Logo here bringing another dynasty stock trend to see who is on the rise and who is on the fall going into the month of August. If you didn’t check out my last article regarding Best Ball, I would highly recommend it here. I go over tips tricks and a few of my late round sleepers I am targeting. Back in April I wrote an article on some dynasty buy lows and sell high which mentioned Laviska Shenault, James Robinson and Josh Reynolds (missed on that one with the Julio Jones signing). This was just a month before the 2021 NFL draft which I mentioned to sell Robinson and buy Shenault.
Trending up: Darnell Mooney
There was potential for Mooney to be the number 1 wide receiver on the team if Allen Robinson was leaving the Chicago Bears, however as for now Mooney is the perfect complement of Robinson and is trending up on dynasty players platform. Currently at wide receiver 52-55 in rankings, the 2nd year wide out will look to break into the top 30 in relative dynasty rankings with potential to be a top 24 wide out this season.
Last season Mooney saw 98 targets, which was ahead of BrandonAiyuk, Chris Godwin, Laviska Shenault, and just 10 shy from Tee Higgins total. His average yard per catch was 10.34 and added 4 touchdowns on the year. Where can Mooney improve? Receptions over 20 yards, better quarterback play and touchdowns. Looking ahead to the first few weeks of the 2021 season, the Bears play: LA Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Look for Mooney to get off to a hot start with Robinson getting the double coverage.
Obtaining Mooney in your dynasty league isn’t going to be difficult but will be challenging to find a player that is equal to his explosiveness and caliber. Any 2nd round rookie picks you can give up (2021 or 2022) would be a steal to get him. As far as player wise, trading someone like Antonio Brown or Jarvis Landry could be a great deal to get the 23 year old.
Trending down: Adam Thielen
Nobody wants to get caught holding the bag on the dynasty player who is in his 30’s came off one of his best wide receiver fantasy football finishes and has an up and coming rookie to take his presumed alpha role.
Last season Justin Jefferson was going undrafted in fantasy football redraft drafts because the assumption was Adam Thielen and nobody else. Whew, was the fantasy community wrong on leaving Justin Jefferson left for dead because he exploded and won a lot of people a fantasy championship last season (myself included). Why was Thielen’s WR 7 finish an outlier season?
In 2020 he scored 14 touchdowns with 925 yards. I mentioned above he tied for his best WR finish at 7, which was also in 2018. What was the difference? 2018 he had 1373 yards and just 9 touchdowns, on oh yeah 153 targets. That is as many targets he got in 2019 and 2020 combined.
The Vikings defense was a total nightmare last year causing Captain Kirk Cousins to lead the ship throwing the ball on average 30 times a game. Moving on from the veteran might feel like your getting out too early, however Jefferson has made it known he is able to play in the NFL. Some still believe he has another 2 strong years left however with an aging QB in Cousins, the presumed number 2 wide receiver on the team (possibly 3rd target with Dalvin Cook in the mix), it might be difficult for Thielen to get back to a top 12 WR again.
I would try to capitalize on his 2020 season and move him for Chase Edmonds, DarnellMooney (as referenced above), or a QB move of Dak Prescott could be in the cards for the right manager.
Dynasty Wild Card (Deep Sleeper): Javian Hawkins
2021 NFl rookie Javian Hawkins has some work to do to make it on the field this season. This is a hold and see approach as Hawkins enters his NFL rookie 2021 season.
Hawkins is a nice change of pace role compared to the bruisers they have ahead of him Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison and Cordarrelle Patterson. He compliments the former Atlanta Falcon Ito Smith, which last season had 63 rushing attempts and 26 receiving targets to go with his smaller NFL stature. With Matt Ryan’s contract causing him to be a Falcon longer than the team may want him too and a 28 year old starting running back ahead of him (he is older than Todd Gurley and look at the fantasy decline he has had), the 2022 season could be totally different for the Falcons.
To snag him away from the majority of the dynasty owners who have heard the potential will be challenging for any player for player trade, however should someone be willing to accept a 3rd round pick for an opportunity like this could be beneficial compared to Rhamondre Stevenson (RB for the Patriots who has a LONG way to go to as his RB coach stated).
Go out and do a price check on him, and if your roster construction allows you to move the 3rd round rookie pick for him, it could pay off next year.
I’d recommend using Sleeper for any dynasty formats. Find friends to get involved with as you are surprised where some people will draft players and you can get a good feel for the lay of the land.
As always thanks for reading and let’s connect on Twitter @loganbrown0805
Whew! What a crazy three days for the 2021 NFL draft. The beauty of being in a dynasty league is your team can be built up or torn apart thanks to NFL GM’s. I mean do they even consider our fantasy dynasty teams?! Here is a quick write up for three winners post the 2021 draft from a dynasty perspective. Come back next week to read my Dynasty Losers (spoiler Ja’Marr Chase is on the losers).
Myles Gaskin – RB, Miami
Every mock draft had a running back going to the Miami Dolphins. “Myles was drafted in the seventh round, imagine if they had a highly graded running back” was the running story as the Dolphins had five picks in the first three rounds (two being in the first and two in the second, one in the third.).
Those who had Gaskin (including myself in multiple dynasty leagues) were prepared for a running back selection, just hoping it wasn’t the big three (Harris, Etienne, J Williams). Somehow Gaskin made it through (most people still can’t believe it), but Gaskin is in line for a solid workload.
The 23 year old will go into the season as a solid RB-2 for your lineup for now, as he will have to compete to be a true workhorse running back as Salvon Ahmed producered just fine in Gaskins absence. Oh yeah, Jordan Howard (who had 4 touchdowns on 33 yards), isn’t on the team anymore, which you can give Gaskin a shot at the goaline work.
In a dynasty league, to try and acquire him on the “cheap” move two late 2nds as a starting point to try and acquire Gaskin with the possibility adding a 3rd to sweeten the deal If I had Gaskin, I wouldn’t move him for anything less than the 1.06 in regular 10 team 1 QB dynasty leagues to be able to get one of the big 6 this year.
Count your blessings this year as it could be the breakout season for him. (If you have Gaskin, make it a priority to acquire Ahmed, as Ahmed was a fantastic back up to him last year and could be on your dynasty waiver wire).
Allen Robinson – WR, Chicago
Wait, the Bears drafted a rookie QB, Justin Fields, and rookie QB’s aren’t good for fantasy production, why would be a winner? Well to begin with, the second round pick was an offensive tackle, Teven Jenkins, who has a chance to go right into the starting line up to protect Justin Fields.
The Big 10 star never lost a game as the starter against Big 10 teams, coming off a 2100 yard college season, and Allen is the alpha target on this team and no changes to that anytime soon. His counterparts on this team, Jimmy Graham (possibly retiring-76 targets), Cordarrelle Patterson (signed with the Atlanta Falcons-25 targets) and Anthony Miller (in the final year of his rookie contract and speculations he will be traded had 76targets) opens the door for more production for the back to back 1K receiving yard wide receiver.
Expect Allen Robinson to be a PPR monster as what is a good way for a rookie QB to get acclimated in the NFL? Short quick passes. Acquiring Robinson is going to be tricky in any competitive dynasty league as he is one of more underrated wide receivers but still provides elite production.
Robinson is still 27 years young (Calvin Ridley is 26 to put that into perspective), and is in line to sign a mega contract this coming year after being placed on the franchise tag back to back seasons. Personally I’d have Robinson over any rookie Wide Receiver drafted this year, but I believe it will take more than that to get someone to want to move him. (p.s.- Darnell Mooney is a much cheaper option and a great dynasty target).
Michael Pittman Jr. – WR, Indianapolis
The Indianapolis Colts did not draft a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL draft which means they liked what they saw for the 2020 rookie.
With Carson Wentz as the guaranteed starter for the 2021 season and working under his old OC from the Eagles Frank Reich from 2017 (his MVP caliber year), all signs point to a great year for Pittman. Yes, T.Y. Hilton is back for another year and Pittman isn’t ready to be the alpha for year 2 (see Juju Smith-Schuster without Antiono Brown in 2019). Parris Cambell has played in 9 games in his two years in the NFL, which doesn’t help his chances of getting targets.
Pittman’s ability to make contested catches was the deciding factor for me last year and I wanted to trade for him immediately. The 6’4 wide receiver finished the year with 61 targets, 40 receptions and 503 yards in 13 games last year. Pittman’s is currently the 43rd wide receiver off the board in dynasty leagues which to me is a great value.
I believe Pittman can have a top 20 wide receiver this year in the Colts offense. Last year with rookie Jonathan Taylor, the NFL wasn’t sure what the expect, so they let him run. I would expect a much different approach for defenses against Taylor which can give Pittman more opportunities. The 23 year old isn’t going to be easy to collect on your roster, but it is possible for sure.
If you are in a win now mode and have a chance to add him as a depth piece, I would move a projected late 2022 first for him, as if he has the breakout season, that price would be a steal. If you are in rebuilding mode and have some older options (Julio Jones (32), Robert Woods (29), Tyler Lockett (28)), could be a great starting piece to get the youngster on your team.
As always, if you made it to the end, I do appreciate you reading this and always love to hear back from you. Find me on Twitter (@loganbrown0805). Dynasty losers from the 2021 draft will be out shortly.
Welcome to the Week 13 TV preview. There could potentially be a bumper offering of games this week with Monday seeing a double header and Tuesday getting a game also. As it stands today, it’s just the regular four slated games but we will preview all six potential TV games to make sure you are covered.
Sunday 6pm / Cleveland Browns @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans will look to follow up on their emphatic victory over AFC South rivals the Indianapolis Colts by beating the equally impressive Cleveland Browns in the early game of Week 13.
They grabbed their revenge on Phillip Rivers with a 45-26 victory to move themselves onto 8-3 on the season and remind everyone with play-off and Super Bowl aspirations that they are a serious contender as the season moves into the last quarter of regular season football.
The magnificent Derrick Henry maintained his spectacular form with a third straight game with over 100 rushing yards, notching 178 and three touchdowns against a good Colts defence that looked unable to even slow King Henry, let alone stop him.
As tends to be the way with most teams, Henry’s raw dominance left the door not just open for Ryan Tannehill but nearly off its hinges, as he threw for 221 yards and touchdown on 13 completions and an extra score with his legs.
The game plan will be identical for this week’s match-up with the Browns too, as the Titans look to draw in the Cleveland linebackers with some play-action and try to get the ball in their hands of their playmakers on the outside: the explosive AJ Brown and the improving Corey Davis.
Defensively, the Titans played far better against the run last week, holding the Colts to just 56 yards on the ground. This was a large improvement on the 115 yards-per-game they have averaged so far and a crucial factor in stopping a Browns team that will undoubtedly be looking to get going behind Nick Chubb.
The job of stopping the Browns will be made harder with the news that multi-faceted DT Jeffrey Simmons did not practice all week and so looks a doubt for Sunday, but hope is growing that cornerback Adoree Jackson could start his first game of the year having been activated off IR nearly three weeks ago.
As for the Browns, they look like they’ll once again be without their own young corner with Denzel Ward still struggling with his injury, but crucially there is no injury to their bell-cow Chubb, who is going to play the figurehead of any potential Browns victory once again. The former Georgia Bulldog is on his own personal tier this season, with 384 rushing yards in his last three games, as he has helped drag the Browns to an impressive 8-3 record in the AFC North.
Calls for MVP consideration have been heard in the distance as Chubb has allowed Baker Mayfield to take things at his own speed, without an interception in five games but also without a passing score in three of those. His connection with Jarvis Landry has looked to be improving too in recent weeks; Landry is now over 600 yards receiving on the season as Stefanski’s run-heavy scheme awards some nice light coverage in the passing game.
Defensively, the Browns will likely have Myles Garrett for the match-up with the Titans as they will try and become one of the first teams in 2020 to find out how to slow down the freight train that is Henry in the Titans backfield.
Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)
Overall, this game has the potential to end up looking like a play-off game in style. They are both run-heavy teams looking to grind away at the will of the opposing defence, to set up some easy play-actions and bootlegs for their steady QBs.
The Titans will miss DT Simmons for sure and I think that probably closes the gap between these two teams but I sense that in the cold temperatures that the teams can expect on Sunday, the unstoppable force of King Henry grinds the Titans past a tricky Browns outfit. I’m taking the Titans over the Browns by 21-13.
Sunday 9:05pm / Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
It feels like every NFC West match-up is a crucial one this season and this one is no different.
After a somewhat shock defeat at home against the 49ers last week, the Rams have some making up to do with Seattle taking full advantage. The Rams are now 1-2 in the division with both losses coming against the 49ers. However, their sole victory was against Seattle so if they can keep pace with the Seahawks in terms of notches in the win column as they head into their Week 16 clash, then no harm done.
They travel to Glendale, Arizona, for this one to take on a Cardinals team that kind of threw the win away against New England. They were there for the taking but a missed Zane Gonzalez field goal with under two minutes remaining sealed their fate. The offence and Kyler Murray couldn’t get much going in that game in Foxborough so you’d have to feel Sean McVay and co. will be breaking down that film, especially in the red zone were Arizona looked awfully ineffective.
You get the feeling that this game is essentially a knockout game for the Cardinals, who sit at 6-5 (2-1 divisional) after three losses in their last four games. That could have been four straight losses if it wasn’t for the Nuk Hopkins end-zone miracle catch against the Bills. They are two games off the pace in the division (split with Seattle 1-1) but also way off the pace in terms of conference records in the tiebreakers. A loss here, coupled with a win for the Rams and Seahawks, means that it could be back to the drawing board.
Their last two games have seen their offensive output plummet from the lofty heights seen prior to their game with Seattle and that’s mainly down to the wear and tear of their QB. Kyler has been troubled by a shoulder injury over the past few weeks and did not look comfortable after taking a hit or two in New England last week. But some are also pointing fingers at Kliff’s play–calling for long parts of that game being too conservative. The Cardinals and Kliff Kingsbury will be hoping that any bruises or wounds have healed sufficiently so that Murray can play his normal game and help the offence continue to produce as one of the top offences in the league (currently second ranked in terms of yards per game).
One way the Cardinals will want to try and impose themselves in on the defensive side on the ball, trying to exert pressure on Jared Goff.
Goff has not looked great when faced with pressure, ever. What Sean McVay is still able to achieve with this team in spite of Goff and his liabilities goes underappreciated. That being said, it was their coaching staff and front office that decide to give him the contract they did, effectively handcuffing their ceiling under McVay.
You have to feel the Super Bowl run in 2018 season was a case of all the stars aligning for Goff behind a great line. With the recent loss of Andrew Whitworth and a bit of shuffling around, you can see that Goff is not great when there is no trust in that he’ll be protected. This is also reflected in the play-calling, with constant jet sweeps and misdirections going to skills players like Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks when he was a Ram.
It took the Rams defence to make a play last week before the offence was able to get anything going and I think McVay knows that they have to be near perfect in all phases of the game to come out with any kind of win here.
The game plan from San Francisco last week, in being hard hitting and establishing the run, is something the Cardinals could try and replicate with their 1-2 punch of the often-underwhelming Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds (not forgetting Murray too!). If they can get anywhere near what Mostert and the rest of the 49ers produced last week, they’ll have a chance to stay balanced and win the game. If they abandon the run and try and ask Kyler to win through the air, it could be an issue.
It will be fascinating to see if Ramsey will try to neutralise Nuk Hopkins, who is 33 yards of the 1,000-yard mark.
Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
If the Cardinals win this game, you can bet your bottom dollar, Haason Reddick and co. get to Goff on multiple occasions. If they can’t get home and the Rams handle the pass rush, you have to feel Sean McVay will find a way to smash and grab the win, effectively making it a shootout for the division.
In a really tough game to call and with a lot on the line, the spread of Rams (-3) is probably about right, but I’d probably take the Cardinals with the points and total points to go over the 48 projected by the bookies (little confidence though, considering how these offences performed last week and can have the ability to fall flat).
Monday 1:25am (SNF) / Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
Going into the final five weeks of the regular season, the Broncos have to face the nigh-on impossible task of taking on the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Usually in these previews, parallels between teams become apparent. That being said, the Broncos and Chiefs had polar opposite Week 12 match-ups.
For the home team, it was an electric performance in which the tandem of Pat Mahomes and Tyreek Hill sought to break every record manageable. In typical KC fashion, one which is still so captivating while also so unsurprising, Mahomes threw for 446 yards, gaining 3 TDs and a passer rating of 124.7 along the way. The opposite can be said of practice squad WR Kendall Hinton for the Broncos who completed one pass out of nine attempts and was picked off twice.
Again, in not so surprising fashion, Hill had himself a game. On 15 targets, Hill went for 269 yards and 3 TDs, only failing to connect with his star QB twice all game. Considering some were predicting a reasonably tough match-up for Hill and the rest of the KC offence, with the Bucs being placed in the top 10 in most defensive categories, the outcome was anything but. The same cannot be said for the Broncos. While little more can be expected when a team loses all their QB options, the Broncos only managed 3 points and 13 total passing yards.
I don’t think it can be overstated just how different the form of these two team’s previous showing were.
On the bright side for the travelling Broncos, their pass defence was good against the Taysom Hill-led Saints. Overall, the game was difficult to watch for fans of Denver, but the bright spot was how they limited Hill. Despite the blow-out scoreline, the Broncos limited Hill to 5 yards per attempt and a passer rating of sub-50. It is practically impossible to imagine the same outcome this weekend, but if they stand any chance of keeping this divisional tie in contention, the Broncos secondary have to maintain the top-10 calibre they showed the previous week and across the season.
Another upside for the Broncos is the fact that they will have a QB this week instead of relying on a Hinton, who has developed his own little cult following. However, the Broncos, with or without a QB, have struggled offensively in the air and rank dead last in yards per game and passer rating. As if often the short-lived debate with the Chiefs, their rush defence looks like the only kink in the armour until you remember that rushing isn’t a viable option when down three or four scores. While the pairing of Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay has seen the Broncos ranking middle of the pack in most rushing statistics, coupled with KC ranking towards the bottom of most rush defence metrics, I really can’t see this making an impact against Mahomes, now favourite to become this season’s MVP.
Writer’s Pick – Richard O’Brien (@Richard_obs)
Typically, I try to find the parallels between the two teams. I try to find areas the underdogs can exploit. I try to highlight any key storylines heading into the game.
For this matchup, not so much. There are very few parallels, serious weaknesses or storylines aside from the fact that Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs are really, really good at football. That being said, I’m predicting a 35-13 win for the Chiefs taking them to a 11-1 record.
Monday 10pm / Washington Football Team @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Anyone who witnessed the reserve offence of the Baltimore Ravens hanging in there against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday (2 Dec) will have left with a feeling that the six-time Super Bowl champions are frankly mortal.
Their 11-0 record is impressive and heading into Week 13, they remain the only team without an ‘L’ in their record, but that was an unimpressive display. Commentators tried to flatter Big Ben Roethlisberger after the game, but he was the first to say he was unhappy about his own performance. Not so much the stupendous amount of completions in an offence that was ‘1,000 paper cuts’ as opposed to ‘ferocious axe swings’, but more botched 4th down attempts, lack of points and failure to put away a team that was missing the 2019 MVP, his favourite target (Mark Andrews) and key defenders.
Next up to try and pop the balloon of perfection is the Washington Football Team, who may boast a miserable 4-7 record, yet they are joint top of the NFC (L)East and on a two-game winning streak.
The walking miracle that is Washington QB Alex Smith is providing veteran leadership and giving the team the most dangerous thought in the world: hope. With the Giants losing Daniel Jones for a week or two, and the Cowboys and Eagles wetting the bed on a regular basis, there is a faint spark that seems to be producing a tiny whiff of smoke in the nation’s capital.
Talk of the Rookie of the Year is taking place, and is being dominated by Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson, with nobody giving any well deserved love to Washington’s RB Antonio Gibson. Gibson has amassed 11 touchdowns to date, easily the top for any first-year player, and the number is remarkably the third best total for all NFL running backs. His three touchdowns against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving thrust Gibson into the spotlight for the first time this season, and he looked comfortable under the bright lights.
The jury is still out on fellow Washington rookie DE/edge Chase Young. He has realised that the big boys league is not going to be a breeze, and has had a mixture of performances to date. 4.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 10 games is not quite the impact the Football Team expected when they grabbed him at #2. He trails grizzled vet Ryan Kerrigan (5.5) and squad leader Montez Sweat (6) in sacks.
Washington’s defence has kept the team alive and, along with Gibson, two Football Team skill players have stuck out among the grey mulch. WR Terry McLaurin is a diamond among a load of broken bottles, and running back JD McKissic, second leading rusher, has racked up 46 catches (a career best).
Looking to stop this unexpected bunch of merry men is the league’s best defence. The 2020 version of the Steel Curtain is beyond impressive, with edge TJ Watt continuing to add credibility to his audition for the Defensive Player of the Year. The Steelers did suffer a huge blow on Wednesday when LB Bud Dupree was injured with a probable ACL. His eight sacks will be sorely missed going into the final phase of the regular season. Having lost Devin Bush earlier in the season, it will be time for second-year LB Robert Spillane (#41 – pictured) to elevate his game once again.
This game on paper is not even close, with the Steelers owning a seven-game advantage over Washington. Pittsburgh’s defensive front four will look to feast on a Washington offensive line that is susceptible to committing penalties at key moments. The black and gold bring the pressure, but they also drop back to confuse QBs, as evidenced by TJ Watt trailing the Ravens speedster WR Hollywood Brown on Wednesday.
Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
All the signs are pointing at a Steelers win here; in fact, the last time Washington beat Pittsburgh was all the way back in 1991. Somewhat ironically, 29 years ago, that win put Washington at 11-0 and dropped the Steelers to 4-7, an exact mirror image of the team’s current records.
There have been accusations the Steelers have had a bit of a passive schedule, and the same could be said of the Football Team, as all their wins have come against team with losing records. The Steelers will need to up their game to remain unbeaten, but something tells me Big Ben will be playing mad enough to put up another big performance. Washington 16 – 29 Pittsburgh
Tuesday 1.15am (MNF) / Buffalo Bills @ San Francisco 49ers
The Bills and 49ers returned to action after bye weeks last weekend against Los Angeles-based opposition. They both nearly threw it all away in the second half but, in the end, emerged victorious.
The Niners crossed California to play the Rams, who were coming off impressive wins over the Seahawks and Bucs. San Fran stayed strong to win 23-20, despite being 5-point underdogs. The season sweep of LA was secured with two Robbie Gould FGs: one to level the score and another that sealed the deal as time expired. The result breaks a three-game losing streak and just about keeps the Niners (5-6) in the play-off picture.
Meanwhile, the Bills (8-3) hosted the Chargers in a battle of two in-form QBs, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. Allen threw for a touchdown and ran in another as they built up an 18-point lead, only to try and blow it with three consecutive turnovers in the fourth quarter. Joey Bosa also put Allen on his derriere three times, allowing the Bolts back into the game but the AFC East leaders did enough to hold them off. The 27-17 victory leaves Sean McDermott as one of only five current Head Coaches never to lose after a bye.
Let’s start by turning the microscope on poor ol’ San Francisco, who have had their roster absolutely decimated by injuries and COVID-related absences. Starters on both sides of the ball have been on and off the treatment table all season long, giving very little opportunity for continuity. By mid-November, 21 of their 27 crocked players were on Injured Reserve, yet they keep on keeping on… so respect to Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh for making their offensive and defensive units viable against all odds.
With five games to go, Frisco are at last getting a bit healthier, with Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson (86 combined rushing yards and a TD for Mostert), Richard Sherman (seven tackles and a pick) and Deebo Samuel (11 passes for 133 yards) all returning to the fray to great effect last Sunday.
But their main dilemma is still whether Jimmy Garoppolo, who has now missed three weeks with a high ankle sprain, will make it back this season, let alone if he’ll be retained after that. Less than a year ago, he was contesting the season finale; now, if he makes the field at all, he’ll be auditioning for his own job.
Even though he finished with no TDs and an interception against the Rams, Nick Mullens has proved he can (just about) lead the team in Jimmy G’s place. That said, his 6 TD/7 INT ratio doesn’t inspire much confidence in the aerial attack so, if the 49ers are to secure a home (from home) win, the ground game of Mostert and Wilson needs to click again, especially as Buffalo allow almost 130 rushing yards per game.
Turning our attention to the visitors, third-year QB Josh Allen has been one of 2020’s success stories. For a while, his name was being uttered alongside Mahomes and Wilson in the MVP discussion and, even though he’s fallen a little behind now, he’s still seventh in the NFL in passing yards and needs just 61 more to surpass last year’s 3,089. His 29 total TDs leaves him just five short of Jim Kelly’s single-season franchise record and his completion rate (68.8%), average yards per completion (7.8), passing rate (102.3), sacks taken (22) and fumbles (2) are all heading towards new personal bests.
Success in upstate New York this year has also been built on WR Stefon Diggs. The former Viking is now only 55 shy of a 1,000-yard season, 6th in the league, and while four TDs is a little disappointing, he does stretch the field. This allows slot receiver Cole Beasley to contribute more – not least, like last Sunday, by throwing the occasional trick-play TD.
The Bills have needed to sort out their run game for a while, with Devin Singletary’s 483 yards (27th) and 1 rushing TD not exactly setting the league on fire. In fact, his own QB (six rushing TDs) has two more than the rest of the team put together. But last week, McDermott finally turned to the ground game, with Singletary logging 82 yards on 11 carries and rookie Zack Moss going for 59 yards from nine. Allen himself added 32 yards and a score.
Holding LA to just three points on the drives that resulted from their three turnovers, last week’s defiant fourth-quarter stand shows that the Buffalo D can do the business too; they also sacked Herbert three times and Tre’Davious White snagged an interception. Although not a particular strength in 2020, if the Bills’ defence can stay solid, they’ll be tough to beat all the way to January and beyond.
Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)
The Bills look all but play-off bound already while the 49ers’ future is much murkier. They may end up above .500 but that’s no guarantee of anything, especially in the hyper-competitive NFC West. Yet this one’s a tricky one to call, not least because Buffalo are 0-4 on MNF since 2015 and also because the contest will be held at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. COVID-19 protocols in Santa Clara have forced the 49ers out of Levi’s Stadium for the rest of the season but it may not be such a bad thing: they’re 1-4 there this year.
With the Niners currently ranked 10th in the NFC and a game shy of the final Wild Card spot, they need to keep their foot firmly on the gas to keep those slim postseason dreams alive. And yet they still have several key players still missing – cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Ken Webster were injured last week, and I haven’t even mentioned long-term absentee George Kittle. Also considering that Mullens isn’t exactly rewriting the QB textbook, plus last week’s reliance on their kicker and their recent ‘eviction’, I can’t help feeling that there’s too much conspiring against the Niners. Put me down for the Bills adding another W to their tally. Bills 28-24 49ers
Wednesday 1.05am (At Time Of Post Not Confirmed As TV Game) / Dallas Cowboys @ Baltimore Ravens
For a game that prior to the COVID shenanigans should have already been in the books, the Cowboys have a further delay to travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens.
After their Thanksgiving Day performance, it seems like they need a lot longer than the 12 days that they have been given. Despite the game being close going into the 4th quarter, the Washington Football Team routed the Cowboys, embarrassing Jerry in his home on prime time while we sat and ate turkey. Antonio Gibson ran right through the heart of the Dallas defence on his way to a Thanksgiving Day hat-trick, which hasn’t been seen since Randy Moss did it to the Cowboys way back when.
The Cowboys currently sit with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft, but also are only still one game (and probable tie-breakers) from the division lead. The NFC East continues to be a historically bad one and it’s a catch-22 for all the teams in it. Do you try and win games and get to the play-offs, get embarrassed there but consequently moving your draft pick by about half of the board? Or do you just play out your games knowing that Penei Sewell could be yours (especially in Dallas’ case) in that top 3-5 range in the draft?
The Cowboys actually have a shot at winning this game and it all hinges on the Baltimore QB situation. Lamar Jackson is currently on the COVID list but if he clears protocols, he could be suiting up. It’s likely that if available, Jackson will play in the game despite having no practices or training over the past week or so. He can clear the protocol as early as Sunday, thus giving him a day of practice if all things go well. If he doesn’t go, however, the door is wide open for Dallas.
Back-up RGIII pulled a hamstring and was replaced by third-stringer Trace McSorely against the Steelers. RGIII, unless his hamstring pull is only minor, would be unlikely to play and would be questionable at best.
On the Dallas side, their offensive line took two huge hits from Thanksgiving with All-Pro Zack Martin missing multiple weeks, and he was joined by Cam Erving on the treatment table early on in that match–up too. That has usually spelled the end for the Cowboys in recent seasons but the pass rush of this depleted Baltimore team could be the equaliser they need.
Ezekiel Elliot has just not got anything going this year and added yet another fumble to his tally for 2020. Tony Pollard may get a bit more time to shine and has looked good in spots.
The wide receiver trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb are only going to be as good as their O-line protecting Dalton. It’ll be a lot of short stuff, the old “dink and dunk” relying on yards after catch, which is not something this offence predicates itself on.
For Baltimore, they must win to keep tabs in the Wild Card race as they sit on 6-5; Las Vegas on the outside looking in as they are on a three-game losing streak. They have three easier games to finish off the season but Week 14’s clash against the Browns is huge.
It’ll be a heavy dose of run game again with hopefully the returns of Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins. They’d also like to welcome back Mark Andrews to give them more weapons in the passing game as I think we have seen enough of Luke Willson for this season.
Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
Until we get nearer to game time, we won’t know the chances of either team but the more players that return for Baltimore, the more likely they are to win the game.
The current line (Friday evening ) is begging you to take the Cowboys at +7.5. I would just stay away from this game altogether but if you are sharp on your Twitter feeds and hear news about availability either way, it’s a line that can be taken advantage of.
Like Wednesday night, when there is so much disruption to the team and travelling, it usually dictates the game to be a sloppy, low scoring affair, so the Under 45 probably looks the way to go in terms of total points.
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Welcome in to the Week 12 TV preview. There has been a bit of a reshuffle in the deck with the Ravens struggling to cope with their Covid-19 outbreak.
That being said, we still have some crackers for us to view on Sky Sports this weekend, with every win now becoming more important as we head towards the playoffs (unless you are a Jets, Jags or Cowboys fan).
Titans @ Colts – 6.00pm
It feels a tiny bit like déjà vu here as this is a rematch from just two weeks ago. Why do the schedulers create the schedules like this? Anyway, the two teams can probably just refer to their pre-game prep from Week 10 to prepare for this one.
Both teams will be fighting tooth and nail in this one as both teams are 7-3 and in the thick of the playoff race.
The Colts took the win on TNF in Week 10 in Nashville with a good all-round performance, stretching away in the second half with the aid of a special teams TD with the final score 34-17.
Michael Pittman JR achieved his first 100-yard receiving game, following it up last week with a highlight reel TD reception with plenty of YAC. Nyheim Hines had two TDs in the game two weeks ago but Jonathan Taylor looked as if he is starting to go through the gears with his performance against the Packers last Sunday. There will be a mixture of the two once more with a light sprinkling of Jordan Wilkins, which has been the case for the last couple of weeks.
Philip Rivers has played the Titans 10 times in his career and has thrown a passing TD in every one of them, averaging 271 yards through the air, and has just 4 INTs against the Titans defence.
I don’t really see much objection coming from the Titans defence once more as they are ranked 27th coming into this one in terms of yardage allowed through the air. They aren’t much better defending the run (19th) and rank 26th in total defence on DVOA.
The Titans are a hard to team to gauge. Arthur Smith has done a grand job in making the Titans a feared team to play. Their OT win against the Ravens could be huge come Wild Card playoff berth adjudication and when you see they also have wins against the Bills but then a loss against the Bengals, it kind of sums this team up.
The gameplan will be to try and replicate the run game from Week 10’s match-up, where Henry was able to notch over 100 yards on the ground, not something many teams do to the Colts defence this season.
They’ll want to get Ryan Tannehill passing a bit more than the 147 passing yards he had and that means to try and get AJ Brown more involved (he was held to just one catch in that game). He since had a nice game against the Ravens including a strong effort to find the end zone.
If they fail to strike up the connection, he may pivot to Corey Davis, who has seen a mini-resurgence. He has at least at least five receptions in five of his last six games, with 2 TDs and two 100-yard receiving games.
Both teams will want to improve on their third down completions from the corresponding fixture, combining for 7-of-22 on that particular down.
Writer’s Pick – Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
The Colts, at home, should take the spoils and the 3-point spread is probably worth taking, especially after their morale-boosting win over a top NFC team. The Titans just won’t be able to stop the Colts in my opinion and the only thing that can is the Colts themselves (Philip Rivers and/or penalties). The total points line of 51 looks about right and I have no lean either way.
If the Colts win, you have to feel that is the division won with the sweep against the Titans. The Titans would be nervously looking at the pack clustered in and around them to see how the path lies from here on out, and whether it extends in to January.
If the Titans win, they have a somewhat favourable schedule to round out the season with games against the Jaguars, Lions and Texans. They should get to 11, maybe even 12 wins, which will be music to the ears of Titans fans, hoping their team can break the current four-season streak of finishing 9-7. While the Colts also face the Jags and the Texans (twice), you’d have to think it’s advantage Titans.
Chiefs @ Buccaneers – 9.25pm
Our Sunday evening TV game this week really whets the appetite, with two of the league’s best in Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes facing off for the fourth time. Has the old GOAT still got it, or is the hand of time passing the baton to the young pretender?
The Buccaneers, lying second in the NFC South behind New Orleans on 7-4 (as one of two teams yet to have their bye week), have struggled in front of a national audience, losing by a point to the Bears (Week 5), scraping past the Giants 25-23 (Week 8) and getting destroyed 38-3 by the Saints earlier this month.
In last week’s 27-24 defeat to the LA Rams, Bruce Arians’ outfit weren’t on their game either, with Brady’s two turnovers illustrating the pressure Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey et al put him under. The veteran QB (216 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) just looked off all night and when LA settled for a field goal, giving Brady two-and-a-half minutes to go 81 yards and win the game, he threw an interception. Game over.
Not vintage TB12, I’m afraid, but his second score of the game – and 566th of an unrivalled career – takes him back above Drew Brees as the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdown passes. Top spot has alternated between the two for a while now but with Brees out with broken ribs, Brady may yet build up an unassailable lead.
The Brady Bunch (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown) were held to a combined 159 yards receiving last time out but, credit where it’s due, the sight of the 6’5″, highly inked Evans dragging cornerbacks Troy Hill and Darious Williams over the line with him for a 9-yard score was epic. And while we’re talking players going Beast Mode, also watch out for Rob Gronkowski this week: Gronk has four receiving TDs in the last five games and the Chiefs found the Raiders’ Darren Waller a handful last weekend.
The Bucs’ running game was non-existent (18 rushes for 42 yards), with Ronald Jones nowhere near adding to his five 100-yard games this season. However, KC’s run defence is only ranked 26th (133.5 yards per game allowed) so that could be their Achilles heel. Tampa need to get the ground game going, letting Jones and Leonard Fournette eat up the yards – and the clock – while Mahomes twiddles his thumbs on the sidelines.
As for the visitors, the Chiefs are riding a five-game winning streak and sitting proudly on top of the AFC West at 9-1. Even though their record doesn’t quite match the unbeaten Steelers, they’re still No.1 in many power rankings, having lost just one in 18.
HC Andy Reid’s offence is steered, almost effortlessly at times, by Patrick Mahomes. He is probably the front-runner in the MVP race now, and he wrote the final headline in the exciting 35-31 win in Las Vegas late on Sunday night. Le’Veon Bell rushed for his first KC touchdown, Clyde Edwards-Helaire added two more and Tyreek Hill (102 yards, 1 TD) also had another solid game but (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors) when the chips were down, Mahomes stepped up and answered the call.
After Derek Carr connected with Jason Witten to put Vegas ahead with just 1:43 left, Mahomes did that “hold my beer” thing, driving KC 75 yards down the field with six completions from seven plays. And you don’t need to have read the script in advance to know he found his tight end, the irrepressible Travis Kelce (eight catches, 127 yards), wide open in the end zone, finally breaking the Raiders’ resistance. Tom Brady, take note: this is how you do it.
By the end, Mahomes was 34-for-45 for 348 yards, two TDs and only his second interception of the year, compared to 27 TDs. But it was close, so kudos to LV for that. Nonetheless, the win cancels out Kansas’s only defeat this season back in Week 5. That’s why the Chiefs dominate the NFC West: they don’t lose divisional games. In fact, they haven’t lost more than one a season in six years.
The Chiefs’ D has allowed 31 points in their last two games so they aren’t infallible, but with Mahomes pulling the strings, they’ll just score 35, or 40, or 45… They’re on a mission to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and have Pittsburgh – and that No.1 seed, the only bye available this year – in their sights.
Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)
With both teams in the playoff hunt, this game could be a preview of the season finale. I’m not convinced, however, because the one thing we can be sure of is that we can’t be sure of Tampa; they’re just too inconsistent. They slapped 77 points on the Panthers over two games and posted 38 against the Chargers and the Packers, so they can put teams to the sword. What’s more, their defence has 14 takeaways (second in the NFL), 32 sacks (third) and their run stopping leads the league in terms of yards per carry (3.2) and yards per game (73).
Yet their abject loss to the Saints just shows how far the pendulum can swing the other way, especially (like this game) when they’re coming off a short week. They couldn’t stop Jared Goff last Monday so, without a full week off, who knows what might Mahomes might do to them.
With home advantage – whatever that means these days – the Buccaneers might well rise to the occasion but the bookies have them as 3-point dogs, and who am I to argue? Give Mahomes under two minutes to score it and the Chiefs might even win by a TD. Chiefs 30-23 Buccaneers.
SNF: Bears @ Packers – 1.20am
This series, which goes back 99 years, reaches its 201st encounter on Sunday night. A series that the Packers lead by just four games (99 wins, 95 losses and 6 ties).
Don’t expect fireworks: neither team has scored 30 on each other since 2017. We all remember to forget the opening game of last season, billed as the 100th anniversary showcase, between two bitter division rivals. The game finished 10-3 (to the Packers) in one of the worst ways to have a 100th birthday party. A socially distanced Zoom call to an old people’s home would have yielded ten times more excitement for sure.
The Bears, who shocked everyone with a 5-1 start are now, as former MLB Mike Singletary said, “who we thought we were”, lingering outside the playoffs and in danger of slipping into a losing season. High-priced free agent (and Super Bowl winner) Nick Foles has kept his job for most of the season and, while remaining competitive in most games, has failed to display any real fourth-quarter magic.
For Green Bay, the team has a healthy dose of superstars (Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones) but for reasons unknown, they have shown infuriating inconsistency, and are somewhat fortunate to have a 7-3 record heading into Week 12.
After going up 28-14 against the Colts last week, the offence suffered from a second-half collective batch of narcolepsy, only waking up to kick a field goal at the death to send the game into overtime. It was somewhat fitting that Marquise Valdez-Scantling fumbled away the Packers’ possession in overtime that led to a Colts winning field goal shortly after.
The Colts defence stiffened up after a sloppy second half. The Bears defence, by comparison, are up there with the Colts and Rams as a terrific unit, led by their talismanic edge rusher Khalil Mack. While the Bears are on a four-game skid, the last three losses have been by 7 or under, and no team has scored more than 26 points all year.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are scoring just under 31 points a game and the Bears D is allowing just under 20, so something has to break if the Packers are serious about chasing the number one seed in the NFC. Once a fortress, the Packers have already taken a home loss this month, after Dalvin Cook ran all over the Cheeseheads (163 yards, 3 TDs).
If only the Bears had a quality run game, they would likely be 6-4 or even 7-3. Second year RB David Montgomery has been a frustrating watch: in nine games, he has one rushing TD and his 3.6 yards a carry (45th in NFL) is underwhelming to say the least. It gets worse when you look at the backfield supporting cast as a virtual primary school panto will contain a higher proliferation of protagonists. Cordarrelle Patterson, the WR and stud returner, is the team’s second leading rusher with 118 yards.
Green Bay’s running game is led by Aaron Jones, who has already missed time this season. Mercifully, the Packers have one of the best number two backs in the league and he does not get the respect he deserves. Jaamal Williams has over 100 touches and over 500 yards of offence. Rookie AJ Dillon, it seems, is being introduced very gently.
Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
The old adage goes that Aaron Rodgers does not tend to have two bad games in a row. The fact of the matter is that he had one bad half last week, so if we extrapolate that to the first half of this game, then 60 minutes of poor play would have occurred.
The Bears are managing to hang around in games because of Nick Foles and his relative calmness in big situations. They do not have the running game to wear teams out and sustain 12 play drives. The likes of Jimmy Graham are being relied upon as veteran leaders, even though they are past their physical peak. Look to the Bears to capitalise on any sloppy play by the Packers’ offensive line.
The Packers are a better team on paper, but this is a rivalry that goes back 100 years. So, pride will be at stake and the Bears will elevate their play for this nationally televised game.
Still, I see a Packers win, 29-20, with three TD tosses from number 12.
MNF – Seahawks @ Eagles – 1.15am
This Monday night sees the clash of the birds as the Seattle Seahawks travel East to the Lincoln Financial Field to take on the seriously misfiring Philadelphia Eagles. Seattle was able to halt a losing streak last week with an impressive win over divisional rivals Arizona. However, the story in Philadelphia is quite the opposite. The Eagles are on a four-game losing streak and should no longer be atop the East by the time MNF comes around. By the way, it is absolutely insane that they even lead the division at all; they only have three wins. THREE!!!
Looking at Seattle first, Russell Wilson got back to his old ways last week. He looked poised in the pocket and was able to come up with his signature big plays just when Seattle needed them. He threw two TDs and 197 yards – which would have been a lot more had DK Metcalf not had a big completion pulled back for a questionable O-line holding call in the first quarter. Speaking of the passing game, Metcalf and Lockett continue to dominate downfield, both with 862 and 748 receiving yards and 9 and 8 TDs respectively. If Wilson can connect with these two, Seattle will certainly run up the scoreboard.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks’ defence has not been the most spectacular. Seattle has very much been operating with the belief that Wilson will be able to lead the offence down the field to score more points every time and thus defensively giving up scores isn’t a problem. They are currently allowing 434.9 YPG (32nd in NFL) and giving up 28.7 points per game (29th). This is where Philadelphia may stand a chance: if they can score and do it early, they then just have to try and contain Wilson and co.
However, that won’t be easy, Seattle’s run defence is one of the best in the league, averaging only 91.2 yards per game (4th) and only 3.6 YPC (also 4th). With Wentz struggling when he is being asked to throw the ball, it might be a tough ask for the Eagles to move the ball on the ground facing the rush defence of Seattle.
The problems in Philadelphia are mounting up in every which way you look. Their franchise QB, who is locked in on a new contract worth north of $130m until at least 2023, looks an absolute shadow of himself. The MVP-calibre talisman of the 2017 season is lost. His accuracy is off, he’s holding onto the ball too long, he’s missing reads and he very much looks like he doesn’t trust his receivers. HC Doug Pederson needs to do something to stem the flood and try to turn this ship around because it is sinking, fast.
For what it is worth, I don’t think benching Wentz is the answer… yet. Jalen Hurts is a rookie, let’s not forget. Wentz has been a terrific QB in the past, he just needs to rediscover that form. He has a very sobering 14/14 TD-INT ratio so far in 2020. He’s also been sacked 40 times, which is astonishing. However, if he can link up with some of his trusted guys early, get the ball out to the likes of Rodgers, Goedert and Fulgham, and if Doug can scheme him to get out of the pocket more often and let him play his game, the Eagles could build momentum.
Jim Schwartz doesn’t exactly have an easy job this week either, having to contain one of the best in the game in Russell Wilson. However, the Eagles’ passing defence has actually been surprisingly productive in 2020, allowing only 209.3 YPG (6th) mainly due to the dominant play of CB Darius Slay. They also have a ferocious pass-rush that has 34 sacks on the season (2nd) adding another three against Cleveland last week, and 76 QB hits (3rd). If the Eagles can pressure Wilson and get to him, they might be able to force turnovers or prevent Seattle from getting those first downs. However that is the issue, Wilson is just so elusive…
Writer’s Pick – Ste Tough (@SteTough)
A lot of games are decided up-front, in the trenches but I don’t think that’s the case for this one. I expect a lot of passing yards and a lot of passing TDs. If Seattle can get their run going as well as allowing Wilson to throw the ball, this could be a whitewash. In recent years, Seattle has had Philadelphia’s number (Seahawks have won six straight since 2008) and I think that streak will definitely continue. Seattle 30-13 Philadelphia
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2020 will see a wealth of the NFL’s top players hit their contract year on one level or another. There’s obviously Dak Prescott at Dallas, looking to get paid for four years rather than five, but we yak about Dak elsewhere on the site so let’s park him for now. The F10Y gang have also discussed Minnesota’s Captain Holdout, Dalvin Cook, on a recent podcast so again, I’ll step away.
The old timers, like Philip Rivers at the Colts, new Raiders tight end Jason Witten and fellow TE Greg Olsen, now in Seattle, will probably see out their careers one year at a time. And barring disaster, many of those under the franchise tag, from Jalen Ramsey to Chris Jones, will probably waltz right into their next big deal.
But which players have more uncertain futures? Who has everything to play for – or all to lose – this year?
Cincinnati Bengals: Can AJ rediscover the old magic?
Status: Franchise tagged
While Cincy need to work on a deal for Joe Mixon, Adriel Jeremiah Green is the real head-scratcher. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding AJ, which isn’t surprising, given that the veteran has missed almost a year and a half with an ankle injury sustained in the first offseason training camp and, before that, turf toe. When healthy, Green has been one of the league’s best receivers and currently ranks second in franchise history in receptions (602), receiving yards (8,907) and touchdowns (63). Green hasn’t taken the field since November 2018, which is why the seven-time Pro Bowler got franchise tagged.
There’s no doubting AJ’s pedigree but the big question is, just how much will age and recent injury woes impact his performance? We’ll have to wait till mid-September to see whether he’s worth tying up longer-term in the Queen City. Turning 32 before another snap is played, his current one-year, $18 million “prove it” arrangement is eminently sensible. But should he endure another injury-ravaged campaign, there’s a distinct possibility he’ll be out the door and relying on short-term contracts for the rest of his career.
Green and the Bengals front office have been in talks over a third multi-year deal for a while now but as yet, there’s no agreement. Unless something gets inked before the 15 July deadline, he’ll be in the same boat next off-season. The Bengals rejected trade offers so they must want him around but will they commit to three or four years for a player who’s missed 29 of the last 64 games? If he gets back to his old self and clicks with rookie QB Joe Burrow, I reckon so…
New Orleans Saints: Is Jameis the heir apparent?
Status: One-year deal
As one of the league’s top runners, Alvin Kamara is likely to get (over)paid Christian McCaffrey-esque amounts of money when his deal runs out. But I’m more intrigued to see how Jameis Winston’s one-year, $1.1 million deal plays out.
The 26-year-old is coming off a 5,000-yard, 30-TD season (yeah, OK, there were 30-odd interceptions too) so if Drew Brees is unavailable at any point, Winston could make watching the Saints even more exciting – or nerve-wracking, depending on your allegiances.
The other incumbent, Taysom Hill, was given a rather generous extension for a 30-year-old who only ranks third on the current roster for passes to Saints players, behind Brees and, somewhat amusingly, Winston himself. (Yes, Jameis has been picked off 10 times by Saints defenders while at the Buccaneers, eclipsing Hill’s seven career pass completions!). Yet Hill, whose own $21 million contract is the third-highest for a back-up QB, is also a special teams Swiss Army knife and they may have other plans for him.
We won’t know for sure whether Winston will be the immediate stand-in, let alone the long-term answer, unless Brees goes down. But, much like Teddy Bridgewater last year, things could work out well if he fills in successfully for a few games.
For all his foibles, at least Winston is a known quantity but what if he sits out the whole year? The Saints will have quite the dilemma deciding what to do with the former #1 overall pick if he stays on the bench. Brees signed a two-year, $50 million contract in March so he won’t be put out to grass quite yet, so do they sit on Jameis for another year?
I think they do. I can see him learning the ways of Sean Payton so that when Brees does finally retire, the Saints have their long-term replacement primed and ready to go.
Chicago Bears: Do they trust Trubisky?
Status: Fifth-year option rejected
I think we can safely say that, in acquiring Nick Foles during the offseason and declining Mitchell Trubisky’s fifth-year option, the Bears have put their QB on notice. It’s possibly a bona fide battle for the starting job in 2020 and it’s arguably Trubisky’s to lose at this point. But given his form since Chicago traded up to take him at #2 overall in the 2017 Draft – ahead of Deshaun Watson (oof!) and Patrick Mahomes (ouch!) – he may not start all 16 games.
Over the last three campaigns, Trubisky clearly hasn’t progressed as expected, with a completion rate of 63.4%, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt and just 48 touchdowns. He’s also struggled with shoulder injuries, which is probably another reason why the final-year option wasn’t picked up.
In short, Trubisky needs a breakout season to keep Foles off the field, and propel the Bears to a playoff spot that really should’ve been theirs last year. Even if he suddenly becomes the QB they’d hoped he was three years ago, Chicago could franchise-tag him next year, just to be sure it’s not a flash in the plan. Or they might just trade him away, with Foles waiting in the wings. However it plays out, 2020 feels like a make-or-break year for Trubisky.
San Francisco 49ers: Where’s Trent Williams’ head at?
Status: Final year of existing deal
It’s hard to see the Niners letting TE George Kittle walk away when his deal expires, and they may also have to budget for fellow contract-year teammates Richard Sherman and Kyle Juszczyk. So for me, the main question mark facing the 49ers is Trent Williams.
Williams has been one of the best tackles in the NFL for years, competing with the likes of Jason Peters for being top of the class for pass and run blocking. But obviously, there are alarm bells concerning his health issues last year: a pre-cancerous growth on his head led to him sitting out the entire 2019 season, due to how he felt the Redskins medical staff handled the situation.
The 49ers traded for Williams during the 2020 Draft, so what kind of player will the 33-year-old be after such a protracted layoff? Well, he passed his medical, didn’t ask for an extension and restructured the final year of his existing deal so that he could prove himself. He’s also familiar with Kyle Shanahan, a former offensive coordinator in Washington, so he should prove to be a plug-and-play, Pro Bowl calibre starter in a position of need, having joined the Niners just as Joe Staley retired. Assuming he’s OK health-wise, I can only see this working out well for both parties.
Tennessee Titans: Will Derrick Henry get paid?
Status: Franchise tagged
Derrick Henry was a contract-year conundrum this offseason so the Titans slapped him with the franchise tag (just north of $10 million) to keep him away from free agency, giving the prolific running back another 12 months’ grace.
The 25-year-old half-man, half-tank led the league in rushing yards (1,540) and rushing touchdowns (16) in 2019, and almost single-handedly carried the team through their three playoff games. But the fact that he still hasn’t earned himself a multi-year contract says a lot about how teams undervalue running backs. It also says a lot about how much the Titans value QB Ryan Tannehill, who did get paid.
So where does this leave Mr Henry? The vibe between team and player seems pretty positive: he wants to be in Tennessee and Tennessee want him so hopefully, it’s just a matter of time before he gets the pay day his services deserve.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Has JuJu lost his mojo?
Status: Fifth-year option declined
The Steelers have a lot of talent with a year left on the clock but they can’t afford to pay them all. They slapped the franchise tag on linebacker Bud Dupree and DT Cameron Heyward is probably due a monster, Aaron-Donald-like deal. Tackle Alejandro Villanueva could earn himself a new contract too, but RB James Conner may well leave, having taken a backwards step last year.
But what about his 2017 classmate, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster? He needs a bounce-back season as much as anyone. In his 12 games last year, he totalled 42 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns – all career lows and certainly not numbers worthy of a No.1 receiver. With Diontae Johnson and James Washington showing promise, plus new draftee Chase Claypool, the odds of JuJu getting a big second contract are dwindling.
I don’t know whether last year’s struggles were all due to the rotation of back-up quarterbacks, or if a team’s top wideout should still post decent numbers, whoever’s throwing the rock. Maybe it’s a bit of both but at least Ben Roethlisberger is back at the helm after missing most of last year. Perhaps this will help JuJu will get back to where he was in 2018: 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, with a trip to the Pro Bowl thrown in, despite playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown.
Had he kept that momentum going last year, he might already have that extension in his pocket. But for now, the best Smith-Schuster can hope for now is a return to form and a franchise tag a year hence.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Is Fournette a bust?
Status: Fifth-year option declined
While the Bears deserve some stick for drafting Trubisky in 2017, the Jaguars are probably equally culpable for selecting Leonard Fournette at #4. With Blake Bortles (with a 11-34 record) on their books, a new QB might have been a wiser move but they aslo passed on two generational signal-callers and plumped for a running back. Even then, they picked the wrong one, with Christian McCaffrey available.
It’s easy to be critical with hindsight and Fournette is at least coming off his best season, after a terrible 2018. Despite just three TDs, his 1,674 total yards was a career high. But even when performing well, he’s not worth the big-money deal, which is why the Jaguars tried to trade him before rejecting his fifth-year option.
Without Jalen Ramsey, Nick Foles and Calais Campbell, the Jags could struggle this year. So, even if Fournette does well on an individual level, he’s still likely to end up signing a cheap, short free-agent deal with another franchise next off-season.
Los Angeles Rams: Will Cooper’s cup runneth over?
Status: Fifth-year option declined
The Rams have two big names playing in the final season of their rookie contracts. The first, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, will almost certainly recalibrate the value of elite CBs when a deal gets done. The other is WR Cooper Kupp.
A third-round section in the 2017 Draft, Kupp’s fifth-year option wasn’t taken up. Maybe the Rams’ miniscule salary cap space was a factor, having coughed up huge deals to Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald and Brandin Cooks over the last couple of years, but it still came as a bit of a surprise to me.
Admittedly, an ACL injury ruled him out for half of 2018 but in his other two-and-a-half seasons, he’s notched 21 touchdowns and caught 196 passes for 2,596 yards (a figure boosted by the 220 he got against the listless Bengals defence at Wembley… but I digress).
Is Kupp special enough or productive enough to hit pay dirt? Well, his 1,161 regular season receiving yards (12th) and 10 touchdowns (second) were certainly up there with the best in 2019. Sure, he faces some fresh competition from rookie Van Jefferson and a plethora of undrafted free agent WRs, but I’d expect Kupp to have another solid season and sign a deal that keeps him in LA.
Atlanta Falcons: Is it too early to write off Gurley?
Status: One-year deal
After being let go by the Rams in March, Todd Gurley II found a new home in Atlanta just 24 hours later. Largely driven by concerns over his troublesome left knee, the brevity of his $6 million deal – it’s just for a year – marks quite the comedown from the 2018 deal that made him the highest-paid RB in NFL history: $60 million over four years. The fact that LA were willing to let the 25-year-old go, despite the massive hit in dead-cap money, speaks volumes. Ludicrously, despite not having to fork out a roster bonus, the Rams will still be paying Gurley more this year ($7.5 million) to play for the Falcons than the Falcons will!
In five seasons with the Rams, Gurley rushed for 5,404 yards and scored 58 touchdowns; he also caught 218 passes for 2,090 yards and 12 more TDs. He was 2017’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year but by the end of 2018, things had gone sour in LA. Then, last year, Gurley rushed for a career-low 857 yards and while questions about his knee persisted, Rams coach Sean McVay swore he was healthy and eventually called himself an idiot for not giving him more touches.
So will Gurley’s homecoming of sorts – he’s a product of the University of Georgia – enable him to earn himself a longer, more lucrative deal? It feels like a crucial year for HC Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff as they target the playoffs so if they get there, even partly due to Gurley, the next contract shouldn’t be an issue.
With a wealth of talent around him – Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst – Gurley doesn’t need to be superman. He just needs to stay healthy, and give Atlanta’s anaemic, 30th-ranked running game some life support. As a replacement for the outgoing Davonta Freeman, Gurley could just be the man to save the day.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the big live NFL Draft event planned in Las Vegas has been shelved and, rather than sitting together in physical “war rooms”, team representatives are now preparing to dial in remotely from home. Obviously, all 32 teams could do with a successful haul come close of business on 25 April but if they can master Zoom or Skype, which teams really need to nail this first-ever virtual draft?
(7 picks: #1, #33, #65, #107, #147, #180, #215)
The league’s worst team last year obviously need as good a draft as any but it’s not quite as crucial as usual. In Cincy terms at least, they had an active free agency and filled a few holes, especially in defence. That said, with Andy Dalton still under contract, and Dre Kirkpatrick and Cordy Glenn released, Cincinnati’s best chances of acquiring extra picks didn’t come to fruition so they’ll just have to make the seven they do have count.
Trades notwithstanding, the Bengals are due to pick first in every round, giving them the next 10 days or so to decide what to do with the first overall pick (as if we didn’t know) and several hours each evening to consider any trade offers they receive before starting Days 2 and 3. They shouldn’t mess this up but you only have to go back 12 months to see how a draft can be a total washout. With injuries (Jonah Williams) and underperformance (Drew Sample, Ryan Finley) in abundance, only LB Germaine Pratt came out of the class of 2019 with any credit.
After, we assume, Ohio native Joe Burrow becomes their new franchise quarterback, the Bengals should get a couple of skill-position weapons for him to work with (as AJ Green and John Ross both hit free agency next season), at least another offensive lineman for protection and probably another linebacker.
(7 picks: #2, #66, #108, #142, #162, #216, #229)
Picking second after a terrible 2019, it should be no surprise to anyone that Washington also feature in this article. They have a sackful of needs, even after a busy free agency, just the standard seven picks with which to address them and a new Head Coach in Ron Rivera who’s going to want to make progress PDQ. So this draft matters.
Almost everyone has the ‘Skins taking Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young at #2 overall and while the defensive line isn’t their most pressing need, it would be hard to pass on a player widely regarded as a “generational talent”. Then again, they may trade the second spot away to someone like Miami, and grab one or two other first round picks. After that, the Redskins don’t pick again until #66, so they’re not going to get the pick of the bunch. They’ll need a tight end or two after Jordan’s Reed’s departure and Vernon Davis’ retirement, and a WR mate for Terry McLaurin: Chase Claypool or Antonio Gandy-Golden maybe?
If Trent Williams decides he’s washed his hands of the franchise after sitting out last year, left tackle will suddenly become a pressing need too.
The Dolphins opted for a total reboot last year, trading away the likes of Kenyan Drake and Minkah Fitzpatrick in exchange for a million draft picks (OK then, just 14, including three in Round 1 alone). Having acquired all this capital in exchange for bombing last year out, the Dolphins can’t afford to waste any of it now they have so many holes to plug.
With Josh Rosen probably not the guy and Fitzmagic a stop-gap at best, the Fins will probably take Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, and have the ammo to move up from #5 if they need to. Their woeful pass rush has been bolstered in free agency with LB Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Shaq Lawson, and they now have the highest-paid corner in the business in Byron Jones, so that leaves their O-line as the other main priority. Picking at #18 may mean they miss out on the top-tier OL talent and have to wait for someone in the second wave, like Isiah Wilson or Ezra Cleveland, or they may double-dip on Days 1 and 2.
Los Angeles Chargers
(7 picks: #6, #37, #71, #112, #151, #186, #220)
On paper, the Chargers don’t look in bad shape so suggesting they need a blinding draft might seem to be over-stating it. But many of their best players –DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, TE Hunter Henry and centre Mike Pouncey among them – are entering the final year of their contracts. It’s time to put some successors in place now, as they won’t be able to keep them all.
In Philip Rivers’ wake, Tyrod Taylor is the bridge QB for now but LA are touted to pick their playcaller of the future at #6; whether that’s Tua, Herbert or Love remains to be seen.
Free agency signings such as corner Chris Harris and right tackle Bryan Bulaga suggest the Chargers might be going all out this year. Another lineman or two are on the cards too, so expect a tackle in Round 2 – a Josh Jones or a Lucas Niang maybe. Later rounds will give the Chargers the chance to fill out the wide receiver room and beef up the secondary.
Having shelled out $33 million for Teddy Bridgewater, a full-scale rebuild seems to be on the cards in Carolina under new HC Matt Rhule.
Jets WR Robby Anderson joined during free agency, so their offensive focus can probably be directed towards O-line help to support the running game of Christian McCaffrey, and a TE to replace Greg Olsen. That said, they’re more likely to look at their immediate defensive needs. With Luke Kuechly’s retirement, only one starting cornerback of note and the D-line needing help, just picking the best defensive player available for several rounds might not be a bad tactic.
They have more than enough picks to haul in a strong draft class this year. They’re out of the gate at #7, behind three QB-needy teams so they’ll be spoilt for choice when their time comes: at least one of LB Isiah Simmons, CB Jeff Okudah and DT Derrick Brown should be there for the taking.
You could argue that the salary-cap-strapped Jags need help pretty much everywhere and anywhere. HC Doug Marrone is in one of hottest hot seats in the NFL and needs his 12 picks to pay off if he’s to avoid another losing season.
Jacksonville’s defence has more holes than a block of Emmental, having lost Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye and Calais Campbell, so they’ll need to use some of their extensive draft capital early on. With picks #9 and #20, they could start at corner and on the edge. If Okudah falls to them, they’ll snap him up and Yetur Gross-Matos would be a solid pick at 20. Gardner Minshew may yet get some competition on Day 2 if the Jags consider Jacob Eason at #42.
Las Vegas Raiders
(7 picks: #12, #19, #80, #81, #91, #121, #159)
Las Vegas made some decent FA pick-ups, including LBs Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski and safety Jeff Heath, so a few more shrewd selections could propel them from also-ran to playoff contender.
Now that the draft is online rather than at a massive public event, there’s slightly less need for the former hosts to make a big splash in their new home. Nonetheless, the Silver and Black have two first round selections with which to make some Day 1 headlines, with wide receivers like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and CeeDee Lamb being widely mocked to the Raiders. If they go that route, their selection would probably leapfrog Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones in the pecking order.
Cornerback could bethe other likely first-round target while Days 2 and 3 will likely see them hone grab a defensive tackle and added depth at safety and linebacker.
A contract extension for QB Kirk Cousins can only mean one thing: the Vikes are in “win-now” mode. But if they are going to go a step or two further than last year, they’ll have to address several areas, on both sides of the ball, with their dozen 2020 picks.
Offensively, the Stefon Diggs trade to the Bills means a viable #2 wideout to support Adam Thielen is vital. The WR class is deep this year but I suspect pick #22 or #25 could well be used on someone like Tee Higgins or Laviska Shenault.
A guard or two might be wise, having released Josh Kline, but addressing the defence is arguably as pressing. They could do with two or three corners to fill the vacancies left by Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander (both Bengals now) and Xavier Rhodes, now with the Colts. There’s also no depth at safety and with Eversen Griffen also off to pastures new, a defensive end like Iowa’s AJ Epenesa is also on Minnesota’s shopping list.
There was a time, not that long ago, when suggesting the Pats really need to nail this draft would’ve been considered heresy, or even the first signs of madness. But for a change, they need a lot of their 12 picks to hit the target.
With the untested Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer their only choices at QB, Bill Belichick suddenly has much to ponder in the post-TB12 era. Are they happy with their options or will they be in the market for someone like Jordan Love at #23 or even Jalen Hurts in a later round?
Both are possible, but their offense could really benefit from a track star who can take the top off a defence. If they go WR in Round 1, Henry Ruggs could be available, or they might wait for Denzel Mimms or Chase Claypool. Post-Gronk, there’s also been a noticeable TE-shaped hole in the Patriots’ ranks so the top dog here, Cole Kmet, might even be the first selection.
In later rounds, New England really need some of those compensatory picks to find viable replacements in their defence, having lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, during free agency. And they don’t have a kicker on their roster, so a top prospect like Tyler Bass may well be Boston-bound.
(7 picks: #43, #50, #163, #196, #200, #226, #233)
In complete contrast to the Dolphins, the Bears don’t pick till midway through Round 2. Having had limited cap space to play the free agency field, Chicago are going to have to play a canny game to make the picks they do have count.
Having already acquired Nick Foles to give the troubled Mitchell Trubisky some competition, they’re not likely to consider anything but a late-round ‘project’ at QB. Therefore, expect the gaps in the backfield left by departing safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and corner Prince Amukamara to be the ones the Bears fill at #43 and #50. Could Grant Delpit fall that far, for example, or maybe Antoine Winfield Jr?
It won’t be until staggering 113(!) picks later that Chicago will get the chance to do anything else, like find a wideout to complement Allen Robinson or add a piece to their O-line, but they’ll probably need to do both with their Day 3 choices.
Today’s “Season in Review” focuses on the Chicago Bears. The team a double doink away from a deep playoff run last year, expectations where high in the windy city. Could Trubisky take another step forward or were the team going to succumb to the high price paid for Khalil Mack?
Entering the Season
Coming off a 12-4 season and and NFC North divisional crown, things were looking rosy for the Bears coming into the NFL’s 100th season.
The question was, could the Bears defense, led by Khalil Mack, reach the dizzying heights that they did in 2018 without Vic Fangio running the show as defensive coordinator. Chuck Pagano was hired to oversee the unit, which on the face of it, wasn’t a revolutionary hire but also could be seen as a safe pair of hands.
On the other side of the ball, questions loomed around quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky and whether he could take the leap in Matt Nagy’s offense in year two. Bears fans needed to start feeling like they were winning games because of Trubisky, not in spite of him.
The Bears didn’t do much business in terms of incomings and outgoings during the offseason.
The team swapped safeties with the Packers – switching Adrian Amos for HaHA Clinton-Dix – Elsewhere in the defensive backfield, slot corner Bryce Callaghan was deemed too expensive to resign and went to Denver, and GM Ryan Pace brought in Buster Skrine in his stead. Speaking on backfields, the offensive backfield also underwent some renovations, with Jordan Howard traded to the Eagles for a 6th round pick and in came Mike Davis from Seattle and David Montgomery with Chicago’s third round pick on the 2019 draft.
That brings us nicely on to the draft and for the Bears, it was a pretty quiet affair.
Due to the monster trade for Khalil Mack, Montgomery was the Bears first selection of the draft and certainly the headline of their haul.
Pace said before the draft that the team didn’t have “pressing, huge needs” and could “select the best players”.
In that case, I guess he thought the Bears were primed for another divisional title and playoff run…
During the Season
Let me tell you, it did not go down like that.
Opening night, the NFL was full of celebrations, the Bears and the Packers squared off, a meeting of two of the oldest rivals in sport… Time for an offensive masterpiece between two QB’s at the top of their games… Right?
The Packers actually ran out 10-3 winners in what was a defensive battle, where neither team could get the running game going and to be honest, neither team could keep their QB on his feet.
After that came a season of streaks for the Bears, both good and bad. Three wins over the Broncos, Redskins and Vikings meant that the Bears travelled to London to kick off the international series in a healthy 3-1 position. One aspect of the team that wasn’t healthy, however, was the QB. Mitchell Trubisky had suffered a shoulder injury in the win against Minnesota – Although to be honest, he was struggling to ignite the offense before then anway, having thrown only 3 TD’s (all of which came against Washington) to 2 picks and only managing 5.6 yards per attempt.
Anyway, on to The Khalil Mack Bowl at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – a stadium tasting its first NFL action.
The Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead on the back of rookie running back, Josh Jacobs. The Bears answered back with 3 unanswered scores to make things very interesting indeed but eventually succumbed to another Jacobs touchdown that handed Chicago its first loss since week 1.
Mitchell Trubisky returned in week 7 but the victories did not. Three more losses followed after the bye and the Bears, sat at 3-5 at this point, were at the stage where it really was put up or shut up.
The defense, as the year before, wasn’t the issue – They were holding up their end of the bargain, the offense on the other hand were not.
A win against Detroit and a loss against the Rams didn’t do much to aid the cause, in effect it was just two more weeks that ticked by but the situation remained the same. 4-6, surely there was no hope?
However, 3 wins followed and hope was alive, the Packers were out in front by now but the Vikings were catchable – Plus, amazingly, it was still in the Bear’s hands as they had to play both Green Bay and Minnesota in the final three weeks of the season – 3 wins were needed but this was a tough ask because the meat in the sandwich of these divisional games was Kansas City.
Unfortunately for Bears fans, it wasn’t to be – the only win that was had was on the final day against Minnesota.
Too little, too late. 8-8 and a bit of a damp squib, really.
Do the Chicago Bears need a new quarterback?
Yes, Chase Daniel is out of contract.
Wait… What did you think I meant?
Of course I wasn’t suggesting that the Bears admit defeat on Trubisky – The traded up to get him with the second overall pick. He’s only 3 years into his career too.
Or was I?
In all seriousness, the Bears need to get someone in to put pressure on Trubisky, at least. Year 4 really is make or break for Trubisky’s long term NFL career, in my opinion – If he doesn’t perform to a high level in 2020, the Bears probably won’t pick up his 5th year option and he’ll be done in the Windy City – In the event that happens, the Bears will want a replacement to be in the building already.
In my most recent mock draft for the Full 10 Yards, I gave them a QB in round 2, you can see whom that was here.
That leads me on to the Bears capital both draft and financial… It ain’t good. Not a position you want to be in when you’ve just gone 8-8 and need a jump start in a very tough division.
Chicago probably needs to do some roster surgery, currently sitting with a smidge over $5m in cap, which ranks 28th in the NFL (according to Overthecap.com).
HaHa Clinton-Dix, Danny Trevethan, Nick Kwiatkoski and Aaron Lynch are all veteran contributors who are set to hit the open market – I can see these guys having to find new homes this spring, along with the aforementioned Chase Daniel. This will free up around $17m and give the Bears some flexibility.
This would mean that the shopping list will have the following positions; QB, linebacker, pass rush depth and tight end.
Yes, let’s talk about tight end for a second… The Bears got absolutely no production from the position last year and since overpaying for Trey Burton because he threw a Superbowl TD, two years ago. Burton caught 14 balls for 84 yards in 8 games in 2019 and in 2018, he amassed 569 yards (ranked 13th amongst tight ends) on 54 catches, 6 of which were touchdowns.
That isn’t a lot of bang for their buck at an average of $8m per year! $18m of his 4 year, $32m deal is guaranteed – the highest guaranteed money for tight ends in the league, as things stand.
That is not great, boys and girls.
The next problem for the Bears is that when it comes to the draft and acquiring the young talent to fill these gaps is that they simply do not possess the requisite capital which gives them a good chance of doing so – Ryan Pace needs to hit a few home runs in April.
Still paying back the Raiders for the Mack trade the Bears have two seconds, two fourths, a fifth, a sixth and a seventh round pick. That is hard.
So to sum up the offseason outlook for Chicago is, well, I wouldn’t say it’s bleak but man, they have some work to do.
Pace has to do some off-field surgery and keep his roster decent via clever drafting and free agent moves without premium capital with which to deal. Nagy also has to get Mitchell Trubisky and this offense firing – What he was hired to do – And turn the Bears into a force in a very, very, tough division.
Buffalo travel to Heinz Field in Sunday Night football in a battle of the 5th and 6th seeds. A win for either team will go a long way in ensuring that they experience some of the coveted January football they crave. Two stout defences in the NFL could lead to a tight, tense tussle in the trenches which will delight the purists.
Pittsburgh will hoping their recent record against the Bills continues, winning 9 or the last 10. They welcome back JuJu Smith-Schuster and RB James Connor into the mix just at the right time which, coupled with homefield advantage, could swing it in the Steelers’ favour.
LAR-st chance saloon.
The Rams kept their playoff hope alive with the defeat of Seattle on Monday Night Football in week 14. They now travel to AT&T stadium to face a Cowboys team that have lost 4 of the last 5 games and not pulled up plants, let alone trees.
The Rams are on the outside looking in with regards to the playoff race being 1 game behind the 6th seeded Vikings. Whilst a divisional win is all but out of the equation, whilst Goff and McVay have a sniff at some postseason action, they’ll be all in to try and get the win against America’s team.
Some teams thrive when their backs against the wall, just ask the Packers fans when Rodgers ran the table to win it all. Can the Rams repeat history?
One of the biggest games of the weekend sees the first meeting in 3 weeks between the Titans and the Texans.
With both teams at 8-5, the loser of this match could see themselves outside the playoff seedings. The loser will get a chance to make amends in the week 17 clash but by then, it could be too late.
The pressure is firmly on the Texans after their shock defeat last week at home against Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos. Can they bounce back on the road against Ryan Tannehill, 5-1 as the Titans starter this season and who has the highest passer rating amongst all QBs since he took snaps under center?
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
Week 14 in the NFL was quite a brutal one for injuries. On offence, WRs Alshon Jeffrey, Marvin Jones, Mike Evans are just a few names that have bitten the dust for the 2019 season. On defence, just go and pay a visit to the 49ers treatment room where you’ll find the trainers working double overtime to try and get the likes of Richard Sherman and co trying their hardest to get back on to the field.
In the NFL, it’s never a question of “are they healthy?” it’s always “how hurt are you?” and players usually hold off even on surgeries until the season has finished and it has to be commended that the players that step on to the field go through injections and the pain barrier in order to try and help their team win.
Those that can get on to the football field provide fantasy owners with their own headaches on how active and fit they actually are especially as the fantasy playoffs start in the majority of leagues this weekend.
goodbye to the WEST COAST black hole
As the Oakland Raiders bid farewell to their West Coast home on Sunday, before moving lock, stock and plenty of smoking barrels to Sin City in 2020, there will be tears shed by the single most crazy bunch of fans in the NFL.
The ‘Black Hole’, situated in Section 105 of the RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, is full of some of the league’s most dedicated fans, including Gorilla Rilla and Violator.
Mathematically still in with a playoff shot at 6-7 the Silver and Black will be playing with a lot of additional emotion as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A win to move to .500 is not going to be enough to rescue an unmemorable season, but playing for the last time in Oakland after two extensive stints (1966-1981 and 1995-2019) will likely see grown gorillas and men with foam spikes coming out of their replica shoulder pads brought to tears.
mahomes is the key against lock
It’s that time in the season when divisional games become heightened and every point counts, even if teams are out of the playoff race.
This matchup between the Broncos (5-8) and the Chiefs (9-4) is their 119th clash, which has been won by K.C. the last eight times they have played.
For Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes it is an opportunity to come out of a personal mini-slump. He may have led his team to three consecutive wins, but he has thrown exactly one touchdown pass in each of those contests.
It feels weird to write but the Chiefs defense is hotter than the offense. With home field advantage in the playoffs slipping away for Andy Reid the key to this game is to pick the Lock.
Wel-camcorders to the jungle
If you are the current Super Bowl champion, and on a two-game losing streak at the business end of the regular season, you need to resort to something new and innovative to rally the troops.
What have the New England Patriots allegedly done? Bought in a former Army veteran to ignite the locker room? Has the entire team got involved in a community project to build a house for children in care? Nope they have been accused of spying on the 1-11 Bengals.
The Bengals are in the driving seat for the #1 draft pick in 2020, so it’s unlikely they will be in any hurry to deliberately cause an upset.
The Patriots don’t need to allegedly resort to these tactics, they just need to do a few simple things, get three new wide-receivers, and three new tight-ends and teach them how to run the right routes, catch balls and help move the chains.
Now this has been said watch the Patriots win another Super Bowl.
BREES Hopes for super spark
Just over a decade ago Drew Brees led the New Orleans Saints to their only Super Bowl appearance and their only victory, beating the Peyton Manning led Indianapolis Colts 31-17 (Super Bowl XLIV).
The Saints and Colts have only met twice since that historic encounter, including a 55, yes 55 point win for New Orleans in 2011. They now face each other in a MNF game with a win or go home pressure for the Colts.
For Indy they are another of these AFC mathematically alive teams at 6-7, facing a Saints team that wants to get past the Packers (both teams are 10-3) in the NFC playoff seeding.
The Colts have won one in their last six, so if you have a few spare shillings then bet big against them as Brees will look to replicate his 5 TD performance from their 2011 encounter.
LEt’s try this again for the 200th time
The NFL hoped their 100th season would have started with a big bang and plenty of fireworks, instead the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears served up an opening night 10-3 snooze fest.
Both teams now get to try again to show that they are capable of identifying that 20 yard long space either side of the field that normally leads to scoring opportunities if you get there.
What makes this Bears v Packers game so special is that it is their 200th time suiting up against each other. The teams first contest was way back in 1921 back when the Bears we called the Staleys.
With Mitch Trubisky on a hot streak and Aaron Rodgers wanting to preserve the NFC #2 seed you can safely say this game will eclipse 13 points. Let’s all go for a 7-7 tie !!!
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.
Baltimore Ravens 5-2
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-4
Cleveland Browns 2-5
Cincinnati Bengals 0-8
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
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
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
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
Green Bay Packers (7-1)
Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
Detroit Lions (3-3-1)
Chicago Bears (3-4)
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
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
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
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.
Another week, more takeaways from the National Football League.
This week saw the first Wembley game, more controversy from the officials and the dolphins threatening to win a football game.
Tuesday sees the Trade deadline shut for NFL teams wanting
to adjust their rosters for the business end of the season.
We’ve already seen players like Mohammed Sanu move from
Atlanta to New England and Emmanuel Sanders move out west to San Francisco.
They have been able to slot in to their new teams seamlessly and it remains to
be seen whether or not that could be the difference between a runners up prize
or the Vince Lombardi.
Other teams have traded with the future in mind though, as
Miami running back Kenyan Drake is that latest player to move cities as he
packs his bags for Arizona.
Expect teams to make a few phone calls to try and get last
minute deals but one thing is for certain, there’ll be no extension granted to
that deadline #brexitjoke.
they’ll be kicking themselves
This season has seen the most missed kicks (XP and FG)
through week 8 in the last 25 years with 121.
The next closest in terms of misses is 109, which was
“accomplished” in 2017 and 2001.
You’d think with all these misses, the coaches would try and
make it as easy as possible for them… Nope.
Matt Nagy and Dan Quinn doing their kickers no favours
whatsoever and we of course have the hall of Fame quote from Bruce Arians from
a few weeks back that his kicker Matt Gay’s Field Goal miss was “better from 5
Add to that a plethora of missed FGs in controlled dome
environments, it wasn’t a week where you’d get many highlights from a special
Shout out though to Adam Viniateri, who poked one through
from 51 yards (again with no help from Frank Reich!) to help his team win the
game vs Denver despite having his troubles in this game and this season.
Who is the King of the NFC North?
Probably safe to say the NFC North will be sending 2 teams
to the playoffs this year as we reach the midpoint in the season.
Question is though, who wins the division? Both the 7-1 Packers
and 6-2 Vikings have looked red hot in recent weeks and both teams enjoy a
favourable homefield advantage for different reasons.
The Packers currently have the edge with a game lead and the
tie breaker against the Vikings after beating them in week 2.
Getting a home game in January is paramount in having a deep
run in the playoffs and that will be the goal for these two teams on the back
The week 16 clash between these 2 teams will likely decide
who’ll get that home game in January.
Did I Reid that right?
Say what you like about Andy Reid’s time management skills
or coaching decisions, but you cannot undersell his abilities as a coach.
Many were expecting a bloodbath in Kansas for a few weeks when Mahomes went down with a
dislocated knee, but Matt Moore went toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday
Night Football to the tune of 24-of-36 (66%),267 yards and 2 TDs with no
interceptions which gave them a halftime lead. Moore completed passes to 7
different receivers and looked like he had been in that 1st team
offence for months, not days.
Playbooks and play-calling does not have to be rocket
science, but Andy Reid makes it’s that easy for whomever is his quarterback.
Remember, this was a guy that made Alex Smith look like an MVP.
Sunday saw a battle of traditions go blow for blow as the
Chargers doing Charger things battled the Bears’ kicker woes.
It seems that the force is strong with the Bears’ woes with
kickers as Eddy Piniero hooked his FG attempt wide and saved the Chargers from
It’s amazing how certain things can get engrained into
franchises (just look at the Browns!) and you have to wonder how this would
have all played out if Robbie Gould had just been re-signed…
Let’s not forget the circus act of the offseason where the
Bears had a competition to identify their new kicker!
If Piniero does get kicked to the kerb at some point, I wonder
how long the line will be at Soldier Field to try out for the gig.
Shanahan Can Masterplan
The 49ers obliterated their stiffest test to date, putting
up a 50 burger on the Panthers who were coming off a bye.
Brian Baldinger does some great content (Baldy’s breakdowns)
on Twitter and he looked at the Kyle Shanahan offence from this game.
It shines a microscope on the level of detail in a Kyle
Shanahan offence and there are multiple instances of the same paly being drawn
up but a different player getting the ball upon reading the defence reaction.
You can kind of understand why some players have historically
found it hard to adjust when joining the 49ers or why rookies struggle out of
the gate. Multiple players including the great George Kittle have come out an
divulged at how difficult the system is to get to grips with.
When you get used to the system however, the results are
yards, touchdowns and just disarray on the defence. Just as Shanahan dialled it
As for the 49ers collectively, even the most stubborn of nay-sayers
must now understand that this team is a legitimate one.
How aggressive is too aggressive?
Talking of dialling up plays, there’s a lot of scrutiny on
the other end of the phone these days on every single play from scrimmage in
the National Football League.
As time progresses, the more analytical the world becomes.
This is especially true in sport.
One area that’s always under the spotlight is coaching
decisions on 4th down depending on the point in the game, the
yardage required and the scoreboard.
Hindsight usually dictates the social media view on these
plays and this week was no different.
Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals had a 4th and 1
in the 3rd quarter down 10-6 from their own 30 yard line which
resulted in being stuffed on a run up the middle.
Other games saw Jon Gruden and his Raiders and Andy Reid’s
Chiefs punting lateish in the 4th Quarter in their respective games.
Neither coach got the ball back meaning the game was lost but lead to some criticising
Depending on your mentality as a person or whether you’re playing
Madden, there’ll always be these debates on when it is the right time to “go
for it”, but essentially when the gavel comes down, the opinions of the
majority are based on whether you won or lost the game.
PS. Follow @surrender_index on twitter for an index on
Can you teach this Darn-Old dog new tricks?
Sam Darnold seems to be reverting back to his 2018 self. 7
Interceptions through his last 2 games and now 8 on the season for him in his 4
More ghastly interceptions, more ghostly shenanigans, Sam
Darnold will do well to get through this rough patch. Whether he is still
feeling the effects of mono and isn’t quite there yet remains to be seen but
the season is now done for gang green so if he is still not 100%, Gase should
think about who should be under center.
Talking of Adam Gase, the Jets Head Coach in his career as “the
guy” is now more likely to lose by double digits (has happened 25 times in his
career) than win a game (24). He isn’t a quarterback whisperer and is an
imposter of a Head Coach. You have to wonder whether the Jets front office will
blow the whole thing up once more in the offseason. More so for the sake of Sam
Darnold, who seemingly isn’t going to progress whilst Gase is at the helm.
The antics of Jacksonville were somewhat entertaining though,
with Jackson De Ville jumping down into the stadium as a ghost and the
Jumbotron showing Darnold’s lowlights to date playing to the tune of
Ravens should start Browns-nosing
I hope Lamar Jackson and John Harbaugh were watching the
game between the Patriots and the Browns on Sunday.
Despite what the boxscore says, the Browns matched the Patriots
in quite a few categories and if it wasn’t for 3 consecutive turnovers, 13
penalties and some absolutely shocking output from the Kitchen, the Browns
could’ve given the Patriots a real scare.
Yes, the conditions helped play in to the script of the game
but the Cleveland Browns put a show on how to potentially beat the Patriots and
the Ravens could capitalise considering their modus operandi.
One thing going against Jackson and the Ravens though is the
way Brady, Belichick and the Patriots have taken care of all the 1st
round Quarterbacks in the 2018 draft so far this season. Jackson is last on
In most companies, there is a something that needs reporting,
you should be able to confidentially whistle blow on bad practice.
In the NFL though, whistle-blowing has caused many fans to
feel aggrieved at the official’s practice.
Yet more instances on Sunday of perhaps whistling that may have
been a bit premature.
Leonard Fournette has almost toted the rock 200 times this
season, is the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL but only has 1
touchdown to show for his efforts. If Brad Allen and his crew held off for just
a second or two more whilst the pile was
being pushed, it would have been paydirt for the second time this season for
the Jags RB.
The biggest one of the weekend was definitely in Nashville,
though, where Brett Kern fumbled the ball on what appeared to be a botched Field
Goal attempt. He scooped the ball up and made haste for chains but got his soul
taken from him by the Tampa Bay defence. Of course, when you lose your soul,
you also lose the football. Unfortunately for the Bucs, Adrian Hills’s zebra
crew blew this one dead and whilst the ensuing return from the Bucs was credited
with possession of the football, they were not rewarded with 6 points that they
perhaps could’ve have inherited due to the play being blown dead.
Whistleblowing eh? Makes you want to keep quiet.
One for the road…
it was Touted to be a poor game
Despite what the announcer may have said, there were quite a
few empty seats at Wembley for their first International Series game of the
Very much a sore point with NFL fans across the UK, the
touts may finally be getting the point.
With plenty of people happy to point out how low ticket
prices were for the Rams vs Bengals game, you have to wonder if the tide is now
turning not only for the NFL, but for events in general.