Sometimes, most times, every time you state an educated opinion on television, uneducated trolls squirm out of the holes where they live and spit venom in your direction. Not because they have stats or facts to back up their belief. No, that would be asking too much. Their ire simply exists because you are saying something they don't like and their only defense is to go on offense and yell incoherently in your general direction.
Enter ESPN NFL analyst Dianna Russini. She appeared on Get Up this morning and explained why she thinks Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't make the playoffs this year. She used stats and facts about their division rivals to back up her argument, pointing out the Saints' recent dominance and long-term cohesion and the Atlanta Falcons' hot 6-2 finish to the season. She also pointed out that QBs who play in Bruce Arians' system get hit a lot, something Brady hasn't faced much of recently.
Despite her sound reasoning, she faced the firing squad on social media.
That all makes sense. The Saints are a Super Bowl favorite. They have continuity. They have a great QB-coach combo with the offensive weapons needed to dominate. She didn't mention the defense, but it was tied for No. 13 in the NFL in points allowed last year. And yes, the Falcons did finish the year 6-2 and also have far more experience together than the Bucs and their new quarterback. It all makes sense. And yet, here's some of the responses to Rusinni.
The Saints have won the division the last three years, so not really up for grabs every year, Ernie.
Good point, Jeff. There is an extra playoff spot this year. Only problem is the NFC is stacked, with the 49ers, Seahawks, Packers, Vikings, Eagles and Cowboys all among the Top 15 teams in Super Bowl odds this year. The Bucs are too, but their path to the playoffs is anything but easy.
Beyond their two games each against division opponents this season, the Bucs play the NFC North and AFC West, arguably the two best divisions in football outside the NFC South. They'll host the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, travel to Denver to face the upstart Broncos and also face returning playoff teams in the Packers and Vikings. Throw in games against the Rams, Raiders and Bears, and it's not hard to envision 8-9 losses.
Finally, someone who brought some solid stats to the party. These are all facts. Winston was a turnover machine, the defense did improve late in the season, their kicker wasn't great, and Brady is an exceptional leader. But the reality is he's also 43, has gotten banged-up the last few seasons and has seen his passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating decrease the last two years. He's playing in a new system under a new coach for the first time in 20 years and while he has a lot of talent around him, it takes time to develop the kind of chemistry he had in New England. This isn't going to be a turn-key system and with no preseason to work out the kinks. It will take Tampa Bay time to get on the same page.
The Bucs could make the playoffs this year. They could also just as easily not. Fans pin their hopes on Brady being great for a full season, but men of his age get hurt more easily than the young guns. And I'm not talking one big hit. Wear and tear can be just as debilitating. If he goes down, the Bucs' backup is Blaine Gabbert. Not exactly a great insurance plan. So go ahead Bucs fans, rip Russini all you want. But listen to the facts while you do and realize it's a 50-50 chance (at best) you make the playoffs despite the fact that you won the offseason.