The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be the best team in the NFL, and that includes the Kansas City Chiefs, undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers or anybody else.
The Buccaneers have the highest point differential in the NFL, at plus-80. The Buccaneers ranked first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA after six weeks, by a large margin. They have a very good offense and the defense is even better.
And now they’re bringing in the most toxic player in the NFL, one who has been a problem for three teams and is likely to make it a fourth. When the Buccaneers signed Antonio Brown, there were no secrets. If Brown wrecks the Bucs by freezing his feet or going AWOL before a must-win game, acting like he’s better than his teammates, throwing a tantrum over his helmet or something far more sinister, there should be no sympathy for the Buccaneers. Brown’s track record is well-documented.
This isn’t about the moral dilemma of the Buccaneers signing someone who has been repeatedly accused of domestic violence. My colleague Shalise Manza Young covered that angle very well. This is a football move by the Bucs, so let’s look at it from that perspective.
It’s a needless risk, likely to appease Tom Brady’s wishes, and if Brown becomes an untenable problem for the Bucs like he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, they’ll have screwed up a season in which they look like a Super Bowl contender. And for what? They don’t need him. They’re already a contender.
Brown is talented. We saw that in his one game last season with the Patriots, before more disturbing accusations forced New England to cut him. Building a championship football team involves more than collecting talent. Anyone assuming that the only factor in the Brown signing is how many yards he gains is willfully ignoring the downside.
Based on Brown’s history, he’s very likely to disrupt this Buccaneers season. If Brown quietly does his job and doesn’t make this season all about him, it will be an enormous upset. The Bucs’ passing game is doing fine without him; if anything the Bucs are having a hard time getting enough targets for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans as it is. For those who say Bruce Arians can successfully manage AB, Brown has failed to be a good teammate under Mike Tomlin, Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick, three Super Bowl-winning coaches.
Given all the baggage Brown brings, it can’t even be viewed as a shrewd football signing. Maybe it all works out and Brown is an impact player and his shenanigans are mitigated being around the Brady-led culture — hoping nothing will go wrong off the field or in the locker room with Brown is wishful thinking, to say the least — and the Buccaneers become an unstoppable offense and win a Super Bowl. But hope is not a strategy.
It seems like the Buccaneers are hitting on 20 in blackjack, hoping for an ace. There are far more ways the Brown signing can go wrong for a good Buccaneers team than the other way around. If the Buccaneers think they got a step closer to the Super Bowl by signing Brown, they might end up being surprised.
Here are the power rankings after Week 7 of the NFL season:
32. New York Jets (0-7, Last Week: 32)
The Jets get to play at the Chiefs next. You know you’re in bad shape when it would be a nice result if you kept the game within three touchdowns.
31. Dallas Cowboys (2-5, LW: 28)
The Cowboys were bad with Dak Prescott. They were even worse with Andy Dalton. We need to remember this if “but the Cowboys suffered injuries to their top two quarterbacks” becomes an excuse.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6, LW: 29)
Gardner Minshew II isn’t playing great, but he’s not the Jaguars’ biggest problem and the talk of benching him is another sign the Jaguars don’t know what they’re doing. What good would playing Mike Glennon do?
29. New York Giants (1-6, LW: 30)
Sterling Shepard’s return helps the offense. He had 59 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from a toe injury. That’s good because the Giants need a full set of healthy receivers to get a better idea where Daniel Jones stands heading into next offseason.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1, LW: 27)
Before we get the least bit excited about the Eagles, let’s remember they trailed a one-win Giants team at home by 11 points with five minutes to go. It was a great rally, but let’s keep it in perspective.
27. Washington Football Team (2-5, LW: 31)
It sounds crazy to think Washington could win the NFC East, but the division is crazy. Kyle Allen can run the offense. Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin are good young playmakers. The defensive line is good. And everyone else in the division is bad. Ron Rivera is easily the best coach in the division. Why not Washington? This might be a division-winning team.
26. Minnesota Vikings (1-5, LW: 26)
The Vikings put on a happy face and said they’re still trying to win, but the trade of Yannick Ngakoue should start a fire sale. It wouldn’t make much sense to trade Ngakoue and not others. It will be an interesting week for the Vikings.
25. Houston Texans (1-6, LW: 24)
The Texans should be active on the trade market. They need to restock draft picks after giving so many away the past couple years when Bill O’Brien was running the front office. “Most of the time in this situation, they're offering peanuts and not offering legitimate trade value,” coach Romeo Crennel said. Imagine how bad the offers would be if O’Brien was still in charge.
24. Atlanta Falcons (1-6, LW: 25)
The Falcons reportedly won’t trade Julio Jones or Matt Ryan, which would have been hard anyway because of their hefty contracts. Who can or will the Falcons move? It’s a team that needs a lot of work and holding onto players with trade value won’t help.
23. Cincinnati Bengals (1-5-1, LW: 23)
Carlos Dunlap complained about his spot on the depth chart on social media, fought with a coach on the sideline and tweeted that his house was for sale. His public declaration of wanting out of Cincinnati puts the team in a tough spot. The Bengals can’t keep Dunlap around if he keeps being a problem, but they don’t want players believing they can force a trade or release by acting this way.
22. Denver Broncos (2-4, LW: 21)
Since coming back, Drew Lock has no touchdowns, four interceptions and a 49.2 passer rating in two games. Maybe he isn’t healthy. If Lock continues to play like this the rest of the season, what will the Broncos do next offseason?
21. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4, LW: 22)
Justin Herbert continues to be one of the NFL’s best stories. On Sunday, he became the first rookie in NFL history to have at least 340 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, 50 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a game, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic. It seems that pick has changed the Chargers’ future.
20. Miami Dolphins (3-3, LW: 19)
When is the last time a Dolphins game had this much excitement surrounding it? The Dolphins didn’t elevate Tua Tagovailoa to the starting quarterback position to get attention, but it’s a nice perk for a franchise that hasn’t been entertaining in a while.
19. Detroit Lions (3-3, LW: 20)
A nice win for sure, but this needs to be addressed again: The Lions have changed their offense to cater to 35-year-old Adrian Peterson, who was cut by Washington before the season started. Peterson’s yards per carry his past four games: 3.41, 3.27, 2.67 and 2.64. Yet, Peterson had more carries than rookie D’Andre Swift on Sunday. Kenny Golladay, one of the NFL’s most impressive receivers, had just seven targets because the Lions are using a lot of plays on Peterson. The priority is getting Peterson carries, which speaks to how poorly the Lions are being run.
18. New England Patriots (2-4, LW: 18)
Bill Belichick on Sunday’s game, the worst home loss for the Patriots in the Belichick era: “We didn't perform well enough in any area, offense, defense, special teams, running, passing, defending the run, defend being the pass, ball security, tackling, blocking, none of it was good enough. Maybe I left something out, but we just got to do a better job all the way across the board.” That sums it up pretty well. Nothing is good for the Patriots right now. If the Patriots lose at the Bills on Sunday, they’ll be 3.5 games behind Buffalo in the AFC East.
17. Carolina Panthers (3-4, LW: 17)
The Panthers had 27 rushing yards on 10 attempts, if you don’t count Teddy Bridgewater. They had a good shot to beat the Saints and lost by three points. There’s another game the Panthers can feel they would have won, had it not been for Christian McCaffrey’s injury.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (3-3, LW: 9)
The Raiders have violated COVID-19 protocols, then had the nerve to complain that Sunday’s game should have been postponed. Here’s a novel approach: Follow the rules.
15. Chicago Bears (5-2, LW: 12)
There should be fewer complaints this week about the Bears’ ranking. Their offense is horrible.
14. San Francisco 49ers (4-3, LW: 16)
The 49ers still aren’t out of the woods. They have five more tough games coming up (at Seahawks, vs. Packers, at Saints, at Rams, vs. Bills). Their past two performances are encouraging. They look like the defending NFC champions finally, and maybe they can survive this gauntlet of a schedule.
13. Indianapolis Colts (4-2, LW: 11)
The Colts’ game this weekend at Detroit is a big one because of what comes next. Indianapolis faces a season-defining stretch after the Lions game: vs. Ravens, at Titans, vs. Packers, vs. Titans. They need to resist the urge to look ahead this week.
12. Cleveland Browns (5-2, LW: 15)
Odell Beckham Jr.’s season-ending injury stings. But the truth is, in 23 Browns games, he has averaged 58.9 receiving yards per game with just seven touchdowns. It’s a big name and Beckham has an impact that stats don’t always show, but football-wise, it might not be a crushing blow.
11. New Orleans Saints (4-2, LW: 14)
The Saints escaped with a win, and that’s great. It would be nice to see them put together a dominant game from beginning to end. Maybe that’s coming when Michael Thomas is ready to return. Or maybe not.
10. Arizona Cardinals (5-2, LW: 13)
The Cardinals were being very stubborn in using Kenyan Drake over Chase Edmonds even though everyone can see Edmonds is playing better. Drake’s injury will force the Cardinals to play the better back.
9. Buffalo Bills (5-2, LW: 8)
It wasn’t pretty, but Sunday’s 18-10 win was a case of the Bills not turning yards into points. They outgained the Jets 422-190. The Bills got the win, and if the offense can’t score TDs against the Patriots, then we’ll worry.
8. Los Angeles Rams (5-2, LW: 10)
It’s rare to watch a game in which the punter is the MVP, but Johnny Hekker put on a show against the Bears on Monday night. He’s a legitimate weapon.
7. Tennessee Titans (5-1, LW: 5)
On a day in which the Steelers defense held down everyone else, A.J. Brown almost brought the Titans back. He had six catches for 153 yards, and a majestic 73-yard touchdown started a comeback that ultimately fell short. The Titans hit a home run with the Brown draft pick.
6. Seattle Seahawks (5-1, LW: 4)
Tyler Lockett’s performance shouldn’t be forgotten just because the Seahawks lost. Lockett had 15 catches, 200 yards and three touchdowns, his second three-touchdown game of the season. He’s one of the best receivers in the NFL and still might be the second-best receiver on his team due to DK Metcalf. If voters have to choose between those two on their All-Pro ballots at the end of the season, it will be a tough call.
5. Green Bay Packers (5-1, LW: 7)
The Packers offense hums against bad defenses. It did again Sunday against Houston. Up next: the Vikings and their horrible defense.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2, LW: 6)
It seemed like Rob Gronkowski’s comeback was a bad idea. Through the first few weeks of the season, it looked like he was finished as an impact player in the passing game. Then the last three games he has 13 catches for 192 yards with touchdowns in each of the past two games, and he looks like the Gronk of old. Just another reason the Buccaneers didn’t need to sign Antonio Brown.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0, LW: 3)
Diontae Johnson came off an injury and scored two touchdowns. If you try to take something away from the Steelers, they have plenty of other options and will exploit an advantageous matchup. We’ll see what they have cooked up for a good Ravens defense.
2. Baltimore Ravens (5-1, LW: 2)
Steelers-Ravens comes on Sunday. Are we sure we can’t flex this into “Sunday Night Football” and kick Cowboys-Eagles to, like, a public access channel?
1. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1, LW: 1)
The Chiefs got only 286 yards on Sunday. They scored 43 points, with help from touchdowns by the defense and special teams. This isn’t just a team that needs its offense to blow away everyone; it can win in all ways.
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