ESPN's final NFL power rankings utterly disrespects everything the Buccaneers did

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pittsburgh Steelers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

It seems like the NFL season just started but we've already reached the end of the road. With the Super Bowl behind us, it's time to start looking ahead at the offeseason and what teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can do to ensure they're the ones celebrating this time next year.

Tampa Bay has its work cut out this offseason, as major decisions need to be made about the future of Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans. It feels like the offense -- and all hope for next season -- hinges on bringing those two back and making sure the Bucs are in the best position to build off how well things went last season.

Baker revived his career, Evans turned in another historic season, and the Bucs ended their season in the NFC Divisional Round and seemingly silenced all of the doubters. Despite how well things went, the Bucs can't catch a break when it comes to commanding a little respect from the national media.

Different offseason, same old tune.

Buccaneers get disrespected in ESPN's post-Super Bowl power rankings

ESPN put together its way-too-early 2024 power ranking and resorted to disrespecting the Bucs just like all of the rankings last offseason did. Tampa Bay is ranked No. 16, one spot ahead of the Jets and right behind the Colts.

It's an improvement over being dubbed the second-worst team in the league last year but it completely minimizes everything the team accomplished.

Adding further insult, three non-playoff teams are ranked ahead of the Bucs: the Bengals, Jaguars, and Colts. There's a legitimate argument to be made for Cincinnati, as Joe Burrow suffering a season-ending injury derailed what was still an impressive season. Having Indianapolis and Jacksonville above Tampa Bay is just wrong.

The Colts barely beat the Bucs in the middle of the team's gnarly midseason losing streak, and the Jaguars got absolutely blown out of the water a few weeks later. If we're talking future upside, what do the Jaguars and Colts have that suggests they'll have better odds than the Bucs to make a run at the Super Bowl?

It also lowkey de-legitimizes all of the positive momentum the Bucs built this season, specifically late in the year. Where the final season with Tom Brady ended with absolutely no hope, the Bucs turned a 1-6 slump around and ended up both winning the division and blowing out a playoff opponent before barely losing in two games shy of another title.

Keep in mind this was a team expected to tank for a high draft pick and be in total rebuild mode right now. Instead, the Bucs are all but certain to re-sign Baker to be their franchise quarterback, bring back Evans to continue his Hall of Fame career in Tampa Bay, and will have the best safety in the league anchoring a top-rated defense. Liam Coen was hired to take what Dave Canales did and make it hum, the Bucs carried over zero dead cap space and have money to spend in free agency to improve the roster.

Where exactly is the gap between Tampa Bay and two of the non-playoff teams ranked higher?

It's par for the course, though, as the Bucs are no strangers to getting tossed aside. Last year there were legitimate reasons to doubt that they'd be able to turn things around, but after having done that in rather convincing fashion it's a bummer to seem them still considered nothing more than a middle-of-the-road team.

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