Posted on 1 Comment

NFL Week 14 TV Previews

Welcome in again for Week 14’s previews for the Sky Sports games. There are some crackers again this week and we are going to start to see some playoff-style games in the sense that losses for some teams see them elimated from January football. If you want to preview a certain game, click below for your match-up! If your team isn’t on TV this week, you can find our preview of your game in Shaun’s weekly previews.

| Kansas @ Miami | Indianapolis @ Las Vegas | Pittsburgh @ Buffalo | Baltimore @ Cleveland|


Early Game: Kansas City Chiefs @ Miami Dolphins

Wait a second, is this a trap, as Admiral Ackbar likes to scream in his dulcet fishy tones? The Kansas City Chiefs will be mightily relived that the Pittsburgh Steelers finally registered a loss this season, putting both teams atop the AFC with an 11-1 record. What they will not be looking forward to is facing one of the most improved units in football, in the shape of the Miami Dolphins defence.

theheckler.com

Along with smiles resonating from Chiefs faces after the Steelers loss, the Dolphins alumni from 1972 (remaining the only team to go a full season undefeated) will be reaching to the back of the fridge to pull out a nice chilled bottle of Moet. Their celebrations will be short lived as the front runner for the 2020 MVP, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, and the rest of the reigning Super Bowl champions will be soaking up some Florida sunshine this weekend as they bring their explosive offensive unit to South Beach.

With four games left, the Chiefs have already secured a play-off spot, so they will now be gunning for the number one slot and precious home field advantage. The Dolphins, as it stands, hold the #6 seed, their 8-4 record and win percentage in conference games being marginally superior to fellow 8-4 record holders the Indianapolis Colts.

Denny Medley – USA TODAY Sports

Where do you try to stop the Chiefs from gaining big chunks of yardage? It’s a bit like the challenge of trying to catch every raindrop in a storm. The Broncos did an admirable job in Week 13 in slowing the Chiefs down, forcing them to kick five Harrison Butker field goals.

This lack of touchdown action will have Mahomes and his crew fired up, with Tyreek Hill (leading the league in touchdown catches with 13), Travis Kelce (who has the second most receiving yards for a TE in 12 games in the past 70 years) and rookie jitterbug Clyde Edwards-Helaire returning from a brief injury stint. CEH was available in an emergency last week, but was held out to enable a speedier recovery.

CEH can quite easily eclipse 1,000 yards of offence on Sunday, providing he does not underestimate a Dolphins defence that is allowing less than 13 points a game in the last month and that posseses the league’s leading interceptor – CB Xavien Howard (8 interceptions).

phinphanatic.com

Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has done an admirable job to date, turning lesser-known players such as Zach Sieler, Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel (pictured) into rock-solid performers.

Somehow Miami have avoided a quarterback controversy or any sideline animosity by getting rookie Tua Tagovailola and grizzled hirsute legend Ryan Fitzpatrick to bond like long-lost brothers, each stepping up when needed to support the team to continue to progress.

Since the turn of the century, Miami have won their division just the once, falling prey to two decades of TD12, but now they have an opportunity to have a first winning season since 2016. And if they get more breaks than a KitKat testing facility and win out, it will be the first time they’ll reach 12 wins since way back in 1990. Back then, they reached the play-offs and beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card game before being trounced by the Jim Kelly-led Buffalo Bills.

The Chiefs need to bring their big boy pants to Miami, where the weather may be welcoming and the opposition uniform is no silver and black sign of intimidation. But if there’s any degree of underestimation, which was likely the case in part against the Broncos, it will cost KC a possible shot at the AFC #1 seed.

Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports

If KC can do anything well, it is scoring quickly and often, so this game will need to see Miami bleed down the clock on every possession they have. Miami’s running game is pedestrian at best, but they will need to feed Myles Gaskin over 20 times to stand a chance of winning the clock battle. Having missed significant time, Gaskin did manage a healthy 90 yards in Week 13, and he will be looking to crack 100 in front of Sky fans.


Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

This would be up there with the shock Washington win over Pittsburgh if Miami could somehow overcome the most dynamic offence in the NFL, with a combination of disciplined defence, strategic excellence and a sprinkling of turnovers. There is evidence that the Chiefs can be manhandled: the Raiders simply out duelled Andy Reid’s crew and Josh Jacobs punched in two scores in the fourth quarter.

Tua will need to play mistake-free football to keep pace with the Chiefs. One suspects there will be a break in concentration by the rookie, and that is going to be enough for the reigning champions to move ever closer to that top seed in the AFC.

Kansas City 33 – 23 Miami

Late Game: Indianapolis Colts @ Las Vegas Raiders

The 8-4 Indianapolis Colts travel west this week to face the Las Vegas Raiders in a match-up that could have big implications in the AFC play-off picture. An Indianapolis win would see them move to 9-4 and potentially leapfrog Tennessee for the lead in the AFC South if they don’t bulldoze the Jaguars like most would expect them to this week. However, if Las Vegas stays strong and hold out for the victory, they would move to 8-5 and move into the 7th seed over Indy – there’s no chance they’re catching the 11-1 Chiefs for the division lead in the AFC West.

The Raiders may not care too much as to why Henry Ruggs III was left wide open downfield in the last seconds of the game versus New York last week. After all, it stopped them from moving to 7-6 and handing the Jets their first victory of the season. However, what they will care about is their defence having a better game. They gave up 376 total yards to the Jets, including 206 rushing yards and 2 TDs. They are now allowing an average of 378.2 YDS/G (22nd in NFL) and 28.9 PTS/G (28th in NFL). They will also be concerned with their pass rush, having only gotten 15 sacks on the season, which is tied for dead last in the league.

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III
Bill Kostroun – AP Photo

What they face this week is a strong Indianapolis offence that spreads the ball around well. Five different players have over 350 receiving yards on the season. Through 12 games, Indianapolis average 265.3 passing yards per game (11th in NFL) and Philip Rivers is having a good season in new surroundings, posting an impressive 68.1% completion rate and 3,263 passing yards. While he probably won’t be in the league for much longer, his experience is helping Frank Reich’s Indianapolis team to push for only their second play-off appearance since 2014. They’re also having success on the ground too. While they were unfortunate to lose rising star RB Marlon Mack to an ACL tear in Week 1, rookie Johnathan Taylor has stepped up to the plate posting over 600 rushing yards from only nine starts and a very respectable 4.1 yards per carry average.

091320_ind-jax-taylor-carry
Indianapolis Colts

Meanwhile, the Raiders offence will be hoping that Darren Waller can continue playing at the high level he has been. He posted 200 receiving yards last week against New York as well as two scores. He has 742 receiving yards on the season which puts him second only to Travis Kelce among TEs. The Raiders offence are one of the least pressured in the league, which has allowed Derek Carr to have success in moving the chains. Las Vegas is currently 48.7% on third downs (3rd in NFL) and Indianapolis not being a great QB pressure team won’t help their cause. Carr will have an age to find a receiver in this game. Las Vegas’ run game is also vital to their success. Josh Jacobs continues to dominate on the ground, with 782 yards on the season (7th in NFL) and 46 first downs (5th in NFL) with the Raiders as a whole, averaging 121.2 rushing yards per game (10th in NFL).

The Indianapolis defence will have their work cut out when it comes to that LV third-down conversion percentage. Indy is allowing 40.7% third-down conversions so far in 2020, which is 15th in the league. If Carr remains unpressured, this defence could be made to pay. However there are upsides: Indianapolis makes things difficult for opposing QBs in the passing game and just last week ,they held Deshaun Watson to his first game in 2020 without a TD pass. They are holding teams to just over 218 passing yards per game (8th in NFL) as well as only 100.9 average rushing yards per game (7th in NFL). Las Vegas could find it tough to move the ball if this Indianapolis defence comes to play.

Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II (23) celebrates with teammates after an interception against the Houston Texans.
David J Philip – AP

Writer’s Pick – Steve Tough (@SteTough)

This is a really intriguing match-up in the AFC playoff picture. It could be a bit of a shoot-out if both QBs get warm and spread the ball around the field like they can. Expect a lot of the ground game too, with Jacobs and Taylor likely to have 15+ carries each. Ultimately, I think it will be a high-scoring game, but a close one. I have Indianapolis to edge out Las Vegas in a nail-biter!

Indianapolis 37 – 34 Las Vegas

SNF: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills

The Pittsburgh Steelers will look to bounce back from their first loss of the season last week when they travel to Buffalo to face the impressive Bills for Sunday Night Football.

The Steelers suffered a crushing 23-17 loss to the Washington Football Team in Week 13, as weeks of miscues on offence and injuries on defence finally struck in unison to undermine what had been an unbeaten 11-0 start up until that point.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hit by Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young.
Keith Srakocic – Associated Press

Going forward, it’s far easier to see a way out of the offensive issues than injuries, especially with the news that standout veteran corner Joe Haden and linebacker Robert Spillane were absent from practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Spillane has been particularly impressive since he took over middle-linebacker duties from Devin Bush, who tore his ACL in late October, only to have his job made even more challenging in Week 12 when Bud Dupree picked up the same major injury. The absence of either would make victory over the Bills very difficult to manage, especially with the confidence boost Josh Allen received last week with his demolition of the 49ers defence.

Pittsburgh’s loss to Washington, however, was not merely an issue with stopping a team’s offence; in fact, their own offensive errors once again played a part, with several receivers having drops in big moments despite Big Ben still managing to throw for 305 yards and two touchdowns. It was a similar story against the Ravens in a game in which the Steelers could easily have lost their unbeaten streak a week before, yet it was Eric Ebron and Anthony McFarland with crucial drops in the loss to Washington.

The issue was called out in no uncertain terms by Mike Tomlin after the defeat. The 13-year Head Coach warned his receiver group that “they can either catch it or get replaced by someone who will catch it”. It’s a problem that will need an immediate fix to beat the Bills as well, who play opportunistic defence and will have an early Christmas feast should catchable balls continue to pop into the air.

In fact, the Washington game was the second in a row with five total drops, having had just two such games in the last 15 years of NFL football, giving the Steelers a big reminder in all fashions that they need to get back to walking before they can run.

For the Bills on the other hand, Week 12 was a masterpiece of everything they wanted to see from their offensive unit, as Josh Allen returned to MVP form with a sensational 375-yard, 4 TD day through the air on Monday night.

Takeaways from Bills' win over 49ers: Josh Allen dominates – The Athletic
Christian Petersen – Getty

The Wyoming alum once again hooked up snuggly with his two major receiving threats, Cole Beasley and Stephon Diggs, as the Bills torched a defence that showed little resolve, though this week’s match-ups with the Steelers should be a far greater test.

The defence also grabbed two picks off Nick Mullens as it continues to improve. The quartet of Trumaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde looked ominously hooked up as we head into the part of the season where offences start to struggle in colder temperatures.

Over the course of the season, they have consistently given up decent yardage against both the pass and the run (bottom 13 in both categories), but being able to take the ball away, with 19 total turnovers, means that they will easily sniff out any further mistakes from the Steelers’ up-and-down offensive ability.


Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

I think this game is going to be close, especially if the weather turns the game into a battle of attrition to see who breaks first and makes the big mistake. It’s easy to look at Week 13 and say that the Bills are going to win again because they looked so mightily impressive while the Steelers, well, didn’t. Yet it’s important to remember that the Washington defence is seriously, properly good and they’ve made a lot of teams look bad so I don’t think we will see quite the same story again this week. Despite that, I think Josh Allen has enough to grind and muscle a way past the Steelers in his own building.

Bills to beat the Steelers 21-17.

MNF: Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

Prior to Week 1, you’d have got decent odds on the Browns having a better record than the Ravens heading into this clash, but 2020 doesn’t care for the script. It’s thrown it out of the window.

But here we are, the play-off bound Browns (sounds weird, doesn’t it?) at 9-3 host the COVID-hit Ravens (7-5). The Browns have a decent shot here at kicking the Ravens while they are down and could go a long way to making the Ravens’ play-off ambition hang by a thread. A loss for the Ravens coupled with some other results could see Lamar Jackson and co. two games back with three to play. I think that is a big enough carrot in itself for the Browns and Kevin Stefanski.

After four straight wins coming out of the bye, the Browns are dreaming of play-off football. With a win on Monday night, that would all but confirm their first post-season game since 2002 and their first season with double-digit wins since 2007.

The Browns will not be worried by what they saw out of the Ravens as they rushed all over Dallas, but the Ravens defence was unable to get much pressure on Dalton and Dallas were able to convert almost 50% of their 3rd and 4th downs last Tuesday night.

Lamar Jackson returns from COVID to lead Ravens past Cowboys
David Tulis – UPI

With Baltimore struggling with injuries, COVID and a lack of rhythm coming off a short week, the Browns have the Ravens exactly where they want them. The problems lie a bit deeper than that though for the Ravens, and I can’t but help but get the sense of Colin Kaepernick syndrome with Lamar Jackson with regards to how he has performed this year and how much production he has been able to produce for this offence.

As Jackson is not there with his passing and the weapons in the passing game have flattered to deceive, teams are able to sell out defensively on the run and teams (Dallas aside) are able to limit the Ravens to a degree. The Browns should be able to contain the Ravens enough here.

Yes, it is still a top rushing offence, mustering over 2,000 yards now, and they still manage to gain chunk yardage on the ground after Week 13’s demolition of the Cowboys. But this is a far cry from the 2019 rushing attack (2,494 yards at the same point last season).

Mark Andrews, due to his Type 1 diabetes, is taking a bit longer to come back from COVID and on the defensive side, Calais Campbell did not look comfortable on ‘TuNF’ against the Cowboys after a multiple-week absence with a calf injury. The Ravens need to get healthy and quick, as this game could quite possibly be the start of their play-offs. Their last three games against the Jags, Giants and Bengals are probably three notches in the win column so this game feels like it will decide whether we see Lamar and co. in January.

Switching our attention to the Browns, Baker Mayfield had a career first half last week against the Titans as he helped put 38 points on the board against Tennessee. He’ll be looking to continue the hot streak, as will Nick Chubb who, despite missing four games and change through injury, still sits at 799 rushing yards on the season, ranking fifth among all RBs.

NFL: Baker Mayfield, Browns beat Titans in statement win
Andy Lyons – Getty

Despite the Browns’ offensive focal point being the run game, if Baker is able to get some momentum going as the regular season closes and play-offs arrive, this team could go far. They need to be as balanced as possible to aid that run game and you do find that games where Baker isn’t playing well or at the level required, the Browns can be defended against.

Talking of the run game, Jack Conklin was limited in practice this week and but Wyatt Teller should be good to come back from the COVID list.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers losing against Washington and having a tough game 24 hours prior to this one, the juiciest of carrots could be dangling with the division title door slightly ajar. The Browns would likely win all of their remaining games going into Week 17 when they face the Steelers, where the division title could be on the line so this is a crucial match-up to close out Week 14.


Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

It would be “so Browns” of Cleveland to throw it away from this position, but I think Kevin Stefanski has the right culture installed, the right mindset and the right players to be able to secure a first play-off game for almost two decades.

The Ravens are too beaten up and seem a bit too fatigued from the ramifications of COVID sweeping through their team. There is no rhythm or momentum for the Ravens and they are coming off a short week, albeit after playing their “free square” against Dallas.

I’m going for the Browns to win at home and I am more than surprised to see Cleveland as underdogs here so take Cleveland +2. I don’t have a lean on the total points at its current 47 point mark, but would veer towards the under if anything.

Posted on Leave a comment

Five teams that nailed the 2020 NFL Draft

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

From the record-breaking television ratings to the lack of technical issues, the NFL’s first virtual draft was an undoubted success (unless you’re a Green Bay fan). Like a bizarre episode of Through The Keyhole, we also saw inside the homes of the star players, and the makeshift war rooms of the general managers and coaches: Kliff Kingsbury’s huge villa, Dave Gettleman’s basement and Mike Vrabel’s total madhouse. As I alluded to earlier this week, some teams left us with more questions than answers but here’s a quick round-up on who ‘won’ the 2020 NFL draft.


BALTIMORE RAVENS


Most analysts concur that Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh knocked this draft out of the ballpark, with A and A+ grades being handed out like candy. They made their 10 picks count with good value on both sides of the ball and didn’t seem to reach. Instead, they waited for the likes of LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (#28) to fall into their laps, as well as Ohio State running back JK Dobbins and speedster WR Devin Duvernay on Day 2.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Queen should make an impact in the heart of the defence with his sideline-to-sideline speed, especially after Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes left in free agency. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike also had many a pundit purring, with the defensive tackle getting snaffled at pick #71 despite being widely predicted to go in the 30s.

Alongside Mark Ingram, Dobbins should give yet more oomph to their league-leading rushing offense, while linebacker Malik Harrison and guard Ben Bredeson add depth across the board. Baltimore also picked up a couple of late steals, with receiver James Proche, who logged almost 4,000 receiving yards and 39 receiving touchdowns over four seasons at SMU, and Iowa safety Geno Stone, rated by both Move the Sticks’ Daniel Jeremiah and PFF’s Mike Renner as the best value pick of the final round.

Baltimore were exceptional last season and didn’t have many needs. But even so, they improved even more over the weekend, staying neck and neck with the Chiefs as the team to beat in the AFC Conference.

In short: they smashed it.


DALLAS COWBOYS


When drafting, the big question that faces every team now and again is whether you go for the best player available or fill your biggest need. The Cowboys entered the 2020 draft with the league’s top offense and obvious needs in defence, yet opted to spend their first-round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Bullseye.

Alonzo Adams/AP

Lounging around on his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar super-yacht, team owner/president Jerry Jones must have been laughing into his champagne cocktail when he picked Lamb at #17. Arguably the best receiver in this loaded class, there was no way he should have been the third off the board. With the ‘Boys having signed Amari Cooper to a $100 million extension, Lamb probably wasn’t on the radar but taking him was a no-brainer: Christmas came early in Texas. Preventing their receiver-needy rivals in Philadelphia from securing his run-after-catch abilities was just the icing on the cake.

Only then did Dallas move on to address their two main areas of need, cornerback and defensive tackle, and they did so with great value picks. Stefon’s lil’ brother Trevon Diggs, mocked by many to go (to Dallas, as it happens) on Day 1, landed in the second round to help fill the void left by CB Byron Jones. Oklahoma’s huge defensive lineman Neville Gallimore also came a day later than many expected. Steals? All three picks border on daylight robbery.

Rewriting the draft textbook, the Cowboys also picked up Utah edge rusher Bradlee Anae with pick #179 (90 picks later than predicted by Mel Kiper of EPSN). I saw a comparison with Maxx Crosby recently, which means he should be a viable replacement for the departed Robert Quinn. They also snatched up another corner in Reggie Robinson, adding depth in a weak spot, and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, arguably this year’s top center. If he can stay healthy, he could step straight in for the retired Travis Frederick.

After a disappointing campaign in which they didn’t seem to want to win the NFC East, despite the stuttering Eagles handing them chance after chance, Dallas are shaping up nicely to boss the division in 2020. Jones can now start to focus on getting Dak Prescott’s deal inked. With a mouth-watering trio of targets at his disposal – Lamb, Cooper and Michael Gallup – it’s time to keep the franchise QB (and his bank manager) happy.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS


Vikes GM Rick Spielman is probably still resting up after selecting a massive 15 players in the 2020 NFL Draft, the biggest haul since the seven-round format was introduced in 1994.

He did a great job addressing the team’s needs, particularly in the first three rounds. To replace wide receiver Stefon Diggs, he used the 22nd pick to take LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Jefferson can play out wide or in the slot, and should give Kirk Cousins a tasty option alongside Adam Thielen, if his 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns last year are anything to go by.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

They then moved down a few spots, giving #25 to the 49ers in return for the 31st and two later selections, but still found another would-be star in TCU corner Jeff Gladney. Minnesota then double-dipped to take Cameron Dantzler (#89) to boost a depleted cornerback room missing Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, while Ezra Cleveland should add useful depth at left tackle.

A total of 11 picks on Day 3 brought several more decent pick-ups, including James Lynch, a defensive tackle from Baylor, Oregon LB Troy Dye and defensive end Kenny Willekes.  

Boom. Job done.


CINCINNATI BENGALS


Who knows if any trade offers were received and rejected but with the first pick in the draft, the Bengals held fast to secure their quarterback of the future and their franchise poster boy.

Joe Burrow was the obvious choice, having just completed the best college football season by anyone, ever. He starts from the get-go as the incumbent QB, Andy Dalton, was finally released (while I was writing this article) after a lack of trade interest. If Burrow’s success at LSU is any guide, the 2019 Heisman winner could eventually end Cincy’s three-decade playoff win drought and have the Who Dey Nation eating out of his hands. I bet they’re already planning a statue outside Paul Brown Stadium.

Associated Press

After last season’s struggles, just picking the Ohio native makes Cincinnati a winner in this draft. Admittedly, he can’t reverse their fortunes alone, so it’s just as well de facto GM Duke Tobin and HC Zac Taylor kept their foot on the gas. Mirroring the 2011 draft when they picked AJ Green and Andy Dalton in the first two rounds, they paired Burrow with WR Tee Higgins with the first pick of Day 2. The 6’4” jump-ball specialist notched 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final season at Clemson, and has been compared to Green, his new teammate (and favourite player). Higgins may even replace the franchise-tagged wideout in time.

With the only slight gripe being a (misguided) belief that their O-line didn’t need help, three of their five remaining selections were used to beef up their underperforming linebacker corps. Cincinnati opened Round 3 with Logan Wilson, who excels in pass coverage, while Akeem Davis-Gaither is a one-man highlight reel who might see some special teams action early doors. The Bengals chose a third linebacker in Purdue’s Markus Bailey with their final pick. Touted to break the Top 100 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury last season, Bailey may yet prove to be a real find, if he can stay healthy.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS


Let’s face it. Before Cincinnati was even on the clock, Tampa had probably won the offseason, having replaced turnover merchant Jameis Winston with GOAT Tom Brady, and then enticed TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement for one last hurrah alongside his ol’ pal. But the Buccs complemented their trade prowess with a strong draft, focusing on giving their new (but old) QB some much-needed O-line help and more offensive weapons.

In Round 1, Tampa traded up one place to #13, coughing up their 14th and 117th picks to the 49ers, to ensure Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, arguably the draft’s top tackle, was theirs. He wasn’t expected to drop that far after storming the Combine, so I bet the Buccaneers did some last-minute big-board shuffling.

Getty Images

In the third round, they turned to skill positions, collaring Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (#76) to beef up their backfield before diving into the deep wide receiver class to come up with Tyler Johnson (#161). Johnson’s Minnesota teammate, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (#45), is a versatile ball hawk could yet turn out to be one of the best snares over the three days. For added spice, his dad was a Pro-Bowl defensive back who intercepted Brady in 2001 when playing for the Bills.

If Bruce Arians deploys the battle-weary Gronk sparingly, alongside his other tight ends OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, the Buccaneers could be a team to watch next season.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS GM Chris Ballard filled a lot of needs, even without a first-round pick (traded for 49ers DT DeForest Buckner, which won’t do them any harm). Second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. from USC could become a top receiver, while explosive RB Jonathan Taylor – averaging 2,000 yards a year over three years – is a hot prospect, despite some concern about the tread left on his tyres after his heavy workload in Wisconsin. A day later than many predicted, the 6’6” Washington quarterback Jacob Eason got picked up in Day 3. The big-armed gunslinger won’t play next year but, under HC Frank Reich, he’ll be groomed to take over from Philip Rivers in due course.


The MIAMI DOLPHINS had 14 darts – including three first-rounders – and most hit the target (though they did use one on a long snapper). Despite some pre-draft smoke and mirrors, GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores selected Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa first. Who knows if his injury woes are behind him but the Dolphins had to take the risk on the most naturally talented QB out there. His hip injury was bad luck but it made him available at #5, an equivalent slice of good fortune after Miami didn’t quite #TankForTua. Tua will line up behind a shiny new offensive line including another Round 1 pick, tackle Austin Jackson, and while cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was one of Day 1’s biggest reaches, they got better value in later rounds with DE Jason Strowbridge and edge rusher Curtis Weaver. Outside the draft bubble, acquiring Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Byron Jones and Matt Breida only increases the sense that Miami will be much, much better next year.

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY

Earlier this month, I suggested going best defensive player available for a few rounds might be a wise tactic for the CAROLINA PANTHERS. Well, whaddya know? Despite having a new offensively minded Head Coach in Matt Rhule, GM Marty Hurney used all seven of his picks on defence, including a big ol’ run stuffer in Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (#7) and athletic Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos (#38). Later on, they traded up to the last pick in Round 2 to get safety Jeremy Chinn, while cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was also good value in the fourth. The moves they made in free agency – replacing Cam Newton with Teddy Bridgewater and adding Jets receiver Robbie Anderson – should also reinvigorate the team’s offence, making the Panthers a contender again.


I also liked the high-risk, high-reward approach of the ARIZONA CARDINALS. Picking at #8, GM Steve Keim somehow ignored the team’s needs at offensive tackle and went for Clemson linebacker/safety hybrid Isiah Simmons. It might have been a risk (especially having shipped out their second-round pick in the DeAndre Hopkins trade) but 63 picks later, the ace in the pack came up when they snaffled Houston left tackle Josh Jones. After standing out at the Senior Bowl, there was some Day 1 hype about him but he fell… and fell… and fell. Apparently, Kliff Kingsbury even called Jones’ college coaches to ask if there was something he ought to know about. Some steals feel like pick-pocketing but getting Jones in Round 3 was a ram-raid.

Posted on Leave a comment

Season in Review – Baltimore Ravens

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

In another installment of our NFL series looking back at the 2019 season, it’s time to put the Baltimore Ravens under the spotlight.


entering the season


The shiny new toy of the NFL, Lamar Jackson had a full offseason as starter to help aid his progression. After committing to Lamar Jackson the talk of the off season was could the Ravens be sustainable in their offensive style. An excellent end to 2018/19 came crashing down in the playoffs as the Chargers appeared to show everyone how to stop the offence.

Several key pieces left on the defensive side of the ball as the the defensive turnstile gate was in full swing with the likes of Zadarius Smith going out, but Adding Earl Thomas was a major coup to provide some quality play and veteran leadership in the secondary.

The first season in the post Ozzie Newsome era appeared to be one of offensive development and defensive rebuilding.


during the season


59 points in their opening game of the season was a pretty decisive answer to how this offence would look. Lamar Jackson had time in the pocket and threw to wide open receivers and the ground game looked impressive.

Image result for lamar jackson vs dolphins
Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The next few weeks saw some close contests with the ravens losing 2 games in that stretch, but the season really got its jolt in week 7. Travelling to Seattle the Ravens dominated by a score of 30-16 and then never looked back.

A demolition job of none other than the New England Patriots followed in the following week as the Ravens staked their claim on being the class of the AFC.

The offence then put up 49 against the Bengals, 41 against the Texans and 45 against the Rams in an impressive stretch of production. A huge week 13 win against the 49ers kicked off December and 3 more routine wins wrapped up the number 1 seed in the AFC for the first time in their franchise history. The stellar play in all 3 phases of the game rewarded the team with an impressive 12 pro bowl selections.

Image Credit – Patrick Smith/Getty

Lamar Jackson unanimously won the MVP award as he broke the single season rushing record for a QB, whilst improving his passing game to the point of being a legitimate dual threat by having the most passing touchdowns in the regular season.  The Baltimore Ravens were 1st in points per game scored and 3rd in defensive points given up.

With a 1st round bye secured, it was a shock to everyone when they fell to the Tennessee Titans at home in the divisional round, with some people questioning whether Lamar Jackson can do it in the big games.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK

The exciting thing for the Ravens is that they have a young core to continue to build around offensively. Lamar Jackson will be paired with Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown for years to come and young running back Justice Hill has flashed when spelling Mark Ingram for a series here and there. The future of Greg Roman seems to be secure for another season as he was overlooked for any open HC vacancy, which will be music to the ears of Ravens fans. He and John Harbaugh were winners at the NFL Honours night, picking up Assistant Coach and Coach of the Year respectively.

Defensively, the Ravens will look to get some younger pieces into the group as veterans Earl Thomas and Marcus Peters (acquired this season) can’t go on forever. Adding a veteran pass catcher on the outside would also not be a surprise

The Ravens look primed for a sustained few years of ultra competitive football. Defenses have yet to find a way to consistently stop Lamar Jackson and company and until they do it is hard to look past these Ravens.

The obvious concern is an injury to Jackson. He is such a unique player and the ravens deserve praise for tailoring everything around him but could anyone else be successful in this scheme?

Posted on Leave a comment

Full10Lookaheads – Week 12

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

The business end of the season is here and the games get more important as the weeks go by. That is even the case for Bengals, Dolphins and Redskins fans as they are on the edge of their seats hoping their teams continue to lose so they don’t have to stay up as long come draft night.

For (pretty much) everyone else, your teams will still be vying for January football and we have some great matchups including Dallas, New England, Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and the LA Rams. So let’s see what’s on the menu for week 12.


AFC South Battle

Image result for indianapolis @ houston
Image Credit: Bob Levey / Getty Images

Thursday Night Football sees one of the games that hold the most importance.

The Colts and Texans get it on in Houston in the first game of week 12 and the Colts must win otherwise the Texans will have a game lead in the division but also the tiebreaker, thus essentially giving them a 2 game lead with just 6 games remaining.

The Colts will be hoping that star wideout T.Y. Hilton can check in to the game after missing the past few weeks with a calf problem whilst the Texans will be hoping the epitome of boom or bust Will Fuller can return from a hamstring niggle.

Expect both teams to leave it all out on the field and let’s all hope that Quenton Nelson gets a legitimate touchdown this week!


The Hippy Hippy Shakes

Image result for dak hips warmup
Image Credit: Larry Brown Sports

Dak and his pre match warmup routine head over to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for a tasty match in the late window (why are there only 2 games on the late slate btw?!?)

Many are trying to nudge Dak into the MVP conversation considering how he has overcome the average defence, inconsistent run game and Jason Garrett captaining the ship.

The Cowboys are in focus over the next 5 weeks, either being in primetime or on America’s game of the week so we’ll get a real good look at his credentials to take the end of season award.

His toughest matchup to date awaits him though and will be fascinating what weapon Bill Belichick tries to take away from the no.1 ranked offence in the league. It will also be fascinating to see if Garrett and Kellen Moore try to utilize Dak’s legs a bit more in this one.

Dallas need the win to stay 1 ahead of the Eagles, whilst the Patriots need the win to cling on to the coveted #1 seed in the AFC.



Browns response

Image result for cleveland browns
Image Credit: Kirk Irwin / Getty

We don’t need to go back in to detail about what happened on TNF last week. That being said, it will be intriguing to see the Browns response to the adversity.

Freddy Kitchens, Baker Mayfield and the Browns have endured a lot of criticism this season for a varying reasons, and rightly so, but that can all dissipate if they can make a run (with a favourable schedule) at the playoffs which starts this week at home to the maybe tanking Dolphins.

Can Baker put a marker down and take the situation by the scruff of the neck and become the leader that the Browns need him to be, or will the Browns continue to be plagued by their continuing allegiance to underachieving?


Do the 49ers Pack a punch?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers
Image Credit: Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

Whenever you think of this matchup in recent times, you think of the playoff game between these two in 2012 where Colin Kaepernick ripped the Packers to shreds and the Fox commentators got rather excited about it.

No Kaepernick in this game, despite his efforts, but there is the small matter of the #1 seed potentially up for grabs in this one on Sunday Night Football.

Jimmy Garoppolo, fresh off his career day last week vs the Cardinals, travels to Wisconsin to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers fresh off their bye week in one of the games of the week. If the Garoppolo and the 49ers are able to take the W here, it will answer a lot of critics that they still have chomping at their ankles, despite their record.

A loss coupled with a Seahawks win however, could actually see the 49ers drop to the #5 seed. Fine margins, high stakes, all reasons we love late season football.


battle of the birds

Image result for Seattle vs Philadelphia
Image Credit: Fanduel.com

Talking of the Seahawks, in another fascinating battle on Sunday, the Eagles host the Seattle who are coming off a bye in the battle of the birds. Whilst there are many birds in the NFL, these two predators will be looking for easy prey on the football field.

Carson Wentz has not been able to show his MVP capabilities much this season, but this matchup poses a chance to get the better of a beatable defence that ranks bottom 5 against the pass in terms of yardage and a defensive line that averages only 1.5 sacks and 3 Quarterback hurries per game.

On the other side, the masterful Russell Wilson was eclipsed by Lamar Jackson in his bye week with regards to MVP consideration, maybe he’ll came and remind everyone not to forget about old Russ.

This game like another few this week, has implications for both divisions and the wildcard race so there is a lot on the line here for both teams.


Late Slate isn’t great, mate

Image result for watching paint dry

What is up with the scheduling this year?

This Sunday sees just 2 games in the late window. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time that the Sunday scheduling has seen the entertainment become very front heavy.

For those in the UK that do not have Sky Sports, the late window sees us being treated to an absolute classic between…the Titans and Jags.

The Eagles/Seahawks game was flex out of Primetime to the early games. Why?

Seattle are a mainstay in the late slate for the majority of their home games being on the west coast, so what’s changed?

The one saving grace is that you’ll still be able to watch the majority of the Patriots/Cowboys game on RedZone because there’ll be no highlights to show in the Titans game in the late slate, so there is that I suppose. Scott Hanson will be working hard to find the content filler, that’s for sure.


Ram Slam?

Image result for ravens vs rams
Image Credit: Fanduel.com

The Lamar Jackson hype train steam rolls into the Los Angeles Coliseum on Monday Night Football.

Massive game for obvious reasons, but it can’t be understated how much more it means for the Rams. Loss here coupled with a possible SF and/or Seattle wins, could see them be cut too far adrift from the others in the wildcard race.

Just 10 months removed from the biggest game of them all, the Rams may even not have the chance of trying to get there once again, with questions being asked of McVay and his team. Funny how the NFL landscape changes so quickly.

Posted on Leave a comment

Full10Lookahead – Week 9

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Week 9 sees the final of 4 London games, the battle for the #1 seed in the AFC potentially be decided even at this early stage and the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL drat look to go beat up on #1.

Here are your other storylines as we start our journey on the back 9 of the NFL season.


Half-time League Leaders


Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Ok not every team has played 8 games yet, so the statistical leaders at the end of Week 8 are slightly misleading, but for arguments sake lets take a look at those top of the pops right now: 

  • Leading passer: Jared Goff (Rams) – 2,367
  • Leading rusher: Dalvin Cook (Vikings) 823
  • Leading receiver: Michael Thomas (Saints) – 873
  • Leading sackers: Myles Garrett (Browns) and Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) – 10
  • Leading interceptor: Devin Mc Courty (Patriots) – 5Leading tackler: Blake Martinez (Packers) – 83

Cook always had the potential to be in this place but has suffered through injuries. There is no guarantee he lasts all 16 games, and London bound Leonard Fournette is breathing heavily down Cook’s neck for the rushing title.

Goff will not end up as the NFL’s 2019 passing leader, a title that will likely go to the Packers Aaron Rodgers. Michael Thomas doesn’t care if its Drew Brees or Teddy Bridgewater he will end up with the receiving crown.

Myles Garrett looks like he has the staying power to take the sack title, but lookout for the sibling rivalry of the Bosa brothers (both currently on 7 sacks) attempting to snatch the silverware.


Is this the week the Dolphins tank empties? 


Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins looked like world beaters on Monday night….for a quarter of football against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ryan Fitzmagic was en fuego as the winless Dolphins took a 14-0 lead. Then like the rest of the 2019 it slowly and painfully unfurled and at the final whistle it was loss number 7 from 7 games played.

This weekend the Dolphins host the equally anaemic New York Jets, who have only one 2019 win to their name. Only fans of car crashes or ‘Fins or Jets will be tuned into this game as it unfolds, but the twist that could be revealed is a win for Miami.

The Dolphins may have churned their roster like a dairy farmer at the start of the season, and they did send RB Kenyan Drake to the Cardinals in the last week, but they did not put their two best players in the shop window last week only to make no sales, unlike the Jets who now have a rather dejected S Jamal Adams and RB Le’Veon Bell wondering what the hell they are doing in their splendid looking green helmets. 


Patriots v Ravens is THE marquee matchup


Image Credit: AP

When such a ginormous matchup is anticipated the end result often is far more anticlimactic than the feeling of excitement held before the opening kickoff. Theoretically the New England Patriots defense will bewilder Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and force three to four turnovers by the third quarter.

The problem with theory is it can be proven otherwise and the Ravens have the tools to make the Patriots look human. If you keep Tom Brady off the field it helps, and Baltimore’s running game has that ability, along with L-Jax and his rubber legs.

This marquee matchup will come down to Lamar Jackson’s ability to somehow pass the ball when needed, he can’t have a 50% completion rate and expect a victory. We all know what Tom Brady can do, and his dinking and dunking to Julian Edelman and James White is predictable.

What we don’t quite know is what Coach Harbaugh has in store with the Ravens offence and the legs of Lamar Jackson. The biggest game of the season, and the biggest upset.

Problem is if the Ravens and Patriots meet in the playoffs, Sith Lord Belichick will be ready for revenge. 



Minshew Mania comes to the capital


Image Credit: James Gilbert/Getty

The phrase ‘Bortles Mania’ never took off in the five seasons he spent in Jacksonville, and like a bad penny Blake Bortles once again travelled to Wembley Stadium last week, then as the backup QB on the Los Angeles Rams roster.

The Jaguars are continuing to develop their UK and European fanbase and their game against the Houston Texans will be their seventh consecutive year playing in London. This time the Jaguars are bringing two magnificent moustaches for the price of one. Owner Shahid Khan and rookie QB Gardner Minshew III are hirsute heroes in Florida and they will be wanting to bring some of their magic with them on their trip over the pond.

I for one hope the crowd embraces the facial hair trend and there are thousands of fans walking down Wembley Way on Sunday afternoon boasting an upper lip caterpillar and a bandana or sweatband. If I lived in London I would have already been down to my local joke shop supplier for a few crates of novelty ‘taches.

Expect this game to be dominated by RBs Leonard Fournette (Jaguars) and Carlos Hyde (Texans) but Minshew Mania simply cannot be contained.


Can the 9ers get to 9 wins?


Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers
Image Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 49ers thumping win against the Panthers last week saw them taste 7-0 for the first time since the 90s. The travel to Glendale, Arizona where #2 overall Nick Bosa will look to continue his ascent to the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (or maybe more!) by beating up on the current favourite for the Offensive equivalent award.

The pleasing thing for their fans though, is the versatility of the team which allows them to win in a multitude of ways.

On offence, the team has three running backs with between 309 and 446 rushing yards and five wide receivers with between 88 and 187 receiving yards.

With reliable frequency, Jimmy Garoppolo will find tight end George Kittle several times per game, and Kittle will reward that faith with monster yardage after the catch. Beyond that, it is a total guessing game from week to week as to whom San Francisco might turn for big plays.

Their dominance has seen them outscore their opponents 111-23 in their last 4 games which also illustrates their dominance on defence to the tune of possibly even breaking the ’91 Eagles record of yards allowed.

Just beware though, as it’s a potential trap game on Thursday Night Football. Dare I say, a Kliffhanger?

You have the ingredients of a short week, away trip and an opponent with nothing to lose with a QB that Shanahan and Saleh have not faced yet in the NFL.

Put that into a witches cauldron and a devilish potion can take down the strongest of teams.


Who the hell is Brandon Allen? 


Image Credit: SI

When Joe Flacco decided to throw his offensive coordinator under the bus during a shocking post-game press conference he may have been suffering from mental pain, but physically he looked fine.

Fast forward 48 hours and Flacco is now out for 5-6 weeks with a herniated disc. This could end Flacco’s season and more extremely it could end his NFL career. Not exactly the way you want to leave the NFL, having won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens.

In Flacco’s place is one of those unknown backup QBs in the form of Brandon Allen. Allen has lingered in the NFL since 2016 when he was drafted in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was then with the Rams in 2017 to 2018, as an inactive backup and practice squad fodder, before being picked up by the Broncos this September. The former Akansas Razorbacks QB started two pre-season games for the Rams this year, two wins but zero touchdowns.

Nobody has a scooby doo how Allen will perform as he has not ever take a regular season NFL snap. One sensible piece of advice, win or loss agains the Cleveland Browns, is that Allen keeps his opinion to himself in the post game presser.


Running all day long


Image Credit: Getty Images

Buffalo and Washington get it on this Sunday and if the weather is similar to that in the New Era stadium last week, it will all be about the run games.

The Bills and Redskins can call upon some Hall of Fame level rushers to try and help their teams get the win.

With Gore and Peterson, Sunday’s game features the No. 4 and No. 6 all-time rushers, respectively.

The 2 future Hall of Famers currently combine for 28,871 yards over 29 seasons and collectively have 17 1,000yard rushing campaigns.

Individually, 36 year old Frank Gore checks in 4th position in the all time leaderboard with 15,170 rushing yards, while Peterson, 2 years his junior, sits at sixth all time with 13,701.

Long gone are the league wide workhorse backs, but these guys can still deliver the hard hits and the workload should they be called upon.


Trade deadline fallout


Related image

The rumour mill was working overtime on Tuesday as Jamaal Adams and pretty much all of his Jets teammates, Trent Williams et. al were being floated around as trade bait. Unfortunately for the rumour mill, it is now out of business due to the lack of decent output.

The fallout though is always the interest part of it for those that perhaps didn’t get what they wanted from the trade deadline.

We know by now that different players react differently to the same situation. Adams, was not a fan and said that he “didn’t take it lightly” that the Jets were more than happy to float his name on the trading block. A penny for LeVeon Bell’s thoughts too.

How some of them react will be interesting to watch as the aforementioned Trent Williams apparently can’t find a helmet that doesn’t leave him in pain.

I wonder if it’s the logo that’s the problem…?

Posted on Leave a comment

Half-Term report – AFC/NFC North

It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Sad times.

In this series of articles, we take a look back over those 8 glorious weeks of pigskin action and also project how the 2nd half of the season will play out.


AFC North

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  1. Baltimore Ravens 5-2
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 2-4
  3. Cleveland Browns 2-5
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 0-8

*BALTIMORE RAVENS*

Midseason grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

The Ravens came flying out of the blocks with bug wins against the Dolphins and Cardinals. Back to back defeats to the Chiefs and the Browns raised questions about if this team was “for real” but a subsequent 3 game winning streak including an impressive road win in Seattle sees the Ravens with a healthy lead in the division. 

Lamar Jackson is on historic pace for yards on the ground and has shown progress throwing the football in year 2. The defence isn’t as feared as it once was but still ranks highly and is 11th against the pass and 2nd against the run respectively.

Rest of Season Outlook

It’s fair to say that the schedule stiffens for the Ravens down the stretch. With games to come against opponents with a plus 500 record in the Patriots,Texans, Rams, 49ers and Bills. A weak division means this commanding lead would appear to be extremely secure however with a divisional game against each opponent and the lowly Jets providing the other contest. Even on a “worse case scenario” basis you have to fancy the Ravens getting to at least 9-7 from here and that should be ample to win the division.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 – Division Winners


*CLEVELAND BROWNS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

The product has certainly not lived up to the preseason hype. Steamrolled by the Titans and 49ers along with close losses to the Rams and Seahawks the Browns face an uphill tussle to get back to relevance in the division. A defeat coming out of the bye week to the Patriots has again raised questions about discipline and preparation 

A big road win at Baltimore was the lone bright spark on what has been a disappointing campaign. The promising end to the 2019 season seems like a distant memory and Baker Mayfield appears to be regressing in year 2.

Rest of Season Outlook

Ironically despite the record, everything is still in play for the Browns. The schedule is such that 5 divisional games remain and as stated earlier, they have won the only game of such nature to date. The plan will be to go 6-0 in the AFC North and hope that tie breakers enable them to find a way into a wildcard berth. For that to happen though they need to improve massively, reducing turnovers and penalties, a category that they lead the league in with an average of 10 per game.

The talent is there, can they turn it around?

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9 – Miss Playoffs


*PITTSBURGH STEELERS*

Midseason grade: C

How has it gone so far?

Smashed by the Patriots on opening night and losing your starting quarterback part way through your 2nd game isn’t exactly the way the Steelers drew up the plans for this season. The reality is though that the Steelers season was probably over before it had even really began following the QB injury. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges have anchored the squad to some respectable performances and with a turnover differential of plus 7 they are getting opportunities within games.

Big names JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have struggled to reproduce anything close to what they did a year ago and the offence lacks weapons outside these 2. Defensively the rank middle of the pack but an in season trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick signals intent to improve the playmaking on the back end.

Rest of Season Outlook

Similar to the Browns in that the division schedule is heavily back loaded so 4 games still to play in that regard and an opportunity if they can build momentum to make a late run. Difficult to trust that Mason Rudolph will be able to get them there however. Ranked 30th in both team passing and rushing there just isn’t enough production from this unit. The defence ranks 6th in points allowed so the Steelers will stick around in games but its hard to see anything better than a 500 record at this point.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 6-10 – Miss Playoffs


*CINCINNATI BENGALS*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

A record of 0-8 will pretty much answer that question. With the worst record in the NFL at the week 8 stage the Bengals can’t get any worse. Ranked 28th offensively and 27th defensively, unfortunately there is not an obvious quick fix as the poor play is on both sides of the ball. 

Offensively AJ Green has not been able to dress after picking up an injury in the preseason and Joe Mixon has not been able to get anything going on the ground. Defensively the pass rush has been a little non-existent with only 9 sacks and they have not taken the ball away with any regularity.

Rest of Season Outlook

There are some winnable games on the schedule with games against the Browns, Dolphins and Jets all on the horizon so nobody should be panicking around a 0-16 season just yet. Unfortunately for the Bengals, wins will now likely only hinder draft capital as the season is well and truly lost. 

The remaining games need to be used as an assessment of the roster and a decision needs to be made with regards to the long term future of Zach Taylor. The Bengals are very likely to pick high in the upcoming draft and now that Ryan Finley is in the driving seat, his performances over the back nine will determine how high up in the rounds they take their next QB (if at all).

Regular Season Record Prediction: 2-14 – Top 3 pick


NFC NORTH

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings

  1. Green Bay Packers (7-1)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
  3. Detroit Lions (3-3-1)
  4. Chicago Bears (3-4)

*GREEN BAY PACKERS*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

One of the most intriguing storylines to follow at the beginning of the season was the union of new HC Matt Lafleur and franchise QB Aaron Rodgers, so far the results have been good with the offence improving with every game.

In the early part of the season, it was the defence that was leading the team, DC Mike Pettine’s unit looking vastly improved from the previous year. Free agent signees Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith have contributed hugely, added to standout corner Jaire Alexander and leading tackler in the NFL Blake Martinez, have led to a unit that may have conceded yards but has stood up when needed.

Given the injury suffered by leading receiver Davante Adams, Rodgers has entered one of his hot streaks at precisely the right time.

Rest of Season Outlook

The Packers look well set for a playoff run, time will tell whether it will take them all the way to Miami in February. With the head to head wins vs all their division opponents thus far, they are looking quite rosy to maybe even push for a wildcard round bye.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 12-4

*MINNESOTA VIKINGS*

Midseason grade: B

How has it gone so far?

Behind the leading rusher in the NFL in Dalvin Cook, the Vikings have bulldozed their way into the playoff discussion. Beyond this though, there has been some discord within the group, notably receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen expressing frustration with the offence. Kirk Cousins’ improved play of late has helped to quell these noises, with Diggs especially going on a tear of late to the tune of 453 receiving yards in the last 3 weeks. The defence has continued to perform at a high level throughout, with Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Eric Kendricks particularly impressing.

Rest of Season Outlook:

With the talent throughout on the defensive side of the ball, and if the offensive line can support Dalvin Cook, this team can compete with anyone. They’ll need continuing support from Kirk Cousins though, where for some, the questions remain. They’ll need to settle the score with the Packers in the return fixture and also negotiate a tough stretch immediately starting with the Chiefs and then the Cowboys. Negotiate that, they could look at a first round bye.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 11-5



*DETROIT LIONS*

Midseason Grade: C

How has it gone so far?

The Lions have been competitive in every game this season and could easily find themselves right in the mix for a playoff spot. However, poor execution at crucial times have led to a middle of the pack record. They have lost late leads in 2 of their losses to the Chiefs and the Packers as well as in the tie with the Cardinals, with redzone inefficiency plaguing them in the Packers loss in particular.

There have been high spots for the team with QB Matthew Stafford having a very good year. Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson have also been playmakers this year before the latter’s injury, TJ Hockenson has hinted at what might be to come from the TE position too.

Perhaps surprisingly, given HC Matt Patricia’s pedigree, the defence has been the bigger issue. They have struggled especially against the run, where Mike Daniels’ injury has been especially problematic.

Quandre Diggs’ recent trade to Seattle has been met with scepticism too, depriving the back end of the defence with one of their key players.

Rest of Season Outlook

Judging by the 2 teams that preceeded them in this Half-Term report, it is probably a long shot that the Lions taste January football this year, but as a long term view, the Lions fans must be optimistic about some playoff football sooner rather than later. That being said, their schedule does not look too tough with games against Oakland, a double header vs the Bears along with tussles against the Broncos, Redskins and Buccaneers.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-7-1


*CHICAGO BEARS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

The expected step forward for the Bears offence in the second year of HC Matt Nagy’s reign has yet to come to fruition. The offence currently ranks 27th in PPG, with both the run and pass games struggling to get out of second gear.

While QB Mitch Trubisky has yet to prove his pedigree as a starting calibre player at this level, playcalling has also been an issue at times. The coaches have seemed to go away from the run too early at times, placing too much pressure on the young signal caller. While Trubisky’s development is crucial to the future success of the Bears, at the moment the best chance of success would surely involve committing fully to the rungame and using Trubisky to take judicious shots downfield to keep the defences honest.

The defence is still performing at a very high level (if not quite the league leading unit of 2018), Mack, Trevathan, Floyd, Goldman, Clinton-Dix, Fuller et al are still a fearsome unit, although lineman Akiem Hicks is a big loss after his loss to IR following his elbow injury.

It wouldn’t be a Bears season without kicking troubles either, following Eddy Piniero’s potential game winning missed kick in week 8.

Rest of Season Outlook

While this team certainly could go on a run, they have a hard road back to the playoffs with games remaining against fellow NFC playoff hopefuls Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Rams. Possibly the best case scenario for the Bears would be that week 17 at the Vikings ended up a playoff eliminator, they have a lot of work in front of them to get that far.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9

Posted on Leave a comment

#NFL100Memories – 11/100

Choosing teams! – By James (&Cathy) Fotheringham – @NFLHypeTrain

So my moment is more of a story of how me and my Wife finally solidified which teams we would support as we grew to live the game. It wasn’t a direct route, in fact, we started with two totally different teams and two totally different reasons.

The journey starts in January 2013. I had just got into the NHL and was following the Penguins but had only just discovered the NFL on Sky. I don’t go out much but an a night owl so I end up getting interested. Having looked into hockey fantasy leagues I stumble on a playoff team selector. I have no idea about anyone but it’s a way of learning, right? I have a fantasy team of sorts and that’s me sucked in for what has now been 6 years. At this point I pick of the 10 teams to support in the playoffs and I choose the 49ers since I enjoy Mythbusters and that’s based in SF. I also like trolley cars and think the Golden Gate is comparable to the Humber Bridge (I’m from North Lincolnshire, it’s one of the better features of the place). It’s shaky logic but when you look at the other 9 teams and know no players it was all I had!

Meanwhile my wife Cath chooses the Ravens because of The Blind Side and Michael Oher. Much more logical than me and of course you know what happens in that Super Bowl… When both teams win their championship games I send in a message to the legendary Kevin Cadle (Rest in peace) and the Sky team to say my team is playing my wife’s team in the Super Bowl… I still remember Jeff Reinbold and Neil Reynold wishing us luck to still be together.

Of course on February 3rd 2013, Cath is the one who prevails as the Ravens win 34-31 in New Orleans. This is the game where the lights go out in the Superdome and the 49ers almost come back from 28-6 down but a missed 2 point try with 10 mins to go and a Justin Tucker Field goal for the Ravens on their next possession is the difference. It’s a blow and I go back to Hockey while football hits the off season.

When August 2013 hits I make a decision which will affect the rest of my life. I get into fantasy football. My first full leagues are just public leagues as it’s still very niche in the UK but I find some leagues and pick some teams purely on guess work. In terms of the NFL as a whole I’m hooked and get two tickets for the Wembley game between the 49ers and the Jaguars in October. To date it’s the only game I’ve seen live in person but it was an epic experience. Colin Kaepernick has a quiet game, Frank Gore got 2 TDs and was in my fantasy team while MJD was the one player Cath had heard of on the Jags.

Cath really got into it and was flying the flag for the “Home” team Jags. This seems to have an effect because when the season ends and Michael Oher is released by the Ravens and isn’t looking quite so elite, she pins her colours on the Jaguars. She liked the underdog story, wanted a team in Florida (since we love Orlando) and with them coming to the UK often she felt they would be easy to support. I decide my logic with the 49ers doesn’t hold up to a loyalty and now I have all 32 teams open to me I look at changing my allegiance.

Jan 2014 I attend my 2nd live hockey game at the Sheffield Steelers in the EIHL. I’m now tied to the Steelers title. My fantasy teams are the Ironowl Steelers (Iron for Scunthorpe United, Owl for Sheffield Wednesday and Steelers for Sheffield Steelers and now…). This is where my allegiance in NFL swaps to Pittsburgh and that becomes “My city”. Sheffield and Pittsburgh are both quite industrial and Steel driven and with a shared name it was an easy swap to make. I was already massively into the Penguins while Cath went back to her “anything Disney or film based” logic and chose the Anaheim Ducks.

August 2014 comes around and I’m hooked on Fantasy Football; I won a title! My first full season playing and now knew the key players for most of the league. There was no going back now! I’m now solidly a Steelers fan and Cath is allied to the Jags. She gets interested in fantasy too (but not to the same level) and the rest as they say is history.

It’s a strange tale but the day my email was read out was my most fun NFL moment while my favourite playing moment is probably a Frank Gore 2 yard TD which happens at our end of Wembley. Even though Fantasy is my main love and the platform for so many of my favourite moments, it’s telling that my highlight comes at the time when I was literally the closest I could be to the action. I really need to get back to a game soon.

Posted on Leave a comment

Full10Takeaways – Week 2

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y), Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Get 10% off NFL Europe shop with the code FULL10

Hungry for more? We’ve got some more takeaways for you to digest looking back at week 2 in the NFL…

Heisman Hullabaloo

Image Credits: Associated Press

Week 2 saw two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks pitted against each other, as Kyler Murray faced the red hot Lamar Jackson.

There appears to be a pattern developing from both teams, with Baltimore dominating early and Arizona dominating late. The single biggest play of the game was not a touchdown or turnover, it was a frozen rope from L-Jax to rookie wide receiver Hollywood Brown, a 41 yard sideline streak on 3rd and 11 in the 4th quarter. That play alone dispels the myth that he has no touch on his passes. Murray was again let down by a non-existent running game in the desert, David Johnson was a pathetic 7 carries for 14 yards and 1 catch for 1 yard.

The Murray Show is a prime time viewing experience but without any resemblance of a running game it’s going to be an exhausting season with far more Sports Centre highlights than wins.

Gold – always believe in your Jimmy G

Image Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are named and kitted out to remember the 1849 Gold Rush, when folks flocked to California in pursuit of something special, that was hidden amongst the rocks.

The 49ers are already starting to shine, after a quiet but highly efficient 2-0 start.  72 points and two road wins is a fantastic start against any opponent, and following that up with a home opener against a spluttering Steelers team this could be the most under the radar 3-0 team in the league.

Last season Jimmy G only lasted three games, now he is hoping for a post-season berth. Perhaps the biggest indicator of success is the fact Garropolo has only been sacked once all season, but the news that perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley is out for up to half the season is a huge blow. The Niners will need to find a replacement immediately to fill a huge hole.

Big call for Big Len but Big bust

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Jaguars will face the Texans at Wembley in their divisional rematch, here’s hoping the game is a better matchup than this forgettable encounter in Week 2.

Well almost unforgettable, as this game came down to a botched two-point conversion when Leonard Fournette failed to take a handoff the required two yards for paydirt. Until that point the NFL’s new moustachioed maestro Gardner Minshew had been conducting the Jaguars orchestra to perfection. Then Doug Marrone decided to opt for the triangle player to play the tune, and he hit a bum note. Music to the Texans fans ears, who have now moved to 1-1.

The Jaguars are still failing to impress and this is frustrating the hell out of their star defensive player Jalen Ramsay who has been quoted this week to say he just wants to ‘f%&*king win’. No one blames him, and whilst Minshew is a media darling and a cult hero, he is not winning games and that is all that matters.

Buffaload of this!

Image Credit: Associated Press (AP)

Buffalo are now officially the front runners to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East;

Miami, well are Miami. New York just lost their star QB until further notice whilst the Bills are quietly going about their work.

Yes, they didn’t beat much in the form of the Giants and their back-to-back “road games” were in the same stadium not far from home. But all you can do is do your job and beat what is in front of you. No fuss, no hassle. After their first drive ended in a punt, 3 straight touchdowns for the Bills was enough to get the W. Josh Allen had a much cleaner game; No turnovers (after 4 last week), over 8yds per attempt, completing passes to 8 different receivers

They have a solid Defence and enough of offence (though we’ll have to monitor Devin Singletary’s injury) to make it to the post season, especially when the other likely middling teams such as the LA Chargers, Pittsburgh, Cleveland are stuttering.

I’m not expecting a divisional challenge as such to the Patriots, but they are certainly building towards being the team that will have first dibs on divisional title aspirations when Belichick and co come back to the field.


Steelers digging a Pit for themselves

Image Credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The roses are wilting in Pennsylvania and is Mike Tomlin a dead man walking in terms of head coaching tenure at the Steelers?

A deflating loss to the Seahawks which in a vacuum cant do too much in the way of wildcard hopes, but now at 0-2 they are staring down the barrel already with the injury fallout. Long road trip west next week to face the 49ers which is not too far from the crime scene of their shocking defeat last year against the Raiders.

You cannot overstate the importance of this game and a loss here for the Steelers and they are already done if they aren’t done already;

The back end of the schedule is not too difficult with matchups against Dolphins, Bills, Jets, Cardinals and Colts along with 2 divisional games vs the Bengals but if they are 2-4 going in to the week 7 bye, they may struggle to make the postseason. Add in to that the loss of Big Ben for the season with an elbow injury, James Conner is nicked up and the defence being even worse than the offence. I’m not saying the final nail is in the coffin yet because i think Mason Rudolph is serviceable, but the Steelers franchise landscape as we know it could be all change and Mike Tomlin may be about to throw in the terrible towel.

On a more positive note, Steelers #1 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster became the youngest player to reach 2,500 career receiving yards in NFL history, previously held by randy Moss (per NFL Research). Might take him a bit longer to get the next 2,500 though…


Pack mentality

Image Credit: Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Even at this early stage, the Packers take a strong grip of the NFC after their dominant 1st quarter performance vs divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings.

TD throws the Jamaal Williams and Geronimo Allison complimented with a TD run by Aaron Jones saw the Packers blow away the Vikings D in the first home game for the Packers.

From that point on, the Packers always had the number of the Vikings and just whittled down the time on the game clock.

It could however, have been a different story if Kirk Cousins was not picked off late in the 4th at the Green Bay 8 yards line on a pass intended for Diggs. The throw itself was very reckless; 1st down, scrambling to the right, on the back foot and lofted in to double coverage. Not a good decision.

This is another row to put into the table of “Times Kirk Cousins didn’t show up in big games” database. Throw the ball away and dial up another play. Redzone turnovers are brutal in this league.

With the win, the Packers now have not only a game cushion over their 2 fiercest division rivals, but also a win, meaning that at worst, they can only split the series with the Bears and the Vikings should Head to head come in to play at the end of the regular season. Judging by the performances of the 3 teams so far, it probably wont.


Injuries Are A Real Kicker

Image Credit – Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

The LA Chargers would have been a popular Superbowl pick for many in the off season , 2 weeks in and that looks like a very optimistic prediction.

A team that feels as though it has to deal with more injuries than any other in the league has once again been struck with the dreaded curse and is missing key players in Derwin James, Hunter Henry, Russell Okung. Following the game against Detroit on Sunday we may be able to add Joey Bosa and Adrian Phillips to that unwanted list and I haven’t even mentioned Michael Badgley yet.

Why is the kicker significant? Well despite all of the injuries and a generally sloppy game the bolts still could have escaped Ford Field with a victory if they had a solid kicking performance but they left 6 points on the field with 2 missed field goals.

It would be harsh to criticise a punter stepping in whilst Badgley recovers but if the Chargers are serious about a deep playoff run then surely they should bring in a specialist!


Real Life Madden

Image Credit – Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

“He scores when he wants,” the chant heard in many a UK football stadium should be aimed squarely at Patrick Mahomes.

278 yards and four touchdowns would be a decent stat line by the end of the game but that was what Mahomes delivered in the 2nd period as the Chiefs quickly erased a 10 point deficit with the most productive quarter of play delivered by a QB since Drew Brees way back in 2008. The last 5 passes that he attempted to close the quarter covered 42, 32, 43, 27 and 39 yards respectively with 3 of those bombs finding the endzone. Arguably his best pass was one thrown back across his body and was called back by penalty, had it stood he would have had over 300 yards in the quarter.

Last week it was Sammy Watkins lighting up the secondary, this week it was Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. Moral of this story…. Mahomes is nothing short of incredible, whoever is lining up at wide receiver for the Chiefs he puts up video game numbers.
A real treat for the fans in the coliseum, who witnessed the final game where the baseball dirt was present on the field. Small victories.


Why Draft A Top 10 Clipboard Holder?

Image Credit – Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Interceptions, poor play and regression. Unfortunately for fans of the Giants and the Dolphins, they are the 3 things that initially spring to mind when I think about Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Another disappointing Sunday saw more touchdowns thrown to their respective opponents as opposed to their own teams. The real frustration here though is that nobody is really surprised!

Every man and his dog has seen Eli get worse and worse over the past few years and as fun as the occasional flash of Fitzmagic is, it happens far too infrequently for a starting quarterback.

Look at the side-lines and the potential starting quarterbacks of the future are standing there holding clipboards. Josh Rosen was a top 10 pick a year ago and Daniel Jones was the Giants first rounder this year, finally it’s time for Jones to get on the field when it matters, surely it’s time for Rosen too?

ANYONE GOT CHANGE OF A DOLLAR?

Image Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Couple of teams need a Quarterback! Injury at the starting QB position is the most brutal and immediately scuppers your chances of winning a Super Bowl. They are called backups for a reason. Teddy Bridgewater, who turned down a chance to start in Miami and preferred to stay patient in New Orleans has finally got his chance after years of turmoil and seemingly made the right choice (and only choice; it would have done even if he never played for the Saints because you don’t want to be in South Florida at the moment).

Brees is expected to miss around 6 weeks with the thumb injury which is causing Brees to not even be able to grip a football. Yikes.

The 32nd pick in the 2014 draft out of Louisville has a 17-12 record as a starter, 57% completion percentage and a 29-23 TD:INT ratio thus far in his career. He now gets the chance to show everyone if he still has it and is more than just a backup.

The New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and potentially the Carolina Panthers may have their secondary signal callers in action this weekend. The Fantasy waiver wires will be burning this week!

Did you have that change of a dollar?

Posted on Leave a comment

Full 10 Yards Films – Lamar Jackson and the Evolution of the Ravens Offense

The NFL season is a matter of days away now and one of the hottest topics on the lips and keyboards of many NFL fans is whether Lamar Jackson is actually any good, or not.

Lee had a little look at the Ravens, their offense and Lamar himself and came up with a plan on how they should evolve further in order for Jackson and the offense to take another step forward in 2019.

This is part of our new Full 10 Yards Films series that we will be featuring throughout the season, where we will bring you video based content on a whole host of subjects and in a few different forms… The Ravens aren’t the only team who are evolving, you know!

Get comfy and enjoy…

Lamar Jackson and the Evolution of the Ravens Offense by Lee Wakefield
Posted on Leave a comment

AFC North Breakdown

By Thomas Rowberry (@Rowberry_)

Last Season

Baltimore Ravens 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-6-1

Cleveland Browns 7-8-1

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Baltimore Ravens

Draft Selections: Marquise Brown, WR (1.25), Jaylon Ferguson, OLB (3.85), Miles Boykin, WR (3.93), Justice Hill, RB (4.113), Ben Powers, G (4.123), Iman Marshall, CB (4.127), Daylon Mack, DT (5.160), Trace McSorley, QB (6.197)

Offseason Key Additions: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks), Mark Ingram, RB (New Orleans Saints), Seth Roberts, WR (Oakland Raiders)

Offseason Key Departures: Terrell Suggs, OLB (Arizona Cardinals), CJ Mosley, LB (New York Jets), Eric Weddle, S (Los Angeles Rams), John Brown, WR (Buffalo Bills), Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Green Bay Packers), Joe Flacco, QB (Denver Broncos), Michael Crabtree, WR (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 40-1

Analysis: Eric DeCosta’s first offseason as ‘the guy’ was spent overhauling the Ravens roster to fit the skills of their young signal caller. DeCosta completely overhauled the offensive threats around Lamar Jackson, ridding the team of starting receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree whilst adding former Saints running back Mark Ingram to be a bell cow back and drafting college standouts Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Miles Boykin as downfield threats.

Defensively the Ravens lost as much talent as any team in the league, losing stalwarts Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Eric Weddle as well as pass rushing specialist Za’Darius Smith. That being said they may now have the best defensive backfield in the league thanks to the addition of former All-Pro Earl Thomas who joins Marlon Humphrey, Travon Young, Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. The one area that remains a concern for the Ravens is the front seven, the losses of CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith haven’t really been addressed in the offseason meaning the likes of Tyus Bowser, Kenny Young and third round pick Jaylon Ferguson are going to need to have big seasons to cover the losses.

Don’t get it wrong, Baltimore still have one of the best situations in the league. There is talent at the offensive skill positions, they have one of the best offensive lines in the league and arguably the best defensive backfield in the league. Baltimore will be good.

Look Out For: The thing everyone is looking out for regarding the Ravens is the evolution of Lamar Jackson, will he take the steps to become a true passer in the NFL or will the Ravens zig whilst the league zags and lean into the running game that served them so well last year? One team played the Lamar Jackson led Ravens last year, the Los Angeles Chargers, they figured the Ravens out and forced Jackson to throw the ball to disastrous results so unless Jackson has improved the Ravens could struggle offensively even with the talent around him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Selections: Devin Bush, LB (1.10), Diontae Johnson, WR (3.66), Justin Layne, CB (3.83), Benny Snell Jr, RB (4.122), Zach Gentry, TE (5.141), Sutton Smith, LB (6.175), Isaiah Buggs, DE (6.192), Ulysees Gilbert III, LB (6.207)

Key Offseason Additions: Donte Moncrief, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars), Mark Barron, LB (Los Angeles Rams), Steven Nelson, CB (Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Offseason Departures: Antonio Brown, WR (Oakland Raiders), Le’Veon Bell, RB (New York Jets), Morgan Burnett, S (Cleveland Browns), Jon Bostic, LB (Washington Redskins)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: Has a team ever lost two of the best players at their respective positions in one offseason before? Because that’s what happened to the Steelers this offseason. Following a 9-6-1 season that saw Le’Veon Bell sit out the year and Antonio Brown ‘quit on the team’ the Steelers parted ways with both, allowing Bell to sign as a UDFA for the New York Jets and trading Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of draft picks (2019 third and fifth round picks).

In Bell and Brown’s absences last year the Steelers saw running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster breakout as two of the best young players at their respective positions, they’re hoping for similar jumps from their supporting casts. Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league so with Conner, JuJu and a supporting cast that features Vance McDonald, Eli Rogers and James Washington the Steelers offense should remain one of the best in the league.

In Devin Bush the Steelers have one of the most highly touted rookies in the league and look to have finally found someone to have filled the gap created by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury a few seasons ago. Reports suggest that Bush is already showing up as a leader for the Steelers defense, a unit which has been missing a true leader in the middle of the field.  The Steelers defensive backfield should be much better in 2019 with the additions of Steven Nelson from the Chiefs and rookie Justin Layne, both of who should feature somewhat heavily after seeing disappointing play from the likes of Artie Burns in 2018.

Look Out For: In order for the Steelers to be great this season they’re going to need Big Ben to have one of his best seasons, their schedule looks one of the most difficult in the league with them typically facing three tough games to every ‘easy’ game this season – First four quarter of the season see them play the Patriots, Seahawks, 49ers and Bengals, the second quarter sees them play the Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins and Colts, the third quarter they play the Rams, Browns, Bengals and Browns before finally ending the season with games against the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.

This team is still one of the most talented in the league, and they still haven’t had a losing record with Mike Tomlin as Head Coach but the schedule is rough, the offensive skill position players surrounding Conner and JuJu are mostly unproven at this point so if Big Ben doesn’t have a big season the Steelers could be in for a long season.

Cleveland Browns

Draft Selections: Greedy Williams, CB (2.46), Sione Takitaki, LB (3.80), Sheldrick Redwine, S (4.119), Mack Wilson, LB (5.155), Austin Seibert, K (5.170), Drew Forbes, T (6.189), Donnie Lewis Jr, CB (7.221)

Key Offseason Additions: Odell Beckham Jr, WR (New York Giants), Kareem Hunt, RB (Kansas City Chiefs), Olivier Vernon, DE (New York Giants), Sheldon Richardson, DT (Minnesota Vikings), Morgan Burnett, S (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Key Offseason Departures: Kevin Zeitler, G (New York Giants), Jabrill Peppers, S (New York Giants), Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Kansas City Chiefs), Brien Boddy-Calhoun, S (Houston Texans), Breshad Perriman, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: After a 7-8-1 season that saw Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and Gregg Williams given their marching orders and Baker Mayfield break the rookie touchdown passing record the Browns & John Dorsey have spent the offseason building arguably the most talent laden roster in the entire league. This offseason has seen the Browns acquire arguably the best receiver in the league in Odell Beckham Jr, one of the best but most troubled backs in the league in Kareem Hunt, beefed up a defensive line that already featured Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi with the additions of Olivier Vernon & Sheldon Richardson.

The Browns offense has the potential to be one of the best units in the league, Baker Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns in just 13 games last season as a rookie. With a full offseason working as ‘the guy’ in Cleveland it’s fair to expect him to make a leap this season, especially when you look at the talent Dorsey has put around him. Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku as receiving targets, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield…. There isn’t a more talented offensive roster in the league.

The Browns defense isn’t to be laughed at either, Dorsey and his staff have put together a defense that could be every bit as good as the offense. There aren’t too many defensive lines better than the Browns in the league right now, the linebacking group is solid without having a true superstar and now their secondary has a cornerback tandem that could develop into one of the best in the league with rookie second round pick Greedy Williams partnering sophomore Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.

Look Out For: Is it wrong to say the Browns as a whole? A team that went 7-8-1 last year probably shouldn’t be as high on people’s radars as the Browns are but they became one of the most fun teams to watch once Baker Mayfield took over last year and now have a roster full of blue chip talent. This Browns team could go onto win the Super Bowl as early as this year BUT they also have the potential to implode.

As good as Mayfield has been he runs his mouth a lot and could rub his teammates, will Odell Beckham continue to be as divisive as New York media would have you believe he was for the Giants? Can he co-exist with Jarvis Landry? Is Freddie Kitchens up to being a Head Coach after only a handful of games experience as an offensive co-ordinator? Will suspensions for Kareem Hunt and Antonio Callaway hurt in the early part of the season? And will the weight of expectations be too much for the Browns young roster to handle?

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Selections: Jonah Williams, OT (1.11), Drew Sample, TE (2.52), Germaine Pratt, LB (3.72), Ryan Finley, QB (4.104), Renell Wren, DT (4.125), Michael Jordan, G (4.136), Trayveon Williams, RB (6.182), Deshaun Davis, LB (6.210), Rodney Anderson, RB (6.211), Jordan Brown, CB (7.223)

Key Offseason Additions: John Miller, OG (Buffalo Bills), Kerry Wynn, DT (New York Giants), B.W. Webb, CB (New York Giants)

Key Offseason Departures: Vontaze Burfict, LB (Oakland Raiders), Michael Johnson, DE (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 100-1

Analysis: Has a team had as bad an offseason as the Bengals this offseason? The Bengals FINALLY made a good move in letting Marvin Lewis leave, replacing him with 36-year-old Zac Taylor but since then they have done very little to inspire confidence going into this season.

They spent very little in the offseason, John Miller will likely start at guard for them but he isn’t exactly great. Kerry Wynn and BW Webb were both backups for the Giants and will likely struggle to get into the Bengals rotation in the defensive line and secondary respectively. Many have questioned the quality of the Bengals draft class, which is now under more scrutiny with top pick Jonah Williams likely missing the entirety of the 2019 following surgery on a torn labrum. Star receiver AJ Green suffered ligament damage in a preseason practice session and will now likely miss 6 to 8 weeks, oft-injured speedster John Ross was expected to have a bigger role this year but he’s been out with a hamstring injury since July.

There just isn’t a lot to talk about with the Bengals, their draft was underwhelming, their offseason additions don’t inspire confidence and they’ve suffered injuries to two of their most important players this season. The only real positives for this team is that they do have talented young players and have one of the best running backs in the league in Joe Mixon. This could be a long year.

Look Out For: The Bengals aren’t going to be good in 2019, I know it’s a bit harsh to be so blunt but they play in a division that features the Ravens, Steelers and much improved Browns. In Andy Dalton you could argue they have the worst starting quarterback in the division and a have an unproven 36-year-old at Head Coach, that’s just not a recipe for success in 2019.

2019 Season Prediction

Browns 10-6

Ravens 10-6

Steelers 8-8

Bengals 3-13