a team record with 40 touchdown passes while tossing for 4,633 yards and just 12 interceptions.

David will remain the stalwart leader of a defense that will look to replicate its fantastic final two-month stretch, which culminated in a dominant Super Bowl showing. David is 31 years old but still looks to have plenty of pep in his step, and he and Devin White should once again be consistent headaches for opposing offenses.

It speaks volumes when Mike Evans’ “down” year still includes setting NFL and team records. Battling injuries throughout the year, Evans passed Randy Moss for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career with seven, while his 13 touchdowns broke his own team record.

While he’ll continue to share targets in a loaded offense, another productive campaign will have Evans knocking on the door of 10,000 career receiving yards. He currently sits at 8,266.

Elsewhere in the Locked On/TEGNA rankings, the rest of the NFC South did not gather as much praise. The New Orleans Saints led the way at No. 17, as questions at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line and cornerback will linger early in the year. They got votes as high as ninth and as low as 24th.

The Atlanta Falcons enter Week 1 at No. 25. Their offense looks intriguing with a better offensive playcaller and intriguing weapons. However, a thin defense across the board, along with questions along the offensive line, might hinder them. Their highest vote was 18th, while the lowest was 30th.

The Carolina Panthers follow up right behind Atlanta at No. 26. Carolina has plenty of young talent at several key positions, but a questionable offensive line will take its lumps and the defense must continue to gel. They’re also expecting a lot out of new QB Sam Darnold, who could benefit from a change of scenery but saw his flashes of potential come too sporadically in New York.

The Buccaneers would likely love to see the rest of their division soften as much as these power rankings suggest. The team has not won a division title since 2007, the longest drought of any team in the NFC South. A division title would not only earn another banner to hang at Raymond James, but more more importantly guarantee a strong seeding in the playoffs.