Season in Review – Cincinnati Bengals

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Today’s flashback to the 2019 NFL season is through the lens of Bengals fans. Let’s get to it!


entering the season

All off season it seemed as though the entire NFL was on the hunt for the “next Sean McVay”. Well the winners of that race was to be the Bengals as they snagged Zac Taylor to lead the franchise after finally parting ways with Marvin Lewis.

Was this finally the year that Andy Dalton moved out of the definition of bang average to something better than that? Would the offence have more variety and explosion? Could AJ Green stay healthy?

Defensively there was a lack of firepower going in and the Bengals polarised opinion form being basement dwellers to one of the league’s most under-rated teams.


during the season

On the road in week 1 to Seattle is never an easy assignment but the Bengals pushed them all the way and were unfortunate not to leave with a win.

Some further close defeats followed at the hands of the Bills, Cardinals and Ravens as the Bengals failed to register in the win column before making the trip across the pond to battle the rams at Wembley Stadium. Unfortunately for UK fans the losing streak continued as the Rams took care of business. Attention started to turn towards the 2020 season and if the Bengals could register a win at all during the campaign.

Image Credit – Wilfredo Lee / AP

A move at quarterback followed the bye week with Ryan Finley, who had been impressive in preseason, given the opportunity to start week 10. His 3 game audition bought 3 more defeats to move the record to 0-11 before the ginger prince was reinstated into the lineup for the week 13 encounter with the Jets.

December 1st was the 1st win of the Bengals season and in the coaching career of Zac Taylor as the Bengals caught the Jets on one of their regular an off days to win 22-6. A return to losing ways followed however and a week 16 loss to the Miami Dolphins secured the number 1 pick in the 2020 draft for the Bengals.


offseason outlook

The excitement will now build for the franchise as we head towards the draft. Most draft analysts will have them slated to take Joe Burrow to become the signal caller on a team that has had 10 years of middling play at the position. However, do not be fooled into thinking that the problems on this team all stem from Andy Dalton.

Image result for joe burrow
Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty

There are issues on the offensive line (seemingly always), AJ Green never saw the field this year and is likely done in the jungle so a new wide receiver is needed.

Upgrades are required throughout the defence and it would be wrong to not at least debate if Zac Taylor is the right guy after a 2 win season.

There appears to be plenty of work ahead in Cincinnati to reshape the Bengals into a competitive unit. I wouldn’t rule out a trade down from number 1 overall if the can find a willing trade partner, with the Dolphins sitting at 5 (and armed with ammo) the most likely candidate in this scenario. 

Half-Term report – AFC/NFC North

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

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


AFC North

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

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

*BALTIMORE RAVENS*

Midseason grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 – Division Winners


*CLEVELAND BROWNS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

The talent is there, can they turn it around?

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9 – Miss Playoffs


*PITTSBURGH STEELERS*

Midseason grade: C

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 6-10 – Miss Playoffs


*CINCINNATI BENGALS*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

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

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

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NFC NORTH

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings

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

*GREEN BAY PACKERS*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 12-4

*MINNESOTA VIKINGS*

Midseason grade: B

How has it gone so far?

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

Rest of Season Outlook:

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 11-5



*DETROIT LIONS*

Midseason Grade: C

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-7-1


*CHICAGO BEARS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9

AFC North Breakdown

By Thomas Rowberry (@Rowberry_)

Last Season

Baltimore Ravens 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-6-1

Cleveland Browns 7-8-1

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Baltimore Ravens

Draft Selections: Marquise Brown, WR (1.25), Jaylon Ferguson, OLB (3.85), Miles Boykin, WR (3.93), Justice Hill, RB (4.113), Ben Powers, G (4.123), Iman Marshall, CB (4.127), Daylon Mack, DT (5.160), Trace McSorley, QB (6.197)

Offseason Key Additions: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks), Mark Ingram, RB (New Orleans Saints), Seth Roberts, WR (Oakland Raiders)

Offseason Key Departures: Terrell Suggs, OLB (Arizona Cardinals), CJ Mosley, LB (New York Jets), Eric Weddle, S (Los Angeles Rams), John Brown, WR (Buffalo Bills), Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Green Bay Packers), Joe Flacco, QB (Denver Broncos), Michael Crabtree, WR (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 40-1

Analysis: Eric DeCosta’s first offseason as ‘the guy’ was spent overhauling the Ravens roster to fit the skills of their young signal caller. DeCosta completely overhauled the offensive threats around Lamar Jackson, ridding the team of starting receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree whilst adding former Saints running back Mark Ingram to be a bell cow back and drafting college standouts Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Miles Boykin as downfield threats.

Defensively the Ravens lost as much talent as any team in the league, losing stalwarts Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Eric Weddle as well as pass rushing specialist Za’Darius Smith. That being said they may now have the best defensive backfield in the league thanks to the addition of former All-Pro Earl Thomas who joins Marlon Humphrey, Travon Young, Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. The one area that remains a concern for the Ravens is the front seven, the losses of CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith haven’t really been addressed in the offseason meaning the likes of Tyus Bowser, Kenny Young and third round pick Jaylon Ferguson are going to need to have big seasons to cover the losses.

Don’t get it wrong, Baltimore still have one of the best situations in the league. There is talent at the offensive skill positions, they have one of the best offensive lines in the league and arguably the best defensive backfield in the league. Baltimore will be good.

Look Out For: The thing everyone is looking out for regarding the Ravens is the evolution of Lamar Jackson, will he take the steps to become a true passer in the NFL or will the Ravens zig whilst the league zags and lean into the running game that served them so well last year? One team played the Lamar Jackson led Ravens last year, the Los Angeles Chargers, they figured the Ravens out and forced Jackson to throw the ball to disastrous results so unless Jackson has improved the Ravens could struggle offensively even with the talent around him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Selections: Devin Bush, LB (1.10), Diontae Johnson, WR (3.66), Justin Layne, CB (3.83), Benny Snell Jr, RB (4.122), Zach Gentry, TE (5.141), Sutton Smith, LB (6.175), Isaiah Buggs, DE (6.192), Ulysees Gilbert III, LB (6.207)

Key Offseason Additions: Donte Moncrief, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars), Mark Barron, LB (Los Angeles Rams), Steven Nelson, CB (Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Offseason Departures: Antonio Brown, WR (Oakland Raiders), Le’Veon Bell, RB (New York Jets), Morgan Burnett, S (Cleveland Browns), Jon Bostic, LB (Washington Redskins)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: Has a team ever lost two of the best players at their respective positions in one offseason before? Because that’s what happened to the Steelers this offseason. Following a 9-6-1 season that saw Le’Veon Bell sit out the year and Antonio Brown ‘quit on the team’ the Steelers parted ways with both, allowing Bell to sign as a UDFA for the New York Jets and trading Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of draft picks (2019 third and fifth round picks).

In Bell and Brown’s absences last year the Steelers saw running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster breakout as two of the best young players at their respective positions, they’re hoping for similar jumps from their supporting casts. Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league so with Conner, JuJu and a supporting cast that features Vance McDonald, Eli Rogers and James Washington the Steelers offense should remain one of the best in the league.

In Devin Bush the Steelers have one of the most highly touted rookies in the league and look to have finally found someone to have filled the gap created by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury a few seasons ago. Reports suggest that Bush is already showing up as a leader for the Steelers defense, a unit which has been missing a true leader in the middle of the field.  The Steelers defensive backfield should be much better in 2019 with the additions of Steven Nelson from the Chiefs and rookie Justin Layne, both of who should feature somewhat heavily after seeing disappointing play from the likes of Artie Burns in 2018.

Look Out For: In order for the Steelers to be great this season they’re going to need Big Ben to have one of his best seasons, their schedule looks one of the most difficult in the league with them typically facing three tough games to every ‘easy’ game this season – First four quarter of the season see them play the Patriots, Seahawks, 49ers and Bengals, the second quarter sees them play the Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins and Colts, the third quarter they play the Rams, Browns, Bengals and Browns before finally ending the season with games against the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.

This team is still one of the most talented in the league, and they still haven’t had a losing record with Mike Tomlin as Head Coach but the schedule is rough, the offensive skill position players surrounding Conner and JuJu are mostly unproven at this point so if Big Ben doesn’t have a big season the Steelers could be in for a long season.

Cleveland Browns

Draft Selections: Greedy Williams, CB (2.46), Sione Takitaki, LB (3.80), Sheldrick Redwine, S (4.119), Mack Wilson, LB (5.155), Austin Seibert, K (5.170), Drew Forbes, T (6.189), Donnie Lewis Jr, CB (7.221)

Key Offseason Additions: Odell Beckham Jr, WR (New York Giants), Kareem Hunt, RB (Kansas City Chiefs), Olivier Vernon, DE (New York Giants), Sheldon Richardson, DT (Minnesota Vikings), Morgan Burnett, S (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Key Offseason Departures: Kevin Zeitler, G (New York Giants), Jabrill Peppers, S (New York Giants), Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Kansas City Chiefs), Brien Boddy-Calhoun, S (Houston Texans), Breshad Perriman, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: After a 7-8-1 season that saw Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and Gregg Williams given their marching orders and Baker Mayfield break the rookie touchdown passing record the Browns & John Dorsey have spent the offseason building arguably the most talent laden roster in the entire league. This offseason has seen the Browns acquire arguably the best receiver in the league in Odell Beckham Jr, one of the best but most troubled backs in the league in Kareem Hunt, beefed up a defensive line that already featured Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi with the additions of Olivier Vernon & Sheldon Richardson.

The Browns offense has the potential to be one of the best units in the league, Baker Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns in just 13 games last season as a rookie. With a full offseason working as ‘the guy’ in Cleveland it’s fair to expect him to make a leap this season, especially when you look at the talent Dorsey has put around him. Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku as receiving targets, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield…. There isn’t a more talented offensive roster in the league.

The Browns defense isn’t to be laughed at either, Dorsey and his staff have put together a defense that could be every bit as good as the offense. There aren’t too many defensive lines better than the Browns in the league right now, the linebacking group is solid without having a true superstar and now their secondary has a cornerback tandem that could develop into one of the best in the league with rookie second round pick Greedy Williams partnering sophomore Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.

Look Out For: Is it wrong to say the Browns as a whole? A team that went 7-8-1 last year probably shouldn’t be as high on people’s radars as the Browns are but they became one of the most fun teams to watch once Baker Mayfield took over last year and now have a roster full of blue chip talent. This Browns team could go onto win the Super Bowl as early as this year BUT they also have the potential to implode.

As good as Mayfield has been he runs his mouth a lot and could rub his teammates, will Odell Beckham continue to be as divisive as New York media would have you believe he was for the Giants? Can he co-exist with Jarvis Landry? Is Freddie Kitchens up to being a Head Coach after only a handful of games experience as an offensive co-ordinator? Will suspensions for Kareem Hunt and Antonio Callaway hurt in the early part of the season? And will the weight of expectations be too much for the Browns young roster to handle?

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Selections: Jonah Williams, OT (1.11), Drew Sample, TE (2.52), Germaine Pratt, LB (3.72), Ryan Finley, QB (4.104), Renell Wren, DT (4.125), Michael Jordan, G (4.136), Trayveon Williams, RB (6.182), Deshaun Davis, LB (6.210), Rodney Anderson, RB (6.211), Jordan Brown, CB (7.223)

Key Offseason Additions: John Miller, OG (Buffalo Bills), Kerry Wynn, DT (New York Giants), B.W. Webb, CB (New York Giants)

Key Offseason Departures: Vontaze Burfict, LB (Oakland Raiders), Michael Johnson, DE (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 100-1

Analysis: Has a team had as bad an offseason as the Bengals this offseason? The Bengals FINALLY made a good move in letting Marvin Lewis leave, replacing him with 36-year-old Zac Taylor but since then they have done very little to inspire confidence going into this season.

They spent very little in the offseason, John Miller will likely start at guard for them but he isn’t exactly great. Kerry Wynn and BW Webb were both backups for the Giants and will likely struggle to get into the Bengals rotation in the defensive line and secondary respectively. Many have questioned the quality of the Bengals draft class, which is now under more scrutiny with top pick Jonah Williams likely missing the entirety of the 2019 following surgery on a torn labrum. Star receiver AJ Green suffered ligament damage in a preseason practice session and will now likely miss 6 to 8 weeks, oft-injured speedster John Ross was expected to have a bigger role this year but he’s been out with a hamstring injury since July.

There just isn’t a lot to talk about with the Bengals, their draft was underwhelming, their offseason additions don’t inspire confidence and they’ve suffered injuries to two of their most important players this season. The only real positives for this team is that they do have talented young players and have one of the best running backs in the league in Joe Mixon. This could be a long year.

Look Out For: The Bengals aren’t going to be good in 2019, I know it’s a bit harsh to be so blunt but they play in a division that features the Ravens, Steelers and much improved Browns. In Andy Dalton you could argue they have the worst starting quarterback in the division and a have an unproven 36-year-old at Head Coach, that’s just not a recipe for success in 2019.

2019 Season Prediction

Browns 10-6

Ravens 10-6

Steelers 8-8

Bengals 3-13

Where Do They Go From Here; Bengals

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals . Don’t forget to check out the AFC North podcast where we talk to a fan and get their thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

After 5 weeks, you were wondering if it had finally all come together for the Red Rifle and Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati. But no, it wasn’t to be.

From those highs of a 5-3 record in the AFC North prior to their bye week, to the lows of hiring Hue Jackson, things quickly got out of hand *insert Ron Burgundy GIF* ending in a 6-10 end of season record.

Andy Dalton got injured week 12 vs Cleveland which saw his season end prematurely and the replacement Jeff Driskell was not asked to do anything spectacular. Coupled with that, a tough schedule after the bye week (Saints, Ravens, a good Browns x2, Chargers and Steelers in the schedule).

The season will probably be mainly remembered for the Cleveland trollings from Baker and Randall with Hue Jackson on the sidelines and also the end of Marvin Lewis’s tenure as the head coach after 16 seasons as head coach (and no playoff wins).

Bengals had some injuries to deal with on both sides of the ball to their main talents including Joe Mixon, AJ Green, Vontaze Burfict, Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson and Dre Kirkpatrick which didn’t help their cause but once Dalton went down, so did the curtains. Despite that, there were bright spots on offence for Mixon and also Tyler Boyd who both had 1000 yard seasons rushing and receiving respectively whilst John Ross somehow managed to get himself into the endzone 7 times also.

Housekeeping

Long term Head Coach Marvin Lewis has been relieved of his duties and Zac “Sean McVay disciple” Taylor has been brought in to invigorate the team.

The Bengals have the 9th most cap space and pick 11 in the first round of the draft. 2 more picks in the top 100 (42 & 72) means that they will have to hit on a lot of their selections.

With Zac Taylor coming in as the new HC, it will be interesting to see how much of that he is allowed to play with and how much trust he is given in compiling the squad he wants.

Outgoings

You shouldn’t see too many heading for the exit door in terms of players but one to keep an eye on is Andy Dalton; If Taylor decides to cut ties with the Red Rifle, he would cost absolutely nothing to toss to the gutter.

Incomings

Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater could plausibly be the week 1 starter for the Bengals should Andy Dalton be cut. Yikes. If you put a gun to my head (and let’s face it, talking about the Bengals QB situation can drive you to that) I would say Dalton stays. If he goes, I expect Tannehill to come in.

The Bengals will probably address the defence in the draft as well as the Free Agency considering the state of affairs. I would expect a number of players to come in via Free Agency but may be tough to attract the top end talent. But as Shane McMahon’s theme music would tell you, “money talks”.

Oh yeah and Zac Taylor is in at HC. A 35 year old who has never had experience as an OC in the NFL (did so at the College level for 1 year in 2016), let alone a Head Coaching position. It’s who you know that gets you a job, it’s what you know that keeps you there. I wonder how much Taylor knows.

The former Rams and prior to that, Miami Dolphins QB coach gets his shot at a head coaching gig and there are a wide range of outcomes for next year…

Outlook for Next Year

The aforementioned Zac Taylor needs to make a decision early at QB. It’s a no brainer in my eyes, but I wear glasses soooo….

If Dalton is cut by the Bengals, a transition year with a new QB could put the Bengals behind the 8 ball early. The good thing is that they are a run first team and I expect Mixon to carry the team on his back once again. They have the pieces on offence to make a challenge when all cylinders are on fire, especially with Dalton. Let’s not forget they were the pacemakers for the early part of last season. They have some pieces on defence too, but there is nothing screaming out at me about this team to say that they are going to be challenging for the division. I think the best outcome is the 6 seed with Dalton, without him, I don’t see them having a sniff. Don’t @ me. In terms of personnel, AJ Green will be 31 when the season starts and struggled with injury last season, so it’s not a reach to think he could fall off a cliff in terms of production, meaning Tyler Boyd, John Ross or any new offseason acquisitions will need to step up.

Prediction

I think the Bengals are not in the greatest of positions on any front. The only thing they do have going for them is age; going in to the season, they were the youngest team in the NFL with regards to average team age. In a division where a few teams are ascending, I’m not sure we can apply that statement to the Bengals.

Zac Taylor, despite Marvin Lewis’s long leash, may not be able to get too comfy and coming from the historically legendary coaching tree of Sean McVay (insert Ryan Reynolds The Proposal face palm plane GIF), the wonder if Mike Brown and the gang allow him time. I think it’s doomed personally.

4th place finish seems most likely. Main reason being the changes at HC and potentially at QB. You don’t see many teams making the playoffs where those 2 positions changed prior to the start of the season…

Again, don’t @ me.

Fantasy Football

Andy Dalton – QB2 – will go undrafted in 1QB leagues.

Joe Mixon – RB1 – Late 1st/early 2nd round pick

AJ Green – low WR 1 /high WR 2 – late 2nd/3rd round pick

Tyler Boyd – low WR 2/ high WR 3 – 5th / 6th round pick

John Ross – WR4/WR5 – may go undrafted in most leagues.

Tyler Eifert – Do I have to?

 

Exit Interviews – AFC North

AFC North time in our mammoth review series.
Ravens – @chibsRSR
Steelers – @DFF_JamesH
Browns – @UK_Browns , @all32Shaun
Bengals – @trequartbeasta (@bengalsUK)
As said in the pod, Ravens segment was recorded prior to Flacco and Crabtree stuff soooooo yeah.
Thanks to those that participated for the podcast!
Enjoy!

Head Coach Shuffle, New Alliances.

Tim and Lee are back to go through all the head coaching changes in depth. Which ones are good fits and which ones….not so much.
Before that, we go through what we’ve done over the last week and who we would take in the biscuit draft at #1 overall.
We bring you up to speed on all the latest NFL news including Kyler Murray’s decision to go Football over Baseball.
Adam Foxcroft reverses his usual role is setting quiz questions and puts his knowledge to the test in the quiz. Can we get a new leader atop of the mountain?
We round off with a bit off Alliance football chatter and whether it’s worth the time investment to watch. We give a Patton the back to some players who you may be familiar with from the NFL…
PS Dont forget to enter our giveaway in collaboration with @clairedabear85!

Joy Divisions – AFC North

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

AFC North:

On first look, it may be a simple one to solve, but the Steelers always make heavy weather of things…

TIM

Pittsburgh Steelers: 

Steelers have kind of owned the division for a while now and I have sneaky suspicions that they will either blow the division away again, or collapse and fall apart (potentially leading to Big Ben retiring, especially if he continues to self destruct when talk of Mason Rudolph surfaces). Whilst I believe it’s more likely of the former, their defence is not going to be as strong without Ryan Shazier and is a far cry from previous Pittsburgh defences.

On the offence, Martavis Bryant has left for Oakland and they have new shiny draft pick James Washington (a great late round pick in dynasty drafts), who could see the field a fair bit as the Steelers like playing 3 WR sets and were one of the teams with the highest % of doing so last season. JuJu Smith-Schuster is being way overdrafted but you cannot deny his talent, but Antonio Brown is also on the team too so JuJu will have more ups and downs than a theme park roller-coaster.

LeVeon Bell is once again playing under the franchise tag and could start off slowly like last season but expect him to be run in to the ground before he finds a new team next season (I am fascinated to see what he produces in a different scheme and setup, I liken it to Lionel Messi in soccer). QB Big Ben has never been in any of my fantasy teams and only offers value in Bestball leagues because I never can trust him and don’t want the headache each week of whether to start him or not but does have a low ADP in drafts this year.

Baltimore Ravens: 

Could be a sneaky playoff team this year and a lot will depend on how many games Joe Flacco plays…and I mean that in a good way.

If Flacco plays 16 games, that means that there are performing well and have a shot at the postseason. anything less than 12 or 13 and you’d expect the Ravens to end up with nothing better than 8-8. I honestly believe that the Lamar Jackson draft selection will prompt Flacco to play some good football because he has been absolutely dire in the last few years (well, ever since he won a Championship ring and got a new contract). Flacco can pretty much be discarded next year and it isn’t far-fetched to say that this could be his last season.

They have decent weapons on offence now though and have acquired Michael Crabtree from Oakland along with point to prove WRs in John Brown and Willie Snead.

I think it’s understated that the Ravens had seemingly a brilliant Draft. They took 2 Tight Ends in Mark Andrews and first round selection Hayden Hurst, both who can catch the ball and should be ready to go. Orlando Brown is a nice addition to the line to help keep that running game going.

Talking of running game, Alex Collins performed admirably at RB last season despite a depleted offensive line and should get a similar workload this year (just beware, Kenneth Dixon is lurking and could be a wildcard) so all things point to potentially an exciting season for Baltimore fans.

Cleveland Browns: 

I feel like everyone outside of the AFC North are rooting for the Browns this year. Whether that’s because they have been nothing short of a joke or whether it’s through sympathy. That said, this year they should be aiming for at least 5 wins.

Another team that has gone a major overhaul on offence. Carlos Hyde joins the running back room along with draft pick Nick Chubb to compensate for Isiah Crowell, who travels to the Jets. At WR, Jarvis Landry got PAID to come over and he joins a talented set of players in Josh Gordon (provided his issues stay away) and Corey Coleman (provided he shows his worth). David Njoku will be stellar in his 2nd season and Tyrod Taylor looks to bring some stability at the QB position, though it’s anyone’s guessat what point they bring in #1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. Similar to Baltimore, if Tyrod Taylor plays 16 games this season, it would indicate the Browns are having a good season (hard to fathom that it’s ever an outcome that is in the range of possibility). If Baker starts a handful, it’s because Hue Jackson is in the hotseat and will try and borrow even more time from somewhere.

Denzel Ward, #4 pick in the 2017 draft joins what could be a sneaky defence but it was a surprise that Bradley Chubb was not on this roster.

From a fantasy perspective, it’s hard to know who will produce the most out of this group. Gordon could prove to be a bust should his troubles stay in touch with him, Corey Coleman could end up being cut if Dez Bryant joins the team (his twitter feed is always worth a watch) and Jarvis Landry will need to improve on his 8.8 yards per catch from last year whilst keeping the sky high number of Touchdowns from last season. I think David Njoku is probably the play as a late TE off the board and Tyrod Taylor is a risk with Baker Mayfield lurking but could be a good Bestball player at the end of drafts.

Key Storyline: Can all of these players gel and can they finally win a game?

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals have the players to make a case for wildcard consideration this year but the offensive line needs to hold up, John Ross needs to live up to his billing now back from injury and Marvin Lewis needs to establish the teams identity.

Joe Mixon struggled to get efficiency from his runs last year but could prove a lot better for the experience, though Gio Bernard and draft pick Mark Walton are circling. AJ Green was his usual self (minus the ejection) and should do so again this year. Billy Price should sure up the line a little bit at center for the Bengals, helping Dalton have a bit more time and who knows whether Tyler Eifert will play this season (you could do worse than Tyler Kroft too).

On the defence, Burfict is suspended yet again and will be missed but the defence is a middle of the road type defence and should follow recent trends in terms of efficiency and production. I think it will be a few years until we see the Bengals in the palyoffs unfortunately.

Summary:

TM-

Not going to predict anything too drastic for the division but it would surprise me to see the Ravens get within 1 or 2 wins of the Steelers. Whether that’s because the Steelers implode or the Ravens get the grit between their teeth and improve. The Ravens have a good shot at January this year all things going well and it will certainly be interesting to see how many wins the Browns get (surely 1?!?!). I dont see the Bengals troubling anyone too much but Joe Mixon could be a top 5 running back in fantasy (contrarian hot take).

All the Steelers players you are paying for in drafts due to the high scoring potential, but Vance McDonald could be one to watch out for if you stream Tight End. The Ravens could provide some value by selecting their players in the later rounds (not Flacco though guys, let’s be real). The Browns probably wont return many points this year so would probably avoid most of those

Predictions:

1st – Pittsburgh Steelers,

2nd – Baltimore Ravens,

3rd – Cleveland Browns (!),

4th – Cincinnati Bengals

Lee

The AFC is going to be a really interesting division for the coming season. Every team has some storylines that will be worth keeping an eye an as we work through the season.

The least interesting storyline is that atop of the division is still the Pittsburgh Steelers. They still have the best players and best roster in the North but what’s going on with Le’Veon Bell? It’s pretty clear to see that there’s some bad blood between Bell and the front office and the star running back will most likely be playing his last season in Pittsburgh. How will this affect things? Well, I feel like the Steelers will try to get their money’s worth out of Bell and he’ll be looking at 400+ total touches through the regular season. Now, obviously giving your best players more opportunities means more opportunities for big plays but how much will that wear Bell down? How does it affect the offense overall? Is it putting him in the line of fire in terms of injuries?

Obviously with Bell, Ben, Brown and a top offensive line, the Steelers are going to score some point but can they keep other teams out? The defense doesn’t match up to the other side of the ball but they’re still going to be number 1 in the North. From a fantasy perspective, you can’t go wrong with Brown or Bell. Roethlisberger will stink a few weeks and probably get injured for a short time but a decent streaming option.

Next, a team who I personally find really interesting, the Cleveland Browns. On paper the Browns look like a really competitive team. Looking through their depth chart there are blue chip players throughout the roster. Yes, really. They also have some young players who they have drafted in the past couple of years who could grow into some of the better players at their positions.

I think what a lot of fans struggle to get past in the Browns name and recent history and because of that, they talk Cleveland down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Browns will be the next best team in the North. Todd Haley and Gregg Williams are top co-ordinators and now that Cleveland have moved away from moneyball, you can treat them as a normal football team again. I’ll come on to the Bengals and the Ravens soon but these team a excite me less than Cleveland at this moment in time. I’m not saying they’ll make the playoffs but they’re going to be better, much better. Fantasy wise; Landry is going to be gobbling up catches, if Josh Gordon has his mind and body in sync he could be a top 10 receiver. The back field is going to be a committee so wait and see who emerges and maybe try to get one off of waivers if you don’t fancy betting on one guy come your draft. My one to watch would be David Njoku, the super athletic tight and will be looking to become a big weapon in year two.

When it comes to the Bengals, I’m looking at that revamped offensive line. I’m seeing if they can help Joe Mixon break out, I’m seeing William Jackson can cement himself as one of the best corners in the game and can John Ross make positive yardage?

I think Mixon has a good chance to breakout and become a top running back. He’s definitely worth targeting in your fantasy drafts, some goes for A.J Green. Both late first to early second round players depending on the size of your league.

One thing that holds the Bengals back, to me is coaching. I was shocked when they kept Marvin Lewis on. He’s been in the job for a long time and really not yielded much success; didn’t Einstein say something about insanity and repeating stuff over and over and expecting different results? Hmmm.

The least interesting team in the division, to me, is the Ravens. Aside from Lamar Jackson, I didn’t like their draft, I don’t feel like they added much or improved very much at all. I feel like we’re just waiting for Lamar Jackson to unseat Joe Flacco and then things may get interesting. Then we’ll all be watching to see how the Baltimore offense evolves from a drab Flacco offense into something potentially really exciting with Jackson at the controls. At this point I feel like Flacco is only in a job because of the respect he’s earned through winning a Superbowl.

Jackson could be a nice pick up for you dynasty league by the way. Aside from him I’m not going anywhere near Ravens players in my drafts. The wide receiver room is awash with “meh” players and none of the tight ends interest me at all. Alex Collins could be a decent pick up but not someone worth targeting in my book.

This could seem pretty wild to some but my prediction is:

  1. Steelers
  2. Browns
  3. Bengals
  4. Ravens

NFL Draft 2018: Round 1 Analysis: Picks 11-21

Welcome to the 2nd part of the NFL 2018 first round draft.

Minkah Fitzpatrick kicks us off at pick 11 in the first round and is now a Miami Dolphin. Not quite sure what position Minkah will slot in to in the Dolphins defence but his versatility will be something that the Dolphins needs. I cant see anything but a top 5 pick for the dolphins next season so don’t expect anyone to pull up trees here in Miami’s draft haul. You are not going to be drafting the Miami defence either due to their lack of turnover creation, so this pick is irrelevant from a defence standpoint in fantasy.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their first selection at 12, after trading with Buffalo their original spot at 7, and this was the pick that prevented me from having a profitable night. Turns out it was smokescreens all week that they would be drafting Derwin James and decided to go Vita Vea, the defensive tackle from Washington. This completes a formidable front 4 for Tampa on the defensive side to go with Jason Pierre-Paul, who they signed in free agency.

Washington Redskins at pick 13  selected DaRon Payne, another defensive tackle and I bet they were gutted Vita Vea was not there just as much as I was. It was obvious Washington would address the D Line with their first pick and Payne joins Alabama teammate Allen to help out on a depleted D Line.

A HUGE trade at 14 saw the New Orleans Saints  give up a 2019 1st rounder in what everyone thought was going to be a move for Lamar Jackson. Instead, they got Marcus Davenport, the defensive end from UTSA. The Saints clearly feel they are almost there with their current squad for a Superbowl. The window is only open for 2 more years with Drew Brees.

Jon Gruden’s first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft came at 15, after the  trade with Arizona. They used that selection on the offensive line, selecting Kolton Miller. Most feel that this was a bit of a reach but Miller has the potential to be a star, but you would have thought Oakland would go for a pick on the defence considering their Free Agency. The pick will help the run game and also protection for Derek Carr, but the Raiders players still have limited appeal for me.

Another trade at 16 saw the Bills trade up for Tremaine Edmunds, the linebacker from Virginia Tech. One of the youngest in this draft at 19, he has the potential to be quite a special player.

The continuation of non skill players continues at 17, and arguably the pick of the first round for me with Derwin James joining the Los Angeles Chargers. Many had him as a top 10 lock, including myself, so for him to finally go at 17 is an absolute steal. The defence now for the Chargers is arguably one of the best in the AFC, maybe only behind the Jaguars. Chargers now have a safety that can do anything in the secondary. sleeper pick for a top 3 defence next year considering the talent there.

Green Bay traded back up to 18 with Seattle from their New Orleans traded pick at 27 to select a very good corner in Jaire Alexander. The defence is a big need for Green Bay and they get a very important piece with this selection. Alexander is a very clever football player and excels in zone coverage.

The first pick for the hosting team of the 2018 NFL draft had a lot of people assuming they would go Wide Receiver, especially as none have been taken to this point, but Leighton Van der Esh was selected by Dallas at 19. The pairing of him and a hopefully healthy Sean Lee will be massive for this team. Could be a very underrated defence coming in to the season, especially if the offence returns to its clock-chewing, long drive type.

The final two picks in this post both went to the ball snappers on the offence. Detroit selected Frank Ragnow at 20 and Cincinnati selected Ohio State Center Billy Price. Ragnow is arguably the best Center in the draft and will hopefully help open up some running lanes for the running backs that have not been there for the past few years. Billy Price is off the back off an injury, but it was a big need for the Bengals, so not surprised that may have taken a slight risk here, especially with their likely 1st pick Ragnow, being snipered before them.

 

So there we have it, a lot of defensive players going in the 11-21 range (8 out of 11). The pick of the round is surely Derwin James to the Chargers. The most surprising or “worst” pick is harder to decipher but i suppose the draft capital New Orleans have given up to take Marcus Davenport is a contender, as is Kolton Miller for the Raiders, where the defence was in much more need of support.

Look out for the next post which will look at picks 22-32 and we will also be posting a podcast later on in the week, when Lee Wakefield joins us for a full NFL draft review of the first round.

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Thanks for reading and your support.