2023 NFL Wild Card Monday

Posted: January 17, 2023 in All Things Power Spread

I think most of the fans didn’t expect so many close crazy games this weekend as many of the favorites seemed rock solid. I’ve said it all weekend – watch out!

Last year, the WC Weekend was actually pretty boring. Then all hell broke loose! So are we in for even a crazier ride this year? Will normalcy ever come back to our football lives? Is this the “new” normal.

One game to go. Monday Night Football w/ Tom Brady in Tampa Bay vs the Cowboys…this could be a super wrap to a Super WC Weekend!

Cowboys at Buccaneers

The Bucs have struggled all year! Injuries made this team look old and tired. Is it time for a renewal of Personnel like the Seahawks have done?

The Cowboys have been strong since Week 2 with their big win against Cincy. They had a lot of their own injuries but McCarthy had his team full of energy and fight all year long.

Tampa can win this game at home – but they need to show up, because the Cowboys most certainly will.

Talent

Tampa still has a lot of Talent. They are a Veteran Team at this point, but a lot of these guys should be in their prime. Much of the Defense is the same D that one that Super Bowl. Their HC Bowles was their DC that came up with the Scheme to stop the Chiefs! They just need to play with the “fire” of before.

Brady is still a strong passer who can read a Defense in his sleep. The problem is that the Defenses are trickier than ever before – both in their Pressure as well as Coverage Mix. The QB that can run is the QB that usually wins today. If the Defense is flipping coverage or pressure or matching in Man or Zone, the dual threat can simply run! Brady isn’t that kind of QB.

His Oline has been beaten up all year. To a lesser degree so has RB Fournette and his WRs. Add in some horrible concentration lapses + turnovers (see vid) and the Bucs are lucky to be in the playoffs. A losing record won them the division crown.

Dallas has been much stronger and younger. Still, they have had their share of Injuries as well. In their first game the lost the left side of their Oline. Then they lost their star QB Prescott. Then their star RB Elliott was beat up.

Along the way they found a RB/SB in Pollard and a decent 2nd String QB in Rush. They also found a complimentary WR to Lamb in Noah Brown out of Ohio State. They have a top receiving TE and a couple of other WRs as well. The weapons are there and the OLine is strong IF it’s healthy.

On D they have a plethora of young speed rushers led by Parsons and plenty of DBs led by CB Trevon Diggs and S Kearse! Two old vets DE DeMarcus Lawrence and S Logan Ryan stabilize the Defense that lost 2 of their 3 CBs during the year – Brown and Lewis. Rookie CB Bland has 5 Ints but can be a liability.

I love what McCarthy has built on Special Teams. Two young kickers with strong legs in K Maher and P Anger plus the 2022 USFL MVP, Returner KaVontae Turpin! The Bucs have a vet K in Succop, but he no longer has a strong leg like Maher.

Coaches

McCarthy knows Culture and Winning. He also knows Offense, but has wisely delegated his Scheme to OC Kellen Moore, who’s added a PS Pro flavor to the WCO Spread game of McCarthy.

With Moore you will see fly sweeps, interesting sets, personnel packages, misdirection play action and a big mix of going with tendency then breaking it!

Moore shined early in the year as he set up an Offense geared to Cooper Rush’s abilities during Prescott’s absence. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with in these Playoffs as McCarthy seems to have given him more free reign.

Dan Quinn has updated his 4-3 Man Free Scheme to include more mix in Coverage + Exotic Blitzes on Passing Downs. He will need to Mix even more than usual vs Brady and the Bucs and sell out some to make sure to stop their power run game.

I have a ton of stuff about Bowles Defense in past posts and podcasts. He’s a genius when it comes to Defense. His issue is more about Culture and Leadership as a HC. I still say he can do it, but he hasn’t proven so yet.

The Bucs players let down a lot this year and it seemed to cause Bowles to back off his usual aggressive self late in the year. Still they had a lot of Sacks due to fierce edge rushers. The Interceptions were low, telling me he isn’t mixing coverage as much as usual.

OC Leftwich has run a Pro PS in a WC Pro Spread Style of Arians. Arians is a Tom Moore guy which hearkens all the way back to the Master of WC Offense – Sid Gillman.

Arians/Leftwich also added in Brady’s Pass Spread from his New England days. The Scheme is fine. Again, Talent, Injuries and Execution were the issues more than Scheme.

Momentum+Injuries

The Bucs looked strong to start the year, beating these very same Cowboys. But after a 2-0 start the injuries took their toll. Even once the starters came back, they still struggled to play up to their talent.

Was it because they were still banged up? I don’t think so, because there were halves – like the Bengals Game above – that the Defense would play lights out… then just fade away.

A lot of the year was filled with a Lack of Effort on D and Concentration Lapses from the whole team.

The Cowboys had a slow start do to pre-season injuries, but pulled it together in Week 2 with a great win over the Bengals. In Spite of their banged up Offense, they rolled until their starters came back. Except for the loss of 2 CBs, their Defense stayed relatively healthy.

The Cowboys finished a bit sloppy after the big win over Philly, but I wouldn’t make much of that. The worry is the way the Bucs never played with consistency the rest of the year after their tight loss to Green Bay in Wk 3.

Prediction – Cowboys (Bucs w/ the points)

Even though I’m saying Cowboys, I am rooting for the Bucs.

Just like the Giants, I know the Bucs can win, but they are facing a team that has played a lot better and won close games all year.

Unlike the Giants, the Bucs don’t come into the Playoffs with the same momentum. BUT… they are at home.

This will be 6 out of 6 close games on Super WC Weekend. I again will take the underdog w/ the points. The young K for Dallas wins this or Brady does it one more time!

~PS

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