It's safe to say that nobody foresaw what the lay of the NFC South would be heading into Week 6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were buried under six feet of criticism all offseason, and were now infamously not given a chance by most NFL experts.
Instead of tanking, the Bucs are 3-1 and have sole possession of first place in the NFC South. We're only six weeks into the season and Tampa Bay already has one-half of a tie-breaker over the New Orleans Saints and appears to be influencing front office decisions in Atlanta.
The Falcons made a trade on Tuesday, one that is impossible to look at and not believe it has something to do with how much pressure a resurgent Buccaneers team is putting on everyone in the division.
Falcons trading for Van Jefferson feels like a move to try and catch the Buccaneers
On Tuesday the Atlanta Falcons broke the seal and made what could be the first of many deals made before the trade deadline on October 31st. Atlanta swapped two late-round picks in next year's draft with the Los Angeles Rams to take veteran receiver Van Jefferson off their hands.
It's a low-risk move for the Falcons, and not a bad trade for a team trying to catch up with the Bucs in the NFC South.
Atlanta's offense has hardly been what experts thought it would be during the offseason. The addition of rookie Bijan Robinson has paid off, but the Falcons have a bottom-10 offense and are averaging less than 17 points per game through the first five weeks.
For some reason Kyle Pitts has been a ghost, and Drake London only started to wake up in the Week 5 win over Houston. Arthur Smith has his work cut out if he wants to turn the Atlanta offense into a unit that can keep up with the top of the NFC South.
The gap between the Bucs and Falcons offense isn't that wide on paper, but there's a clear difference in execution. Tampa Bay seems to be trending in the right direction while Atlanta seems to just be scraping by when the offense should be a lot better than it is.
Adding Jefferson gives Desmond Ridder another great weapon but also adds some much-needed veteran leadership to the locker room. We'll see if it ends up paying off, but the takeaway for Bucs fans is that the division is already so firmly in Tampa Bay's control that its starting to impact the approach of other teams.