It’s been a busy free agency for NFL teams over the last couple of weeks; but a much needed and welcome distraction to everything else that’s currently happening in the world.
But what do these moves mean for your fantasy teams in 2020? Over the next two articles, i’m going to break down the winners and the losers from all of the transactions that have taken place so far.
The Arizona Cardinals pulled of a move during the free agency that left everybody scratching their heads, wondering how they pulled off such a coup. That was, of course, the acquisition of superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.
Kyler Murray all of a sudden now has one of the most tantalising skill set offenses in the NFL. From Hopkins to legendary Hall of Fame receiver LarryFitzgerald returning for one last year, and the emerging star of Christian Kirk alongside 2nd year hopefuls Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. The Kliff Kingsbury ‘air raid’ offense really has got no excuses to be raking up the air miles on the field in 2020.
After a QB7 rookie campaign in fantasy last year, it’s hard to think Murray will be doing anything other than improving on that. Kenyan Drake made a good enough impression since his move from Miami that he’s earned another year on this offense too, yet another reliable, tried and trusted weapon for Kyler out of the backfield.
It’s exciting times for Cards fans and this ever-improving offense, fantasy fans should be sharing this excitement for Kyler Murray, there’s no such thing as too many weapons when it comes to fantasy QB’s
Staying in Dallas was one of the best places for Cooper to keep his fantasy value. He clearly loves it there in ‘Jerryworld’, and the feeling seems to be mutual between the fans and the other players.
In his 25 games for the Cowboys, Cooper has amassed 1,914 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns; that’s 77 yards per game and a touchdown every other game (0.56 TD’s per game). For context, that’s in the same vicinity as DeAndre Hopkins’ time in Houston (78 yards per game average with 0.49 TD’s per game) and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay (80 yards per game with 0.53 TD’s per game). Both of which will be within the top 2 wide receiver tiers for 2020.
Dez Bryant had many productive seasons as a WR1 in fantasy football from his time in Dallas with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott under centre. Now it is time for Amari to step up and continue being the reliable receiving option for the Cowboys and fantasy owners in turn for the next few years.
Indianapolis Colts’ Receivers
Indy is lacking in skill position depth, but those that are there have just received a significant bump up in fantasy value with the upgrade of quarterback to Philip Rivers. Jacoby Brissett was admirable, and was far from terrible, but he wasn’t the best at getting great receiving production out of anyone not named T.Y Hilton.
Rivers in an experienced veteran who finally has a competent offensive line ahead of him to give him enough protection to provide some actual time in the pocket rather than being constantly under pressure like he was for the Chargers, especially in recent years.
I expect Indy will add to their receiving corps through the upcoming draft; but for now, T.Y Hilton cements himself as a fringe WR1 for a likely cheap price of a 4th/5th round pick, and last year’s rookie Parris Campbell will likely be in the sleeper category for analysts as the season grows closer.
If Jack Doyle remains the only pass catching tight end in Indy too, expect his value to also rise in a treacherous tight end fantasy landscape as Rivers has always produced fantasy relevant TE’s with the likes of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry in the past.
One of my favourite sleepers already also due to the Rivers’ upgrade, is running back Nyheim Hines. The swiss army knife is Indy’s version of Austin Ekeler (see later in article for Ekeler’s 2019 production), who should see plenty of work in the passing game out of the backfield.
Cleveland Brown’s Skill Players
One of the main contributing factors for the Browns’ miserable 2019 campaign was the offensive line, or lack-of, being unable to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.
Jack Conklin (former Titans OT) is a massive upgrade for that line and you can only imagine Cleveland will be taking whichever stud tackle is left with the 10th pick of the 2020 draft.
These pieces may well prove to be the difference for this offense which will open up the fantasy value for all of the keys players. Nick Chubb had a great season in 2019 and was third in the NFL for rushing yards (1,494) and has 18 combined touchdowns since becoming a Brown in 2017 so we can expect that to continue. As we can with Jarvis Landry, as he once again will benefit from OBJ taking the premier defense away, like in 2019. OBJ’s production might rise once again if Mayfield is able to improve and between David Njoku and newly acquired Austin Hooper, the tight ends’ should have their week to week match-up based values too.
With all the running back moves this off-season, i don’t think any have won more so than Austin Ekeler has. Not only does he see Melvin Gordon move away (to the Denver Broncos) from the backfield and no significant replacement brought in, he finds himself in a passing offense that will be moving forward with someone new. Therefore, a bigger emphasis may be placed on the tried and trusted running game with Ekeler as the sole star.
The beauty of the situation is- even if the Chargers do bring in another running back, they probably aren’t going to be the same quality as Melvin Gordon where Ekeler was still productive enough to see him finish as the RB4 in PPR scoring (RB8 in non-PPR) last season.
The new QB in LA will likely be a rookie in from the first round, if not the veteran Tyrod Taylor who served as Rivers’ backup last season. Either way, Ekeler is going to be hyper-targeted out of the backfield and should be a top 10 PPR running back once again in 2020.
Looking back at last season, there were some great games and some awful ones. Amazing throws, catches and runs. Incredible touchdowns. Last-ditch tackles. But that’s the case every year. So what were the events that really defined the campaign? Here’s the @Full10Yards take on what 2019 should be remembered for.
1. Luck finally runs out as Colts’ QB retires
The first headline of the 2019 season was written during Indianapolis’ preseason game with the Chicago Bears, when 29-year-old franchise quarterback Andrew Luck suddenly announced his retirement. Sadly, he was booed off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the news leaked out.
The reasons cited at an emotional press conference in August centred on the mental and physical toll of the injuries sustained during his career. Referring to the seemingly endless cycle of injury and rehab, he said “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game… and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. It’s the hardest decision of my life but it is the right one.”
Touted as a generational talent, the Stanford QB was selected as the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft as the successor to Peyton Manning. He immediately delivered, leading the Colts to the playoffs in his first three seasons without missing a start. His best season, 2014, saw him throw an NFL-leading 40 touchdowns as Indy reached the AFC Championship game.
But during his final four years, he missed 26 games and played in pain most of the time. He tore abdominal muscles, rib cartilage and a labrum, lacerated a kidney, suffered concussion and, in what was probably the final straw, endured a mystery ankle issue that was never resolved.
Despite an injury-blighted 2015, he signed a $140m extension to become the highest-paid player in the NFL, but then missed all of 2017. The four-time Pro-Bowler came back with a career-high 4,593 yards in 2018, and finished his career with 23,761 yards (third on the Colts’ all-time list) and 171 touchdowns.
2. Player holdouts become a thing
The 2019 season saw more NFL holdouts than ever before. Skipping training camp seemed to be an increasingly common and effective tactic as players tried following in the footsteps of Le’Veon Bell, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack.
There are several reasons why players hold back their services and demand a trade: it’s usually about money so each franchise needed to weight up whether keeping the player active benefits either party in the long run. And in 2019, the results were mixed.
Take Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon from the LA Chargers. With two years left on his rookie deal, Zeke held out through August and got a six-year, $90m contract extension for his troubles. Gordon didn’t. He was looking to prove his value though his absence but the Chargers dug their heels in and leaned on Austin Ekeler instead. Gordon, in the fifth year of his rookie deal, caved after a few weeks of cat and mouse, and slinked back into the fold in late September when his request fell on deaf ears.
Despite being set to make a paltry $1.1 million in 2019, Saints star wideout Michael Thomas was adamant that he wouldn’t hold out, but he did. But boy, did it pay off. Negotiations led to a $100m, five-year deal – a new record for a receiver.
The Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney also had a deal below market value so he sat out all of preseason, prompting a trade to the Seahawks days before the start of the campaign, while the Jaguars’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue refused to attend minicamp and preseason workouts until his contract was resolved.
There were also two holdouts not driven by the dollar: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey demanded a trade after a touchline bust-up with head coach Doug Marrone during their Week 2 game against Houston, and Washington tackle Trent Williams sat out the entire year due to the way he believed the Redskins medical staff handled a health scare.
To me, saying you won’t play till you get what you want feels like a spoilt child sulking and stamping their feet. Then again, it might be worth a try if you’re gonna get paid $100 million to zip it.
3. Antonio Brown quits the NFL
The former Pittsburgh wide receiver had a difficult 2019 to say the least. Having bounced around three different teams in under a year, he tried to claim back around $40 million in unpaid wages, fines, guarantees and bonuses from the Raiders and the Patriots.
Oakland acquired him from the Steelers but cut him before Week 1, creating a flurry of complaints concerning fines, lost guaranteed money and a $1m signing bonus voided because he was axed prior to playing a regular season game. Picked up by the Patriots just hours later, Brown is also attempting to salvage his unpaid Week 1 salary plus another $9m signing bonus, accusing the franchise of breach of contract. Then there’s the two (unsuccessful) grievances he filed against the NFL while disputing the ban on his preferred style of helmet.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Brown was also accused of sexual assault by his former trainer, Britney Taylor, while another woman accused him of sexual misconduct and sending intimidating text messages. Brown strenuously denies the charges but that final claim tipped the scales for the Pats. He was released after just 11 days and one game.
Soon after, AB84 hit social media saying he wasn’t going to play in the NFL any more, as team owners can obviously cancel whatever deals they liked. He also took pot-shots at Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger, who had both been linked with scandals in the past without much fall-out.
The investigations rumble on but whatever the eventual outcome, the league has lost a star. The 31-year-old was one of football’s most prolific offensive players with the Steelers, where his 686 catches and 9,145 receiving yards were the highest totals for a receiver over a six-year span. But it has also lost a troubled soul. Let’s hope he gets the support and professional help he needs.
4. Kaepernick holds a weird workout
Colin Kaepernick is undoubtedly a divisive figure. At his peak, the quarterback led the 49ers to consecutive NFC championship games but in his last season, the Niners went 2-14. He has been out of the league since 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem – a protest against police brutality on people of colour. Since then, there has been no love lost between the player and the NFL.
Having settled a lawsuit with the NFL in February after claiming teams blanked him in retaliation for his protests, the league organised an out-of-the-blue, take-it-or-leave-it tryout for Kaepernick in mid-November. He was given just two hours to accept. A work-out for 25 teams was scheduled to start at the Atlanta Falcons’ training complex but amid bickering over terms and conditions, Kap pulled out and held his own private workout at a high school in Georgia, 60 miles away. About six representatives made it to the new location in time.
The workout was clearly a PR stunt by the NFL – probably in an attempt to deflect criticism of their treatment of Kaepernick – but it was his only shot to get in front of scouts. As a free agent, he is eligible to sign with any team and at the time, several potential suitors were being mooted.
Regardless of the motivations behind it, one guy did something out of it but it wasn’t Kaepernick. Jordan Veasy, one of the receivers used in the workout, was subsequently signed to the Redskins’ practice squad, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
5. A new position is invented: the quarterback-up
How many quarterbacks saw game time in 2019? Would you believe 57? Most teams had to rely on at least one stand-in and in a few cases, more than one. Every week or two, it seemed like a franchise QB was replaced by a stand-in for one reason or another, and with varying degrees of success.
Injuries were obviously the main reason for a swap and for some, there was hardly a blip. 41-years-young Drew Brees lost five weeks but the Saints’ stand-in Teddy Bridgewater held the fort admirably, going a perfect 5-0 in his stead. Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes also missed game time when he dislocated his kneecap against Denver, but veteran Matt Moore ably took over.
Alas, it didn’t always work out so well. Jets back-up Trevor Siemian – pressed into action when Sam Darnold contracted mono – didn’t even complete two quarters before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Luke Falk’s two subsequent starts produced 0 TDs, 3 INTs and 14 sacks. Likewise, after Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow surgery, Pittsburgh were forced to call upon Mason Rudolph and then Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges (both underdelivered) while Matthew Stafford’s deputies were Jeff Driskel (0-3) and then David Blough. The undrafted rookie had a blinding first few minutes, throwing TD passes against the Bears on his first two possessions, but the rest of his five-game run was ‘sub-optimal’.
Retirement also played it part, with the Colts forced to start Jacoby Brissett after Andrew Luck retired, while the Giants hastened the changing of the guards just two weeks into the season, subbing in Daniel Jones at the expense of the outgoing Eli Manning.
But for many teams, starting QBs were benched left, right and centre purely due to their performance. After a mediocre stretch in Miami, Ryan Tannehill took the Titans’ starting job from an underwhelming Marcus Mariota in mid-season and promptly went 9-4, including two on-the-road playoff victories at New England and Baltimore. With 22 TDs and 6 INTs, Tannehill went from ‘work in progress’ for the Dolphins to Comeback Player of the Year in Tennessee.
Back in Miami, Josh Rosen floundered for six games, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to pick up the pieces and win five games (despite the team being in full rebuild mode) while in Washington, journeyman Case Keenum paved the way for young buck Dwayne Haskins, the possible future of the franchise. In contrast, Ryan Finley really isn’t the future in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton was benched with the Bengals at 0-8 but the rookie was beyond terrible. After three more painful losses, Dalton was restored.
Likewise for the Panthers, Cam Newton’s injury gave Kyle Allen his chance. After four wins in four starts, he was sacked seven times by the 49ers (with a painful 28.9 passer rating) in Week 8, and was replaced by Will Grier. But he was even worse in his two starts: amid a flurry of interceptions, fumbles and sacks, Carolina lost both by 32 points.
There was one other guy I deliberately haven’t mentioned, as he deserves an entry of his own, so let’s move on…
6. Minshew Mania
Having signed a $88m deal to become Jacksonville’s QB1, Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury in Week 1. The Jaguars needed a new hero. Step forward sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew II.
The rookie put the Jags’ first W on the board in his second start, a Thursday night win over the Titans, and by the end of September, he’d been named Offensive Rookie of the Month, having thrown for 905 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in four games. The Jags were 4-5 when he handed the reins back to Foles but not before “Minshew Mania” had taken hold.
Not all heroes wear capes; some wear helmets and cleats. And on their days off, they wear aviators, headbands and cut-off denim ‘jorts’. Aided by giveaways of fake moustaches at home games, fans dressed themselves and their kids as Minshew. His distinctive look even became the Halloween costume of choice. With plans for his own fashion range, Minshew has since filed trademark applications for several terms, including Minshew Mania.
Somewhat appropriately for our moustachioed maverick, the mania ended in November (see the UK men’s health campaign Movember to see why), when Nick Foles returned. However, Minshew wasn’t quite done, replacing the former Eagle halfway through a 28-11 loss to the Buccaneers in Week 13.
Looking beyond the hype and hysteria, Minshew racked up 3,217 yards, 21 TDs and six INTs in 14 appearances, and oversaw all six of Jacksonville’s wins. Solid enough production to reassure fans, should he be called upon again.
7. Myles Garrett loses his head
As we all know (*cough*), Rule 12, Article 17 of the NFL rulebook states: “A player may not use a helmet … as a weapon to strike, swing at, or throw at an opponent.”
Well, eight seconds from the end of Cleveland’s fractious 21-7 victory over Pittsburgh in November, that’s exactly what occurred. Steelers QB Mason Rudolph had just completed a pass when he was engulfed by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. The players shoved each other, then wrestled and grabbed each other’s face masks. The top draft pick from 2017 pulled Rudolph’s helmet off and clobbered him over the head with it.
The ensuing melee led to three immediate ejections, followed by fines for both teams and suspensions for the main protagonists. Garrett’s indefinite ban for his actions – termed “totally unacceptable and inexcusable” by coaches, players and pundits alike – was only rescinded after the season ended. And he had previous: Garrett had already been handed a $50,000 fine for punching a Titans player and two roughing-the-passer penalties against the Jets, one of which ended Trevor Siemian’s season.
At the time, Garret said: “I lost my cool and I regret it. I hurt my whole team.” He later stated: “A win’s a win. I don’t think it’s overshadowed by what happened.” Yeah right, fella – we’re only going to remember the result.
Contrite at the time, Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens added: “I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good. He understands it’s totally unacceptable.” But just a couple of weeks later, Kitchens was pictured wearing a “Pittsburgh started it” T-shirt, reigniting tensions just 48 hours before the teams’ rematch. Smart.
8. The Patriots play i-spy (again)
There’s a well-known saying: “To get caught spying on your opponents once is unfortunate; to get caught twice is foolish.” OK, there isn’t, but given New England’s track record, there should be.
In early December, the Patriots acknowledged that a video crew working for them filmed the Bengals’ sideline during their game with the Browns, violating league rules in much the same way they did in 2007 during the original Spygate scandal. The Patriots admitted that a crew, making an online series titled “Do Your Job”, inappropriately filmed the field from the press box, and failed to inform the Bengals and the league of their intentions. They did, however, hand over all footage. In a statement, the Patriots accepted full responsibility for the incident (blamed on an error with credentials) but Bill Belichick distanced himself and the team from the shenanigans.
When confronted by security, the video guy reportedly said he was an employee of Robert Kraft, not the team itself. That’s very interesting, as a key witness 12 years ago told investigators that was exactly what he’d been told to say if caught.
The seized tape apparently showed eight minutes of footage focusing on Bengals coaches signalling during the game. Sounds incriminating enough to me, especially with a game with Cincy coming up. Yet according to the NFL investigation, there was no clear evidence of the Patriots trying to gain a competitive advantage.
Maybe it was just a communication breakdown but with the Pats also at the centre of the 2015 Deflategate scandal, I can’t help thinking “there’s no smoke without fire” – and that is a well-known saying.
9. Tough Mudder comes to the NFL
In October, the Super Bowl-bound 49ers faced the Redskins at FedEx Field, holding them to 154 total yards and zero points in a 9-0 win. The game was played in appalling conditions: driving wind and rain turned the already substandard field into a quagmire, with many players struggling to keep their feet in the pooling surface water.
Not surprisingly, literally nothing of any note happened during the regulation 60 minutes (check out the box score if you like). ‘Skins QB Case Keenum made nine throws for 77 yards and Washington had -7 net yards in the fourth quarter. On the other side, Jimmy G only made 12 of 21 attempts and the game’s only points came courtesy of Robbie Gould’s boot.
That’s why the game will be remembered for what happened after the last play. Nick Bosa sacked Keenum as the clock hit zero and celebrated with a headfirst slide 10 yards across the grass. Fully embracing the conditions and their inner child, several teammates joined in. Before you knew it, a pack of white jerseys (OK, brown) were skimming across the sodden field like body-boarders.
Niners defensive end Deforest Buckner said. “It was a lot of fun. It was definitely worth it. Everybody started sliding around. It was like a bunch of little kids out there. That’s part of the game, having fun. Right now, we’re having a lot of fun.” Cornerback Richard Sherman added: “It takes you back to being a kid: you’re sloshing around and your shoes are full of water and mud. Guys had a lot of fun slipping and sliding out there.”
10. A new UK venue earns its spurs
Coming to London for regular season games since 2007, the NFL continues to grow over here. British fans sport flags, foam fingers, face paint and the jerseys of all 32 teams. We hang out like old friends, then scrap like alley cats for the merchandise fired into the crowd by the ‘party patrol’. And then there’s the possibility of a London-based franchise.
In 2019, we got four games for the first time as the all-singing-and-dancing Tottenham Hotspur Stadium joined Wembley as a UK International Series venue. In early October, the Oakland Raiders saw off the Chicago Bears in front of 60,463 people. The Raiders led 17-0 at half-time, the Bears fought back with 21 unanswered points but Oakland eventually triumphed 24-21.
But it wasn’t Josh Jacobs’s late TD or Gareon Conley’s game-ending interception that will stand the test of time. It was the authentic experience created by an arena built to NFL specifications that went down so well with players, coaches and fans. The dual-purpose venue has a grass football pitch (used just five days earlier for Spurs’ 7-2 Champions league defeat to Bayern Munich) that retracts beneath the stand, revealing a synthetic, NFL-ready surface. Then there’s the bespoke, super-sized locker rooms and conference suites for both teams.
No wonder Raiders QB Derek Carr liked it so much. “Everything is first class, every little detail,” he said afterwards. “This is definitely one of, if not the best, stadiums I’ve ever been at.” Bears coach Matt Nagy concurred, adding: “It blows you away – it’s absolutely phenomenal.”
Rather than borrowing a ‘soccer’ stadium like Wembley, the NFL may just have found its spiritual home on these shores.
11. And one more for luck…
We started with a story about Luck so for a purr-fect finish, we should end with one too, even if it takes us over our designated 10 items.
During the second quarter of Dallas’ Monday night game at the Giants’ MetLife Stadium on 4 November, play was delayed for a few minutes when a black cat trotted onto the field. Displaying Amari Cooper-esque speed and agility, the elusive feline evaded players, officials, stewards and security with some neat route running and play-action before heading off under one of the stands.
Game caller Kevin Harlan had a ball, providing play-by-play commentary on the moggy’s progress: “Now he’s at the five… he’s walking to the three… he’s hit the two. A state trooper has come on to the field and the cat runs into the end zone! That. Is. A. Touchdown!”
The black cat seemed to give the Giants instant bad karma, as the home side threw away a 9-3 lead to eventually lose 37-18. And for weeks afterwards, superstitious fans clocked the fact that the ‘cat’ teams – the Lions, Panthers, Bengals and Jaguars – couldn’t buy a win for love nor money. In fact, it took almost a month, when Cincy beat the Jets on 1 December, for the hex to be lifted.
Chris Ballard and Frank Reich have already become icons for Colts fans, despite only being with the franchise a combined five years. A large reason for this, is how this dynamic duo go about their business during the off-season. It’s usually calculated, well thought out with a big emphasis on getting the right character for the dressing room over stats or ability.
Indy haven’t hit the headlines for their flashy moves by over-spending on the free agency over the last couple of off-seasons, neither have they drafted the ‘big names’ when the opportunity was there to do so (Quenton Nelson being the exception). Yet, the scheme and thought process works, and that is why there is a healthy level of respect from the fans towards Ballard and Reich’s transaction decision making.
For these reasons, predicting who Indianapolis are likely targeting this off-season is a difficult challenge, but it’s always fun having to dig deeper than you might have to for other teams when you have to take into consideration players personal characteristics off the field as much as what they can do on it. So, to get in to the complex thought processes of the Colts backstaff, we need to breakdown their current roster and see what their more pressing needs are as we head into the free agent frenzy.
Current Roster Grades
QB – C+
RB – B
TE – B-
WR – C
T* – B-
G – B
C – A-
DT – B-
DE – C+
LB – B+
S* – B+
CB – B
*Assuming LT Anthony Castonzo and S Clayton Geathers will re-sign as rumoured, otherwise grade decreases significantly.
Needs – Major – QB, WR, DE, TE Minor – RG, DT, CB
Philip Rivers – I like this narrative and Indy needs a rebound. Let me explain. Jacoby Brissett is the ‘meh’ girlfriend. I mean she looks ok, she’s a nice person, you have a good time but she’s no wife material. The Brissett experiment is dead in the water now, thanks for the good times Jacoby, but we gotta move on. Pip Rivers is the rebound. The next girlfriend, the friend with benefits, the ‘let’s have some fun before I look to settle down’ kind of deal, you catch my drift i’m sure.
He’ll bring his experience, he’ll get to reunite with Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni and he’ll have a decent chance of providing a solid playoff run to the Colts faithful at Lucas Oil in 2020.
Rivers will be the perfect stop gap before Indy commit to either drafting a future franchise QB with this upcoming draft or in 2021, and if they make a move this draft season, sitting behind Philip Rivers and learning the trade would be very appealing for a newcomer, I’m sure.
Tom Brady – Two words. No, thanks. Ok, i get it, he’s the GOAT, he’s TB12… yeah, yeah. He’s also turning 43 before the season starts and will be leaving all former camaraderie and rapports from his career in Foxborough.
Don’t forget us Colts fans don’t particularly look at New England with any kind of awe about it. If Brady signs for Indy, let’s just say the fans would be left ‘deflated’ by the news. Hard pass, and I wish the rumour mill would stop turning.
Jameis Winston – Ah, you thought you’d get through an article by Rob Grimwood without me mentioning Jameis Winston. Think again, sucker. If Jameis ends up in Indy, I will probably explode. Yes, the 42 total turnovers last season wasn’t ideal… actually, that was pretty abysmal. However, have you not heard that Winston has had eye-surgery this winter?
It can’t possibly get any worse, and what we know about Jameis is that, despite the mistakes, he can throw as good as any other QB in the league and has the ability to move the sticks and make big plays. He can sustain a whole plethora of receivers and is fresh off a 5,109 yard and 33 TD season. He’s a franchise Quarterback who’s still only in his mid 20’s. Is he the answer for Indianapolis? Probably not, but holy hell it would be fun to watch.
Emmanuel Sanders – The Colts have T.Y Hilton and a couple of young talents further down the depth chart in Parris Campbell and Daurice Fountain. They don’t have a veteran who can efficiently run all routes who is a safe option. That is Sanders. He’ll be fairly cheap and will be the chain moving receiver Indy crave in this current squad. Whether it’s Brissett, Rivers or A.N Other throwing the rock this year, Sanders has very little downside for a team desperate for consistent depth pieces at wide receiver.
Breshad Perriman – He’s never quite hit the dizzy heights that people thought he may have when Baltimore drafted him in the 1st round of the 2015 draft. However, last season he attempted to resurrect his career with a stint in Tampa Bay and he was a minor success there, particularly down the stretch. The dropping issues that haunted him in Baltimore seems to be a thing of the past as he only dropped just one of 65 passes thrown his way as a Bucc.
Like with Sanders, it’s depth that Colts require, and in a skinny free agency at wide receiver, Indy may want to focus more intensive scouting for WR depth within the upcoming draft class.
Arik Armstead – It’s very rare to find an elite edge rusher on the free agency as it’s one of those positions that teams just simply do not give up. Jadeveon Clowney is the exception to that rule, and might see free agency but will most likely re-sign for Seattle, meaning you have to look for the potential superstars in the free agency pool more than the already proven. Armstead is certainly in that category. He has the tools to become an elite edge rusher and certainly would tick alot of personality boxes in Reich’s locker room too along with fitting in with an already familiar 3-4 system.
Rumours have it though that Armstead wants to stay in California with the Niners and the Niners want him to stay so may be using the franchise tag in order to see him back for 2020. Should he fall onto the agency though, he should be high priority for Indy.
Bud Dupree – Dupree isn’t the long term answer for Indy at DE, but after a career year in 2019 for the Steelers where he recorded 11.5 sacks and a career high PFF pass-rush grade (76.3), he may be worth a small, short term investment if that kind of deal can be reached. He certainly would find himself high up on the current depth chart at the position, with Justin Houston being the only household name there currently. As with the wide receiver position, it’s depth that’s the key right now in Indy.
Eric Ebron – I’d quite like to see Ebron return if I’m honest. He didn’t have the rapport in 2019 with Brissett that he did with Andrew Luck in 2018, however it’s hard to ignore the 16 TDs he’s provided in his short 2 year stint with Indy. His presence in the red zone has been key for the Colts over the past couple of years and whoever is under centre in 2020 would love a threat like him to target alongside Jack Doyle, i’m sure.
Austin Hooper – Stepped up in a big way in 2019 after a career best 787 yards and 6 TDs. Hooper will be a hot commodity for any tight end needy teams come March 18th, so Indy will have to fight the likes of New England, Green Bay and Chicago if Hooper is the chosen target to replace Ebron. With much forecasted interest, Hooper’s price tag may be out of reach if Ballard wants to stick to his current frugal system, despite the Colts having the second most cap space ($86m) behind Miami ($88m).
Brandon Scherff – If Washington can’t re-sign Scherff and they chose not to tag him, he will be a highly sought after player when the 2020 free agency opens. With Joe Thuney playing as a Left Guard and Graham Glasgow as a Centre, Scherff is by far and away the best Right Guard option on the free agent market. Has had an injury plagued career to date missing 15 games over his rookie contract, but, when he’s on the field he can play at an elite level. Indy’s o-line is good in general, but Scherff could make it the best in the league. However, with a good looking offensive line class coming through this years draft, it would probably be in Indianapolis’ best interests to throw money at other needs rather than needlessly paying over the odds for a good-not-great player in a skinny market.
D.J Reader – Probably the top option on the market now Chris Jones has been tagged by the Chiefs. Reader is a talented nose tackle who would fit admirably into the Colts scheme under DC Matt Eberflus. On the field Reader has developed into a reliable defensive tackle that saw a career best last season for Houston where he accumulated 52 combined tackles (28 solo), along with 2.5 sacks, six tackles-for-loss and 13 quarterback hits. Off the field he was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award which speaks volumes about his personality, a big tick for the Colts backstaff.
Javon Hargrave – After recently hiring super agent Drew Rosenhaus, it appears Hargrave wants to get paid this off-season. Hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it either after a decent stint in Pittsburgh since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft. Pittsburgh play in a similar scheme on defense to Indy so would be a decent fit for both sides, however, will Indy be prepared to overpay for a player not yet at elite level but the potential to reach it?
Shelby Harris – Could be a cheap fix to add depth to that uninspiring defensive line in Indy. Harris is a solid run stopper that has also improved in the pass rush too. Last season saw Harris gain 6 sacks, had 49 tackles (28 solo), and 8 tackles for loss – all career highs. Harris finds himself a little way down the list due to a decent number of defensive tackles available, but could prove to be a hidden gem for the team that picks him up. Indy should invest.
Javien Elliot – As with the offensive line, the 2020 draft is littered with good looking prospects at cornerback. So if Indy were to add depth to the likes of Pierre Desir, slot corner Kenny Moore and last years’ rookie Rock Ya-Sin, it should come in the way of a up and coming star like Javien Elliot before committing to the draft to add depth. He did well after joining the Panthers from the Buccs in June 2019 and surprisingly isn’t getting an extension from the Panthers it would seem, a tad baffling considering James Bradberry is likely off too.
Bradley Roby – Roby has had a flighty career. Played well in 2015, not so good in 2016.. bounced back in 2017, declined in 2018 but had a solid season last year. Maybe 2020 means it’s a down year for the former Bronco and first round pick, but maybe a change of scenery is what is required to keep playing to a high level. Can play both outside and in the Nickel, Roby would be a good all-round talent with experience to join the Colts’ DB’s and will help to nurture Rock Ya-Sin in his development.
Back again for more season reviews, today it’s time to look at the Colts, a team who perhaps were the most under-prepared going into the season, but what’s the outlook for them?
The 2019 season was always going to be remembered, regardless of any ensuing on-field results, as the season Andrew Luck retired, just days before the seasons outset.
Rumbling’s all off-season lingered. There was an underscribed injury that had seen him miss time from training camp and he wasn’t going to be able to start the season. Then, that fateful 3rd mid-pre-season game announcement by the media. He stood helpless, in front of an enraged Lucas Oil stadium.
Luck, will have felt a gross injustice, when he left the field for a final time, to a chorus of Boo’s from a baiting home crowd that had been dealt the worse possible news. An ending, not befitting of such a decorated franchise player. But that was to be his final act. On the turf he called home. In a city he called home. “fans” took to burning his jersey and it all concluded in a manner that all would live to regret. A timely reminder that memories are short and feelings of goodwill are even shorter in pro-football.
Health was given as the reasoning, in an emotional press conference, where the devastating blow to the teams talent and resulting fortunes was tangible. Owner, Head coach and General manager stood in front of the media defiantly, stating they believed all was not lost. But regardless of their faith in Jacoby Brissett, it was almost going to be impossible to replace their talisman.
The regret and angst perhaps lies with Chris Ballard’s predecessors. He had formed a formidable line in front of Luck and a plausible case for one of the AFC’s elite. The reality was perhaps, the damage was already done, in seasons prior. The stand-in-the-pocket and deliver days still lingered harrowingly on the former Stanford playmakers body. So much so, he’d lost his love for the game. This seemed unthinkable based on the previous years performances which looked like he was “back”. His ailing health, the mounting injuries and the following re-habilitation process put him in a dark place. It was almost unthinkable for the Mr Nice Guy, who universally respected across the game.
It was a stark reminder, that beyond its, glitz, fireworks, fighter jets and national pride sentiment, lies a dark and shattering billion dollar business. They will bulldoze the lives and hopes of those who aspire to play it, at any given moment.
Ballard’s move for Brissett in prior years with New England seemed like a ingenuius strategy. The media darling GM was continued to be lauded for this young, fast and athletic team he had built. The realtity which planned out in 2019 appeared in many ways to be a departure from this notion.
Injuries played a part, comeback star Tight End, Eric Ebron, from a year ago looked short of form and eventually was placed on IR. Both Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore, both handed extensions in the off season, battled contuined injuries. As did defensive lineman – Denico Autry, who formed a strong core of their defence.
The in season retirement of long time kicker was another unforeseen circumstance that the team had to manage. The oldest player left on any of the 32 teams rosters at the start of the season, some questionable form which cost them games and his legendary leg, suddenly was done. A tough exit for a true great of the game but another microcosm of the Colts season.
Despite a well recognised line, the Colts appeared to be short of weapons, as a deep threat, TY Hilton. He struggled to contribute as injuries plagued one of the most underrated playmakers in the game. The Colts still consistently ran the ball well in an attempt to balance their offence, in support of Brissett. But the lack of passing attack could not be overcome, to find scoring dives, when needed, they become predictable as injuries and poor form mounted. The roster the ceased to cope.
The biggest questions that will need to be answered in the Off-season: what do they do at Quarterback? Brissett for all his leadership and intangibles, appeared to not provide the future John Irsay’s team. The Colts hold the 13th pick of the off-season and a question of trading up to attain a target may well be on the table. They have an additional 2nd round pick as ammunition – via the Montez Sweat trade- if they see a candidate they want. Who will be within their reach is partly out their control, as QB-needy teams have stated the price they are willing to past. So a move into the top 6-8 teams may well be required, to find their future signal caller.
Or conversely, do they fulfil the most important position with a known quantity and hope they can improve the team further. Their defence with a true edge rushing presence could be in the realms of top-5 based on talent alone. They are equipped with over $90.3 mil with of cap space. They have plenty space not only extend those needed to retain its core, they have room to make a number of splashed, if they feel the talent is warranted.
They were rumoured to be making a move for previous divisional foe – Jedeveon Clowney. A perfect fit for Matt Eberfuls’ defence and would add a complementary and further flexibility to what they run schematically. Players of this ilk will be where the Colts should be looking to shop for a quality over over quality approach. As Ballard has stated they will not pay over the value that they perceive each free agent to represent.
Besides a win at home against Houston, where Brissett hit unrepeated heights in his play, there were few signature performances to savour, in a 7-9 season.
They have reasons to believe as Darius Leonard is a player most front offices would want to run their defence. But they will want to find a permanent solution on offence shortly so they can maintain the young talented core together for a long as possible.
The Colts are a handful of players away from being a real force, just as they were prior to the shock Andrew Luck retirement. but based in their historic fortunes at filling that position, could they strike gold for a third time? Upon the close of the 1st round on the 23rd of April, we will then have a clearer ideas where Indianapolis see the most important question in all of sports.
By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y) and Euan De Ste Croix (@dissy89)
be the Turkey at Thanksgiving?
they’ve done away with the Galloping Gobbler award on thanksgiving, many people
will be looking to see if Jason Garrett will be ripe for roasting once again as
they host the Buffalo Bills in their traditional home Thanksgiving game.
A lot of criticism
went Garrett’s way after his decision to kick a field goal late in the game at
Foxboro’ and the dangerous Buffalo Bills could put Garrett and his coaching
qualities under the spotlight once again.
The Cowboys missed an opportunity to steal a march on the NFC East, which would have given him a bit less of a hotseat. With the Eagles now having an easy stretch of schedule, the Cowboys cannot afford to slip up, although it’s likely the NFC East title will come down to their Week 16 game, even if the Cowboys fall to a game behind. IF that scenario does play out, will Garrett even be the coach then?
Other potential Turkeys include third stringer QB David Blough for the Lions who goes up against a Bears defence that’s actually giving up less points than they did last year (funny how our opinions see them as less fearsome), Mitchell Trubisky (no explanation needed) and the Atlanta Falcons, who have to prove it all again after their defeat to the Bucs as they host the Saints.
game between the Steelers and Browns needs no introduction but this particular
fixture will have more spice than Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.
be a few key protagonists missing from the game that were involved in the
skirmish 2 weeks ago, some through suspension (Garrett, Pouncey) and some
through inability to function as an NFL player (Rudolph).
be lost is the heavy hitting, cheap shots between the players looking to
continue their scuffles.
Keep an eye
on the referees in this one as they will try to maintain order in the AFC North
battle. The Browns will want the win more as they still have an outside shot at
the playoffs, but can they keep their composure, can they execute their plans,
something they’ve struggled with all season.
The mouthwatering clashes keep on coming for the neutrals as 49ers and the Ravens, the 2 trailblazers with a combined record of 19-3, meet this Sunday. Yet again the 10-1 49ers are the ones who seemingly have to prove their credential for the Super Bowl whilst many are quick to brandish Lamar Jackson the MVP award and the Ravens a Super Bowl berth.
This is of course a Super Bowl rematch from the “Harbaugh Bowl” back in Super Bowl XLVII when the Flacco led Ravens came out victorious of the Colin Kaepernick led 49ers in the Mercedes Benz Super dome (and of course that famous blackout).
Can the 49ers now do it on the road after recording home victories the past few weeks against the Packers and Cardinals. Teams usually get their due when travelling to tough environments in the NFL as home comforts can usually get you bye in case of any struggles.
There will be no room to hide with the spotlight currently beaming down on these two teams and it will be fascinating to see who comes out victorious when the dust settles.
LA-st chance Saloon
That Jared Goff Contract is not looking like it will be conducive to them reappearing in the Super Bowl anytime soon.
With their embarrassing loss to the Ravens at home on MNF, the Rams are now 6-5 and 3 games back off Seattle, 4 off of the 49ers and 2 games back in the Wildcard race where the Vikings currently sit with the #6 seed.
It’s amazing how not even a year ago, the Rams annihilated everyone that was put in front of them and it was about this time last year when we were treated to the 100+ game in LA vs the Chiefs.
That Rams team is a far cry away from what it is now and you have to wonder whether or not McVay and co have the ability to turn it around.
Their recent trade for Jalen Ramsey means they don’t have any picks of great value for the next couple of years and Jared Goff’s salary means that they can’t move on from him (nor Todd Gurley’s for that mattter).
It could be a spiral out of control situation and it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility that the whole organisation is blown up.
PS: Dallas, send the Rams a 1st round or 2nd rounder for McVay.
An AFC South battle sees the current #8 and #9 seeds going toe to toe in effectively a playoff matchup.
Indianapolis and Tennessee will leave it all out on the field in Lucas Oil Stadium as the winner could potentially move in to the 6th seed which the Steelers currently hold. Pittsburgh face the Browns and the #7 seeded Raiders face the Chiefs, so chances are the winner here leap frogs all of them.
The Titans has seen a resurgence under Ryan Tannehill, currently the highest rated QB since he took over from Mariota. HC Mike Vrabel and OC Arthur Smith will look to keep on rolling as they face a slightly banged up Jacoby Brissett, Marlon Mack-less Colts team. Indy have won the last 3 between these two so recent history is against them but this wasn’t a Ryan Tannehill led Titans team.
The Titans then travel to Oakland before facing Houston in 2 of their last 3 games.
You have to feel the Titans have it all in their hands. The question is can they grab it?
Can the decibel best the mentor?
Bill O’Brien is comfortably the most successful graduate from the Bill Beikchick coaching tree but that is hardly a seismic feat. After serving under the most successful head coach of the modern era from 2007-11, O’Brien must be considering privately, this Sunday Primetime game, would represent his best chance to finally claim a victory against the New England dynasty. But Bill is currently 0-5 against them and 0-2 since the drafting of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Perhaps the closest the the Texans have come was in Watson’s rookie season. Not going for a 4th & 1, saw the Texans hand the ball back to new England and miss out on their best chance to beat their perennial superiors rivals since 2011.
The New England offence, post the loss of Gronkowski, is still attempting to find an identity and it’s output won’t be one that will scare any potential opponents and particularly Watson and the Texans offence who will likely fancy their chances, all things being equal. The key will be – can O’Brien’s Houston team learn from the great one and play mistake free football? A central theme to the success for footballs ever persistent powerhouse.
The Texans have their not so secret weapon in speedster, Will Fuller, who O’Brien publicly declared the up turn in Hopkins and Watson’s game when he’s on the field. Fuller, often injured, but immeasurably effective when on the field, has missed the previous two clashes with Watson under centre.
If O’Brien and his coaching staff can come out of the headlights of a primetime game win against his professor, prior to move Pat’s personnel chief, Nick Caserio, to Houston as GM this off season. Then the Texans will possibly have their first one over New England in a long time, until at least the play-off’s.
A Cross-State Battle with more Questions than Answers at QB.
Tampa Bay visit their Florida rivals in Jacksonville this Sunday in a game that will likely be shunned by neutrals and for good reason. The visiting side perhaps put their best performance of the season against division rivals in Atlanta, last Sunday. Jameis Winston, continues to the show up short of his draft status and the franchise is at a cross roads on what to do with the 5th year passer.
Taking last weeks game in isolation, that alone would suggest Winston would be in line for an off-season extension, but his interception filled stint would not in Tampa, would not. Winston has 5 games to avoid a career as eternal back-up. Regardless the outcome, a year on the franchise tag may be all he can hope for, if he’s to stay in south Florida.
On the other side of the field, a similarly intriguing proposition lies, as big money free agent and former super bowl MVP, since returning form injury has appeared to take Jacksonville backwards. In his absence, Gardner Minshew appeared to have won the job in 9 games posting, 13 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and racking up 2,285 yards at a completion rate of above 60%. Losing both games since his return, albeit putting up more accurate passing numbers, Foles has thrown two TD’s but the team doesn’t appear to carry the same spark as it did, when Foles was watching from the sidelines.
The Jag’s are not so far removed and from an AFC championship berth but have had many salary-cap casualties when signing Foles to a his deal. It could be argued that the lack of cap space was the initial driver of the Jalen Ramsey trade and it would seem they are lily to lose edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. A lot is riding on Foles to be successful in Duval county but it would seem, the rest of their roster has suffered in an attempt to replace the Blake Bortles saga.
Both teams are looking for reasons for optimism but it would seem change lies ahead in either coaching or personnel to revive either teams fortunes.
Games to Get Right Or Quelling underlying fears?
Both Philadelphia and Carolina face two games which on the surface of it would seem automatic wins. Both are 10 point favourites. Both, on the surface have strong rosters and will feel their respective records should be healthier than they currently read.
Regardless if they win by the outlined margin, does the 6.25% step forward, really represent anything other than short term progress. The Eagles, at the outset would have been set for a Super Bowl run or at least deep into the play-offs, by many on lookers. Hindered by a poor secondary and a quarterback – who after a number of injuries and changes to his offensive personnel – seems lost, in not overwhelmed. Wentz’s regression is stark and in spite of a bounce back game on Sunday against Miami, there are longer terms concerns for a team who were heralded for Howie Roseman’s roster building acumen. This is now the second consecutive season of under achievement after their Super Bowl win and concern has to be there and unaffected, even by a 50-point win on Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers, have a quandary at the most important position in all of sports also. The continual decline of Cam Newton’s health has seen Kyle Allen step in a lead the ship admirably. An underachiever in the college game has never been doubted talent-wise but it would appear his consistency and application has. There have been some strong outings for Allen. But he also has has some games to forget, the showing at home versus at Atlanta, rightly called into question his decision making. Even with a strong follow up performance against a struggling Washington team, Kyle will be looking to re-assert some positively after their narrow loss to New Orleans. A game they should have won, if not for the missed five points by their rookie kicker Joey Slye.
There are question to be asked about how much Allen’s play is bolstered by Christian McCaffery’s all-pro and possibly MVP calibre season at running back. As limitations have been shown, so is there enough there to give confidence to ambitions new owner, David Tepper? A many who made his fortune in investments, will shortly tell us how willing he is to invest the future of the franchise in Kyle Allen.
Does Defence win Championships still?
The adage has been echoed round NFL-based discussions for decades. If you didn’t have a league leading defence with multiple blue-chip players, at all three levels your chances were nullified. This uprising of the San Francisco 49er’s has perhaps shown that the notion is alive and well. The undoubted strength of the team is it’s defence. The litany of first round draft picks across its front seven make it difficult for the opposition to move the ball. Whether it’s, Ford, Bosa, Armstead, Thomas or Bucker. There isn’t 5 tougher blocking assignments for an offensive line in the game.
This front has allowed the linebackers and secondary to flourish with the additional pressures this unit brings. Witherspoon finally seems to be realising his talent at corner and Richard Sherman appears to be having a plus year, after looking not his former self last season. So the leading statement has proven to have varying levels of validity across the season. So much so, the performances have been questionable from their quarterback but Jimmy-G plays within a system that he suited to and it doesn’t require him to chase big plays outside of it. The running game the defence will ensure that’s not the case. But Sunday they face their biggest test of the year.
An apposing body evidence to this argument would be the Baltimore Ravens who, defence is strong in its own right and have done an amicable job of letting players go and finding replacements throughout the draft. But their real revelation has been the improvements show in the game of second year quarterback, come magic man, Lamar Jackson.
After crashing out the play-off’s he has come back with vengeance. Their unique brand of offence is an intriguing one which relies on the run. The league seem to have changed and in a way that has allowed Jackson to flourish rather than one that would have traditionally rejected his athleticism. His play and level at the offence is running at, is unrivalled through this point of the year. The two and three tight end sets have allow Baltimore to control the line of scrimmage and pick off high percentage throws and run the ball to the tune of over 200 yards per game.
The 49ers perhaps pose the strongest test of their system to get the best out of Jackson. This Sunday, will likely be one for the old school lovers of ground and pound running game. Whilst the game could provide a timely reminder that in 2019 offence may well win championships. Or is the old platitude still correct? The number 1 rushing team plays the number 2 team in a clash which should help us in that understanding, come Sunday.
Only the Young & Offensive Minded need apply
When a failed college head-coach in Cliff Kingsbury was hired by the Arizona Cardinals it seemed odd. Relieved from his duties at Texas Tech, he had only just taken up the Role of USC’s offensive co-oridnator in the weeks prior. But some how he had landed one of the prized 32 gigs to coach at the highest level. It seemed odd on the face of it. Kingsburry was allowed to draft Kyler Murray No1 overall in this years draft, re-make an offence and a team with limited talent for year one of a multi-year project.
Last off season – that was the latest trend for every franchise who wanted to get ahead of the curve or at least join it, was to hire a specific model of coach, to take them into the next decade of a changing league. At one point last off-season the common joke was: “I once cleaned Sean McVey’s pool so I’d like to apply for the Head Coaching job.”
Fast forward not even three quarters of a season and those remarks certainly won’t contain the same level of relevancy, compared to when team owners/GM’s were looking for a new team leader, last off season. Often referred to as an acronym off ‘Not For Long’ the NFL has a habit of building you up just as quickly as it will bring you down with a crash. The Ram’s offence appears to have embodied a typical NFL cycle and crash it has done, but with such alarm. After letting linemen leave the building and extending Jared Geoff, no longer receives to the same level of protection and wide open targets he previously enjoyed. It would seem that their once heralded system appears to have dropped in effectiveness. Just as the brightest head coach in the NFL galaxy doesn’t appear quite as bright as it once gleamed.
Now, Sunday represent a milestrone game and clear barometer of how these two young coaches are set for the following seasons and beyond. Both need a further influx of talent to be competitive with the play-off calibre teams. But it will show, how was has Geoff fallen from his perch of league leading offence against a questionable defence – out with safety Budda Baker. But it will also show how the QB of choice, young dream coach experiment is rounding into shape.
It will be an intriguing watch if this archetype is desired for the next round of, off-season, head coach carousel, in 2020.
Week 9 in the NFL saw the an undefeated team lose, an unsuccessful team win and Houston Texans demolish Minshew Mania in the final game of the International Series in London.
Here’s what else to take away from the weekend’s action.
And then there was one
With the Ravens beating the Patriots on SNF, that leaves just the San Francisco 49ers as the last undefeated team. The 49ers themselves were run close on TNF by Arizona and as well all know, anything can happen on any given Sunday.
With the schedule toughening up slightly down he stretch, it’ll be a tough ask to expect the 49ers to go the distance, but i am sure their main priority will be to clinch the division and a 1st round bye in January.
They’ll be kept honest from here on out as the Seahawks and Rams are not too far back so the pressure will be on all the way to week 17.
Kiss my butt-ker
In a slobberknocker from the early slate, the game between 2 of the better teams in the NFL got in on and the Chiefs were able to come away with the win due to the boot of Harrison Butker.
We all know about the fragility and volatility of kickers, their jobs and reliability but the Chiefs kicker put in a textbook effort that even Johnny Wilkinson would have been proud of.
With his perfect performance of 4/4 on FG (including a 54yard long) and his 2 XPs, Harrison Butker has surpassed HOF Jan Stenerud (356) for the 2nd-most points scored through a player’s first 3 seasons in Chiefs history (trailing only Cairo Santos).
I wonder what price Chicago would pay for him…
Talking of Chicago, there are some real troubles in Illinois. The first half was. not. pretty.
The last time these two met, it was in the divisional round of the playoffs last year (#doubledoink) and ever since that class, it’s all been downhill since.
Mitchell Trubisky had just 2 passing yards at the end of the 1st quarter, the Bears gained their first down INSIDE THE 2 MINUTE warning of the 1st half. Whilst they gained some traction in the 2nd half, if you can call it that (Trubisky ended up with just 10 completions for 125 yards) they were out of sight at that point with no hope of winning the game.
Nagy, Trubisky and even the defence which committed more offsides than a Fillippo Inzaghi masterclass, are all under fire for their performances to date this season.
What made matters worse, returning former Bears Alshon Jeffrey and touchdown scorer Jordan Howard enjoyed a good day on their new teams. They would have gained plenty of pleasure from heaping more misery on their former employers.
For Chicago, they must all be feeling like grizzlys with sore heads.
lockett and load it
With the 12 currently enjoying the prospect of Josh Gordon joining the wide receiving core imminiently, it’s another of their wideouts that is stealing the show.
The Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett connection is pure poetry in motion and it’s no flash in the pan.
Last season Wilson enjoyed a perfect passer rating when throwing to #16 and it’s easy to see that this has carried forward to this season.
Since the start of last season, Lockett has hauled in 103 receptions from 124 targets, averaging over 14 yards per target and a healthy 83% catch rate. For a team that use a run heavy approah, you could say that Lockett is just as important to the team as QB Russell Wilson and Chris Carson.
Lockett, a former 3rd round pick in 2015 is still searching for his 1st 1000 yard season with the Seahawks but with 615 receiving yards at the half way point, he looks certain to accomplish that achievement. He’s turning into one of the league’s best wide receivers and certainly one of the most reliable.
That will be music to the ears of Pete Caroll, Russell Wilson and the 12 as they make a push for the postseason.
The Tank Continues…..
We have been witnessing a team intent on losing in South Florida for what feels like the entire season. That continued this weekend, but not from the Dolphins themselves who chalked up their first win of the season. The narrative has been that Ryan Fitzpatrick gave them the best opportunity to win and he had himself a nice afternoon, throwing 3 touchdown passes with preseason darling Preston Williams finding the end zone twice.
Surely Adam Gase will be one and done in New York and that should signal the end of his NFL head coaching opportunities for the foreseeable future. The supposed quarterback whisperer oversaw a performance from Sam Darnold that lacked any explosion as short range passing to Jamison Crowder, Lev Bell and Ryan Griffin dominated the game plan. Much optimism in the preseason feels like a distant memory and give me the Dolphins right now to finish with a better record at season end than the men in green.
Same Old Browns
Remind me next year to not buy into any hype. Another Sunday, another defeat for the Cleveland Browns and the likelihood is that you can “stick a fork in them” when it comes to playoff aspirations. A team that has preached the importance of discipline and execution every day of the week, once again fails to deliver that mantra on Sunday. This weekend it was Jarvis Landry and OBJ wearing cleats which violated the leagues uniform policy. Not to be outdone the starting free safety then had a twitter meltdown and threatened to fight and kill anyone who rightly criticized his awful performance.
This is a team that looks lost and unfortunately the captain of the ship appears to be all at sea also. Freddie Kitchens continues to make puzzling play calls and personnel decisions such as having Nick Chubb on the bench for 2 running plays inside the Broncos 5 yard line. That sequence led to a turnover on downs and the Broncos marched the field to all but ice the game. In truth, it never felt like the Browns would do anything other than find another way to lose on Sunday.
Backing Up The Backup
Jacoby Brissett has played so well this season that the Colts haven’t had to mourn the loss of Andrew Luck on the eve of the season too much. Brissett has proven to be a more than capable starter who has marshalled the troops to a respectable position. Check the injury news this week though as he suffered what appeared to be a nasty looking injury when one of his own lineman first stood and then fell on his leg.
The initial look didn’t look good, but there was encouragement that he walked off the field under his own power, and remained on the sidelines throughout. The Colts will be desperate to get him back as soon as possible but will be fearing the worst as Frank Reich explained it could be an MCL sprain. Brian Hoyer came in and looked pretty much as he always does and proved why he was signed to fulfill the role of backup. The Colts will be hoping in a competitive division that they don’t have to play the backup to the initial backup for very long.
Double Dolphins celebrations
Not only did Week 9 witness the Miami Dolphins win their first game of the 2019 season on Sunday, their legendary 1972 undefeated team remain the only squad to go through a whole season without a loss.
Baltimore Ravens second year QB Lamar Jackson not only got the win against the New England Patriots, he managed to personally elevate himself into the running for NFL MVP in the same game. LJax and the dominant running game stomped all over the Patriots for another team 200+ yards on the ground, and three rushing scores.
Mark Ingram went over 100 yards and LJax scored twice on the ground and once in the air. The scorer of the Ravens passing td was none other than Nick Boyle, a backup tight end, and five year veteran of the NFL, who up until Sunday had bizarrely never scored a touchdown.
I hope he didn’t get too excited and throw the ball into the crowd. At his current rate he won’t get another leather souvenir of that type until 2024.
Minshew Mania mangled at Wembley
The 80,000+ crowd on Sunday were treated to plenty of replica moustaches, and even some authentic ones, along with an assortment of bandanas and handkerchiefs wrapped around fans heads as they dressed up in respect of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie QB sensation Gardner Minshew III.
Unfortunately the real Gardner Minshew failed to board the plane from Florida last week as fans were left watching a sixth round rookie perform like a sixth round rookie. Minshew Mania misfired for 60 minutes, including two interceptions, three sacks allowed and two fumbles lost, as the Houston Texans, in large part thanks to two seismic runs from Carlos Hyde, dominated a game that was billed to be a shootout. The 26-3 win for the Texans would have likely been even bigger if their All-Pro DE J.J. Watt would have been playing.
I know its not Halloween anymore but Nick Foles will be smelling blood after Minshew’s misfires. Napoleon Dynamite v Minshew Mania – for the Jaguars starting QB – sounds like an ITV PPV wrestling matchup.
Living up to their Bill-ing as an easy scalp
The Washington Redskins are trying, trying fans patience that is, after a third consecutive game without a touchdown. 0, 9 and 9, points per game, consisting of six total field-goals, is not going to earn Bill Callahan a shot at the permanent head coach position at the end of the season.
This was the first official start for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who looked uncomfortable all game once forced out of the pocket by the likes of Bills DE Jerry Hughes. To his credit Haskins lasted the whole game and did not commit a single turnover, which is a positive sign, but without any offense aside from Adrian Peterson and fellow rookie Terry McLaurin to move the sticks the prospects for the team in burgundy and gold look bleak. Even punter Tress Way who was leading the league in punt average had an under par game.
Thankfully the Redskins were on the road, against a Bills fanbase that were aggressively booing their own QB Josh Allen despite his team having an 11 point lead at one point in the contest.
Right now Redskins fans don’t care if they deliver 10 yards of offense per half (incidentally more than the Chicago Bears did in the first half of Week 9) if they get a few more wins.
One for the road…
Chargers now finally plugged in
No-one expected the Packers to lay an egg against Los Angeles this weekend.
Aaron Rodgers and the high flying packers have stormed to an NFC North divisional lead on the back of 4 straight wins.
For the Chargers though, this win puts them at 4-5 and right back in the wildcard hunt.
Mainly down to the dynamic and destructive duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers defence had it’s way with the Packers offensive line and Aaron Rodgers who turned in a Chicago Bears impersonation in the first half.
Whether the firing of Ken Whisenhunt had anything to do with it, we’ll unlikely to ever find out, but the Chargers, notoriously slow starters, are now giving themselves a chance at playing January football.
For their fans, hopefully it doesn’t take too long to get fully charged.
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…
In a new weekly feature, here are our 10 top things we are most looking forward to this week in the NFL.
-Zeke and destroy-
Ezekiel Elliot, the newly $90m, 6 year contracted running back.
Will his offseason away from the team in Cabo turn in to rustiness and on field lack of rhythm and chemistry with Dak? Probably not, especially seeing as though Tanner Lee was flown out to Cabo for Zeke to get the requisite reps. That being said, it’s been far from ideal for the Dallas Cowboys with contract stories literally in every position group in their team. Dak and Amari Cooper will probably be dealt with next offseason now judging by the other contracts that were settled over the past few weeks but now it’s time for America’s Team to get on the field and put away the Giants.
If they can put all of it behind them, there is Super Bowl calibre team here. Regardless of how well they do this season, surely all eyes are on how Zeke slots back in to the operation of this offence.
-How Charged up is the LA running game-
L.A. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has stuck a marker in the Californian sand with a refusal to negotiate RB Melvin Gordon’s contact until the season is complete. A bold move, but you don’t want such a big distraction as you start a season with QB Philip Rivers in the twilight of his Hall of Fame worthy career.
With Gordon still disgruntled and not reporting this means the powder-blue ball pounders will be Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Ekeler has proved to be a quality plug and play, but the real excitement lies with Jackson and his burst.
The Chargers are a balanced team that are pretty safe locks for a playoff spot, and if Ekeler and Jackson can find early rhythm then they will be saying “Melvin who?” by January.
-Chiefs grabbing Shady-
K.C. head coach Andy Reid helped LeSean McCoy to become a superstar in Philadelphia, and now the two are reunited. Grabbing McCoy, who was unceremoniously cut by the Buffalo Bills, is a move that will be making Chiefs fans scratch their heads.
For fantasy fans they will be doing more that scratching, they will be pulling clumps of hair out. RB Damien Williams proved he can manage the spotlight and is a quality ball-catcher. Darwin Thompson has shown too that he can pound the rock, but now you add in a veteran back who is on the downward spiral.
Reid will reignite McCoy’s career as will being in the same huddle as Patrick Mahomes. So tough to project his immediate impact, but stay tuned Week 1.
-I’ll take a Big Mack-
Khalil Mack was on his way to making Aaron Donald sweat for the Defensive Player of the Year, was it not for a small injury that slowed him down a tad.
Mack was the biggest news of the start of the 2018 season, and twelve months later he has a year of better appreciating his surroundings in Chicago. The Bears defense is the best unit in the NFL, and with tackling machine Roquan Smith by his side Mack is going to be gunning for 20 sacks in 2019.
I can see the Bears v Eagles in the NFC Championship, and pray to the spirit of George Halas that Mack’s outstanding play is not crippled by another double-doink.
-Pats Old Guard try to repeat the trick-
New England will start the defence of their Super Bowl crown with the visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, and will do so with the oldest roster in the NFL when young players have seemingly never been so valuable.
In todays salary cap age, the ability to keep cost controlled draft picks is seen as a vital way to remain competitive. However, the Patriots have seemed to eschew that school of thought recently. Arguably the only impactful players playing on their rookie deals are running back Sony Michel and guard Joe Thuney, although they will no doubt hope that this years class headlined by messrs Harry and Winovich and one of last years first rounders, tackle Isaiah Wynn, will make an impact following a rookie season curtailed by an Achilles injury sustained in camp.
It seems Bill Belichick is forever zigging while the rest of the league zags, the rest of the league looks to get quicker, stronger and more athletic he is relying on know-how and experience to take them back to the Super Bowl. Even today, surrounded by the electrifying technicolour highlights of Mahomes, Barkley etc few would bet against them doing just that.
-Kliff, Kyler and the air raid offence-
In Glendale on Sunday evening the Arizona Cardinals will try to take their franchises first baby steps back to viability as a contender when they welcome the similarly rebuilding Detroit Lions to the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Attention will certainly be focused on how rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury and no. 1 pick Kyler Murray perform in the first test of the pass-happy, hyperactive Air Raid offence. While its fair to say elements of the scheme have been a staple for many teams over the past few years, the Cards have made it clear they will ride or die with their youngsters for better or worse this year.
With a fresh receiving core including Christian Kirk and rookies Andy Isabella and Keesean Johnson, complemented by old reliable Larry Fitzgerald and star running back David Johnson, hopes are high in the desert that the road back to competitiveness starts here. And if not, it will certainly be fun to watch!
-Rams try to avoid Super Bowl hangover-
Sean McVay will try to pilot his teams path back to the Super Bowl beginning with a cross country trip to Charlotte to face Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers. While last years offence was, for large parts of the season unstoppable, they seemed to run out of steam as the season reached its most crucial phase.
Over the season the Rams were the second highest scoring offence in football, only behind the remarkable Chiefs led by MVP Patrick Mahomes, however over the last month of the regular season their PPG decreased by over 10 points capped off by the 3 point performance on the biggest stage at Super Bowl LIII.Young receiver Cooper Kupp went down with an season ending injury and when star running back Todd Gurley was hampered by a knee injury by the latter stages of the season, the Rams overall effectiveness on offence seemed to go with him.
Has the rest of the NFL caught up to Sean McVay’s scheme or will the Rams be back lighting up the scoreboard this year? Any team boasting the talents of reigning DPOY Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle, Jared Goff, Robert Woods etc plus the hopefully back to full health Gurley and Kupp should be challenging in the very competitive NFC.
-OBJ = Odell’s Browns Jersey-
It really wasn’t a dream…..OBJ will be wearing orange and brown to kick of the 2019 NFL campaign.
The sensational trade that shook the NFL back in March has been the standout moment in a summer full of positive vibes out of North Eastern Ohio and at last we get to see the on field product on Sunday. OBJ has been wrapped in cotton wool throughout the offseason, practising sparingly and not seeing any preseason action so all eyes will be on how quickly he establishes a connection with Baker Mayfield.
The Browns host the Titans looking to win a season opener for the first time since 2004, here’s hoping!
-Ring that Bell!-
So Le’Veon Bell didn’t win any additional money from his contract holdout, but did he win by preserving his body?
The running back will see the field for the first time in over 18 months when the Jets open up against the Bills on Sunday in New York. Bell has always had a patient running style but would have been afforded superior line play during his time with the Steelers. Will he be able to transition this style to his new surroundings or will we see him bouncing to the outside more regularly?
Despite plenty of optimism of growth in the second season of Sam Darnold, the Jets may only go as far as Bell can carry them.
-Time for a new Colt hero?-
Jacoby Brissett, what an opportunity you have in front of you.
You may argue he had this chance in 2017 when as the full time starter for the year he led the Colts to a 4-12 record, but don’t underestimate how much better this overall Colts team is now. He will have arguably the best O-line in football in front of him with Quenton Nelson leading the group in his 2nd year. He has a nice array of options in the passing game to throw to and a committee approach at running back should see the Colts very competitive.
Once considered a potential heir to Tom Brady, I’m looking forward to seeing Brissett grasp his chance this time around.