Season In Review – Miami Dolphins

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

Time for everyone’s preseason favourite tankers, the Miami Dolphins. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but did the Dolphins do themselves any harm? Depends if your a tank half full or a tank half empty kind of person…


Entering The Season



After two losing seasons under Adam Gase, the Dolphins made a move for Brian Flores from the Patriots to further extend the Belichick coaching tree.

However this was not to be with a view to a galvanisation of the team to lead to a wildcard spot. Quite the opposite. The Dolphins front office put Flores and the team well and truly in the tank.

Laremy Tunsil was sent off to the Texans for a haul of picks including two first rounders and Ryan Tannehill was sent to the Titans for a 2020 4th rounder.

The writing was on the wall. If they could get valuable picks for you and you were playing well, Miami were packing your bags and driving you to the nearest airport.

Were we about to see another 0-16 season in the NFL? Could the Dolphins be historically bad?


During The Season


Week 1: Baltimore Ravens 59. Miami Dolphins 10. 
This could be a long season.

Time for a get right game, right? Wrong. The Dolphins got royally spanked 43-0 with two pick sixes and more punting yards than total offense. The season couldn’t have started much worse for the team whilst the front office were rubbing their hands at the prospect of that first round pick.

Things really didn’t improve for Miami until Week 6 when they started to put touchdowns on the board in a 17-16 loss to the Redskins. Both teams were winless and in what some might have termed a cynical move to lose the game, the Dolphins opted to go for an end-of-game 2 point conversion instead of kicking the XP to tie the game. The defeat took the Redskins to 1-5 and sank Miami to 0-5.

0-5 became 0-6, which became 0-7, which became 0-Hold The Phone It’s An Adam Gase Revenge Game!

That’s right! The 1-6 Jets against the 0-7 Dolphins. A divisional matchup for the ages. Step forward the only man for the job.

Ryan FitzMagicPatrick.

The bearded genius threw 3 touchdowns as the Dolphins secured their first win of the season against an equally hapless Gang Green. This result was reward for Flores and his team after becoming increasingly competitive with a poor roster over the prior month.

Flores and his charges would get further reward a week later with back-to-back wins, beating the understaffed-at-under-centre Indianapolis Colts 16-12.

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Two straight defeats to Buffalo and Cleveland preceded a stunning third win against a Philadelphia Eagles team who were looking to win their division. Miami overturned a 21-14 deficit at the half to win 37-31 to go 3-9. The best part of this game? The trick play with the punter Matt Haack throwing a one-yard shovel to kicker Jason Sanders with an utterly bizarre lineup from the Dolphins. If you haven’t seen it, get yourselves to YouTube ASAP.

Much like the Colts game, however, after a surprising win against a team chasing the playoffs, two defeats followed. This time on back-to-back weeks in East Rutherford against Gang Green and the G-Men to leave Miami at 3-11 and eyeing a top 3 pick or maybe even #1 if, IF, they conspired to lose to the hopless Bengals in Week 16.

What we got in the BurrowBowl/TankForTuaBowl was one of the most entertaining games of the season.

Heading into the 4th quarter the Dolphins lead 35-12 in what was turning into a blowout with FitzMagicPatrick throwing 4 touchdown passes including one to rookie DE Christian Wilkins (more on him shortly).

With 30 seconds left on the clock the Dolphins led 35-19.

The Bengals scored two touchdowns AND two 2 point conversions in thirty seconds! Sixteen points! Merry Christmas!

As you’d expect with these two, overtime went the distance. We had dropped passes, terrible route running, third down sacks and even some great defensive play in there but finally, finally as time expired Jason Sanders hit a 37 yarder to end the game and reward the handful of fans left in Hard Rock Stadium.

If you’re going to give up the #1 pick you may as well do it in the most entertaining way possible and the ‘Fins did not disappoint. Bravo.

As an addendum, Christian Wilkins not only made a name for himself with that touchdown pass but also for the funniest mic’d up moment of the season. Enjoy.

Now for the encore. A trip to New England to close the season out. The Patriots needed to win to secure a first round bye and with the Miami Miracle only twelve months prior surely they weren’t going to let their divisional rivals land another scalp…Surely?


The much vaunted Patriots defense of September gave up 320 passing yards to Wonderlic’s FitzMagicPatrick and even ran in a pick six. Ryan FMP also ran a touchdown in. What is this fresh madness? Miami cost New England a first round bye with their first win in Gillette Stadium since 2008!

I’d even stretch as far as saying that this result contributed greatly to Kansas’ Super Bowl appearance.

A 5-11 finish for a team that wanted the #1 pick will disappoint some but in the second half of the season, Miami were one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. There was a freedom to their play and under Brian Flores I think there are foundations – assuming their draft choices are sound – for a bright future in Florida.


Offseason Outlook


It’s all about the draft. With Tua seemingly recovered from a severe hip injury the thinking is that Miami expect him to fall to #5 if the first four picks go according to plan but with Detroit and New York above them and quarterback hungry teams below, there is a danger a team could usurp them.

Miami have the most selections (12) which include three first rounders and two second rounders. Add on the estimated $93 million in cap space and the room that Miami have this offseason is terrific.

There won’t need to be any trickery with the salary cap, just start rebuilding and maybe even make a big play or two in free agency for a true WR1. Just do one thing for us, Miami. Keep Ryan Fitzpatrick around. The league is better for it.

Next season brings matchups against the NFC West and the AFC West as well as a rematch that will be as hotly anticipated as Wilder v Fury III. That’s right. It’s Bengals v Dolphins back at Hard Rock! Make it primetime, schedulers, Burrow vs Tua? Yes please.

Season in Review – New York Jets

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Today we take a look at the New York Jets. Not quite saving the best ’til last but alas, another season to break down for you. Is Adam Gase the answer in New York? Is Sam Darnold still their guy? Will LeVeon Bell still be a Jet next season? Let’s find out.


Entering the season


Adam Gase punched the 2nd hole in his AFC East loyalty card when moving from Miami up the east coast to East Rutherford, New Jersey. Whilst I very much doubt he’ll get a full house with New England/Buffalo, there were many amongst the Jets’ fanbase that were hoping that he’d get his chance sooner rather than later. It just seems like yesterday that he had that extraordinary eye bulging press conference when being introduced to the media, to be later dubbed “Taco man”.

LeVeon Bell’s exodus from Pittsburgh saw him end up in the green of New York, looking to finally sort out the muddling backfield which it has been for years. He signed a 4 year $52.5 million deal with $35m of it fully guaranteed. Whilst many in the fanbase were “happy”, Adam Gase seemingly wasn’t, causing tension between him and Mike Maccagnan. Elsewhere, Sam Darnold was expected to step up in his 2nd year, especially with Gase being the “Quarterback Whisperer”.

Draft wise, Quinnen Williams was the pick at #2 whilst their next pick, Jachai Polite didn’t even make it to the Regular Season, ultimately ending up on the Seahawks/Rams practice squads. The rest of the draft class was not much to write home about with Tackle Chuma Edoga and Tight End Trevon Wesco both playing cameo roles in their first season.


DURING THE SEASON


It turned out to be a peculiar season for the Jets, finishing 7-9, but you have to say the assist goes to the strength of schedule and you could argue that the team should have had a better record.

The early part of the schedule saw Sam Darnold sit out due to a case of Mono (the price of fame, eh?) but he returned in week 6 to demolish the Cowboys at home to register their first win of the season.

Image result for sam darnold mono
Todd Kirkland/Getty

They finished off the back half of the season 6-2 with losses coming against the Ravens and the Bengals. Their wins against a half Rudolph/half Duck led Steelers and a “nothing to play for” Bills team in week 17 meant they were able to finish with a 7-9 record.

This was a team that were 2nd worst in terms of points scored, 3rd down conversion %, total 1st downs and total rush yards on the season. Not great, Bob.

The running back position was as bad as it’s ever been with off-season free agent signing LeVeon Bell averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry and did not have a 100-yard rushing game (no running back on the roster mustered over 4 yards per carry). How much of that was on him or the poor offensive line play or playcalling, is up to you to decide.

One glimmer of hope for the Jets offence was the chemistry between Sam Darnold and Jamison Crowder, who’ll look to build on their rapport which enabled the slot receiver to find the endzone 6 times (team high) on 78 receptions. Fellow wide receiver Robby Anderson didn’t quite have the breakout he was perhaps expecting and the tight end production from Ryan Griffin, filling in for Chris Herndon, varied on a week to week basis but he managed to find the endzone 5 times.


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The defence as a whole unit played averagely, with their run defence being one of the better units in the league.

You could argue Quinnen Williams had a quiet start to his career, totaling just 2.5 sacks on the season and 15 solo tackles. Leaders on the defence started and ended with Jamal Adams, especially when CJ Mosley went down after week 2. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins was their sack leader with 8, giving him 20 on his career and building nicely upon his 7 from 2018. Certainly a name that flies under the radar in the NFL.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


The Jets probably hindered themselves more with that back half win collection they achieved, picking from the #11 spot. There are a variety of needs so would be candidates to trade back if the opportunity presents itself.

Image result for leveon Bell
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In free agency, WR Robby Anderson looks likely to head for the exit door and the LeVeon Bell/Adam Gase rift rumours continue and has led to speculation about the Jets trying to trade Bell this offseason, something that seems unlikely because of the $13 million guaranteed he has coming his way this season.

Many will continue to question Adam Gase and his suitability in the organisation and with good reason, this team seem to be behind the 8-ball in terms of being the team that overhauls the Patriots (if that ever becomes a thing) with both divisional rivals putting themselves in a much better position to do just that. The Jets may be landed for a while in New York.

Season in Review – Buffalo Bills

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

Today it’s time to turn our attention to the AFC East. More specifically, the Buffalo Bills. After coming close to winning a playoff game for the first time in what seems like centuries, we assess why they fell short yet again, but will come back even stronger in 2020.


ENTERING THE SEASON


Languishing in the postseason wilderness since 1999, the Bills finally returned to the playoffs in 2017, only to revert to type with a 6-10 campaign in 2018. So, coming into last season, which scenario could Bills fans expect? Was 2017 a rare high in an otherwise bleak landscape, or could their team compete for the AFC East title again in their third year under HC Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane?

The offseason was largely shaped by Buffalo’s numerous free trade acquisitions, including centre Mitch Morse, wideouts Cole Beasley and John Brown, and TJ Yeldon joined in the backfield by the ageless Frank Gore. Not one but two Cincinnati tight ends (Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher) added to the influx, contradicting the common narrative that “players don’t want to move to Buffalo”.

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These recruits were complemented by a decent draft haul. Ed Oliver (No.9 overall) was picked to beef up the defensive line, guard Cody Ford was added to protect QB Josh Allen (no longer a wet-behind-the-ears rookie), while RB Devin Singletary and TE Dawson Knox were decent Round 3 and 4 catches.

Armed with this new talent, Buffalo beat the Colts, Panthers, Lions and Vikings in their first-ever undefeated preseason. Former Wasps and England rugby star Christian Wade, who joined as an exempt international player, nailed a 65-yard TD on his first carry as a running back against Indy. But for all that promise, Wade still needed time to learn the game and was shipped out to the practice squad.

Adrian Kraus/AP

DURING THE SEASON


Maintaining their preseason form, the Bills shot out of the gate. They started with back-to-back wins at New York’s MetLife Stadium over the Jets (a squeaky 17-16, having trailed by 16 in the third quarter) and the Giants (a more comfortable 28-14). The subsequent four-point win over the Bengals was notable for the aforementioned Dawson Knox rumbling over the Cincy secondary like a Chieftain tank, as well as two interceptions by CB Tre’Davius White.

Frustratingly, the Bills’ first loss came in a defensive battle with their AFC rivals from Boston. They lost 16-10 to the Patriots but in their defence, Allen did have to leave the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit. Buffalo hit back by seeing off the Titans and, after their bye week, the Dolphins, improving to 5-1 for the first time in a decade. Wedged between losses to the Eagles and the Browns (in which Stephen Hauschka missing a game-tying kick), a commanding 24-9 win against the Redskins saw the Bills equal their 2018 record of six wins with half a season to spare.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Things were going well, as the Bills ploughed on to an impressive 9-3. A three-game hot streak began in Week 11 against Miami, in which ‘Fitzmagic’ was sacked seven times and the ‘Fins were held to just 23 rushing yards. In shutting down the Broncos 20-3, Singletary recorded his first 100-yard rushing game and Gore went third on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, the Bills’ 26-15 win over Dallas – featuring a trick TD pass from Brown to Singletary – secured only their fourth winning season in two decades.

Unfortunately, reaching such heady heights seemed to trigger a bout of vertigo and the Bills began to wobble. Their only win on the home stretch was a 17-10 primetime victory at Pittsburgh in Week 15, with four interceptions helping to seal Buffalo’s first 10-win season this century. In their other three regular season games, however, they fell to the all-conquering Ravens, the dear ol’ Patriots again (handing them the divisional title in the process) and, more surprisingly, the Jets – although a number of first-choice guys were rested before the playoffs.

James P. McCoy/Buffalo News

Did someone mention the playoffs? Yes, the 10-6 Bills had locked up the AFC’s No. 5 seed and made the promised land again. But alas, they came up short at the first time of asking, losing 22-19 to the Texans in the Wild Card round. Buffalo ran up a 16-0 lead (with Brown throwing another trick TD, this time to his quarterback Allen) only for the wheels to fall off, leaving Deshaun Watson to mastermind a final-quarter comeback for Houston. The Bills managed to force overtime but Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game-winning FG extended the Bills’ playoff drought to 25 years…


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


From the outside, the Bills’ 60th season seemed a pretty decent one but for the Bills Mafia, I suspect the way it fizzled out was disappointing. Nonetheless, a second playoff run in three years is not to be sneezed at, and Josh Allen showed wholesale improvements in his second season. But can Buffalo take the next step from playoff pretender to legit contender? Well, they have $90 million in cap space and nine selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, which can only help, right?

The general consensus is that offensively, they’ll prioritise a physical wide receiver this offseason, despite decent production from Brown and Beasley. Buffalo needs an injection of youth and size at WR so when the Bills are on the clock at #22, expect someone like Tee Higgins from Clemson (a few mock drafts really like this pairing already) or Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr to be selected. Knowing the Bills’ affinity for free agency, a deep threat such as the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper might also fit the bill.

With Frank Gore’s one-year deal at an end, Christian Wade also gives the coaching staff additional food for thought at RB, especially if they can’t snare someone like LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire with a mid-round pick.

On the other side of the ball, the defence is a decent, disciplined unit. Nonetheless, a pass rusher like K’Lavon Chaisson (another of LSU’s stars) should be high on their shopping list, especially with linebacker Lorenzo Alexander retiring and two defensive tackles hitting free agency. A second corner alongside the impressive Tre’ White would make sense too.

Getty Images

So there you have it. The Buffalo Bills are a well-run outfit that looks set to use college drafts, trades and free agents to build around a blossoming young quarterback. Since Coach McDermott came to Orchard Park, things have been on an upward trend and, with a decent war chest at their disposal, fans should expect more of the same in the year ahead.

Season in Review – New England Patriots

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985)

The next instalment of our season review articles takes a look at last years world champions, the New England Patriots. Is a 12-4 regular season record really the end of the dynasty?


Entering the season


Going into the 2019 season, the Patriots were once again one of the favourites to lift the Lombardi Trophy in Miami but there were also a lot of question marks against the team. The major concern appeared to be at the wide receiver position, which was very thin, but did still include the reigning Super Bowl MVP in Julian Edelman and the troubled yet talented, Josh Gordon. The other obvious concern was the loss of Rob Gronkowski. ‘Gronk’ had announced his retirement in March 2019 leaving the Pats with an ageing Ben Watson and two unproven players in Ryan Izzo and, the recently acquired, Matt LaCosse.

Preparations for the new season took another hit on 26th August 2019 when it was announced that centre David Andrews had been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism which would eventually result in him being placed on season ending injury reserve (IR) at the end of August 2019. The Patriots 1st round draft pick, N’Keal Harry, also then found himself on IR in September due to an ankle injury.

Before a play had even been called, the Patriots were struggling on offense but the defence had held the high scoring LA Rams to just three points in Super Bowl 53 so there was still optimism that with Brady and Belichick, another trip to the big game was possible.

The AFC East has been looked upon as a little bit of a joke for quite a while now. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were both in transition periods and the only challenge for New England looked to be the Buffalo Bills. However, heading into the 2019 season, the Patriots were still expected to win the AFC East and head into the playoffs once more.


During the season


The Patriots started the season with what was regarded as a very weak schedule. The Pats opened the season 8-0 and there was talk from some people in the media that this team could go undefeated. Blow out wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets (twice) and the Washington Redskins did not tell the whole story as the second half of their schedule would show.

On September 7th, the Patriots signed Antonio Brown to a one year contract. Suddenly a weak wide receiver unit was now looking very promising with Brown, Gordon and Edelman all lining up alongside Tom Brady. Unfortunately, this lasted just one game (at Miami) before Brown was eventually cut on 20th September due to an ongoing court case and further allegations made against the wide receiver.

David Santiago/AP

Regardless of the Antonio Brown issue, the Patriots were winning, and winning comprehensively. Their defence’s play was historically dominant and was the catalyst for the 8-0 record. Scoring touchdowns on defence and special teams at an astonishing rate covered over the cracks on offense. The Patriots ‘ran over’ teams on their way to winning Super Bowl 53, but this team had to rely more and more on Tom Brady as the running game was non-existent. This may seem strange, having to rely on arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game but Brady was 42 when the season began and (finally) showing signs of his age. To make matters worse, his wide receivers were also struggling. They couldn’t get open, and on the occasions they did, the number of dropped catches was very alarming. The once reliable Julian Edelman, lead the league in dropped catches (9) and Brady no longer had his big tight end, ‘Gronk’. In October, Josh Gordon found himself on IR before being before released and claimed by the Seattle Seahawks. Although Mohamed Sanu was traded to the Patriots on 22nd October, he also struggled and finished the season with just 207 yards.

A week 9 trip to Baltimore brought the Patriots first defeat of the season and although they won the next two games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys it was once again the defence that were the main cause, holding the Eagles and Cowboys to 10 and 9 points respectively.

Notoriously, the Patriots thrive in December and begin to play their best football. The 2019 season was the complete opposite of this as they fell to consecutive defeats against the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. New England’s offense had looked a little better against the Chiefs but one really bad piece of officiating took points off the board when N’Keal Harry was wrongly adjudge to have stepped out when he had scored a touchdown. They would eventually lose 16-23.

Nancy Lane/ BH

Heading into week 16, the Patriots needed to beat the Buffalo Bills to secure another AFC East title. A 24-17 win meant that not only did they win the AFC East but a victory in their final game, at home to the (4-11) Miami Dolphins, would secure the number 2 seed in the AFC and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. In week 17, things appeared to be going to plan as Tom Brady drove his Patriots down the field late on to take a 24-20 lead but ‘Fitzmagic’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) had other ideas as the Dolphins scored with seconds remaining to win the game 27-24. That defeat, coupled with a win by the Kansas City Chiefs, meant that the Patriots would finish as the third seed and have to play in the wild game for the first time in since 2009!

The Patriots hosted the Tennessee Titans in the wild card game. With the Titans leading 14-13 at the half, the Patriots would fail to score another point in the 2019 season as the Titans ran out 20-13 winners and advanced to the divisional round.


Offseason outlook


The big question going into the off season revolves around quarterback Tom Brady, who will be an unrestricted free agent. It’s crazy to think of Brady in another uniform but there is a real possibility this happens. It was well reported that Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, wanted to keep Jimmy Garoppolo before he was eventually traded to San Francisco so we could see a new quarterback under centre for the Patriots. Of course, Brady could very well return for another season but one thing appears certain, Brady does not want to retire just yet.

Adam Hunger /AP

If Brady was to move on, do the Patriots go with back up Jarrett Stidham, draft their new man, or make a trade? I would be very surprised to see Brady sign with someone else and believe that Robert Kraft (New England Patriots Owner) will do everything in his power to keep his QB around and make him a Patriot for life.

In 2019, the defense looked solid against the pass with Stephon Gilmore being the stand out performer and winning Defensive MVP, but they need to improve against the run. This was highlighted in the wild card game against the Titans.

The Patriots also have a long list of players who will hit free agency. Some big name players including Devin McCourty, the impressive Kyle Van Noy, Matthew Slater, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney and Danny Shelton will be available. Not all of these players will be Patriots next season. Kyle Van Noy and Joe Thuney will get paid big money by another team so will need replacing and the offense still needs improvement at the skill positions. The loss of Gronkowski was huge, not only in the passing game but he also excelled as a blocker. New England has $49 million in cap space and this will probably grow with contracts being restructured.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Patriots need at least 2 wide receivers, a tight end and maybe a quarterback! Added to those positions there is also a need at guard and the linebacker position if Thuney and Van Noy do not sign new deals. This could be the biggest offseason for the Patriots in a long time!


Summary


At the top of the article we asked, ‘is a 12-4 regular season record really the end of the dynasty?’ And for me, the answer is a resounding no! The Patriots actually improved on last seasons regular season record and although their season ended early, they still went 12-4! In fact, there are only a handful of teams that wouldn’t be very happy with that record. There is no arguing, It was a disappointing season but that just highlights the success that the Patriots have had over the past two decades. One teams failure would be seen as a huge success by many other teams in the league. Whilst Belichick is still the head coach, they will always have a chance.

If Tom Brady returns and Belichick can get the right people around him, they will be challenging again next season. The AFC East will be more competitive next year with the Buffalo Bills being the biggest challengers and the Miami Dolphins improving.

Much was made of Brady and the Patriots passing offense, but if you look at the stats, if wasn’t too bad. They finished the season 7th in passing yards per game (253.6 yards) and were also in the top 5 for total number of drops (23). To the dismay of many, I don’t see New England fading away just yet but improvement is needed.


Fun Fact: Heading into week 9 the Patriots were 8-0 but if their offense hadn’t scored a single point, they still would have been 4-2-2!

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC East

Time to head east for the last 2 sets of Half-Term reports. Quite a few teams in these divisions have underwhelmed and then there’s the Patriots. At the very least the NFC equivalent should be a bit more exciting, but that wouldn’t be hard to do when you are comparing against the AFC East.

Nonetheless, Let’s give them some grades:


AFC East 


Image result for afc east
By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Current Standings 

  • New England Patriots – 8-0
  • Buffalo Bills – 5-2
  • New York Jets – 1-6
  • Miami Dolphins – 0-7

*New England Patriots*

Midseason Grade: A+

How has it gone so far? 

At some point the never ending story of Patriots success has to end, but the 2019 season still has the tale without an end in sight.

The AFC’s only undefeated team at the half-way point Sith Lord Belichick and his cyborg QB Tom Brady are continuing to excel, but the offense is being out-shadowed by a defense that is looking like the 1985 Bears on some old-school steroids. A remarkable statistic to come to the fore after 7 games was that the Patriots would have been 4-2-1 if they had all of their offensive touchdowns removed.

Current Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman is still the heartbeat of the offense, catching more balls than a set of snooker table pockets, and the recent acquisition of sure-handed WR Mohammed Sanu from the Falcons will immediately compensate for the loss of Josh Gordon to injury. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Pats go up against the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs to open up the second half of the season, and you read it here first they WILL lose one of this handful of high-profile games. You can run on the Patriots, just don’t turn the ball over.

Ever since the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl they flicked on a switch of defensive dominance and 61 points allowed in 8 games is quite simply amazing. The Patriots are a bit of Mahomes magic from yet another trip to the Big Dance. Just give up betting against them.

Regular season record prediction : 15-1 and trip to Super Bowl. 


*Buffalo Bills*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far? 

One of the genuine surprise units of the NFL, aside from a rather lacklustre loss to the Eagles the Bills have played solid defense to help them to five wins in their first six games. Josh Allen has not exactly lit it up so far but he is now completing 60% of his passes.

Free agent WR John ‘Smoky’ Brown is on target for over 1k and the Peter Pan of the NFL RB Frank Gore is leading the team in rushing with 422 yards.

On their defence, the strongest part of their setup, CB Tre’Davious White and S Jordan Power lead a top 10 secondary. The Bills allowed a maximum 21 points against them in the first six weeks.

Rest of Season Outlook

Buffalo’s next four are all winnable, before a tougher ending that includes trips to Dallas, New England and Pittsburgh and home against the Ravens.

The Bills could have a rather shiny 9-2 record heading into Week 12 if they continue their brand of bend but don’t break football. Josh Allen does need to reduce the turnovers and rookie RB Devin Singletary needs to get back on the field.

At some point in the next three weeks Frank Gore will remarkably pass Barry Sanders in the all-time rushing table, with just Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith ahead of him.

This is a team on the rise but likely another one and done in the playoffs.


Regular season record prediction: 10-6


*New York Jets*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

The Jets have won six games so far, oops that’s the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The New York Jets unfortunately kissed goodbye to a winning season when their QB Sam Darnold went down with mono. The combination of backups Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk were atrocious.

Mega signing RB Le’Veon Bell has been disappointing, and was even allegedly in the shop window at the trade deadline. His 536 total yards in 7 games is not what was expected and his two scores is pitiful.

With the exception of a bizarre upset win over the Cowboys in Week 6 this is a team heading in the wrong direction fast. Trading away DE Leonard Williams (to the same stadium) will not help matters, but the Jets must love namesake DT Quinnen Williams. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Jets have perhaps the softest schedule in the entire league over the next six weeks, including two contests agains the Dolphins and trips to Cincy and Washington.

They should come away with two wins at least in this tea cake of a period. The Jets came into 2019 with a new uniform, a new superstar RB and even a wild-card buzz, but this is clearly not a playoff team, and its back to the drawing board already for Adam Gase, who may not be in post when St Nick comes down your chimney.

Trying to shop your top assets, such as Jamal Adams S and Roby Anderson WR is hardly inspiring confidence and will only serve to further fracture an already shattered locker room.

Regular season record prediction: 3-13


*Miami Dolphins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far?

The entire Dolphins team were given a lovely present just before the start of the 2019 season, a one year digital subscription to ‘The World of Tanks’.

With QB Ryan Fitzmagic at the helm Miami are surprisingly competing in games but the feeling is they are told to pump the brakes if there is any danger of actually winning a game. QB Josh Rosen was clearly not the answer, and judging by the trade of RB Kenyan Drake for little more than a handful of conkers, the team is not serious about winning football games.

The ‘Fins trade at the deadline for CB Aqib Talib was merely to get better pick status, and losing CB Xavien Howard to injury is a blow. The tiny ray of offensive light is resurrection project RB Mark Walton who will look for 700 yards rushing.

Anything is better than RB Kalen Ballage, who is averaging less yards per carry than the team’s punter Matt Haack. 

Rest of Season Outlook: 

This is a team capable of going 0-16, having scored less than anyone else to this point, and only behind the Falcons (who have played one more game) in terms of points conceded. Fitzmagic has shown up in patches, and it’s not beyond belief that the bearded wizard pulls off one or two wins against the Jets (two games) or Giants or Bengals.

Problem is Miami will be desperate to get the number one draft pick. The ultimate irony would be to beat a 15-0 Patriots team in Week 17 if they rest their starters and their backups. It won’t happen, but it would put a cap on a historically Sherman-styled season. 

Regular season record prediction: 0-16


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NFC EAST


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Current Standings 

  • Dallas Cowboys – 4-3
  • Philadelphia Eagles – 4-4
  • New York Giants – 2-6
  • Washington Redskins – 1-7

*Dallas Cowboys*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

Despite a horrendous three-game losing streak the Cowboys are still the class of the NFC East and are atop the division, albeit due to having had a bye week.

The Cowboys had a marshmallow schedule to start, and when they had quality opponents (Saints, Packers) Day and Zeke couldn’t get the W, but a monster 27 point win over the Eagles will have Jerry Jones smiling in the executive box.

Ezekiel Elliot is gunning for a third rushing title, with 602 and 6 scores in 7 weeks. WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are stretching the field – 65 catches, over 1,000 yards and just under 16 yards a catch between them. 

Rest of Season Outlook :

HC Jason Garrett has been in the corner quite a lot this season, clapping to himself as no-one will even give him a high-five. Somehow Garrett is still in post, but this is an appearance in the NFC Championship (most likely as the road team) or bust for the guy who has been in Dallas for 10 seasons.

The Cowboys have a quality roster on both sides of the ball, but they cannot afford to fall asleep at the wheel again for the rest of the season as they did in the shocking loss to the Jets in Week 6.

Look for Zeke to get fed more than Eddie Hall did on his tour of American eateries. 

Regular season record prediction: 11-5 and trip to NFC Championship. 


*Philadelphia Eagles*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

The Eagles are a hard team to gauge, so can the real team please stand up.

Losses to the Lions and Falcons and wins over Buffalo and Green Bay is a clear sign that there is a lack of consistency.

QB Carson Wentz has been OK (1,821 yards and 14 touchdowns) and he has sorely missed the deep threat of DeSean Jackson, who returned to Philly after five seasons away. Jackson hasn’t suited up since Week 2 leaving WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to average under 10 yards a catch combined.

Rookie RB Miles Sanders has played second fiddle to Jordan Howard who leads the team with six scores.

Rest of Season Outlook

Philadelphia’s second half has five very winnable games including three in-division contests, but New England and Seattle games will be season defining matchups. The Eagles defense has regressed and their secondary is their weakness so they will struggle against superior passers like Russell Wilson and an evergreen Tom Brady. Just two seasons away from lifting a Vince Lombardi Trophy this Eagles team is arguably underperforming, and judging by the 4-4 record to date its not clear which team is coming out of the locker room each week. 

Regular season record prediction: 9-7


*New York Giants*

Midseason Grade: D-

How has it gone so far? 

This season will go down in New York history as the end of the Eli Manning era and the start of the Daniel Jones one.

The Giants made a bold move to draft Jones early and doubled up when they inserted his in the starting lineup in Week 3. Jones did come out the gate on fire gaining the Giants two wins on the bounce, but that has been followed by four consecutive losses. Jones is on target for around 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Stud RB Saquon Barkley has already missed three games and only has three touchdowns in the five contests he has played in.

The only other half-decent offensive performer is TE Even Engram who has 38 catches to lead the team.

Rest of Season Outlook: 

With the Jets, Dolphins and Redskins on their second-half slate the Giants should equal their first half win total. Daniel Jones is growing in confidence week by week and the recent return of WR Golden Tate from a suspension will be a big boost.

The Giants need to improve pretty much everywhere on defense and also they need to get better performances from their offensive line. It is a real shame that Saquon is on such a poor team as he has All-World potential.

Another season of frustration in the Big Apple and an emotional farewell to double Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning in December.

Regular season record prediction: 4-12


*Washington Redskins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

It’s no surprise the Redskins are cellar dwellers;

Their best offensive piece T Trent Williams has held out to this point and the team only announced this week that they are willing to trade him.

Veteran QB Case Keenum has been serviceable as a bridge passer, and will likely see more snaps than expected as rookie Dwayne Haskins has been the proverbial ‘deer in the headlights’ in his limited appearances.

The biggest surprise has been rookie WR Terry McLaurin who leads the team in anything meaningful. The biggest move of the season in Washington was the removal of head coach Jay Gruden, who failed to win a game before the locks were changed.

Interim replacement Bill Callahan won (barely) in his first outing, and has changed the mentality of the team on both sides of the ball. In his three games in charge the Redskins have fed Adrian Peterson the ball and played solid defense, only allowing three touchdowns in three games. 

Rest of Season Outlook: 

The season was a lost cause from Week 1 when the Redskins had Coach Gruden in charge. With 8 games left the Redskins will play tough, but their lack of offensive weapons will cost them dearly.

The only achievable target will be trying to finish above the equally woeful Giants in the NFC East. There are two potential Pro Bowl candidates, rookie WR McLaurin and a very under the radar CB Quinton Dunbar, who has shone on a defense that has underperformed considering the early round picks they have spent trying to build a competitive unit.

If they do trade Trent Williams that could at least bring a good pick in the 2020 draft. 

Regular season record prediction: 2-14

Full10Lookaheads – Week 7

By Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Rams to the slaughter?


Image result for jalen ramsey
Image Credit: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

I’m worried for the Rams. Behind in the NFC West, injuries piling up and an offensive scheme that seems to have been found out.

The activity and negotiating that has been conducted this week just adds to the worries;

First, they traded away Marcus Peters to the Ravens and then very shortly after, gave up 2 1st round picks and a 4th rounder for star CB Jalen Ramsey, who comes over from the Jags (I hope his back will be ok on the flight).

Considering there are a few needs on this team, it’s quite surprising that they’ve mortgaged their future for a CB. Fellow CB Aqib Talib is on IR and their options are awfully thin at the position, but there are glaring needs at offensive line and linebacker, which now will not be replenished high in the next 2 years NFL drafts.

Add to that, their top 5 paid players now account for $108m of the salary cap, even free agency signings will be hard to come by.

There is a lot of talent on this Rams team, but I am a firm believer in that you should always build from the inside out. Sort the lines out first and then everything follows. The Rams have taken a massive gamble, I’m not sure it’ll pay off.

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NFC East on Primetime


Big game in prime time between the nose diving Cowboys and the Eagles.

With both teams 3-3, the winner takes a big step to a division title and the loser seriously having the prospect of no January football. Plenty of positives and negatives to talk through with both teams, plenty of injuries both side of the ball and plenty of questions being asked of these teams right now.

Can Dallas’ offensive line hold up against a decent Eagles pass rush or can Dak and his weapons exploit the gaping holes in the Eagles secondary? Will the Dallas defence be able to get some pressure and pin down escape artist Carson Wentz and will Doug Pederson outsmart Jason Garrett? Whilst the answer to the last question is a bit easier than the others, it should be a great game on Sunday Night Football.


AFC Wildcard eliminator in Nashville


Not a game that will be watched by many people outside their respective fanbases (do the Chargers have one?), but the game between Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans could be a loser goes home in terms of playoff aspirations.

Both teams are 2-4, struggling to get any offence going and are not impressing anyone in the league. With the loser going to drop to 2-5, you have to assume that  the losing team does not have any way back from the defeat to play football in January.

Even if they do find their way back, they could be ousted by the head to head tie breaker. All to play for in this one in Nashville.


Mario-nah


Image result for marcus mariota
Image Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Talking of the above game, Ryan Tannehill has been named the starter for Tennessee.

Whether or not this was to try something different and try something to invigorate the team to get that win we don’t know for sure. It can be argued (and some people do) that Tannehill is an improvement on Mariota and this was a long time coming.

Tannehill was serviceable enough in Miami under center through his 6 year career there (when healthy) despite having only 1 winning season and an overall losing record. When playing full seasons, he hits around the 4000 passing yard mark with 25ish TDs and 12INTs.

Comparing that to Mariota, Tennessee fans shouldn’t be too disillusioned with the fact that it is infact, potentially an upgrade on what they’ve had since he was selected at no.2 overall in 2015.


Quinn-tessential to get a few wins


Dan Quinn needs a win…and fast.

Problem is their next 4 fixtures don’t give me any enthusiasm that they’ll find one.

Home games vs the Ramsey Rams (Julio not loving that!) and the Seahawks before their bye are not teams you want visiting to try and get that all important win. If Atlanta get embarrassed to the same tunes that are currently bellowing from the record player, Dan Quinn wont even make it to the Saints game in week 10.

On defence, they’ve conceded the 2nd most points, 7th worst in yardage given up, worst on 3rd down conversion % allowed along with a bottom 3 in turnovers created. Yes, they’ve had injuries of similar ilk to last season but unfortunately, that’s only going to get you excused for a period of time.

With Quinn being a defensive minded HC, the writing is on the wall for him.


K.C. and the not very sun-shining backfield 


Four weeks in and we were all drooling over the Kansas City Chiefs and their MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Everything Mahomes was passing to was turning into on-field gold. This was an offense buzzing through the NFL like a lumberjack’s chainsaw.

Two weeks later and two losses later the Chiefs are looking mortal, and the chainsaw is now a handsaw that is looking a little bit rusty. Mahomes is looking out of sorts but he is being hindered by a running game that is blunt. Zero hundred yard rushing performances and some shocking lead performances.

Three out of six games has seen the Chiefs leading rusher go under 50 yards, and since Week 1 the top output has been 62 yards by Darrel Williams. Kansas City will be trying desperately to get some traction with the ground game tonight against the Denver Broncos. LeSean McCoy has a healthy 5.4 yard per carry average which may surprise some, but the hottest RB in last season’s playoffs Damien Williams has been a non-factor so far in four games, with a longest run of just 6 yards on 32 carries.

If the Chiefs want to get back on track offensively they need to get back to basics and get control of the time of possession. A loss to the surging Broncos will be a big blow to those ambitions to do one better than last season and reach the Super Bowl.


Pats perfect possibility? 


The dominance of the New England Patriots has going on for that long that it no longer registers as anything remarkable. 6-0 is not seen as anything special, it is expected, it’s normal.

Thing is it’s not normal it’s a feat, it’s an achievement and it is certainly worth talking about. Tom Brady is for once not hogging the headlines as the Patriots defense is dominating the coverage in the papers and dominating the coverage on the field. The defense is producing stats that are mind-boggling. Allowing 8 points a game, 234.7 yards, 161 in the air and 73.7 on the ground. They travel to the Big Apple on Monday night to face a Jets team with one win, albeit one they achieved in the last week.

This does not look like the hardest task for the Patriots, who will be looking to go 16-0 in the regular season before repeating as Super bowl champions. Weeks 9 and 11 – travelling to Baltimore and Philadelphia will be a clearer indication if this is another fine vintage or not.

One little crumb of comfort and one thing that must cause Bill Belichick to lose 5 minutes from his probable 3 hour daily sleep routine was that Frank Gore and his 36 year old legs ran for over 100 yards for the Bills in their Week 4 loss to the Pats. In other words feed LeVeon Bell the ball early and often. 

AFC East Breakdown

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985)

Last Season

New England Patriots  11-5

Miami Dolphins  7-9

Buffalo Bills  6-10

New York Jets  4-12

New England Patriots:

Draft selections: N’Keal Harry, WR (1.32), Joejuan Williams, CB (2.45), Chase Winovich, DE (3.77), Damien Harris, RB (3.87), Yodny Cajuste, T (3.101), Hjalte Froholdt, OL (4.118), Jarrett Stidham, QB (4.133), Byron Cowart, DT (5.159), Jake Bailey, P (5.163), Ken Webster, CB (7.252).

Offseason key additions: Michael Bennett, DE (Philadelphia Eagles), Mike Pennel, DL (New York Jets), Ben Watson, TE (New Orleans Saints), Jamie Collins, LB (Cleveland Browns), Demaryius Thomas, WR (Houston Texans).

Offseason key departures: Rob Gronkowski, TE (retired), Dwayne Allen, TE (Miami Dolphins), Adrian Clayborn, DE (Atlanta Falcons), Trent Brown, LT (Oakland Raiders), Trey Flowers, DE (Detroit Lions).

Super Bowl odds: 6/1

Analysis:

The New England Patriots, and coach Bill Belichick, have had their annual off-season shake up but this year it just feels …… different. Rob Gronkowski’s retirement has left the Patriots very bare at the tight end position, especially with Ben Watson being handed a 4 game suspension to start the season. On the defensive side, Trey Flowers has joined Matt Patricia in Detroit and Trent Brown got his big payday in Oakland. The addition of Michael Bennett (DE) from Philadelphia as well as resigning Jamie Collins (LB) has covered some of the losses. The strength of the defense is clearly in the secondary and the resigning of Jason McCourty along with the emergence of J.C. Jackson to play alongside Stephon Gilmore should help give the front seven time to pressure. The Patriots have signed a catalogue of wide receivers for training camp as well as drafting N’Keal Harry (WR) in the first round. If Josh Gordon does get reinstated, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady will have a much more dangerous receiving core. But let’s be honest, the AFC East, as a division, is still pretty awful beyond the Patriots!

Look out for:

The Patriots to start the season 2-2 and everyone to have a melt down! Brady is finished, the dynasty is over, the world is ending! Back in the real world; Sony Michel to lead the offense with a 1000+ yard season as the Pats become a run first team behind a very strong offensive line. New England should win the division at a canter but an early exit in the playoffs could end the chance at a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance but who would ever bet against Brady and Belichick?!

Miami Dolphins:

Draft selections: Christian Wilkins, DT (1.13), Michael Deiter, OL (3.78), Andrew Van Ginkel, LB (5.151), Isaiah Prince, T (6.202), Chandler Cox, RB (7.233), Myles Gaskin, RB (7.234).

Offseason key additions: Dwayne Allen, TE (New England Patriots), Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Josh Rosen, QB (Arizona Cardinals), Chris Reed, G (Jacksonville Jaguars), Eric Rowe, CB (New England Patriots).

Offseason key departures: Danny Amendola, WR (Detroit Lions), Brandon Bolden, RB (New England Patriots), Ryan Tannehill, QB (Tennessee Titans), Andre Branch, DE (Arizona Cardinals), Robert Quinn, DE (Dallas Cowboys).

Super Bowl odds: 500/1

Analysis:

The Dolphins have made big changes during the off-season. New head coach Brian Flores has moved over from divisional rivals New England and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been traded to the Tennessee Titans. Miami made a very smart move bringing in Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick to battle it out for the starting QB job. ‘Fitzmagic’ (as he was known during a spell in Tampa) averaged 9.6 yards per attempt during the 2018 season. The highest mark recorded by PFF for a QB in 13 seasons! But he suffers massively from consistency issues. Kenyon Drake is a decent but not elite running back and losing Danny Amendola could prove to be a big mistake. Defensively, Miami ranked 29th in the 2018 season but Brian Flores is a defensive guy and has a young group to work with. The Dolphins do boast an elite corner back in Xavien Howard and have a solid linebacking group containing Kiko Alonso. They are a team in transition and should be picking quite early in next years draft.

Look out for:

Fitzpatrick to start the season as QB1 but Rosen to take over by week 8. The dolphins are building for the future and although Super Bowl 54 will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium (home of the Dolphins), do not expect to see the Dolphins competing in the big game. A fourth place finish in the AFC East beckons although they should pick up their obligatory win, at home, against the Patriots!

Buffalo Bills:

Draft selections: Ed Oliver, DT (1.09), Cody Ford, T (2.38), Devin Singletary, RB (3.74), Dawson Knox, TE (3.96), Vosean Joseph, LB (5.147), Jaquan Johnson, S (6.181), Darryl Johnson, DE (7.225), Tommy Sweeney, TE (7.228).

Offseason key additions: Cole Beasley, WR (Dallas Cowboys), Frank Gore, RB (Indianapolis Colts), LaAdrian Waddle, T (New England Patriots), John Brown, WR (Baltimore Ravens), Tyler Kroft, TE (Cincinnati Bengals).

Offseason key departures: Charles Clay, TE (Arizona Cardinals), Chris Ivory, RB (Free Agent), John Miller, G (Cincinnati Bengals), Logan Thomas, TE (Detroit Lions).

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

The Bills are built around their defense and they strengthened it further by adding quality through the draft, but they have also improve the offense with some key additions as well. Ed Oliver is a play wrecking defensive tackle and on the opposite side of the ball, Cody Ford could be used at either right tackle or guard to improve a struggling O-line. The Bills pressured opposing quarterbacks on 37% of drop backs last season (6th in the NFL) and there is no reason to think that this stat won’t be similar in 2019. Buffalo worked their salary cap in 2018 to allow them to build for the future and they appear well placed to make steps this season. The addition of Cole Beasley from the Cowboys should give quarterback Josh Allen a prime receiver to keep the chains moving. At running back the Bills have plenty of options led by LeSean McCoy. McCoy averaged just 3.2 yard per carry in 2018 but the offensive line has been greatly improved. As with most teams, the offensive development with very much depend of the progress of Josh Allen.

Look out for:

The Buffalo bills to be around the .500 mark. If Josh Allen can make decent progress, then a record slightly better than this could be achievable with an outside shot at the playoffs. Their run of games from week 13-16 are brutal (@Dallas, vs Baltimore, @Pittsburgh, @New England) and should be a good indicator of how far this team has developed throughout the season. Look for the Bills to cause some upsets along the way but consistency could be their undoing.

New York Jets

Draft selections: Quinnen Williams, DT (1.03), Jachai Polite, DE (3.68), Chuma Edoga, OT (3.92), Trevon Wesco, TE (4.121), Blake Cashman, LB (5.157), Blessuan Austin, CB (6.196).

Offseason key additions: Le’Veon Bell, RB (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tom Crompton, G (Minnesota Vikings), Jamison Crowder, WR (Washington Redskins), C.J. Mosley, LB (Baltimore Ravens), Kelechi Osemele, G (Oakland Raiders), Trevor Siemian, QB (Minnesota Vikings)

Offseason key departures: James Carpenter, G (Atlanta Falcons), Isaiah Crowell, RB (Oakland Raiders), Spencer Long, G (Buffalo Bills), Mike Pennel, DT (New England Patriots), Buster Skrine, CB (Chicago Bears).

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

Adam Gase has moved into the role of head coach after spending three seasons at their divisional rivals, Miami Dolphins. The Jets have made massive improvements to their roster but it was desperately needed! Through the draft, the Jets used four of their six selections on defensive players, selecting Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick. Greg Williams has also joined as defensive co-ordinator and on paper, the front seven looks promising. However, cornerback is still a big cause for concern. Trumaine Johnson picked up a very lucrative contract and needs to start earning that money if the Jets defence are going to take big strides forward. Offensively the addition of Le’Veon Bell at running back is a big upgrade. The Jets offense ranked 29th in 2018 but with Sam Darnold entering his second year with an elite running back and an explosive receiver in Bobby Anderson, I’m expecting to see the Jets finish 2nd in the AFC East and the offense to be ranked much higher in 2019.

Look out for:

The Jets have the personnel on the roster to be a challenger in the AFC. They have a solid defense, playmakers on offense and are building a strong team for the future. However, it may be a season too early for ‘Gang Green’ and I am seriously worried about head coach, Adam Gase! Seriously, what head coach sniffs smelling salts on the sidelines before a preseason game! The Jets were one of my ‘worst to first’ candidates (shameless plug of my last article) and I truly believe they will be very close to a wild card spot in 2019!

2019 Season Prediction

New England Patriots 11-5

New York Jets 9-7

Buffalo Bills 8-8

Miami Dolphins 4-12

Worst to First Candidates

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985) – 16th June

The National Football League is meant to be one of parity (tell that to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots). In 2018 the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts all reached the playoffs after having losing records in 2017. It is one of the great things about the NFL, the possibility of going from being the worst team to lifting the Lombardi trophy is real. So who are our candidates this year? Let’s look at four teams that finished at the bottom of their respective divisions.

New York Giants

The Giants had an awful 2018 season with a 5-11 record but the emergence of Saquon Barkley was a big plus with his 1307 rushing yards and 721 receiving yards. The play of Eli Manning was much maligned but when you look at the stats, he may not have been as poor as advertised. Eli’s QB rating was 92.4 which was the forth best of his career and his 66% completion ratio (for 4,299 yards) was the highest of his career. (http://www.nfl.com/player/elimanning/2505996/careerstats). There is no doubt that Manning has lost some mobility though. He was sacked 47 times in the 2018 season (a career high) and the offensive line needs some attention but it is fully expect that the Giants will be a run heavy team in 2019. Barkley is primed for another phenomenal season and with the addition of Golden Tate at wide receiver they still have weapons even without Beckham Jr. In 2018, the Giants lost eight games by 7 points or less and lost their final two games of the season by just a single point! When you look at their 2018 season in more detail, they weren’t far away from a 9-7 record which could have seen them reach the playoffs!

The Giants also have two big advantages in 2019. Their strength of schedule is ranked as the 27th most difficult and the NFC East is wide open. Whilst the Philadelphia Eagles should improve (as long as Wentz stays healthy), the Dallas Cowboys may go backwards and the Washington Redskins are potentially starting a rookie quarterback. If they can upgrade the pass rush (which ranked 30th in sacks) they should have a great shot at reaching the playoffs in 2019!

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have a talented roster that have been under-utilised for years but with new head coach Zac Taylor now at the helm, could the Bengals improve of their 6-10 record in what is normally a tough division? The AFC North has lost a huge amount of talent from the Pittsburgh Steelers, has gained a mass of talent in Cleveland and has a seemingly sketchy playbook and an ageing defence in Baltimore. There doesn’t appear to be a clear favourite in the division and this may open the field up for the Bengals to surprise a few people. For this to happen the Bengals will need to improve massively on what was one the weakest defences (yardage wise) in NFL history, ranking fifth all time in yards allowed (https://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/tiny.fcgi?id=xNW3M). Cincinnati will be hoping that the coaching change can address this situation. There is plenty of talent of the offensive side of the ball with the serviceable Andy Dalton throwing to A. J.  Green, Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert as well as having Joe Mixon in the backfield, they seem to have a balanced attack if it can be exploited to its full potential. 

With the AFC North in a stage of transition its very easy to see the Bengals finishing at the top of the pile, however, it is also very easy to see them finishing in last place once again!

New York Jets

The New England Patriots may have won the AFC East in 16 out of the last 18 seasons but they can’t win forever, can they? Coming off of a 4-12 season, Adam Gase is now the head coach (replacing Todd Bowles) and the team have made some great moves in both free agency and the draft. Le’Veon Bell is a stellar running back with his patient style but questions remain over whether sitting out the whole of last season will have impacted him in any way. Then there is second year QB Sam Darnold who, at times last season, looked very much like the franchise player that the Jets needed. Darnold did have his struggles (as most first year QB’s do) but if he does make the transition to the second year, similar to that of Mitch Trubisky at the Bears, the Jets are well primed to cause teams problems. With the drafting of Alabamas Quinnen Williams (defensive tackle) ‘Gang Green’ may have found a run blocker to play at nose tackle in a 3-4 defence that’s Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams is reportedly staying with.

The New York Jets also have one of the easiest schedules in 2019, tied at 27th. The only problem here is that they are tied with the New England Patriots (https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/2019-nfl-strength-of-schedule-patriots-and-redskins-have-it-easiest-raiders-face-roughest-ride/). Winning the AFC East maybe very difficult in 2019 but it wasn’t long ago that the Jets went into Foxboro for a divisional playoff game and came out victorious. The 2019 season may be slightly too early but the Jets are building a strong team for the future and it would not surprise me to see them in the playoffs in 2019.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags plummeted after reaching the 2017 AFC Championship Game finishing last season with a 5-11 record. However, there is no last-place team that is better equipped to rebound. They still have a talented defence that finished fifth in the NFL in 2018 (http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=2&defensiveStatisticCategory=GAME_STATS&conference=ALL&role=OPP&season=2018&seasonType=REG&d-447263-s=TOTAL_YARDS_GAME_AVG&d-447263-o=1&d-447263-n=1) and they have upgraded where they needed it most, quarterback! For the last two seasons many people have wondered what this team could be with more functionality at QB. Nick Foles has shown that he can produce on the biggest stage and the 2017 Super Bowl MVP can also call on running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette had a poor 2018 season that was hampered by injury, suspension, and by his own admission, being in ‘sub-optimal shape’. With a healthier o-line and improvement in fitness, the LSU man will need to produce with more consistency for the Jaguars to have a chance. 

Head coach, Doug Marrone has also had a big change up of his coaching staff with 8 coaches either joining the Jags or being promoted from within (https://www.jaguars.com/news/official-defilippo-named-oc-staff-finalized). One major problem for the Jaguars could be the strength of the AFC South. The Texans, Colts and Titans all had winning records in 2018 with two of the three making the playoffs. Whilst the division is relatively open, it’s up for grabs because all of the teams are good. However, if Foles can reproduce his performances from Philly and Fournette can get back to his 2017 form, the Jaguars should get back to the playoffs.

Best Chance?

For my money, the Giants and the Jaguars have the best chance but what do you think? Will any of these teams even make the playoffs or is there a better candidate out there? Let us know @Full10Yards