We’ve officially concluded the 2020-2021 NFL season with a Tampa Bay beat down of the former champion Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, as Tom Brady got his 7th Super Bowl ring and placed himself into a different stratosphere in the league’s history.
In all honesty, it was a relatively terrible ending to an exciting season that went out with a whimper.
There’s no need for an extended piece breaking down the game because you can respectively sum it up with two points:
- Brady and the Bucs defense were good!
- The Chiefs’ defense and offensive line were poor!
That’s it. That’s the story of the game. All offseason, you’ll be hearing either that form of analysis or breakdowns of Brady and Mahomes’s legacies, and that’s pretty much it.
However, I came away with an entirely new perspective after the season. First, I’m thankful there even was a season in general, given how bleak the circumstances were looking before the draft at the height of the pandemic. But while it was indeed a weird year that the league had to push through, this shellacking the Bucs delivered to the Chiefs in a boring game made me realize how great football is. I, along with many others, went into the year believing that the Kansas City Chiefs were now going to be the looming inevitable; the type of dynasty in the making that is so dominant that the rest of the league just seems irrelevant because it will be the Chiefs against the field; I got that sense from the Golden State Warriors during their Kevin Durant era in the NBA. When Mahomes signed his 10-year extension after winning the Super Bowl, the discussion was, “How many will the Chiefs win with him during the contract? 4? 5? Will he go at Brady’s 6?”
Look, the Chiefs may be the favorites as long as Mahomes is their quarterback, but the Bucs smackdown taught us that no team is inevitable. Unless you’re Tom Brady, of course, it is difficult to win a Super Bowl. The NFL is so much fun BECAUSE of its unpredictability. It’s a game of gladiators, so things like weather, injuries, and getting 53 men on the same page at once make it the craziest, exciting television event.
And all that did was make me excited for the next season.. 7 months from now. I’m ready for the next wave of talent to enter the league from the draft. I’m ready for free agency in what could be the wildest offseason movement ever.
I’m ready for 2021-22!
The last thing I want to do is write about mourning the end of the season, so, in the first week of anticipating the next season, I’ve tiered the teams based on their *projected* outlooks in terms of what’s to come.
Tier 1 // Rebuilding: Bengals, Jaguars, Jets, Lions
These teams right now are in no position to win given their roster or youth, so there’s no realistic pressure to win now (that is unless the Jets make a move for Deshaun Watson).
Joe Burrow looked good for Cincy, but he’ll be coming off a terrible injury, and the rest of the roster needs to develop.
The Jags will have Urban Meyer’s coaching debut and probably Trevor Lawrence as their rookie QB of the future.
The Lions just traded for Goff, but they’ll need to completely revamp the whole team with all of their draft picks.
The Jets are just hoping to get off onto the right footing now that they have a coach.
Tier 2 // (Probably) More of the Same: Buccaneers, Chiefs, Seahawks, Bills, Browns
This is essentially the “run it back” group of teams that will in all likelihood have the same looking rosters and schemes.
The Bucs have a few key free agents (Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Shaq Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski). Tom Brady will be back; that’s really all there is to it because even if they can’t retain all of those names, you mean to tell me people won’t take a pay cut to go down to Tampa and play with the GOAT??
The Chiefs will be the same with their playmakers locked up, but if they make the Super Bowl again, maybe they’ll have the four injured offensive linemen they intended to start the year with.
For the Browns, Seahawks, and Bills, minor improvements can be made (looking at you, Seattle o-line), but the rosters will likely be similar to this year’s as they try to contend again.
Tier 3 // Potential to Regress: Saints, Steelers, Titans
These contenders could take a step back from how they performed in 2020.
Drew Brees is likely going to be retired in New Orleans, who are already in the worst cap situation in the league, so they won’t be able to spend big on his replacement.
In Pittsburgh, old man Big Ben refuses to hang it up, so he’ll be a year older, and I’m fairly certain I gained more yards on the ground in the number of times I walked from my couch to the fridge during the football season than they did on the field. With running back James Conner, a free agent, they have to address the abysmal position, and Juju Smith-Schuster and Bud Dupree will likely walk if they can’t get a payday.
As for Tennessee, their OC, Arthur Smith, was the straw that stirred the drink, and he just packed his bags to be the new head coach in Atlanta. Their offense will have trouble moving on from him, which isn’t a good sign considering their defense was historically bad at some points, allowing 27 points per game.
Tier 4 // Please, Do Something: Ravens, Packers, Colts, Football Team, Panthers, Patriots, Vikings
These are teams that I am BEGGING to make a move this offseason to improve their team to catapult them into the next step and thus make the league that much more exciting.
Can you imagine if Baltimore and Green Bay made a big splash at the receiver so that their MVP quarterbacks had someone to throw to?
Or if the Colts and Football Team, who have money to spend and playoff-level defenses, went out and got a playmaking quarterback to fill their need?
Then, down in Carolina, Christian McCaffrey will be back from injury, and coach Matt Rhule proved he was a solid, talent-developing coach who created a brand; if they can upgrade from Teddy at quarterback, they’ll be an electric young team.
New England will have their COVID opt-outs returning; they will be back to evil empire form if they can spend their plethora of cap space on a QB more competent than Cam Newton or Jared Stidham.
Finally, in Minnesota, you can’t have a defensive-minded head coach with the 29th ranked defense in the league. Nothing drastic needs to change as they were a playoff team just a year ago, so a facelift on defense from the draft and free agency could give them another chance to compete.
Tier 5 // On the Come-Up: Rams, Dolphins, 49ers, Cardinals, Giants, Chargers
This tier has everything to be optimistic about, from offseason moves to talent development, from better injury luck or personnel changes.
The Rams already put their chips all-in on the table when they said, “we’re Super Bowl ready NOW” and traded all of their picks for Matthew Stafford, and it’s going to be so much fun to watch him in McVay’s offense.
The Dolphins nearly made the playoffs, and if they decide to stick with Tua as their quarterback, he’ll have a season under his belt post-major surgery and will likely improve. Miami has a stockpile of picks to improve their roster around him (and they have money to spend!).
The Niners have essentially all of their playmakers coming back from an injury-plagued year after the Super Bowl, and they’ve been in on almost every rumor to look to improve the quarterback position from Jimmy G.
The Cardinals and Chargers and their young, dynamic, future faces of the league, Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert, will be one year older and one year better.
Even though Daniel Jones is a bit of a question mark at QB, the Giants will get Saquon Barkley back from injury, Joe Judge will already have a year of experience coaching the team, they have plenty of cap space to go out and sign free agents, and they looked like one of the most-improved teams down the stretch of the season this year. It’ll be interesting to see these squads develop into the next step.
Tier 6 // Potential Dumpster Fire: Eagles, Cowboys, Falcons, Texans, Bears, Raiders, Broncos
This is the meme of the cartoon dog sitting in the burning building saying, “This is fine.” This is based on what could be in store for the franchises’ future. It’s not what you want, to say the least.
The Eagles and Texans have no money and have completely alienated their very expensive franchise quarterbacks to where they both HAVE to be moved.
The Cowboys are one year in on Mike McCarthy as a coach. He already looks like the stooge he was in Green Bay, and they have to decide whether or not they want to pay their one saving grace, Dak Prescott, an otherworldly amount of money; even if they do retain Dak, he’ll be coming off of a major leg injury.
The Falcons want to be on the rebuilding side of things, but with how much money they have going to Matt Ryan and other veterans, they’re in no man’s land.
The Raiders year after year show promise at the beginning of the season and meltdown before making the playoffs, and Derek Carr could potentially be on the way out-; he and Jon Gruden don’t exactly appear to be gelling.
Despite a talented roster, Denver continues to lose and could potentially move on from some key free agents like Von Miller or Justin Simmons. Drew Lock has been a disaster outside of lip-syncing Jeezy on the sidelines during one game. If they don’t get into the quarterback market, they’ll be toast in the AFC West.
That leaves us with the Bears, who will be in the same position they’ve been in since 1985 – a good team with a hole at quarterback running tryouts.
Of course, all of this could be completely wrong because I’m half a year early.
That’s the beauty of the NFL.
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