The trade that sent receiver Julio Jones from Atlanta to Tennessee makes the Titans better. It also makes the top of the AFC more competitive. In turn, the Buccaneers won’t have to deal with Jones twice this year as a member of the Falcons.
It underscores the reality that the AFC — with the Chiefs, Bills, Ravens, Titans, Steelers, and Colts (not to mention an improved Patriots team) — has plenty of great teams and that the NFC, frankly, doesn’t. After the Buccaneers, which team is the best in the NFC?
The Rams? The Packers? The 49ers, if healthy. Maybe the Seahawks. Frankly, the Bucs should be worried about Washington, given the potency of the pass rush and the traditional struggles Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady has had when facing intense pressure, especially up the middle.
But it’s not like the AFC. Whoever wins the Lamar Hunt Trophy will be either battle hardened or beaten to hell and back. For the Chiefs last year, it was the latter and it contributed to the loss in Super Bowl LV.
While it won’t be easy for Tampa Bay to become the first team in seventeen years to repeat, it won’t be nearly as hard to get to the Super Bowl as it would have been if they were still in the conference to which they were assigned for 1976, their first NFL season.