2021 REWIND: Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: 2020-21 Season NFC Finals Playoff – Bucs 31, Packers 26
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 is now open for early sign up and Combo deal/savings with in-season coverage. See FFM homepage for more info!!*
*Just like our in-regular-season coverage, we’ll be analyzing all of the playoff games for Dynasty/Fantasy purposes…with an eye on 2021 valuation changes, etc. During this time, I’m watching the tape and writing up an analysis on NFL Draft prospect scouting studies and prepping/studying for the Senior Bowl (still on for now) – so, I’m typing out my thoughts/notes quickly and not hardcore editing. Forgive any typos/grammar, etc.
This game was an example of the phrase ‘Any Given Sunday’…
The luckiest win of the playoffs came right here…as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ‘Ryan Fitzpatrick’d’ their way past Green Bay and to the Super Bowl.
How does a team Ryan Fitzpatrick their way to a victory? Easy. You take a solid talent QB, who is not an elite talent, and you just drop back to pass and smartly heave everything deep and hope for the best…and on those passes -- usually WRs make great catches or the ball falls incomplete in some way, or a pass interference on the defense is called. 90%+ of the throws are going to be a positive result or no result. Rare will a negative happen (an INT). If you keep chucking it deep into one-on-one coverage…it just takes one good thing to happen to make up for the no result/incompletions.
If I were an NFL head coach, I’d get a gutsy, experienced QB and tell them to throw it deep at least once every 3-4 throws. Every 3rd & long would be a bomb – either a positive result, no result, or even if picked it’s like a punt. Once we have a lead, then we can change the plan but otherwise just bombs away and let my WRs or the refs take me home.
Some of Tom Brady’s pass completions early in this game, up until halftime, were utter B.S./luck – low probability miracle throws. On 3rd & 9, early in the game, Brady threw a bomb to not-open-at-all Chris Godwin. It should’ve been easily picked or knocked down -- but the DBs in the NFL are mostly failed youth league/high school WRs, so they are terrible at catching/playing balls in the air – and Green Bay’s DB mistimed this big throw and it hit Godwin, who made a fantastic, juggling catch. What should have been a pick or incompletion-leading-to-punt turned the entire complexion of the game around on a huge catch.
Brady hit on a few of these low probability plays, and it got TB the lead, the momentum, and ultimately the game. Why did Tom Brady have 3 picks in this game? For the same reason they won – he Ryan Fitzpatrick’d the passing game…bomb’s away, and who cares about some turnovers.
Most NFL head coaches are losers because they live in total fear of turnovers. I absolutely believe that there are head coaches who would rather lose with no turnovers from their team than win but had 2-3 picks or fumbles (enjoy your new coaching staff Detroit!). You think I’m joking…I am not. You explain to me how/why Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched for Tua Tagovailoa midseason…but then Fitz comes into games late and leads comebacks? Why don’t they just stick with Fitzpatrick all the way? Because Fitz turns the ball over too much…trying to make things happen, trying to win (and the making stuff happen part gets ignored in the wake of a turnover). Easy, constant three & outs without a turnover with Tua is the preferred offense for most head coaches.
Bruce Arians is not one of those ‘scared’ head coaches...he of the Jameis Winston 30+ passing TDs, 30+ interceptions in 2019. Arians was able to find a better QB to play his deep ball games with…and Brady wasn’t allowed to do that with Belichick, so he’s thrilled to be a part of it.
By all measures, the Bucs should get beat by KC because Mahomes is better at the deep ball than Brady…but, any given Sunday, all it takes is a couple bombs to land…or help from the refs.
You could nitpick a bunch of specific plays in this game, but 3rd & 9 early on for Tampa on their own 28 yard line…Brady heaves an ill-advised pass deep where the safety is almost waiting for it like a punt, but he misplays it and Chris Godwin makes a fantastic/lucky catch for 52-yards – that moment totally changed the game from turnover/punt/no momentum for TB to a big play, the next play a TD and big momentum shift for the Bucs.
Let’s not even talk about the TD bomb to Scott Miller before the half.
Low probability plays hitting for Tampa Bay snuck them past Green Bay. Most teams are afraid to risk it…Tom Brady is beyond critique (and rightfully so) and Bruce Arians doesn’t care what the establishment thinks either. A perfect marriage for playing this style of offense…a perfect style of offense to TRY and beat Kansas City, unlike Buffalo which puckered up and kicked field goals when they needed to go all out.
Kansas City should smash Tampa Bay…but, if the Bucs hit on a few purposed deep balls…you never know.
I don’t care who won this game anyway…all that matters is my Hat Trick of prop bets that paid off (two of them were on my playoff preview report, all three discussed on the Bet The Close podcast). All my bets against Tom Brady hit here…
1) Brady to throw an INT (prop set at 0.5)…he obliged with three picks.
2) Brady to throw for less that 289.5 yards…the lucky bombs had me sweating, but this came in at 280.
3) Rodgers OVER Brady head-to-head in yards. Easily won.
These three and the two longer shot BUF-KC prop plays that hit…what a weekend. You should listen to the Bet The Close podcast…
*2021 NOTE: Three playoffs game so far for Tampa, and they didn't dominate any of them...were somewhat lucky to win all of them. Sometimes you're good + lucky. The best game they played all season would be two weeks later in the Super bowl.
Re-reading this, I had flashbacks to all those lucky long passes in this game. Mike Pettine got fired because he picked off Brady three times in a playoff game, but his DBs misplayed one big deep ball early and then one got caught napping on the Scotty Miller bomb before half. Sometimes your good + UN-lucky.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Let me take this Tom Brady (20-36 for 280 yards, 3 TDs/3 INTs) thing a step further…
The storyline for the next two weeks, pre-Super Bowl will be about how great Tom Brady is and whether it was him or Belichick responsible for the Patriots’ Reign. Those are all fine discussions, but it’s not what I’m interested in.
I am interested in the following trail that Tom Brady just blazed – Tom Brady has just given rise to the quarterback controlling everything, and if you stick an established QB with a stuffy head coach…they want out, and they can force themselves out.
Tom Brady WANTED to leave Bill Belichick because it was ‘no fun’. That seemed like a stupid, made up, childish speculation by the media – but now I get it, now I think it was all really true. Who wants to play for a cranky pain-in-the-ass and his stuffy, conservative offense that never has any WR talent being grown within it – IF you have options? Brady is too old, too established for that.
Tom Brady WANTED to play for a guy like Bruce Arians. A perfect fit.
Bill Belichick WANTED Tom Brady gone, because players should be seen and not heard…what do they know? Just run the playbook and go study more film so we can ball control and outlast our opponents. You can win that way, obviously…but I think that era is over and Belichick should start to leave now ahead of the curve changing past him.
Tom Brady (or Pat Mahomes) defeats your 25 hours a day of tape watching and months long playbook construction by throwing smartly-timed deep balls one-on-one covered to a guy like Mike Evans or Godwin-Miller-Brown-Johnson. Sometimes it might fail, but apparently it is working more than not – as you see where the Bucs are today.
Philip Rivers to Indy. Brady to Tampa. It was just the beginning…the start of established QBs going where they are appreciated, while they have juice left in the tank. Deshaun Watson is going to be a similar trailblazer…another QB forcing his way out of where he doesn’t want to be, away from a management team he doesn’t trust. Good for Deshaun and all of them about to push the envelope – it’s always been more about players and not the coaches. No one person on earth, not even spoiled millionaires, should have to work where they don’t want to if they have the means to make a change. Every person’s goal should be to get away from being stifled and follow their passion, control their destiny.
The rise of the quarterback ‘running’ the team/franchise is coming…but it will be fought by old school coaches who don’t want to yield their control, they live to control, they got into coaching for control…if they weren’t football coaches, they’d be governors locking down state economies because they get off on controlling people. The head coaches are going to lose in the end and change is coming to the NFL…but we’re about to enter a bloody civil war battle for a few transition years on what’s more important – the head coach or the quarterback.
The unhappy, underappreciated QB uprising to force change has now begun…early baby steps of it.
All I know is…Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are in the Super Bowl, and boy coaching wonder Sean McVay is watching the Super Bowl from his office in-between time spent creating all new plays for 2021 and trying to figure out how to get rid of Jared Goff for not running his super-smart plays perfectly. It’s Goff’s fault…not the coach’s.
Coaches of the future need to attract and attend to and keep happy top-talent QBs…that’s why most of the new hire head coaches of the past two years are utterly stupid and behind the times. The Detroit Lions at the head of the class for choosing the horse & buggy coach over the Tesla coach.
‘Change the culture’ is a buzzword for the new head coach coming in and being an authoritarian making every decision – and they will hate established QBs having more pull than them. Young QBs have to kiss the ring until they become the stars and have the leverage.
-- Speaking of quarterbacks with leverage to leave…Aaron Rodgers (33-48 for 346 yards, 3 TDs/1 INT) got to watch this new phenomenon up close watching Tom Brady leverage his way out of where he didn’t love playing/his long-time iconic team…and rolled right into a perfect fit offense and geography.
I think Aaron Rodgers is ready to go to the San Francisco 49ers...back to his hometown area. Back to warmer weather. Rodgers has some leverage, and it will be interesting to see if he can force his way out. Brady was becoming a free agent, so it was easier for him to change. Deshaun has the Texans’ mismanagement to use as his leverage…the media is behind Deshaun/anti-Texans management full force. Watson will be able to get his way out.
But will Rodgers? Will Green Bay really let him go? The Packers team president is arrogant. Matt LaFleur comes from the Sean McVay tree of playbook over players – so I think LaFleur would be happy to wrest control of the team away from Rodgers (by ditching Rodgers…that’s why they picked Jordan Love). I think if the 49ers put together the right package, the Packers will open up talks – and they will say they are doing it out of respect for Aaron Rodgers wanting to play his last years in his home area. In reality, I think management secretly wants Rodgers gone, but can’t be the one forcing his hand…or there will be a fan backlash coming.
Tom Brady opened the gate to this new era of the established QB taking control of their situation and going to new, appreciative teams and being treated like royalty.
Deshaun Watson is going to kick the gate down…this ‘gate’ being a symbol of the head coach and team management suffocating elite QBs into staying forever and taking orders from head coaches they didn’t want to play for in offenses they don’t agree with.
Aaron Rodgers is about to burn the gate to the ground so it can never be resurrected…if he wants to. It will be fascinating if he just plays with the lighter in his hands to get Green Bay’s attention…or if he goes ahead and clicks it to a flame and tosses it to the ground to set things ablaze.
I think Rodgers is going to try to peacefully go, and if that doesn’t work -- then hard ball his way out. The Packers will then flop to a bottom 10 NFL team for years in the snap of a finger.
The ‘play’ in 2021 between Rodgers and GB management will begin with Rodgers talking nice, not showing his hand, now. This is a February news story, if it happens, after the Super Bowl. Maybe Rodgers wants to die a Packer…he has earned that right, but I believe QBs want to call their own shots and WITH LaFleur AT Green Bay is not the game of Clue Rodgers wants to play. WITH Shanahan AT California is WAY better for him.
Also…Big Ben might be getting the itch as well…. I think he’ll play a game of chicken with Pittsburgh and they’ll pay him for 2021 and reassess. And that’s all Ben wants, I think…that one big payday he has contractually remaining – Ben gets $41.3M to play in 2021 or costs the Steelers $22.5M to cut. He will not take less than $41.3M to stay.
*2021 NOTE: A lot to unpack there...QB predictions from months ago. The individual situations wound up different (so far) but the theme is happening stronger than I thought -- because add to this the Russell Wilson dust up (that will play out in 2022), the Aaron Rodgers situation really heating up, and a possible Jimmy G. situation to come, and Deshaun still in play for a trade maybe. QBs are taking control of the league and crotchety head coaches (which is 90% of them) are not equipped to deal with it, nor do they think they should -- coaches believe they are the franchise...when they are not in most cases.
-- Was this the last game for Aaron Jones (6-27-0) in Green Bay? Yes. We’ve been discussing that for most of the season and more and more as the season wore on. You don’t use a 2nd-round draft pick on A.J. Dillon (3-17-0, 1-13-0/1) when you already have Jones, and Jamaal Williams (7-23-0, 4-22-0/4) going into free agency.
The Packers could’ve signed Jones to an early, huge extension when Cincy did Mixon, the Saints did Kamara, the Vikings did Cook in September – but they didn’t. Signing any RB to a big deal is foolish, and thus the Packers were smart.
They LOVE Jamaal Williams for the locker room, blocking, dirty work, etc. they will want to keep him.
A.J. Dillon is the true talent remaining, at a nothing cost. He is the next Earl Campbell. He could be the more multifaceted Derrick Henry that Matt LaFleur saw up close in his time in Tennessee. Green Bay weather demands a Dillon-led offense, if you don’t have Aaron Rodgers (which is a once in a lifetime anomaly, which has happened twice for GB with Rodgers and Favre).
*2021 NOTE: The Packers have had one of the worst offseasons of any team, if not the worst. They are going to implode the moment Rodgers is one and they will not recover for years or a decade+. The Packers could've kept Jamaal run Dillon-Jamaal and let Aaron Jones go, and saved that money to get Rodgers a WR or keep key OC Linsley -- but they are far too stupid to do any of that. Gotta spend on that RB, it's such a great business move. The Packers deserve the hell on earth coming their way when Rodgers leaves.
-- NO Antonio Brown here…and Tyler Johnson (1-16-0/2) has a one catch game. Tyler Johnson has to get past Evans-Godwin to even think about becoming FF relevant, and that’s with Scotty Miller (2-36-1/3) hanging around too. By the time Johnson would have climbed the ladder…Brady and Arians will be gone in like two years.
Rookie WRs without draft stock to push them, not landing in the right place, with the absolute surge of WR talent flooding the NFL market – their early careers are wasted. Johnson is going to lose three years as a backup/3rd and 4th-wheel WR and then not know what QB and coach he’ll be playing with at the point he rises up either.
If Antonio Brown returns in 2021…Johnson is even deader. Great player…landing spot ruined his early career potential.
*2021 NOTE: Likely same story for new rookie WR Jaelon Darden.
-- Tyler Johnson also has to find targets battling the TEs for them as well, not just all the WRs. Once again, there’s Cameron Brate (3-19-1/5) leading the way in TE targets. Gronk (1-29-0/1) has become a blocker and once-twice a game surprise target. Brate is Brady’s TE with purpose to throw to.
Brady could have stayed in New England for 2021+.
If you were Brady, would you rather work a season with…
Harry, Byrd, Meyers, Asiasi, Keene
Evans, Godwin, A.Brown, Brate, Gronk
Tampa’s #4 and #5 WRs are better than any Patriots starter (ignoring Edelman).
As to the chicken-or-the-egg question on Belichick or Brady…Belichick didn’t make a very strong argument for himself in 2020, that’s for sure.
-- Speaking of WRs who are talented and being frozen out…Allen Lazard (3-62-0/6) had his typical second-class citizen treatment game. Every time you watch Lazard, you’re like – man, they should get him the ball some more…but they don’t.
When Davante went down early in the 2020 season, Lazard got a full start with no Adams anywhere in sight Week 3…and went 6-146-1/8 against Marshon Lattimore and friends.
Going to be more of the same in 2021 if nothing changes.
But what if Aaron Rodgers goes? Well, it still puts Lazard behind Adams for the new QB.
Which then begs the question…
If Rodgers goes…is Davante Adams the top WR in Fantasy Football? With Jordan Love…or like a Ryan Fitzpatrick? You think Davante Adams is sticking around Green Bay past 2021 if Rodgers is going (Davante is an FA after 2021)?
Green Bay’s organization is about to die…and they don’t even know it because they’re still riding high/sore from making it to the Final Four and losing. They’re worried about getting over the hump in the 2021 season or that bad call in this game by the ref or bad decision by Matt LaFleur or whomever they want to blame. The real issue is they are about to be thrown into a pit of misery that will span many years if a Rodgers exodus happens this offseason.
It’s going to happen whenever Rodgers does leave…2021 or 2022.
-- Devin White (15 tackles, 1 FR) has been playing with his hair on fire. If I took his last 8 games (includes playoffs) and doubled the numbers for a hypothetical 16 game season, it would look like:
128 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 168 total tackles, 18 TFLs, 8.0 sacks, 6 PDs, 2 INTs, 4 FumRec
10.5 total tackles per game, over a TFL per game.
That’s Darius Leonard level IDP output.
-- Allow me to end on two side notes…
1) So, I’m watching football games this weekend and I keep seeing a million advertisements for a reboot of the TV show ‘The Equalizer’ (debuting after the Super Bowl, so you know they are proud).
“When you can’t call 9-1-1…” is the dramatic tagline.
Let me tell you who I am not calling when I cannot call 9-1-1…I’m not calling Queen Latifah. Who in the hell is afraid of Queen Latifah? What kind of casting is that?
Watch out inner city street gang members and organized crime leaders…a 50-year-old menopausal lady coming off several failed entertainment ventures is coming at you to punch you with her middle-aged lady arms and tough-looking, but ‘smart’ leather jacket and jeans ensemble. I know Madea can do a lot of things, apparently, but getting me out of an illegal jam against criminals is likely not one of them.
A lot of people sell their soul to the devil and then later don’t feel like they got what they wanted. Beelzebub has gone above and beyond for the Queen. She should have no regrets. No one has made more money, had more opportunity with less talent than QL. Sam Bradford a close second.
2) Enjoy this postseason bonus: https://youtu.be/xz1Q4acQYSk
*2021 NOTE: Wait until to tomorrow with my thousand word Equalizer review with the Super Bowl recap!!!
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I know the mainstream football analysis is going to butcher this year’s class even worse than normal – because they are going to blindly favor big school prospects more than ever, because those schools will have the only names they are truly familiar with, and it’s just the ‘name’ they are familiar with not their ‘game’. They’ll ‘hive mind’ run with whatever names the collective seems to be buzzing about – because they don’t put in the work, they just echo things they’ve heard. I’m not saying that to be a jerk – it’s the open window of opportunity (their failure) that I was able to build my career/business upon.
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