2021 REWIND: Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: 2020 Season AFC Wild Card – Bucs 31, Football Team 23
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!!*
**Skipping Weeks 16-17 (TB blowout wins over chumps) because I didn't long-form cover them because that was the end of the regular FF season. The next long-form coverage was the playoffs...so we got four more installments to go here in this series...
*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.
What might have been for the Washington Football Team in 2020…
What if Alex Smith had never gotten hurt two+ years ago? What if they never got suckered into Dwayne Haskins? They could’ve won this division easily and might have bumped off the Bucs in this game…with healthy Alex Smith, no matter how well Taylor Heinicke played.
The Alex Smith injury…nothing Washington could do about that. The Dwayne Haskins era…all their fault. They wasted a ton of time backsliding with Haskins (and it is 100% the owner’s fault, and Jay Gruden took the bullet for it…unfairly). Still, Washington won this division in 2020. With a decent QB, Washington is the best team in the NFC East for 2021…don’t even bring up the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles.
Washington is very poorly run, but the good news for them on that front is – Dallas and Philadelphia are more poorly run. Even better news…the heavy majority of NFL teams are poorly run, so Washington should be a playoff team again in 2021 with their defensive talent and solid offense, IF they have a decent QB (and it should Smith + Heinicke, so that’s enough with this defense).
Tampa Bay didn’t play their best game, but Tom Brady is still very good and passing games with good protection rule…and Brady did just enough to keep ahead of the Fighting Heinicke’s, and the Bucs snuck out of Washington with a decent, somewhat fortunate win.
The Bucs will now face the New Orleans Saints…a team that has dominated them twice this season. And, for this third meeting, the Bucs go in playing their worst ball (especially on defense) – I’m not sure how Tampa goes in and beats the Saints, except Tom Brady can make anything happen and it’s hard to beat any team three times in a season.
*2021 NOTE: I'm a broken record...how in the world did Tampa Bay become last season's champions? They have to be the luckiest team in the past few years to stumble their way into the title -- then dominated KC, of all things.
This was a fun re-read/look back at a game TB shoulda/coulda lost. I didn't add a lot of 2021 notes because much of this just stands on its own as 2021/looking ahead notes. One of my favorite re-reads of the entire prior season is right here...
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Taylor Heinicke (26-44 for 316 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 6-46-1) played an absolutely brilliant game…considering the spot he was put into – a primetime playoff game against Tom Brady.
Couple thoughts on this…
1) He really played well. Some spot-start QBs will randomly play ‘well’…and it means they just didn’t make any mistakes and were not in a high-pressure spot to have to get exposed for their lack of talent, etc.
That was not true of Heinicke here. Washington got down early and then Heinicke marched them right back into it. Tampa Bay took a 9-0 lead quickly…Heinicke won the next 47+ minutes of the game 23-22, but Tampa Bay won the overall game.
Heinicke didn’t play lucky…he played like a top 30-35 in the world/NFL QB.
2) So, Taylor Heinicke exists…and he didn’t make any roster out of training camp…and was back in college finishing out his degree when Washington contacted him in a panic (Ron Rivera has history with him back to Carolina).
Heinicke is CLEARLY better than Dwayne Haskins or Kyle Allen.
Someone again please tell me how smart NFL coaches and personnel people are…so smart, we cannot question their delicate genius as mere mortal fans or outside the mainstream analysts. Washington deserves to be mocked for missing this (Heinicke) because they should have known better than anyone working with him the past 2-3 years…but most of the other NFL teams deserve to be mocked for not knowing/claiming/possessing Heinicke on a practice squad, etc., as well.
3) Here’s what’s sobering or funny, depending upon which team your associated with. Here are a few QBs that Taylor Heinicke proved he’s better than last night…
Someone again please tell me how smart NFL coaches and personnel people are…so smart, we cannot question their delicate genius as mere mortal fans or outside the mainstream analysts.
I was wrong about Trubisky…but not about the other 4. I nailed their scouting with the precision of a military sniper, against all of our football overlords in lock step saying otherwise. Grab a beer and let me explain the Trubisky thing...
*2021 NOTE: Well, at least three of those 5 teams wised up and made a change at QB. The other two...self-inflicted wounds continue.
4) Heinicke has earned money/a job for 2021…or he should. Washington should ride with Smith-Heinicke next season and use Kyle Allen as a practice squad/#3 QB.
…that’s what they should do.
What they will really do is anyone’s guess. They have consistently chosen Allen over Heinicke back to the Carolina days, so…
What if Alex Smith retires or is too expensive to bring back? It’s not all that radical to believe that Taylor Heinicke just earned the starting spot Week 1 of the 2021 season with this performance…and Smith gone.
Crazy? Who did this Washington coaching staff start on purpose Week 1 of 2020 season? Anything is possible in the NFL.
*2021 NOTE: Washington quickly signed Heinicke to a 2-year/$4.8M deal shortly after this game -- Washington has one of the better backup QBs in football...a starter-level potential guy.
5) I watch football all season, all offseason for the draft, etc. -- I know the difference between ‘lucky’ one-time blip QB starts that get people excited…and then reality strikes soon after (like with Kyle Allen last year or any number of QBs over the years). This playoff game for Heinicke was not a lucky blip. This was a QB taking the bull by the horns and working the expanded playbook and making things happen/making great throws in a huge pressure spot on national TV in the playoffs.
We need to take this seriously for the future for FF but knowing the entirety of football will be against him/ignoring him as time goes on from this game so that we’ll easily forget about it.
I‘m not saying ‘next star’…just ‘legit’ if Heinicke gets pressed into service, and may even be the heir apparent to Alex Smith for Washington now. He was that good.
-- Tom Brady (22-40 for 384 yards, 2 TDs/0 INT) barely completed 50% of his passes in this game…but he completed a lot of deep balls and made some great throws at just the right time.
I never would have thought it, but at age 44+, next season, Brady is primed to have an even better 2021 season than 2020 and is a clear QB1 option.
Rare few QBs can do whatever they want (pass all the time if they want) in a team’s offense…situations where the QB is bigger than the head coach – Brady is one of the rare few that is. Actually, Brady is not only one of the few – he’s at the top of the list of the few. He can do whatever he wants whenever he wants – and he wants to throw and rack numbers. And the NFL is so easy to pass the ball these days…he’s going to be as good/better now than he was 5-10 years ago.
Dare we say Belichick was holding Brady back. Not that they didn’t win, I’m just saying in production capability.
-- Who is Tom Brady’s favorite tight end?
In Tampa’s last 8 games (incl. playoffs)…
22 rec. (28 targets, 78.6% connection rate), 238 yards, 1 TD = Cameron Brate
18 rec. (32 targets, 56.3% connection rate), 300 yards, 4 TDs = Rob Gronkowski
As the season wears on, Brate’s numbers are rising and Gronk slinks into the background the past 4-5 games. More about the Tampa Bay TE situation in our Dynasty Offseason reports.
-- It’s not fair to make any sweeping judgements of the Washington receiver’s future by this game because Taylor Heinicke stated upfront that he was most comfortable with Cam Sims (7-104-0/13), and that’s exactly where Heinicke’s eyes were a lot of the time.
1) Heinicke is not going to be the 2021 starting QB if Alex Smith returns (or a big-ticket free agent QB comes in), so the whole Sims thing goes by the wayside and all the FF-focus goes back onto Terry McLaurin.
2) But what if Smith retires, and Heinicke is the Week 1 starter? Suddenly Cam Sims DOES matter for Fantasy, no?
*2021 NOTE: Especially NOT now that Curtis Samuel was inked in free agency.
-- Ronald Jones (DNP) didn’t play due to a quad injury.
Leonard Fournette (19-93-1, 4-39-0/4) helped revive his career with a solid performance in this game. Had RoJo been healthy and started and played well…Fournette might have seen no touches and thus would have little/no takers for any real money next season. Instead, Jones is out here and Fournette starts and shows well – some team(s) will pursue now.
Playoff/TV games have a lot of sway on Fantasy/Dynasty owners for the future, as well as NFL execs whose teams aren’t playing and they can watch the game from the comforts of their couch uninterrupted – just like FF owners.
-- Antonio Gibson (14-31-0, 2-4-0/3) was held in check by the Bucs superior run defense. Gibson is an interesting valuation for Dynasty this offseason – a nice start to 2020, a cold finish…brought on in part by his turf toe injury.
While guys like Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins were scoring TDs like crazy to end the year, Gibson last scored a TD on Thanksgiving Day…three of them. It seems so long ago. That 3-TD game capped off a run of 8 TDs in a five-game stretch.
However, pulling on FF owner’s hearts is ‘the recent’, and that means the no TDs over a month+ is stuck in their craw…whining about how they wish they had Taylor or Dobbins.
In the 2020 regular season:
11 TDs = Gibson
11 TDs = Taylor
09 TDs = Dobbins
Two of those 3 RBs listed above have played tailback since they were fetuses, the other was a sketchy college WR who took some jet sweeps his senior year. Who has more room to grow from here?
-- Speaking about things since Thanksgiving…
I’m so glad to see WSH LB Cole Holcomb (7 tackles) starting to get his due. In game, I saw him rated as the #10-11 LB in the NFL by PFF…I have no idea what criteria PFF uses, nor am I a subscriber, nor do I believe anything from a Cris Collinsworth company -- but I know the NFL worships PFF ratings…so Holcomb should be dismissed/overlooked no longer.
Since their 11/26/2020 game, Holcomb is averaging 8.7 total tackles, 0.25 sacks, 0.50 TFLs per game.
I thought Holcomb was a better linebacker than ‘the Devin’s’ (White and Bush) out of college. He’s better than Devin Bush through 2020, but Devin White has been better through two seasons. But Holcomb still has upside, I think.
-- The TV coverage spent the entire game marveling about Chase Young (3 tackles) as Montez Sweat (4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs) is as/more talented and putting up better numbers in games consistently.
That’s how football analysis cons us – they ‘know’ Chase Young, so THEY spend all their time trying to out-do each other with Chase Young accolades (no, I love him more…no, I do!). Thus, they barely mention Sweat’s name…which makes him seem ‘lesser than’. He’s not…just TV football analysts are ‘lesser than’…they all know like five defensive players in the league, and they’re so excited about it they never shut up about it. They still love Jadeveon Clowney, even though he sucks out loud.
Whenever the Rams are playing, I almost have to turn off the volume because they are so excited about knowing who Aaron Donald is (forgetting that all of them thought Tim Jernigan was a better DT pro prospect in their draft season, but…I digress).
7.5 sacks = Chase Young
10.0 sacks = Montez Sweat
Snap Counts of Interest:
39 = Gibson
38 = McKissic
72 = Logan Thomas…100% of the snaps.
63 = Fournette
12 = Vaughn
55 = Gronk
35 = Brate
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