Full10Lookahead – Week 8

By Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Week 8 sees the 3rd of the London games take place between the Bengals and the Rams, the Bears, Chargers and Eagles fighting to save their seasons and lot’s of revenge on Thursday Night. Let’s get our binoculars out and look ahead to week 8!


DOUBLE REVENGE GAME ON THURSDAY NIGHT

The last time the Redskins and Vikings squared off in Week 10 of 2017, Kirk Cousins was Washington’s QB and Case Keenum was Minnesota’s.

The last time a starting QB faced each other for both teams in same match-up was Norm Snead and Sonny Jurgensen for Eagles and Redskins in 1963-64.

Add into the melting pot that Washington’s Adrian Peterson is a Minnesota Vikings legend.

He’ll look to somehow overcome a high and low ankle sprain to try and stick it to his former team but will have his work cut out to get anything against a Kirk Cousins led team that has found their groove in the last few weeks through the air.

Lot’s of revenge for Thursday Night Football which is apt for the time of year and it remains to be seen which players are in scary movies and which players escape unscathed. You have to feel the Kirk Cousins and the Vikings will be the killers, with Peterson and the Redskins the victims.

MWAHAHAHA


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Sanu and Sanders slip away from the slop


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Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

What a difference a day makes for two veteran wide receivers Mohammed Sanu and Emmanuel Sanders. Both are swapping conferences, and far more importantly they are moving from cellar dwellers to a 30th floor VIP champagne bar.

For Sanu, who was a genuinely nice guy when he came to Birmingham recently as part of an NFL tour party, he moves from a septic Falcons team to the only undefeated AFC team the Patriots. For Sanders he escapes the Flacco floundering Broncos for the only team in the NFC that has not lost a game, the 49ers.

Sanu will look to be the recipient of the targets that were going to Josh Gordon, who sadly went onto I/R on Wednesday. Sanu has excellent hands and will be able to support Brady by running routes that would have been made by the likes of Rob Gronkowski in the past.

Sanders has been signed to immediately move into the number one spot, to improve a rather eclectic bunch of WRs, none of whom were anywhere near as good as their top catcher – TE George Kittle.

The Patriots wanted Sanu before the start of the season, so they will be happy the Falcons form has been that bad that Atlanta has started jettisoning players before the half-way point in the season.

Both the Patriots and the 49ers play in the second game window this weekend, so expect to see Sanu and Sanders in some RedZone highlights on Sunday. 


Ty goes to the runner 


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Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a Detroit Lions fan and you bought a replica shirt with second-year RB Kerryon Johnson’s surname on the back then you can arguably save a few quid after yet another high-profile injury claimed an NFL star.

Kerryon Johnson went down in the first half of his Week 7 contest against Minnesota and was yesterday put on I/R. Johnson was leading the Lions in rushing with over 300 on the ground. Next man up in the Motor City is rookie Ty Johnson who has shown some burst in his limited appearances so far this season.

Former Maryland Terrapin Ty had a stellar college career, racking up 4,196 all purpose yards, third highest in team history. Ty is a dual threat, as he impressed as a kick return specialist too, going to the house against Ohio State and Michigan. The Lions had high hopes for Kerryon Johnson before his injury, but apart from a 125 yard outing against Kansas City he has been underwhelming.

Ty was drafted in the sixth round by the Lions after a trade with the Falcons, with little expectation as a rookie. That has all changed now and Ty will be under the spotlight at home to the dreadful Giants defensive unit.

This is another situation to watch out for on Sunday if you tune into RedZone, as Ty makes his first start. Expect 70-80 yards rushing and 3-5 catches in a winning effort. 


Is it now Gumbo and cheese instead of Texas BBQ and California Rolls? 


At the start of the 2019 season the NFC ‘on-paper’ favourites looked to be the Rams and the Cowboys, just as Zeke signed his new contract.

Almost at the half-way point and one surprise package, the Green Bay Packers, are now heading the NFC power rankings with the New Orleans Saints just a smidge behind.

Teddy Bridgewater has performed admirably whilst future Hall of Fame enshrinee Drew Brees recovers from his injury, guiding New Orleans to five wins on the bounce and an overall 6-1 record. The age old adage of ‘offense wins games but defense wins championships’ has never rung truer than this season as the Packer and Saints would not both be 6-1 if their defense wasn’t performing at such a high level.

After being robbed of a potential trip to the Super Bowl thanks to a horrendous non-call the Saints have rallied around the injustice and come back fighting even harder. The Packers have got the ‘real’ Aaron Rodgers back, after a few seasons filled with injury and underperformance.

The 49ers may be the conference’s only undefeated team heading into Week 8 but anyone sensible knows the true class of the NFC at this point in time is the Saints and the Packers.

Both teams have very winnable games, the Saints play a rather hot Cardinals team, and the Packers travel to KC, to face Matt Moore and not Patrick Mahomes. 

Bungling back to Wembley

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Image Credit: Getty Images

The last time the Cincinnati Bengals travelled to London to play a regular season NFL contest they came away undefeated, but because they are the Bungles they didn’t come away with a win, they in fact tied a contest against the Washington Redskins.

The Bengals (0-7)  travel over this week to face the Los Angeles Rams (4-3) in the third English game of the season.

Andy Dalton is looking frustrated, the Cincy running game is looking non-existant and their defense is looking raggedy with nine games left to play. You only have to look at their ‘star’ running back Joe Mixon’s stat line last week – 10 rushes for 2 yards and 2 catches for 1 yard (ok yes one did go for a touchdown). That’s 3 yards of offence in a game. Mixon’s stats have been historically awful – in four out of seven games his ground output has been 35 carries for 39 yards. That can’t be all his fault, this ineptitude has to be shared with the offensive line and the play calling.

The Rams are fresh of a monster win over the equally poor Falcons, and will take this game as another walkover. For Bengals fans this season of woes brings back memories of Akili Smith the Bengals biggest bust at QB ever. Head Coach Zac Taylor could be out the door at the end of the season if he can’t show some sort of backbone.

Maybe Wembley is time to unleash rookie passer Ryan Finley. If this does happen remember you read it here first.


Eagles got Bills to pay?


Interesting matchup this weekend up in Buffalo as the Eagles travel over to New Era Stadium.

The Bills are an impressive 5-1 after victory over the lowly Dolphins last week whilst the Eagles are in all sorts of trouble after being embarrassed by Dallas on primetime. Philadelphia can’t lick their wounds for too long considering this is the start of a fairly difficult schedule and if they aren’t careful, could slip in to the “No football in January” quicksand.

The Bills matchup pretty well on both sides of the ball, with Josh Allen and John Brown having that exposed Eagles Secondary and the Bills pass defence being one of the best in the league.

On paper, not the most eagerly anticipated matchup of the year, but there is actually quite a lot on the line.


brees-y does it


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Image Credit: David Banks / Getty Images

Drew Brees is practising this week and hoping to play in the week 8 clash at home to the Cardinals. I, for one hope that he sits this one out and uses this and the bye week to get back to 100%.

The future hall of famer obviously knows his time is up soon and wants to savour every possible second on the pitch, but it is surprisingly short sighted in my opinion from #9 if he want’s to continue playing in to next season. A thumb injury is hardly the most likely to end a career but even putting yourself in a position to reinjure a less than 100% body part is not something that should be recommended. His backup and potentially next Saints starting QB Teddy Bridgewater has done more than enough in his absence, leading them to 5 straight wins against some decent opponents. OK, maybe the defence can take more than the fair share of credit for that run, but why risk Brees against Arizona on Sunday? I’m sure Teddy B can take care of business once more and hand the reins back to Brees in Week 10.

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Cleveland and Carolina try and take the 0


San Francisco and New England remain undefeated as we head into week 8 so undoubtedly everyone now looks at the teams trying to be the first to score a victory over those teams.

Out of the two teams this week, you have to feel that Carolina (+5.5 currently on the handicap) are the more likely to kill the streak as they travel to Levi’s Stadium to face the 49ers after a bye with the hapless Baker Mayfield and his Browns (+13) tackling the red hot Patriots in Foxborough.

Whilst both New England and San Francisco will start to see their schedule get that little bit tougher, the bullseye on their backs will also get that little bit bigger.


if at first you don’t succeed, trade, trade again


If you don’t know by now, the trade deadline shuts next week. Don’t worry, the USA doesn’t have an equivalent of Jim White in a yellow tie, but there’ll certainly be more deals going through on deadline day.

Look for veterans (AJ Green) or guys on rookie deals (Kenyan Drake) to keep the rumour-mill busy over the next few days as teams try and jostle around their rosters to help give them the best chance at not only January football and the Super Bowl but also more picks as those planning rebuilds can start to get a handle on the picks they have for the next NFL Draft. Like Free Agency, some may overpay, whilst some may get players at bargain basement prices. With Sanders, Sanu and Quandre Diggs already heading to their new teams, there’ll be plenty of movement to come before the trade deadline slams shut.


Dan Quinn bye bye?


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Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox /Getty Images

We’ve mentioned it a few times already, but keep an eye out on how the Falcons get on this weekend. Once again embarrassed at home against the Rams, they face a Seahawks team smarting from a defeat at home against the Ravens. If the Falcons lose considerably once more in their own back yard, you can fully expect Arthur Blank to fire HC Dan Quinn during their bye week and look to rebuild.

It’s somewhat telling that they allowed Mohammed Sanu to go to New England for a 2nd round draft pick (which is pretty much a 3rd, let’s face it) and the other usual life saving technique of firing their co-ordinators already happened last offseason. So the are not many lives left at all for Dan Quinn and it’ll be interesting to see the fight the players show on the field this Sunday.

Full10Takeaways – Week 5

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

Ouch!

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

You could be excused for confusing the NFL redzone coverage on Sunday for an episode of casualty. Several times the electric cart was brought out onto an NFL field on Sunday as what was a day that several players saw their season come to an abrupt end.

2 of the more notable season ending ones were Colts 2nd year pass rusher Kemoko Turray, who broke his ankle in SNF. Tony Jefferson tore his ACL earlier in the day to leave a big hole in the Ravens secondary. Several players left games with varying injuries throughout the day but the scariest of the lot though without doubt was Mason Rudolph lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf. It certainly wasn’t the worst hit you will ever see but a combination of Brandon Carr from behind and an Earl Thomas helmet to the chin had the young QB out cold.

Thankfully he regained consciousness and walked from the field which was lucky as the electric cart broke!


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16 Weeks on the Road?

Image Credit – Harry How / Getty Images

Talking of injuries, thats a nice link to arguably the most unlucky team in football the LA Chargers.

A team that seemingly gets a bigger slice of the injury pie than anyone else, actually welcomed back a player this week, as Melvin Gordon saw the field. He however was part of a predictable and conservative gameplan which was too much dink and not enough dunk. On a day that Austin Ekeler caught a career high 15 passes the Chargers couldn’t get anything going consistently offensively, as Vic Fangio tasted success for the first time in his short head coach career.

Its unsurprising that this brand of football isn’t attracting fans into watch the franchise as the move from San Diego continues to look like a mistake as the Broncos fans hugely outnumbered the fans of the supposed “home” team.


Texans Feast on Falcons

Image Credit – Troy Taorimina / USA Today Sports

DeShaun Watson is good.

DeShaun Watson when not getting pressured is superb, and that was the case on Sunday as the Texans dropped a 50 burger on the Falcons. A career high 426 yards through the air was accompanied by 5 touchdown passes and a further 47 yards rushing. His main weapon on the day was Will Fuller who caught 14 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Atlanta battled and had the deficit at a 1 possession game for much of the contest but the takeaway here isn’t so much how good Watson and co were offensively but just how bad this Atlanta defense is.

Tim wrote last week about Dan Quinn and his seat getting warmer, displays by the side of the ball he is supposed to be stronger in will do nothing to turn the temperature down a few degrees.


High, Wide and Not Handsome

Image Credit – James Kenney / AP Photo

Cairo Santos, dear oh dear oh dear. In a game that was the most obvious candidate ever to be decided by a small margin, it wasn’t a good night for the Titans kicker to suffer a disastrous tilt.

He left a total of 12 points off the board with field goal misses from 50, 36, 32 and 53 yards away. Missing kicks, especially from 50 plus yards is obviously not uncommon, but Santos was closer to threatening supporters sitting behind the posts as opposed to the kicking net as he kicks were way off throughout.

A strange decision by Mike Vrabel to even attempt the 53 yarder when down by 7 points and under 7 minutes left in what had proven to be the defensive slugfest that we had predicted.

Maybe he will find himself as a member of Jason Garret corner on this week’s podcast?


Super Ted

Image Credit – David Grunfeld / nola.com

Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Bridgewater can still throw!

For the first time in nearly 4 years the signal caller threw for over 200 yards as he powered the Saints to a dominant divisional win over the Bucs. 4 touchdown passes also found the box score as on the day Teddy remembered how to air it out, Michael Thomas remembered how to dominate on the outside. He was a perfect 9/9 when lined up against press coverage on a day when the Bucs star receiver Mike Evans was held catchless.

The post game interview with Teddy was a reminder of just how far he has come since suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury. He couldn’t tie his shoelaces and now he has steadied the Saints in Drew Brees absence, a remarkable turnaround.


Tottenham triumph 

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Image credit: Pitchcare.com

All the hype about the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is 101% justified. The stadium is situated right on the Tottenham High Road opposite some local shops such as bookies and kebab outlets.

Fans took full advantage of the road being closed, throwing balls and gathering en-mass to play NFL jersey bingo. Any fans wanting to buy any merch can expect to queue up as the store has security arches. Inside the stadium the views are awesome wherever you are sitting, and the experience is full immersive. The three rings of digital information screens, along with jumbo screens in all four corners mean you will never miss a highlight, a replay or a challenge. The sound is quality and the lights are stunning.

Fans were treated to some pyrotechnics around the roof’s inner ring on Sunday which is something you simply have to be in the stadium to experience. If the NFL plan to lure an existing team to London it won’t be a hard sell on the stadium.

England captain and World-Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane was a guest of honour on Sunday and he looked like he had a whale of a time. If he does decide to one day transition to an NFL kicker, what’s the odds that he doesn’t even need to change his parking pass? 


You’d be crackers not to like Jacobs 

Image Credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

As the top drafted rookie running back on a team in transition with a new (returning) head coach you could excuse the output to less than impressive for the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs. Thing is Jacobs is absorbing that pressure like a seasoned veteran.

Jacobs was voted the Tottenham game ‘man of the match’ winner even before he went airborne for the game winning score. Jacobs has been a number one back all season and is easily justifying his high pick position.

After five weeks he is 6th in the league in rushing with 430 yards and four scores. Jacobs picked up the hard yards in London both rushing and receiving, and arguably could have had three scores. Backup RB Deandre Washington was a TD vulture.

Jacobs would not be achieving such positive results without two key factors being delivered – his ability to pass block when called upon and the play of the Raiders offensive line. Khalil Mack flew home with a Union Jack fridge magnet, a six inch Beefeater and a jar of Marmite but had no sack to put them in. 


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Redskins change the locks 

Image Credit: Nick Wass/AP

Jay Gruden, when asked by the media on Sunday, after the Washington Redskins fifth consecutive loss, about his job security he said that he would carry on if his key still worked.

That was enough for owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen to dial up a locksmith and get a shiny new Chubb installed at the gates of Fed-Ex Field (no Browns fans they did not trade for Nick).

This was the most obvious firing and was inevitable after Tom Brady, in second gear, helped himself to an easy victory against a Redskins team that atrocious to say the least. Gruden was unable to overcome major injuries to stars, failed to develop and true WR talent and had zero playoff wins in his tenure.

New ‘interim’ Head Coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to s Super Bowl in 2001, and is a true advocate of a strong running game. Gruden seemingly banged nails in his own coffin when he deactivated future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in Week 1. Trent Williams the All-Pro T is the last remaining holdout, and the defence has been as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.

In fact Spongebob would probably be an upgrade in the secondary.  

#NFL100Memories – 10/100

My First Game: Saints vs Chargers – By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Date: 26th October 2008

Venue: Wembley Stadium

Your first ever experience of live NFL action. You never forget it.

Despite what was the washout between the Dolphins and the Giants in it’s inaugural year, the International series returned in year 2 with the then San Diego Chargers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

At this point, i was still in the early days of following this great sport to the point where i still didn’t really have a team. I ended plumping for the Dallas Cowboys and the rest is history (check out NFL100Memories #3 for more on that).

I mention this as there were plenty of people, and there still are, that go to these International Series games and don’t support a team. Primarily because they are new to the sport and trying something new. Wembley is not known for partisan crowds or hostile atmospheres, it’s a more of a celebration about a sport that is growing and will continue to do so, even if they do send the Dolphins over anytime in the next few years.

Does it add to the experience? In some ways, yes. There’s nothing like turning up to a game and getting heckled for wearing a Tony Romo Dallas throwback jersey (Jacksonville vs Philadelphia last year) . But if you are a fan of either of the two teams in the fixture, it probably doesn’t…purely because you aren’t surrounded amongst you fellow tribe.

To this particular game, the tailgate was #OK. It’s one of those that because you’ve not been there or seen it before, it passed as something more than acceptable to the whole experience; You didn’t mind queueing up 45 minutes to see if they had any International Series game balls left or just ending up having to get a measly lanyard or a scarf.

After the tailgate, popped in to the local bookies as you do, with all the “regulars” befuddled at the invasion of weird looking sports goers who weren’t wearing England football tops. Placed a bet on winning margin, first TD scorer. The usual. Went for New Orleans to win by 7-12 points at 7/2. more signifigance to that later.

Game itself was very entertaining. Stereophonics had the honour of opening the entertainment, just so happen to be a band I was listening to at the time so happy days.

Image Credit: Getty Images

A few magical plays by Brees saw my winning margin bet currently towards the end of the game. I thought my bet was in when a late Philip River’s drive ended in an interception Jonathan Vilma. Saints could not get a first down, it was 4th and 2 from the New Orleans 26. 14 seconds left on the clock. Surely this is all over… but wait, WHY ARE THEY NOT PUNTING?!?! Drew Brees stays on the field and the 4th down play is in the history books as a Drew Brees run “up the middle” for -26yards. Safety. A bloody Safety.

I couldn’t believe what I had just seen! On a side note, imagine having that on your fantasy team!

A return from Darren Sproles on the ensuing kick saw Philip Rivers have a Hail Mary chance to sneak the win. But unfortunately Vincent jackson and the boys couldn’t haul it in and give the Saints what they deserved for ruining the ultimate game day!

Full10Takeaways – Week 2

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

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

Heisman Hullabaloo

Image Credits: Associated Press

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

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

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

Gold – always believe in your Jimmy G

Image Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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

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

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

Big call for Big Len but Big bust

Image Credit: Getty Images

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

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

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

Buffaload of this!

Image Credit: Associated Press (AP)

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

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

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

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

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


Steelers digging a Pit for themselves

Image Credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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


Pack mentality

Image Credit: Quinn Harris/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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


Injuries Are A Real Kicker

Image Credit – Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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

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

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

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


Real Life Madden

Image Credit – Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

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

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

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


Why Draft A Top 10 Clipboard Holder?

Image Credit – Sarah Stier/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

ANYONE GOT CHANGE OF A DOLLAR?

Image Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Did you have that change of a dollar?

All down to Drew

Drew Brees is the reason there is a podcast today. Why? We’ll tell you in the podcast!

We recap a set of divisional games that were not up to scratch for one of us but look at why the lower seeds got stuck in the ground.

Roger has a couple of plays from the weekend to run the rule over (28:14) and we are joined by a SUPER Bears fan with some #swag for the Full10Questions(42:31).

We close out with which broadcasting duos we like and dislike (55:24).

Podcast 47 – Week 5 Review

Lee survived the stag do so was able to take his seat to help Tim review all the week 5 games.

From Mason Crosby’s kicking to Drew Brees surpassing Peyton Manning for the passing yards record, it was another wild week in the NFL.

We give you fantasy football waivers for week 6 including a team where their schedule really opens up and look ahead to Thursday Night Football between the Eagles and the Giants.

Dont forget we want you to introduce the show! Details on our twitter along with our free NFL jersey giveaway!

Enjoy!

Joy Divisions – NFC East

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

NFC East:

A few intriguing storylines in the NFC East this year. Transition, injury and clarity and identity are the main themes. But which teams have which storyline?

TIM

Philadelphia Eagles

We start off with last years NFC Champs, the #1 seed in the NFC and (unfortunately for me), the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Even the most anti Eagles fan would be hard pressed to say that the Eagles were not the best team last year. I have no problem with it. I do have a problem however with the ominous look about the Eagles and the franchise for the next few years.

They have the coaching staff (despite the exits of OC Frank Reich and QB Coach John DeFilippo), they have the depth at most positions and they have the talent but more importantly, the mentality. I could only dream of the Dallas Cowboys coaches and players having the same determination and focus to do what Philadelphia do.  The differences are night and day.

Changes from last year are very little and the main issues surrounding the Eagles in 2018 are getting all the players back and healthy for week 1 and trying to adjust slightly to the new coaches at Quarterback and obviously the Offensive Co-ordinator.

Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffrey, Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks to name but a few players that have all either had long term injuries or surgery last season of in the offseason so will be interesting to see how patched up the Eagles are come week 1.

Key Storyline: Can the Eagles go again or will their injuries cause them to start slow?

Dallas Cowboys

My ‘Boys. If you want a further look into my thoughts on the Cowboys season, I did a quick Q and A for GiveMeSport and can be found here.

Despite all the goings on last year with the Elliot court case, the injuries to Tyron Smith and Sean Lee on both sides of the ball, Dallas still managed to finish 9-7 and were 1 game away from the Playoffs.

The losses to the teams around them hurt them (Philadelphia, Atlanta, Green Bay, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle in the NFC along with crushing defeats to Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos from the AFC) including the 3 game losing stretch which effectively took it out of our hands.

The offseason saw a fair bit of change; around 50% of the 2017 targets walked out the door in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and were replaced by Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in Free Agency and Michael Gallup/Cedric Wilson in the draft. A lack of Tight End replacement (compounded by the “trolling” by Philadelphia in the draft by David Akers) I think has irked Dallas fans the most and given the fans a bad taste going in to the season.

The one thing wont change from season to season is the importance of injuries to our key players. Sean Lee needs to stay healthy on defence in order for them to compete there and certainly the depth on the offensive line is better and should be able to cope with an injury or two.

The season will hinge on Dak’s decision making and his accuracy and will be interesting to see if he learned from November last year. I like him as a late round QB and I like the value of the WRs Hurns and Gallup. Zeke is a monster and will likely get the most rush yards this season. 16-0 here we come…

Key Storyline: Which Cowboys do we get this season? 

Washington Redskins

The Redskins were absolutely decimated by injuries last season on both sides of the ball and unfortunately the trends seem to be continuing in to this season.

Jordan Reed is continuing to Jordan Reed (not quite Tyler Eifert stages yet) and it’s anyone guess as to how many games he plays. The big one though, is Derrius Guice. Guice tore his ACL and is gone for the season, leaving last years combination of Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson (who also has injury concerns) in the backfield and don’t forget about Kapri Bibbs. This immediately puts me off the Redskins and it’s possible their season is already a write-off.

Kirk Cousins has gone and is replaced by Alex Smith at Quarterback, Paul Richardson is the big money signing at Wide Receiver to join the ranks of Crowder and Doctson and who knows which one ends up as their main producer in both real life or fantasy.

The defence was bolstered in the draft with DaRon Payne joining Ziggy Hood and Jon Allen. Again, the key is health to help the defence better their performance last season (were the worse in terms of rush yards given up in 2017).

Key Storyline: Can the Redskins shake the injury curse of 2017?

New York Giants

New York on offence could be really scary this year. Unless you were on an expedition to the moon this year, you’ll know all about Saquon Barkley. He could finally solve the issues at the running back position for Big Blue, a void that they haven’t really filled since Tiki Barber.

To help matters, Nate Solder has been signed from the Patriots in Free Agency along with 2nd round draft pick Will Hernandez one of the steals of the whole draft. A much needed upgrade on a particularly poor offensive line in 2017 should help the offence in general and so should the returns of Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard (Brandon Marshall who doesnt return was also injured for the most part of last year).

Evan Engram took the Giants on his back last season after the injuries hit and because of that, it showed all his skills and is leading to his high draft price in fantasy this season. Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking he will replicate the numbers from last year. There are a lot of mouths to feed in New York and Engram, despite his great first season at Tight End (contrary to historic trends), will see a likely downtick in production. Not something you want from a round 5 draft pick.

Eli Manning is in the final year or 2 of his career and who can forget the abomination of Ben McAdoo’s coaching and his decision to break the Manning streak of 210 consecutive starts last year for Geno Smith in Week 13. He should benefit from an improved line and a running back so he could be a sneaky DFS play in some weeks, especially due to the comfort of Barkley in his pass catching.

New York could be anything this year. If the line stays intact and gels, they could be a playoff team. If not, they could be a top 10 pick in the 2019 draft.

Key Storyline: How good will this offence be in 2018?

Summary:

The East is generally a good watch and is a division that is prone to a last to first type of finishing from year to year. Could be again this year with the intrigue in New York and as always, the divisional games will be hard fought and may throw up a few surprises. If the Eagles are good to go, they’ll win the division again but Dallas certainly have something to prove, especially Zeke, and New York have the firepower to mount a challenge. I think the Guice injury has put to Washington’s hopes of a division title and possibly even a playoff spot. Fantasy wise, the Eagles should put up a lot of points but it’s not easy to pick out who will lead the way. Dallas is all about Zeke it seems and you are paying a early 1st round price for him obviously. New York could be an offence you want a piece of and I love Sterling Shepard this year. Washington’s WR are a shot in the dark and if you pick one, good luck to you.

Predictions:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Redskins

LEE

NFC East today let’s start with the champion Eagles.

The Eagles are still in great shape, their team is still stacked in every area on both sides of the ball. They excel in the trenches on both sides of the ball; they have one of the strongest offensive lines in the league and they won the Superbowl partly because of their deep rotation along the defensive line.

Picture an defensive line of; Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Chris Long and Josh Sweat… pretty strong right? That group is the second unit for the Eagles. That group would start for a few teams.

The offense is equally deep; the skill positions are all full of talent and diversity, and the offensive scheme suits QB, Carson Wentz down to the ground. All of this allows the Eagles to great mismatches all over the field, including with Wentz’s physicality and rushing ability. Although you question the wisdom of that since it cost Wentz the back end of his season.

Bottom line is that the Eagles are here to stay, I have them to take the division again and their Superbowl window in still wide open.

Fantasy wise the Eagles have a lot of good players but you have to think of how many touches they’re all going to take off each other. Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Carson Wentz are can’t miss players, if they fall to you, then go and get them. Outside of that you’ll find some nice role players for your roster.

After the Eagles the division is going to be a little bit of a battle between the other three teams. Personally at this moment in time, I don’t see a natural hierarchy in the East, so it’s going to be really interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Let’s talk about America’s team.

This Dallas team still feels a few players away from being a threat to the top dogs in the league.

In offense; they have Zeke and a fantastic offensive line, which could be really successful again if they go back to the 2016 formula when Elliott lead the league in rushing. The problem is replacing the target share of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I don’t see where the production is going to come from; I’m not saying it won’t happen, I’m saying the answer is not obvious. Dalton Schultz is predominantly a blocking tight end so will need to show some growth and it’s going to make a sizable leap from Blake Jarwin too. At receiver, my money would be on Allen Hurns backed up by Michael Gallup but again that’s no sure bet.

However, this could suit Dak Prescott as he could be allowed to just be the point guard and distribute the ball to a number a pass catchers, rather than force feed the big names.

On defense the heart and soul is Sean Lee and it almost wholly depends on his health. Can DeMarcus Lawrence ensure he gets paid next year and show he’s not a one season wonder? Will the young secondary step up and grow into a top unit? At the moment the defense has more questions than answers and it makes me unsure of where to place the Cowboys at the minute.

Ok, so I’m not going to lie… upon reading the news about Derrius Guice and his torn ACL, I had to rewrite the next section on Washington. I feel like it’s a huge blow for the ‘Skins as I had Guice down as a strong rookie of the year candidate due to the strong offensive line and offensive scheme. As a sports fan, I hate injuries in general and as someone who loves the NFL draft and college football, I hate when injuries make us wait to see prospects that so many were excited about… so here goes, take 2.

I feel like the Redskins are built in a similar way to the Cowboys in the way that they have a dink and dunk QB, a top offensive line and a strong running game. As i said above, I thought Guice was about to go off but a back field of Chris Thompson ft. “fat” Rob Kelley & Samaje Perine should be serviceable. With Guice I’d have Washington above the Cowboys is because Alex Smith is a better version of Prescott, Jordan Reed is a great weapon when he’s on the field and with the running scheme that Jay Gruden runs, Derrius Guice would have been a rookie of the year candidate. Right now though I think it’s cigarette paper close since Ezekiel Elliott is probably the best player from either team and as we saw in 2016, he has broad enough shoulders to carry his team to a lot of wins.

On defense I feel the ‘Skins have built themselves a really nice rotation on the defensive line via the past couple of drafts. I like the Da’Ron Payne pick, even if everyone knows that they really wanted Vita Vea. It means that Payne links up again with his former Crimson Tide running mate, John Allen. Those two with Matt Ioannidis, with Ziggy Hood and Tim Settle as back ups form a good rotation up front.

Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman add some star quality to the linebacking and secondary levels too, something which other teams in the division lack, outside of Philadelphia.

Finally, the New York Giants.

I expect the Giants to be a pretty exciting team to watch this season, mainly because I think they look fantastic on paper on the offensive side of the ball but on defense it’s much less pretty.

When we look at the skill positions for the Giants, it’s an all star cast; Odell Beckham Jr., second overall pick Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard in the slot and Evan Engram at tight end. All very explosive, all great options for both you in your fantasy league and Eli Manning. The only issue comes with Eli Manning, his age and loss of arm strength. Does that hinder the Giants too much? As we saw last season, Big Blue fans don’t want him benched and the front office were never in the market for a QB early in the draft to replace him, so it doesn’t look like Eli is on his way out anytime soon.

Maybe the hire of Pat Shurmur had a little to do with what he did last year with Case Keenum, a QB who is not known for his arm strength but is known to be savvy and intelligent. One thing Eli Manning is, is intelligent.

If it all falls apart at quarterback again in New York, then the progress of Davis Webb and/or Kyle Lauletta could be accelerated because the Giants can’t waste time with what is a potentially very explosive offense.

Another quick note of the offense; I really like the pick of Will Hernandez in the second round since he should be able to help to open up holes for Barkley in the run game.

Flipping over to defense it’s less impressive. Don’t get me wrong, the Giants have some good players but so does every team.

Landon Collins will probably be the highlight as he continues to grow into one of the best safeties in the NFL.

The Giants are the toughest to predict here since it depends so much on Eli and the defense. If both fail then the Giants will be picking in the top 5 again, if Eli manages the games well and gives the explosive guys enough opportunities and the defense can keep pace, the Giants could be in the hunt for a postseason spot. I think it’ll be somewhere in between and I think there will be a few high scoring games involving Big Blue in 2018.

So that wraps it up and brings me to probably my most difficult prediction yet, I’m going to go for:

  1. Eagles
  2. Redskins
  3. Cowboys
  4. Giants

I’ll probably be completely wrong on this one as I expect the records of everyone besides Philly to have a pretty similar record.

 

Joy Divisions – NFC South

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

NFC South:

This could be the best division in football. Don’t be surprised if both wildcards come from this division again. If you fancy this division to produce a Super Bowl winner this year, you can get some good value. Which ones do we fancy?

TIM

New Orleans Saints

Saints were 1 play away from the championship game and last season would’ve left a bad taste in the mouth of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. A lot of people may have felt that last year was the last chance for Brees to get ring no.2 but if they play to the same levels this year, I don’t see why they dont get another crack at the Championship game this year.

Alvin Kamara was the name on everybody’s lips towards the end of the season and it seems like decades ago we had the Adrian Peterson experiment here. Mark Ingram is suspended this year for the 1st 4 games and you can certainly see him sign with another team next seasonbecause I think the Saints have never been too sold on him, despite the former 2009 Heisman Trophy winner and 2011 1st round draft pick being more than productive in his stint in the NFL (career 4.5yards per carry and 48 Total Touchdowns).

At Wide Receiver, Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr are still there but have signed Cameron Meredith in Free Agency and have brought back Benjamin Watson at Tight End. Meredith missed the whole of last season due to injury sustained in the preseason with Chiacgo and he is a sleeper pick. Ben Watson is a sneaky last round dart throw in redraft leagues as he is a great target in the redzone and has previous with the Saints and Drew Brees, having his first stint in 2013-2015 (2015, when Jimmy Graham left, Watson had 74 receptions, 825 yards and 6TDs).

The defence was a major improvement for the Saints last season from previous years of bottom 5 finishes in terms of yards and points allowed (thank Rob Ryan for that mostly and i guess a hint of high scoring offence). The majority of pieces are still there and added to it, the 1st round pick of Marcus Davenport, whom the Saints traded up to go get for their 1st round pick next year.

Big gamble, will it pay off?

Key Storyline: Can the Saints repeat last seasons performances and make amends after the Miracle of Minnesota?

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta were never quite going to hit the heights of their 2016 year, but I doubt many thought that they would have regressed as much as they did.

I say that, but the Falcons still returned to the playoffs, losing to the Eagles after taking down the Rams. 2017 saw a new Offensive Co-ordinator Steve Sarkisian come in after the dynamic Kyle Shanahan leave for San Francisco, move in to a new stadium so to actually achieve what they did I think is overlooked. Their main struggle was getting the ball in the endzone which Julio Jones owners and Matt Ryan owners can attest to (and Matt Bryant owners too – tied 3rd in kicker scoring).

The yards and the offence still moved and still was productive, just the sscoring wasn’t quite there. I think this year you will have the old adage of positive regression, where the scoring will go up in terms of touchdowns.

Calvin Ridley is the big signing from the draft and should immediately be able to come in an get receptions, Julio Jones has agreed to end his stay away and that can only help the franchise. Tevin Coleman is in a contract year so expect him to get volume before leaving next season and Devonta Freeman is usually overlooked in 1st round of drafts but provides first round value in this offence.

Don’t forget that the Falcons team struggled in year 1 under Kyle Shanahan in 2015 before their blistering season the year after so I would expect a similar trend here.

Their defence is a sneaky play too in fantasy. Watch out for Takk McKinley.

I think that the Falcons think they are very close to a reappearance in the Super Bowl…and I agree.

Key Storyline: Can the Falcons turn the FGs in to TDs?

Carolina Panthers

Carolina are a team that peoples opinion are split on, mainly because of their QB Cam Newton (one of the most inaccurate Quarterbacks ever, if you listen to former Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin).

The Christian McCaffrey breakout took a little longer than people expected and Greg Olsen was lost for the majority of the season due to a broken foot. Olsen tinkered with the idea of going to the broadcast booth in the offseason, but was beaten to it by Jason Witten. Though he has come out since and said he is still committed, you have to have that nagging doubt in the back of your mind when you are taking him in the mid rounds of drafts. Although they aren’t the force of old, Carolina were a top 10 defence last season and should be again this season. The opener vs Dallas will tell us a lot about both teams for the season and although it’s only week 1, it could go a long way in deciding wildcard teams.

DJ Moore brings a great route running, reliable wide receiver that will finally fill the boots of Steve Sith (as claimed by the man himself). The 1st round pick for the Panthers will be an intriguing watch this season and could a piece that opens up the passing game for not only himself and Cam, but Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen too. CJ Anderson is an upgrade on Jonathon Stewart as the grinder in the backfield, whilst you can expect 2nd year RB Christian McCaffrey to see a slight up tick in production and receptions in the Danny Woodhead type role. Carolina’s fate will be in their own hands come December – playing the Falcons and Saints twice in their last 3 games. If they are around the 8 win range come week 15, it could get really fiesty, just last last season. I think the Panthers are a slight tier below the previous 2 teams, but certainly have Wildcard eligibility if Cam Newton steps up a touch from his erratic passing last year. For Fantasy, Cam has top 3 QB finish potential, but also has a floor of a QB worse than 12. He’ll go in a wide varying set of rounds in drafts but usually goes around the 5th….your choice.

Key Storyline: Can Cam Newton be more consistent this year and cut out the errors?

Tampa Bay

I was ready to be all in on Tampa Bay as the dark horse this year.

Improved depth and talent on defence in both Free Agency (Jason Pierre-Paul, VInny Curry) and draft (Vita Vea), Jameis Winston on fire towards the back end of last season and a new shiny running back in Ronald Jones.

Since the draft, Winston has been suspended, uncertainty over the starting running back and the depth chart has seemed to take the wind out of my Buccaneer sails.

The division is so tough that you cannot go in to the season like the Bucs are. Dirk Koetter not committing to having Winston as their QB and you have to wonder if he is done with the franchise, nor committing to a starting RB. Jones, Rodgers, Barber and Sims all in this cloudy backfield and could end up being a hot hand approach here…not something you wanna hear when you are taking Ronald Jones in the 5th and 6th Rounds. Whilst he is by far the best back, it could take a little while before we see that replicated in the backfield touches.

At WR, pretty much all the same as last year. I expect DeSean Jackson to fend off Chris Godwin for the first part of the year in 2 WR sets. Jackson could provide value in drafts, after everyone giving him a seal of disapproval from last year. A few plays here or there and we could’ve been seeing Jackson going in the 8-10th round. Godwin will no doubt breakthrough at somepoint because of his talents, but Adam Humphries is there too still, as are Tight Ends Cameron Brate (signed a massive multi year deal in the offseason) and OJ Howard. There are a lot of mouths to feed here and for the first four weeks its Fitzmagic once again.

No thanks.

Key Storyline: Jameis Winston done with the Bucs?

Summary:

This will no doubt come down to the wire and I would be shocked if no wildcard places are picked up by this division come January. The Saints set the standard on last years performance but the Falcons could leapfrog them if the same improvement is seen in year 2 under Steve Sarkisian as they witnessed under Kyle Shanahan. Carolina will continue to be hot and cold and could play party poopers for the Saints and Falcons in week 16 and 17. Tampa can be expected to prop up the division again this season. As an outright bet, I’ll take the Falcons to put things right in 2018.Fantasy wise, give me Matt Ryan at QB, CJ Anderson as a later round RB, Julio Jones at WR (if early 2nd round pick) and Ben Watson at TE.

Predictions:

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LEE

Another day, another great division! Talking football is all about opinions so some may disagree with the ordering but the NFC South along with the NFC North and AFC South make up the top three divisions in the game, in my opinion.

I’ll kick this off with the Saints, whose season ended in heart breaking circumstances last year, with a Marcus Williams missed tackle leading to the Miracle in Minnesota.

Had the tackle been made it could have been a lot different because the offense lead by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara was electric last year. That’s right, Drew Brees took a little bit of a back seat and the offense flowed through the two backs. However the Saints may have to revert back to their norm this year, due to Ingram having been suspended for the first four games of the season. The team have also said that this won’t mean an increase in snaps for Kamara and they will fill the void with other players.

This could be good news for Brees and Michael Thomas as the Saints will look to do more damage through the air. Thomas is actually one of my favourite receivers in the league and after this season I feel like he’s going to be talked about as an elite wide receiver.

The moral of the last couple of paragraphs for your fantasy teams are; don’t over draft Kamara but get Thomas early if you can! Brees will also be a solid QB as usual in fantasy.

On defense, the biggest talking point is that the Saints traded up to select pass rusher Marcus Davenport in the spring. I feel like giving up next year’s first round pick was a really risky move by New Orleans and puts the front office and an extremely raw player under pressure to perform immediately. Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing but the Saints could have just waited, kept next year’s first and got Harold Landry, who went in the second round and ended up with a player who is more complete as of this moment.

Whether Davenport works out or not, the Saints still have enough to be there or thereabouts come the business end of the season.

Another team who will be there or thereabouts is the Atlanta Falcons.

If you look through the Falcons depth chart, you will see it’s a very deep and pretty complete roster with high end players at each level of the defense and in every unit on offense.

One of the big reasons for that is that the Falcons have drafted well for a few years in a row now which has given them a strong nucleus of young talent, most of whom are still on rookie contracts. Which should allow them to extend Julio Jones next season and keep their star man in town.

At this point, when it comes to draft night, the Falcons can sit back and take luxury players, which is exactly what they did in the first round with Calvin Ridley. Atlanta already has Jones and a very capable number two in Mohamed Sanu but they went out and got Ridley anyway and built strength on strength.

Ridley has the quickness and route running abilities to be a success in the league for a long time. Definitely someone to target late on in the fantasy drafts, as are all the starters for Atlanta. You can’t go wrong with Jones, Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman. Austin Hooper is also an up and comer who could be in with a shout to be a good sleeper pick.

Just to touch on the defense quickly, it’s just as strong on the offense. Deion Jones is one of my favourite players in the league, the new breed of linebacker/safety hybrid that’s becoming in vogue all over the league. Finally a quick mention to one of the best but least talked about cornerback tandems in the league; Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant. Those guys are awesome and should get more recognition.

What does this all boil down to? Atlanta are winning 10 or more games.

Just a tick behind the two teams I’ve already spoken about are the Carolina Panthers.

Carolina are a tough one to work out in all honesty. They are a good team and they are in that second tier around the league below the teams who are complete and have expectations to go far in the playoffs. Carolina probably have hopes to go far. That’s the difference.

The thing is, they don’t truly excite me because you look through their roster and they have some serious holes; the offensive line in general, who is catching the ball for them on a consistent basis? Why is Julius Peppers still their best pass rusher at the age of 38? Don’t get me wrong, Peppers is great and still productive but he was drafted in 2002.

Each side of the ball is essentially pinned to the form and fitness of Cam Newton or Luke Kuechly. Both players are potential superstars on each side of the ball and elevate the team and the players around them and can both make game changing or even game winning plays.

I just don’t know if they have enough around them or behind them in the event of an injury, which as I said earlier, really stops me getting really excited about. I struggle to see the potential in a lot of players that the Panthers have.

I know Cam is Superman but I just don’t know about the rest.

Fantasy wise; McCaffrey is going to be a PPR monster, Cam is always a top fantasy QB due to his rushing prowess and first round pick D.J Moore could be a nice late round pick/dynasty pick too. Otherwise, I won’t be shopping in Carolina on my draft nights.

Last but by no means least in this division are the Bucs. They’re probably the “worst” team in this division but talent wise I find then way more exciting than the Panthers in all honesty.

I also find them exciting because they’re another team who killed the draft this spring! Vita Vea, Ronald Jones, M.J Stewart, Carlton Davis, Alex Cappa and to a degree, Jack Cichy, have the potential to be solid starters or better in the NFL. If that’s how it pans out, then that’s a fantastic draft haul for Tampa!

I also like what Tampa did in free agency and trades in recognising that they had to beef up their defensive line and pass rush after finishing 32nd in run defense and not registering nearly enough sacks last year. The additions of Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Jason Pierre-Paul should help this when added to the likes of Gerald McCoy, William Gholston and the now much larger, Noah Spence.

Spence is actually my one to watch for the Bucs. He had a bit of bumpy road to even get to the league and hasn’t really set it alight in first two years but this past offseason, by all accounts, he has gained 35 pounds through an eating regime which has him eating 9 meals a day coming to a total of around 9,000 calories. That is a simply mind blowing amount to me. Some of it will be through protein shakes and other drinks but still, it’s a lot for anyone’s body to go through. What makes it interesting time though, isn’t only the sheer volume of calories but the fact that Spence came into the league as a speed rusher. Will he be able to maintain that speed at a much heavier weight, especially when the weight has been gained over such a short period of time. I think it’ll literally be the making or breaking of his career in the league.

The other storyline surrounding Tampa Bay is that Jameis Winston is suspended and that coupled with their hellish opening schedule means that the Bucs could be playing from behind the 8 ball once their starting QB is allowed back on the field.

No bueno.

Fantasy wise, RoJo and Mike Evans are going to be great and I also really like O.J Howard and Cameron Brate but how much are they going to hurt each other in fantasy land?

 

Prediction time:

  1. Falcons
  2. Saints
  3. Panthers
  4. Buccaneers

 

Note: This division could have three play off teams or they could take enough wins off each other that they screw each other other and it could end up with just one. So tough to call! I really want to have the Bucs higher and I do think they’ll show encouraging signs this year.