I don’t like Sean Payton, so I took a little glee in watching the Saints go down in flames in this game. Season over. No playoff hope remains. The Saints were in my Blazing Five picks because I don’t like Dirk Koetter and Jameis Winston either. I refuse to believe in this Bucs hot streak…and once again, I’m burned for my silly/wrong beliefs on Tampa.
People are floating rumors that Sean Payton might be a great grab to be the new Rams’ coach. Yes, 19–26 the past three seasons…three losing seasons…is quite a resume, when possessing one of the game’s great QBs of all time in his prime. People rail on Mike Tomlin or Chuck Pagano for wasting an elite QB talent for years. Why does Sean Payton get a pass? I don’t get it. Whatever the problem – the Saints have nothing to play for now.
Just note – Drew Brees is a stat whore…and I love that for fantasy. Last season, the Saints fell to 4–8 and were ‘done’. In his final four games of 2015, Brees threw for 300+ yards in all four of them. He’ll keep pushing.
What can you say about Tampa Bay? Five in a row…defeating KC, Seattle, San Diego, New Orleans in that stretch. The Bucs took it to Oakland Week 8 and collapsed late, and ended up losing in OT. After the rough-looking 1–3 start to 2016, they are 7–2 since. Some teams get hot like this, like Carolina last season, and you go through their schedule and believe a weak list of opponents is aiding the cause. I’d like that to be true here, but it isn’t. The Bucs are beating good teams.
I never finish watching a game with Tampa Bay and go ‘wow, that’s a really good team‘. However, they keep winning…so I must be the problem in the equation. If they beat Dallas this week – they could win out and finish 11–5…and possibly nab the #1 seed in the NFC. Not likely, but not dead yet. I suspect they’ll lose to Dallas and go on to finish 10–6. If they do that, they need Atlanta to lose to either Carolina Week 16 or New Orleans Week 17 to steal the tiebreaker with the Falcons for the division title.
I still sit here scratching my head at how this is happening. I never walk away from a Tampa Bay viewing or re-watch with any newfound respect. If they win two of their next three they’re very likely in the playoffs. Only win one of their next three and they’re probably in the playoffs. Only a collapse will keep them out of the playoffs. My world makes no sense with Tampa Bay making the playoffs.
I’m going to hit some other player notes first, and then discuss the next chapter in the Brandin Cooks soap opera at the end. I’m sorry. I am re-watching Saints games totally focused on Cooks. I’m fascinated with the story I’m creating in my head. Have I been wrong about it, based on the results lately? I don’t think so.
— I still don’t see anything exciting with Jameis Winston (16-26 for 184 yards, 0 TD/0 INT), and I’m not going to change my opinion. I don’t see any reason on tape too.
You’ve probably seen/heard something like this too, but have you caught a football analyst waxing poetic on how great Winston is…how he is a future star, over the past few weeks? I mean, they are so convincing when they speak about him it makes you wonder if this is the one I’m wrong on. I’ve doubted myself on various QBs from time to time. Who the hell am I compared to these football luminaries? I used to think that until I became the world’s foremost identifier of talent among football players the past few years.
Colin Kaepernick had that big arm and the running speed. He went to the Super Bowl. People were emailing me the worst things in my entire career for doubting CK. Maybe I just needed to join the crowd? Now, where are they? All these same people were so sure on Josh Freeman, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel, Ryan Fitzpatrick (back in the day and going into this year), Cam Newton – I could go on. They sing from the same hymnal, and some are more practiced than others at putting on an ‘actor’s voice’ to really make you believe their analysis. Part/most of the mainstream football analyst’s con is sounding convincing. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I am wrong sometimes, but they are wrong almost all of the time. I don’t let it faze me when I am standing alone in my scouting on guys like Winston.
I see these same people orgasmic about Ezekiel Elliott claiming he’s the best RB they’ve ever seen in their lives. Come on. No one who does this for a living and really does the work could watch Ezekiel and David Johnson every week and not walk away in 100% agreement that DJ is 10x the player. There should be zero debate on the topic. However, it’s like 95–5% in favor of Elliott vs. DJ for them. Much like how the country is 50–50 Dem v. Repub, but the media is 90–10 Democrat. Political news is interpreted and spit out to us through compromised/biased eyes…so is football analysis. Thank God for it, or I’d be out of business.
Winston is not the worst quarterback I watch every week, but he’s in the bottom five…of regular starters, not fill-ins.
I think Winston’s issues are spilling over to bottle up Doug Martin (23-66-1, 2-19-0/2 targets). Teams are trying to bait Winston into making his silly no-read, blind throws into coverage. They stack the run versus Tampa. They dare Winston to throw medium-to-deep. If you look at the longest completed pass for every NFL team, Jameis Winston/Tampa has the shortest ‘longest pass’ of any team this season. A long pass on the season of 45 yards. 473 throws…45 yards is Winston’s longest completion. On passes traveling 30 or more yards, Winston is 4 for 23 (17.4%). I’m sure all of his completions from that distance are miracle catches by Mike Evans.
Tampa Bay cannot go far because not only is Winston not a good quarterback, but he is turnover-prone. A game manager QB + a great defense might slide deep into the playoffs. An erratic QB like Winston cannot go far in the playoffs…or so I’ve convinced myself.
In known passing downs, with four or more WRs on the field, Winston has 6 TD passes and 6 INTs. Marcus Mariota has 7 TDs/1 INT (just using him as a random example).
Winston is just not my cup of tea.
— I’ll say this, Winston is playing better than Drew Brees (25-41 for 257 yards, 0 TD/3 INTs) of late. Facing the Lions and Bucs in favorable weather the past two weeks, Brees has 0 TD passes and 6 INTs. He has 9 TD/9 INT in his last five games.
I don’t see anything radically different with Brees right now. He’s been somewhat unlucky with some passes tipped off receivers’ hands/bodies, but he’s made a few mistakes as well. Ignoring Brandin Cooks is part of the issue. More on that ahead.
— Mark Ingram (7-14-0, 1-9-0/2 targets) has been battling a toe and knee issue. Now that the Saints are out of the playoffs, why push Ingram out there Week 15? I’d keep my eye on Tim Hightower (6-31-0, 1-8-0/2 targets) as a shock start as Ingram goes inactive. Just a hunch.
— IDP Keith Tandy (9 tackles, 1 INT, 3 PDs) has played heavy snaps the past two weeks and is averaging 7.0 tackles, 2.0 PDs and 1.0 INTs per game over that stretch. We were fans of his last season as an IDP stash sleeper. He’s been M.I.A. all season until the past two weeks.
— OK, Brandin Cooks (5-61-0/10 targets).
I don’t like the target pattern I’m seeing. I don’t like the body language between Cooks and Brees. I don’t like anything I am seeing with Cooks right now.
Cooks had three targets in the first half of this game. This now makes five targets total in the first half of his last three games. 60 minutes of football…best foot forward for the offense…five targets.
Four telling moments I captured with my mind’s camera in this game…
1: Mid-second quarter, Cooks sprints wide open across the middle for an easy 27-yard TD…except Brees overthrows him in the end zone. It was definitely out of reach a bit, but close enough for a leaping or diving try. Cooks neither leaps nor dives. One game announcer is shocked that Brees could miss that throw. The other commentator jumps in late in says ‘it would have been nice if Cooks had tried to jump for it‘. He was right. Cooks made little effort, even in vain, to grab the pass.
That’s stuff you do when you’re frustrated with the team and the QB. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s there.
2: Cooks made a nice move on a short pass to get in the end zone, and Brees hit him with a bullet. Cooks caught the pass falling to the ground and it was ruled a TD…until replay showed he dropped it. Cooks was on the sidelines next/near Sean Payton watching the stadium video replay, awaiting the review. When the ref announced that the play was reversed, incomplete, Payton shook his head in the sight of Cooks, and never said a word to him. No encouragement. No yelling. Just like he doesn’t exist. Like a married couple fighting who can’t stand the sight of each other.
3: Later, at some random point in the game, I made a note (during my live watch) of something that happened during a timeout on the field. May have been the end of the quarter. I couldn’t find it on the NFL.com video of the game. Whenever it was, Cooks was on the sidelines. Brees was walking to the sidelines. Cooks was walking Brees’s direction. The two walked past each other with a foot or two of space, and never made eye contact or acknowledged each other.
4: Late in the game, Brees threw a pass to a triple-surrounded Cooks sprinting across the middle. Two guys chasing him and a safety coming from the other direction ready to kill him. Cooks might have been able to dive for the low throw in traffic…or just extend for the grab. It was a critical time in the game for the Saints trying to make a comeback. Cooks saw the safety coming for him and alligator armed it. Cooks started reaching, saw the safety and lowered his arms and swerved away from the safety…and the pass. The ball went incomplete.
The very next play after the alligator moment, a critical need of a first down to keep a drive going, and Cooks was open…but Brees threw it elsewhere. A tougher throw to a receiver right in front of Cooks…in the same line of vision with Cooks. I saw about three instances in this game of Cooks open, in the line of sight where Brees ultimately threw to…but didn’t throw to Cooks.
Something is wrong. I don’t know what, but something is wrong with Cooks and the powers that be in New Orleans.
If I had to bet, if Sean Payton is back, they’ll trade Brandin Cooks a la when they traded Jimmy Graham for being a malcontent.
I know this…I wouldn’t start Cooks with confidence in Week 15 vs. Patrick Peterson. I don’t think you can start Cooks with confidence for the rest of the fantasy season, quite frankly. Cooks has 1 TD in his last six games. He’s averaging 4.5 rec. for 46.7 yards in that six-game span.