Thursday Night Football Grades: Week 5 (Patriots at Buccaneers)

Jameis Winston down on a knee in front of an official. (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Unable to stay awake for the entirety of Thursday Night Football? Watching the highlights is a great start to getting caught up, but they rarely paint the entire picture. Good news: we’ll be offering in-depth analysis of each Thursday Night Football matchup, including grades for the noteworthy players from the game and the future betting prospects for both teams, information which you can utilize at our top-rated sportsbooks.

WEEK 5

New England Patriots:    19

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 14

As if we needed any more ammo to fight this Thursday Night Football plague … Last night’s game between the Pats and Bucs was supposed to be a shootout — the o/u for points scored was set at 55.5. Yet, we saw the Buccaneers amass just 100 total yards in the first half, Tom Brady turn the ball over twice, and a measly three touchdowns. Come on, NFL, do the right thing already!

If you were only able to catch one quarter of this game, hopefully it was the fourth. Actually, hopefully it was only the final 4.5 minutes of the fourth quarter, otherwise you would have had to witness Nick Folk missing his third field-goal attempt of the game and listen to the boos that subsequently rained down on him from an understandably frustrated Tampa crowd. But the action did pick up in the dying minutes, thank the Lord.

After Jameis Winston led the Bucs on a 74-yard TD drive to bring Tampa Bay within two points (16-14), New England recovered the ensuing onside kick, but failed to pick up a first down and had to settle for a field goal. This left Winston 1:10 on the clock to put the ball in the endzone and win the game. The third-year QB put forth a valiant effort, getting the ball all the way to the New England 19-yard-line for one final shot, but ultimately came up short as a pass intended for OJ Howard fell to the turf.

Here’s how the most noteworthy players graded out in the latest edition of Tedious Night Football.

New England Patriots

Tom Brady: B-

For the majority of the league, a 94.1 passer rating would be considered a great game. But this is Tom Brady we’re talking about here. Two turnovers and a spoiled opportunity to ice the game is very un-Brady-like.

You can’t completely fault the five-time Super Bowl champion here …

… since it appears only two of his linemen were interested in blocking on that play.

However, this was just a terribly thrown football with no pressure in his face whatsoever …

And as I mentioned earlier, the Patriots got the ball back with 2:08 on the clock, only needing to pick up one first down to end the game, but Brady failed to convert on a third-and-eight, giving the Bucs a chance to win the game.

On the bright side, the 40-year-old did throw for 303 yards while completing 75-percent of his passes. It wasn’t a horrible game, just not what we’re not used to seeing from Brady this year or, indeed, most years.

Dion Lewis: A-

Just as the Patriot running backs were starting to solidify their roles, Dion Lewis had to go and have himself a game last night. The 27-year-old was explosive carrying the ball, racking up a team-high 53 yards on just seven carries,  including this 31-yard scamper …

Lewis also caught both of his targets in the passing game for ten yards. It was clear Lewis was the third option in the backfield entering the night — Mike Gillislee carried the ball 12 times and James White saw nine targets — but that may change very soon.

Cassius Marsh: D

I’ll keep this quick, since Mr. Marsh already received quite the roast from Pats fans on Twitter last night. The 25-year-old defensive end struggled mightily rushing the passer, and was basically erased when Tampa Bay decided to run the ball. Worst of all, he took a really dumb roughing-the-passer penalty with two seconds left in the first half to set the Bucs up with a long field-goal attempt. Yeah, Deatrich Wise Jr committed the same foul on the previous play, but his was less blatant and less costly.

Fortunately for Marsh, it was Nick Folk attempting the field goal, so the opportunity was squandered.

Patriots’ Betting Outlook

For a third consecutive week, the Patriots put in a rather uninspiring performance. Tom Brady and the offense were not themselves, and New England’s defensive success was more Tampa spoiling its opportunities. But if you’re even considering wasting your money on taking the Bills to win the AFC East (+550 on Bet 365), stop.

That said, I wouldn’t be laying any more money on the Patriots to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII. Their odds are still too short (+162 on Bet365), and the Kansas City Chiefs have been knocking on the door for a couple years now; barring a Kareem Hunt injury, this could finally be their season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston in the first three quarters: D+

In the first three quarters of the game, Jameis Winston completed 13/26 passes for a lousy 109 yards. The former first-overall pick was simply unable to pick apart a defense that was allowing an average of 324 yards through the air and 32 points per game entering Week 5. Winston was inaccurate and struggled to find open receivers on multiple occasions.

Jameis Winston in the fourth quarter: B+

The Patriots didn’t really change their defensive scheme much in the fourth quarter, as they had been sitting back all game. Yet, when the fourth quarter started, Jameis Winston snapped out of his funk and started looking like a franchise pivot. The 23-year-old completed 13/20 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown in the final frame.

Had OJ Howard been on the same page as his QB on the final play of the game, Winston would have added another fourth-quarter comeback to his resume.

DeSean Jackson: A-

If DeSean Jackson had fourth-quarter Jameis Winston throwing him the ball all game, he would have racked up at least 200 receiving yards. On more than one occasion, D-Jax found himself wide open streaking down the sideline, only to have Winston overthrow him or go somewhere else with the ball.

But when Winston started allowing Jackson to make plays, this is what happened …

There will be a direct correlation between Winston and Jackson’s chemistry and the success of the Bucs offense this season.

Nick Folk: F

After missing two field goals and an extra-point last week, Nick Folk followed up by missing three more field goals last night. Here’s the odd part: Nick Folk is a reliable, veteran kicker. This isn’t like the Roberto Aguayo case of 2016, where the kid couldn’t overcome the jarring experience of missing a couple early kicks. It is clear, though, that Folk is battling the same confidence issues as Aguayo did in his short tenure in Tampa Bay.

The order of Folk’s field-goal attempts likely contributed to his mental issues. The first one was the 56-yard attempt to end the first half, followed by the 49-yarder, and finally the chip-shot 31-yard attempt. If you reverse the order, I’d be willing to bet Folk makes at least two of those kicks, and the Bucs would have won the game. That’s not the way it happened, though, and I doubt Tampa Bay’s front office (and fans) will be as sympathetic as myself.

Buccaneers’ Betting Outlook

In spite of the Falcons offense appearing to have regressed from 2016, and Cam Newton being extremely inconsistent, I still wouldn’t be betting the Bucs to win the NFC West, even at +500 (Bet 365).

Winston has not taken the leap to legitimate franchise quarterback, and the offense is most efficient when he’s not being asked to throw the ball 30 times per game. However, Dirk Koetter was given the head-coaching position because of what he pulled out of Winston in his rookie year — a Pro Bowl-caliber season — and knows his job relies upon his signal-caller’s development. That’s why you see the Bucs abandon the run far too often and ask Famous Jameis to shoulder the load when he’s just not ready. This trend will continue all season, especially with the organization investing heavily in weapons for Winston during the offseason.

As a result, I expect to see Tampa Bay miss out on the playoffs for a tenth consecutive year.