The best way to find yourself mocked by Freezing Cold Takes is to count out Tom Brady.
He’s a sixth-round pick who became the GOAT. He bounced back from a shaky year to win the Super Bowl in 2018. He did it again in 2020. He has authored 53 fourth-quarter comebacks and 70 game-winning drives.
But enough is enough. I’m calling it now. Brady and the Buccaneers were my preseason Super Bowl pick, but they are done.
They dropped to 6-7 after Sunday’s embarrassing 35-7 loss to the 49ers and rookie quarterback Brock Purdy. It’s the first time in Brady’s career that he is under .500 this late in the season, and just the second time he has lost seven games in a regular season (2002).
There’s nothing to suggest a turnaround is coming. The Buccaneers’ shocking dysfunction is where we begin the Week 14 Review:
▪ The Bucs’ first year with Todd Bowles as head coach and Byron Leftwich as sole offensive coordinator is a disaster. They entered Sunday 27th in points scored. They can’t block, can’t run the ball, can’t get open, and can’t avoid penalties. Their record would be even worse if not for last-second Brady heroics against the Rams and Saints.
But even Brady was dreadful Sunday. Brady averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt on 55 passes, misfired badly on a fourth-down incompletion to Mike Evans at the end of the first half, then threw two interceptions after halftime.
Brady and the Bucs have bounced back from a blowout loss before — they won the Super Bowl in 2020 after losing to the Saints, 38-3. But that game came in Week 9, and the Bucs had played well before that. This year, the Bucs’ offense has been a mess all season. And good teams don’t lose by 28 points in December.
The Bucs still have the No. 4 seed and lead the NFC South by a game over the 5-8 Falcons and Panthers. But the Bucs are going nowhere in the playoffs, if they even get there. It’s increasingly looking like the Bucs’ run is up, and it’s time to blow up the team this offseason.
▪ Kyle Shanahan entered Sunday with a 14-29 record as 49ers coach when anyone other than Jimmy Garoppolo starts at quarterback. But Shanahan may have finally found a legit backup in Purdy. He became the first QB to win his starting debut against Brady, completing 16 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite Purdy’s impressive performance, it’s still hard seeing him being effective in the playoffs against the top teams. But he clearly was ready for the moment Sunday, and Shanahan is an excellent coach. Their No. 1-ranked defense will keep the Niners in every game, and if Purdy can avoid mistakes, they will remain feisty.
▪ Not the prettiest win for the Bills on Sunday, but definitely a well-earned, 20-12 win over a tough Jets team. The Bills improved to 10-3 and maintained their grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC, holding a tiebreaker over the 10-3 Chiefs.
Josh Allen proved again that he’s the perfect quarterback for inclement weather. On a windy, snowy day in Western New York, Allen threw for 147 yards and a touchdown and rushed 47 yards and a touchdown. He’s not going to put up big numbers in the bad weather, but he has the arm strength, size, and speed to still be dangerous.
▪ Meanwhile, the 7-6 Jets are fading, and could lose the No. 7 playoff seed if the Patriots beat the Cardinals Monday night. But the Jets still have to feel good about where they are as an organization. They gave the Bills a 60-minute fight Sunday, and Mike White showed great toughness in taking big hits and playing through pain. If only they played White instead of Zach Wilson against the Patriots.
▪ Hope Cowboys fans are ready for more disappointment in the playoffs, because Sunday’s win over the Texans felt like a sign of things to come. And that disappointment is probably going to come from Dak Prescott, who has been shaky in recent weeks.
Yes, the Cowboys escaped with the 27-23 win over the Texans to improve to 10-3. And driving 98 yards for the winning touchdown certainly was impressive. But the Cowboys were 17½-point favorites over the one-win Texans, and barely squeaked out a win thanks to the Texans’ ineptitude late in the game. Prescott threw two bad interceptions, including one in his own end zone in the fourth quarter that should have sealed the Cowboys’ loss.
The Cowboys have a top-five defense that will keep them competitive. But Prescott’s inconsistent play is a troubling sign.
▪ Only one of the 138 teams in NFL history to start a season 1-6 have made the playoffs, but the Lions, the 139th, are giving it a shot. Sunday’s 34-23 win over the Vikings was the Lions’ fifth in six games, improving their record to 6-7.
The Lions continue to play hard under second-year coach Dan Campbell, whose aggressive style is playing well. The Lions entered Sunday with the third-most fourth-down attempts in the NFL, pulled off a fake punt from their own 26 yard line in the second half, and sealed the win with a tackle-eligible pass to Penei Sewell on third and 7.
The Lions sit at No. 9 in the NFC, 1½ games behind 7-5-1 Washington, but their closing schedule is fairly manageable — at Jets, at Panthers, Bears, and at Packers. Who says they can’t run off a few more wins and sneak into the postseason?
▪ Two of the 174 teams in NFL history to start 2-6 have made the playoffs, but the Jaguars also are making a late-season run. They sit at 5-8 after an impressive 36-22 win over the Titans that snapped an eight-game losing streak in Nashville.
The Jaguars probably don’t have a shot at a Wild Card, but they sit two games behind the 7-6 Titans in the AFC South with four games to play, including a Week 18 showdown with the Titans in Jacksonville.
Every game on the Jaguars’ remaining schedule is winnable — Cowboys, at Jets, at Texans, Titans. And Trevor Lawrence has thrown 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last five games. Even if the Jaguars don’t make the playoffs, they are on the rise.
▪ A second straight dud from Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense Sunday night, as Justin Herbert left little doubt who is the better quarterback. The Chargers’ 30th-ranked scoring defense packed the middle of the field and rendered Tagovailoa totally ineffective. Now the 8-5 Dolphins have a third straight road game this Saturday at Buffalo. Time to get nervous in Miami.
▪ Is 2022 the Year of the Cat? The hottest teams in the NFL right now may be the Lions (five straight wins), Bengals (five straight wins), Jaguars (recent wins over Ravens and Titans), and Panthers (three wins in four weeks).
▪ John Harbaugh could be put to the test next week against the Browns with a QB depth chart of former BC Eagle Anthony Brown and Brett Hundley. The 9-4 Ravens escaped with a win over the Steelers Sunday, but need to keep winning to fend off the 9-4 Bengals in the AFC North.
▪ Apparently it takes more than two weeks to shake off two years of rust. The Browns have scored just one offensive touchdown in Deshaun Watson’s two games.
▪ Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks may be backing owner Dave Tepper into a corner. How can Tepper not hire Wilks full time after the Panthers keep winning? The 5-8 Panthers may also have found a decent bridge QB in Sam Darnold, who won his second start in a row.
Tracking Former Patriots
▪ Giants coach Brian Daboll: His team raced out to a 7-2 start, but it was a mirage. The Giants are 0-3-1 in the last four weeks as they start playing division games and tough NFC opponents.
▪ Titans coach Mike Vrabel: Three losses in a row for the 7-6 Titans, and Sunday marked their second straight blowout loss. The surprise firing of GM Jon Robinson last week revealed a team dealing with more dysfunction than previously known. The offense is lacking punch and the team looks deflated.
▪ Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell: The 10-3 Vikings are minus-1 in scoring differential this season and have allowed at least 400 yards in five straight games. They’re not looking strong for the postseason.
Stats of the Week
▪ Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes became the fourth QB to be at least 10-0 against one team (Broncos), joining Andrew Luck (11-0 vs Titans), Tom Brady (10-0 vs Falcons), and John Elway (10-0 vs Patriots).
▪ The Broncos, after giving Russell Wilson $160 million guaranteed, were eliminated from the playoff race with four games to go.
▪ The Lions have scored 25 points in five straight games for the first time since 1954.
▪ After Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars, Titans running back Derrick Henry is 29-5 in his career (including postseason) when rushing for at least 100 yards.
▪ With Kirk Cousins throwing for 425 yards in the Vikings’ loss, QBs are 19-5 in the last two years when throwing for 400 yards.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.