Sports Take: Top five NFL teams heading into the season

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

By Marquis Cooley, Gio Generro, Michael Haag | Sports Desk

With the NFL season kicking off this Thursday, the sports desk trio of Marquis Cooley, Gio Gennero, Michael Haag broke down their picks for the top five teams heading into the 2021-22 season. Spoiler alert: Yes we slept on the Dallas Cowboys.

Honorable Mentions:

Tennessee Titans

The already high-powered offensive trio of Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry got even better with the addition of Julio Jones. While it remains to be seen how much the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will affect them this season, that much talent together on one team is hard to ignore. However, the defense is too big of a question to have them as a top five team heading into the season.

Los Angeles Rams

The opposite of the Titans, the Rams have an amazing defense yet their offense still has some questions. Their defense is one of the best in the league led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, two of the best players in their respective positions. Matthew Stafford is certainly an upgrade from Jared Goff as well. However, the injury to Cam Akers was a huge blow to the offense. If they can find means to replace his production, they could be a dark horse for the Super Bowl.

5. Buffalo Bills

The emergence of Josh Allen as one of the best quarterbacks in the league came as a surprise to many, but look for him to retain that same level of success this year. Stefon Diggs is hungry for a Super Bowl and to prove he belongs in the discussion as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. The defense may have been a bit of a let down last season after what they’ve shown in years prior, but with an underdog mentality heading into the season, they should be a scary sight. From top to bottom, the Bills have one of the best rosters in the league, with talent at each position, they will be contenders this season. They just haven’t quite shown if they have what it takes to go all the way yet.

4. Green Bay Packers

Despite the offseason drama, the return of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was huge for the Packers. His skill and experience paired with a top-three wide receiver Davante Adams will be a problem for defenses to handle. The NFC runner-ups will be looking to make the most of Rodgers’ potential last season as they even brought in some of his former teammates such as Randall Cobb to make Rodgers happy. They would be a little higher on this list but their history of losing NFC Championships keeps us from trusting they can go all the way.

3. Cleveland Browns

The Browns are a complete team. Adding Jadeveon Clowney to their tough defense and the return of Odell Beckham Jr. to their loaded offense that features running back duo Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns will be a problem again this season. They now have playoff experience which is invaluable for a younger team. They will take another step forward this year and be among the league’s best teams for the first time in a long time.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes will continue to be spectacular. Retaining all his weapons as well as improving their offensive line might lead to even better Chiefs offense under head coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs’ defense may not be the best, but Tyrann Mathieu and the rest of the guys on that side of the ball will have a huge chip on their shoulder. The Chiefs will be hungry to redeem themselves from their Super Bowl loss and regain their title as the best team in the league.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The reigning Super Bowl Champs returned all 22 starters from last season. Tom Brady is still reliable at 44, and has one of the best receiving corps in the league in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. However, it’s their defense that is even more spectacular. Their elite defense was able to shut down the Chiefs’ juggernaut offense in the Super Bowl, and the young core is only going to develop and get even better. They are the Super Bowl champs and have had time to build chemistry with a full year under their belt. Until proven otherwise, the Buccaneers are the best team in the NFL.