The postgame narrative from the football media, except for one national guy, is exactly what I would’ve expected – the NFL spin machine can be trusted to spin all the time. Only Colin Cowherd weaved into the full truth from this game… But even he is falling short of figuring it out. His instincts are right, but because the media has been pushing the other side relentlessly, he’s not ready to believe his own gut. He's figured it out…he just hasn't come to grips with it yet.
The one thing Colin and most everyone else ARE seeing and agreeing on from this game is from the Patriots' viewpoint – I think it’s finally safe to believe the Patriots' reign is running out of gas. They may have enough left in the tank to survive this season, but I'd bet against them winning the Super Bowl now…but I wouldn’t bet much. And no matter what happens in 2017, there is a big decision to make about the future in 2018 – do you cash out on Tom Brady (30-40 for 303 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) before the full collapse…or out of respect do you let him go out in a blaze of glory? Tom may realize it’s over before they force him out. I don’t think Brady is going to hang on for two years as a New York Jet or Jacksonville Jaguar playing sloppy football. I think he’ll go out with some self-respect --- and it might be at the end of this season.
The Patriots are surviving by the skin of their teeth each and every game in 2017, except the beat down of the Saints. They’re losing at home. They're needing fourth-quarter miracles to win games. They had to hold off a banged up Tampa Bay squad at the very end of this one. The old killer Patriots would have rubbed Jameis Winston‘s face in his disastrous first three quarters of this game. Instead, the Patriots played toe to toe (poorly) with the Bucs and outmaneuvered them in the end. I didn’t think the Patriots played that much better than Tampa here – it’s just that James Winston is wildly overrated and Tom Brady is Tom Brady.
Brady is starting to show signs of 'the end'. It’s not imminent. He may make it out of this season winning the MVP. But you can see him starting to miss the throws that he used to make in his sleep. The O-Line can’t protect him like they used to, and they will be blamed – but some of it is that Brady is losing that hair trigger he used to have. His feet are a little slower. Age is a bitch to your athleticism at some point. The Pats defense is nothing special and the running game is a joke. It’s just a well-coached team with the greatest QB in NFL history who is reaching the end of his career. Anyone questioning the Patriots right now -- it’s totally proper to do so.
What the media is going to look right past/gloss right over, and what Colin Cowherd is starting to figure out, is that Jameis Winston is a big reason why the Buccaneers lost this game. That unusual moment from this game where the Patriots in the fourth quarter (10+ min. left and a 16-7 score) punted, in a situation where they might normally go for it or kick a field goal…Tony Romo was exactly right when he blurted out – the Patriots didn’t think the Buccaneers could get two scores in ten minutes. Because they know what no one in the NFL will admit out loud, and I bet many NFL teams go along with it publicly and then privately snicker when the camera is off…they know Jameis Winston is not a very good quarterback. He’s not horrible, but he’s just a C- while being pushed as an A+. I’ve said it since day one and eventually everyone is going to agree with me.
Winston was pretty much useless the first three quarters of this game and then hit some throws against a prevent-ish defense. That’s been Winston for years – good against no pressure, dumping check-down passes against zone/prevents, but when the money is on the line against better teams in tight windows – Winston cannot deliver. He’s just not that kind of quarterback. He has little precision on his throws unless he's on the run/scrambling out.
The media is going to fly right by this. They'll say something like – he didn’t have a great game, but he’s young and still developing. I heard several pregame commentators saying the same thing – Jameis Winston is great, except he turns the ball over way too much and has too many erratic throws…he just needs to clean that up.
He can't clean it up. It’s not that simple. He’s been that guy since college.
Why is it Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, can walk right into the league and look like stars pretty quickly – but we’re still making excuses for Winston and claiming he just needs to clean things up…while at the same time THEY’re saying he is the best young quarterback for the future? He isn’t even close to that. The Buccaneers have a Jameis Winston problem. They married the wrong guy. He’s a fake leader. He’s a C- quarterback talent. And when the media and the fans start turning on him, you’ll see the real Jameis Winston. The arrogant, entitled Jameis Winston…not this political candidate attempt the NFL is shaping for us. If you think he’s bad now, wait until the Bucs pay him a massive contract to be their future. Once he gets that sweet guaranteed money, the mask is going to come off. Like you’re seeing with Cam Newton – like he’s been telling you all along but the media tried to hide/excuse. Why the media and fans turn such a blind eye to Johnny Manziel, Cam, and Jameis Winston from their actions back to college – it’s delusional.
Two major things were confirmed from this game and it’s a reality everyone should live with going forward – every game this season has been telling us the Patriots aren’t great anymore, and that was truly the case here. It also reconfirmed that Jameis Winston is not the future of the Buccaneers or the NFL…and the faster people realize that, the quicker they can move on with their lives. But the NFL’s got a tight hold on Winston and will go down with the ship on him.
For fantasy, I’m grateful for THEM selling everybody down the river with this guy, this fraud, Jameis Winston.
Fantasy player notes…
— Now is it OK to be frustrated with Brandin Cooks (5-85-0/8)? I think so. Not to the level of slitting your own throat and dumping him, but there have been too many games like this all year from Cooks – solid performances but ones where Brady really isn’t looking for him/delivering him the ball like the old Tom Brady or like what’s possible with Brandin Cooks. It’s just not working on that level. It’s working more with Chris Hogan (8-74-1/11).
It’s probably going to take several more games before we see Brady-Cooks rising up to the next level, so I wouldn’t totally jump away from Cooks, but I get you’re in for an impatient ride. The game-to-game results aren't terrible, but we’ve yet to see that sustained WR1. He’s lingering around WR1 status and one more push…when the TDs start coming, he’ll swing right into WR1 results, but it’s probably gonna take a couple weeks.
You think Cooks is having a bad year? After Week 5 settles…Cooks will probably be top 12 among nonPPR WRs and top 18 among PPR WRs in PPG on the season. Cooks is averaging more yards per game this season (to date) than in any season of his career. He's behind normal receptions by a catch a game and the TDs are slightly behind a normal pace. He's usually good for 9–10 TDs and he's on pace for 6.4. A touchdown next week and he's pacing for 8 TDs for the season. I bet he finds 9–10+ TDs before this season is over.
Patience. It's no fun.
I admit it’s logical to worry that it will never happen. That he won’t push to a strong WR1 status. I get that. I can’t guarantee that it will. I just see the first five games of results aren’t bad, they’re just not the 'great' we hoped for. Really, it’s a couple TDs away from being top 5 WR in all scoring formats and everyone happy. We’re just impatient, and rightfully so. We’re caught in a mild holding pattern and that sucks.
I would advise you to hold and try to weather the storm and hope you get the pop coming up soon.
All this great Chris Hogan activity…teams may start adjusting their coverage over the Hogan more and opening up the window for Cooks more. Please remember, Hogan-Brady took about 5-6-7 games before consistency started percolating and you started seeing the real signs of a connection. Now, Hogan is like a poor man’s Jordy Nelson for Brady. I believe in Hogan, but I also believe in Cooks going forward. This team is going to have to throw a bunch all year, and there’s plenty to go around – especially if Gronk starts going downhill/inactive. The Patriots' season may turn around when Brady and Cooks turn into a thing. I know it’s gonna be hard to wait, but that’s where we're at.
2017 per game:
9.9 FF PPG, 15.3 PPR on 6.0 rec., 69.0 yards, 0.5 TDs per game = Mike Evans
10.0 FF PPG, 13.6 PPR on 3.6 rec., 75.8 yards, 0.4 TDs per game = Brandin Cooks
— How dumb can Tampa Bay be? There was one thing that was working for them in this game – Doug Martin (13-74-1, 1-8-0/3). Yet, after he took over that one drive and scored a TD, it’s like they forgot he was on the team. They just had to get Jacquizz Rodgers in. It’s been Dirk Koetter's Waterloo going back to the Atlanta Falcons and not using Antone Smith because he was so in love with Jacquizz. If I were Koetter, I would have pushed Martin 25+ carries and thrown him 5+ passes…you only get so many chances at the Patriots on national TV. Instead, the brilliant Koetter made sure to get Charles Sims more involved and I saw Rodgers out there in many key spots. The Buccaneers absolutely deserved to lose this game, despite probably being the better team, because they have a terrible head coach.
— I wouldn’t worry about Mike Evans (5-49-0/8). You knew the Patriots were gonna try to take him out because that’s what you do to Jameis Winston… And that’s exactly what happened. Winston was ineffective and uncomfortable until he started throwing against prevent/hurry up defenses. Mike Evans will be fine.
— I wrote about it the day of this game, but we got to see it up close for sure – Cameron Brate (5-68-1/9) is Jameis Winston‘s guy at tight end and O.J. Howard (1 target) might as well not even be on this team. It’s another sign of how ridiculous Dirk Koetter is. The Giants instantly pushed Evan Engram because he’s a freak weapon at tight end. O.J. Howard could be that guy to some degree, but he’s buried as a blocker. Typical Dirk Koetter. I should’ve known better. I had some hope for O.J. Howard being so good that they couldn’t ignore him – but they are ignoring him.
Scouting is 50% figuring out how talented the players are and 50% figuring out the level of idiocy of the coach they are going to work for. My OJ Howard scouting was right, as was that of everyone in the world, but I underestimated the power of the Koetter. I should’ve known.
— With only a few days removed from getting burned once again, the Patriots defense rose up to shut down Tampa Bay in this one. This was the first game where I started to see signs of the turnaround. I saw Stephon Gilmore playing better. There was better communication between the defensive backs and linebackers. There was a real rise up/resiliency displayed. It’s not great yet. I don’t know that it’s going to be. But this defense has a lot of talent and the schedule is very favorable – which is what made this nice effort/game possible.
Now, Bill Belichick has 10 days to work on his defense to get ready for the Jets. Like I said last week, it was OK to leave the Patriots DST, but don’t be surprised when you come back to them in a few weeks.
— I just want to single out two players who I thought were fantastic in this game, and have been really good all season…
Devin McCourty (11 tackles) played his ass off, and Kyle Van Noy (7 tackles) has been playing his ass off all year. Van Noy might become a Pro Bowl player this year…a guy the Lions just gave to the Patriots for free.
— Kendall Beckwith (12 tackles) had his best game as a rookie in this one, and he’s been having very good games since starting for the missing Tampa Bay linebackers. The party is going to end once those guys start coming back in the next week or two. I don’t think Beckwith is special, he just got the perfect circumstance to push him opportunity temporarily.
Snap Counts of Interest...
49 = Brate
41 = OJ Howard
32 = Sims
26 = Martin
13 = Jacquizz
35 = White
30 = Gillislee
18 = D Lewis
50 = Dwayne Allen
08 = Hollister
23 = Elandon Roberts
11 = Jordan Richards