2021 REWIND: 2020 Dynasty/Fantasy Week 11 Game Analysis: Rams 27, Bucs 24
As I’m going through research for the 2021 FF Draft Guide, I am re-reading some of my game recaps just to get a feel for how certain things developed...to see what I was thinking/sensing/feeling/tracking in-season, week-to-week in real time/as it happened.
One team’s 2020 seasonal flow of interest to me was just how the Buccaneers unfolded and became the Super Bowl champs. In September, our final preseason projection was for the Bucs to win the NFC South but then fizzle out in the playoffs.
When the Bucs made the playoffs, I thought they might get upset by Washington (and they sweated that down to the end). I did not believe the Bucs were going to run through the playoffs and dominate KC in the Super Bowl...but they did.
To review some of the 2020 season...to have some game recap material to read during the summer, to fill the lack of football void, I am going to republish a couple team’s 2020 season week-by-week, a game report each day just to walk through their season again.
Let’s see how the Bucs went from ‘interesting Brady drama team, but can’t beat the Saints’, to beating the Saints in the playoffs and going on to win the title…
*The FFM 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Guide will be released around June 1st for early sign up, early access to material with constant updates throughout the preseason. Sign up info for 2021 will be announced soon, as we get closer to June 2021.*
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.
Now, everyone was sure that the Buccaneers would get focused and ‘crush’ at home on Monday Night Football…after their embarrassing loss Week 9 to New Orleans on SNF -- because they wouldn’t let that happen again. Not Tom Brady…couldn’t happen again.
They kinda did let it happen again.
If you watched every play/series of this game, you have to now know – the Rams might be the best team in the NFC, and it be because of their defense as much as anything else. They took it to/at the Bucs and never relented.
The more physical team = the Rams
Better, tougher QB = the Rams
Better WR group = the Rams
Better defensive unit = the Rams
I’ve called the Rams soft multiple times this year…the joke is on me. They’ve turned that ship around via what might be the best defense in the NFL now – one that has signs of being the true shutdown/you don’t want to face them kind.
This game was back-and-forth, but it was more the Rams controlling and the Bucs chasing…and the better team winning in the end. I know the focus of this game is going to be ‘the Tampa Bay/Brady letdown’, but that’s because we’re suckers for the media story. The real story here is – the Rams are becoming great again, and they just walloped Seattle and Tampa Bay in games everyone expected them to lose. The Rams are winning again…and the impressive part of that is that it is because they’ve transformed into a physically tough team. They weren’t tough last year or to start this season, to me. Teams and seasons undergo ebbs and flows and transformations and injuries and growth and all kinds of shifting sands – the lesson from this game is that the Rams are an emerging monster (not…that the Bucs need to play better on national TV…or ‘is Brady washed up’ – those questions are a disservice to the Rams’ ability now).
L.A. is now (7-3) and are going to the wire to win the NFC West…and they might wind up the #1 seed in the NFC if they finish hot. If Arizona is a minor fraud, then the Rams can sweep them ahead (two games upcoming) and possibly win 12 games this year. More likely the Rams finish (11-5) and because of Seattle’s easy schedule, that might be a game behind Seattle and throws the Rams into being a dangerous wild card.
Tampa Bay falls to (7-4) and are facing the reality that they are a wild card/they are not catching the Saints for the NFC South. If/when the Bucs get whacked vs. KC this week…all heck might break loose in Tampa. The Bucs’ schedule says then they should sweep their final 4 games and wind up (11-5), which puts them in a possible tie with the Rams in the wild card…but the Rams just took the seeding tiebreaker with this win.
If the Saints and Seahawks win their division, and the Packers and whomever wins the NFC East thus round out the 4 division winners -- then the Rams and Bucs are 11 win wild cards…and then there’s one spot remaining among the wild card…and that should be Arizona sneaking in. However, if the Cardinals lose to New England this week (and fall to 6-5), the wild card race really opens up to any good NFC team that gets to five wins after Week 12 (Minnesota, Carolina, San Fran).
*2021 NOTE: I know this is a Tampa Bay series, but re-reading this made me re-remember, the Rams were so good during the midsection of the 2020 season. They just beat Tampa Bay here. Everything was coming together behind a good offense and great defense...and then after this game it all fell apart. You know who else falls apart late in the season -- Jon Gruden with the Raiders, Sean McVay's mentor. Is it possible McVay is to blame for the Rams late season collapse...again? Second year in a row. Now, going into 2021, he lost all his key defensive staff who came in and helped turn around the defense into the star of the show.
If the Rams flop in 2021...like if they miss the playoffs or make the last playoff spot and lose, when do we start to say Sean McVay is overcoaching and Les Snead is a virtual absentee GM who has failed for years and got a reprieve with the fast McVay-Goff turnaround 2017-2018, but now can't sustain it...and just had the worst draft of any team in 2021?
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Let’s look at all the ways the Rams are better than the Bucs in talent, and in fantasy…
First, we’ll start with the QBs:
Jared Goff (39-51 for 376 yards, 3 TDs/2 INTs) is better than Tom Brady (26-48 for 216 yards, 2 TDs/2 INTs) at this stage of their careers. You couldn’t watch that game last night and think otherwise.
Everyone thought the Bucs would rally on national TV to put LAR in their place, and that Goff would wilt under the Bucs immense pressure…especially minus his long time starting left tackle. The QB who wilted, who was rattled was Tom Brady.
This could be a career turning point for Goff – constantly mocked, expected to falter under the aggressive defense of the Bucs, on the road on a national TV game…and Goff was technically terrific. Not talking fantasy greatness ahead, although he was fine for FF too – just noting this was a display of great NFL quarterback game play. I’m so happy for Goff, he has deserved more respect.
The Rams’ run game was obliterated by the Bucs, so they knew Goff was going to have to throw and Goff sliced and diced the Bucs with tight window throw after tight window throw. The Rams defense was one piece of the puzzle here, but Goff coming of age…that was the other piece here. This wasn’t a lucky win…like a few weeks ago when the Dolphins smacked the Rams around with a bunch of turnovers that all bounced their way – this was one team’s imposed ‘will’ on defense and with a quarterback who just played huge in a major statement game.
It doesn’t mean Goff is a top 5-8 QB for fantasy now…but he should be seen as more back-end QB1 (6pts per pass TD) than not. The Rams want to run the ball heavy with an RBBC, but this game may have shown them they should get with the 2020 times and start riding their QB more.
Tom Brady is probably the more desired FF QB, because he runs the Bucs…thus they are slowly cracking apart. Still, with Brady in charge…he will throw a million times in games, because he wants to, while Goff has to play within Sean McVay’s system which is a modified Jon Gruden philosophy.
*2021 NOTE: Without a doubt Jared Goff outplayed Brady this game. I remember it well. But Goff is no Brady, in the big picture. No one is Brady. Brady is showing a lot of signs of losing his fastball some, which just goes to show you don't need a Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers to carry the team...a savvy, eroding skills, great leader/veteran QB can lead the way too.
-- The Rams WRs are better than the Bucs WRs…
Both WR groups faced tough secondaries, and the Rams top guys shined…like shockingly so, and the Bucs looked like a discount version of the Rams – you could see it in real-time in this game. It was an easy visual comparison.
Cooper Kupp (11-145-0/13) destroyed all his coverage…including top ranked CB Carlton Davis. The only thing stopping Kupp from being a steady WR1 is the passing game volume, and things getting spread around game-to-game. He’s 20-25th in PPR PPG among WRs YTD.
Robert Woods (12-13-0-1/15) re-reminded us that he is a WR1 threat too, and that he is a low-key great NFL WR. Woods is 11th in PPR PPG YTD.
If we were drafting FF WRs today, it would Woods-Kupp or Kupp-Woods 1-2, then you’d get into the Bucs WRs for your #3 pick.
…and wouldn’t that #3 be Antonio Brown (8-57-0/13), for 2020/redraft right now? You saw it – Brady only has eyes for AB, and for some justification…Brown looks like shades of his former self, and you can see the connection the two have. Bruce Arians has to stop pretending, and just put Brown in the game 80% of the time…Brady needs him. The Bucs could make a Super Bowl run, getting hot at the right time, with Brady-Brown humming. The only that stops AB as a sure WR1 ahead is what playing time Arians gives him. He may have no choice soon.
The #4 pick would be Chris Godwin (7-53-1/10)…Brady’s ‘when AB isn’t there’ throw. It’s good work if you can get it. It means 5-7 catches and 40-70 yards per game and an 8 TD per season type pace. Totally solid.
The #5 pick would be Mike Evans (5-49-1/9). There is absolutely no connection between Brady-Evans, and I think Evans is furious about it. I’m watching Evans run routes half speed in a mild form of protest (it’s what my eyes thinks they see). I’ve seen the frustration in Evans’ body language for 3-4 weeks now, since AB arrived…and there was no love/connection between Brady-Evans before that. Evans gets good short TDs and is always a 3rd-wheel throw now since AB returned.
*2021 NOTE: Woods outscored Godwin in PPG, and Kupp was close to Evans in PPG last season.
-- The Rams RBBC is better than the Bucs RBBC, but really…’who cares?’ they’re all RB3-4s.
When the game flow is right/TB is winning/controlling games, then Ronald Jones (10-24-0, 0-0-0/1) is a possible RB1-2. Arians will run/control games with RoJo…to save Brady from himself and salt away wins.
Leonard Fournette (7-17-1, 1-9-0/4) is not rehabbing his career for a 2021 push in free agency…he’s confirming that the Jags knew something. Fournette looks slow running the ball, and he’s certainly ineffective doing it. He’s become a bloated J.D. McKissic 3rd-down back, who sees 20% of the targets McKissic does, and Brady couldn’t throw it to him on target this game for cheap/easy catches.
Fournette is an RB3 for PPR, at best…and you have to hope the Bucs have to throw a lot for him to possibly matter. This week against KC might be a decent spot…and then LF is garbage the rest of the way potentially. Just a RoJo cuff is all.
No sense in singling out the Rams RBBC, or even me saying the same things over and over. Henderson-Akers-Brown are all involved each game, each has a role, the touches/series are split. It’s the absolute right thing to do for the NFL, but RB3-4 death for fantasy trying to pick one week-to-week.
*2021 NOTE: Akers would soon breakaway from the pack to start, no more RBBC...but still the Rams run game was better all year.
If the Rams had a #1 defense, a good QB (who has been to a recent Super Bowl) as good of WRs as TB, and a better run game...and just beat the Bucs here in a big spot -- how did the Rams fail to the end and the Bucs rise up past them? With this win...the Rams were ahead of the Bucs in life. Not by the end...
-- Since Antonio Brown returned to the NFL, Rob Gronkowski (2-25-0/6) has averaged 1.7 catches, 26.0 yards, and 0.33 TDs per game. Another TE is biting the dust and becoming a random event TE2 trying to have a TE1 week…of which there are 15 TEs trying to do so after Kelce-Waller at the top.
The last two games, Cam Brate (3-23-0) has averaged 3.0 rec., 27.0 yards, and 0.50 TDs per game. Some of Gronk’s issue is AB arriving to spread things thin…the other is Brate starting to pickpocket targets.
-- FYI, the game winning FG was very apropos…highly drafted (for a kicker) by Tampa Bay – new Rams kicker Matt Gay (2/3 FG, 3/3 XP).
Gay was unceremoniously cut in September 2020 by Bruce Arians after a promising rookie 2019. Gay hooked onto the Rams just a few weeks ago and was elevated this game for his 2020 debut. Good for him.
Also, he’s a booming leg kicker that might have gotten a boost of confidence back in vanquishing his former coach who did him dirty.
Gay was the #5 kicker in PPG fantasy last season, because he could hit 50+ yarders with some ease. Now he plays for another solid offense. He might have some FF legs for the ROS. Kicks in a dome the next 4 weeks…that’s good too.
*2021 NOTE: So glad to see Gay make his comeback and it be beating Bruce Arians.
-- In the battle of the better DSTs…you have to go with the Rams as the better unit. 2-3 weeks ago, it was the Bucs without blinking/thinking about it. Now, the Rams have hit a stride and are not only better than the Bucs but may be the best defense in the NFL.
The Rams have a favorable schedule Weeks 12 (SF), 14 (NE), 15 (NYJ)…but this DST might be so good that Week 14 v. Kyler isn’t bad either.
Many will drop the Bucs after this week. Week 12 v. KC. Week 13 is a bye. I will take them, depending upon my need if they are dropped – MIN-ATL-DET Weeks 14-16 should be strong for a good FF DST (because of their pressure and turnover creation).
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Snap Counts of Interest:
68 = Godwin
61 = Evans
43 = AB
15 = S Miller
54 = Gronk
29 = Brate
36 = Fournette
25 = RoJo
68 = Woods
65 = JReynolds
52 = Kupp
33 = DHenderson
27 = M Brown
12 = Akers
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