Today we take a look at the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers have a lot of question marks dotted all over the franchise in 2020. Were they able to answer any during the 2019 season? Let’s take a look…
entering the season
The Carolina Panthers were many people’s dark horse picks to make a decent effort in January. They drafted well in the early rounds, with Brian Burns the standout of their draft haul.
Cam Newton still struggled with niggles and injuries heading in to the season with a variety of reports from different sources ranging from “he’ll be fine” to “there’s something seriously wrong” with #1. A sprained foot in week 3 of the preseason put his regular season status in a lot of doubt. He was able to make the field but it wouldn’t be for long.
Elsewhere on the team, Matt Paradis was brought in on a three year deal to help the offensive line and heading out the exit door was WR Devin Funchess (Colts) and veteran linebacker Thomas Davis (Chargers). Matt Khalil and Captain Munnerlyn were released as surplus to requirements and to open up a bit of cap room.
during the season
On opening weekend, the Panthers were handed a tough start against previous Super Bowl participants, the LA Rams at home. They went down narrowly but the Rams always had the Panthers at arms length despite a blocked punt recovery at the 5 yard line which was converted by the Panthers.
Their fortunes weren’t any better on home turf in week 2 as the Buccaneers handed the Panthers an 0-2 start, something they had not experienced since 2013. Even more worrisome for the Panthers was the health of Cam Newton, who would not see the field again after week two with a plethora of injuries but at the forefront of those was reported as a plantar fasciitis his foot. He would later go on Injured Reserve in November.
Despite that setback, Carolina were able to turn it around and show their grit in the following 4 games prior to their week 7 bye. It was Kyle Allen and not 3rd round pick Will Grier that got the nod and Allen took his opportunity by the scruff of the neck; defeating the Cardinals to make it 200 all time franchise wins for the Carolina franchise along with wins over the Texans, Jags and Buccaneers in a blowout in London for the International Series game.
You could argue that the Panthers probably didn’t want their bye as the wheels fell off after that, only winning 1 of their remaining games in the season which came against the Titans in week 9. 4 straight defeats saw the Carolina Panthers freefall from a playoff berth towards the cellar of the NFC South. It was the loss against the Redskins that was enough for David Tepper to call time on Ron Rivera’s Head Coaching tenure in Carolina. Perry Fewell was unable to elevate the performance levels of the players for the rest of the season, losing his 4 games in charge. Will Grier was given the last few games of the season to show the coaching staff what they had as Kyle Allen’s wheels also fell off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very much and Kyle Allen saw the field once again before the season was out.
You can’t talk about the Carolina Panthers without mentioning Mr Do-it-all, Christian McCaffrey. CMC was able to have one hell of a season both on the ground and through the air, and joined an elite crew to have both 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the season. He surpassed his receptions record from last year by 9, totaling 116 receptions in his 16 games (aided by 22 receptions in the last 2 games including 15 against the Colts in week 16). Unfortunately for him, we was unsuccessful on his 2 pass attempts on the season so perhaps Mr Do-it-all is unwarranted (I kid of course). Elsewhere, WR DJ Moore had himself a good if maybe a little under appreciated season, ending up with 87 rec for 1175 yards and 4 TDs. He and Curtis Samuel will look to take another step forward as a tandem in 2020.
Where to start?!?!
Already plenty of changes to the front office with Ron Rivera packing his bags after 9 seasons, and travelled north to the nation’s capital.
His replacement? Matt Rhule, a whipper snapper from the collegiate game over in Baylor takes his place, becoming the 5th Carolina Panthers HC in their history. Following him in is Joe Brady from the LSU coaching staff, leading to rumours that the Panthers could be in play to trade up and go get Joe Burrow at #1 overall. However unlikely you feel that may be, times certainly are changing in Carolina and this team will in most facets, be completely different when August roles around.
Owner David Tepper certainly has started to roll the dice with this team and put his stamp on the franchise. Will it work out? Considering Tepper’s history and his track record, you have to feel it could come good for Carolina sooner rather than later.
That all starts with the QB position though, and that will certainly warrant attention during the off-season to see how that is addressed, if at all. Cam Newton has expressed his desire to stay, but if there is even a chance he can be traded for a decent haul to try and get that #1 pick, expect Carolina to exhaust all avenues to obtain it. If they are unsuccessful, selecting from the #7 spot will still give them plenty of options.
They will need to address some holes elsewhere, none more so than the potential Hall of Fame hole left be Luke Kuechly after his shock retirement. Veteran TE Greg Olsen is likely to follow Kuechly out of the exit door, apparently interested in joining Rivera at the Redskins. Ian Thomas will likely step into his shoes for next season.
Crunch time! This week we are treated to the NFL being spread out over the weekend with 3 games on Saturday with huge implications as the Rams travel to the 49ers and the Bills try to upset the applecart in New England.
On Sunday, the SkySports offering serves up some fantastic matchups where New Orleans continue to chase for a 1st round bye against a Titans team effectively already in the playoffs. Plus, it’s the battle for the NFC East as Dallas travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles in a winner takes all matchup.
Winners progress, losers go home. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to week 16 in the NFL.
BATTLE FOR THE EAST
Fierce rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia get it on to essentially decide the winner of the #4 seed for the NFC playoffs. Both teams have underwhelmed this year for a variety of reasons, but it all comes down to this 60 minute game of football.
A win for the Cowboys, they are confirmed champions. A win for the Eagles and assuming a week 17 win against the Giants, they are in too. The Cowboys are the healthier, more potent team this season as judged by their week 7 hammering at At&T stadium. They will also be buoyed by their dominant performance last week at home to the Rams but form goes out of the window in these types of games.
Do Dallas and Jason Garrett have the cajones when it’s all on the line? Usually not, but can they still get the job done against an Eagles team that have been on the ropes more than the Sunday washing.
The coaching and talent on the Eagles are a testament to even be in with a live shout of still winning the division, but it’s also an indictment on how poor the division has been. Still, someone must win it and become the #4 seed for the playoffs, who’s stepping up?
Buffalo-ad of this!
Buffalo travel to Foxboro’ this weekend in another pivotal divisional clashe.
A win for the Bills sees a very interesting week 17 indeed. If Buffalo win out, they will take the #1 seed regardless due to conference record tie breaker and that is one hell of a carrot dangled in front of Josh Allen and Sean McDermott. They will be in bullish (or Billish perhaps?) mood after their win away at Heinz field on SNF and it’s now a question of whether they can step up to the plate once more.
Their week 4 meeting saw the Bills blow their chances a little, Josh Allen left with a head injury and still had a few drives to go and beat them late in the 4th quarter. They’ll certainly have to execute better than they did back in September but I feel this Bills team has come quite far since that game. The Bills match up quite well against New England and we don’t need to go over the offensive struggles that Brady and Co. have experienced this season.
A win for the Patriots will secure the #2 seed too and how many times have we seen before that New England just get the job done? New England have won the last 6 between the sides and you have to go back to 2014 when Buffalo last beat a Tom Brady led Patriots (though he did exit with an injury in that one!).
NFC 1st round bye shuffle
The #1 and #2 seeds have shuffled around between Seattle/San Francisco/New Orleans and Green Bay over the past couple of weeks and the jostling will continue this weekend. The current #1 seeds have a straightforward task against the Cardinals, whilst the 49ers will have to be on their toes against the Rams. New Orleans face a tough trip to Nashville and Green Bay travel to Minnesota in a key NFC North matchup.
If results go their way, the Seahawks could potential have their hands firmly placed on the #1 seed if results go their way which will be huge for Russell Wilson and the members of the 12 to ensure they can create a hostile environment in the playoffs and seal that homefield advantage.
HitchViking a ride into the playoffs
The Vikings with a win in either of their last 2 games secure a playoff berth. Problem is they have to face old foes and divisional rivals in the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. They are at home which will help as they enjoy one of the bigger advantages with homefield.
In the 2 away games against those teams however, they only managed to must 22 points collectively and that is just not going to get the job done. This is what Kirk Cousins was brought in for, paid all that guaranteed money for; games like this.
Without Dalvin Cook who is nursing an injury and resting before helping them in the playoffs or rookie Alexander Mattison who is also struggling to be fit for the game, Kirk Cousins is going to have to step up and lead this team to victory.
A win, an the monkey starts to climb off of his back. A loss, and there is huge pressure on him in week 17 against the Bears.
battle for a top 3 pick
With Cincinnati taking on the Dolphins and the Redskins facing the Giants, the current top 4 picks in the 2020 draft face off on Sunday. It is always interesting to see how the teams down “that end” play and how much they really put in to the game.
Whilst the Bengals can win without affecting their position at #1 overall, the other 3 teams could see themselves cause detrimental ramifications should they win a game. These games will be nothing more than a “look at the result after the game” types of affairs, but for the fans of the respective teams, i guess it’s nice that the fans will still be biting their nails during the game, even if it’s for different reasons.
Three Griers for Will!
Carolina turn to their third QB of the season as 2019 3rd round pick Will Grier enters the fray. Kyle Allen seemingly not the answer for the Panthers front office and David Tepper, Grier has 2 games to show what he can do.
He faces a Colts team that is there for the taking and a New Orleans Saints team which should have something to play for. Quite a contrast in matches will mean ample sample sizes for the team’s scouts and evaluators to see whether he could be the answer and not theoft injured Cam Newton.
Whilst we wont know until late in the offseason who will be the starter, Will Grier has the chance to make a lasting impression and put down a marker for next training camp. At the very least, he can stop the Panthers from drafting a QB or signing one in Free Agency….
the afc #6 a steel?
It seems to be a straight shootout now between Pittsburgh and Tennessee for the #6 seed in the AFC. The Steelers have the easier schedule with the Jets and Ravens to come, the Titans have the better QB but face New Orleans and Houston. Both defences are pretty stout, perhaps the edge going to Pittsburgh but the Titans have the better running game and the healthier team. Pittsburgh have the tie breaker on Tennessee so effectively just need to beat the Jets to punch their ticket to Arrowhead.
Whichever team makes it will be a heavy underdog going in to what is likely to be Kansas City. Considering both teams’ journies this season, I think they will take just the chance to cause an upset in January (the Titans have previous vs the Chiefs!).
you’re quinn denial, dan
Dan Quinn was a hot favourite to be handed his P45 on black monday, but after the handful of decent performances by Matt Ryan and the Falcons including their most recent victory as time expired against the 49ers, it’s now a bit more up in the air.
The Falcons are 5-9, which is still a bitter disappointment comparing it with pre-season expectations, but they’ve won 4 of their last 6 including 3 divisional wins on top of the 49ers victory. divisional wins have slightly more weight put on them due to their importance so if the Falcons are able to beat the 5-9 Jaguars and the depleted 5-9 Buccaneers, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Dan Quinn comes back next year.
He’ll definitely be getting “Blank” stares until the season and he walks in for his performance review…
is drew a lock for denver qb?
Drew Lock has performed well in his first 3 starts as Denver Broncos QB; A divisional win against the Chargers to go with a road victory against a playoff team. His last start against the Chiefs can be written off due to the weather and uncomfortable surroudings but all in all, the 2nd round pick from this year’s draft has probably outperformed his expectations when coming in, he was quite a raw prospect.
John Elway has never been the most convincing with his selections in the draft so far, especially at QB, but Drew Lock is looking like he fits over in Mile High. Whilst his completion % is low and his interceptions were not pretty, both lending to his gunslinger mentality, there are certainly some tools there for Lock to fine tune over the offseason and potentially be the answer at QB over in Denver.
With the weapons at his disposal sure to be added to during the offseason to compliment the running game, Drew Lock and the Broncos may not be in that bad of a position to challenge for January football come 2020.
A big tell will come against the Detroit Lions, as we will see how he responds to that rough game against Kansas and the criticisms he would have endured this week.
With Cam Newton currently recuperating from his various ailments, and Kyle Allen’s lustre swiftly wearing off during their last 2 losses, which has left the Panthers very much on the outside of the playoff race, big decisions will have to be made throughout the franchise over the next few months. Ownership, coaching staff and contract extensions could all be affected by Cam Newton’s situation with the Panthers, never mind the dominoes that could fall throughout the league.
David Tepper, the owner of the team, made his own statement when he spoke with a group of reporters last week, giving support to Newton that was lukewarm at best, saying ‘no decision had yet been made on his future’. It was certainly intriguing that Tepper rejected the opportunity to throw his support behind his franchise QB, and presumably Newton himself noted the lack of enthusiasm.
Lets take a look at the various people who have a stake in the former MVP’s future prospects.
During his 2nd stint as GM of the Panthers, Hurney gave Newton his initial extension in 2015. With that contract expiring after the 2020 season, Newton has work to do to persuade the Panthers organisation to give him another massive contract.
The Panthers’ have a large group of players currently scheduled to hit free agency this spring, including Shaq Thompson, Mario Addison, James Bradberry and Gerald McCoy, with only approximately $40m of cap space, plus they may have to deal with star Christian McCaffrey’s contract. Cam Newton’s release or trade would free up $19m of space, and leave only $2m of dead money on the cap.
While Cam’s contract for next year is a relative bargain of $21m, if their medical department has concerns over his future recovery and prospects, could they possibly decide to trade one of the most important players in franchise history?
Riverboat Ron has an expiring contract in 2020 meaning if David Tepper and GM Marty Hurney see him as being their coach for the future, he’d be likely to receive an extension during the upcoming offseason.
However, Tepper’s recent comments have shown the owner is not willing to settle for mediocre, Rivera’s record as a HC is 76-61-1 (0.554), and his Panthers have yet to record back to back winning seasons in his 9 seasons as HC.
If the top brass decide they need to reload at QB without Cam and rebuild the roster for the future, they may well look for a new coach to lead that process.
As possibly the best all-around back in the league there’s little doubt that electric playmaker Christian McCaffrey will remain a part of the Panthers for the foreseeable future. He has 1 year left on his deal, with a fifth year option too, but is eligible to receive a new contract for the first time during the upcoming offseason, and will undoubtedly be a priority for the Panthers’ hierarchy.
However, as previously mentioned, Carolina have a lot of decisions to make over their upcoming 2020 free agency class with limited cap space to work.
After Zeke Elliott’s holdout during this years camp will RUN-CMC follow his lead and insist on a new deal before reporting for work? It’s worth noting his agent is Joel Segal, who represented both Chris Johnson and Khalil Mack during their holdouts.
The Panthers’ replacement for Cam Newton is also a restricted free agent this spring, if Carolina decide to retain Newton he may look to use his performances this year to persuade teams that he could be a bridge QB at the least.
While his performances have tailed off badly over the last few weeks if he can finish the season strongly, he could have an opportunity to win a starting job in a training camp next summer.
2020 QB free agents
If Carolina do decide to cut ties with Newton, he would join a crop of veteran and possible bridge quarterbacks (possibly including a GOAT). While some of these will almost certainly end up re-signing with their current teams, at the moment signal callers of the calibre of Brees, Brady, Winston, Bridgewater, Mariota, Tannehill are scheduled to become free agents this spring.
Also, there could be movement in the trade market with Rosen, Dalton and Trubisky all facing some questions over their futures.
With half of the teams in the league looking for improvements at the position, almost certainly Carolina would have a robust trade market for the former NFL MVP.
Tampa Bay, Chicago, Denver, Tennessee, Miami, Oakland, Cincinatti, LA Chargers would all make some sense as trade partners.
2020 QB draft prospects
There is also the prospect of Carolina becoming a serious player in the QB stakes early in next years NFL draft, while they did spend a 3rd round pick on Will Grier this past year, he has yet to see the field in regular season action.
With Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and the recently injured Tua Tagovailoa all potential 1st round picks, the Panthers will be doing their due diligence on the prospects entering the league.
While the question marks will remain, and are unlikely to disappear until Cam Newton returns to the field, the best option for all concerned would probably see Cam Newton play out his current deal in Charlotte, proving his fitness and durability prior to signing a new deal to play out his career in the area he has come synonymous with.
However, there’s a long way to go before we can have any certainty about anything with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. When we do get certainty, the ripple effect willhave huge ramifications.
Today’s Half-Term report focuses on the AFC and NFC South.
Which teams are heading south in terms of short term outlook and which teams will we be watching in January?
Let’s find out.
Indianapolis Colts 5-2
Houston Texans 5-3
Tennessee Titans 4-4
Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4
How has it gone so far?
Having your starting franchise quarterback retire on the eve of the season would knock many of a franchise for 6. Thankfully for the Colts, they had a very good back up plan in Jacoby Brissett. He has marshalled the troops to a 5-2 record and crucially a big win in the division against the Houston Texans. Another significant road win was earned at Arrowhead as the Colts took down the Chiefs. They are positioned nicely for any potential tie breaks that may come into play come the post season shake up.
Marlon Mack is on pace for over 1000 yards rushing as there has been a clear commitment to establish the running game. With that said, T.Y Hilton is also putting together a nice receiving campaign and has already found the endzone on 5 occasions.
Rest of Season Outlook:
With games against the Steelers and Dolphins next on the slate you would have to fancy the Colts reaching a 7-2 mark ahead of a vital 3 game divisional game stretch. They then face 3 foes from the NFC South before closing out the campaign away at Jacksonville which could be a hugely important contest.
Ranked as a top 10 defence, expect the Colts to continue to be involved in competitive games but get enough production offensively to come out on top more often than not, particularly if the ask is for Adam Vinateri to kick the game winning field goals, something he has done consistently better than anyone else ever has done.
Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5(Division Winners)
How has it gone so far?
What a fun team to watch! The Texans always seem to be involved in a game packed with points or lead changes. DeShaun Watson is a special player who Texans fans can look forward to seeing playing for many a year, especially if he is protected. Thankfully the team took steps to address the protection issue by trading for Laremy Tunsil. Yes, the price was high but the pay off has been instant as the sack numbers have come down over the past month.
Carlos Hyde has been a nice addition in the backfield and DeAndre Hopkins is on pace to reach over 1200 yards receiving. The biggest surprise has been the production from tight end Darren Fells who along with Watson himself paces the team with 5 touchdowns.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Similar to the Colts, the Texans have a big stretch of key divisional games coming down the tracks. In an ultra competitive division it’s obvious to say how crucial these games will be. One of those games is this weeks matchup with the Jags in Wembley as they make the plane journey across the pound for the first time. A marquee matchup with the Patriots is also looming on the horizon which could have bearings on AFC playoff seedings all around.
Expect more great value out of the Texans as we head towards the business end. The loss of JJ Watt is a massive blow and possible keeps them behind the Colts but still very likely to be playoff bound.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6(Wildcard spot)
How has it gone so far?
A huge opening day win had people talking about the Titans. 7 weeks on and rather unsurprisingly the Titans sit at a 500 record. A team so inconsistent they are impossible to get a read of.
The inconsistency has lead to a much overdue change at the quarterback position as former Dolphin, Ryan Tannehill has replaced the underwhelming Marcus Mariota. The Titans have responded with 2 wins in his 2 starts as he looks to stake his claim on the job for the long term.
AJ Brown has been a nice addition at the receiver position giving whomever plays quarterback a nice big target on the outside. Derrick Henry continues to churn out yardage and defensively Logan Ryan is having a nice campaign having forced 3 fumbles and compiled 3 interceptions so far on the year.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Almost impossible to predict what this team will do. One thing is for sure though, if nothing else, the next 8 weeks are a trial for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans only sit 1 game back on the divisional lead so they can not be written off by any stretch of the imagination but there can also be no amount of confidence placed in them either.
The only thing I can say with relative confidence is the Titans finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-8
How has it gone so far?
The Jags celebrated the off-season moves to address the quarterback position. Nick Foles threw a beautiful touchdown pass in his opening game but got injured on that play. It might be the best thing that could have happened to the Jags.
Enter Gardner Minshew.
The unfancied rookie has been phenomenal, throwing for just shy of 2000 yards with 13 touchdowns to just 2 picks.
Leonard Fournette has put together a nice season on the ground and the locker room looks a far more harmonious place following the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams. 29 sacks on the season also has the “Sacksonville” label ready to return.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The biggest question ahead of the Jags, is can Minshew hold onto the job when Nick Foles returns to fitness? The London game starts a sequence of 3 divisional games which as per all of these teams will be vital given the tight nature of the standings.
Outside of the remaining divisional games the schedule is favourable with the Bucs, Raiders, Chargers and Falcons on the slate a realistic playoff opportunity is in sight.
I feel they just miss out on a tie breaking scenario.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7
New Orleans Saints (7-1)
Carolina Panthers (4-3)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
Atlanta Falcons (1-7)
Midseason grade: A
How has it gone so far?
After franchise icon Drew Brees’ injury in week 2’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, most hoped backup QB Teddy Bridgewater could keep them in playoff contention until Brees returned. Bridgewater managed that and more, winning all 5 of his games during the future Hall of Famer’s absence.
With Ryan Ramczyk and the rest of the O-line performing at a high level, running lanes have been there for both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, with Saints averaging well over 4 yards per carry this year and only giving up 12 sacks on the year so far, while largely neutralising rushers of the calibre of Khalil Mack and JJ Watt.
The defence has also more than played their part with the 2nd ranked rush defence, Cameron Jordan playing to all-pro standard and Demario Davis leading the linebacker core.
Rest of season outlook:
This squad is set up for a deep run in the playoffs and will hope to bring a 2nd Lombardi trophy back to the Big Easy. A matchup with the unbeaten 49ers looms large on December 8th which could go a long way to deciding playoff positioning.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 13-3 (#1 Seed)
Midseason grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
Carolina’s season has been a confusing one to say the least, franchise QB Cam Newton continued to struggle in the early part of the season, continuing a worrying trend from the latter part of 2018.
When he succumbed to lingering issues after week 2’s loss to the Bucs most thought the Panthers hopes relied on him returning form injury in short order, however up stepped second year undrafted QB Kyle Allen, winning 4 four consecutive games to drag the Panthers to the edge of the NFC playoff race before week 8’s sobering blowout loss to the 49ers.
Rest of season outlook:
While the odds would appear to be against the Panthers making a playoff run, any team with the talents of all-pro LB Luke Kuechly and the electric Christian McCaffrey can’t be entirely ruled out. It will no doubt hinge on when (or maybe even “if” at this point) Cam Newton returns and how much ring rust there is to shake off.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7
Midseason grade: C-
How has it gone so far?
Tampa look like a franchise approaching a turning point. With QB Jameis Winston in a contract year and the same old issues of turnovers blighting the offence, it would appear there are poised to reset at the position after this year. However, there are other issues that need to be addressed before the Buccaneers can make a realistic run at the postseason. While Winston is certainly not without blame for his poor ball security and decision making, the offensive line is porous at best.
There are certainly pieces promising a better future, with Chris Godwin making his awaited step forward this year, to give a formidable 1-2 at receiver with Mike Evans. Shaq Barrett, Carl Nassib and Devin White have all impressed at times this season, but the secondary is a real weakness surely that must be addressed this offseason, with the 31st ranked pass defence this season.
A huge plus so far has been the top ranked run defence, shutting down the likes of Gurley, McCaffrey and Barkley. Certainly however, the Bucs have a lot of question marks going into the offseason, surely they must identify a QB to take the team forward but will HC Bruce Arians stick around to be a part of it?
Rest of season outlook:
Bruce Arians has a lot of deadwood potentially to clear out on the roster on the offence whilst the secondary always seems to be a quandry for the Buccaneers so i would expect the HC to use the rest of the season to assess players that he wants to use going forward and those that he wants to chuck out.
That includes 1 Mr Jameis Winston.
Midseason grade: E
How has it gone so far?
Arguably no team has been more disappointing than the 2019 Falcons, the defence has had a myriad of problems leaving HC Dan Quinn under huge pressure to salvage his job over the second half of the season.
While only 7 sacks in 8 games tells its own story of where things have gone wrong, things have hardly been much better at the other end of the field with the secondary giving up big plays on a regular basis. Keanu Neal’s season ending injury in week 3 meant one of the big leaders in the secondary was missing for almost the entire season for the second year running.
While the offence has got plenty yards from messrs Ryan, Freeman, Jones et al turnovers have plagued the offence, giving away 9 interceptions and 6 fumbles, ranking 28th in the league for turnovers allowed.
Rest of season outlook:
While spirited showings late in games seem to show the locker room is still working for Quinn, big questions hang over this franchise’s future direction. Don’t be surprised that if by the time you are reading this, he is out the exit door.
The season is already over to the dismay of the Falcons’ faithful and you have to wonder whether it’s time to blow most of this team up and try to start again because despite all the talent on both sides of the ball, something just isnt right here. Maybe all it’ll take is a coaching change…
While watching Cam Newton struggling over the past few years, it’s easy to forget just how spectacular and exhilarating his play has been since his rookie year in 2011. Winning rookie of the year honours, setting NFL rookie QB records for both passing and rushing, he lit up the NFL and seemed poised to become one of the faces of the NFL for the foreseeable future.
While details are murky over his latest injury and his
timeline for recovery, it’s fair to wonder if we may have already seen the best
from the man nicknamed ‘Superman’. With
Kyle Allen performing admirably in his stead through the last two weeks, it may
be the Panthers’ top brass choose to ride with Allen rather than risk Newton’s
recovery over the rest of the season.
With Newton’s contract up after the 2020 season, it was
expected that Cam would sign a new deal to remain a Panther at some point
during the season. While those contract talks are surely on hold during his
injury lay off, could this also mean the end of his time in Charlotte.
Carolina also selected a QB relatively early in this years
draft, taking Will Grier 100th overall with their 3rd
round compensatory pick, this was the first QB drafted by the Panthers since
selecting Cam at the top of the 2011 draft. Almost certainly, this was intended
as a developmental pick rather than as a direct challenge to Newton’s status in
However, given they already had a young developmental arm in
the building in Allen, was this move foreshadowing Newton’s injuries being
worse than they were letting on? Newton was bothered by a shoulder injury
throughout the second half of the 2018 season and underwent surgery in January
of this year to deal with the problem. This surgery led to him missing the
Panthers OTA’s although he was able to participate in their training camp. His
throwing motion seems to have changed since the surgery, and he was put on a
snap count through camp to manage his workload.
With Kyle Allen’s impressive performance in relief, Newton’s
shoulder problems and his uncertain recovery from his foot problems, and a top
brass of owner and GM who were not insitu when Newton was drafted, could they
decide a rebuild is needed? Would they even be willing to enter talks with
Newton for a new deal given his injury problems of the last few years?
As mentioned earlier,
Newton’s contract expires after the 2020 season, although he could
theoretically be released with only a $2mil dead money charge left on their
cap. Much more likely if the Panthers decide to move on, is they will have many
suitors eager to take their chances on the once-electrifying playmaker.
The best outcome for all parties would surely be Newton
regaining fitness and form and remaining in Charlotte, he has grown synonymous
with the Panthers, and has proven to be a hugely popular leader in the locker
room. He has built roots in the area, and through his foundation has given a
huge amount of time and money to philanthropic causes in the Carolinas.
Hopefully, the effervescent, charismatic Superman can once again work his magic.
By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)
Week 4 is done and dusted! It goes so quick! Before you get ready for the waiver wires in fantasy and don your NFL shirt to go to the Wembley game, here are the main stories to take away from last weekend’s action!
The New Monsters of The Midway
We knew going into the game at Soldier Field on Sunday that the strength of both the Vikings and Bears lied on the defensive side of the field. We left the game without a doubt that one of those defences is far superior to the other and that defence belongs to the Chicago Bears.
The loss of Vic Fangio has not led to any drop off as Chuck Pagano is marshalling a defence that is the most loaded in the league. On pace for 32 takeaways, 2nd in the league for sacks and 2nd in the league for pts allowed per game this unit as awesome.
Khalil Mack is obviously the star but bear in mind they did this Sunday without Roquan Smith and Akiem Hicks, the sky is literally the limit for these monsters.
He probably will not win it, but, Christian McCaffrey should be considered for MVP honours. Remember what MVP stands for? Is there any single player more valuable for their team than the Panthers running back?
Playing in a ridiculous 98.3% of the offensive snaps so far on the season, McCaffrey once again was the offence on Sunday. A career high of 37 touches produced 93 rushing yards on 27 carries and 86 further yards through the air on 10 catches. The all important touchdown was also produced inevitably by CMC as the Panthers improved to 2-0 without Cam Newton.
Carolina is proving it can survive without their grandma impersonating quarterback, they will keep everything crossed they don’t have to deal with life without #22.
Step Away From The Kliff Edge
Remember when we were excited to see what Kliff Kingsbury would bring to the NFL? A promise of an air raid offence, ran at speed that defences would have no clue of how to stop it.
Well that was the advert at least.
The reality? How do I put this politely? A bit of a snooze fest. Yes the Cardinals run a lot of plays, that is backed up by the fact Kyler Murray is averaging 42.5 pass attempts per contest so far in his short (no pun intended) NFL career. The problem is the lack of explosiveness, it’s all a bit too safe, a bit too dink and dunk.
Of course the problem for the Cardinals is that’s all well and good until you get behind on the scoreboard as was the case again this weekend. They are not built to play from behind and the supposed revolution is certainly yet to materialise.
Feed The Chubb
It took 4 weeks but the “real” Browns showed up in Baltimore. Powered behind a career day from Nick Chubb, Cleveland dominated the Ravens by a score of 40-25 to take the early lead in the AFC North.
Chubb gashed the Ravens for 165 yards and 3 scores on the ground and unsurprisingly with that level of production on the ground, Baker Mayfield looked the best has all season in this one. Jarvis Landry also has a career day with 167 yards receiving as the much talked about group finally produced.
All of a sudden things are looking up in NorthEast Ohio and the talk of Freddie Kitchens being in over his head and Baker Mayfield being overrated will be silenced for a week.
If the Browns continue with this formula they should be the team to beat in the division, as the saying goes “feed the Chubb and he will score”.
Vontaze- Far From Burfict
In quite possibly the shortest ever takeaway….. Goodbye and don’t ever come back! How on Earth this guy was made a team captain I will never know. His shot on Jack Doyle was disgusting and the league has rightfully acted by suspending him for the remainder of the season. Fingers crossed he never sees a field again!
Clever Trevor earns his Spurs
Staying with the Raiders, when the Green Bay Packers traded WR Trevor Davis to the Raiders after Week 2 the transaction barely made a ripple. Now it’s making a king size bar of Fruit and Nut.
In the first quarter of the Raiders Week 4 victory over the Colts Davis returned a punt one yard but remained on the field. Chucky must have been impressed by Davis’s running ability when he faced him in the 2019 pre-season, as he gave the former Cal star the handoff on first down. The result a spectacular 60 yard rushing touchdown and a 14-0 lead. Brought in as a return specialist Davis is no replacement for AB but he has an excellent opportunity to impress.
The development continues for Davis at Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground on Sunday against an opponent he will be very familiar with from his former NFC division. Davis may be a gadget player, but if he continues to make highlight package plays then we could see his role expand. Not a bad debut to make in Silver and Black.
Kerryon impressing please
Sid James, if he would have been a Detroit Lions fan, would have plenty of reasons to unleash his trademark cackle in years past at a moribund running game in the Motor City, but it’s all change now.
Once considered a laughing stock, and even cursed since the shock retirement of Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders, Detroit went a stupendous 70 games without a 100-yard game on the ground from an individual player. That was finally called to a halt in 2018 when Kerryon Johnson finally reached the century mark. Week 4 2019 saw Johnson have his third 100+ yard game in just 14 career contests.
If he remains injury free Johnson can establish himself as a top 10 NFL RB. 26 carries at almost five yards a carry against the Chiefs will be pleasing Coach Beardtricia. Johnson had been having a rough start to the season, failing to reach a ground-based half-century between weeks 1-3.
This game may not have resulted in a Lions win, but it shows Kerryon is reliable and on his way, if the climate controlled dome wind goes in his direction, for a 1,000 yard plus rushing season.
Somebody is melting away their window of opportunity
There is a QB who is second in the NFL in passing yards, has recorded four consecutive 300+ yard performances, is third in TD passes thrown and is completing over 70% of his passes. This is the same QB who leads the league in interceptions thrown and has managed a maximum of 24 points in four games to date. Stand up, or in the case of a rookie led offensive line, sit down on your backside Matt Ryan.
There is no denying Ryan is a savvy veteran passer who knows how to move the ball, is accurate, and calm in the face of pressure, but 1-3 is not what Falcons fans were expecting. Ryan was one period of greatness from a Super Bowl win just three years ago, and expectations were high coming into the 2019 season.
Ryan is being let down by a sub-par running game especially Devonta Freeman who is yet to find the end-zone through the ground or in the air, and is averaging a six-year career low 3.3 yards a carry. The Falcons have winnable games coming up, but they need the running game to mirror Ryan’s consistent output.
The irony of Matty Ice needing to warm up the rest of the team is not lost, but he needs to cut out the interceptions and quickly. When you have Julio Jones catching the ball you know there is a game-breaking threat available on any play.
The weapons are in place for a team to be performing better than the 1-3 record they currently boast at the quarter point, let’s just hope Ryan goes full Elsa in October.
More tanks than an aquatic superstore
The narrative before the season was that the Miami Dolphins would be tanking for Tua (Tagovailoa) and nothing has been done on the field to contradict that position. The only problem is there are three other teams vying for absolute dreadfulness and possibly a shot at the number one pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
The single most disastrous team in the NFC is the Washington Redskins, who gave their rookie QB Dwayne Haskins his first NFL regular season outing in Week 4. Poor Haskins looked out of place and frankly befuddled by a Giants defense that scares nobody. Three interceptions in relief of Case Keenum will be a hard debut game to forget for Haskins.
In the AFC the Bengals and the Broncos are also winless. At least Joe Flacco is helping Denver to be competitive. Devastating last second field-goal losses in Week 2 (v Chicago) and this past week against Jacksonville will be hard to cope with. In Ohio the Bengals are back bungling. The red rifle Andy Dalton has suffered 19 sacks in four contests and seems to be struggling making reads and avoiding pressure. Dare it be mentioned, but is it time to give fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley a shot in the stripy helmet before the mid-point of the season?
The Dolphins are still favourites to finish the season 0-16, but this is going to be a bizarre race to the finishing line with a Redskins team that will be matching Miami week by week for on-field inadequacy.
The fact they play each other in Week 6 will be entertaining, with the winner losing their grip on the keys to the tank.
Singing the praises of two superb secondaries
When you make Tom Brady look like a backup and hold a potential league MVP to no touchdowns then you need to be recognised for doing your job well.
Both the Buffalo Bills and the New Orleans Saints secondaries excelled in Week 4, one in a six-point loss and one in a two-point win. Perhaps the biggest single difference maker was the Saints third-year corner Marshon Lattimore who punished Cowboys number one WR Amari Cooper all day. Cooper caught a season low 62.5% of balls thrown his way, had his lowest yards per target (6) and was held under 10 yards a catch for the first time in 2019.
Often corners and safeties get recognised for big plays such as the Rams Marcus Peters who returned the pigskin to the house against the Buccs on Sunday just a few plays after being burnt alive by Mike Evans for a 60 plus yard score. However, it is the performance that might not show up on the individual’s defensive stat sheet, but is instead reflected in the game’s final outcome that is the true definition of excellence.
Between the Saints and the Bills secondaries we could be looking at a couple of All Pro’s and at least four Pro Bowl nods. When you hold Tom Brady under a 50% completion rate you deserve a cheer, and was it not for the injury to Josh Allen this could have been a week where secondaries clearly decided the fate of their team.
It’s no surprise the Bills and the Saints are both 3-1. This is a passing premium league, so if you can neutralise the primary threat you stand a good chance of being alive when it comes to January.
We hope you picked up Terry McLaurin and John Ross over the last week as they produced stellar fantasy performances in Week 2. Let’s take a look at the guys that you should be looking to acquire ahead of Week 3.
Josh Allen – Quarterback, Buffalo Bills – owned by 30%
Week 2 was the demise of a couple of veteran quarterbacks, with Drew Brees tearing ligaments in his hand (6 weeks injury) and Ben Roethlisberger ruled out of the rest of the season with an elbow injury. So if you’re licking your wounds from losing your QB, or you’re in the business of streaming your QB, we have found your guy.
Allen is surprisingly undervalued in fantasy terms, particularly as he was the QB2 for the final 5 games of the 2018 fantasy season (we don’t count wk17). So far after two weeks in the 2019 season, he is QB12 and has come off a decent fantasy performance versus the New York Giants (22.1 points). He has thrown for over 250 yards in both games this season, a feat he didn’t achieve in his rookie year. With Allen’s propensity to scoring rushing TDs (scored in both games this season) and with a plus matchup in their home season debut versus the Bengals, look to him to be your QB going forward.
Raheem Mostert – Running Back, San Francisco 49ers – owned by 11%
The 49ers have been sneaky good to start the season, with them starting the season 2-0. Jimmy G looks good and the running back duo of Breida and Mostert both are playing well and that’s before we get to the master of vulture Jeff Wilson.
Mostert in week 2 rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries and had 3 catches for 68 yards and a TD. The Niners face a struggling Pittsburgh side next, who may struggle to keep the offense on the field after their spate of injuries. Mostert will have a lot of flex appeal in week 3, ahead of their week 4 bye so pick him up and reap the rewards.
DJ Chark – Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars– owned by 22.2%
Chark over the first two games has performed more than admirably, particularly as they have lost their franchise QB Nick Foles to injury. Week 1 he scored 24.6 points in full-PPR, by way of 4 receptions for 146 yards and a TD, and then followed that up with 7 receptions for 55 yards and a TD in Houston.
The second week performance was key, as this came with the brilliantly named Gardner Minshew under centre. Now the schedule is not that kind to the Jaguars, with them facing the Titans, Broncos and the Panthers in their next three outings. Pick him up and matchup dependent stick him in your flex.
Demarcus Robinson – Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs – owned by 1.1%
The human cheat code. Yes, you know who we’re talking about – Patrick Mahomes. He elevates guys on his offense from relative unknowns to fantasy superstars.
Week 2 was the turn of Demarcus Robinson to ‘ball-out’ with an incredulous 6 catches for 172 yards and 2TDs. Four of the Chiefs receiving corps scored over 10 points in full-PPR and with Tyreek Hill out for an unknown period of time we can expect the targets to remain spread as Mahomes continues to blitz the league. Week 3 brings the matchup against the Ravens, who just let Kyler Murray throw for 349 yards on them. Robinson was on the field for 69% of snaps so look to him to provide your x-factor in the coming weeks.
Greg Olsen – Tight End, Carolina Panthers– owned by 58.7%
The old man is back to producing fantasy performances! If you are one of those that do not own Kelce, Ertz, Kittle or Andrews; you’re probably scrambling to find the guy who will obtain a reasonable number of points at the TE position. In week 2, Olsen had a stat line of 6 receptions for 110 yards for a massive 17 points in PPR.
This has all happened whilst Cam Newton has been nothing short of disappointing with his inability/refusal to move around the pocket. Next up for the Panthers is a trip to Arizona and their swiss cheese defense in relation to covering the tight end. In the first two weeks, they have given up 131 yards/1TD to Hockensen and 112 yards/1TD to Andrews. Look to Olsen to provide that matchup specific stellar performance when you’re in need.
Week 2 is already here folks. Time flies when you are having fun!
Hope everyone enjoyed their stay at overreaction town, now it’s time to depart for context city, where hopefully you’ll be able to see some indicators as to what was the real deal and what were outliers from last week.
Here are 10 things we are looking forward to this week in the NFL:
The Panthers QB will be looking to rectify a performance from week 1 that was classic Cam. Some good plays but also a few errant and shocking high passes.
66% completion rate is about where Cam has been with Norv Turner pulling the strings but if it wasn’t for Christian McCaffrey, these numbers would not be great at all. You could argue that this is now the offence the Panthers will employ going forward.
As per next gen stats, Cam only attempted 1 pass over 20 yards in the week 1 game vs the Rams which agrees with the narrative that the offence is going to show similar results this season. Yes he attempted around 40 passes, but if they are averaging on 5 yards in the air, is it really a proper NFL throw?
The players they have in McCaffrey, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel suit the style they are trying to enforce on other teams but I think this merely could be covering over some cracks. Is this the play style because of Cam’s shoulder or is this a coincidence?
The problem is, every team needs a vertical threat; if it becomes too predictable and similar to the chart above, Christian McCaffrey may struggle to be as efficient as he has been thus far because teams will just load the box and ask Cam throw longer passes. Below is DJ Moore’s routes run vs the Rams, not even an indication that there was an interest in throwing deep. Unfortunately, i dont have Curtis Samuel or Greg Olsen’s routes run because i feel these would probably be a bit more vertically orientated.
Back to Cam though, the reason I say all this is and that it is something we are intrigued in seeing in week 2 is that we still probably require further confirmation that Cam’s shoulder is #fine and that his play is not restricted by the multiples surgeries endured over recent years. We’d all love to see him at least attempt a few more deeper passes right?
What wont help is a short week this early on in the season so all eyes will be on Cam in Thursday Night Football as we try to ascertain whether or not everything is ok with #1.
Da do Ron Run Run da do Ron Run
Arguably the single most disappointing rookie performance by anyone drafted in the top two rounds of last year’s draft was Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones II, who recorded 44 yards at 1.9 a pop in the whole season. Already Jones has almost doubled his performance with 75 yards on the ground in Week 1 (at 5.8 a carry) along with an 18-yard catch. If Jones keeps up this rate of rushing he can end up with 1,200 yards of ground and pound.
The Buccaneers face the Panthers in Week 2, a team that gave up over 150 yards rushing and two scores to the Rams combo of Gurley and Brown. Jones may not be listed as the starter but if his contributions remain positive then he will take carries away from Peyton Barber. Buccs fans will likely be in for another season of mediocrity but they could have bit of a dusty gem that is starting to sparkle in the Florida sunshine.
Don’t You Forget About Me!
It’s easy to forget that Sammy Watkins came off the draft board earlier in 2014 than both Mike Evans and OBJ. The former Clemson star has often been out performed when compared to his peers in the same draft class, but maybe, just maybe 2019 will be different. Watkins exploded out of the gate on Sunday with a 9 catch, 198 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Showing plenty of breakaway speed to pile up yards after the catch, he was the best friend of Pat Mahomes to open up the season. With the news that Tyreek Hill will miss 4-6 weeks through injury, Watkins is in a prime position to remind everyone of the talent he possesses for a red hot Chiefs offence that will surely have too much for the Raiders. Let’s see if his week 1 performance wasn’t just another tease of his brilliance and he can find some consistency.
Hype Train Derailed?
Freddie Kitchens wanted to know how his team would handle adversity, He gets his wish in week 2. Humbled by the Titans in a week 1 blow out, the eyes of the nation will be looking for a response on Monday Night Football. The talent in the skill positions offensively appears to be in place but can the Browns find a way to keep Baker Mayfield upright? He was harassed all throughout the opener as the obvious preseason concern was exposed by Cameron Wake and co. One storyline that has slipped under the radar in this one, is the fact that the Jets DC is now Gregg Williams who was actually the man in charge of the Browns during their renaissance in the 2nd half of last year. He will be out to inflict more misery on his former employers after not securing the job permanently. With the Rams ahead on the week 3 schedule could we already be talking about a must win game for the off seasons most talked about franchise?
Time to call a Gardner
After winning a Super Bowl by coming off the bench in the regular season, the irony is not lost in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars starting quarterback Nick Foles is now the one injured whilst his backup is now in the spotlight. The big difference here is the guy in the spotlight is the 2019 version of Nick ‘who the hell is that’ Mullens.
Gardner Minshew bounced around three colleges in four years of eligibility, starting at tiny Northwest Mississippi Community College (who gave us Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison) and ending up at Washington State, helping them to 11 wins in 2018. The Jaguars drafted Minshew in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and we all know what happened to a certain gentleman who got drafted in the sixth round. Minshew’s surprise debut was special, 88% completion rate, two tds and almost 300 yards in the air.
Minshew will be an underdog against the Texans, but we have seen they are vulnerable in the air (Brees torched them for 370 yards in Week 1) so this suddenly becomes a fascinating contest where we get to see if the grass is greener when you use a Gardner.
I’m arriving on a Jet plane
The Antonio Brown saga has taken a turn this week that is beyond any form of joke, but keeping this strictly on the field the Jets are now part of this extrapolated storyline after the Patriots traded Demaryius Thomas to the Big Apple, the green ones of course.
Thomas comes into the Jets just as the incredibly unlucky Quincy Enunwa is put on season-ending I/R with a recurrence of a neck injury that cost him the 2017 season. Thomas is four years older than Enunwa and is more prone to dropping the ball, but the important factor of chemistry will be eased by the fact Demaryius was coached by Jets head coach Adam Gase when he was receivers coach and offensive coordinator in Denver from 2010-2014. Sam Darnold and Enunwa had worked on exclusive routes together and now it will be a case or re-establishing part of the offensive game-plan.
The Jets face the Burst Bubble Browns in Week 2 and they match-up well against Cleveland. It might only be Week 2 but the loser here goes 0-2 and starts facing a lot more scrutiny. Worth staying up for in the unsavoury hours of Tuesday morning to see how this one plays out.
Best Of A Bad Bunch?
They say that defence wins championships, the Broncos will be hoping that statement rings true based on the state of their quarterback room. Joe Flacco looked as advertised in week 1, not the worst quarterback in the league but immobile (always) and inaccurate (at times).
Vic Fangio, the former Bears DC who will surely have a perfect game plan to get the best of the Bears at home whilst also trying to confuse Trubisky with disguised coverages, I expect a turnover feast.
Both sides need to bounce back from opening week defeats and maybe for one of the few times this year, Denver will get superior quarterback play.
Talking of Chicago, many folk in Illinois including Matt Nagy, were not happy with the way the Bears performed on opening night.
“3 points is ridiculous” said the Bears HC after the game and he’s right. You do not win games scoring 3 points.
How will he, Trubisky and the Bears team rebound?
It gets even spicier once you realise that they travel to Denver, an already difficult away destination to get a W from. Why is it spicy? They not only travel to a hard and hostile environment, but they also travel to play a team whose HC is Vic Fangio, a guy who will know a hell of a lot about the team after being their DC last year.
Other storylines include how will the Chicago backfield work in the rotation? Will they lean to their defence once again to try and get a win on the road?
More importantly, are Chicago in trouble??
As for Mitch Trubisky, you want to give young guys time and we shouldn’t forget he only started 13 games in college but the fact is he still looks like a rookie in year 3. Several of his passes give opponents chances for picks, particularly when he throws across his body to the left.
Lot’s of intrigue in this one, just like a cabaret (Chicago reference).
DOING THE BARE MIN-IMUM
Staying in the NFC North, a tasty game for the eyeballs at Lambeau.
This game is another one of those that the fully guaranteed Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has to try and get the monkey off his back in the sense that he can’t do it when it matters.
Only attempted 10 passes in week 1, so his arm is going to be sore and you would expect him to throw more in this one.
Packers squeaked a win at Soldier field on opening night whilst the Vikings could not have been more dominant vs a fancied Falcons team.
A win for a the Cheeseheads here wouldn’t mean at the very worst, split records against their divisional rivals, something Minnesota probably need to avoid to have a chance at winning the division or perhaps even a wildcard spot.
The same fixture last year ended in controversial tie with 2 missed Field Goals both at the end of the game and 2 in OT, multitude of bad referee calls on hits. It had everything. The final spice in the melting pot.
If Minnesota get the win here, it’ll be another “really unique” thing for Cousins this season.
Remember, dont do the wave!
Every angle has been covered about the notorious non PI call from last year’s championship game (wonder if Paddy Power will do a special on whether a PI call will be reviewed).
Luckily for the Rams, this isn’t back at the scene of the crime but judging by LA’s fanbase, there will be a lot of Saints fans in the stands with referee uniforms on.
Can emotions stay in check for the Saints? Can Goff and company put the saga to rest? And will there be any more incidents as bad as that one back in late January?
Both of these teams met in a classic in the regular season too and this one should be no different. Two high powered offences with great players and playcallers. One for the everyone to sit down and enjoy on the late slate of games. Both will no doubt be expecting to make the post season and likely write in another log of this recently fierce rivalry.