Every year the NFL sees players breakout and become stars and fan favorites, either due to being on a new team or just getting the right playing time. With that in mind I’m going to give you my list of player who I see becoming big stars this year and having a breakout year. So if you play fantasy, maybe take a give these guys a look when picking your team.
Drew Lock – QB, Denver Broncos
It seems that Denver may have finally found their guy in Drew Lock, the former Missouri signal caller was taken in the second round of the 2019 draft by the Broncos but unfortunately suffered a broken thumb in the pre-season and was placed in injured reserve in September.
He was cleared for practice mid November and activated to the full roster on November 30th and named as the starter for the game the next day against the Chargers. Throwing for 134 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception wasn’t what people focused on though. In the last 15 seconds of the game Lock lead the Broncos down the field and set up a Brandon McManus field goal leading the Broncos to a 23-20 win in his first NFL start. Lock continued to show his skills and went 4-1 in 5 starts.
Equaling franchise legend and current Broncos GM John Elway for most franchise wins by a rookie quarterback. What makes this more impressive is that it took him 5 games to accomplish this feat. It took Elway 10. This is what makes Lock so exciting, especially if you’re a Broncos fan.
With impressive play and decent stats and provided he stays healthy Lock is going to have a great year with the full 16 games to ply his trade. Oh…and Jerry Jeudy is going to be lining up next to him. Look out for Lock this season…he’s going to be fun to watch.
N’Keal Harry – WR, New England Patriots
After what can only be described as a disappointing rookie year on a struggling Patriots offence N’Keal Harry is going to look to breakout as a legit number 1 target in his sophomore season in New England.
The Canadian born receiver injured his ankle during training in September and was placed on injured reserve until November 2nd when he finally got activated to the full roster. As a rookie Harry played in 7 games for 12 catches, 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. Safe to say this was not even close to what harry is capable of.
Going into second year he will be catching passes from fellow sophomore in quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a man who it is reported he has some serious chemistry with…well if reports from Patriots training camp is to believed.
I see Harry putting up double digit touchdowns and close to 1000 yards as he looks to be the number 1 wide out on this new look patriots offence.
Derrius Guice – RB, Washington Redskins
When I say the name Derrius Guice the first word that comes to mind is injury. Not many players have had luck this bad with injuries in recent years which is a shame because Guice is easily capable of being a top running back in the league.
Drafted in 2018 Guice, tore his ACL in his first ever pre-season game causing him to miss his whole rookie season, in 2019 he was once again injured against the Eagles in week 1 of the regular season…and later again when he made his return in November.
So it’s been a tough road for Guice. I watched him play while he was at LSU and believe me when I tell you this bad luck has lit a fire under Guice going into the 2020 season. He’s going to be a serious threat on this offence as sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins needs serious help in the backfield.
Look for Guice to put up double digit touchdowns and 1000+ yards if he manages to stay on the field for the full 16 games.
Teddy Bridgewater – QB, Carolina Panthers
After going 5-0 as a starter while future Hall of Famer Drew Bree’s was injured in the 2019 season Teddy Bridgewater earned his way back to a starting job taking over from a declining Cam Newton.
Teddy has had a somewhat tumultuous path to get to where he is now. Drafted in 2014, 32nd overall Bridgewater struggled to perform at the level he did at college and ended up bouncing to the New York Jets in 2018 and the New Orleans Saints in 2019. He really shined and showed how much he’s grown as a player while filling in for Drew Brees.
Carolina swooped in and picked him up in free agency with and gave him a 3 year $63 million contract. With a full 16 games at the head of this Carolina offence it’s pretty easy to see Bridgewater taking this team to the playoffs.
Ed Oliver – DT, Buffalo Bills
Seeing as Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a massive breakout year last year I figured I’d shout out another great Bills player due to blow up and that’s Defensive Tackle Ed Oliver.
Selected 9th overall in the 2019 draft, Ed Oliver was a highly sort after draft prospect that in my eyes didn’t even get close to touching his potential in his first year in Buffalo with only 5 sacks and 43 tackles.
So look for Ed Oliver to go hard this year and rack up double digit sacks and at least 70 tackles. Also given the way this team is playing look for Oliver to be a difference maker when it comes to the playoffs and his work rate will give a lot of offensive lines headaches.
The 2020 NFL Draft was the only live sporting action in April and for those in the UK it came at a cost to a normal sleep pattern but hey, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon, right?
As teams have started to make post-draft moves to free up room on their rosters for draftees it has given us some clues toward how the forthcoming Fantasy season may play out.
Let’s take a look at those who have had been given a boost Fantasy-wise from the near-300 selections and those who might be slipping down your depth chart…
I bet the Cowboys couldn’t believe their luck when CeeDee Lamb was still available at 17. Was a wide receiver something the Cowboys needed to go after in the first round? Of course it wasn’t. They’ve got Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for goodness sake.
However, you look at this trio of wide outs and they are – assuming Lamb lives up the hype – in the upper echelons of a pass catching corps in the league.
This opens it up so nicely for Prescott who already put up the fourth most points in Fantasy last season with Jason Garrett as coach. Whilst Mike McCarthy may not be the saviour for Dallas I expect this Cowboys to be a side that is involved in a shootout every other week and Prescott sits right at the heart of that.
If you’re in a Dynasty league, this is to me is the situation where only a crazy offer should even tempt you into giving up Dak.
Make no mistake; the Broncos are all in on Drew Lock.
Denver had the draft capital to trade up if they really wanted to and we all know what John Elway is like with QBs but here we are, foot to the floor in the Drew Lockmobile (patent pending) speeding into the 2020 season with some raw but wonderful talent.
The Broncos drafted two wide outs with their first two picks, added a center, a guard, a tight end and another wide out amongst other defensive selections.
The first of those receivers was Jerry Jeudy who, much like Lamb with the Cowboys, was something of a pleasant surprise to the Broncos when he fell was available at 15. You only had to look at the footage of Elway reclining at his home after the pick like a super-villain in a future James Bond film to know how pleased he was with this pick.
This gives Drew Lock the following options: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Phillip Lindsay on a screen all playing behind an offensive line that has received some much needed bolstering in the offseason.
I’m not expecting Lock to catapult into a QB1 situation but if he can build on the promise of the limited amount we saw in 2019, he’s a viable QB2 and depending how deep your league is perhaps a QB1.
After filling in for Melvin Gordon’s holdout-induced-absence so well and performing at a high level after MGIII’s return in the 2019 season it was likely Ekeler was going to be heading into the 2020 season on a high.
The Chargers drafted Justin Herbert and strengthened the offensive line in free agency (the Okung/Turner trade is still baffling me), which just makes me think Ekeler will be the key man for the Chargers this coming season.
Expect an increase in the number of touches as Herbert could be eased into the starting role at LA, assuming Tyrod Taylor doesn’t explode in pre-season that is…
Oof. That was a tough one for Camp Rodgers.
Hoping that your team will take a wide out from one of the deepest classes in years and instead having your replacement taken in the first round in Jordan Love and the second pick being used on a running back to complement Aaron Jones?
As many have written before me, this is the beginning of the end for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
In short, your team are moving to a more run-heavy offense, your only viable pass catchers is still Davante Adams and your replacement is in the building – albeit not literally – ala Rodgers’ being drafted to replace Favre all those years ago.
It may be worth your while picking up Adams as your WR1 but stay away from Rodgers as your QB1.
Imagine you’re Damien Williams…
You beat out Shady McCoy for the starting running back job, turn in a fantastic Super Bowl performance and your team takes running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with their first pick?! A penny for Williams’ thoughts…
This isn’t to say that Williams is depreciating in value compared to where we were in 2019 but pre-draft I think Williams would have been quite high up people’s draft boards as a late first round/early second round RB1 but yeesh, this really knocks him down my draft board.
This is along the lines of Aaron Rodgers situation in Green Bay.
Your team trades away one of the best wide outs in the league in exchange for a running back that may not produce more than Duke Johnson and coming out of the draft the only wide out you’ve gone out and got was late in the fifth round?
The Texans signed Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb but neither of those two produce like a fantasy WR1 whilst their options at receiver are Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee and Will Fuller. None of those receivers came close to a 1,000 yards last year and frankly I don’t trust them as a group to stay healthy or in consistent form to help Watson out enough.
Right now I’d have it as a coin flip between taking Drew Lock ahead of DeShaun Watson in a Fantasy Draft and this is purely down to the decisions made in the front office rather than a criticism of Watson’s abilities.
A few days ago you were treated to a fantastic Sells equivalent which you can check out here. Today we take a look at those you should be trying to acquire. Let us know your thoughts, let us know YOUR OPINION. Because that’s what it is all about! Let’s see who can get these guys the cheapest!
The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.
Courtland Sutton – Denver Broncos
There’s a feel-good factor around Denver’s offense at the moment. After finishing the season 4-1 with Drew Lock under centre, John Elway has added Pat Shurmur to his coaching staff and signed Melvin Gordon, Graham Glasgow and Nick Vannett in free agency.
All this looks good for third year receiver Courtland Sutton. Coming off a 1,112 yard, 125 target, 72 reception season, the former SMU man has firmly established himself as the Broncos WR1.
The addition of Shurmur looks set to only help Sutton’s development, with his track record as an Offensive Co-ordinator unquestionably good for young QBs and the passing game. If Shurmur can recreate this in Denver, then look for more fireworks from Lock and Sutton as they look to navigate a difficult AFC West.
In your Dynasty League, the time to buy Sutton might not be now. There are plenty of rumours linking the Broncos to a high quality deep threat receiver in the draft, with CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs both regularly mocked their way. This shouldn’t harm Sutton’s production, in fact it should help minimise double coverage. Others may disagree, getting caught up with the inevitable post draft-fever, make your offer then!
The Associated Press
Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles
Another young player that finished the season well, Miles Sanders was a game changer during the Eagles’ late drive to secure a play-off spot.
The 3rd round pick out of Penn State had an up and down start to 2019, with Jordan Howard forcing him out of the starting role for a string of games before going down injured in week 9. Sanders capitalised on this, increasing his playing time and yardage increase until he peaked against the Redskins in week 14.
Howard is now completely out of the picture, having joined the Dolphins, leaving Sanders in competition with Boston Scott as the Eagles’ presumptive week 1 starter. It’s a battle he should win, considering his potential as a dual threat back and the relative draft capital invested in both.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons
You’ve all seen the stat doing the rounds at the moment, the Atlanta Falcons have a starting offense built solely from first round picks. Calvin Ridley is amongst those, with the third year receiver currently occupying the WR2 designation behind Julio Jones.
Jones is contracted through 2024 and given the huge salary the Falcons have invested in him, it doesn’t look like he’ll be going anywhere soon. So why Ridley?
It’s all about consistency. In both his years in the league so far, Ridley has locked up 92 and 93 targets respectively, catching 64 of those in 2018 and 63 in 2019, those catches have gone for 821 and 866 yards, with 10 TDs in his rookie year, compared to 7 last year.
He’s the perfect flex player for your line ups, averaging above 10 points per game and providing the perfect complement to Julio it Atlanta’s offense. With such a stacked WR class this year, chances are he’s available relatively cheap in your league, and with Julio entering a period in which some players decline, Ridley could be set to ease in the other direction.
TJ Hockenson – Detroit Lions
After week one of the 2019 season, Hockenson was cleared off waiver wires everywhere. The first rounder caught six passes from Matthew Stafford, going for 131 yards and a TD. Huge numbers for a rookie Tight End.
From there, things went downhill, with Hockenson only adding another 230 yards across the whole season. When you look at the cards dealt to the Iowa product, it’s not hard to see why his form trailed off, when Stafford went down injured, a combination of Jeff Driskel and David Blough stepped into uninspiringly fill the void and the Lions only managed one win after week three.
So, why trade for him now? Everyone knows that rookie Tight Ends are to be avoided in fantasy, so that shouldn’t put you off when looking at Hockenson’s rookie production. Instead look at the upside, this year’s TE class is poor, he was a top 10 NFL pick for obvious reasons last year, and when fit, his QB is one of the most reliable in the game. Pick him up cheap where you can, and watch him develop into one of the league’s elite TE options.
Marcus Mariota – Las Vegas Raiders
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Mariota – Las Vegas Raiders
This time last year I picked up Ryan Tannehill in 3 leagues, I didn’t get a complete bargain in all cases, but he was cheap for a QB in superflex leagues. The things I liked about Tannehill were, his work ethic, his commitment to his team, his experience as a starter and the precarious nature of the QB he was backing up.
Fast forward 12 months and the irony is there for all to see that we could say the exact same of that QB, Marcus Mariota. The new Raiders QB has always been the model of professionalism, he’s got a ton of starts (including playoff games) under his belt and he’s backing up Derek Carr, who just doesn’t seem to fit the Jon Gruden school of thought.
So, I’m picking up Mariota where I can this year, half the league had him down as QB1 in the 2015 draft class, and in places he has flashed exactly why they believed that. With a bit of encouragement and the freedom to use his legs, Mariota can certainly be a starter in the NFL, if Carr slips you can bet Mariota will be straight in. Buy low, and buy now!
First on my list of dynasty sells is Derrick Henry. Henry drove the Titans to the 2019 playoffs with his powerful running and it appeared that defenders were scared to try and tackle him. In fact, during one run, Henry used Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas as his lead blocker when a devastating stiff arm spun Thomas around! Henry rushed for 1540 yards and 16 touchdowns in the 2019 regular season, eclipsing his best ever season by nearly 500 yards! He then backed this up with another 446 yards and two touchdowns during the 2019 playoffs. So why does he make the ‘sell’ list?
In my opinion, Henry has reached the ceiling and with that, his maximum value. I would certainly be putting the feelers out there to see exactly what you can get for him. Henry has been in the league for 4 seasons and whilst he has been improving year on year, he will not eclipse last seasons performances. Before 2019, Henry had a best season of 1059 yards and 12 touchdowns and in the previous 2 seasons hadn’t reached 1000 yards and only managed 5 touchdowns each year.
There is no doubting that Henry is one of the better running backs in the league at this moment in time but when playing dynasty, you need to capitalise on players at their maximum value. I think Henry’s first three seasons are a better representation of what you can expect if you hold onto him. Don’t expect him to clock up over 1500 yards each year. Get the value now as someone is always desperate for a running back and will no doubt overpay for someone like Henry!
(Image credit: Katharine Lotze – Getty Images)
James Conner RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
At the beginning of last season, James Conner started as the 8th running back taken in the draft (on average) and has now fallen to an average draft position (ADP) of running back 22! The main issue here is health. In 2019 Conner played just 10 games and rushed for a measly 464 yards with a longest run of just 25 yards. There was a lot of hype and expectation on Conner when he took over from Le’Veon Bell and he produced a good year in 2018, rushing for 973 yards and adding 497 receiving yards.
James Conner is still rumoured to be the starting running back for the Steelers franchise (according to Steelers GM Kevin Colbert) which means that he will still have value now. If you are of the belief that he won’t regain the form of 2018, then his value will only drop. If you aren’t sold on him I would consider using him as trade bait. If you want to keep him, he is a third running back at best right now.
(Image credit: Matthew Stockman – Getty Images)
Phillip Lindsay RB – Denver Broncos
Phillip Lindsay is one of the most frustrating players in fantasy football. You can watch the highlights and think he is lighting it up every week but if you delve into the stats he just wasn’t consistent enough. Lindsay will get 20+ points one week and 3 the next! He has value though. If you look at the seasonal stats he has amassed over 1000 yards in each of his first two seasons with 1037 and 1011 yards respectively.
In my opinion, he won’t make it to 1000 yards again in 2020 and his value will drop. Going into 2020, Lindsay will now be splitting time with Melvin Gordon and/or Royce Freeman which will limit his opportunities and he needs to make bigger improvements in the receiving game where he did not have 1 single touchdown in 2019. There just aren’t enough upsides to keep Lindsay right now. Whilst you may have lost the value with the Gordon move, still try and move him on to someone that is a bit more bullish about Lindsay.
(Image credit: Aaron Doster – USA Today Sports)
AJ Green WR – Cincinnati Bengals
AJ Green is a stellar wide receiver, there is no doubting his ability. However, he missed the entirety of the 2019 season due to injury and only played 10 games the year before. He is also 31 years old. Whichever way you look at it, the value that you can potentially get for Green is only going to go down. He may still be of value to a team that is looking for a short-term guy to help win a championship in 2020 or 2021. He certainly won’t be an option for a team that is currently in rebuild mode.
This is where you need to know your league and the teams that make it up. If you know that there is another team that may be one receiver short of having a real chance at winning the championship, you may be able to get some value for Green. AJ Green will likely be staying in Cincinnati and he will probably have rookie QB Joe Burrow throwing him the ball. If he can stay healthy, he is still one of the best receivers in the league. Its a risk to trade him but also a risk to trade for him!
(Image credit: Scott Varley – Staff Photographer)
Keenan Allen WR – LA Chargers
In 2017, Keenan Allen finally proved that he could stay healthy and since then he has amassed three seasons where he has averaged over 100 receptions and over 1200 yards. As good as these numbers appear, he hasn’t been able to score more than six touchdowns each year. He is also losing Philip Rivers at QB. No matter who is under centre for the Chargers next year, it won’t be a big upgrade on Rivers. The uncertainty that Allen now faces leaves a little bit of a problem for dynasty owners. He has been producing good numbers but we have no idea who will be throwing to him in 2020.
You can get good value for Allen and replace him with a young receiver from the draft as his name will still carry a lot of weight. If you can manage to get a mid first round pick for him, you can let the new owner deal with the wide range of possible outcomes for Allen in 2020.
Today we take a peek back at the Denver Broncos’ season. One of a few teams that deployed 3 Quarterbacks in one season, which kind of tells you how successful it was. They do say that every cloud has a silver lining though.
ENTERING THE SEASON
The Denver Broncos entered the season with a new signal caller after trading for former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco from Baltimore.
GM John Elway hoped he had finally found a viable successor to Peyton Manning after failures (to at least some extent) with Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum since the future Hall of Famer’s retirement in 2016.
Vic Fangio came over from the Bears as a first time Head Coach at the age of 61, hoping to capitalise on a defence boasting the abilities of Von Miller, Chris Harris and Bradley Chubb among others.
However, they were probably always an outsider for a playoff position, battling with phenom Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs in the division.
DURING THE SEASON
Denver, perhaps understandably considering the changes undergone in the offseason, started slowly, losing their first 4 games.
With an offence struggling to get out of second gear, added to a defence strangely passive in the early going, indeed exalted pass rush duo Von Miller and Bradley Chubb failed to record a sack between them in the first 3 games of the season. With Chubb tearing his ACL in the week 4 loss to the Jaguars, as the season threatened to fall out of control.
However, the Broncos certainly showed some fight, as they managed to end the season with a respectable 7-9 record, good enough for 2nd place in the division.
On the offensive side of the ball Joe Flacco struggled to recapture his former magic, and when he went down to a neck injury after week 8, Brandon Allen was thrust into a starting role that he probably wasn’t ready for.
When Drew Lock returned from his own injury in week 13 however, he promised at a better future to come in Mile High. He went 4-1 to finish the season on a high note. WR Courtland Sutton also took a big step forward in his play, finishing with over 1,100 yards despite the turmoil at the QB position.
Denver are in a more settled position this year than in recent years, with the franchise’s confidence in Drew Lock, meaning Flacco will likely be moved on, or at least brought back on a reduced salary as a back up. That should mean they are able to be active in free agency, projected to have around $60million in cap space available.
Although some of that money will almost certainly be tied up in bringing back key personnel like Justin Simmons. It’s likely too that Denver look to invest in the lines, with most of the defensive linemen up for free agency, as well as improving the offensive line.
It feels like a big offseason coming up for John Elway as he tries to catch up with Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. However, with a few well-judged forays into free agency and a strong draft, there is no reason why they can’t improve next season and be a factor in the playoff chase for 2020.
It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Depending on your outlook on such things, that’s good or bad.
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.
Kansas City Chiefs 5-3
Oakland Raiders 3-4
LA Chargers 3-5
Denver Broncos 2-6
Midseason Grade: B
How has it gone so far?
The offensive juggernaut picked up where they left off. Patrick Mahomes has spread the ball around with ease despite missing Tyreek Hill for most of the 1st half of the season. A trade on the eve of the season for LeSean McCoy had solidified the backfield and Travis Kelce remains the league’s best tight end.
However the achilies heel is once again the defence. In particular it has been the Chiefs inability to defend the run. Only the winless Bengals have given up more yards on the ground and teams have found a formula to beat the Chiefs.
Having tasted defeat in 3 of the past 4 contests the Chiefs will be anxious to get Mahomes back from injury to allow the offence the greatest opportunity to make up for the defensive deficiencies.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Chiefs are comfortable within the division and the 3 losses they have tasted were against quality opponents. They take care of business in the games that you would expect them to do so. They will not be concerned with regular season record however as they will be concentrating on what they want to achieve in January.
Fixing the run defence will have to be a top priority as the ground game becomes more of a factor as we get towards playoff time. The offence will continue to cause problems for anyone and outside of games with the Vikings and Patriots, the Chiefs will be big favourites in the other contests they have left to play.
Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5 – Division Winners
How has it gone so far?
The team of hard knocks has very quickly moved on from Antonio Brown to post some decent performances in the first half of the season.
Losses to the Chiefs, Vikings, Packers and Texans are nothing to be ashamed of. Derek Carr has been very accurate, completing over 72% of his passes as he has found himself 2 new best friends. Darren Waller has been a revelation at tight end, he leads the team with 46 receptions,over twice the amount of the next leading receiver.
Josh Jacobs is arguably one of the leading candidates for offensive rookie of the year honours with 620 rushing yards from the 7 games played.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Winnable looking games against the Jets, Bengals and Chargers provide plenty of optimism for the Raiders in the second half of the season.
The impending move to Vegas should hopefully mean plenty of motivation to give the fans over in the Bay area a good send off.
Look out for the continued development of the 2 young playmakers mentioned as the Raiders may have stumbled across a nice young core to develop with.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9
How has it gone so far?
In the conversation for the most underwhelming team of the 2020 season, the Chargers have fallen off massively from where they were last year. The offensive line has been a problem throughout and what feels like the standard injury curse has once again struck. Melvin Gordon backed himself in a contract hold out in a move that appears to have backfired having been outperformed by Austin Ekeler during the campaign.
Mike Williams found the endzone on 10 occasions last campaign but has yet to find pay dirt this time around. In fact Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry are the only 2 skill positions outside of the running backs that have scored a touchdown for the Bolts so far.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Looking for consistency, the Chargers need to stop beating themselves. 2 games against the Chiefs along with difficult looking matchups against the Vikings and Packers make the road ahead look difficult. WIth 5 divisional games still ahead though, with a heavy fair wind the Chargers aren’t quite out of things just yet.
Getting Michael Badgeley back on the field will help also as even if the Chargers get into winning positions the find a way to lose.
Regular Season Record Prediction:7-9
Midseason Grade: D
How has it gone so far?
As you would expect a Joe Flacco led offence to look, a little pedestrian. Ranked just 28th in points scored at just 15.6 per game the defence is keeping the Broncos competitive. That unit ranks 8th in terms of points against so its clear to see where the issues are in Mile High. An 0-4 start has been followed by a 2-2 stretch for a team struggling to establish an identity.
Philip Lindsay is still the most valuable offensive piece but despite his superior production he is stuck in a timeshare with Royce Freeman. Von Miller is having a relatively quiet season with only 4 sacks so far on the campaign.
Rest of Season Outlook:
After criticizing the defensiveness of offensive play calling Joe Flacco has miraculously picked up an injury so Brandon Allen is in at QB. The schedule does not look kind with Vikings, Texans and Chiefs all still to come. The Broncos would have been hoping for more of a boost from Vic Fangio than they have received and this has a feeling of a 1 and done season.
Development of the young wide receiving core will be crucial as the Broncos will hope that Drew Lock will be able to take over this offence in the non to distant future.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 3-13
San Francisco 49ers – 7-0
Seattle Seahawks – 6-2
Los Angeles Rams – 5-3
Arizona Cardinals – 3-4-1
Midseason Grade: A
How has it gone so far?
Without doubt the surprise package of the season, the 49ers are not so much dark horses, but sparkly rainbow unicorns, with the only undefeated record in the NFC. How are they racking up the W’s?
A perfect blend of creative and consistent running and a tough tackling defense led by rookie Nick Bosa and wily veteran CB Richard Sherman. Jimmy Garoppolo has been upright all season and only sacked 11 times. He needs to cut down interceptions (7) but at a nearly 70% completion rate Garoppolo is just fine. The strong running game is led by a three-headed monster of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert who have combined for over 1000 ground yards already and 10 combined touchdowns.
The receiving unit has been a big letdown, with the exception of All-Pro TE George Kittle, so a mid-season trade for Emmanuel Sanders from Denver was a welcome boost.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The remaining part of the 49ers schedule is much harder than the first half. Two matchups against the Seahawks, plus the Ravens, Saints and Packers. The 49ers will not go 16-0 regardless of however hard they run or tackle.
The two Seahawks games will define the season, and will provide the difference between a division win and a wild-card. Emmanuel Sanders will need to strike up immediate rapport with Jimmy G, as ridiculously his nine touchdown passes this season have gone to nine different team-mates. The return of versatile FB Kyle Juszczyk in the final third of the season will be a big boost.
Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a wild card)
Midseason Grade: B+
How has it gone so far?
The Seahawks have not been convincing in 2019, winning their six games by a combined 32 points, including two one point wins. Regardless Russell Wilson is having a spectacular season, 2,127 yards, 17 touchdowns and just the one int in 8 full games.
Elsewhere the offence has been performing admirably, RB Chris Carson is on track for 1,200-1,300 yards and the mix of veteran WR Tyler Lockett and rookie WR DK Metcalf is providing a winning combination.
LBs Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright continue to play at a Pro-Bowl level and the addition of DE Jadeveon Clowney may not have yielded gaudy sack totals, but he leads the team in tackles for loss and forced fumbles.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Seahawks have the 49ers clearly in their line of sight, and the two games they face against each other will be box office television both times. It’s all NFC games for Seattle for the rest of the season and six more wins is a realistic target. Seattle and San Francisco should have safely punched their ticket to the post-season by Week 16, so the Seahawks hosting the 49ers in Week 17 will likely determine who wins the division.
CenturyLink Field is no longer a fortress for the Seahawks, but they will use the wet-weather to squeak a W17 win and with it a division title.
Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a division win)
Midseason Grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Rams so far, starting with a three game win streak, followed by a three game crash, before crushing two awful teams.
In the space of three weeks (2-4) L.A. put a beat down on the Saints, scraped past the Browns and then leaked 55 against Tampa. Jared Goff is on pace for 5,000 yards and WR Cooper Kupp is looking like an All-Pro. Kupp’s 220 yard outing at Wembley will take a long time to forget.
Todd Gurley has flattered to deceive, his 7 touchdowns hiding a rather unimpressive season so far. LBs Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews are on pace for double digit sacks. The biggest impact on defense is CB Jalen Ramsey who was traded in from the Jaguars in October. Ramsey is currently undefeated as a Rams star.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Super Bowl hangover is for real.
A tough run of games against Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco are sandwiched between two contests against the Cardinals. There have been five receiving yardage leaders on the team in eight games, and Todd Gurley has not had a single 100 yard rushing game this year.
Two home MNF games (Chicago and Seattle) will put the Rams in the spotlight, but they are not going to make the playoffs because their offensive line is their weak link, that will cost them dearly in the Winter months.
Regular season record prediction: 9-7
Midseason Grade: C+
How has it gone so far?
Three wins and a tie in half a season is above expectation for a Cardinals team expected to be near the foot of the conference whilst they let rookie QB Kyler Murray settle in to the team.
The three wins were against weak opponents by a combined 10 points. Murray has shown improvement from his first four games, but he has been let down by a poor running game, which now has former Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake moving to Arizona from Miami.
The immortal WR Larry Fitzgerald is still churning away, and with an upsurge in targets could get another 1,000 season under his belt. David Johnson is still underperforming and he has more touchdowns catching than he does rushing.
Rest of Season Outlook:
There are not a lot of winnable games left for the Cardinals in the second half of the season, ending in two tough road-trips to Seattle and L.A. Kyler Murray is going to see better days as the Cardinals move into a new era.
The youth movement will soon takeover throughout the roster, with WRs Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella making competition healthy of offense. Arizona still need help on the defense and offensive line, but another impactful draft could see them competitive as early as 2020.
One small shoutout to LB Terrell Suggs, coming up to his 38th birthday, as he is still performing at a high level – five sacks, four forced fumbles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Oh and he can act too if you have seen Ballers.
The greatest second quarter ever – By Lawrence Vos @NFLFANINENGLAND
It seems like a dream now.
I was 13 years old, had been an NFL fan since 1985, and in only the second ever Super Bowl I was watching live, I was staying up in the middle of the night to watch my team, the Washington Redskins, as they took on the favourites the John Elway led Denver Broncos. It’s a game I will never forget, and over 30 years later the memories are still vivid.
This was the Super Bowl that saw the first African American starting quarterback, Doug Williams, who had endured racism, lack of faith and a career with lots more lows than highs. Williams took the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an NFC Championship wearing the creamsicle uniform long before he wore the burgundy and gold.
I recall having my tray of goodies with me (a Marathon bar chopped into slices, peanut M and M’s, and a can of Pepsi) and I knew that unlike the year before I would remain wide awake to see every play of Super Bowl XXII.
I can remember Redskins head-coach Joe Gibbs running onto the field with his knitted jumper and big glasses. This was during an era where Super Bowl starting line-ups were individually announced, before the Patriots ‘one-team’ ethos ruined the ceremony and drama of the individual announcements as players ran out the tunnel.
The game began as a disaster for my Redskins, after going three and out John Elway hit rookie Ricky Nattiel on a bomb on the Broncos first play from scrimmage and boom we were 7-0 down. Then to rub it in Elway caught a pass himself, again many, many years before the Philly Special. The drive stalled but the Broncos kicked a field-goal and it was 10-0 Denver going into the second quarter.
Fans in the stadium, fans around the world, and me sitting on my sofa in a block of flats on a council housing estate in Surrey (yes they have council estates in Surrey) had no idea what was about to happen….the single greatest offensive explosion in a quarter of NFL football, which happened to be in the second quarter of a Super Bowl, by a team that looked outmatched and out classed in the first fifteen minutes.
From the moment the quarter began the Redskins went absolutely wild. The first play saw Doug Williams hit Ricky Sanders on an 80-yard bomb, then on the next drive Gary Clark caught a game-changing score. Technically the 14-10 lead was enough to win the game there and then, but Williams and Coach Gibbs could not stop. Absolutely unknown rookie running back Timmy Smith, who was only told he would make his first NFL start hours before the game, then scored a 50 plus yard touchdown, and Williams then added two more scores through the air, a second to Sanders and his fourth to tight-end Clint Didier.
As this was only my second Super Bowl I thought this was normal, but I pretty soon realised that scoring 35 points in a quarter, in what turned out to be only 18 total offensive plays, was historic. The Redskins went on to run the ball and play solid defense in the second half to win 42-10. This game was the first time a team had come back from a 10-point deficit in a Vince Lombardi trophy contest, and Doug Williams was named an incredibly worthy MVP.
Records get broken every year, including Super Bowl specific ones, but I have a feeling this is one record that will stand the test of time. It’s possible that Patrick Mahomes can somehow break this record one day, but he has to lead his team to the big dance first, something easier to say than do.
That incredible quarter will be my favourite fifteen minutes of NFL watching as long as I live.
By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y), Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)
Hungry for more? We’ve got some more takeaways for you to digest looking back at week 2 in the NFL…
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
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
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!
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
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
Steelers digging a
Pit for themselves
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…
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
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
“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?
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?
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!