It’s been a busy free agency for NFL teams over the last couple of weeks; but a much needed and welcome distraction to everything else that’s currently happening in the world.
But what do these moves mean for your fantasy teams in 2020? Over the next two articles, i’m going to break down the winners and the losers from all of the transactions that have taken place so far.
The Arizona Cardinals pulled of a move during the free agency that left everybody scratching their heads, wondering how they pulled off such a coup. That was, of course, the acquisition of superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.
Kyler Murray all of a sudden now has one of the most tantalising skill set offenses in the NFL. From Hopkins to legendary Hall of Fame receiver LarryFitzgerald returning for one last year, and the emerging star of Christian Kirk alongside 2nd year hopefuls Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. The Kliff Kingsbury ‘air raid’ offense really has got no excuses to be raking up the air miles on the field in 2020.
After a QB7 rookie campaign in fantasy last year, it’s hard to think Murray will be doing anything other than improving on that. Kenyan Drake made a good enough impression since his move from Miami that he’s earned another year on this offense too, yet another reliable, tried and trusted weapon for Kyler out of the backfield.
It’s exciting times for Cards fans and this ever-improving offense, fantasy fans should be sharing this excitement for Kyler Murray, there’s no such thing as too many weapons when it comes to fantasy QB’s
Staying in Dallas was one of the best places for Cooper to keep his fantasy value. He clearly loves it there in ‘Jerryworld’, and the feeling seems to be mutual between the fans and the other players.
In his 25 games for the Cowboys, Cooper has amassed 1,914 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns; that’s 77 yards per game and a touchdown every other game (0.56 TD’s per game). For context, that’s in the same vicinity as DeAndre Hopkins’ time in Houston (78 yards per game average with 0.49 TD’s per game) and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay (80 yards per game with 0.53 TD’s per game). Both of which will be within the top 2 wide receiver tiers for 2020.
Dez Bryant had many productive seasons as a WR1 in fantasy football from his time in Dallas with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott under centre. Now it is time for Amari to step up and continue being the reliable receiving option for the Cowboys and fantasy owners in turn for the next few years.
Indianapolis Colts’ Receivers
Indy is lacking in skill position depth, but those that are there have just received a significant bump up in fantasy value with the upgrade of quarterback to Philip Rivers. Jacoby Brissett was admirable, and was far from terrible, but he wasn’t the best at getting great receiving production out of anyone not named T.Y Hilton.
Rivers in an experienced veteran who finally has a competent offensive line ahead of him to give him enough protection to provide some actual time in the pocket rather than being constantly under pressure like he was for the Chargers, especially in recent years.
I expect Indy will add to their receiving corps through the upcoming draft; but for now, T.Y Hilton cements himself as a fringe WR1 for a likely cheap price of a 4th/5th round pick, and last year’s rookie Parris Campbell will likely be in the sleeper category for analysts as the season grows closer.
If Jack Doyle remains the only pass catching tight end in Indy too, expect his value to also rise in a treacherous tight end fantasy landscape as Rivers has always produced fantasy relevant TE’s with the likes of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry in the past.
One of my favourite sleepers already also due to the Rivers’ upgrade, is running back Nyheim Hines. The swiss army knife is Indy’s version of Austin Ekeler (see later in article for Ekeler’s 2019 production), who should see plenty of work in the passing game out of the backfield.
Cleveland Brown’s Skill Players
One of the main contributing factors for the Browns’ miserable 2019 campaign was the offensive line, or lack-of, being unable to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.
Jack Conklin (former Titans OT) is a massive upgrade for that line and you can only imagine Cleveland will be taking whichever stud tackle is left with the 10th pick of the 2020 draft.
These pieces may well prove to be the difference for this offense which will open up the fantasy value for all of the keys players. Nick Chubb had a great season in 2019 and was third in the NFL for rushing yards (1,494) and has 18 combined touchdowns since becoming a Brown in 2017 so we can expect that to continue. As we can with Jarvis Landry, as he once again will benefit from OBJ taking the premier defense away, like in 2019. OBJ’s production might rise once again if Mayfield is able to improve and between David Njoku and newly acquired Austin Hooper, the tight ends’ should have their week to week match-up based values too.
With all the running back moves this off-season, i don’t think any have won more so than Austin Ekeler has. Not only does he see Melvin Gordon move away (to the Denver Broncos) from the backfield and no significant replacement brought in, he finds himself in a passing offense that will be moving forward with someone new. Therefore, a bigger emphasis may be placed on the tried and trusted running game with Ekeler as the sole star.
The beauty of the situation is- even if the Chargers do bring in another running back, they probably aren’t going to be the same quality as Melvin Gordon where Ekeler was still productive enough to see him finish as the RB4 in PPR scoring (RB8 in non-PPR) last season.
The new QB in LA will likely be a rookie in from the first round, if not the veteran Tyrod Taylor who served as Rivers’ backup last season. Either way, Ekeler is going to be hyper-targeted out of the backfield and should be a top 10 PPR running back once again in 2020.
Following on from Rob Grimwood’s fantastic post on the winners yesterday I’ve been tasked, quite suitably, with the pessimism, the misery, the teams who did sweet FA, or in the case of the Texans. Worse.
Texans get their pants pulled down by the Cardinals.
In one of the weirder trades of recent times the Arizona Cardinals acquired one of the best three receivers in the game for essentially a bag of chips, and not a nice bag of chips, those “baked” one’s by walkers. It’s another moves by GM/Head coach/Supreme Leader Bill O’Brien which has stymied the masses. Oh, and they then went and signed Randall Cobb on a 3 year deal to try and placate the masses. Weird.
Additionally they took on the FULL CONTRACT for David Johnson, the full $10.2m contract, for a back who has struggled with injury and form since breaking onto the scene a few years ago. That’s a lot of cash for a running back especially when you’ve got one of the better pass catching backs in the league on your roster already in the shape of Duke Johnson. For the record, I like DJ and I hope he can get back to form, but it’s still a lot of cash to spend on an RB.
David Njoku has some competition, and apparently he welcomes it.
After being drafted at 29 in the 2017 draft there were high hopes for the super-athletic tight end in Cleveland, but a series of niggling injuries and being unable to get together a decent run of games has hit his stock and led his team to bring in Austin Hooper on a big money deal from the Falcons. Neither of them are really blocking TEs, so it’s direct competition, and in those cases the more expensive man usually get the bulk of it all.
Bengals fall even further behind in the North.
It’d be remiss of me to dampen the spirits of my team and their fans even more. After being quoted by reporters as “being active in free agency” they once again sat and watched as players who’d have improved their roster immediately were picked up for decent deals, the likes of Jack Conklin to the Browns on a 3 year, 42m deal. Nick Kwiatowski to the Raiders for 13m a year both positions of need for the Bengals, and both strengthen AFC teams.
The Ravens have also made moves over the last week which further strengthen them, bringing in Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers to add even more to their defensive line, then getting a pick back for Hayden Hurst. They’re taking full advantage of having a rookie QB on a cheap deal.
And the Steelers will be welcoming back the 400lb man at QB which might make them better at that position for next year.
Josh Allen is digging it, but I’m not too sure.
The Bills paid a whole hell of a lot to Stefon Diggs, a 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th for Diggs and a 7th round pick… It’s a lot more than I thought the Vikings would get for someone who so clearly wanted out and bitched and cried about it publicly.
The Vikings get a ton of picks and him off their payroll. Diggs gets to join a team with an inaccurate QB and probably get further frustrated further down the road. Pairing the best route runner in the league with the least accurate QB is an interesting one, hopefully for them it’s a little chicken and egg and it bring Allen up.
However, I do get the trade, there’s blood in the water with the Pats possibly losing Brady and their offensive issues on the whole. So while it’s a big payout it could work out well for them.
They gave Jimmy Graham HOW MUCH?!
Why on earth would anyone be money on Jimmy Graham? I wasn’t sure he’d get picked up at all, let alone on a 2 year, $16m deal. But Matt Nagy and the Bears seem determined to keep on paying up at tight end. One of the more perplexing moves done yesterday.
They’re also still without a functional quarterback and supposedly interested in Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. The Bengals apparently want a 3rd for Dalton, the Jags reportedly want to keep Foles (They take a big dead cap hit if he leaves so may as well keep him) Both are upgrades on Trubisky, but still. It’s not an enviable situation.
After disappointing campaigns, three NFC East teams –the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants –as well as the Panthers and Browns decided it was time for a new Head Coach. A fortnight after the regular season finished, four of the five had filled their hot seats, and the Browns have since found their man too. Now that the game of musical chairs has stopped, let’s take a look at who’s landed where and how they might fare.
Fired:Jay Gruden Hired:Ron Rivera
The switch: Washington got a two-month head-start on the rest, setting the HC conveyor belt in motion in October. After going 0-5, they decided enough was enough and fired Jay Gruden, who made the postseason just once in his five years in the capital.
A day after they closed out their 3-13 season with a 47-16 humbling by divisional rivals Dallas, long-time team president Bruce Allen was given the order of the boot, not long after he’d told the world the team’s culture was “damn good” (no laughing at the back, please). They swiftly followed that by agreeing to make Ron Rivera, let go by the Carolina Panthers, their new HC.
The pros: Rivera is experienced, respected and no stranger to success, having led the Panthers to three consecutive NFC South titles from 2013. His hot streak culminated in a 15-1 regular season in 2015 and an appearance at Super Bowl L against the Denver Broncos. Having evolved from ultra-cautious to more progressive and forward-thinking, ‘Riverboat Ron’ could be the man to ensure Dwayne Haskins delivers on his early promise. The ‘Skins also need to sharpen up on the defensive side, but Rivera has form here too: he had five top-10 defences in Carolina. Bringing in former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator can only help.
The cons: While his overall record stands up to scrutiny, it’s been tough going of late. Rivera’s last two seasons in Charlotte were both injury-affected and both went south after promising starts. Without Cam Newton, last year’s 5-11 saw them prop up the NFC South and the year before, they also finished with a losing record (7-9). That said, everyone to a man was complementary when he left.
The outlook: A fresh start was just what the doctor ordered and for Rivera’s sake, let’s hope the toxic Washington set-up is history. With the power to bring the crowds back to FedEx Field and reset the culture within the building, he’s already having a positive effect. Apparently, left tackle Trent Williams – who sat out last year because he lost trust in the medical staff and then the front office – has vowed to return to the fold because of the new HC and the organisational restructure.
The verdict:The pick of the bunch. He’ll have his hands full but with Allen out of the picture, there’s a distinct chance ‘Riverboat Ron’ will turn this ship around and steer the Redskins towards calmer waters.
Fired: Jason Garrett Hired:Mike McCarthy
The switch: The Cowboys were the second team to make their move, eventually parting ways with Jason Garrett after nearly 10 years at the helm and an exit process that seemed to take just as long. Jerry Jones made it clear he wasn’t going to spend time bringing a college coach up to speed so they interviewed two experienced NFL guys: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and long-time Bengals HC Marvin Lewis. Once Garrett was finally out the door, Dallas took less than 24 hours to announce McCarthy.
The pros: Of our five coaches, McCarthy has the best pedigree, having led the Packers to nine playoff appearances, six NFC North division titles and a Super Bowl win (ironically at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium) in his 13 seasons. Although his relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers deteriorated, it was effective for much of his tenure so McCarthy should be able to strike up a good rapport with Dak Prescott.
The cons: McCarthy was fired midway through Green Bay’s 2018 season and he didn’t work during 2019 so will having a year out of the game hinder him? He has allegedly spent the time studying the latest NFL trends but equally, he might have lost some momentum.
The outlook: McCarthy has also been developing a new playbook, which will hopefully compensate for Dallas’ failures over the last decade. McCarthy needs to hit the ground running and start securing the late-postseason appearances Garrett should’ve achieved with the talent at his disposal. His credibility and reputation are high, but so are the expectations on him to bring success pretty much straight away.
The verdict:The one with everything to prove. McCarthy is a fine choice but the control he might want or expect isn’t up for grabs. In Dallas, Jerry is King: he calls the shots and makes (and breaks) the rules. Where the lines are drawn will decide whether McCarthy leads Dallas back to the heights of old or if he’s just the next guy to be stifled by the Jones dynasty.
Fired:Ron Rivera Hired:Matt Rhule
The switch: In early December, when the wheels were falling off another Panthers’ season, Ron Rivera was released. Owner David Tepper announced that he would be targeting an offensive-minded replacement, and did exactly that in hiring Baylor coach Matt Rhule. As it happens, Rhule was supposed to meet with the Giants (where he spent a year as an assistant O-line coach) after his trip to Carolina but never made it, having been made an offer he couldn’t refuse and the Giants couldn’t match. (For the record, I wouldn’t turn down $60 million over seven years, if anyone’s offering…)
The pros: The size of his contract suggests Carolina are all in on their new man. Rhule is a leader and has a knack for turning struggling teams around in double-quick time. He took Baylor from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 just two years later and, before that, transformed Temple from a 2-11 outfit to a conference-winning one.
The cons: It’s important to remember that Rhule has no league experience at HC (a red flag to some). He will need to make the not-insignificant leap from college to the big league if he is to bring the franchise some stability and, eventually, success.
The outlook: Rhule won’t need to repeat the complete turnabouts he managed in his college programmes. He’ll have assets to work with – not least a solid defence and one of the league’s top stars in running back Christian McCaffrey – but there is also work to do, with linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring and tight end Greg Olsen joining the Seahawks. It will also be interesting to see whether he plumps for Cam Newton, Kyle Allen or someone else as his long-term QB. In the draft, he might grab a couple of guys with potential and the right character traits, and take the time to nurture them.
The verdict:The slow-burner. If Rhule can get on top of things in the pro world, the Panthers could be back in the mix again. However, I suspect, as we saw with some of last year’s rookie coaches, we shouldn’t expect results overnight. It took him a couple of years to get to grips with Temple and Baylor, and he’s been afforded ample time to set things up the right way so peg him for a successful rebuild from 2021 and beyond.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Fired:Pat Shurmur Hired:Joe Judge
The switch: Despite a strong finish by Saquon Barkley and a decent showing by young QB Daniel Jones, the Giants had a disappointing 2019 under Pat Shurmur. They could ill-afford to let another season slip by with such talent in their ranks so, after Shurmur’s two underwhelming seasons ended with a 9-23 record, the Giants were next to step up to the plate (to mix my sporting metaphors).
Just minutes after the Panthers announced Rhule, the Giants revealed Joe Judge as their man. Interestingly, New York ran the rule over Rhule too, and were given the opportunity to match Carolina’s massive offer. The Giants declined.
The pros: Judge was a special teams assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama for three seasons and then spent eight years with the Patriots as special teams and wide receivers coach. He won three Super Bowls in New England and has been plucked right off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Being a special teams guy, he’s used to having close contact with most players on the roster, which will stand him in good stead.
The cons: Compared to the likes of Rivera and McCarthy, Judge is a relative unknown. He also hasn’t held a head coaching role at any level, which to some might make him the weakest candidate on paper.
The outlook: Judge may be a rookie but the 38-year-old is a good communicator, has high standards and a blue-collar work ethic. Judge’s initial press conference suggested that New York have a good fit. He told the media to expect an intense, aggressive, old-school team that will reflect the community in which they play.
The verdict:The left-field choice. I don’t want to judge too early but he comes across as hard-nosed and disciplined. He can certainly talk the talk, so let’s see if he can walk the walk.
Fired:Freddie Kitchens Hired:Kevin Stefanski
The switch: Armed with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett to name but a few, the Browns were many people’s top tip for a playoff run or even a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. Even Sports Illustrated ran with “Bold prediction! Cleveland’s first division title in 30 years” on one cover. As it turned out, The Ill-Advised Freddie Kitchens Experiment was abandoned after a year, with a disappointing 6-10 season ending with a three-game losing streak. As they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get Kitchens out” (or something) so they did, with GM John Dorsey also sent packing.
Cleveland interviewed a host of candidates – Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Ravens OC Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz, Uncle Tom Cobley and all – but in the end, they plumped for Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
The pros: Part of the furniture in Minneapolis since 2006, Stefanski is a schemer, an analytical thinker and someone who can maximise offensive talent. The Vikes had a 10-6 season and a Wild Card win over the Saints, and their attack was largely effective under Kirk Cousins.
The cons: Initial reactions to the hire were mixed at best, not least because he wasn’t McDaniels – seemingly the fans’ preferred choice – and because of Minnesota’s poor offensive performance in their playoff loss to the 49ers. He’s untested as an HC, and was second choice when Kitchens was ultimately hired 12 months ago, which makes him feel like a consolation prize.
The outlook: Only time will tell whether this was the right move, but Cleveland seriously need an experienced, attack-minded guy to take their offence by the scruff of the neck and sort it out. But hiring an unproven Head Coach won’t give the long-suffering fans in Cleveland much confidence that they’ve got one right for a change.
The verdict:The jury’s out. How many times have the Browns been primed to turn things around at last, only to fail? They haven’t kept an HC for more than four seasons over the last 20 years. Stefanski may succeed where others before him have fallen by the wayside but he isn’t a safe bet. It’s a coin-flip for me but at least he shouldn’t be any worse than Freddie…
Next stop in our whistlestop tour of the NFL 2019 season, today we head to the AFC North and breakdown the laughing stock of the NFL over the last few years, the Cleveland Browns.
entering the season
Has there ever been more hype around a team as there was regarding the Browns this past off season?
Buoyed by an encouraging end to the 2018/2019 campaign and the acquisition of a certain Odell Beckham Jr, big things were expected of Baker Mayfield in his second season behind center.
The trenches on both sides of the ball were a concern going in but the volume of quality skill players meant a first winning season of the decade was the absolute minimum expectation with playoff football being the realistic aim.
During the season
It unfortunately unravelled pretty quickly. The Titans trounced the Browns in week 1 at home was a sign of things to come.
Despite evening up their record at 2-2 with a huge road win against the Ravens no less, the inconsistencies on the team were obvious. Cue a 4 game losing streak and all of a sudden the Browns were in a hole.
Playoff hopes were reignited after wins over the Bills and Steelers but that November 14th game effectively ended the Browns season.
With the game wrapped up a mass brawl ensued on a meaningless garbage time play. It ended with Myles Garrett, who had been the Browns stand out defender on the year, swinging his helmet at Mason Rudolph. An indefinite suspension followed and with it, any realistic hopes that the browns retained of the playoffs vanished.
Further inconsistent play, riddled with baffling coaching decisions and play calling mean the Browns finish the decade as the only NFL team without a winning record.
It feels like it is said every off season, but make no mistake this is a huge one for the browns. A coaching change already in the books with Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski replacing Freddy Kitchens. Not quite the veteran presence to control the locker room and stamp out the indiscipline that is required but we’ll wait and see.
They still have unquestionable young talent throughout the roster in the likes of Nick Chubb (NFL rushing leader), Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and assuming no trades, they will bring back OBJ and Jarvis Landry again.
The bigger question is who is Baker Mayfield? The cocky and arrogant gunslinger who let his play do the talking in year 1, or the often sulking, off target and off timing thrower we saw in year 2.
The offensive and defensive line should be the priority in the off season. The tackle positions on the offensive line have been a liability all year and 2 quality starters are required there. On the defensive side, it is a case of adding quality depth to the 4 starters, assuming Myles Garrett is reinstated into the league. The browns are likely to move on from a few higher earners in Damarious Randall and Christian Kirksey so look for another aggressive off season from the front office.
Many of the reasons for optimism at the start of this campaign roll over into next year. The Browns have a young core to build around and with the right guidance and additions on the lines, should be primed for a nice bounce back campaign.
This is the Browns though, so please, don’t quote me on that!
By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y) and Euan De Ste Croix (@dissy89)
be the Turkey at Thanksgiving?
they’ve done away with the Galloping Gobbler award on thanksgiving, many people
will be looking to see if Jason Garrett will be ripe for roasting once again as
they host the Buffalo Bills in their traditional home Thanksgiving game.
A lot of criticism
went Garrett’s way after his decision to kick a field goal late in the game at
Foxboro’ and the dangerous Buffalo Bills could put Garrett and his coaching
qualities under the spotlight once again.
The Cowboys missed an opportunity to steal a march on the NFC East, which would have given him a bit less of a hotseat. With the Eagles now having an easy stretch of schedule, the Cowboys cannot afford to slip up, although it’s likely the NFC East title will come down to their Week 16 game, even if the Cowboys fall to a game behind. IF that scenario does play out, will Garrett even be the coach then?
Other potential Turkeys include third stringer QB David Blough for the Lions who goes up against a Bears defence that’s actually giving up less points than they did last year (funny how our opinions see them as less fearsome), Mitchell Trubisky (no explanation needed) and the Atlanta Falcons, who have to prove it all again after their defeat to the Bucs as they host the Saints.
game between the Steelers and Browns needs no introduction but this particular
fixture will have more spice than Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.
be a few key protagonists missing from the game that were involved in the
skirmish 2 weeks ago, some through suspension (Garrett, Pouncey) and some
through inability to function as an NFL player (Rudolph).
be lost is the heavy hitting, cheap shots between the players looking to
continue their scuffles.
Keep an eye
on the referees in this one as they will try to maintain order in the AFC North
battle. The Browns will want the win more as they still have an outside shot at
the playoffs, but can they keep their composure, can they execute their plans,
something they’ve struggled with all season.
The mouthwatering clashes keep on coming for the neutrals as 49ers and the Ravens, the 2 trailblazers with a combined record of 19-3, meet this Sunday. Yet again the 10-1 49ers are the ones who seemingly have to prove their credential for the Super Bowl whilst many are quick to brandish Lamar Jackson the MVP award and the Ravens a Super Bowl berth.
This is of course a Super Bowl rematch from the “Harbaugh Bowl” back in Super Bowl XLVII when the Flacco led Ravens came out victorious of the Colin Kaepernick led 49ers in the Mercedes Benz Super dome (and of course that famous blackout).
Can the 49ers now do it on the road after recording home victories the past few weeks against the Packers and Cardinals. Teams usually get their due when travelling to tough environments in the NFL as home comforts can usually get you bye in case of any struggles.
There will be no room to hide with the spotlight currently beaming down on these two teams and it will be fascinating to see who comes out victorious when the dust settles.
LA-st chance Saloon
That Jared Goff Contract is not looking like it will be conducive to them reappearing in the Super Bowl anytime soon.
With their embarrassing loss to the Ravens at home on MNF, the Rams are now 6-5 and 3 games back off Seattle, 4 off of the 49ers and 2 games back in the Wildcard race where the Vikings currently sit with the #6 seed.
It’s amazing how not even a year ago, the Rams annihilated everyone that was put in front of them and it was about this time last year when we were treated to the 100+ game in LA vs the Chiefs.
That Rams team is a far cry away from what it is now and you have to wonder whether or not McVay and co have the ability to turn it around.
Their recent trade for Jalen Ramsey means they don’t have any picks of great value for the next couple of years and Jared Goff’s salary means that they can’t move on from him (nor Todd Gurley’s for that mattter).
It could be a spiral out of control situation and it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility that the whole organisation is blown up.
PS: Dallas, send the Rams a 1st round or 2nd rounder for McVay.
An AFC South battle sees the current #8 and #9 seeds going toe to toe in effectively a playoff matchup.
Indianapolis and Tennessee will leave it all out on the field in Lucas Oil Stadium as the winner could potentially move in to the 6th seed which the Steelers currently hold. Pittsburgh face the Browns and the #7 seeded Raiders face the Chiefs, so chances are the winner here leap frogs all of them.
The Titans has seen a resurgence under Ryan Tannehill, currently the highest rated QB since he took over from Mariota. HC Mike Vrabel and OC Arthur Smith will look to keep on rolling as they face a slightly banged up Jacoby Brissett, Marlon Mack-less Colts team. Indy have won the last 3 between these two so recent history is against them but this wasn’t a Ryan Tannehill led Titans team.
The Titans then travel to Oakland before facing Houston in 2 of their last 3 games.
You have to feel the Titans have it all in their hands. The question is can they grab it?
Can the decibel best the mentor?
Bill O’Brien is comfortably the most successful graduate from the Bill Beikchick coaching tree but that is hardly a seismic feat. After serving under the most successful head coach of the modern era from 2007-11, O’Brien must be considering privately, this Sunday Primetime game, would represent his best chance to finally claim a victory against the New England dynasty. But Bill is currently 0-5 against them and 0-2 since the drafting of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Perhaps the closest the the Texans have come was in Watson’s rookie season. Not going for a 4th & 1, saw the Texans hand the ball back to new England and miss out on their best chance to beat their perennial superiors rivals since 2011.
The New England offence, post the loss of Gronkowski, is still attempting to find an identity and it’s output won’t be one that will scare any potential opponents and particularly Watson and the Texans offence who will likely fancy their chances, all things being equal. The key will be – can O’Brien’s Houston team learn from the great one and play mistake free football? A central theme to the success for footballs ever persistent powerhouse.
The Texans have their not so secret weapon in speedster, Will Fuller, who O’Brien publicly declared the up turn in Hopkins and Watson’s game when he’s on the field. Fuller, often injured, but immeasurably effective when on the field, has missed the previous two clashes with Watson under centre.
If O’Brien and his coaching staff can come out of the headlights of a primetime game win against his professor, prior to move Pat’s personnel chief, Nick Caserio, to Houston as GM this off season. Then the Texans will possibly have their first one over New England in a long time, until at least the play-off’s.
A Cross-State Battle with more Questions than Answers at QB.
Tampa Bay visit their Florida rivals in Jacksonville this Sunday in a game that will likely be shunned by neutrals and for good reason. The visiting side perhaps put their best performance of the season against division rivals in Atlanta, last Sunday. Jameis Winston, continues to the show up short of his draft status and the franchise is at a cross roads on what to do with the 5th year passer.
Taking last weeks game in isolation, that alone would suggest Winston would be in line for an off-season extension, but his interception filled stint would not in Tampa, would not. Winston has 5 games to avoid a career as eternal back-up. Regardless the outcome, a year on the franchise tag may be all he can hope for, if he’s to stay in south Florida.
On the other side of the field, a similarly intriguing proposition lies, as big money free agent and former super bowl MVP, since returning form injury has appeared to take Jacksonville backwards. In his absence, Gardner Minshew appeared to have won the job in 9 games posting, 13 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and racking up 2,285 yards at a completion rate of above 60%. Losing both games since his return, albeit putting up more accurate passing numbers, Foles has thrown two TD’s but the team doesn’t appear to carry the same spark as it did, when Foles was watching from the sidelines.
The Jag’s are not so far removed and from an AFC championship berth but have had many salary-cap casualties when signing Foles to a his deal. It could be argued that the lack of cap space was the initial driver of the Jalen Ramsey trade and it would seem they are lily to lose edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. A lot is riding on Foles to be successful in Duval county but it would seem, the rest of their roster has suffered in an attempt to replace the Blake Bortles saga.
Both teams are looking for reasons for optimism but it would seem change lies ahead in either coaching or personnel to revive either teams fortunes.
Games to Get Right Or Quelling underlying fears?
Both Philadelphia and Carolina face two games which on the surface of it would seem automatic wins. Both are 10 point favourites. Both, on the surface have strong rosters and will feel their respective records should be healthier than they currently read.
Regardless if they win by the outlined margin, does the 6.25% step forward, really represent anything other than short term progress. The Eagles, at the outset would have been set for a Super Bowl run or at least deep into the play-offs, by many on lookers. Hindered by a poor secondary and a quarterback – who after a number of injuries and changes to his offensive personnel – seems lost, in not overwhelmed. Wentz’s regression is stark and in spite of a bounce back game on Sunday against Miami, there are longer terms concerns for a team who were heralded for Howie Roseman’s roster building acumen. This is now the second consecutive season of under achievement after their Super Bowl win and concern has to be there and unaffected, even by a 50-point win on Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers, have a quandary at the most important position in all of sports also. The continual decline of Cam Newton’s health has seen Kyle Allen step in a lead the ship admirably. An underachiever in the college game has never been doubted talent-wise but it would appear his consistency and application has. There have been some strong outings for Allen. But he also has has some games to forget, the showing at home versus at Atlanta, rightly called into question his decision making. Even with a strong follow up performance against a struggling Washington team, Kyle will be looking to re-assert some positively after their narrow loss to New Orleans. A game they should have won, if not for the missed five points by their rookie kicker Joey Slye.
There are question to be asked about how much Allen’s play is bolstered by Christian McCaffery’s all-pro and possibly MVP calibre season at running back. As limitations have been shown, so is there enough there to give confidence to ambitions new owner, David Tepper? A many who made his fortune in investments, will shortly tell us how willing he is to invest the future of the franchise in Kyle Allen.
Does Defence win Championships still?
The adage has been echoed round NFL-based discussions for decades. If you didn’t have a league leading defence with multiple blue-chip players, at all three levels your chances were nullified. This uprising of the San Francisco 49er’s has perhaps shown that the notion is alive and well. The undoubted strength of the team is it’s defence. The litany of first round draft picks across its front seven make it difficult for the opposition to move the ball. Whether it’s, Ford, Bosa, Armstead, Thomas or Bucker. There isn’t 5 tougher blocking assignments for an offensive line in the game.
This front has allowed the linebackers and secondary to flourish with the additional pressures this unit brings. Witherspoon finally seems to be realising his talent at corner and Richard Sherman appears to be having a plus year, after looking not his former self last season. So the leading statement has proven to have varying levels of validity across the season. So much so, the performances have been questionable from their quarterback but Jimmy-G plays within a system that he suited to and it doesn’t require him to chase big plays outside of it. The running game the defence will ensure that’s not the case. But Sunday they face their biggest test of the year.
An apposing body evidence to this argument would be the Baltimore Ravens who, defence is strong in its own right and have done an amicable job of letting players go and finding replacements throughout the draft. But their real revelation has been the improvements show in the game of second year quarterback, come magic man, Lamar Jackson.
After crashing out the play-off’s he has come back with vengeance. Their unique brand of offence is an intriguing one which relies on the run. The league seem to have changed and in a way that has allowed Jackson to flourish rather than one that would have traditionally rejected his athleticism. His play and level at the offence is running at, is unrivalled through this point of the year. The two and three tight end sets have allow Baltimore to control the line of scrimmage and pick off high percentage throws and run the ball to the tune of over 200 yards per game.
The 49ers perhaps pose the strongest test of their system to get the best out of Jackson. This Sunday, will likely be one for the old school lovers of ground and pound running game. Whilst the game could provide a timely reminder that in 2019 offence may well win championships. Or is the old platitude still correct? The number 1 rushing team plays the number 2 team in a clash which should help us in that understanding, come Sunday.
Only the Young & Offensive Minded need apply
When a failed college head-coach in Cliff Kingsbury was hired by the Arizona Cardinals it seemed odd. Relieved from his duties at Texas Tech, he had only just taken up the Role of USC’s offensive co-oridnator in the weeks prior. But some how he had landed one of the prized 32 gigs to coach at the highest level. It seemed odd on the face of it. Kingsburry was allowed to draft Kyler Murray No1 overall in this years draft, re-make an offence and a team with limited talent for year one of a multi-year project.
Last off season – that was the latest trend for every franchise who wanted to get ahead of the curve or at least join it, was to hire a specific model of coach, to take them into the next decade of a changing league. At one point last off-season the common joke was: “I once cleaned Sean McVey’s pool so I’d like to apply for the Head Coaching job.”
Fast forward not even three quarters of a season and those remarks certainly won’t contain the same level of relevancy, compared to when team owners/GM’s were looking for a new team leader, last off season. Often referred to as an acronym off ‘Not For Long’ the NFL has a habit of building you up just as quickly as it will bring you down with a crash. The Ram’s offence appears to have embodied a typical NFL cycle and crash it has done, but with such alarm. After letting linemen leave the building and extending Jared Geoff, no longer receives to the same level of protection and wide open targets he previously enjoyed. It would seem that their once heralded system appears to have dropped in effectiveness. Just as the brightest head coach in the NFL galaxy doesn’t appear quite as bright as it once gleamed.
Now, Sunday represent a milestrone game and clear barometer of how these two young coaches are set for the following seasons and beyond. Both need a further influx of talent to be competitive with the play-off calibre teams. But it will show, how was has Geoff fallen from his perch of league leading offence against a questionable defence – out with safety Budda Baker. But it will also show how the QB of choice, young dream coach experiment is rounding into shape.
It will be an intriguing watch if this archetype is desired for the next round of, off-season, head coach carousel, in 2020.
Oakland Raiders rookie fourth round DT Maxx Crosby had a monster 4 sacks against the Bengals to move up to joint 9th in the NFL and 3rd amongst rookies.
Sam Darnold had 4 TD passes for the New York Jets in their 17 point win against the Redskins, his first 4 TD day in his 20 game career.
Talking of the Redskins they managed their first TD since the 3rd Q against the Dolphins on October 13, thanks to second year RB Derrius Guice.
The Atlanta Falcons won their second game in a row whilst only allowing their opponents to get a single-digit score (this week 3 against the Panthers).
Minnesota’s 4 point win against Denver is the first time since 2014 a team has come back from 20 or more points at half-time to win a game.
With 788 rushing yards Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is ALREADY 7th in the all-time rushing yards gained by a QB in a season. He needs 252 in 6 games to get the crown.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman tossed the 2nd TD pass of his career to beat the Eagles. Edelman is one of 15 non-QBs to have a career perfect passer rating.
And a final historic appetiser – One former NFL non-QB leads the NFL all-time in passing yards (350), passing touchdowns (9) and interceptions (6) – take a bow Walter Payton.
Steelers (5-5) @ Browns (4-6)
The Steelers were on a four-game win streak, and the Browns were in danger of their entire season imploding as we went into this TNF divisional matchup. It was a torrid affair for the eyes, as Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph looked dreadful even before WR Ju-Ju Smith Schuster went out with concussion.
This was an old fashioned brutal game that was personified by a hit dished out by Browns safety Damarious Randall on WR Dionte Johnson that caused blood to come out of his ear. The hit could be justified as not a complete head hunt, but what followed was indescribably common assault. The Browns, who rode the storm of an ugly contest were 14 points up as the Steelers mounted a final meaningless drive.
With 14 seconds left Mason Rudolph threw a short pass that gained 11 yards, then all hell broke loose. Rudolph was drilled by DE Myles Garrett. Rudolph then tried to remove Garrett’s helmet and failed. Garrett then managed to remove Rudolph’s helmet and then five seconds later cracked Mason on the top of his skull with the black and gold lid. Steelers C Mike Pouncey reacted immediately and kicked Garrett whilst he was on the ground, pinned to the end-zone by Steelers G David DeCastro. To top it off Rudolph still vocalising his displeasure was knocked to the floor by Browns defender Larry Ogunjobi.
I’ve been watching the NFL since 1985 and I cannot recall an ending like this. Garrett, Pouncey and Ogunjobi were ejected from the game and soon after all received bans, Garrett suspended indefinitely, to definitely include any involvement with the 2019 NFL season.
Using a fist to punch someone in the face is bad enough, take the Andre Johnson Cortland Finnegan fight (Week 12 2010) as an example. A helmet did get ripped off but it was thrown away, to effectively level the playing field.
On Thursday night Myles Garrett used Rudolph’s helmet as a weapon to cause harm. This was not an accident, this was done with intent, albeit with red mist clogging up the former #1 overall pick’s ability to behave rationally.
This insanity has been unpicked by former players, journalists and fans across the globe. Garrett has already broken a quarterback’s leg (Trevor Siemian) this season, but he was not known as dirty. Now he will have the helmet hit follow his career…..that’s when he gets one back.
Texans (6-4) v Ravens (8-2)
Billed as the matchup between the two most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks on the NFL (sorry Josh Allen you are a respectable third) this was supposed to be a classic high scoring contest coming down to who had the ball last. Instead we got one team on fire and one team on ice.
Despite a non-scoring first quarter this was not going to be the Houston Texans day as their first three drives ended on a turnover (fumble lost), a failed fourth down attempt and a punt. After an equally frustrating first period Lamar Jackson woke up and went 5-5 including the opening score to the lesser spotted Seth Roberts. From that point on the Ravens flicked a switch that they didn’t turn off until the fourth quarter.
The Ravens got a second TD, LJax to TE Mark Andrews to take a 14-0 lead at the half. When Jackson threw his third TD pass on the opening drive of the third quarter, to RB Mark Ingram II, it was effectively game over.
One play of note in the second half was Lamar’s 39 yard dash on a 2nd and 1. Another entry in the Baltimore QBs MVP application form. The Ravens finished with 263 yards rushing, thanks in part to a 63 yard TD rumble by Gus ‘the mini bus’ Edwards in the late stages.
Chiefs (7-4) v Chargers (4-7) in Mexico
Philip Rivers saw his season committed to the grave in a country the celebrates the Day of the Dead, as Mexico hosted the final International regular season game of the season. Four interceptions, including one in the end-zone, on a potential game-tying pass was a microcosm of another failing season for a Chargers team that on paper has talent throughout.
The Chiefs Patrick Mahomes was not en-fuego in the air, but some chunky RPO (run pass option) plays yielded chain moving first downs precisely when they were needed. Veteran KC RB LeSean McCoy, who carries the ball in the same way a granny would after collecting a seeded bloomer from their local bakery, was able to take his loaf into the end-zone. He was also targeted 6 times, hauling in 4-28 to outpace KC’s number one WR Sammy Watkins (2-26). Big respect to L.A. RB Austin Ekeler who had 8-108 in the air. His 65 catches only trails leading pass catcher WR Keenan Allen by 5 pigskins.
The Chiefs are still atop the AFC West, and undefeated in the division, but the rather stinky breath of the Oakland Raiders is fresh in the face of those in red and white as the pirates trail by one game and are on a three-game win streak.
Matty Ice cracks top 10
With his seventh 300+ passing game of the 2019 under his belt Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan moved to number 10 in the all-time regular season passing charts.
The man he happened to pass has a bronze bust in the NFL and CFL Hall of Fame – Mr Warren Moon. Moon in fact has a Super Bowl winners ring, as a Seahawks broadcaster, earned 13 years after he was enshrined in Canton.
Ryan himself will tip over 50,000 yards by the end of this season, having reached 49,383 since his 2008 rookie campaign. Ryan has started 183 games in his career, having missed his first start in since 2009 just a few weeks ago. An absolute model of professionalism, Ryan is Hall of Fame worthy with 313 career TDs and just 142 interceptions. Don’t expect Ryan to run, but be instead mildly surprised that he has darted for 1,225 yards on the ground and 9 scores.
Four Pro Bowls, one All Pro appearance, one NFL MVP and one Super Bowl played is not the most impressive CV of all time, but anyone who reaches 50,000 passing yards, which Ryan will, likely by Week 14, deserves a moment of praise.
Massive game for those chasing the division titles in the
NFC and NFC North as the Dallas Cowboys host the Minnesota Vikings.
With Philadelphia on a bye, the Cowboys need to win to keep
their heads just in front of Philadelphia and it’s looking fairly likely that
the 2nd placed team in the East could miss out on the playoffs.
Minnesota at 6-3 still sit one game behind Green Bay over in
the North and whilst, this one is possibly less important for the #SKOL army,
they don’t want to run the risk of running in to the cowboys for the wildcard
and losing on the head to head tie breaker.
It may be a tight, cagey affair on Sunday Night Football,
and that’s just Kirk Cousins we are talking about. Whilst Kirk most recently
won vs the Redskins on Primetime television on TNF, it is more than well
documented that Cousins can have the tendency to be a rabbit in the floodlights
when push comes to shove.
Can Captain Kirk pull his socks up and lead his Minnesota team to a victory this week? His current record of 6-13 in primetime games suggests not.
Life after Cam
It’s going to be interesting watching how Kyle Allen performs down the stretch now that he is going to be starting from here on out.
Cam Newton has recently landed on Injured reserve, leaving
us to wonder whether Cam Newton will ever be seen in a Carolina jersey again
(look out for an article on that coming your way) but now you have to debate
whether the pressure is now more on Kyle Allen to perform as he is “the guy” or
whether there is less pressure on him as he no longer has to look over his
shoulder or live in Cam’s shadow.
Kyle Allen does have the pressure of getting the Panthers to
the playoffs though as they are right there in the thick of the wildcard race
and that adventure makes it’s next stop at Lambeau Field.
Lights, Kamara, Action!
Some of the NFL’s biggest superstars should be returning to
the field this week with Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes and New Orleans Saints running
back Alvin Kamara should be available to suit up for their respective teams.
It’s fair to say though that the rest of the roster and the
Head coaches has performed admirably in their absences over the past few weeks.
It says a lot about the adaptability of these teams to be
able to read off a different script and still pull out the level of
performances that they have. Unfortunately now for the rest of the league, two
of th most potent and high octane offences get arguably, their main cogs back.
Will Wilson win in the West?
MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson and the Seahawks travel to
Levi’s stadium to face the last undefeated remaining team in the 49ers.
A win for the Seahawks here and the NFC West is all to play
for. A win for the 49ers, and the NFC West is pretty much all wrapped up.
Russell Wilson is coming off a 5TD performance vs the Buccaneers last week so
confidence couldn’t be much higher, and Josh Gordon has just walked through the
However, he will need to be at the peak of his powers once again as he faces one of the best defences in the league away from home to stand any chance of picking up the win on Monday Night Football.
Nowhere for haters to Hyde any more
We are just over the half-way point of the season and the general trend for feeding a lead back seems to be on the rise from twelve months ago, or maybe there has simply been less injuries at the RB position.
Standing at number eight in the 2019 rushing charts is a back that has bounced around the league and is now on his fifth team. This season, based on current projections, Carlos Hyde will break all of his own personal rushing records, and easily have his first 1,000+ season.
Hyde had two monster runs at Wembley last week, even if the longest resulted in a fumble on the goal line. His opening carry was as important as it was a tone-setter for the Texans – a 9 yard dart. That drive ended with Houston taking a 3-0 lead. Hyde ended the game with 160 yards rushing and the respect of over 80,000 fans.
For someone who never settled in Cleveland or Jacksonville, and didn’t even make it to the regular season in KC, this is a genuine comeback player of the year candidate. No need to Hyde in the shadows any more Carlos.
We’re all going on a Chubb-Hunt
Two seasons ago Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing with 1,327 yards, outpacing Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as a rookie.
Fast forward to Week 10 2019 and Hunt finally makes his season debut for the Cleveland Browns. His last NFL action was over a season ago in the game of the season as the Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51. Hunt was cut by the Chiefs for lying, when questioned, about an incident of domestic abuse that was recorded and went on to be shared on TMZ.
Many people are still divided as to Hunt’s ability to pick up his career after a half-season suspension, and the majority of teams would have stayed away from signing him because of what they saw. It does seem that in the U.S.A. and especially the NFL that players in the main get a second chance despite committing acts that are completely unacceptable.
Hunt has been out a year and starting Browns tailback Nick Chubb is no slouch, but Cleveland do need to snap out of their nightmare stretch and Hunt could offer that spark in the red zone.
Steelers storming back?
With Big Ben Roethlisberger out for the season it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following an abysmal 0-3 start Steelers are on a three game win streak and beyond the Rams face the Browns twice, Bengals and Cardinals weeks 11 to 14. Mason Rudolph has been streaky but is hanging in there. The Steelers run game has been a bit under par and James Connor is ruled out of this weekend’s contest. Another big dose of Swiss army knife Jaylen Samuels is expected. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has been underwhelming 33-459 and 3 touchdowns and the #2 and #3 WRs Dionate Johnson and James Washington have been uninspiring.
Despite all this adversity the Steelers are on a three-game win streak and have only lost once, in an epic tussle against the Ravens, since the start of October. 1-4 to a genuinely possible 9-4 record will save Mike Tomlin his job and put the Steelers in an improbable playoff position. Enjoy Sunday’s game it will be a barnstormer.
Godwin and Evans epic season wasted
What a shame that easily the best wide receiver combination in the NFL at the half-way point, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, are on a 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
The Godwin/Evans combo has 104 catches, 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns. Outside of this pairing any other WR combined have 14 catches for 145 yards and one score. Evans and Godwin have moved the chains 82 times between them to date and together are averaging 100 yards in the air each per game.
Under normal circumstances this pairing would equate to wins, but they are getting thrown the ball from an erratic Jameis Winston who goes from a 5 interception game (at Tottenham v Panthers) to a zero pick impressive display on the road at Seattle.
The Buccs offensive line is part of the problem, with Winston already on the receiving end of 30 sacks. It will be fun to watch this combo battle it out for the most impressive stat line. Who said both are going to the Pro-Bowl – I did right here!
Doggedly avoiding a cat-astrophe
In a sports league filled with bears, lions, Bengal tigers, jaguars, broncos, rams, panthers, and colts it took a four-legged friend to stroll across an NFL field last week to create a media furore akin to a niptastic Super Bowl reveal.
Some of the best social media and digital activity includes a mocked up Madden 21 cover featuring the black cat along with the Panini Huddle digital trading card app that issued a special cat card with a paw-print autograph. There has been previous animal hijinx on NFL fields before, a simple YouTube search will reveal squirrels and pigeons causing chaos in recent years.
Reality is that there are canines that make it into the seating areas of every NFL stadium every week, even when teams play in London, after all where would we be without a delightful half-time hot dog !!!!
Week 9 in the NFL saw the an undefeated team lose, an unsuccessful team win and Houston Texans demolish Minshew Mania in the final game of the International Series in London.
Here’s what else to take away from the weekend’s action.
And then there was one
With the Ravens beating the Patriots on SNF, that leaves just the San Francisco 49ers as the last undefeated team. The 49ers themselves were run close on TNF by Arizona and as well all know, anything can happen on any given Sunday.
With the schedule toughening up slightly down he stretch, it’ll be a tough ask to expect the 49ers to go the distance, but i am sure their main priority will be to clinch the division and a 1st round bye in January.
They’ll be kept honest from here on out as the Seahawks and Rams are not too far back so the pressure will be on all the way to week 17.
Kiss my butt-ker
In a slobberknocker from the early slate, the game between 2 of the better teams in the NFL got in on and the Chiefs were able to come away with the win due to the boot of Harrison Butker.
We all know about the fragility and volatility of kickers, their jobs and reliability but the Chiefs kicker put in a textbook effort that even Johnny Wilkinson would have been proud of.
With his perfect performance of 4/4 on FG (including a 54yard long) and his 2 XPs, Harrison Butker has surpassed HOF Jan Stenerud (356) for the 2nd-most points scored through a player’s first 3 seasons in Chiefs history (trailing only Cairo Santos).
I wonder what price Chicago would pay for him…
Talking of Chicago, there are some real troubles in Illinois. The first half was. not. pretty.
The last time these two met, it was in the divisional round of the playoffs last year (#doubledoink) and ever since that class, it’s all been downhill since.
Mitchell Trubisky had just 2 passing yards at the end of the 1st quarter, the Bears gained their first down INSIDE THE 2 MINUTE warning of the 1st half. Whilst they gained some traction in the 2nd half, if you can call it that (Trubisky ended up with just 10 completions for 125 yards) they were out of sight at that point with no hope of winning the game.
Nagy, Trubisky and even the defence which committed more offsides than a Fillippo Inzaghi masterclass, are all under fire for their performances to date this season.
What made matters worse, returning former Bears Alshon Jeffrey and touchdown scorer Jordan Howard enjoyed a good day on their new teams. They would have gained plenty of pleasure from heaping more misery on their former employers.
For Chicago, they must all be feeling like grizzlys with sore heads.
lockett and load it
With the 12 currently enjoying the prospect of Josh Gordon joining the wide receiving core imminiently, it’s another of their wideouts that is stealing the show.
The Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett connection is pure poetry in motion and it’s no flash in the pan.
Last season Wilson enjoyed a perfect passer rating when throwing to #16 and it’s easy to see that this has carried forward to this season.
Since the start of last season, Lockett has hauled in 103 receptions from 124 targets, averaging over 14 yards per target and a healthy 83% catch rate. For a team that use a run heavy approah, you could say that Lockett is just as important to the team as QB Russell Wilson and Chris Carson.
Lockett, a former 3rd round pick in 2015 is still searching for his 1st 1000 yard season with the Seahawks but with 615 receiving yards at the half way point, he looks certain to accomplish that achievement. He’s turning into one of the league’s best wide receivers and certainly one of the most reliable.
That will be music to the ears of Pete Caroll, Russell Wilson and the 12 as they make a push for the postseason.
The Tank Continues…..
We have been witnessing a team intent on losing in South Florida for what feels like the entire season. That continued this weekend, but not from the Dolphins themselves who chalked up their first win of the season. The narrative has been that Ryan Fitzpatrick gave them the best opportunity to win and he had himself a nice afternoon, throwing 3 touchdown passes with preseason darling Preston Williams finding the end zone twice.
Surely Adam Gase will be one and done in New York and that should signal the end of his NFL head coaching opportunities for the foreseeable future. The supposed quarterback whisperer oversaw a performance from Sam Darnold that lacked any explosion as short range passing to Jamison Crowder, Lev Bell and Ryan Griffin dominated the game plan. Much optimism in the preseason feels like a distant memory and give me the Dolphins right now to finish with a better record at season end than the men in green.
Same Old Browns
Remind me next year to not buy into any hype. Another Sunday, another defeat for the Cleveland Browns and the likelihood is that you can “stick a fork in them” when it comes to playoff aspirations. A team that has preached the importance of discipline and execution every day of the week, once again fails to deliver that mantra on Sunday. This weekend it was Jarvis Landry and OBJ wearing cleats which violated the leagues uniform policy. Not to be outdone the starting free safety then had a twitter meltdown and threatened to fight and kill anyone who rightly criticized his awful performance.
This is a team that looks lost and unfortunately the captain of the ship appears to be all at sea also. Freddie Kitchens continues to make puzzling play calls and personnel decisions such as having Nick Chubb on the bench for 2 running plays inside the Broncos 5 yard line. That sequence led to a turnover on downs and the Broncos marched the field to all but ice the game. In truth, it never felt like the Browns would do anything other than find another way to lose on Sunday.
Backing Up The Backup
Jacoby Brissett has played so well this season that the Colts haven’t had to mourn the loss of Andrew Luck on the eve of the season too much. Brissett has proven to be a more than capable starter who has marshalled the troops to a respectable position. Check the injury news this week though as he suffered what appeared to be a nasty looking injury when one of his own lineman first stood and then fell on his leg.
The initial look didn’t look good, but there was encouragement that he walked off the field under his own power, and remained on the sidelines throughout. The Colts will be desperate to get him back as soon as possible but will be fearing the worst as Frank Reich explained it could be an MCL sprain. Brian Hoyer came in and looked pretty much as he always does and proved why he was signed to fulfill the role of backup. The Colts will be hoping in a competitive division that they don’t have to play the backup to the initial backup for very long.
Double Dolphins celebrations
Not only did Week 9 witness the Miami Dolphins win their first game of the 2019 season on Sunday, their legendary 1972 undefeated team remain the only squad to go through a whole season without a loss.
Baltimore Ravens second year QB Lamar Jackson not only got the win against the New England Patriots, he managed to personally elevate himself into the running for NFL MVP in the same game. LJax and the dominant running game stomped all over the Patriots for another team 200+ yards on the ground, and three rushing scores.
Mark Ingram went over 100 yards and LJax scored twice on the ground and once in the air. The scorer of the Ravens passing td was none other than Nick Boyle, a backup tight end, and five year veteran of the NFL, who up until Sunday had bizarrely never scored a touchdown.
I hope he didn’t get too excited and throw the ball into the crowd. At his current rate he won’t get another leather souvenir of that type until 2024.
Minshew Mania mangled at Wembley
The 80,000+ crowd on Sunday were treated to plenty of replica moustaches, and even some authentic ones, along with an assortment of bandanas and handkerchiefs wrapped around fans heads as they dressed up in respect of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie QB sensation Gardner Minshew III.
Unfortunately the real Gardner Minshew failed to board the plane from Florida last week as fans were left watching a sixth round rookie perform like a sixth round rookie. Minshew Mania misfired for 60 minutes, including two interceptions, three sacks allowed and two fumbles lost, as the Houston Texans, in large part thanks to two seismic runs from Carlos Hyde, dominated a game that was billed to be a shootout. The 26-3 win for the Texans would have likely been even bigger if their All-Pro DE J.J. Watt would have been playing.
I know its not Halloween anymore but Nick Foles will be smelling blood after Minshew’s misfires. Napoleon Dynamite v Minshew Mania – for the Jaguars starting QB – sounds like an ITV PPV wrestling matchup.
Living up to their Bill-ing as an easy scalp
The Washington Redskins are trying, trying fans patience that is, after a third consecutive game without a touchdown. 0, 9 and 9, points per game, consisting of six total field-goals, is not going to earn Bill Callahan a shot at the permanent head coach position at the end of the season.
This was the first official start for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who looked uncomfortable all game once forced out of the pocket by the likes of Bills DE Jerry Hughes. To his credit Haskins lasted the whole game and did not commit a single turnover, which is a positive sign, but without any offense aside from Adrian Peterson and fellow rookie Terry McLaurin to move the sticks the prospects for the team in burgundy and gold look bleak. Even punter Tress Way who was leading the league in punt average had an under par game.
Thankfully the Redskins were on the road, against a Bills fanbase that were aggressively booing their own QB Josh Allen despite his team having an 11 point lead at one point in the contest.
Right now Redskins fans don’t care if they deliver 10 yards of offense per half (incidentally more than the Chicago Bears did in the first half of Week 9) if they get a few more wins.
One for the road…
Chargers now finally plugged in
No-one expected the Packers to lay an egg against Los Angeles this weekend.
Aaron Rodgers and the high flying packers have stormed to an NFC North divisional lead on the back of 4 straight wins.
For the Chargers though, this win puts them at 4-5 and right back in the wildcard hunt.
Mainly down to the dynamic and destructive duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers defence had it’s way with the Packers offensive line and Aaron Rodgers who turned in a Chicago Bears impersonation in the first half.
Whether the firing of Ken Whisenhunt had anything to do with it, we’ll unlikely to ever find out, but the Chargers, notoriously slow starters, are now giving themselves a chance at playing January football.
For their fans, hopefully it doesn’t take too long to get fully charged.