2020 Dynasty/Fantasy Week 14 Game Analysis: Bills 26, Steelers 15
I take notes during the live watch. I re-watch the game on tape looking for hidden clues to report on. Here are my notes/takes on what I saw and how it related to FF 2020. I write anywhere from 1,000-3,000+ words on each game, and I must move fast to get to all of them through the week…so, please forgive any typos/grammar.
I’m not saying I’m perfect in football analysis. Trying to guess ‘which way the wind will blow next’ game--by-game, play-by-play with unpredictable injuries, penalties called (or not called), the way a football bounces…you’re bound to be wrong about something every day. However, I was not wrong about my main team-based assertions for the last week/several weeks – I proclaimed that the Rams and Bills were two of the three elite teams in the NFL…the other being the Chiefs.
You saw this game.
Was I lying? Was I ‘bad’ at my job? No, I was not. Not here. The Buffalo Bills ruled here…a changing of the guard moment. The Buffalo Bills are more what we have thought of the Steelers for years and most of the 2020 season – top team, Super Bowl threat, bulldog tough QB who can pull out any game/can put a team on his shoulders. The Steelers have become what football society thinks of the Bills the past few years/2020 season – good team, tough out, a QB with limitations, but a team/QB that’s not good enough to be great/they are not a Super Bowl threat.
I’m not pointing all this out to celebrate myself, but I am pretty pleased about it – I work hard, I want to succeed. No, I’m presenting this game as more evidence that NFL analysis is lacking and there is a way we can profit off of that – whether via fantasy, or with the Bills (and Rams)…betting them when the analysts are all ‘missing it’. Two key bets I promoted this week (BUF and LAR) both cashed in. I promoted those bets because: (a) I believed they were two of the best teams in football, and more importantly (b) that because the analysts were ‘missing it’ on them, the point spreads/line would be suppressed because the media/analyst class was missing it…and thus the lapdog fans were gonna be asleep on it/betting it the wrong way. The names ‘Steelers’ and ‘Patriots’ carry legacy love/respect…and the Bills and Rams have little/no respect in football society – it was the perfect storm week to bet the untrusted favorites there.
*Please early bet Buffalo -4.5 at Denver this week, under the same theory*
The 1st-quarter of this game was 0-0…a defensive slog in a late-breaking wet/mist, mild wind, cold backdrop. Early on, the Steelers looked a bit more amped and I was a bit worried the Steelers were going to hang tough/have a chance to win it. When the Steelers took a 7-0 lead with 8+ minutes left in the 2nd-half, I got more worried (bettors are always worried about everything, so it’s normal).
From that point, the Bills started feeling it and scored the next 23 points to take a strong lead going into the 4th-quarter. It wasn’t so much about the lead as the way the Bills took it – after a quarter of ‘feeling out’ the Steelers, Josh Allen and the defense put the hammer down and took this game by force – and the Steelers wilted minute-by-minute. They wilted because they have a lesser roster of talent and lesser coaching…they could not hang with the Buffalo Bills here and won’t for the near future. The ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’…that concept, what image/respect that brings to mind – that exists in the form of the Buffalo Bills now…tougher team, better QB and defense, and better run organization top-to-bottom.
That’s not a slam/mocking of the Steelers…I just believe the Bills are on the verge, or have arrived, as the best top-to-bottom football team and organization in all of football. No one else thinks this outside of ketchup and mustard-soaked Bills Mafia fans (it’s a thing in Buffalo if you didn’t know...https://youtu.be/jjQbksJyEO0). Polite NFL society is not buying this at all. In fact, they’re going to bury it by ignoring it…then trying to destroy it. T-minus weeks and counting that Josh Allen’s ‘racially insensitive’ social media posts (that were an issue right before his NFL Draft) will be brought up to undermine him and the entire team’s momentum. When you see it, know it was planned/on purpose…with intent.
How dare a football team, and a quarterback, defy the establishment thinking and defeat their precious ordained teams? You think I’m a conspiracy theory nut that is so anti-NFL and media that I see ghosts all day long? If Buffalo makes it to the AFC Finals and especially if they make it to the Super Bowl – THEY (the media and opposing teams who would benefit from hurting Buffalo…like the other NY teams, the other AFC East teams especially) are coming after Josh Allen via the media as the way to pierce this bubble.
Sean McDermott has built the Buffalo Bills his way, not the NFL accepted way. One of his first, best moves as HC of the Bills was trading away ‘the great’ Sammy Watkins (a move critically crushed by the media at the time). He’s built a team for Buffalo. He’s built a team to last. He got Josh Allen ‘right’ when all smart scouts like me mocked his abilities/the draft pick. Sean McDermott is the new Bill Belichick…in-hiding. The single smartest personnel man + coach in the NFL…and has been for a while.
This win over Pittsburgh was no fluke – they beat down the Steelers. The score not fully reflecting the true/widening gap between the two teams. If it were played on a clean/dome field instead of in the cold/rain – the Bills might have won this game scoring 35+ points on the vaunted Steelers defense.
Buffalo rises to (10-3)…a Hail Murray from being (11-2) and in the #1 seed discussion, but they’ve already lost to KC this season (in the rain), so Buffalo is likely locked in as the #2 seed. They should finish with 12 wins, and then 13 wins if Week 17 is a needed game for them…Week 17 might have them locked to the #2 seed and playing backups.
The Steelers should’ve seen the ghost of Christmas Future here, as they fall to (11-2). They are not a legit top/high-end NFL team anymore. They’ve fallen from the #1 seed two weeks ago to the #3 seed and falling. If the Browns win Monday night (writing this before the MNF game), then the Steelers have a one-game lead over the Browns with three more to play, including Week 17 at Cleveland. Can you imagine if the Steelers collapse to the finish and the Browns beat them Week 17 for the division title? The Steelers are falling into football purgatory…too good to break up/rebuild and not good enough to be a Super Bowl threat. The Steelers have an easy win Week 15 at Cincy, but then there could be a lot at stake Week 16 vs. Indy, if the Browns are right behind them.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I guess we need to start with the Pittsburgh Steelers WR report…
On Sunday morning I discussed the risk in Diontae Johnson (4-40-0/7)…that considering this was a playoff game week for most…that Mike Tomlin speaking words all week backed himself into a corner where to protect his image he would have to pull any WR dropping the ball in this game. He had to.
That puts a lot of pressure on any receiver, even one who hadn’t dropped passes. Makes a WR think about it every second of the game…overthinking. On cue, the very first pass…a quick pass to Diontae and he gaffed it. I thought he’d come out right then and there, but Tomlin left him in. On the second series, Diontae dropped another easy pass…and then out of the game he went until like the 4th-quarter.
So many thoughts here…
1) Tomlin had to do it, had to pull him. Simple passes being gaffed by Diontae. It looks like ‘the yips’…like what happens to some baseball players. It gets mental. It’s hard to get out of.
2) This is an issue for next week…a fantasy issue. You know that Diontae is one play away from sitting the rest of the game. You also have a suspicion that they will try to get him going, and he could have a knockout/week-winning performance in response against a weak CIN defense.
3) Tomlin is making this worse. When Davante Adams struggled with something very similar in his 2nd-year, the fans destroyed him. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers defended Adams and built his confidence back…even at the expense of lost series/plays even games. They did the same when Mason Crosby had a horrific season of kicking.
Look at where Davante and Crosby are at now? Their almost career-ending ‘bad’ seasons are not even remembered now.
Tomlin took his typical fake tough guy approach (making tough proclamations of what he will do/what he won’t tolerate), and it will probably destroy Diontae from here on in. Tomlin has an image in the media…he feeds off it – the tough guy. Like a not-as-funny Rex Ryan. Tomlin, to a degree, exists because of the tough guy image…and maybe some of it is real – whatever it is…the way he’s managing this issue might have taken a highly valuable asset/piece of art and put a giant scratch in it destroying its value. Tomlin made a media proclamation on something he could’ve not made anyone’s business or went out of his way to publicly support the player(s). Instead, he’s Mr. Tough Guy. We’ll see where that gets him.
4) Because of Tomlin’s approach and subsequent outcome, in my opinion, Diontae should be benched next week going forward and they run a JuJu-Washington-Claypool…put Claypool in Diontae’s role, which is how Claypool started to explode weeks ago when Diontae was out. They won’t…they’ll wait to see if Diontae drops another pass.
5) Everything I’ve ever said/critiqued on NFL analyst’s not great at their jobs, and specifically Cris Collinsworth, immediately came true here. The most glaring example of these people do not really have a feel for what they are watching and needing to communicate to the audience…
When Diontae dropped his second pass to force a stalled drive/punt, obviously the ‘drops’ thing was discussed/mentioned again – it was only like the biggest headline going into this game. But here’s the crime… So, when Diontae was not out there the first play of the Steelers’ next drive…no one noticed/mentioned. Not Cris, not Tirico, not highly-paid Michelle Tafoya…not even merit-not-nepotism-based-hired Jak Collinsworth – play after play with no Diontae on the field and it wasn’t even mentioned. Series after series went by…not a peep. It was a HUGE moment/thing…and none of them noticed the Steelers’ #1 WR was benched/not there.
I think 4-5 series later, Collinsworth finally realized it/a producer likely saw it on Twitter and fed into Cris’s ear.
How are you analyzing games and didn’t notice the Steelers #1 WR had been pulled for drops…when that was a big storyline coming into the game?!?!?!?
I guess Cris was too busy writing his Oscar acceptance speech for his dazzling acting in that stupid in-game commercial where he’s analyzing Fletcher Cox. Wow, you noticed Fletcher Cox has great feet (and you circled it on your laptop so I knew what feet were and where they were located on the human body…thank, Criss!)…that’s your big computer-AI/PFF takeaway? Where do I rush to get my PFF subscription? How about less acting/money grabbing and more paying attention to your game work/observations? https://youtu.be/QKrfNdBGUF4
6) The future for Diontae?
Sure, he can turn it all around…but I think the meter has to be tipped towards ‘this is a career killer moment’ right now. When Davante Adams struggled with similar issues his 2nd-season, social media hadn’t hit full peak of reach or nastiness. Now, it exists to destroy people at a warp speed.
This situation reminds me more of Jordan Matthews’s career torpedo then it does Davante Adams’s turnaround/rise from the ashes. Hopefully, I’m wrong – but I know NFL analyst’s love nothing more than to scream ‘drop’ at every pass not caught no matter the context and I know they love to destroy careers of players who weren’t ordained top picks by the mainstream scouting society – Diontae checks all those boxes.
Watch the first few minutes of this (or all of it), it should open/start up at the 3:57 mark…this might be shocking to consider knowing what we know now of Davante Adams… https://youtu.be/18x4bmv3M4A?t=237
When Diontae got benched, Chase Claypool (3-15-0/6) played in his place…and, of course, the Bills threw top coverage at him. Why? Because the Bills know what Mike Tomlin doesn’t…Chase Claypool is the best/most dangerous WR on the Steelers. So, it’s smart for him to be on the bench for half the game…by design.
Prior to Diontae getting benched for ‘drops’, Claypool got (essentially) benched last week for ‘leading the team in receiving as a rookie for the season’. So, what does Mike Tomlin want his WRs to do? Failure gets you benched…and success gets you benched? JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-55-1/7) does funny TikTok videos and likes to dance and have fun…and have mediocre performances without Antonio Brown around anymore – I guess that’s the sweet spot for a Steelers’ WR to never get benched.
Claypool should never be off the field. And if he’s a little banged up…then sit him out for a week. Him going in 50% of the game and leaping up for high point throws and coming crashing to earth isn’t going to heal him up faster.
We’ve gone from Diontae as a top 3-5 PPR WR option each week and Chase Claypool as a WR1 non-PPR for the season just a few weeks ago -- to having no FF-confidence in either to start them Week 15…in a primo matchup with the Bengals! Who is to blame (takes down glasses slowly, and cranes neck and eyes to look over at Mike Tomlin).
But Mike Tomlin is so honest, why he even said his team ‘sucked’ a few weeks ago…how refreshing. He must be such a great coach! That’s similar to Pete Carroll as a great coach because he looks and acts younger than his age – it really has nothing to do with the task at hand. We need to judge Tomlin for his on-field results…and things are starting to sour and players are regressing, not improving.
-- Is Ben Roethlisberger (21-37 for 187 for 2 TDs/2 INTs) to blame for the WR woes?
I don’t think the WR issues and rotation is his fault, but I would like to mention – the air is leaking out of the Big Ben balloon. We are watching the decline in real-time. Kinda like watching Tom Brady late last year and this year.
Not that they are done…just they are not the guy/the talent we remember so fondly. Age is coming to get all of us at some point. Bubbles/balloons get popped eventually.
Ben started the season with 22 TDs/4 INTs…but has 7 TDs/5 INTs in his last 4 games, a two game losing streak that’s lucky it’s not three games in a row.
If you gave the Steelers’ 2020 opponents one more TD (7pts) in every game this year, Pittsburgh would be (5-7-1). Their big wins of late are over Jacksonville and Cincy…they’ve struggled/should’ve lost to Dallas (with Gilbert Grape at QB), and almost lost to RG3 and Trace McSorley’s COVID world tour a few Wednesday’s ago.
Diontae and Claypool have these issues that have popped up…but along with that is the slow fade of Big Ben, who is more Alex Smith than Alex Smith now (as a thrower/style).
-- Josh Allen (24-43 for 238 yards, 2 TDs/1 INT, 6-28-0) is the new, better Big Ben of the NFL. The torch was passed/snatched this game…this season.
You know how I feel about Allen from my reports all season long. No need to retread that – he’s second only to Patrick Mahomes as a QB talent and as an MVP candidate this year.
Just one note to point out…
Early on in this game, Allen struggled a touch/the Steelers defense was playing great for the 1st-quarter+. What’s remarkable/MVP-esque is that Allen flipped a switch and just dominated this defense the last 2+ quarters…a highly respected, very good defense.
-- Speaking of defenses, as I’ve been pushing…the Bills defense is emerging as a top five unit again the past few weeks. I’d argue they are about to pass/should be more feared than the Steelers defense.
I’m not ready to say that for sure, but it’s on the table. We have to recognize the Steelers didn’t have Joe Haden this game and the Steelers have no running game and likes to bench their best receivers. This game may not be the full performance litmus test for the Bills to be judged by.
-- Speaking of the running game for the Steelers…
James Conner (10-18-0) never gets benched. His unproductive running plays are near as bad as Diontae’s drops – at least, Diontae produces around the drops. The drops are a ‘zero’ play. Conner running the ball is usually a ‘zero’ play…what’s the difference? Why isn’t Conner benched?
Jaylen Samuels (4-15-0, 3-18-0/4) is better than James Conner, and I’ve said that since his rookie training camp. He’s shown it on the field when given the full chance. Mike Tomlin is an offensive genius…so, of course, he doesn’t recognize any of this.
We do realize the Steelers offense has become Big Ben as new-age Alex Smith…the top targeted receivers (Diontae and Ebron) can’t catch, the single best WR (Claypool) is not starting, and their single best RB (Samuels) has been running 4th-team all season.
Man, that Mike Tomlin is a great head coach. Who else is to blame for the Steelers collapse-in-progress but Tomlin?
Samuels has seemed to have moved into the #2 role, and a little PPR/3rd-down RB niche…not usable yet for FF, but he might be the true handcuff to Conner right now.
-- Dawson Knox (4-34-0/7) had his most targets in a game in 2020 this game. I’m thinking it is more – the Steelers were down to a 3rd-string/trade deadline acquired LB starting in this game and they exploited it a little.
However, Knox is a talent.
Knox plays with the new/better Big Ben to help push numbers.
And Knox is slowly trending numbers higher – 4 and 4 for catches in games the last two weeks. Two TDs in his last 3 games. Knox can be the Robert Tonyan-ish uprising here...maybe. Allen has never been one to blow things up via the TE, but Josh Allen is constantly doing things I have to catch up to. He might start integrating this new wrinkle (Knox) ahead.
-- Gabriel Davis (3-19-1/8) is going through some woes of his own at WR, despite the fact that he’s scored a TD in three straight games with John Brown out.
Davis has caught 20 of his last 39 targets from Josh Allen…barely 50% connection. The problems are worse in games when he’s starting for Brown. I think Davis is in over his head at this stage – he needs more development, but if Brown is out…Davis is on the field with new-age Big Ben…so, things can happen.
-- PIT LB Avery Williamson (11 tackles) filled in for Robert Spillane with a solid 11 tackle game here. He is set to start for two more weeks (or more) with Spillane out on IR.
Let’s end with something that will take your breath away. I guarantee it…
This is your lead SNF football analyst and purveyor of PFF (you’re going to think this is a joke but you know it cannot be/it’s authentic/real tape and words for a live human being on camera…): https://youtu.be/WC8Elk1LRjs?t=56
Snap Counts of Interest:
60 = Knox
38 = Ebron
29 = Lee Smith
19 = McDonald
44 = Moss
30 = Singletary
27 = Samuels
23 = Conner
05 = Snell
57 = JuJu
46 = JWash
38 = Claypool
28 = Diontae