The two best teams in the NFL are probably meeting in the Super Bowl, helping to make this one of the best matchups in years. Continue reading
Most of the recap of week’s 11 picks – with some extra analysis on the Panthers Falcons game, and a brief comparison of the NFC South (where the top two teams are tied for the division lead at 4-6) and the NFC West (where the bottom dweller lags well behind at 4-6) – is now here.
One of the notes worth re-mentioning from last’s week’s picks:
“If there’s going to be an upset pick, this is it. And the Saints, so dominant at home, lose their 2nd straight here.”
Despite ultimately being a favorite in the game by 8 points over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Saints lost 27-10 for their second straight home loss.
One of the bloke’s I deeply admire – I just can’t remember who, so it would be foul to throw out a name (I WILL find it an update) on “Around The NFL” this week proclaimed the Saints will not lose 3 in a row at home, because “they never have under Sean Payton.” (It might have been Jamie Dukes, now that I think about it, and he’s pretty good with his overall football analyses I think.)
But the fact they never have lost three in a row doesn’t mean they won’t now. Also since they haven’t lost twice in a row that often under head coach Sean Payton (they’ve been a very good team under him and quarterback Drew Brees, AND have won a lot more at home than on the road on top of that) they haven’t been in a situation where they even could lose 3 in a row that much to begin with. Even less, when considering that the team they face for their possible and unprecedented 3rd straight home loss, is pretty good.
See picks below. Hopefully by the time you (and I) arrive there, I will have a clue to this one of many wild and fantastic NFL match-ups this week – the Baltimore Ravens at the New Orleans Saints. But the game does present at least a reasonable chance of the Saints hitting that home trifecta.
As always, the following picks are either for the purposes of earning enough funds through legitimate wagering in Vegas to start a large non profit organization to find a cure for cancer, or post-facto bragging rights.
But don’t count on this week’s picks too heavily. Several of last week’s picks – most notably the Bengals, who had a very good chance to win that game outright and were getting a touchdown plus – were somewhat easy calls. And even the week before – where this blog had a few huge calls (winning by a lot, and twice calling the Jets upset of the Steelers outright), and a few closes losses for a miserable 3 – 3 – was somewhat easier.
This week, is not.
Chiefs (-7.5) at Raiders
This is a long standing rivalry. The Chiefs know how to win. And after seeing Oakland battle Denver super tough for nearly a full half two weeks ago (batting down a remarkable 5 Peyton Manning passes at the line in the short time span) before, well, completely falling apart, and then putting up a decent game last week against a Chargers team that saw the return to their lineup of Ryan Matthews, Manti Te’0, and Melvin Ingram, they know Oakland can in theory battle with them a little bit.
But at 0-10, and playing Denver tough for a half, and ultimately making it a somewhat close game with San Diego, is not enough. They are likely to give their best effort again. And this game almost smells of upset. But one would think the Chiefs can sniff that same scent, and do not want to lose a division game.
Close call, but:
Also (nearly) always, the rest of this football weekend’s picks will be updated later in the week, or weekend prior to Sunday’s games.
(11-23-14) Updated – Voila:
At 1-0 on the week so far, following last week’s 4-2-1, we could just call it a wrap and finish up a a second straight above .500 week ATS. But let’s tangle with a few of these, including the toughest game of all: The aforementioned Saints, taking on that iconic black bird that is evermore.
Ravens (+3.4) at Saints (Monday Night Football)
Two teams who have been very successful under the current respective head coaches and quarterbacks, and both of whom tend to be significantly better home teams than road teams.
The Saints are in a weaker division, and are 4-6, but don’t be fooled by their record. They lost a close game (by a point) against Detroit in week 7, where they actually outplayed Detroit, who needed a break or two at the end to pull out the win. They lost two games in overtime (against Atlanta in week 1, 37-34, and 27-24 in week 10 against a desperate, if still Aldon Smith, Navorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis less San Francisco 49ers). And possibly lagging a little bit on the fact that Browns are competitive this year, they lost 26-24 to a Browns comeback at the end of the game in Cleveland in week 2.)
And it’s possible the Ozzie Newsome magic has worn off a little bit, and the Ravens really aren’t that good after their long stretch of competitive – and post season competitive -seasons.
And of course the wild card in this game is that the Saints are playing at home.
This will come as sacrilege, as I’m personally a huge Drew Brees fan. I don’t know him, and the rush to presume things about people good and bad is rampant in human nature, but Brees appears to be a truly remarkable guy. And he’s an phenomenal quarterback:
But he’s not always quite as clutch in tough games as some of the other greats, and if some pressure can be gotten to him, he doesn’t always tend to respond as well as a few other quarterbacks. And while the Saints win their share of close games, on average I would take Flacco (who truly has been “Joe Cool” more often than not) – not that he’s at Brees’ level – in a close game at the end.
So getting 3.5 points, particularly in an NFL where – due to a flurry of reasons, but most notably the continual tweaking of the rules under commissioner Roger Goodell to favor offenses, and most notably passing, over defenses – where very high scoring games are occurring with more frequency – is not really a big deal in this game. Still, just to follow up on the Saints last week, and given that this is a heavyweight bout between two seasoned teams looking at a tough road ahead, take them, as, though the odds may be slightly against, the Saints could hit that third straight loss. We’ll know late Sunday Afternoon. This is truly one of several fantastic match-ups on the weekend:
Titans (+11) at Eagles
Tennessee played tough against Pittsburgh last week, on Monday Night Football where Pittsburgh, under Ben Rothlisberger, has been dominant for years. The Steelers were missing a few key players – including Safety Troy Polamalu – but it was still a better effort by the Titans, who may finally be creeping towards decency.
If they are, and even though we should expect a strong bounce back after last week’s embarrassment in Green Bay from the seemingly very well coached Philadelphia Eagles, the Titans stand a strong chance of putting up a game here.
Despite my call that the Titans offseason coaching switch (even if they provided their prior head coach, Mike Munchak, a theoretical “out” towards remaining if he fired most of his coaching staff) was an ill thought out move, it wasn’t clear new head coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t at least alsodecent coach. But if by this point the Titans can’t battle in this game, that would, on top of a dismal downturn season – represent more solid evidence in that direction.
Here’s rooting for Whisenhunt, another good football game, and perhaps a sneak surprise that the team from Tennessee has finally clawed its way out of that bottom rung of bad teams. (Though I hate to pick against Sanchez, who I’ve always thought was a bit underrated; but Philly can still win by 10.)
Cardinals (+7) at Seahawks
Last season, in a remarkable final stretch to close out the season for the powerhouse NFC West, a desperate Arizona Cardinals team somehow managed to go into Seattle in week 16 and hand the Seahawks their first home loss ever under then second year quarterback Russell Wilson.
But this year, the defending Super Bowl champs are 3 games behind the Cardinals, have their backs against the wall, and are locked in a tough second place battle with San Francisco – who just got back defensive lineman extraordinaire Aldon Smith, who may still get back linebacker Navorro Bowman before the season ends, and who will probably see Defensive Tackle Glenn Dorsey return to action next week.
And Seattle has still very rarely lost under Wilson at home. Motivation, especially for good teams with character – and the Seahawks have exhibited this – matters.
In short, this is near or just about a playoff game for the Seahawks, who simply can’t afford to lose a division match-up, let alone against the front-runner. They also have a lot of pride riding on the line; and by knocking off the division leading champs – Carson Palmer or no Carson Palme – and jumping back into the race, they can show they still legitimately belong.
Still, Arizona is a football team. They’re a unit. And while they could easily lose by 10 or 14 here, and are at a disadvantage with Palmer sidelined for the duration of the season, they don’t seem like the type of team, under second year head coach Bruce Arians, to just cruise on the fact that they can “afford” this loss.
An, though the edge clearly goes to Seattle in this must win game for them – at home where they do rarely lose – a full touchdown is simply too much against a scrappy division foe playing as a cohesive unit.
Rams (+5) at Chargers
This game is one of the best games of the season. Sure it doesn’t feature two powerhouses, but for pure football intrigue this is it.
The 4-6 Rams have played well against powerhouse division foes the last few years, but not so much outside of the division. But after going into Arizona and holding the lead until nearly halfway through the 4th quarter (this blog picked them getting 7 at Arizona, but they then turned the ball over, and then gave up two touchdowns to the defense, on 3 successive drives to end the game), the Rams came home and beat the mighty Denver Broncos last week. Solidly.
San Diego meanwhile, which along with New England has been just about the hottest team late November and December in the NFL the last few seasons, this year started strong; and then, suffering a few injuries, has floundered a bit.
The Chargers got three relevant players back last week, a 13-6 victory of the Oakland Raiders (who went on, see pick above, to upset the Chiefs this past Thursday Night for their first win of the season): outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, inside linebacker Manti Te’o, and running back Ryan Matthews. And if they are the team they looked to be early in the season this is the type of game, at home, where they are going to crush any but a very good football team.
So that’s the question, and the answer is unknown. One win against Denver for a team that has been moderately mediocre with sporadic periods of strong play against division foes here and there does not make the Rams a strong team.
But the book is still out on the Chargers, also. This is more of a pick made simply because it is just a fascinating football game. And in such a game, a little more than 2/3 of of a touchdown seems like slightly better odds.
But it’s not quite like the Seattle game, where you have to figure Arizona has at least the same, if not a greater, chance of upsetting Seattle than the Rams do here, and a bigger chance – given the way they play and their consistency – of keeping it close. (Maybe.)
But ultimately this is a pick that respects the Ram’s potential, and treats the Chargers like a solid, strong but still quasi middle of the pack team until they show they are back. It’s an iffy pick, but probably not a horrible one, in a tough game:
Dolphins (+6) at Broncos
Beware 6 point games: Games in the NFL are either close, or they’re not. When they are close, it means that the gap is usually between 3 and 6 points, by the nature of the math of the game. . Occasionally 7.
Getting 6 versus 3 points in such a game is a tremendous difference. And usually a team favored by less than 7 is a reflection of the fact, or perception, that the better team is not that dominant that a lopsided game is as likely as some others, making the relevance of that 6 points notable.
Denver was dominant last year, until the Super Bowl. (Where, against a good defense – and here they face a good defense in the Dolphins – they got crushed).
They improved this offseason on paper. But they may not have improved in reality. Something might not be clicking. And the Dolphins have been flying a little bit under the radar.
So if Denver doesn’t get it clicking, not only will this be a tight game, but in a near must win for Miami (while a Denver loss keeps them tied for first atop the AFC West with Kansas City) the Dolphins might pull off the win, suggesting they’ve “arrived.”
Or they might not have really arrived yet and Denver, after a disastrous loss at St. Louis, might get it together and beat them solidly. Who knows. The Oakland Pick and several from last week were, again, easier than this one. But it’s another truly great football match-up this NFL football Sunday
Cleveland (+3) at Atlanta
Another tough game, and while maybe not as great as some of the others, another good one.
Cleveland is one of four teams in the AFC North to be over.500. While the Falcons, at 4-6, are in a tie with the Saints for 1st place in the NFC South. (Technically, they’re in first place right now, since they beat the Saints heads up; but they still have to play them again.)
The Browns have been without their key tight end Jordan Cameron for three games now, and it looks like it’s going to be a 4th. They do finally get a guy back who may have been the best receiver in the NFL last season – Josh Gordon. But what kind of football shape is he in? And atop a few other injuries they’ve now lost former 1st round pick defensive tackle Phil Taylor for the season.
Taylor had missed a month before returning last week. But his absence is still a key loss. And the Falcons, until last year perennially very strong under head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan, have been playing strong of late. And would have even crept up to 5-5 if they Lions hadn’t pulled off a 20 point come from behind over where the natives speak with an English accent, en route to a last moment 21-20 win several weeks ago. They might well be a better team than the Browns at this point. And they tend to be a very good home team.
And, the fact they are coming off a key, close win against their rivals the Panthers (who usually play them tough) last week probably doesn’t mean too much for this team, – which has repeatedly exhibited it knows how to focus during the season. But the Browns, coming off a solid loss at home to the Houston Texans last week, might be riled.
Still, the 3 points is likely not of much worth here. And a pick for the Browns is close to saying they are going to, or are 50 – 50 or near it, to pull off the upset. This might a “root for the long time underdog” kind of pick. But coming out of a touch division, between two teams that probably have heart, we’re going here with the true underdog in this game, who will need to play with even more heart to pull off that upset.
This might be the worst pick of the week, but,
The 3-6-1 Carolina Panthers and 3-6 Atlanta Falcons were playing for a lot this afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina.
It was not only a division game. But with the New Orleans Saints – strangely a 7 to 8 point favorite over a team with a better record from a better division – losing 27-10 to the Bengals this afternoon (in a game this blog declared as “the week’s upset, if there is one”), the Panthers and Falcons were playing for first place in the division. And despite what would still be a losing record: The Panthers for first place outright at 4-6-1, and the Falcons for a tie with the Saints at 4-7. (Although for now, by beating the Saints earlier in the first of their two scheduled meetings, the Falcons hold the tie breaker; so they would also technically be in first place for the moment if they won.)
But the Panthers once again played not to lose instead of to win. They didn’t think it out to the end of the game. Or if they did, they mis-assessed it. As a result, they played as if when they kick a field goal and take a 1 point lead and have to give up possession of the ball with over a minute still remaining, the game is all but over.
But far from being over, they would instead be facing one of the best regular season 4th quarter QBs in football, with the ball in his hands, his team only needing a field goal to win, and with sufficient time to get it done.
Yet just inside the 30 yard line, the Panthers ran three straight, fairly predictable, vanilla runs practically upon the middle. As if they were taking the clock down to only a few seconds left. And as if they were inside the 20 yard line or at least 25 (where the field goal success rate also starts to get fairly high), not closer to the 30. (Where the field goal success rate is good, but there are also a lot of misses.)
They very likely did so at least in part our of some sort of fear of a long shot turnover, some other mistake, or heaven forbid an incompletion – thereby stopping the clock, and leaving the Falcons even more time – when the time they were going to be leaving Atlanta was sufficient for the Falcons to pull out the win anyway. Thus making the key variable keeping possession of the ball, not just avoiding incompletions – or, far more ridiculously, avoiding the chance of interceptions or other turnovers, as if the chances of simply losing outright weren’t already many many times greater than a turnover.
By thus pulling a “turtle” – the football equivalent of pulling their head back inside their shell as if they just don’t want anything bad to happen, the team came close to ensuring two reasonable ways for it to lose: Miss the field goal and never retake the lead. Or make the field goal, and then watch as the other team drives and kicks a field goal to win.
Just as with nothing to lose, 4 plays per set of downs, and desperation on the line at the end of the game and a small score deficit, any NFL quarterback can reasonably do. And just as the Atlanta Falcons Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan has done so many times in his career.
One of the most amazing of these was against these same Panthers two seasons ago, when after a Cam Newton fumble and recovery that botched getting the 1st down, the Panthers very foolishly elected not to go for the conversion – and essentially the outright win – on a 4th and one half yard at the Falcons 45 yard line with 69 seconds remaining in the game and a 1 point lead.
The Panthers, with Newton, who is large, powerful, and very athletic (and behind what was a fairly solid offensive line at the time), were – conservatively – probably around 80% on the quarterback sneak to make the 1st down, and win the game outright.
But even if they were stopped, they still had a few chances to stop the Falcons and win anyway. And even if they only had a very low 1 in 3 chance of stopping Atlanta from the Falcons own 45 from driving and making a game winning field goal – this gave the Panthers about an 86 t0 88% chance (very roughly) of winning the game had they tried to go for it.
Realistically, if the Falcons need to drive at least 25 yards just for about a 75% chance of making the field goal – meaning that if they drove to the 30 yard line 75% of the time, they would still only win the game a little over 55% of the time (meaning the Falcons would not win only 33% of those rare times they got stopped, but 44%, and just under a 90% chance of winning the game overall if their chances of making the 1st down conversion were 80%) – the Panthers should have a better than 1 in 3 chance of stopping them with the game on the line.
There was no way that punting the ball to Matty Ice and the Falcons gave them anything close to the same 85-90% or greater chance of winning the game that going for the conversion did.
But the Panthers instead “turtled up,” played not to lose, and increased their chances of so losing by playing to avoid losing, rather than playing to win in a way that simply maximized their chances of doing so: By, literally, giving the ball to their opponents, with time left to beat them, for want of a simple half a yard, and very good field position already.
Luckily for the Panthers, their punt, uncharacteristically, was downed just inside the 1 yard line.
From the 20, or even the 15, this added another 20% of so to the total length of the drive needed, and also tied the Falcons hands a little, as it is dangerous for any team to operate out of the end zone, since one pop to the ground behind that line, and it’s game over. So of course if the Panthers knew in advance that they were (not that they “might”) down the ball on the 1 yard line, the punt was the better call.
And since it did go to the 1, it would probably work out anyway despite the extremely poor decision.
Except it didn’t.
On the first play from the 1, somewhat wildly, Ryan threw a 59 yard bomb to the Panthers 40 yard line to receiver Roddy White, who had also somehow gotten behind the Panthers secondary in the classic scenario – typically overplayed, not underplayed, in the NFL – of “whatever you do, keep the receiver in front of you, even if you have to play a little soft.”
A few other mistakes were made that we’ll skip for now, but the Panthers still easily could have won the game; only further illustrating how solid their chances still were had they gone for it on 4th down and been stopped at the Falcons own 45 yard line: 15 yards further way, and more than double the remaining distance to the Panthers 30, than the Falcons were now after just this one play. And which but for a another mistake, the Panthers would have won.
But the Panthers didn’t win it, and the Falcons wound up making a 40 yard field goal 10 seconds on the clock, for the 30-28 win. (In large measure because of a far more remarkable mistake than the 59 yard pass the Panthers gave up (and one which has gone completely under the radar), and one of mental awareness, not just a breakdown in execution. One that had the Panthers not made – given what the situation had unfolded to at that moment – would have all but won the game for them.)
Side note: While the Falcons were good that year and wound up going to the AFC championship game, and the Panthers were not that good but starting to become so, they got their revenge later in the season when the Falcons came into town, again as solid favorites, and, in a game that was far more lopsided than the final score indicated, were completely outplayed by the Panthers, who just absolutely took it to the Falcons that game, and wound up closing out the 2012 season with a lot of solid wins en route to a fairly successful 2013 campaign before, due to injury, off season moves, and whatever else, regressing back this year toward where they had been.
But here was the situation earlier this afternoon:
Going into the 4th quarter of the game, Atlanta led 16-3. The Panthers then scored two touchdowns – the second one on a 47 yard Cam Newton touchdown pass to rookie receiver Philly Brown with 6:29 left to go in the game – gave them the 17-16 lead.
Atlanta then took over with 6:20 to go, slowly marched 54 yards to the Panther 26 yard line, and hit a 44 yard field goal to take a 19-17 lead with 2:12 left on the clock.
After a very short kickoff and 19 yard return by Brandon Williams to the 36 yard line, the Panthers traveled 42 yards to the Atlanta 32.
There, they faced a 1st and 10, with 1:32 on the clock. Atlanta, critically, had all three of their timeouts left.
So unless the Panthers really thought 3 predictable vanilla runs up the middle of the field gave them the best chance of continuing to move the chains and thus run off the rest of the clock, or at least a large portion of it, while simultaneously making it an easy field goal, running 3 straight runs to burn clock was extremely foolish.
And it’s difficult, even far fetched, to make the case that 3 predictable, vanilla runs really gave them their best chance of moving the chains. But this is what they ran, in almost automatic seeming succession, anyway.
Unlike touchdown drives, NFL teams barely need a minute for at least a reasonable field goal drive at the end to win a game, as field goal drives are fundamentally different than touchdown drives due to the basic structure of the field, and rules and physical dynamics of the game.
But on 1st and 10 the Panthers called a run up the middle, and it went for a yard.
The Falcons called their first time out.
Then the Panthers did call a play out of the shot gun, but it either looked like a designed run, or quarterback Cam Newton elected to run far too early. Although he did gain almost four yards off right guard – all but up the middle again.
After the next Atlanta timeouts, this brought up 3rd and 5 with a full 1:31 left in the game, from the Falcons 27 yard line.
The game at this point didn’t hinge on the Panthers making a field goal. A first down essentially wins them the game. (Even had they gotten a first down on two plays and been facing a 1st down here, this still would have quashed any reasonable chances for the Falcons.) Whereas had they hit the field goal, the Falcons were more likely than not to win. Or at least one could make the reasonable argument.
But apparently the Panthers were not sufficiently thinking about the last 80 seconds of the game, and how reasonable their chances were of losing it after a kickoff (which was not going to put the Falcons back around the 12 or 14 yard line as a punt from near midfield would), even if they did make their field goal.
But instead, they, or their play caller(s), were seemingly obsessed with preventing much lower probability longer shots from hurting them – such as a turnover, possibly not even gaining a yard on an incomplete, or a clock stoppage and thereby saving the Falcons a timeout (which with well over a minute to go the Falcons could use, but didn’t really need.)
That is, unless after two runs essentially up the middle, the Panthers really believed that yet another vanilla run, right up the middle – which is exactly what they ran again – gave them the best shot of accomplishing what they needed to do at that point: Which is get that first down, and pick up another set of downs to be able to not only advance the ball a little further, but essentially take the clock down to under 30 seconds, and all but assure a win before kicking the field goal.
But then as this blog suggested in this recent piece over an awful end of first half strategic mistake by the Dolphins in their game versus the Bills three nights ago:
When it comes to the basic underlying structural strategy of the game of football, NFL teams often do not know what they are doing.
The 3rd down also vanilla run up the middle play actually lost these Cats from Carolina a yard: two yards worse than the run on 1st down had yielded. They then tried a field goal with a whopping 1:26 left in the game; and, facing the Falcons and Ryan in particular, were probably more likely to lose than not even if they did make the field goal. But from the 28 yard line, field goals are only made roughly a little more than 75% of the time, give or take. And this one missed.
And so they lost anyway.
They’ll probably over blame the loss on the field goal (as well as more reasonably the fact that, as it should be in any close game, the fact that it was even close to begin with), when it wasn’t the field goal.
Watching their play on that last set of downs, it was not only the play calling that was astounding, it was their seeming lack of urgency, as if there was no recognition that this was the game. Make the first down on these three plays, or at least two plays, and win it. Don’t, and it’s a coin flip at best, between the chance of a missed field goal, or plenty of time for the Falcons if they make it.
They almost played, instead, as if they were just running out some clock and centering the ball for an easy or at least reasonable chip shot field goal, with a few seconds left for the win.
Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but between the play calls themselves, and the way the Panthers actually played those plays, the Falcons were probably going to stop them 10 out of 10 times on that last set of downs. The Panthers needed to focus – pay attention to sensibly using clock, sure, in terms of staying in bounds, running clock time in between snaps, and the pparticularlylays to call. But the main focus again needed to be to keep the ball.
Except to the Panthers, clearly, it was not. And if in a press conference head coach Ron Rivera later says that 3 straight vanilla runs -two highly unsuccessful – right up the middle gave them best chance of keeping possession of that ball (don’t worry, he won’t), he’s kidding himself.
But then, in all fairness, though it’s implicitly put on head coach, and presumptively (and wrongly) assumed that just because they are head coaches (or coordinators) with a lot of football experience, that they’re good at it, these types of implicit and explicit strategic decisions and approaches that are such a fundamental part of most games, really are too much to ask of a head coach; who is otherwise already required to be a head coach managing the entire situation and his players, a teacher, a mentor, often a psychologist, a great leader, a motivator, a manager, and, among other things, a media liaison who has to be fairly careful what he says, because it impacts his team, while (unless his name is Bill Belichick) he also needs to be fairly responsive to the media upon which publicity for the league and a lot of the interest that is generated in it, lie.
(Belichick on the other hand, helps both his team and the league by being Darth Vader in press conferences. Please don’t change Bill. It’s hilarious, and provides great balance.)
Updated below with graphic, but instructional “how not to” image of the Bucs night.
10. Coach Smith coached a really good game.
9. Coach Smith coached a really bad game.
8. In a statistical fluke, entire Bucs team has Devin Hester on its fantasy roster.
7. The Bucs were all on twitter just before the game following the latest Adrian Petersen, Greg Hardy, Ray Rice and Roger “Two games, no, wait, my bad, I apologize for getting it wrong, no wait, I don’t apologize because I didn’t see the video and Ray barely hit her so why should I apologize, no, wait, now I’ve seen the video with the rest of America so I’ll pretend I didn’t already apologize for getting it wrong, and instead act super quick and ignore my own new 6 game domestic violence rule and not only override Ray’s 2 game punishment, but suspend him indefinitely instead because of our foul-up, and then I’ll go dark while we waste the talents of a former FBI director to sort through the whole sordid mess” Goodell news; and just weren’t mentally prepared for the game.
6. Per Bleacher Report, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was 32-2 when his passer rating is over 100; The Bucs liked the challenge of seeing if they could make it 32-3, so they tried to let him complete all his passes in the first half.
5. The Bucs needed a new head coach. Wait, no, that didn’t work…..Bucs needed a new starting quarterback – preferably a long time, solid but not great backup, who had some good games down the stretch last year for another team, instead of their second year guy who played really well as a rookie and who they needed to play and find out if they could build with him – unless, well – unless they could get someone as good as a decent but not spectacular second year back up to ruin any such logic or common sense…. So no ,that didn’t work…..Bucs needed to bring in an over priced pass rushing defensive end/linebacker for a 5 year 43.98 million dollar contract. Oh, wait, no that didn’t work…..The Bucs needed to swindle the hapless Patriots out of their all pro Guard for a mere tight end, since they drafted a tight end with the a 2nd round pick in the draft. Oh, wait, no…..
…….The Bucs need new owners, or a new GM. (I volunteer.)
Or, the Bucs need to get Jon “Find your beach, but mine ain’t coachin’ any more” Gruden back.
4. All the NFL Florida football teams can’t be championship caliber every year. Or, rather, none of them can be.
3. Bucs, jealous of all the attention fellow northern Florida NFL team Jacksonville got for being horrible two seasons ago and into last, desperately want to replicate.
2. Everybody was picking on Commissioner Goodell, so Bucs promised: “Don’t worry, we got your back Rog’, we’ll divert away focus: We’ll lose so badly practically no one will even mention your name for hours!” Bucs new head coach Coach Smith Lovingly pleaded; “you can accomplish the same by a blowout win you know.” Team responded, “yes, but it’s not as sure a thing.”
1. The Bucs are a really bad football team right now.
Update: You know things probably aren’t going your team’s way when your Center gets unsportsmanlike penalties, snaps the ball over the quarterbacks head, and into his own buttocks instead of the quarterback: