The 2021/22 NFL season is off to a blistering start, having gotten two weeks in, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are seemingly in no mood to give up their place at the top of the totem pole.
The NFL is special in that its worst teams manage to keep getting worse but the Bucs are a prime example of what can happen if you’re lucky enough to sign a football icon and get some luck along the way.
If any campaign is looking like it could throw up a few surprises, it would have to be this one, which is why we’re here to take a look at some of the teams that could deliver on such a front.
5. Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are off to a 2-0 start under Matt Rhule after the 46-year-old endured a troubling first season as head coach. They look set to be locked in a battle with the Bucs for first place in the NFC South.
The team now has Sam Darnold at center while running back Christian McCaffery has returned. The Panthers have also brought in cornerback Jaycee Horn and wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., plus there have been changes to the offensive line. It looks like it could be a wild race to the finish between Carolina and Tampa Bay and a route to the playoffs could be opened up as the Atlanta Falcons aren’t expected to be much of a challenge, nor are the New Orleans Saints.
4. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are currently 2-0, having lost a close one to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. The Cardinals rode their luck through this one but also have Kyler Murray to thank for the 34-33 return.
As for Minnesota, fans keen on betting can continue to compare NFL betting lines as the season progresses but there is a bit of promise where they are concerned. The Vikings had a dip last year after going five straight seasons with .500 or higher, posting a 7-9 record. The slip was prompted by a bad defense while there was a struggle to win games at home. They have sought to address this with the additions of top defenders. Cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods have come in, as has defensive tackle, Dalvin Tomlinson. Stephen Weatherly has also returned after starting nine games for the Panthers last season.
The Vikings did well in the draft too, acquiring defensive end Patrick Jones II, linebacker Chazz Surratt and offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw. Things don’t appear to be working out as well as they planned for the time being but the turnaround could begin as soon as they face the Seattle Seahawks next weekend.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are coming off a 1-10 season, a long drop from their appearance in a Super Bowl the previous season. Of course, there was speculation over it possibly being a fluke. However, there were injury issues to deal with and who knows how well they would have done if everyone was healthy?
They’ve also gotten off to a 2-0 start but it looks like it’s going to be an interesting fight for the playoffs as the Los Angeles Rams and Cardinals have also won both of their games to start the season. While they’ve lost some top assistant coaches this year, the 49ers have brought in a quality QB in Trey Lance and, despite not being a starter, it’s expected that he will have an impact this season.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos were hopeful about getting the NFL’s reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers during the offseason. The quarterback asked to leave the Green Bay Packers at the end of last season but the team held firm and Denver was made to miss out.
Despite that, they’ve gotten off to the best possible start to the current campaign, a better one than the Packers, who lost their first game of the season before winning on Monday.
They should be 3-0 by the time they play the New York Jets on Sunday.
1. New England Patriots
One wouldn’t have imagined the Patriots ever being on a list like this two seasons ago but it appears losing Tom Brady is the worst thing that could happen to a top organization. The team found itself in freefall on the back of Brady’s departure and, keen on avoiding another campaign of embarrassment, forked out nearly $160 million over the summer.
They’ve since cut Cam Newton, placing their trust in rookie QB Mac Jones, who rewarded the faith placed in him on Sunday. Bill Belichick would have been pleased to see his team recover from their season-opening loss.
Jones’s passing was impressive although there were a lot of short ones thrown. He will have to show his range as soon as the next game if the Pats are to find success this season. Another trip to the Super Bowl isn’t expected but fans will be satisfied with an appearance in the playoffs.