Well, I didn’t expect to see THAT on Monday night. I don’t mean the Patriots losing…that was a surprise, but the NFL is a fickle beast. No, I meant – I didn’t expect to see ‘State’s evidence’ of the Tom Brady decline. I didn’t expect to see it so vividly on display. It’s sad to watch iconic figures head towards demise. I mean, you know this day is coming, it has to, but when you’re there to watch it live…it’s jarring.
I don’t think Tom Brady is dead. He can still win the Super Bowl. It’s just undeniable that he’s ‘losing his fastball’…and these things tend to snowball downhill rapidly. We’re definitely in the back-nine of his career, and probably teeing off on the 17th hole.
It’s not because the Patriots lost a game they should have won…it’s the way they lost it. It’s how poorly Brady threw the ball under duress (not like him, but this is the second time in weeks Miami has rattled him). The indicators are all over – 0-for-11 on 3rd-downs in this game. Completed two passes to his primary WRs (Cooks, Hogan) all game. Missed some wide-open throws…underthrew passes. We’ve gone from A+ Brady to B+ Brady…and we ain’t ever going back to A+.
Passing yards in a game for Brady the past 8 games, starting with Week 6: 257-249-333-266-340-227-258-233 (270.4 yards per game). Five of his last 8 games under 260 yards passing…and under 260 yards in his last three. It’s not that he’s terrible…he’s just not ‘Brady’ anymore.
Well…maybe Brady just struggles without Gronk! I know. We killed Dak Prescott for his performance while missing Ezekiel Elliott. How do you like THIS version of Brady without Gronk? No Gronk, facing a Miami defense that is not terrible, but hasn’t been world beaters either…and with Brady needing to make use of his WRs and just two completions for 39 yards on 12 throws to Hogan-Cooks. The Cooks one catch not coming until very late in the game. Pathetic. Sad. ‘The end is drawing near’.
Now, Brady likely comes out and throws for 500+ yards against the Steelers next week…because that’s what he does. We’re so used to incorrectly calling ‘the end’ of the Patriots and then they make us look like fools. I would just offer up this – what if the Steelers throttle the Patriots Week 15? Not just beat them…but whack them? There’s a mild Patriots panic now, after this Miami loss…imagine if they lose to the Steelers this week!
The Patriots have no real run game…in order to take advantage of the Steelers run-stopping woes missing Ryan Shazier. Brady may be tailing off as the season grinds on and his recuperative pajamas aren’t able to keep up with the toll of an NFL season on a 40-year old body. The Patriots defense is solid but not amazing. The Patriots, when thinking of the great 2017 teams, are filled with holes and the ship is leaking. It doesn’t mean they’re dead…they’re just not as far ahead of the pack as we all thought. Perhaps, not ahead of the pack at all.
How about Miami? The post-game of the MNF jolt will be trained on ‘What happened to the Patriots?’ But did you realize that this win just drew the Dolphins within one game of the playoffs? Did you know they play current #6 seed Buffalo this week?
In a what if… If Miami beats Buffalo this week, and KC loses to the Chargers, and Tennessee loses to SF, and we have to assume the Ravens beat the Browns – then the final two wild-card spots would look like this after Week 15:
8-6 = TEN (Miami beat TEN already this season)
8-6 = BAL (Crushed Miami earlier this season)
7-7 = MIA
7-7 = BUF (Miami would have just beaten BUF)
7-7 = KC (Miami plays KC Week 16)
The Ravens have an easy schedule and should pull away to a 9-10 win finish. So, let’s book them as ‘in’. So, one playoff spot left -- where if Tennessee stumbles to a 9-7/8-8 finish and Miami beats Buffalo and KC the next two weeks…the then 8-7 Dolphins have the inside track on playoff spot/seed #6 as the host Buffalo Week 17. Basically, if Miami wins out…they’re very likely the #6 seed for the playoffs.
With what has taken place already and the way all the schedules layout ahead for the concerned teams…Miami is sitting perfectly for a move IF they beat Buffalo at Buffalo this week. Suddenly, this is a massive Week 15 game…and Buffalo doesn’t know who it’s QB will be.
If Adam Gase pulls this off…he’s a top 5 NFL head coach, right? A minor miracle last season to get to the playoffs, and if he follows that up by taking a Cutler/Moore-led team for a follow-up playoff trip – totally brilliant.
How is Miami/Gase doing this without the wonderful, amazing Jay Ajayi?
If Miami loses to Buffalo next week…it’s over.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- So, Brady is starting to glide towards earth…and apparently is taking Brandin Cooks (1-38-0/7) and Chris Hogan (1-1-0/5) with him.
I’ve been a huge Cooks defender all season and he’s been a top 12 fantasy WR in PPG on and off all season…until Weeks 13-14. The past two games = 1.5 rec. (4.5 targets), 27.5 yards, 0.0 TDs. It’s not a Cooks issue…it’s a Brady can’t get him the ball issue…not like you’d expect. It should be Big Ben-to-Antonio-esque, but it’s been a labor most of the year with moments of brilliance sprinkled in.
At the absolute wrong time, Cooks has become a WR2 that you’re not sure you should start if you have a sweet/deep WR depth chart for fantasy. I’m inclined to play the ‘Brady bounceback’ in a possible shootout with the Steelers, but my vitriol/confidence with Cooks has been shattered. Brady has broken me.
Hogan? We don’t know if its rust or Brady-issues bleeding over. Brady did hit him for a short TD in the back of the end zone late, but his second foot hit out of bounds. I don’t think Hogan is dead but…what are we talking…like a WR3 wild card this week? He played 90% of the snaps, so I assume he’s OK…but is he?
-- I’ve been clear on my Kenyan Drake (25-114-0, 5-79-0/6) support since Ajayi was dealt away, and he delivered us this gem.
I don’t know what else to say…he delivered clear RB1 work, not just because of the obvious output numbers here but just how he ran/played – a high-end bounce in his step, he ran physical as needed and with breakaway speed when afforded the opportunity. He is a ‘plus’ catcher of the ball.
Next two weeks with at BUF, and at KC – great matchups.
-- I’ve said this at least 10x this season – Jakeem Grant (2-42-1/4) should have been starting all along. If the Dolphins were to start splitting awful DaVante Parker (4-40-0/6) with Grant based on down and situation…this offense would really hum. Grant is a poor man’s Tyreek Hill. However, Miami has shown no commitment to Grant at all…2 catches on 4 targets in all of 9 snaps played here is an interesting (small) step up in ‘intent’.
Speaking of Parker, I smiled with pride as the MNF analysts tore him down for the disaster he has been this season…as he dropped an easy pass over the middle to start the game…because he’s S-A-W-F-T.
Gase’s next shock move is going to be trading DaVante Parker in the offseason, you watch.
-- Well, how about that Patriots DST? Hey, they’d been on a sweet run. These things happen. You can’t use them Week 15 v. PIT, but Week 16-17 with BUF-NYJ is all clear.
-- Can you use the Dolphins DST Week 15 vs. the Bills? Maybe.
On the ‘+’ side – the Dolphins defense has looked really nice the past two weeks, but they were getting rocked before that (35-30-45-27-40 points allowed in a five-game losing streak). The biggest plus is they face one-legged Tyrod Taylor or possibly Joe Webb this week.
On the ‘—’ side – Miami never travels north well in December. It’s forecasted to be 25-30 degrees for their game at Buffalo. Concerns the Dolphins’ defense turns back into a pumpkin.
Let’s call them a ‘deep sleeper’ DST for Week 15.
Snap Counts of Interest…
35 = White
18 = Lewis
17 = Burkhead
66 = Drake
01 = Senorise Perry
09 = Jakeem Grant
02 = Jacob Hollister