Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
When I was in the Air Force, if one of us messed up, that transgressor earned the moniker, “goat”. It was not a compliment. I earned the title once for oversleeping and arriving 1 ½ hours late for a flight. Another airman (thankfully, not me) earned the title for throwing up and somehow missing his barf bag during a bumpy landing. A third guy was a “goat” when he brought the coffee thermos, but neglected to fill it with coffee.
The punishment for being a “goat” was to buy beer for the entire crew during the post-flight debriefing. Luckily for all of us “goats”, buying beer overseas was not very expensive and it was easy to move on from whatever wrong we committed.
Lately, I have seen the acronym “G.O.A.T.” used to mean “greatest of all time”. Of all the athletes given this title, I have heard it ascribed to former New England Patriot and now Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Tom Brady the most.
Brady certainly has a very good case to claim the title of G.O.A.T. He has been the quarterback of six Super Bowl championship teams while quarterbacking his team to the Super Bowl nine times. While winning these championships, Brady has been named Super Bowl MVP four times, and NFL MVP three times. He also has thrown the most touchdown passes in NFL history, and if I spent any more time giving Brady all the credit he deserves this article would have to be renamed a book.
This season (and frankly, last season as well) Brady has sometimes looked more like a goat than the G.O.A.T., although he has had some very good games, too. In a loss against the Chicago Bears, Brady was caught on camera seemingly not knowing what down it was during his team’s last offensive drive after a very modestly successful game. Brady had two very poor games by any NFL standards against the New Orleans Saints, and both games were Buccaneer losses. Monday night during the Buccaneer loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the G.O.A.T. was inaccurate on several easy (for him) throws, threw two crucial interceptions and even attempted two forward passes on one play, looking hesitant and confused.
Tom Brady is 43 years old, the prime of life for a businessman, but old for a quarterback. He is in fantastic physical shape and his arm looks as strong as ever to me. TB has had great games in 2020 against Carolina, Green Bay, New York Giants, Las Vegas, Denver, and Los Angeles Chargers. His poor games have come, without exception, against teams with top 5 NFL pass rushes and his good games against teams with so-so or poor NFL pass rushes. You would be correct if you said this didn’t used to happen, but maybe that’s because he was playing behind an excellent Patriot offensive line instead of the mediocre Buccaneer offensive line. The Patriots seldom asked Brady to improvise, and seemed to do a better job of putting Brady in a position where he could succeed than the Bucs do.
My point in all this is that, in the NFL, there is a very thin line between goat and G.O.A.T. Tom Brady is not the only quarterback, or player, to have these questions asked of him. Nick Foles, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Ezekiel Elliott, and Brett Favre, among many others, have all faced questions about diminishing performance after success. Football is the ultimate team game, and one player’s performance is greatly affected by his teammates’ performances. Coaching is important, too, and Brady’s former team’s coaches do a much better job than his current team does.
So, it’s up to you. Was Tom Brady ever the G.O.A.T., or should those who were around him get more credit? Is Tom Brady too old, or does he get intimidated now against certain teams? Or, is it all a coincidence? Or, maybe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will shut all of us up by winning the Super Bowl.
If you want me to shut up or not, here are my picks against the spread for this week. Lines are from vegasinsider.com consensus as of Tuesday, Nov., 24.
Houston Texans (-3) at Detroit Lions. I’m not touching this one. I put it here because the line opened Detroit -2 and has been bet to Houston -3. That means if you take the Lions you get, according to the bookmakers, 5 free points! Even so, bet Detroit with great caution.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) vs. Washington Football Team. Are the Cowboys back? They have a lot of offensive talent.
Cincinnati Bengals (+5 ½) vs. New York Giants. The Giants play hard, but they’re not good enough to give 5 ½ points on the road to any NFL team.
Cleveland Browns (-6 ½) at Jacksonville Jaguars. Betting on a road team giving almost a touchdown scares me, but Cleveland got to 6-3 by beating the teams they should beat.
Minnesota Vikings (-4) vs. Carolina Panthers. Probably no McCaffrey, but Bridgewater will probably play. The Vikings are better and should be motivated.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3 ½) vs. Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are weak at cornerback and the Bucs have lots of ways to exploit that. This one should be high scoring, too, but I try to stay away from totals.
Thanksgiving weekend in college football is usually a highlight, because in normal seasons, it’s the last week of the season for most teams, and the next to last for most of the remaining few. It’s also the traditional rivalry week across the nation. A few of those rivalries, the ones where the two combatants are conference foes, have survived the ragtag schedule that Covid-19 has forced this season, but some of the best traditional Thanksgiving Week rivalries are between nonconference opponents, and this season those have fallen by the wayside.
This year the major intrigue of the week was the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings. Normally, this late in the season we are usually down to six teams that at this point have a realistic chance of making the four-team playoff. But, as it stands now, there are two potential conference championship game matchups within the top six, if Clemson-Notre Dame both win out and if Alabama and Florida each don’t stumble. Amazingly, as much havoc as Covid-19 has played on the schedule, postponing games every week, the rankings look pretty much like they always do – Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio St. each in the top four, with a couple other SEC teams and Notre Dame making up the top six. The order may change a time or two, even if none of them lose, based on strength of schedule adjustments. What’s interesting this year is that at No. 7, Cincinnati has the best chance a non-Power 5 team has ever had to make the playoffs, although it isn’t likely, because having already played Memphis, SMU and Central Florida, the other American Athletic Conference contenders, all of Cincinnati’s remaining opponents will drag their strength of schedule down.
All of that provides endless debate fodder for most college football fans, but for my purposes, the only use those rankings serve is in trying to decipher what it means for those teams in relations to the games they have yet to play. Obviously it gives the teams that feel they are in contention incentive to win, but it also does much more. Texas A&M finds themselves ranked No. 5, a position they’ve never been in. Could that instead add pressure to a team that isn’t used to such stakes? What about BYU, which certainly thought it would be ranked higher than No. 14? Do teams like Oregon which just got started and is ranked No. 15, believe they can climb the ladder. And more importantly, for those teams that will be playing next week and beyond, if they lose and get knocked out of a realistic chance of making the playoff, do we see lackluster efforts afterward as a result?
Those, not the debates about who is ranked where and why, are where the intrigue of the rankings are for me.
The picks (Lines as of Wednesday at William Hill):
Notre Dame (-4 ½) at North Carolina. No doubt, with quarterback Sam Howell and a plethora of offensive weapons, North Carolina has the firepower to win a shootout against just abut anyone. In fact, if this game because purely a shootout, the Tar Heels have more weapons and more ways to score than Notre Dame. But the Tar Heels have a serious Achilles, a deficient defense. That means they won’t likely be able to stop the run and take Notre Dame out of its preferred style of game. Meanwhile, Notre Dame does have a defense, and I trust them to make at least one or two more stops than Carolina can make.
UNLV (+16 ½) vs. Wyoming. As crazy as it sounds, and given my record this season, you have every right to assume I’m crazy, but I think this is a winnable game for UNLV, not just a coverable one. Wyoming hasn’t played since Nov. 5, and they’re not explosive offensively. The Rebels have been respectably competitive at home against Nevada and Fresno St., and I think this is the week Charles Williams, aka the Chuck Wagon, finally gets rolling.
Michigan (-2) vs. Penn St. Even though it was only against Rutgers, Michigan got a big lift last week from former Damonte Ranch quarterback Cade McNamara. Penn St. has had nothing but downers all season, and by this point, I’m not sure the spirit is there to turn it around.
Kansas St. (+5 ½) at Baylor. Kansas St. turned in an absolute stinker at Iowa St., last week, getting shut out, and allowing almost five times as much yardage as they gained. They’ve lost three in a row, although they played very well the second of those losses, against Oklahoma St. But Baylor’s only win this season is against Kansas, and compared to what other teams have done to Kansas, wasn’t all that impressive. Kansas St. is much better than this line suggests, and in fact, I think they’re the better team, and certainly a well-coached one, and if that means they come out with a purpose, they’re capable of winning this one with room to spare, much less covering as an underdog.
Tennessee (+3) at Indianapolis. I’m not sure I’ve been right about a Colts game all season, but then again, I haven’t been right about much at all. But one thing that stays consistent in the NFL is that few teams stay at high or low tide for extended stretches. So, coming off a comeback win over the Packers in overtime last week, and a big win over the Titans the week before that, I look for the Colts to ebb this week in the rematch.
Atlanta (+3) vs. Las Vegas. The Raiders are travelling to the Eastern time zone to play a nonconference game, coming off three consecutive division games. I don’t see this being a peak situation for the Raiders.
College 0-3 (1 game cancelled)