Intriguing contract-year conundrums

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

2020 will see a wealth of the NFL’s top players hit their contract year on one level or another. There’s obviously Dak Prescott at Dallas, looking to get paid for four years rather than five, but we yak about Dak elsewhere on the site so let’s park him for now. The F10Y gang have also discussed Minnesota’s Captain Holdout, Dalvin Cook, on a recent podcast so again, I’ll step away.

The old timers, like Philip Rivers at the Colts, new Raiders tight end Jason Witten and fellow TE Greg Olsen, now in Seattle, will probably see out their careers one year at a time. And barring disaster, many of those under the franchise tag, from Jalen Ramsey to Chris Jones, will probably waltz right into their next big deal.

But which players have more uncertain futures? Who has everything to play for – or all to lose – this year?


Cincinnati Bengals: Can AJ rediscover the old magic?

John Grieshop/Getty Images
Status: Franchise tagged

While Cincy need to work on a deal for Joe Mixon, Adriel Jeremiah Green is the real head-scratcher. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding AJ, which isn’t surprising, given that the veteran has missed almost a year and a half with an ankle injury sustained in the first offseason training camp and, before that, turf toe. When healthy, Green has been one of the league’s best receivers and currently ranks second in franchise history in receptions (602), receiving yards (8,907) and touchdowns (63). Green hasn’t taken the field since November 2018, which is why the seven-time Pro Bowler got franchise tagged.

There’s no doubting AJ’s pedigree but the big question is, just how much will age and recent injury woes impact his performance? We’ll have to wait till mid-September to see whether he’s worth tying up longer-term in the Queen City. Turning 32 before another snap is played, his current one-year, $18 million “prove it” arrangement is eminently sensible. But should he endure another injury-ravaged campaign, there’s a distinct possibility he’ll be out the door and relying on short-term contracts for the rest of his career.

Green and the Bengals front office have been in talks over a third multi-year deal for a while now but as yet, there’s no agreement. Unless something gets inked before the 15 July deadline, he’ll be in the same boat next off-season. The Bengals rejected trade offers so they must want him around but will they commit to three or four years for a player who’s missed 29 of the last 64 games? If he gets back to his old self and clicks with rookie QB Joe Burrow, I reckon so…


New Orleans Saints: Is Jameis the heir apparent?

Status: One-year deal

As one of the league’s top runners, Alvin Kamara is likely to get (over)paid Christian McCaffrey-esque amounts of money when his deal runs out. But I’m more intrigued to see how Jameis Winston’s one-year, $1.1 million deal plays out.

The 26-year-old is coming off a 5,000-yard, 30-TD season (yeah, OK, there were 30-odd interceptions too) so if Drew Brees is unavailable at any point, Winston could make watching the Saints even more exciting – or nerve-wracking, depending on your allegiances.

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The other incumbent, Taysom Hill, was given a rather generous extension for a 30-year-old who only ranks third on the current roster for passes to Saints players, behind Brees and, somewhat amusingly, Winston himself. (Yes, Jameis has been picked off 10 times by Saints defenders while at the Buccaneers, eclipsing Hill’s seven career pass completions!). Yet Hill, whose own $21 million contract is the third-highest for a back-up QB, is also a special teams Swiss Army knife and they may have other plans for him.

We won’t know for sure whether Winston will be the immediate stand-in, let alone the long-term answer, unless Brees goes down. But, much like Teddy Bridgewater last year, things could work out well if he fills in successfully for a few games.

For all his foibles, at least Winston is a known quantity but what if he sits out the whole year? The Saints will have quite the dilemma deciding what to do with the former #1 overall pick if he stays on the bench. Brees signed a two-year, $50 million contract in March so he won’t be put out to grass quite yet, so do they sit on Jameis for another year?

I think they do. I can see him learning the ways of Sean Payton so that when Brees does finally retire, the Saints have their long-term replacement primed and ready to go.


Chicago Bears: Do they trust Trubisky?

David Banks/Getty Images
Status: Fifth-year option rejected

I think we can safely say that, in acquiring Nick Foles during the offseason and declining Mitchell Trubisky’s fifth-year option, the Bears have put their QB on notice. It’s possibly a bona fide battle for the starting job in 2020 and it’s arguably Trubisky’s to lose at this point. But given his form since Chicago traded up to take him at #2 overall in the 2017 Draft – ahead of Deshaun Watson (oof!) and Patrick Mahomes (ouch!) – he may not start all 16 games. 

Over the last three campaigns, Trubisky clearly hasn’t progressed as expected, with a completion rate of 63.4%, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt and just 48 touchdowns. He’s also struggled with shoulder injuries, which is probably another reason why the final-year option wasn’t picked up.

In short, Trubisky needs a breakout season to keep Foles off the field, and propel the Bears to a playoff spot that really should’ve been theirs last year. Even if he suddenly becomes the QB they’d hoped he was three years ago, Chicago could franchise-tag him next year, just to be sure it’s not a flash in the plan. Or they might just trade him away, with Foles waiting in the wings. However it plays out, 2020 feels like a make-or-break year for Trubisky.


San Francisco 49ers: Where’s Trent Williams’ head at?

The Associated Press
Status: Final year of existing deal

It’s hard to see the Niners letting TE George Kittle walk away when his deal expires, and they may also have to budget for fellow contract-year teammates Richard Sherman and Kyle Juszczyk. So for me, the main question mark facing the 49ers is Trent Williams.  

Williams has been one of the best tackles in the NFL for years, competing with the likes of Jason Peters for being top of the class for pass and run blocking. But obviously, there are alarm bells concerning his health issues last year: a pre-cancerous growth on his head led to him sitting out the entire 2019 season, due to how he felt the Redskins medical staff handled the situation.

The 49ers traded for Williams during the 2020 Draft, so what kind of player will the 33-year-old be after such a protracted layoff? Well, he passed his medical, didn’t ask for an extension and restructured the final year of his existing deal so that he could prove himself. He’s also familiar with Kyle Shanahan, a former offensive coordinator in Washington, so he should prove to be a plug-and-play, Pro Bowl calibre starter in a position of need, having joined the Niners just as Joe Staley retired. Assuming he’s OK health-wise, I can only see this working out well for both parties.


Tennessee Titans: Will Derrick Henry get paid?

Status: Franchise tagged

Derrick Henry was a contract-year conundrum this offseason so the Titans slapped him with the franchise tag (just north of $10 million) to keep him away from free agency, giving the prolific running back another 12 months’ grace.

The 25-year-old half-man, half-tank led the league in rushing yards (1,540) and rushing touchdowns (16) in 2019, and almost single-handedly carried the team through their three playoff games. But the fact that he still hasn’t earned himself a multi-year contract says a lot about how teams undervalue running backs. It also says a lot about how much the Titans value QB Ryan Tannehill, who did get paid.

So where does this leave Mr Henry? The vibe between team and player seems pretty positive: he wants to be in Tennessee and Tennessee want him so hopefully, it’s just a matter of time before he gets the pay day his services deserve.


Pittsburgh Steelers: Has JuJu lost his mojo?

Getty Images
Status: Fifth-year option declined

The Steelers have a lot of talent with a year left on the clock but they can’t afford to pay them all. They slapped the franchise tag on linebacker Bud Dupree and DT Cameron Heyward is probably due a monster, Aaron-Donald-like deal. Tackle Alejandro Villanueva could earn himself a new contract too, but RB James Conner may well leave, having taken a backwards step last year.

But what about his 2017 classmate, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster? He needs a bounce-back season as much as anyone. In his 12 games last year, he totalled 42 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns – all career lows and certainly not numbers worthy of a No.1 receiver. With Diontae Johnson and James Washington showing promise, plus new draftee Chase Claypool, the odds of JuJu getting a big second contract are dwindling.

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I don’t know whether last year’s struggles were all due to the rotation of back-up quarterbacks, or if a team’s top wideout should still post decent numbers, whoever’s throwing the rock. Maybe it’s a bit of both but at least Ben Roethlisberger is back at the helm after missing most of last year. Perhaps this will help JuJu will get back to where he was in 2018: 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, with a trip to the Pro Bowl thrown in, despite playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown.

Had he kept that momentum going last year, he might already have that extension in his pocket. But for now, the best Smith-Schuster can hope for now is a return to form and a franchise tag a year hence.


Jacksonville Jaguars: Is Fournette a bust?

Status: Fifth-year option declined

While the Bears deserve some stick for drafting Trubisky in 2017, the Jaguars are probably equally culpable for selecting Leonard Fournette at #4. With Blake Bortles (with a 11-34 record) on their books, a new QB might have been a wiser move but they aslo passed on two generational signal-callers and plumped for a running back. Even then, they picked the wrong one, with Christian McCaffrey available.

It’s easy to be critical with hindsight and Fournette is at least coming off his best season, after a terrible 2018. Despite just three TDs, his 1,674 total yards was a career high. But even when performing well, he’s not worth the big-money deal, which is why the Jaguars tried to trade him before rejecting his fifth-year option.

Without Jalen Ramsey, Nick Foles and Calais Campbell, the Jags could struggle this year. So, even if Fournette does well on an individual level, he’s still likely to end up signing a cheap, short free-agent deal with another franchise next off-season.


Los Angeles Rams: Will Cooper’s cup runneth over?

Action Images via Reuters
Status: Fifth-year option declined

The Rams have two big names playing in the final season of their rookie contracts. The first, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, will almost certainly recalibrate the value of elite CBs when a deal gets done. The other is WR Cooper Kupp.

A third-round section in the 2017 Draft, Kupp’s fifth-year option wasn’t taken up. Maybe the Rams’ miniscule salary cap space was a factor, having coughed up huge deals to Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald and Brandin Cooks over the last couple of years, but it still came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Admittedly, an ACL injury ruled him out for half of 2018 but in his other two-and-a-half seasons, he’s notched 21 touchdowns and caught 196 passes for 2,596 yards (a figure boosted by the 220 he got against the listless Bengals defence at Wembley… but I digress).

Is Kupp special enough or productive enough to hit pay dirt? Well, his 1,161 regular season receiving yards (12th) and 10 touchdowns (second) were certainly up there with the best in 2019. Sure, he faces some fresh competition from rookie Van Jefferson and a plethora of undrafted free agent WRs, but I’d expect Kupp to have another solid season and sign a deal that keeps him in LA.


Atlanta Falcons: Is it too early to write off Gurley?

Status: One-year deal

After being let go by the Rams in March, Todd Gurley II found a new home in Atlanta just 24 hours later. Largely driven by concerns over his troublesome left knee, the brevity of his $6 million deal – it’s just for a year – marks quite the comedown from the 2018 deal that made him the highest-paid RB in NFL history: $60 million over four years. The fact that LA were willing to let the 25-year-old go, despite the massive hit in dead-cap money, speaks volumes. Ludicrously, despite not having to fork out a roster bonus, the Rams will still be paying Gurley more this year ($7.5 million) to play for the Falcons than the Falcons will!

In five seasons with the Rams, Gurley rushed for 5,404 yards and scored 58 touchdowns; he also caught 218 passes for 2,090 yards and 12 more TDs. He was 2017’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year but by the end of 2018, things had gone sour in LA. Then, last year, Gurley rushed for a career-low 857 yards and while questions about his knee persisted, Rams coach Sean McVay swore he was healthy and eventually called himself an idiot for not giving him more touches.

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So will Gurley’s homecoming of sorts – he’s a product of the University of Georgia – enable him to earn himself a longer, more lucrative deal? It feels like a crucial year for HC Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff as they target the playoffs so if they get there, even partly due to Gurley, the next contract shouldn’t be an issue.

With a wealth of talent around him – Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst – Gurley doesn’t need to be superman. He just needs to stay healthy, and give Atlanta’s anaemic, 30th-ranked running game some life support. As a replacement for the outgoing Davonta Freeman, Gurley could just be the man to save the day.

Banner image credit: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Flying the flag: The British NFL players in 2020

by Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

It’s probably not that surprising that British athletes carving out a solid career in the NFL have been few and far between. Obviously, there have been a few: London-born running back Jay Ajayi played for the Dolphins before winning Super Bowl LII with the Eagles, while Osi Umenyiora, now a pundit on The NFL Show, is another Londoner with a ring, thanks to the Giants’ surprise win over the Patriots a decade earlier. Before him, Hertfordshire’s finest, Mick Luckhurst, played his entire career as a kicker with the Falcons before becoming the face of Channel 4’s NFL coverage in the Eighties.

But what about now? Who are the guys born or bred on this side of the pond that we should be rooting for in 2020? Here’s the low-down…


THE EIGHT-YEAR PRO

Jack Crawford – Defensive Tackle, Tennessee Titans

Kara Durrette / Atlanta Falcons

You gotta love Jack. Raised in Kilburn, the early claim for this 6’5”, 20-stone bald guy (due to alopecia) was being at school with Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. He then moved to the States as a teenager with dreams of becoming an NBA star but due to international transfer rules, that didn’t pan out. Undaunted, he took up football in high school and after four years at Penn State, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Not a bad plan B…

Crawford featured as a backup in his rookie season and appeared in 15 games the following year before being waived. He then enjoyed three-year spells with the Cowboys (you may have seen him at Wembley against the Jaguars in 2015) and the Falcons. Arguably not a starting-calibre lineman, Crawford, who has played at both defensive end and defensive tackle, has registered 136 tackles and 16 sacks to date.

A couple of months ago, Crawford signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. It’s hard to say how it’ll pan out for Jack as he enters his ninth year in the league, but he’s certainly able to fill in should Mike Vrabel need him to. With Austin Johnson signing with the Giants and five-time Pro-Bowler Jurrell Casey packing himself off to Denver during the off-season, there may even be a decent chance we might see him as a starting DT in 2020…


THE WORK IN PROGRESS

Jermaine Eluemunor – Offensive Guard, New England Patriots

Ron Schwane  / AP Photo

Now 25, Eluemunor was born in Chalk Farm, London, to a Nigerian/English family and grew up in Camden. He played rugby and cricket as a youngster – preferring the former – but got into football because of the other football, and in particular, his beloved Arsenal (check out @TheMainShow_ on Twitter).

The story goes that in 2007, he was skipping through the channels looking for the Arsenal match when he stumbled on the NFL International Series game between the Giants and Dolphins at Wembley. His interest piqued, he started down a path that would lead him to play high school football in New Jersey before attending Texas A&M. He and his father briefly came back to England but Eluemunor was allowed to return Stateside, as long as he graduated and put everything into pursuing a career in football.

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On the eve of the 2017 Draft, in which he was picked by the Ravens in the fifth round, Jermaine told The Independent Wherever I get picked, I’m gonna work as hard as I’ve ever worked to make this happen and my dream come true. This is just the start.”

And that he did. Eluemunor made the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Rookie Team in his first year, and played 27 regular-season games and one postseason contest in Baltimore before being traded to the Patriots. The 335-pound offensive lineman played 10 times in New England last year and has been retained for the 2020 campaign. Sitting behind left guard Joe Thuney in the depth charts, he isn’t a starter but provides depth in the middle of the line and we should see him get a decent number of snaps this season.


THE INTERNATIONAL PATHWAY PROSPECT

Efe Obada Defensive End, Carolina Panthers

Rex Features

Obada had a tough start in life. Born in Nigeria before moving to the Netherlands, Obada and his sister got moved to London, where they slept rough and ended up in foster care. He fell into football when he saw how a college friend transformed himself playing for the London Warriors.

Looking for some cameraderie, Obada joined him and was taken under the wing of Aden Durde, who told his Dallas Cowboys contacts about Efe. Obada had only played five games for the Warriors when he was offered the chance to work out for Dallas, ahead of their Wembley game against the Jaguars. Despite his lack of experience, Efe was signed as an undrafted free agent a year later. It didn’t work out, nor did it with the Chiefs and Falcons, so his last hope was the NFL’s inaugural International Player Pathway Program, which placed him with the Panthers’ practice squad.

The following year, Obada become the first player from the program to make a 53-man roster, and played his first regular season game in Week 3 against the Bengals, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance. Last October, Obada posted a career-best 24 tackles and played in all 16 of Carolina’s games, including the Buccaneers game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Obada was named an honorary team captain for the 37-26 victory that day, a fitting tribute in front of a ‘home’ London crowd.

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Having signed a one-year contract extension in January 2020, Obada is heading into his third season with the Panthers. He’s shown promise so far but has yet to start in any of his 26 appearances to date and hasn’t recorded any sacks. By his own admission, he hasn’t established himself yet and, with a new HC Matt Rhule – let alone 2020 NFL Draft pick Yetur Gross-Matos jumping the queue at DE – he has his work cut out this season. It could be the most important of Obada’s career; he’s set to enter free agency in 2021 so let’s hope he can do enough to earn a longer contract.


THE FIRST-YEAR SUCCESS STORY

Jamie Gillan – Punter, Cleveland Browns

Getty Images

Growing up in Inverness, Scotland, Jamie’s all-consuming passion for rugby took him to Merchiston Castle, a boarding school in Edinburgh with a reputation for fast-tracking players into the Scottish national squad. As a promising fly-half, he developed a talent for kicking – one that would eventually stand him in good stead.

When his RAF dad was posted to Maryland, the Gillan family, including a 16-year-old Jamie, moved too. He had never watched football and initially, had no intention of playing it, but he asked to join the high school team, purely to keep fit during the rugby off-season. With a few tweaks to his technique, Gillan soon became an accomplished kicker and offers began to trickle in.

“All my mates were telling me you could get scholarships for kicking a ball and I didn’t believe them at first,” he told the BBC sport website last year, “but I thought I’d give it a try after I saw the guy missing field goals.”

Well, the punt – if you’ll excuse the pun – was worth it. A year ago, the undrafted rookie was brought in by the Cleveland Browns as a back-up to Britton Colquitt. And whaddya know, after some impressive pre-season turnouts – including a 74-yard punt and some robust, rugby-style tackles on punt returners – he took the starting job from the 10-year veteran.

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Known as “The Scottish Hammer” for his solid physique, the long-haired Scotsman soon got the fans and the pundits onside. Gillan was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September, and his debut campaign – 63 punts for 2913 yards, including a 71-yard season’s best – earned him a place on the PFWA All-Rookie team.

As he enters his second season, the sky’s the limit for Jamie. He’s been working out and bulking up even more so he should be raring to go by the time the new season starts.


THE INJURED VETERAN

Graham Gano – Kicker, Carolina Panthers

Irish Mirror

I have to hold my hand up to this one: before researching this article, I had no idea that Gano was born in Arbroath, Scotland. But his dad, a US Navy man, was stationed there when Graham was born.

Apparently, young Graham was a decent goalkeeper, and supported Bayern Munich and Scotland. Prior to attending high school in Florida, he was approached by a scout at the end of a summer tournament in which he’d excelled but he rejected the chance to move back to the UK… and join a little outfit called Manchester United.

Gano broke all sorts of Florida State records in his senior year, prompting a pick-up as an undrafted free agent in 2009 by the Ravens (they do like a Brit!). Alas, he was soon released and flirted with the inaugural United Football League, scoring the Las Vegas Locomotives’ championship-winning kick and leading the league in scoring and field goals.

Finally breaking into the NFL in 2009, Gano experienced an up-and-down three years at the Washington Redskins, where he earned a reputation for nailing game-winning field goals in overtime, yet had to compete for his job more than once.

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Since 2012, Graham has been a Panther. In his time, he hit the upright in Super Bowl L in the loss to the Broncos, and was named to a Pro Bowl in 2017, having made 96.7% of his FG attempts that year. Having sealed yet another OT win, against the Giants, in early October 2018 with a career-best 63-yard kick, he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and missed the entire 2019 campaign, prompting the 32-year-old to have surgery.

Speaking to Panthers.com last August, he said “Whatever my future holds, I’m excited about it. I’m always going to keep a positive attitude, no matter what’s going on.” Gano’s a decent kicker – he only missed three FG attempts during 2017 and 2018 – so if he can battle back and compete for his old job again, there’s a chance he’ll be a rock-solid leg again in 2020.


THE PRACTICE SQUAD HOPEFUL

Christian Wade – Running Back, Buffalo Bills

Adrian Kraus / AP Photo

Christian Wade is currently on the Buffalo Bills practice squad, with hopes of another year of development ahead of him, but he’s already had an impressive career in rugby.

The lad from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, played for Wasps since his school days and went on to score 82 tries for them, which puts him fourth on the Premiership’s all-time list. He also represented England at all levels (alas, only the one national appearance though), and was also called up to the British and Irish Lions squad.

Frustrated with the lack of England opportunities, he decided to switch codes, clubs and countries and try out as an NFL running back, despite having zero experience. He came through the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, and spent last season in upstate New York on the Bills’ practice squad. Almost immediately, he made headlines, with a 65-yard TD run with his first-ever touch in a preseason game against the Colts, and a 48-yard run with his first catch.

Despite his undoubted speed and athletic ability, Wade failed to make the active roster last year and is yet to appear in a regular-season game. But he’s undaunted, telling The Telegraph “It has been a success to come across, learn the game, participate in practice at full speed and to play in preseason. I just want to keep improving. I’m going to give it the same energy as I did this year and see where that gets me.”


THE 2020 ROOKIE

Julian Okwara Defensive End, Detroit Lions

Mike Miller / One Foot Down

Okwara was born in London, when his mother was visiting family, but grew up near Lagos in Nigeria. He moved to North Carolina aged eight and eventually took up football, following his older brother Romeo through Ardrey Kell High School and Notre Dame on his way to the NFL. Romeo (also a defensive end) signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and was claimed off waivers by the Lions in 2018.

Julian was a standout at Notre Dame, making 19.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over his last two seasons. And now, he finally catches up with Romeo, having been selected by Detroit in the third round of the 2020 Draft. According to Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, Okwara could prove to be the steal of this year’s class, after a broken leg toward the end of last season impacted his Combine and quelled any first-round chatter.

Helping to address one of the Lions’ biggest weaknesses last year, their pass rush (tied for second-last with just 28 sacks), Okwara – also considered an outside linebacker – may end up competing with Trey Flowers and Austin Bryant, as well as his big brother, for starting snaps.

Matt Patricia is getting a versatile player who can drop back into coverage or rush the passer. On signing with the Lions, he told Detroit Free Press reporters “They’re getting a pass rusher, great defensive end, someone who wreaks havoc in the backfield.”  So look out for Okwara to come out from his brother’s shadow and make a name for himself in the NFC North next season.


THE FREE AGENT

Josh Mauro – Defensive End (No current team)

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mauro began his journey to the NFL in that hotbed of American football, St Albans, but started to play football at Stanford after he moved to the US.

The lad impressed the Steelers enough for them to sign him up as an undrafted free agent but he was released, kickstarting a tour of the league in subsequent seasons that took in the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants (where he got caught up in some controversy over the use of a banned substance) and, finally, Los Angeles. With his one-year deal with the Raiders now at an end, the 6’6”, 290-pound run stuffer is currently looking for his next landing spot.

He’s made 30 starts in five seasons but now aged 28, the clock is ticking and I’m not sure we’ll see him take the field in the season ahead. Fingers crossed.

Comeback Players in 2020

By Kieran Patterson (@DCCYTFootball)

Ben Roethlisberger – QB, Pittsburgh Steelers


After missing almost the whole 2019 season due to injury Ben Roethlisberger is poised for a big comeback.

Don't Give Up On Ben Roethlisberger Just Yet | FiveThirtyEight
Joe Sargent / Getty

While I’m not a fan of this man, he’s undeniably a great player and given the problems the Steelers had with their quarterback situation last year, I’m sure most Steelers fans want to see him back. Even though Duck Hodges is undeniably one of the best personalities in the sport, his play isn’t quite up to scratch.

I’m a betting man so my money is on Big Ben winning the comeback player of the year with the weapons around him.


Todd Gurley – RB, Atlanta Falcons


Atlanta Falcons landed the former first round running back, giving him a one year deal worth $5.5 Million.

Now this is more of a risky pick given Gurley’s history with injuries, but provided he can stay healthy, Gurley will want to prove what a mistake the Rams made by dropping him the way they did.

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The Atlanta Falcons have a ton of weapons going into this season, so look for Gurley to be a big part of this offence and, health permitting, make a big comeback.


Baker Mayfield – QB, Cleveland Browns


Baker Mayfield was, to put it bluntly, a complete shambles last year. After a record-breaking rookie season Mayfield was poised to come in and bring the Browns their first winning season in years. He sadly flopped. You knew by midseason that hacks like Colin Cowherd were foaming at the mouth watching the Browns struggle to put it together come game time, despite their stacked roster.

Ravens defense 'holds' attention of Browns' Baker Mayfield ahead ...
Ben Margot / AP

The biggest reason for the Browns underperformance was having a first time head coach trying to manage a team full of talent and strong personalities. Oh, and instead of getting an extra piece for their offensive line, they just added OBJ and gave up a first round pick. Never change, Cleveland. Never change.

Mayfield has the talent to be a top tier quarterback in the league, and provided he gets the right attention in camp and stays away from filming so many endorsement deals, I see Mayfield being a serious contender for comeback player of the year in 2020.


Mathew Stafford – QB, Detroit Lions


Until his unfortunate injury last season, Matthew Stafford was looking like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He ranked 8th amongst quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus grading from week 1 to week 9; no small feat.

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Now factor in all the weapons this offence has. TJ Hockenson, Kenny Golliday, Danny Amendola and now D’Andre Swift (Top receiving running back in the draft) among others.

If Stafford can start the season strong, and even string together some decent wins for the Lions, there’s no reason we can’t see Stafford take this award home for a second time. Honestly, Stafford has a good a chance as any.


J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans


It’s a shame that a man like J.J. Watt has been so unlucky with injuries. One of the best defensive players in the league and, before Aaron Donald came along, probably the best pass rusher, it’s fitting that the only person that can slow down J.J. Watt is J.J. Watt.

Texans' J.J. Watt unsure of how much he will play vs. Chiefs
Bob Levey / Getty

Provided he can stay healthy next year as the Texans push for another run at the playoffs, he’s going to be a force. It would be really great to see the former Walter Peyton man of the year award winner add a comeback player of the year award to his collection.

At 31, Watt’s days in the NFL may soon come to a close, so a return to form would be a fitting conclusion to a storied career. Watch for J.J. to leave it all on the field this year if he can stay healthy.

Fantasy: Dynasty Buys

By Andy Moore (@AJMoore21)

A few days ago you were treated to a fantastic Sells equivalent which you can check out here. Today we take a look at those you should be trying to acquire. Let us know your thoughts, let us know YOUR OPINION. Because that’s what it is all about! Let’s see who can get these guys the cheapest!


Image result for courtland sutton

The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.

Courtland Sutton – Denver Broncos


There’s a feel-good factor around Denver’s offense at the moment. After finishing the season 4-1 with Drew Lock under centre, John Elway has added Pat Shurmur to his coaching staff and signed Melvin Gordon, Graham Glasgow and Nick Vannett in free agency.

All this looks good for third year receiver Courtland Sutton. Coming off a 1,112 yard, 125 target, 72 reception season, the former SMU man has firmly established himself as the Broncos WR1.

The addition of Shurmur looks set to only help Sutton’s development, with his track record as an Offensive Co-ordinator unquestionably good for young QBs and the passing game. If Shurmur can recreate this in Denver, then look for more fireworks from Lock and Sutton as they look to navigate a difficult AFC West.

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In your Dynasty League, the time to buy Sutton might not be now. There are plenty of rumours linking the Broncos to a high quality deep threat receiver in the draft, with CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs both regularly mocked their way. This shouldn’t harm Sutton’s production, in fact it should help minimise double coverage. Others may disagree, getting caught up with the inevitable post draft-fever, make your offer then!


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The Associated Press

Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles


Another young player that finished the season well, Miles Sanders was a game changer during the Eagles’ late drive to secure a play-off spot.

The 3rd round pick out of Penn State had an up and down start to 2019, with Jordan Howard forcing him out of the starting role for a string of games before going down injured in week 9. Sanders capitalised on this, increasing his playing time and yardage increase until he peaked against the Redskins in week 14.

Howard is now completely out of the picture, having joined the Dolphins, leaving Sanders in competition with Boston Scott as the Eagles’ presumptive week 1 starter. It’s a battle he should win, considering his potential as a dual threat back and the relative draft capital invested in both.


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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports 

Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons


You’ve all seen the stat doing the rounds at the moment, the Atlanta Falcons have a starting offense built solely from first round picks. Calvin Ridley is amongst those, with the third year receiver currently occupying the WR2 designation behind Julio Jones.

Jones is contracted through 2024 and given the huge salary the Falcons have invested in him, it doesn’t look like he’ll be going anywhere soon. So why Ridley?

It’s all about consistency. In both his years in the league so far, Ridley has locked up 92 and 93 targets respectively, catching 64 of those in 2018 and 63 in 2019, those catches have gone for 821 and 866 yards, with 10 TDs in his rookie year, compared to 7 last year.

He’s the perfect flex player for your line ups, averaging above 10 points per game and providing the perfect complement to Julio it Atlanta’s offense. With such a stacked WR class this year, chances are he’s available relatively cheap in your league, and with Julio entering a period in which some players decline, Ridley could be set to ease in the other direction.


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Joe Camporeale

TJ Hockenson – Detroit Lions


After week one of the 2019 season, Hockenson was cleared off waiver wires everywhere. The first rounder caught six passes from Matthew Stafford, going for 131 yards and a TD. Huge numbers for a rookie Tight End.

From there, things went downhill, with Hockenson only adding another 230 yards across the whole season. When you look at the cards dealt to the Iowa product, it’s not hard to see why his form trailed off, when Stafford went down injured, a combination of Jeff Driskel and David Blough stepped into uninspiringly fill the void and the Lions only managed one win after week three.

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So, why trade for him now? Everyone knows that rookie Tight Ends are to be avoided in fantasy, so that shouldn’t put you off when looking at Hockenson’s rookie production. Instead look at the upside, this year’s TE class is poor, he was a top 10 NFL pick for obvious reasons last year, and when fit, his QB is one of the most reliable in the game. Pick him up cheap where you can, and watch him develop into one of the league’s elite TE options.


Marcus Mariota – Las Vegas Raiders

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports 

Marcus Mariota – Las Vegas Raiders


This time last year I picked up Ryan Tannehill in 3 leagues, I didn’t get a complete bargain in all cases, but he was cheap for a QB in superflex leagues. The things I liked about Tannehill were, his work ethic, his commitment to his team, his experience as a starter and the precarious nature of the QB he was backing up.

Fast forward 12 months and the irony is there for all to see that we could say the exact same of that QB, Marcus Mariota. The new Raiders QB has always been the model of professionalism, he’s got a ton of starts (including playoff games) under his belt and he’s backing up Derek Carr, who just doesn’t seem to fit the Jon Gruden school of thought.

So, I’m picking up Mariota where I can this year, half the league had him down as QB1 in the 2015 draft class, and in places he has flashed exactly why they believed that. With a bit of encouragement and the freedom to use his legs, Mariota can certainly be a starter in the NFL, if Carr slips you can bet Mariota will be straight in. Buy low, and buy now!

Season In Review – Atlanta Falcons

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

Next up in our series is the Atlanta Falcons. I could have scheduled this for the 28th March but you know, too far to wait.


Entering The Season


It’s a strange and difficult time to be a fan of the Dirty Birds, after that turnaround in The Big Game, they managed to get back to the playoffs the following year only to be defeated in the Divisional Round by the Eagles. They seemed primed to make a run at The Big Game once again in the 2018 season only to be utterly wrecked by injuries.

The goal for this season? Get healthy, stay healthy, knock the Saints off the top of the NFC South and make the most of a favourable schedule against the unreliable AFC South and the Bizarro World that is the NFC West.


During The Season


The season did not exactly get off to a positive start with a 28-12 spanking on the road in Minnesota, the Falcons not scoring any points until there were nine minutes of the game remaining. No big deal, a get right 24-20 victory over the Eagles despite blowing a two-score lead with a three game stretch against the AFC South coming up? Could establish a spot in the wildcard spots at this rate, right?

Wrong.

Dead wrong.

TheAthletic.com

At stages against the Colts and Titans the Falcons were down 20-3 and 24-7 respectively. To compound this issue, they were blown out 53-32 by the Texans in Week 5. The return to NRG Stadium only inflamed the bad memories.

By the time the Week 9 bye rolled around, another three-game divisional stretch – this time against the NFC West – came and went the same way as the AFC South trio. Ugly, ugly defeats. A missed field goal as time expired on the road at the Cardinals, a 27-point defeat against the Rams and a loss to Seattle meant that Atlanta’s season was over before Halloween. Nevermind a spooky season, this was downright horrifying from Dan Quinn’s team.

There were more than a few whispers that Arthur Blank was going to take action against Quinn before the season was out, what a staggering fall from grace just a couple of years removed from Super Bowl LI and here was the Head Coach, 1-7 and without any apparent idea of how to stop the bleeding (31.25 PPG given up through the first eight weeks!).

Atlantafalcons.com

Meanwhile, the offensive line was just a whole heap of garbage, first round pick (31st overall) Kaleb McGary had a terrible year and it showed in not only Atlanta’s season overall with 50 sacks allowed, the fifth most in the entire league, but also in the run game which struggled so badly that not one Atlanta running back posted a triple digit game all year. How can a bad defense stay off the field when the offense can’t do anything other than pass? An impossible situation.

Spare a thought at this point for Julio Jones and Matty Ice. Two elite players who did their best whilst everything else was going to hell around them. Even Calvin Ridley chipped in as a solid WR2 and Austin Hooper was a good redzone threat. That isn’t enough, however. The season was basically over by November. What to aim for in the second half? A perfect 2nd half seals a 9-7 record that might be enough for the playoffs but with such a loaded NFC that’s a tall order.

The last thing Atlanta needed coming off the bye week then was a trip to the Superdome to face the 7-1 Saints who were on the verge of running away with the division. This could be the game that finally forced Blank’s hand to show Quinn the door.

Atlanta 26-9 New Orleans. What. The. Heck?

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A transformed Falcons D smothered a Saints team that had scored 30+ points in five out of their first eight games. The Falcons line broke through and sacked Drew Brees six times and held the Saints to a paltry three field goals. Even Brian Hill (who?!) got in on the action with 71 scrimmage yards and a score. Was this the turning point of the season? A chance to put something together for pride, for their HC who was on the brink not long after being on the brink of winning it all?

Well they went one better against the Panthers, blowing them out 29-3, keeping them scoreless for 47 minutes. They couldn’t go on a run could they? An all-time second half of the season to sneak into the 6 seed?

Nope.

Consecutive home losses to the Bucs and the Saints saw to that, although let’s take a moment to talk about the wild end to the Thanksgiving matchup against New Orleans where the Falcons recovered THREE onside kicks in a row (the first being brought back for a penalty) in a somewhat amusing end to a comfortable revenge win for New Orleans.

3-9 going into December. Season over, time to play spoiler? On the road? Against the dominant 49ers? You betcha.

Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

A touchdown with two seconds remaining (Julio from Matty Ice, who else?) gave the Falcons a 23-22 lead which would swell to 29-22 on a fumble return on the kick-off. How about that for a feather in your cap, Dan Quinn?!

Atlanta finished the season 7-9, going 6-2 in the second half of the season to achieve a modicum of respectability but the season was doomed after the AFC South fiasco in September.


Offseason Outlook


So where next for Atlanta? They’ve got eight draft picks to play with and need to hope that they land on better selections than 2019’s picks. An edge-rusher is something they’re in desperate need of as they finished with just 28 sacks on the year, tied for second least. If Austin Hooper isn’t to return in free agency then Tight End becomes a priority, also.

Meanwhile that 50 sack year indicates that they need to either coax more out of the O-Line they have or make it just as big of a priority.

There isn’t much room in free agency to pick up pieces either, $7.5 million to play with and not many players who can be sacrificed to make room. Devonta Freeman has arguably been ineffectual for two straight years now but his 2020 cap hit of $9.5m is offset by the fact that there’s $6m in dead money going to him this coming year.

TheFalconsWire.UsaToday.com

A lot of money is tied up in Chris Lindstrom, Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett this year in what will be important years going forward for them as Atlanta cannot afford to take the cap hit on these guys. It could be a tricky year ahead for the Falcons, despite having a great QB and WR1-2 punch.

Atlanta’s road schedule for 2020? Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas, Kansas City, LA Chargers, Saints, Bucs and Panthers. Ouch. If they’re going to get out of the NFC South, it’s going to be on the back of being near-perfect at home and steal two/three wins on the road because that is an absolute stinker of a road schedule.

Full10Lookaheads – Week 16

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Crunch time! This week we are treated to the NFL being spread out over the weekend with 3 games on Saturday with huge implications as the Rams travel to the 49ers and the Bills try to upset the applecart in New England.

On Sunday, the SkySports offering serves up some fantastic matchups where New Orleans continue to chase for a 1st round bye against a Titans team effectively already in the playoffs. Plus, it’s the battle for the NFC East as Dallas travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles in a winner takes all matchup.

Winners progress, losers go home. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to week 16 in the NFL.


BATTLE FOR THE EAST

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Image Credit: Mitchell Leff / Getty

Fierce rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia get it on to essentially decide the winner of the #4 seed for the NFC playoffs. Both teams have underwhelmed this year for a variety of reasons, but it all comes down to this 60 minute game of football.

A win for the Cowboys, they are confirmed champions. A win for the Eagles and assuming a week 17 win against the Giants, they are in too. The Cowboys are the healthier, more potent team this season as judged by their week 7 hammering at At&T stadium. They will also be buoyed by their dominant performance last week at home to the Rams but form goes out of the window in these types of games.

Do Dallas and Jason Garrett have the cajones when it’s all on the line? Usually not, but can they still get the job done against an Eagles team that have been on the ropes more than the Sunday washing.

The coaching and talent on the Eagles are a testament to even be in with a live shout of still winning the division, but it’s also an indictment on how poor the division has been. Still, someone must win it and become the #4 seed for the playoffs, who’s stepping up?


Buffalo-ad of this!

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Image Credit: Mike Groll / AP

Buffalo travel to Foxboro’ this weekend in another pivotal divisional clashe.

A win for the Bills sees a very interesting week 17 indeed. If Buffalo win out, they will take the #1 seed regardless due to conference record tie breaker and that is one hell of a carrot dangled in front of Josh Allen and Sean McDermott. They will be in bullish (or Billish perhaps?) mood after their win away at Heinz field on SNF and it’s now a question of whether they can step up to the plate once more.

Their week 4 meeting saw the Bills blow their chances a little, Josh Allen left with a head injury and still had a few drives to go and beat them late in the 4th quarter. They’ll certainly have to execute better than they did back in September but I feel this Bills team has come quite far since that game. The Bills match up quite well against New England and we don’t need to go over the offensive struggles that Brady and Co. have experienced this season.

A win for the Patriots will secure the #2 seed too and how many times have we seen before that New England just get the job done? New England have won the last 6 between the sides and you have to go back to 2014 when Buffalo last beat a Tom Brady led Patriots (though he did exit with an injury in that one!).


NFC 1st round bye shuffle


The #1 and #2 seeds have shuffled around between Seattle/San Francisco/New Orleans and Green Bay over the past couple of weeks and the jostling will continue this weekend. The current #1 seeds have a straightforward task against the Cardinals, whilst the 49ers will have to be on their toes against the Rams. New Orleans face a tough trip to Nashville and Green Bay travel to Minnesota in a key NFC North matchup.

If results go their way, the Seahawks could potential have their hands firmly placed on the #1 seed if results go their way which will be huge for Russell Wilson and the members of the 12 to ensure they can create a hostile environment in the playoffs and seal that homefield advantage.


HitchViking a ride into the playoffs

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Image Credit: Leon Halip / Getty

The Vikings with a win in either of their last 2 games secure a playoff berth. Problem is they have to face old foes and divisional rivals in the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. They are at home which will help as they enjoy one of the bigger advantages with homefield.

In the 2 away games against those teams however, they only managed to must 22 points collectively and that is just not going to get the job done. This is what Kirk Cousins was brought in for, paid all that guaranteed money for; games like this.

Without Dalvin Cook who is nursing an injury and resting before helping them in the playoffs or rookie Alexander Mattison who is also struggling to be fit for the game, Kirk Cousins is going to have to step up and lead this team to victory.

A win, an the monkey starts to climb off of his back. A loss, and there is huge pressure on him in week 17 against the Bears.


battle for a top 3 pick


With Cincinnati taking on the Dolphins and the Redskins facing the Giants, the current top 4 picks in the 2020 draft face off on Sunday. It is always interesting to see how the teams down “that end” play and how much they really put in to the game.

Whilst the Bengals can win without affecting their position at #1 overall, the other 3 teams could see themselves cause detrimental ramifications should they win a game. These games will be nothing more than a “look at the result after the game” types of affairs, but for the fans of the respective teams, i guess it’s nice that the fans will still be biting their nails during the game, even if it’s for different reasons.


Three Griers for Will!

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Image Credit: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty

Carolina turn to their third QB of the season as 2019 3rd round pick Will Grier enters the fray. Kyle Allen seemingly not the answer for the Panthers front office and David Tepper, Grier has 2 games to show what he can do.

He faces a Colts team that is there for the taking and a New Orleans Saints team which should have something to play for. Quite a contrast in matches will mean ample sample sizes for the team’s scouts and evaluators to see whether he could be the answer and not theoft injured Cam Newton.

Whilst we wont know until late in the offseason who will be the starter, Will Grier has the chance to make a lasting impression and put down a marker for next training camp. At the very least, he can stop the Panthers from drafting a QB or signing one in Free Agency….


the afc #6 a steel?


It seems to be a straight shootout now between Pittsburgh and Tennessee for the #6 seed in the AFC. The Steelers have the easier schedule with the Jets and Ravens to come, the Titans have the better QB but face New Orleans and Houston. Both defences are pretty stout, perhaps the edge going to Pittsburgh but the Titans have the better running game and the healthier team. Pittsburgh have the tie breaker on Tennessee so effectively just need to beat the Jets to punch their ticket to Arrowhead.

Whichever team makes it will be a heavy underdog going in to what is likely to be Kansas City. Considering both teams’ journies this season, I think they will take just the chance to cause an upset in January (the Titans have previous vs the Chiefs!).


you’re quinn denial, dan

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Image Credit: Bob Donnan / USA Today

Dan Quinn was a hot favourite to be handed his P45 on black monday, but after the handful of decent performances by Matt Ryan and the Falcons including their most recent victory as time expired against the 49ers, it’s now a bit more up in the air.

The Falcons are 5-9, which is still a bitter disappointment comparing it with pre-season expectations, but they’ve won 4 of their last 6 including 3 divisional wins on top of the 49ers victory. divisional wins have slightly more weight put on them due to their importance so if the Falcons are able to beat the 5-9 Jaguars and the depleted 5-9 Buccaneers, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Dan Quinn comes back next year.

He’ll definitely be getting “Blank” stares until the season and he walks in for his performance review…


is drew a lock for denver qb?

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Image Credit: Wesley Hitt /Getty

Drew Lock has performed well in his first 3 starts as Denver Broncos QB; A divisional win against the Chargers to go with a road victory against a playoff team. His last start against the Chiefs can be written off due to the weather and uncomfortable surroudings but all in all, the 2nd round pick from this year’s draft has probably outperformed his expectations when coming in, he was quite a raw prospect.

John Elway has never been the most convincing with his selections in the draft so far, especially at QB, but Drew Lock is looking like he fits over in Mile High. Whilst his completion % is low and his interceptions were not pretty, both lending to his gunslinger mentality, there are certainly some tools there for Lock to fine tune over the offseason and potentially be the answer at QB over in Denver.

With the weapons at his disposal sure to be added to during the offseason to compliment the running game, Drew Lock and the Broncos may not be in that bad of a position to challenge for January football come 2020.

A big tell will come against the Detroit Lions, as we will see how he responds to that rough game against Kansas and the criticisms he would have endured this week.

Full10Takeaways – Week 10

By Shaun Blundell, Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Week 10 saw shocks, drops and stops as the 49ers tasted their first defeat, the Saints got pummelled by the Falcons and the Browns won!

Here are 10 takeaways from week 10 in the NFL:


Baker Mayfield Feeling More at Home

Image Credit – John Kuntz / cleveland.com

A first home win of the season for Baker Mayfield emphasised his improved play over the past 3 weeks. Riddled with turnovers and poor decision making the 2nd year QB had tossed 11 interceptions and committed 3 fumbles in the opening half a dozen games of the season. Fast forward 3 weeks and games against good pass defences in New England, Denver and Buffalo and Mayfield has only added 1 takeaway to those numbers.

He looks more decisive in the pocket and his completion rate of 68.4% on Sunday was a season-high. He regularly looked for his top 2 targets in Jarvis Landry and OBJ whilst leaning on a stout run game. The entrance of Kareem Hunt into the offence gives the Browns a new dimension and with a favourable schedule on tap a winning streak is a realistic possibility.

The Browns #6 seed credentials will be key to any such possibilities.


Big Man Rumbling

Image Credit – Frederick Breedon / Getty Images

“Never judge a book by its cover”. The age old phrase that continually catches all of us out. Derrick Henry is a home run hitter! His scamper for 68 yards against the Chiefs on Sunday marked his 4th touchdown run of over 65 yards since 2017 which is the most by any player in the NFL over that span.

His almost customary plunge from 1 yard away was tacked onto his big day as he gashed the Chiefs woeful run defence to the tune of 23 carries for 188 yards with 2 touchdowns. Henry has often been used in a timeshare during his time in the league but Mike Vrabel appears to have figured out that he gets better with more usage.

The only player outside of a few Tannehill scramble to carry the ball on Sunday, Henry is on pace for 1300 yards plus on the campaign for a Titans team that are as unpredictable as the British weather.


Just Win Baby

Image Credit – AP Photo

“Knock on wood if you are with me”. Who would have thought that when Jon Gruden continuously barked those words throughout hard knocks that his Raiders team would be in with a realistic opportunity of competing for a division title?

Thursday night football was a huge victory in the division that put the Raiders right on the heels of the Chiefs. A performance that saw yet another Derek Carr 4th quarter comeback win moved the Raiders to 5-4. Josh Jacobs continues to look like the runaway winner of offensive rookie of the year, scoring the game winner in this one.

Winnable games upcoming against the Dolphins and Jets next on the schedule have the silver and black primed for a late season playoff run. Maybe, just maybe that bloke who used to commentate on Monday Night Football can actually still coach?


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You spin me right round baby right round like a record

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Image Credit: Frank Victores / AP

If you have seen a better spin move this season than the one made by Lamar Jackson on his TD run this weekend you will have either been at the World Yo-Yo championships or at some kind of ice skating Olympic qualifier.

In 2018 we were running out of superlatives to describe Patrick Mahomes, and this season the same is getting said about the Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who is now getting MVP type chatter beyond his own appreciative teammates.

Yes this was the 0-9 Bungles L-Jax faced, but if you have not seen the move he made mid-run against Cincy then find it online and start to drool. Fantasy fans were left a little bit sore after the Ravens had such a ridiculous lead they let Lamar sit for the fourth quarter whilst former running QB phenom Robert Griffith III performed mop-up duties.

Talking of RG3 Coach Harbaugh’s decision to line up the former Baylor superstar as a running back in a split-backs formation was a treat, and then watching L-Jax pitch to him on an outside run was masterful. 


Falcons D rises from the ashes

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Image Credit: Rusty Costanza / AP

It’s supposed to be a Phoenix that rises from the ashes, but after NFL alignment some years ago there is no longer a team in that said city. Instead we have to make reference to another feathered friend that has arisen from the depths of despair.

The Atlanta Falcons beating the 7-1 New Orleans Saints was the biggest upset this season since Darnold and the Jets downed the Cowboys.The Falcons defense had 6 sacks including 2.5 from Grady Jarrett.

This by itself is not headline worthy, but considering the team had 7 sacks all season before this point showed that sticking a rocket in places rockets should not be placed sometimes works. The Saints offense was held without a touchdown and Alvin Kamara the so-called fantasy stud had 74 total yards, including just 24 on the ground.

We all know it’s too late for the Dirty Birds to resurrect their season, but sometimes wins like this can turn around fortunes in the long term. One question to quietly ask is ‘was it right to bring back Brees considering Teddy’s hot streak?’


Anti-tank missiles spotted in Miami

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Image Credit: Bobby Ellis / Getty

Maybe they are not red hot, but the Miami Dolphins are on the boil after securing their second consecutive win in a season that was supposed to be all about displaying ineptitude not grizzly bearded attitude.

Ryan Fitzmagic may not win another game in Miami but he will forever be remembered for bringing some respect to a franchise that has been written off more than a scrapyard full of old bangers. The contrast in styles between Lamar Jackson’s mesmerising TD run and Fitzmagic’s plough through the field for his score was like chalk and cheese, but both ended up in exactly the same result – six points and the extension of a lead.

Sympathies do go out to the team Miami beat in Week 10 as the Indianapolis Colts are akin to a M.A.S.H. unit, especially at WR, so this was a great time for the ‘Fins to paddle their way to a victory. Miami now have their sights set on at least a third win in Week 17 when they face Tom Brady and the Patriots. 


Steel-ing another W

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Image Credit: Justin K. Aller / Getty

If you listened to the F10Y Week 10 look ahead podcast Lawrence predicted a Steelers win against a Los Angeles Rams team that is looking like a shrivelled balloon, the type you might find on the floor when sweeping up from say a Super Bowl party.

The Steelers are using gorilla glue, frog tape and any other legally sanctioned substance to patch together wins against half-decent opponents and despite the criticism Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph is hanging in there. It’s a little reminiscent of Big Ben Roethliberger’s rookie season when he led the team to a 15-1 record despite performances that were not exactly pretty.

The Steelers now boast a four-game win streak, and their first above .500 record of the season. With Cleveland twice, the Bungles and the Cardinals ahead we could be looking at a rather strong 9-4 Steelers team a long time before Rudolph the Kyle nosed reindeer takes to the skies. 


Vikings run and plunder a win

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Image Credit: Michael Ainsworth / AP

He can’t win in prime-time, he has a routine he can’t break, he crumbles under pressure. Three common perceptions of Vikings QB Kirk ‘you like that’ Cousins in big and important games. Three perceptions that were proven to be untrue on Sunday night as Minnesota came away from Jerry’s world having pillaged a big ol’ bag of booty including a big shiny W.

To be fair this was not a game dominated by clutch Cousins passes, as the Vikings ran, ran and ran some more, including one 10 play touchdown drive that was on the ground from start to finish.

The MVP conversation as usual is dominated by special quarterbacks and a dash of Run CMC, but at the pace he is going and the rate he is being fed the ball, don’t be surprised if Dalvin Cook makes a ’late run’ for the NFL’s most valuable player.

The Vikings remain one game behind the Packers in the NFC North, but things can change quickly. 


HEY mr wilson!

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Image Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks dealt the San Francisco 49ers teir first loss of the season. No surprise that current MVP favourite Russell Wilson was the main culprit for the defeat.

In what was a Monday Night Classic, the performance of Russell Wilson may have left the thoughts of “what if” for 49ers fans as Jimmy G on the other side was many classes below the Seahawks signal caller.

The 49ers and Jimmy G had a chance to seal it in overtime where perhaps a better thrown ball to Deebo Samuel on the sideline in stride would have seen a walk off touchdown. The ensuing drive saw Wilson take the Seahawks 40 yards in 81 seconds (no timeouts) to allow Jason Myers’ to score from a 42 yard field goal with 4 seconds left on the clock.

With Full10Yards favourite Tyler Lockett being taken to hospital, I’m sure Russell Wilson will be able to overcome any time that he may miss to add to the long list of adversities he’s been able to overcome in this offence.


Ryan tanne-hero

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Image Credit: Wesley Hitt / Getty

It was billed as the second coming of Patrick Mahomes but it was the otehr Quarterback at Nissan Stadium that took the plaudits.

Ryan Tannehill completed his 3rd 4th quarter winning drive this season in just 4 games as the starter. That is only 1 behind the season leaders Josh Allen and Russell Wilson.

The drive, which started with 1:21 on the clock, ended just 58 seconds later with a 23 yard touchdown throw to big off season free agent WR signing Adam Humphries also included a 18 yard scramble on the first play

The decision to bench Marcus Mariota may be a game or two too late and could potentially cost the Titans a playoff berth this season, the redeeming factor though, is that they may not have to go searching for a QB in next year’s draft.

For Tannehill, frequently lambasted at his poor quarterback play, will rightly get the plaudits in this one though, which is an incredible feet considering the jumping Patrick Mahomes was clearly in the spotlight. Questions now turn to Adam Gase, who coached him in Miami, as to why he looked so average in a teal jersey.

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC South

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.


AFC South

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  • Indianapolis Colts 5-2
  • Houston Texans 5-3
  • Tennessee Titans 4-4
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4

*Indianapolis Colts*

Midseason Grade: B+

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)


*Houston Texans*

Midseason Grade: B

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)


*Tennessee Titans*

Midseason Grade: C+

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


*Jacksonville Jaguars*

Midseason Grade: B-

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

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NFC South

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By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (7-1)
  2. Carolina Panthers (4-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (1-7)

*New Orleans Saints*

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)


*Carolina Panthers*

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


*Tampa Bay Buccaneers*

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.

*Atlanta Falcons*

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…