10 SERIES: 10 TEAMS THAT NEED A GOOD DRAFT

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

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?


Cincinnati Bengals

(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.

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Washington Redskins

(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.

Rick Scuteri / Associated Press

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.


Miami Dolphins

(14 picks: #5, #18, #26, #39, #56, #70, #141,
#153, #154, #173, #185, #227, #246, #251)

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.

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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.


Carolina Panthers

(8 picks: #7, #38, #69, #113, #148, #152, #184, #221)

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.

Chuck Cook

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.


Jacksonville Jaguars

(12 picks: #9, #20, #42, #73, #116, #137, #140, #157, #165, #189, #206, #223)

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.

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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.

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

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 be the 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.


Minnesota Vikings

(12 picks: #22, #25, #58, #89, #105, #132, #155, #201, #205, #219, #249, #253)

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.

Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

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.


New England Patriots

(12 picks: #23, #87, #98, #100, #125, #172, #195, #204, #212, #213, #230, #241)

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.

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Chicago Bears

(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.

Season In Review – Chicago Bears

By Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90)

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.

Image result for david montgomery
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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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.

Image result for bears vs raiders london
Tim Ireland/AP

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.


Offseason Outlook


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?

Image result for mitchell trubisky
Isaiah J. Downing

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.

Good luck.

Full10 Look Aheads Week 15

Sunday Night Seeding

Image result for bills vs steelers

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.

Image result for la rams
Image Credit: Harry How

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?


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Titan-ic Tussle

Image result for texans titans
Image Credit: Karen Warren

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

Image result for nfl injuries
Image Credit: Ron Chenoy

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

Picture credit: villageinframe.com

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

Photo credit: Ron Chenoy – USA TODAY Sports

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

Photo caption: Kareem Elgazzar

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

Picture credit: Clutchpoints.com

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

Picture caption: Packersuniform.blogspot.com

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 !!!

Half-Term report – AFC/NFC North

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

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


AFC North

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

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

*BALTIMORE RAVENS*

Midseason grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 – Division Winners


*CLEVELAND BROWNS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

The talent is there, can they turn it around?

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9 – Miss Playoffs


*PITTSBURGH STEELERS*

Midseason grade: C

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 6-10 – Miss Playoffs


*CINCINNATI BENGALS*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

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

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

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NFC NORTH

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings

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

*GREEN BAY PACKERS*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 12-4

*MINNESOTA VIKINGS*

Midseason grade: B

How has it gone so far?

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

Rest of Season Outlook:

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 11-5



*DETROIT LIONS*

Midseason Grade: C

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-7-1


*CHICAGO BEARS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9

Full10Takeaways – Week 8

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

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.


Trade deadline

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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

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Image Credit: Getty Images Sport/Dylan Buell

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 yards back”.

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 teams standpoint.

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.


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Who is the King of the NFC North?

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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 9.

The week 16 clash between these 2 teams will likely decide who’ll get that home game in January.


Did I Reid that right?

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Image Credit: Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

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.


Traditional values


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 themselves.

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 up.

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 those decisions.

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 cowardly punts.

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Can you teach this Darn-Old dog new tricks?

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Image Credit: Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media

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 starts.

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 Ghostbusters.


Ravens should start Browns-nosing

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Image Credit: Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports

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 that list.


Whistle-blowing

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Image Credit: USA Today

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 season.

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.

Full10Takeaways – Week 7

By Tim Monk (Tim_MonkF10Y)

Week 7 is in the books. 2 teams going into the weekend undefeated remained so and a future hall of fame QB had himself a career day.

Lot’s of stories, lots of stats, so let’s get them injected in to your eyeballs.


Rodger that


Image Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / AP

If I said to you that Aaron Rodgers had a career day, you have to think of some pretty big numbers considering how glittering it has been thus far.

As a Cowboys fan, I have seen plenty of stellar performances from the Packers’ #12.

Sunday against the Raiders, Rodgers lit up the Black Hole for 25/31 429yds, 5 TDs and an extra one on the ground. It was the first time ever, a QB for the Packers posted a perfect passer rating and was the first time Rodgers had posted a 400+ yard passing game and 5TD combination.

For fantasy owners, he posted his 2nd highest score and the most since 2011 with a score of 43.76pts.

We mentioned last week that this Packers team looks pretty decent and Rodgers had not even really got going yet.

Now he’s gotten going, the league best be on notice.


There may be Trub-les ahead


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Image Credit: Stacy Revere / Getty Images

This Bears offence…yikes.

Prior to garbage time yesterday, Cordarelle Patterson’s 102yd kick off return was more yards than the offence had been able to muster.

There boos were deafening inside soldier field, the fans have no confidence at all in their franchise QB.

The Bears have yet to put up 300 yards of offence in ANY game this season and it’s not hard to see why.

What was probably the cherry on top for the Bears, Sean Payton on the other sideline put on yet another clinic on how to use all the tools at your disposal to go and win a game. No Cook, no Kamara, no Brees, no problem.

The problems are all with Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears offence.


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Hush by Rush


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Image Credit: Steven Bisig

Lamar Jackson once again finds himself in our articles, in the spotlight of the NFL highlight reel and at the forefront of defensive co-ordinator’s nightmares.

Whilst you can try and account for his designed run plays, Lamar Jackson was like Harry Houdini in Seattle, scrambling for 86 yards, the most by any QB this season and a record high for Jackson.

Multiple times, the Seahawks defenders thought they had him pinned down for a loss, only for Jackson to get loose from the straightjacket and speed down the field for big chunk plays.

Century Link field is not an easy place to go to with the #12 screaming down on to the field but Lamar Jackson had long drives, which caused the stadium to hush somewhat.

Lamar Jackson is now 6th in rushing yards in the NFL amongst all players this season. 6th and is well on course to smash the 1000 yard mark.

Michael Vick’s record of 1039 is not looking like a difficult ask either.

I think his body though will appreciate the Week 8 bye. Rest up, champ.


Melvin Gor-done?


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Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel /USA Today Sports

Melvin Gordon bet on himself, and it seems to be a losing bet.

If you asked Melvin Gordon or even the Chargers “what would be the worst case scenario this year with the holdout?”, how it has played out so far wouldn’t be far off.

As per Evan Silva (@evansilva),  75% of Melvin Gordon’s carries (27/36) have gained 3 yards or less and had 2 fumbles. 11 of his 14 targets have gained 3 yards or fewer. All of Melvin Gordon’s plays since his return have averaged a gain of just 2.3 yards and only 4 plays where he has gained a first down.

This has culminated in a 0-3 record since his return and you have to wonder whether or not Melvin Gordon is a trade candidate in the next few weeks. On his current showing, there is no way the Charger’s pay him anything close to the going rate, especially with Austin Ekeler, who is making just over $550,000 this season.


Moore woes for KC?


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Image Credit: Justin Edmonds / Getty Images

Matt Moore will be the QB for Kansas City for at least the next few weeks.

On a fateful quarterback sneak on TNF against the Broncos, Patrick Mahomes dislocated his patella and thankfully that’s all that happened. Whilst it was a freak occurrence and is desperately unlucky (Madden curse continues!), Andy Reid now has to prepare for a few games with the 2007 undrafted rookie out of Oregon State.

To date, Moore has less than 1000 pass attempts, a rating of 81.2 and a 46-36 TD-INT ratio. It’s fair to say the 35 year old will not be what Patrick Mahomes is, but Andy Reid is a master at getting QBs to do what they need to with a bit of time and prep. This is a HC that made Alex Smith look like a world beater.

The red hot Packers come to town on Sunday Night Football so it will be a baptism of fire. Andy Reid will have his work cut out to try and devise a plan to take the W here. Luckily for the Chiefs, their divisional rivals are (knee) capped.


Don’t go Chase-ing my heart


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Image Credit: Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports

If you fielded Arizona Cardinals backup RB Chase Edmonds in fantasy this week, chances are it was probably because you had to or it was in a bestball format. His 3 touchdowns, all over 20 yards in length was just the 5th time that this has occurred.

David Johnson played just 3 snaps against the Giants and apparently was never intending to see the field despite being made active on Sunday. It’s hard enough to get any appreciation in the NFL in any sphere, but annoying fantasy players isn’t a recommended approach.


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How very patriotic


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Image Credit: Robert Deutsch/Reuters

This Patriots’ defence….oh boy.

Before we get in to the details of what can only be described as a suffocating defence, let’s take a moment to commiserate those that would have lost their fantasy matchup despite being in a winning position when playing Sam Darnold at QB…

Right, there we go.

This was the 2nd occassion THIS SEASON that New England scored 30+ points and shut out their opponent after their thrashing of the Jets 33-0 on Monday Night Football. New England have now outscored opponents 223-48 (both lead league by the way), allowed only 1 passing TD Allowed and are 1st in YPG Allowed (223.1) and PPG Allowed (6.9) this season.

If you have them in fantasy, they are currently the 4th highest scoring player in the god damn game, posting double digit scores in every game this season.

They currently have 18 INT so far this season, a mark not bettered since the Packers in 1996. Why do i bring this up? The Packers beat the Patriots that year in the Super Bowl.

Yes they have had one of the easiest schedules (looking at you, AFC East) and it does get a bit harder, but this defence was epitomised when cameras cut to Belichick huddling in and laying the law down with the defence….24-0 up before halftime.

Oh, and they just traded for Mohammed Sanu.

Good luck, everyone else.


Maher-ful kicking display


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Image Credit: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Brett Maher became the first Kicker in NFL Super Bowl era to kick 3+ 60 yard Field goals and the first ever to do it in back to back games.

The ups and downs of a kicker are well documented (another doink this weekend too!) and Brett Maher certainly has more thrills than a creeky rollercoaster. One thing that isn’t in doubt though, is his mentality and his self belief. The 63 yarder against the Eagles on SNF would have been good from 66 yards and I have a funny feeling that Maher is going to eclipse Matt Prater’s current record of 64 yards.

A lot was made in Cowboys Nation when he took over from Dan Bailey, hopefully his leash will be just a tad longer, which is always nice for a kicker.


San Fran-6-and-0


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Image Credit: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

If you go back and watch the game in 40 or the highlight, make sure to wear waterproof attire, because this one was wetter than a 10year old goldfish.

It wasn’t pretty and it’s one of those games that only come round every couple of years, but the 9ers did what they had to do. Win, and win ugly.

This game was only 2hrs 36 mins in duration, the shortest game since week 16 in 2009 when the Patriots smashed the Jags in the same amount of time.

Whilst this will help fuel some skewed stats that sound impressive, even the most stubborn have to doth their cap to the 49ers start. The pick of them being (as per @NFLReasearch) that the 49ers have allowed 98 pass yards in their last 2 games combined, which is the 3rd-fewest pass yds allowed by the 49ers in a 2-game span in the Super Bowl era & the fewest in a 2-game span by the 49ers since Weeks 8-9, 1977 (62 pass yds).


Cousins and Vikings


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Image Credit: Rick Osentoski /AP

It’s amazing what an apology and a bit of play action passing can do to your team.

Captain Kirk makes yet another appearance in the takeaways after another stellar performance (with the assist of some lovely catches, tipped cap to Adam Thielen).

The $84m guaranteed signal caller:

  • Leads NFL in yards per pass attempt (9.1)
  • Leads NFL in passer rating (114.3)
  • Ranks 5th in TD passes (13) and 4th in completion rate (69.8%)

In his last 3 games, he became the first QB in NFL history to have over 300 passing yards and a QB rating of over 130 and also became the first Vikings QB since Dante Culpepper to throw for 4TDs in consecutive games.

With the defence playing how it is, this team SHOULD be going deep in January, unless normal service either with paly calling or Captain Kirk himself resumes.

Until then, he has a revenge game on Thursday Night football againast the hapless Redskins.

Spurred on by a Big Mack

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

When the Oakland Raiders host the Chicago Bears tomorrow in London it will remarkably be the 85th NFL game played outside of the United States of America.

The game itself will be a landmark contest as it represents the first time NFL football will have been played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the first venue of its kind in England to have been built to specifically host and showcase the alternative brand of football.

Sunday’s contest, the 15th time the Bears and the Raiders have met, will be the 34th NFL contest to take place in London, including pre-season games. When you think 34 and NFL history there is only one image that comes to mind, that of the dearly-departed Bears Hall of Fame and Super Bowl winning running-back Walter ‘Sweetness’ Payton.

The NFL was first introduced to a completely bewildered audience of around 30,000 people in 1983 when British entrepreneur John Marshall hired Wembley Stadium for the day and arranged a game, called the Global Cup, between the St Louis Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings.

Just three years later and the Chicago Bears, Walter Payton, William ‘The refrigerator’ Perry, Jim McMahon and head coach Mike Ditka, made their way to Wembley Stadium to play the Dallas Cowboys in the inaugural game of the ‘American Bowl’ series that lasted until 1993.

After a 14 year break the NFL formally returned to England in 2007 for real regular season matchups, and since then the Bears have been back once, a 2011 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tomorrow will mark the third time the Raiders, who will be the home team, have played a meaningful contest at Wembley, having suffered losses in 2014 (14-38 to the Dolphins) and last year (3-27 to the Seattle Seahawks). 


HEAD TO HEAD


Season series – 7-7

Points totals – Bears 256 – Raiders 249

Overtime contests – 1  (1978 a 25-19 Raiders win)

Last meeting – 2015 in Chicago. Bears won 22-20 courtesy of a 49-yard Robbie Gould field goal in the final two seconds of the game. Derek Carr was the Raiders QB then, he got 196 yards and two td’s, including one to the departed Amari Cooper.

Times played since the Millennium – 4. Bears have won three of four, by margins of 3, 11 and 2. Raiders last beat the Bears in 2011.

Key Raiders stats

  • Allowed 16 first-downs by penalty
  • Opponent is 3 of 5 on 4th downs
  • Minus 1 turnover ration
  • Only had 5 sacks this season – Missing Khalil Mack still
  • Derek Carr completing 72% of his passes
  • Rookie running-back Josh Jacobs leads the team in rushing with 307 yards at an impressive 5.0 yards a carry.
  • 21st in yards per game (335.8)
  • 9th in rushing 125.8 yards a game

Key Bears stats

  • 28th in points scored – 16.5 a game
  • 30th in yards – 273.5
  • Allowed just 13 3rd down conversions all season
  • Giving up just 3.0 yards a rush attempt
  • Accrued 17 sacks – 4.5 of those by Khalil Mack the former Raiders pass rusher
  • Kicker Eddie Piniero is 8 of 9 on field goals
  • Turnover ratio +6
  • Before his injury starting QB Mitch Trubisky had thrown for 588 yards. ‘Bear’ in mind that Jared Goff threw for 517yards in Week 4 alone.
  • Rookie running back David Montgomery lead the team in rushing with 200 at a mediocre 3.4 a carry. He also has 8 catches.

Marquee matchups

  • Bears edge Khalil Mack v both Raiders tackles Trent Brown and Kolton Miller.

    Of all qualified edge rushers Mack is ranked number one by Pro Football Focus, both by position and by pass rush grade. Mack will be licking his lips against crocked left-tackle Trent Brown, but seeing as he lines up on both sides, the Raiders tackles will be both tested. Mack has continue his All-Pro form into 2019 with 4.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. With his engine running all game Mack will be eyeing up a British hat-trick of sacks against Derek Carr.
  • Bears WR Allen Robinson v Raiders CB Gareon Conley

    The Raiders pass defense is ranked 27th, and they have given up 9 touchdowns through the air. Even in limited snaps Bears QB Chase Daniel has built up an instant rapport with Robinson. In Week 4 against the Vikings Robinson caught all 7 of his targets for 77 yards. Conley, a 2017 first round pick will have a busy day, and he will need his 4.44 40 speed to be in constant action. Robinson is more than capable of a 100+ yard game, it’s the touchdowns that are harder. Look for Robinson to get 12 targets.

Bears and Raiders season surprises and disappointments

  • Bears WR Allen Robinson leads the team in catches (24) and yards (280) but he is yet to find pay-dirt. Look for this to change at the home of Harry.
  • Missing out on the game is Bears WR Taylor Gabriel who broke an NFL Monday Night Football record in a Week 3 win against the Redskins when he caught three touchdowns in a quarter.
  • Raiders tight-end Darren Waller was a fantasy darling coming into the season, but he has outperformed even the most optimistic projections. 33 catches for 320 yards leads the team in balls and yards by a significant margin, but like Robinson he is yet to score.
  • The biggest Bears let-down so far is second-year WR Antony Miller who was a high-ranked breakout projection. Miller has 4 catches for a paltry 28 yards so far.
  • Bears Swiss army knife RB Tarik Cohen has 116 offensive yards to date, averaging just over 2 yards a carry. 14 catches is good but 89 yards in the air is not so much.
  • Raiders rookie WR Hunter Renfrow was supposed to be a Julian Edelman type slot-machine, but he has 11 catches for just 89 yards at a pedestrian 8.1 a catch.

Final word


This will be my 25th NFL game I will be seeing live, and my 18th in London (including pre-season and Twickenham) so I look forward to celebrating with a healthy Bears win. Former Heisman Trophy winner Chase Daniel will be making only his 5th start in his 10-year career. The archetypal backup played two games for Chicago in 2018, going 1-1 so he knows his team strengths well. The Raiders will look to feed rookie RB Josh Jacobs the ball early and often, but the Bears defense is akin to a great white shark’s mouth. You break the front teeth and another row simply grows from behind. The Bears depth is phenomenal. Look out for defensive end #95 Roy Robertson-Harris who has stood out amongst a quality defensive line.


Prediction


Bears 27-10 Raiders


The Bears to get a big game out of utility back Tarik Cohen and Chase Daniel’s command of the offense will be making Windy-city faithful wonder if he can do a better job than Mitch Trubisky longer-term.

Full10Takeaways – Week 4

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Week 4 is done and dusted! It goes so quick! Before you get ready for the waiver wires in fantasy and don your NFL shirt to go to the Wembley game, here are the main stories to take away from last weekend’s action!


The New Monsters of The Midway

Image Credit – Quinn Harris / USA Today

We knew going into the game at Soldier Field on Sunday that the strength of both the Vikings and Bears lied on the defensive side of the field. We left the game without a doubt that one of those defences is far superior to the other and that defence belongs to the Chicago Bears.

The loss of Vic Fangio has not led to any drop off as Chuck Pagano is marshalling a defence that is the most loaded in the league. On pace for 32 takeaways, 2nd in the league for sacks and 2nd in the league for pts allowed per game this unit as awesome.

Khalil Mack is obviously the star but bear in mind they did this Sunday without Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks, the sky is literally the limit for these monsters.


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Run CMC

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He probably will not win it, but, Christian McCaffrey should be considered for MVP honours. Remember what MVP stands for? Is there any single player more valuable for their team than the Panthers running back?

Playing in a ridiculous 98.3% of the offensive snaps so far on the season, McCaffrey once again was the offence on Sunday. A career high of 37 touches produced 93 rushing yards on 27 carries and 86 further yards through the air on 10 catches. The all important touchdown was also produced inevitably by CMC as the Panthers improved to 2-0 without Cam Newton.

Carolina is proving it can survive without their grandma impersonating quarterback, they will keep everything crossed they don’t have to deal with life without #22.


Step Away From The Kliff Edge

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Remember when we were excited to see what Kliff Kingsbury would bring to the NFL? A promise of an air raid offence, ran at speed that defences would have no clue of how to stop it.

Well that was the advert at least.

The reality? How do I put this politely? A bit of a snooze fest. Yes the Cardinals run a lot of plays, that is backed up by the fact Kyler Murray is averaging 42.5 pass attempts per contest so far in his short (no pun intended) NFL career. The problem is the lack of explosiveness, it’s all a bit too safe, a bit too dink and dunk.

Of course the problem for the Cardinals is that’s all well and good until you get behind on the scoreboard as was the case again this weekend. They are not built to play from behind and the supposed revolution is certainly yet to materialise.


Feed The Chubb

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It took 4 weeks but the “real” Browns showed up in Baltimore. Powered behind a career day from Nick Chubb, Cleveland dominated the Ravens by a score of 40-25 to take the early lead in the AFC North.

Chubb gashed the Ravens for 165 yards and 3 scores on the ground and unsurprisingly with that level of production on the ground, Baker Mayfield looked the best has all season in this one. Jarvis Landry also has a career day with 167 yards receiving as the much talked about group finally produced.

All of a sudden things are looking up in NorthEast Ohio and the talk of Freddie Kitchens being in over his head and Baker Mayfield being overrated will be silenced for a week.

If the Browns continue with this formula they should be the team to beat in the division, as the saying goes “feed the Chubb and he will score”.


Vontaze- Far From Burfict

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In quite possibly the shortest ever takeaway….. Goodbye and don’t ever come back! How on Earth this guy was made a team captain I will never know. His shot on Jack Doyle was disgusting and the league has rightfully acted by suspending him for the remainder of the season. Fingers crossed he never sees a field again!


Clever Trevor earns his Spurs

Image Credit: AP Photo/AJ Mast

Staying with the Raiders, when the Green Bay Packers traded WR Trevor Davis to the Raiders after Week 2 the transaction barely made a ripple. Now it’s making a king size bar of Fruit and Nut.

In the first quarter of the Raiders Week 4 victory over the Colts Davis returned a punt one yard but remained on the field. Chucky must have been impressed by Davis’s running ability when he faced him in the 2019 pre-season, as he gave the former Cal star the handoff on first down. The result a spectacular 60 yard rushing touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Brought in as a return specialist Davis is no replacement for AB but he has an excellent opportunity to impress.

The development continues for Davis at Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground on Sunday against an opponent he will be very familiar with from his former NFC division. Davis may be a gadget player, but if he continues to make highlight package plays then we could see his role expand. Not a bad debut to make in Silver and Black.


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Kerryon impressing please

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Sid James, if he would have been a Detroit Lions fan, would have plenty of reasons to unleash his trademark cackle in years past at a moribund running game in the Motor City, but it’s all change now.

Once considered a laughing stock, and even cursed since the shock retirement of Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders, Detroit went a stupendous 70 games without a 100-yard game on the ground from an individual player. That was finally called to a halt in 2018 when Kerryon Johnson finally reached the century mark. Week 4 2019 saw Johnson have his third 100+ yard game in just 14 career contests.

If he remains injury free Johnson can establish himself as a top 10 NFL RB. 26 carries at almost five yards a carry against the Chiefs will be pleasing Coach Beardtricia. Johnson had been having a rough start to the season, failing to reach a ground-based half-century between weeks 1-3.

This game may not have resulted in a Lions win, but it shows Kerryon is reliable and on his way, if the climate controlled dome wind goes in his direction, for a 1,000 yard plus rushing season.


Somebody is melting away their window of opportunity

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There is a QB who is second in the NFL in passing yards, has recorded four consecutive 300+ yard performances, is third in TD passes thrown and is completing over 70% of his passes. This is the same QB who leads the league in interceptions thrown and has managed a maximum of 24 points in four games to date. Stand up, or in the case of a rookie led offensive line, sit down on your backside Matt Ryan.

There is no denying Ryan is a savvy veteran passer who knows how to move the ball, is accurate, and calm in the face of pressure, but 1-3 is not what Falcons fans were expecting. Ryan was one period of greatness from a Super Bowl win just three years ago, and expectations were high coming into the 2019 season.

Ryan is being let down by a sub-par running game especially Devonta Freeman who is yet to find the end-zone through the ground or in the air, and is averaging a six-year career low 3.3 yards a carry. The Falcons have winnable games coming up, but they need the running game to mirror Ryan’s consistent output.

The irony of Matty Ice needing to warm up the rest of the team is not lost, but he needs to cut out the interceptions and quickly. When you have Julio Jones catching the ball you know there is a game-breaking threat available on any play.

The weapons are in place for a team to be performing better than the 1-3 record they currently boast at the quarter point, let’s just hope Ryan goes full Elsa in October.


More tanks than an aquatic superstore

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The narrative before the season was that the Miami Dolphins would be tanking for Tua (Tagovailoa) and nothing has been done on the field to contradict that position. The only problem is there are three other teams vying for absolute dreadfulness and possibly a shot at the number one pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

The single most disastrous team in the NFC is the Washington Redskins, who gave their rookie QB Dwayne Haskins his first NFL regular season outing in Week 4. Poor Haskins looked out of place and frankly befuddled by a Giants defense that scares nobody. Three interceptions in relief of Case Keenum will be a hard debut game to forget for Haskins.

In the AFC the Bengals and the Broncos are also winless. At least Joe Flacco is helping Denver to be competitive. Devastating last second field-goal losses in Week 2 (v Chicago) and this past week against Jacksonville will be hard to cope with. In Ohio the Bengals are back bungling. The red rifle Andy Dalton has suffered 19 sacks in four contests and seems to be struggling making reads and avoiding pressure. Dare it be mentioned, but is it time to give fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley a shot in the stripy helmet before the mid-point of the season?

The Dolphins are still favourites to finish the season 0-16, but this is going to be a bizarre race to the finishing line with a Redskins team that will be matching Miami week by week for on-field inadequacy.

The fact they play each other in Week 6 will be entertaining, with the winner losing their grip on the keys to the tank.


Singing the praises of two superb secondaries

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When you make Tom Brady look like a backup and hold a potential league MVP to no touchdowns then you need to be recognised for doing your job well.

Both the Buffalo Bills and the New Orleans Saints secondaries excelled in Week 4, one in a six-point loss and one in a two-point win. Perhaps the biggest single difference maker was the Saints third-year corner Marshon Lattimore who punished Cowboys number one WR Amari Cooper all day. Cooper caught a season low 62.5% of balls thrown his way, had his lowest yards per target (6) and was held under 10 yards a catch for the first time in 2019.

Often corners and safeties get recognised for big plays such as the Rams Marcus Peters who returned the pigskin to the house against the Buccs on Sunday just a few plays after being burnt alive by Mike Evans for a 60 plus yard score. However, it is the performance that might not show up on the individual’s defensive stat sheet, but is instead reflected in the game’s final outcome that is the true definition of excellence.

Between the Saints and the Bills secondaries we could be looking at a couple of All Pro’s and at least four Pro Bowl nods. When you hold Tom Brady under a 50% completion rate you deserve a cheer, and was it not for the injury to Josh Allen this could have been a week where secondaries clearly decided the fate of their team.

It’s no surprise the Bills and the Saints are both 3-1. This is a passing premium league, so if you can neutralise the primary threat you stand a good chance of being alive when it comes to January.