Tag: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Noontime’s NFL Divisional Round Predictions

By Matt Noonan

Happy Friday, everyone – yes, our blog has been a bit quieter than anticipated, but I can assure you more posts are on the way, including today’s National Football League’s (NFL) Divisional Round predictions.

Last week, I did alright with picks – yes, I know I missed on a few, including my beloved Dallas Cowboys losing to the San Francisco 49ers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers falling to the Kansas City Chiefs.

This week, I am determined to go four-for-four on picks, so let’s unveil some thoughts on all four matchups.

Enjoy the games and be on the lookout for more posts – I promise, you will see more stories on the blog soon!

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (Saturday, January 22 at 4:30 p.m.): I picked an upset last week – yes, I thought Ben Roethlisberger would be playing this weekend instead of sitting at home. But I will try again with an upset pick – hey, you need to try in life! – and say the Bengals will beat the Titans on their home turf. PREDICTION: Cincinnati 27, Tennessee 23

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (Saturday, January 22 at 8:15 p.m.): This is what I call a classic matchup. Last week, the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys, which was also a “classic matchup.” San Francisco beat Green Bay when they last visited Lambeau Field during the 2013 playoffs, but I think this meeting will see the Packers prevail with a late touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers. Who will catch the go-ahead/game-winning touchdown? I am not sure, but I just think it would be hard to pick against Rodgers, who wanted to be drafted by the 49ers in 2005. PREDICTION: Green Bay 30, San Francisco 26

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, January 23 at 3:05 p.m.): The Rams looked impressive on Monday – I mean, they looked good! But will their momentum travel with them to Florida? That is the question – well, my question, to be exact – but somehow, someway, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers will make one, two, or three more plays to edge the Rams in what might be the best game of the weekend. Get ready for another Brady-Rodgers matchup in the NFC Championship. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 32, Los Angeles 27

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 23 at 6:30 p.m.): This has the making for a quarterback extravaganza. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes looked amazing last weekend – they both threw for 300 yards (or more) in their respective Wild Card victories. But in the end, Mahomes will throw either one more touchdown or make an additional – perhaps, a crazy play? – to send secure the Chiefs a spot in the AFC Championship. PREDICTION: Kansas City 40, Buffalo Bills 36

Noontime Commentary: Learning More About The Ever-Changing QB Position

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback — he has also evolved with the position. (PHOTO COURTESY: Boston.com | AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

By Matt Noonan

When I was growing up, I always wanted to play quarterback (sadly, I never did).   

I loved watching Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, and Steve Young – all three played the position extremely well. But as much as I loved watching all three compete on Sunday, I fell in love more with the position from watching Tom Brady quarterback the New England Patriots.

Brady, as we all know, has become the greatest to play the position. Sure, some might argue that Joe Montana or someone else is better, but I believe Brady is the best because he continues to raise the bar and elevate the position on a yearly basis.

The former New England Patriots quarterback inspired all of us in this region, including the backyard signal-callers to those spotted under center on Friday evenings at various high school stadiums, to mimic his play, which is certainly not easy. And while Brady continues to impress, especially these days as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is what I, along with others in the football community consider one of the last remaining drop-back/pocket passers.

Sure, it might be hard to call Brady a drop-back passer knowing his footwork and agility have improved over the last few years. But saying he is the same type of signal-caller as Lamar Jackson, a cerebral quarterback that relies more on his legs than his arm, would be a hard comparison.

Jackson, along with Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, are what some coaches might consider the “modern-day quarterback.” And the same could be said for Aaron Rodgers, who entered the National Football League (NFL) five years after Tom Brady and has shown similar improvements, especially in his ability to attempt acrobatic off-balanced throws from all angles. Ever see Rodgers’ “pop pass?”

Aaron Rodgers, along with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, were just three names a few coaches mentioned when speaking with them about producing a piece on the “modern-day quarterback” — well, more what has changed about the position. We all know how amazing these three quarterbacks are, but one might not realize that their Sunday or Monday performances are just a sliver of what makes them great signal-callers.

As I learned from recent conversations, playing quarterback at any level does not mean you have to possess the strongest and accurate arm. Nope, there is much more to the position than just throwing the ball 30, 40, or 50 yards.

For starters, coaches believe their quarterback must possess a slew of skillset, including the following: leadership, accountability, knowing how to read multiple defensive schemes, making the necessary changes at the line of scrimmage, and watching a lot of film.

Of course, there are other intangibles and thoughts that were generated by coaches in both the college and high school world, but one thing many harped on is that their team must find the right individual to operate a popular offensive scheme: the spread offense.

What’s the spread offense?

It’s an offensive scheme that finds the quarterback in the shotgun formation with three, four, or five skill position players – think halfbacks, fullbacks, wide receivers, and tight end – spread out along the line of scrimmage. When defenses see this formation deployed, they must be ready to defend different zones/areas of the field, as well as be alert for a possible running play.

(Hopefully what I described above makes sense, but if not, I have included an introduction video to the spread offense below!)

To say the spread offense is a major reason the quarterback position has changed would be an understatement – the same could be said about how the game’s speed has changed, too.

Like anything in life, change can be perceived as both good and bad, but when it comes to the quarterback position, I believe this new wave makes the game fun and enjoyable. It is certainly a different position than the one I watched growing up in the 1990s, but now, I am ready to mimic Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen in the backyard.

Anyone up for a game of pick-up football?

The Early Outlook for the NFL’s Wild Card Matchups

Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders secured a spot in the 2021 NFL Playoffs with an end-of-season victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. (PHOTO COURTESY: Getty Images | New York Post)

By Matt Noonan

The 2021 National Football League’s (NFL) regular season concluded last night.

Now, it is time for the playoffsare you ready?

The 2021 season came down to the final day, as well as its last matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers.

In some way, this season mirrored the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) from the last two seasons (2019 and 2021) where every matchup and week was needed to determine not just divisional winners, but overall seeding for the 14-team playoff.  

Saturday cannot come soon enough – I am eager for yesterday’s excitement to continue. Does anyone know how to hit fast forward in the next few days?

Either way, I am excited – and I hope you are, as well – for some playoff football!

Over the next few days and weeks, Noontime Sports will be keeping its focus on football – consider this some “overtime” coverage from last summer and fall. We will have some op-eds and commentary pieces to previews, along with a piece about quarterback progression (I guess I can thank those armchair quarterbacks calling Boston radio stations!) over the next few days.

Let’s jumpstart the week with some early thoughts on all six Wild Card matchups — have a great day, everyone!

AFC Wild Card Matchups

Los Angeles Raiders (10-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-7): The Raiders concluded their 2021 campaign by winning four-straight contests, including back-to-back games against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. The Silver and Black have been quite the story this season – sure, there was some negative press over the first few weeks, but somehow, they managed to go on a late run to secure an opening round meeting with the Bengals. Don’t overlook the Raiders in this matchup.

New England Patriots (10-7) at Buffalo Bills (11-6): The Patriots ended their season with a disappointing setback to the Miami Dolphins – they also lost two other games before their divisional meeting with the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. But something tells me this was the matchup coach Bill Belichick and his team wanted. They beat Buffalo last month by running the ball and attempting three passes. But a few weeks later, New England struggled to contain quarterback Josh Allen. The rubber match between the Bills and Patriots should be fun!  

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5): The Chiefs may not be the explosive offense they once were – in fact, it seems as if their defense has played better, especially down the stretch. But here’s my question: will this unit be able to stop a Steelers squad that has averaged 17.75 points in their last four outings? My initial answer: yes, but I also wonder if the Pittsburgh defense is good enough to stop Patrick Mahomes?

NFC Wild Card Matchups

Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4): With a big win on Sunday over the Carolina Panthers, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were able to move up to the second seed, thanks to some help from the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Tampa Bay is not the same team as last year – they have some issues on both sides of the ball, which makes them vulnerable. Yet, the Buccaneers should be able to win this game, however, they must find a way to stop an impressive Eagles rushing attack led by quarterback Jalen Hurts. Hurts concluded the regular season with 784 rushing yards on 139 carries and 10 touchdowns while completing 265 of 432 passes for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns.

San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at Dallas Cowboys (12-5): This is a classic matchup – go ahead and break out those Steve Young and Troy Aikman jerseys. Neither signal-caller will be spotted under center next Sunday, but the 49ers’ offense will provide some challenges for a Cowboys defense that struggled initially at slowing down Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew and Kenneth Gainwell this past weekend. But while the 49ers’ come-from-behind win yesterday against the Los Angeles Rams was impressive, the question I have heading into this contest is can this defense — San Franciscos’s, to be exact — slow down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense? This game presents some interesting storylines, as well as features two coaches that used to work together: Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco) and Dan Quinn (Dallas).  

Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at Los Angeles Rams (12-5): Arizona and Los Angeles both scored one win against each other, so like Buffalo-New England, this is a rubber match. To be honest, I did not anticipate this would be a first-round match-up – in fact, I thought Arizona or Los Angeles would be heading to Dallas this weekend. But instead, the Cardinals and Rams will square off once more this season – I am not confident in the Rams’ defense, which struggled to contain the San Francisco offense yesterday, especially in the final minutes. Additionally, will we see a great or subpar Kyler Murray against the Rams? Similar to Dallas-San Francisco, this game also presents some unique storylines.

New Patriots Training Camp: Will Cam Newton Win The Starting Job?

Cam Newton enters the New England Patriots’ 2021 training camp as the favorite to start at quarterback. (PHOTO COURTESY: AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)

By Matt Noonan

A brand new season of New England Patriots football is quickly approaching — are you ready for some football?

I am — I have been counting the days, weeks, and months since the Patriots concluded their 2020 campaign with a two-touchdown victory over the New York Jets in January at Gillette Stadium.

Like many, I am excited to see how some of the team’s offseason signings mesh with members of last year’s squad, including quarterback Cam Newton, who will enter the team’s 2021 training camp on Wednesday, July 28 as the favorite to be spotted under center in week one against the Miami Dolphins.

Newton did not have a great 2020 season — I think many know that or are aware of how he performed last fall. But coach Bill Belichick has acquired some solid pieces for the offense over the past few months, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both players should certainly help Newton, as well as the offense, perform even better than they did last season — New England won just seven games in 2020 but had a chance to squeak out a few more victories had things gone their way down the stretch, especially against the Buffalo Bills in New York.

With a full year under his belt, along with some offseason practices (and meetings, of course), Newton enters training camp more prepared than he was last year, however, he certainly will be challenged by Mac Jones, who the Patriots selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft in April.

Like Newton, Jones competed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) — Jones played at Alabama while Newton competed at Auburn — and should be ready to take the reigns from the league’s most valuable player in 2015.

Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in January — Alabama rolled past Ohio State, 52-24, in the College Football Playoff National Championship contest, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida — and recorded career-highs in completions (311), passing yards (4,500), and touchdowns (41). And despite seeing limited action in 2018 and 2019, Jones should be able to translate his junior season’s success to the NFL this summer and fall.

Jones certainly has what it takes to challenge Newton for the starting quarterback spot — I am unsure if Jarrett Stidham is ready to slide up the depth chart considering he will begin his team’s camp Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham has competed in eight games since becoming a member of the Patriots organization, including five contests last season. The former Auburn signal-caller completed 22 of 44 passes for a career and season-high 250 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, throw three interceptions compared to one in 2019.

Numerous talking heads, along with various analysts believe Mac Jones could be the starter in the opening week, but it will all depend on how he handles himself during in-game situations. As Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault explains, “Every throw of 11-on-11 work will be dissected ad nauseam, but the bottom line is whether or not Jones or Stidham do enough to dethrone Newton, and can Newton hold them off by taking significant strides in his second year in the offense.”

For now, my bet is Cam Newton will be the starter in the opening week, but I do think Patriots fans will see Mac Jones under center at some point this fall — maybe against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week four? I am not sure if week four is when Jones will be thrusted into the lineup, but we’ll certainly learn more about his readiness when the Patriots scrimmage the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles later this summer. Those inter-squad practices will help us identify which quarterback(s) is ready to lead the hometown team to hopefully a postseason appearance next January.

Noontime’s Super Bowl Prediction

By Matt Noonan

So we have finally made it to the Super Bowl – please breath a sigh of relief, Roger Goodell.

Of course, we need to play the game, which we will tomorrow evening, but like I have over the past few weeks, allow me to share my “two-cents” on the 2020 National Football League (NFL) postseason with a Super Bowl prediction!

Enjoy the game, everyone – tomorrow’s match-up between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be a great contest.


Get ready for Super Bowl Sunday with some insight – and yes, some thoughts and predictions, too – by listening to the Football Friday Podcast with myself, as well as Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Anchor!


Noontime’s Postseason Record: 9-3

Conference Championship Picks | Divisional Round Picks| Wild Card Picks

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is the match-up the NFL wanted – if it had been Kansas City and the Green Bay Packers that would have worked, too – but Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes seems like the ideal way to cap a pandemic season.

Sunday’s meeting will mark the fifth time Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have tangled on the gridiron since 2018 – Brady won the first two meetings while Mahomes has captured the last two, including one when the current Buccaneers quarterback was under center for the New England Patriots.

Tampa Bay enters the contest with a great deal of momentum. They have scored three-straight postseason wins, but really found their grove at the end of the regular season with a pair of victories against the Atlanta Falcons, along with a statement win against the Detroit Lions.

The Bucs will be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium, and will be the initial team to secure a victory in the ‘big game’ on their own turf.

It will be a bit closer than many may anticipate, but in the end, Tom Brady will lead the Buccaneers on a game-winning touchdown drive to secure his seventh Super Bowl championship. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 31, Kansas City 27