2021 REWIND: 2020 Dynasty/Fantasy Week 9 Game Analysis: Saints 38, Bucs 3
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.
What happened to the Bucs in this game? The narrative going in was…Tampa Bay has a great defense, Tom Brady is humming, and Gronk is getting up to speed, and NOW they get Chris Godwin back AND the debut of Antonio Brown…plus the Saints defense looks porous and Drew Brees is not the guy he’s been in the past…plus the game at Tampa Bay on SNF. Was the spread -17.0 for TB, I cannot remember?
The Saints covered the spread if it were New Orleans -30.0 going in. Actually, the Saints covered a -30.0 spread by halftime.
What happened here?
A few thoughts…
1) Whenever something looks like an absolute guarantee, in the NFL, you should go the other way.
NO WAY the Bucs lose to Saints, or if they do…they would never lose by 30+!
NO WAY the Steelers won’t crush Dallas with Garrett Gilbert at QB! (that game was Dallas leading until 2+ minutes left).
NO WAY the Chiefs would lose to the Panthers! (Carolina missed a game winning FG last second)
NO WAY the Patriots lose to the Jets on MNF! (the Pats were getting beat all game and then Flacco handed them a win, last second).
If you took the dog in each of those games, you went (4-0) on your bets.
Week 10…NO WAY Jacksonville can hang with Green Bay at Lambeau. And NO WAY these Saints could lose to the 49ers.
Guess what way you should bet those two Week 10 contests?
*2021 NOTE: GB squeaked by the lowly Jags, in a game they should've lost...the dog covered. The Saints did punch the 49ers and covered easily, so no underdog wonder there.
2) The Saints are better coached, more disciplined than the Bucs.
In big games -- Sean Payton is an asset. Bruce Arians is a liability. Payton is a planner and a schemer. Arians is an emotional screamer who manages his team like he’s doing a standup gig Live from the Apollo. He thinks he’s old school Chris Rock with a dash of Andrew Dice Clay. Football is an emotional game, so Arians’ ‘cursing a lot’ way has some merit – but it didn’t work here. But now watch them come out on fire this week. And if they meet again this season, watch TB destroy the Saints.
*2021 NOTE: The next time they met was the playoffs...and TB destroyed NO.
3) The Bucs have no identity on offense besides ‘What does Brady want?’.
Brady isn’t his old self. He crumbles under pass rush pressure more and more these days. He has so many new weapons to throw which looks cool on paper but there’s no cohesion…yet…and maybe never will this season.
This Bucs roster is like a fantasy team, but it could just be a collection of talent that doesn’t fit/work/have cohesion. The Saints aren’t as sexy/interesting, but their core has been together for years.
This may turn out to be one of those ‘good losses’ for Tampa. They’re better as the hungry, disrespected underdog than as the accepted/adored top team – Arians is more comfortable leading ragtag underdogs. This devastating loss might be the hard reboot the Bucs needed. If they lose to Carolina this week, then they might be in way more internal disarray than anyone realized. If they blowout the Panthers, with impunity, this week then there is hope for them for a title run to the Super Bowl.
The Saints are now (6-2) and in the driver’s seat for the NFC South with two wins booked over the Bucs this season…and an easy schedule ahead. 11-12 wins is probably where the Saints land, and the edge in the NFC South.
The Bucs are now (6-3) and not done for the NFC South title, but they gotta get a game ahead of the Saints to avoid the tiebreaker. They have a path to 11-12 wins, but more likely 10-11 wins and a wild card.
*2021 NOTE: The Bucs blew out Carolina with impunity, but it's still hard to remember -- Tampa Bay made their title run as a wild card. The Saints were NFC South champs and rolling, and then flopped in the playoffs once again.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- The lead story was supposed to be…the return of the mega WRs. And, per usual, what we all expected went the other way.
Antonio Brown (3-31-0/5) didn’t start but sprinkled in quickly and then the game got out of hand and he was in a lot and played 78% of the snaps. Brown looked fine on the field. Still had the zip in his legs. Made a real nice catch over-the-middle that got a ‘wow’ from everyone watching.
However, there’s now so many ‘mouths to feed’ on the Bucs, Arians is having a hard time managing it. I think he’s going to throttle Antonio Brown back this week to make a point. That fear is on the table for a lower AB snap count game this week.
There’s trouble in paradise with Mike Evans (4-64-0/6) and Tom Brady…to the point a rift is growing with Evans and the Bucs organization. When they’re winning it’s all OK, but this game Antonio Brown was all the talk, and AB walked in and saw heavy snaps and good targeting…while Evans had his typical scraps from Brady game again. That issue all season of low targeting PLUS losing by 30+/getting embarrassed on national TV – I think Mike Evans is on the verge of blowing up. His frustration is high and rumor of that is seeping out of the TB locker room.
Arians has to manage Evans’ hurt ego, and then Chris Godwin’s (3-41-0/6) got a growing beef as well – all these top dog WRs from 2019 are now junk WR3s in fantasy terms…and that won’t sit well with them, personally. This season is costing Godwin future money…because Antonio Brown is now so special in one week of joining the team? All while ‘special treatment Brady’ walks in and grabs Gronk and AB as his BFF’s to thrust into the limelight while he freezes out Evans-Godwin. A fracture in the WR room is forming, no matter what they tell you on TV about how none of them care about their targets – that’s B.S., and especially BS when you just lost in humiliating fashion.
AB…Evans…Godwin…how can you project them for Week 10…or 11…or 12? They’re producing like WR3s under Brady suddenly. There’s only one football to go around.
-- Quietly, Michael Thomas (5-51-0/6) returned for the Saints and no one seemed to notice! All anyone is talking about is ‘What happened to the Bucs…and what was it like with Brady-to-AB?’
Thomas looked fine, got right into the action…but this game got out of hand so fast they were able to pull back the reins on Thomas’s play time – he worked just 55% of the snaps because he wasn’t needed to be out there. Antonio Brown played more of his team’s snaps coming off the street after two years away than returning mega-star WR Michael Thomas.
It creates a ‘buy low’ moment here – Thomas has been missing for weeks and then returns to a ‘meh’ FF game. His vibe is down, but he’s still that Thomas from 2019, or close to it. This return game for him didn’t need to be a star/heavy target. An excellent window to buy him as a WR1.5 from a frustrated redraft owner.
*2021 NOTE: Has anyone fallen faster from grace than Michael Thomas. This time last year, he was the clear-cut #1 WR in all of Fantasy to have/possess. Now, a WR2 ADP.
-- Tom Brady (22-38 for 209 yards, 0 TDs/3 INTs) had a bad game. Prior to this he had 17 TDs/1 INT in his last 6 games. Let’s not get hysterical. The situation is great for him…he has a million options to throw to, all-elite ones.
It was a bad night/bad game in the rain against a fired-up opponent who prior couldn’t stop anyone’s passing game. Things happen sometimes.
-- Because they got down so quick, the Bucs abandoned the run game…so Ronald Jones (3-9-0, 3-9-0/4) was not needed to do his normal work.
Leonard Fournette (1-0-0, 6-41-0/6) benefitted from the all-pass Bucs offensive needs.
The Bucs are going to run a lot vs. Carolina this week. RoJo and Fournette could be RB2s this week or better. Their FF worlds will be dictated by game script/situations. They also have RB1 activity being split in two…creating two RB2-3s week-to-week. It is what it is. Most NFL backfields are becoming lead RBs getting 8-14 touches in games.
-- Taysom Hill produced…
2-for-2 passing for 48 yards.
7 carries for 54 yards
One catch for 21 yards
9+ non-PPR points and 10+ PPR…and given the state of FF tight ends right now – he’s a TE1 threat week-to-week, if he qualifies in your league for TE.
His touch counts are growing every week. He could be a top 5 fantasy TE just off of 2-3 catches and 3-5 carries and 1-2 passes a game…as a TE.
*2021 NOTE: Taysom would soon be a QB1 and a TE1 at the same time two weeks later for a four game stretch. You have to admit -- I called that one last summer.
-- Two more sacks for Saints DE Trey Hendrickson (3 tackles, 2.0 sacks)…now 7.5 sacks on the season in 8 games. I thought Marcus Davenport (1 PD) returning might cut into his stats, but Hendrickson isn’t slowing down.
*2021 NOTE: One of the top sack guys in the NFL in 2020, and got a huge deal to go to Cincy this offseason for it.
-- Do we hate the Bucs-DST now…and LOVE the Saints-DST?
Prior to this game, for the season (Wks 1-8), the Bucs-DST was #5 in FF PPG (FPros scoring) and rising while the Saints were #20 overall.
Does it all flip now because of one game on TV Week 9?
The Bucs are fine. A top defensive unit that had a bad game against a top offense.
The Saints might turn a corner. They traded for Kwon Alexander, who could start working Week 10. Maybe they’re coming into their own, but it’s not a sure thing. The week prior to this the Bears moved the ball against them second half and almost beat them in OT. Prior to that the Panthers had no issues with them. Prior to that the Chargers rolled through them. Prior to that the Lions scored 29 points on them. Prior to that the Packers dropped 37 on them. Prior to that the Raiders dropped 34 on them.
The Saints-DST season comes down to…crushing the Bucs Week 1 and Week 9, and everything in-between was bad.
Snap Counts of Interest:
47 = Godwin
43 = Evans
39 = AB
19 = Miller
06 = Ty Johnson
33 = Fournette
16 = RoJo
45 = Tre’Quan
40 = Mk Thomas
22 = Emm Sanders
29 = Trautman (Starters rested later in the game)
26 = Cook
19 = T Hill
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