NFL Power Rankings: Bucs, Dolphins making noise, Giants into the top five
Dirk Koetter is proving he's the right guy for the job in Tampa
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Lovie Smith last January and replaced him with Dirk Koetter, there were reports -- erroneous ones -- that Koetter back-stabbed Smith, his friend, to get the job.
The reality is that Koetter was having his second hip-replacement surgery when it went down, and was as stunned to hear the news as anyone. That's not the Koetter style, nor is it to politick with boosters, which he had to do at Arizona State when he was the head coach. Koetter just wants to coach. He's the son of coach who is one of those football-only guys. That's why I always thought he'd be a better NFL coach than he was at my alma mater, ASU.
That is playing out so far in his inaugural season as an NFL head coach, leading the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 6-5 record and putting them in the middle of the playoff race and up to No. 14 in my latest Power Rankings.
Yes, Tampa Bay.
||They've ripped off 10 straight victories, but they have to be concerned about their pass rush. They didn't have a sack against the Redskins.||--||13-3-0|
||It wasn't pretty against the Jets, but that's what good teams do. They find a way.||--||14-2-0|
||They still have to be concerned about the defense. It has to be better come playoff time. Derek Carr's injured finger bears watching.||--||12-4-0|
||At 8-3, barring a catastrophe, they should be a playoff team. They face a tough test this week at Pittsburgh.||2||11-5-0|
||That was a big-time victory at Denver. When they get Dee Ford back to go with Justin Houston, they will be menacing on defense.||3||12-4-0|
||They came out of their bye and played well against Arizona. The loss of corner Desmond Trufant for the season will really hurt the defense.||1||11-5-0|
||They had to feel like they gave one away against the Chiefs. Their offense has to do more.||3||9-7-0|
||The offensive line has to get better. Tampa Bay beat them up last week, and Russell Wilson had issues.||3||10-5-1|
||They find a way to win close games, getting seven of them to lead the NFC North. They essentially have a two-game lead in the division with five to go.||--||9-7-0|
||Winning six straight has them in the playoff hunt. Their game at Baltimore this week will feel like a playoff game.||1||10-6-0|
||Kirk Cousins rolled up big numbers against Dallas, but it wasn't enough. They face a second straight road game this week at Arizona.||1||8-7-1|
||They sit in first place in the AFC North with a tough game this week at home against the Dolphins. Their defense is improving by the week.||2||8-8-0|
||They seemed to get the offense rolling against the Colts on Thanksgiving. Now they face a challenge with the Giants coming to town.||2||11-5-0|
||They are improving on defense, which will decide their playoff fate. The young players are growing up.||2||9-7-0|
||They aren't done yet. This is a team nobody will want to see in the playoffs -- if they can get there.||5||5-11-0|
||They are in first place, but they hardly look like a first-place team. Two consecutive losses has them reeling heading to Green Bay.||4||9-7-0|
||They have now lost five of their last six and are two behind the Lions in the division since they lost twice to them. Now comes a tough one with the Cowboys on Thursday night.||4||8-8-0|
||We were reminded on Thanksgiving of the value of Andrew Luck when he couldn't play against the Steelers. He will be back this week against the Jets.||--||8-8-0|
||They are one game out of first place in the division as they head to their bye week. Mike Mularkey has done a nice job.||--||9-7-0|
||By rallying to beat the Jaguars, they are still alive and kicking in the playoff chase. They face a tough, long trip to Oakland this week.||1||7-9-0|
||What we saw Monday night against the Eagles is what we expected to see this season. They are still alive.||1||10-6-0|
||They impressed against the Rams. Drew Brees is rolling again.||3||7-9-0|
||They've lost two straight games and any talk of winning the division is done. The wild-card chances are slipping away as well.||6||7-9-0|
||Their playoff chances are about done, which means it's a full Super Bowl hangover. It has never looked right.||1||6-10-0|
||Here's a team that had a lot expected of it, but now will be playing out the string. Is a coaching change coming?||1||6-9-1|
||It seems like anything that could go wrong has gone wrong this season. It's hard to believe they have a losing record.||--||7-8-1|
||Jared Goff did some really good things against the Saints. That gives them hope for the future.||--||4-12-0|
||This season is done. They are all about next year so why not play a young quarterback?||--||5-11-0|
||They are undermanned, but they fought against the Titans. Matt Barkley did some good things.||--||3-13-0|
||They battle at Buffalo, and this is a team that has young talent. It's clear that another coach will lead all of it next season.||--||3-13-0|
||Colin Kaepernick is playing good football for a team going nowhere. Why did it take Chip Kelly so long to play him?||--||2-14-0|
||They have so many issues right now. It's about the future as they play out the season.||--||1-15-0|
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