The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were supposed to be a good football team in 2020. They added the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady. It was certainly possible that Brady would turn into a pumpkin at age 43, but it was more likely that he would be an upgrade on Jameis Winston behind center. Those of us who pay attention to advanced analytics also knew that the Buccaneers had a strong defense. So we knew that the Buccaneers were going to be good.
We didn't think they would be this good.
The Buccaneers are not dominating in the NFL standings because they have two losses so far this year. But they are dominating when you break down the play-by-play for a closer look at how teams are performing overall. Tampa Bay is now No. 1 in the Football Outsiders DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) ratings. And the Buccaneers are No. 1 by a large margin. The gap between the Bucs and the No. 2 Baltimore Ravens is equal to the gap between the Ravens and the No. 7 Los Angeles Rams.
Tampa Bay lost the first game of the season to a good New Orleans Saints team, but they've had a positive rating for each of their games since. That includes the close Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears, when Tampa outgained Chicago 5.3 yards per play to 4.1 yards per play and primarily lost because of penalties that aren't necessarily predictive of future performance. Tampa Bay's five wins have all been solid, especially its domination of a Green Bay Packers offense that had been the best in the league in the early going.
Put all their plays together, and the Buccaneers have now climbed onto a list of the best teams we've ever tracked with DVOA through seven games, dating to 1985. So how have they done it, and what does history tell us about teams that are this dominant through this stretch of the season?