Fantasy Football Nightmares for 2020 – Part 1

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

The 2020 NFL Draft has finished, the excitable young rookies have found their new homes and the ripple effects are in full force in the fantasy football world.

What are going to be the biggest headaches through the off-season and maybe throughout your 2020 league seasons? Here are some to just skim the surface and there are plenty more headaches out there that will make up part 2 of this series.

If you have any particular backfield or Wide Receiver room you want me to look at and guide you on, please let me know on Twitter (@Full10Yards).


Dallas Wide Receivers

CeeDee Lamb being drafted in the 1st round of this year’s draft was a jaw-dropper for everyone. He joins studs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in Dallas in what looks to be a case of too many mouths to feed. But is it?

The bad news is that there are very few offences ever that have supported 3 WRs in fantasy. The good news is that Dallas had the most yards on offence last year by some distance, almost amassing 7,000 of them, with 4,902 (71%) through the air.

CeeDee Lamb displays elite hands snatching his phone from woman ...
CeeDee Lamb showing elite handwork he’ll bring to the Cowboys

To create a bit more wiggle room, Jason Witten (529), Randall Cobb (828) and a few other small contributors have vacated over 1,500 yards of receiving output so even if Amari Cooper (1189) and Michael Gallup (1107) sustain their high production or get near it, the left over could more than funnel its way to CeeDee Lamb to be able to break the milestone in his first season.

Even if you bring Dak Prescott’s high watermark in passing yards from last season down by 10%, there is still viability that these 3 WR could all achieve 1,000 yard receiving seasons, something we have not seen since the 2008 Arizona Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston) and has only been seen 5 times in the NFL since the merger.

So where’s the problem I hear you ask? Well unfortunately, there are going to be a multiple number of weeks where 1 WR comes to the fore and scores a TD or 2 and hits 100yds, 1 has a mediocre output (say 5 receptions for 76yards) and 1 which takes a backseat (1 catch, 12 yards). THIS is your nightmare! Not being able to predict where the targets are going week to week is what will keep you awake every day of the week.

With the amount of talent in each of those wide receivers, it could be a case of “flavour of the week” every week and for players that you are going to be spending early to mid round picks on, this is not ideal. Amari Cooper will likely be the defacto #1 (at least in 2020) due to his big offseason contract that was signed, making him a $100m receiver. But are you willing to spend a 2nd round redraft pick on him with the headaches that will come attached to it when you have the likes of Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, the Tampa Bay WRs (which we’ll get to shortly) and Keenan Allen?

Stock Report: Cowboys Michael Gallup On the Rise? - RotoExperts
Ron Jenkins / AP

Michael Gallup, who had an under the radar stellar second year almost seems certain to fight it out with Lamb for the 2nd look. With Lamb being a shiny new toy, you’d expect him to go drafted ahead of Gallup so there could be value in taking Gallup in the mid to later rounds.

All of these guys will have safe floors and you’d expect them to all be low WR2/high WR3 come the end of the season. But on a week to week basis, there’ll likely be more ups and downs than the bigger dipper at Blackpool.

That being said, this definitely a WR core to invest in for your Bestball leagues.


LA Rams Running Backs

With the exit of Todd Gurley, the question before the draft was whether or not they saw fit to replace their former star RB… the answer was emphatic.

Rams select RB Cam Akers with 52nd pick in 2020 NFL Draft
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

With their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft at number 52, the Rams selected Cam Akers out of Florida State. Will Cam Akers come in and take the bulk of the load? Probably. But the nightmare here is the decision to hold either or both of the handcuffs as it could possibly be burning holes in your benches, especially in shallower leagues.

Dynasty leagues with bigger benches, you can probably get away with holding Malcolm Brown, but what if Henderson makes a 2nd year leap? What if it turns into a hot hand approach or a nasty 3 headed monster in the backfield?

For the Akers’ truthers, they’ll point to his tape behind a poor O-line in college and still managing to achieve 5ypc along with the fact that McVay and the coaching staff already knew what they had in Henderson and Brown, yet still decided to use their first pick in the draft on him.

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However, the poor offensive line play from the Rams recently supercedes all of these backfield quandaries. If you have poor offensive line play to the tune of being ranked 31st in 2019 by PFF, it doesn’t matter how good your running back is or the volume he gets, the ceiling is already capped.

Do you want to be wasting a 1st round rookie draft pick on a guy that could be in a 3 way time share. Akers should get goal-line work which gives you a bit of hope that he’ll perform adequately in fantasy, but why give yourself the headache?


Cleveland Tight Ends

Tight Ends aren’t the most exciting of positions at the best of times, but to take the 2019 TE6 and usually reliable fantasy option Austin Hooper and slotting him into the Browns means that we potentially have 2 to choose from.

David Njoku has not pulled up any trees since joining the league and was injured for the majority of last season. THe nightmare here is primarily for Austin Hooper owners. Tight Ends generally take a few years to acclimatise to the NFL before any production is seen. David Njoku is now looking to hit that sweet spot and break out entering his 4th year and has had his 5th year option exercised by the Browns. Clearly the Browns plan to do something with him. Kevin Stefanski, the new Browns HC even had this to say:

“I think there’s an obvious skill set there. It’s a big year for David, and a lot of that is gonna be up to him and the work that he puts in to this. We have big plans for him, but it’s about for him coming back in the building and working. And then ultimately seeing if we can utilize him in role that will take advantage of his skill set.”

Kevin Stefanski – at the NFL Combine.

These two are going to be far from the Gronk/Hernandez pairing from yesteryear so that leaves you with the headache of which one (if any) could post usable fantasy points at any given week.

You need to weigh up whether Stefanski’s words about Njoku or the actions of signing Austin Hooper to a 4 year, $44m dollar deal are worth following up on.


Miami Running Backs

Of all running back conundrums, the Miami one is certainly the one that most warrants pulling your hair out over.

They signed Jordan Howard in Free Agency to a deal and then went and traded for Matt Breida during the NFL draft for a 5th round pick.

Since 2016, Howard has the third-most rushing yards and seventh-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL. Howard’s consistent touchdown production makes him one of just five players to rush for at least six scores in each the past four seasons, yet he finds himself on his 3rd team in 5 years.

During his three-year career, Breida averages an even five-yards-per-pop and he’s scored 10 touchdowns and compiled 2,463 yards from scrimmage on just 448 touches (381 carries and 67 receptions).

49ers trade Matt Breida, Marquise Goodwin to Miami, Philly
Nhat V. Meyer

In summary, Matt Breida seems to at most be the 1b here as a 5th round pick investment doesn’t say too much that he’ll come in an get the lions share. Most will be surprised that the Dolphins didn’t invest in this years draft directly for a running back, and that says to me they are more than happy to roll with Howard for the most part in what could be a a lightning and thunder approach. Jordan Howard getting early down work and Breida getting the pass catching duties (though both are sufficient at either) and a mixture at the goal line.

What this means to your fantasy teams is that they are at best, week to week flex plays. Trying to decipher who will be better in positive or negative gamescripts can help, but its not going to be that simple with these two newly acquired backs. Add in a sprinkle of Patrick Laird and my friends, you have a nightmare.


Houston Wide Receivers

Time to look at another muddling wide receiver core. This time we take a look at the Texans. We don’t need to reopen the DeAndre Hopkins wounds for Texans fans but as we are all too aware, he packed his bags for Arizona.

The replacements? Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks through Free Agency/Trades and Isaiah Coulter in the draft. Add these to Will Fuller and Kenny Stills and you have a mess bigger than the M25 at rush hour.

This wide receiving core may end up sorting itself out as most of these players have been dogged with injuries. Will Fuller would kill for working hamstrings and Brandin Cooks has had multiple major concussions that his alarm bells ring 24/7. But drafting these guys prior to season start or trading for them at any time will come with the compulsory crossing of fingers.

Let’s look at investments of the players brought in;

What are the Rams' options with Brandin Cooks moving forward?
Jonathan Bachman/Getty

Brandin Cooks was traded to the Houston Texans for the 57th pick in the NFL draft, not quite the previous 1st rounders when traded to the Patriots and Rams but you have to say he could be the equivalent of Soccer’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink or Nicholas Anelka in terms of the amount of investment paid for a player. Considering the lack of draft capital the Texans had and currently have going forward, this is a big indication to me that DeShaun Watson and Brandin Cooks will be a constant sentence in 2020 (injuries aside).

Randall Cobb was given a 3 year $27m (almost $19m guaranteed) deal to move him just down the road from Dallas to Houston. Kudos to Randall’s agent on that one. I am reliably informed that the Houston Texan’s offence will suit Randall Cobb and could be a sneaky key contributor to this offence. So I’m all for it in the last round of PPR leagues, maybe a bit of bestball too. However, he himself has had injuries over his 10 year career in the NFL, so beware.

Talking of Bestball, that is where Will Fuller’s safest purchase can be found. He isn’t worth trying to figure out or rely on week to week and I don’t think he ever has. The former 1st round pick back in 2016 is an unrestricted free agent in 2021 and is currently in his exercised 5th year option. You have to wonder if BO’B let’s Fuller walk, especially with Houston’s lack of draft capital.

Kenny Stills isn’t going to trouble leagues unless it’s a deeper bench or unless the aformentioned teammates hit the treatment table.

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Isaiah Coulter is highly thought of here at Full10Yards HQ and the 171st overall pick in the NFL Draft from this year is yet another piece of the cake that has too many ingredients in.

All in all, I would only consider Brandin Cooks if in the mid to late rounds of draft. There will be plenty that will have written him off. Randall Cobb as a late round dart in PPR redraft leagues and Will Fuller in the alter rounds of Bestball. If you pivot these players into formats other than those listed, welcome to nightmare heaven.


Tampa Bay…everything

How things can look different after 12 months. This time last year, Bruce Arains was taking over at the helm, everyone was getting excited about an OJ Howard breakout and Jameis Winston was looking primed for a big season in a contract year.

Fast forward 365 days and we now have a new QB (Free Agency), new RB (draft) and a new TE (out of retirement) to add to the mix.

Patriots willing to pay Tom Brady $30M per year to keep QB - NFL.com
Damian Strohmeyer

Tom Brady doesn’t strike many as a guy who can support 2x 1,000 wide receivers, mainly because he was devoid of any talent on the outside for so long in New England and became the dink and dunk master. Is that what Tampa Tom Brady looks like? TB12 will be 43 when the season (eventually) rolls around. Does he still have the arm? Possibly not. Does he still have the skill? Absolutely. Tom Brady will walk into Raymond James stadium and the player’s locker room and not know what to do with all the weapons at his disposal.

For fantasy, there is the potential headache of not knowing what the change at QB means for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Change generally means a dip in production in first year whilst you allow for the new player to acclimatise. Tom Brady will be no different, especially with the pandemic threatening to curtail the offseason workouts and building any chemistry.

Added to the mix of hungry hippos chomping at the bit for targets, we have 3 Tight Ends. We all know the history of Gronk and Brady and we all know the history of how much Brady loves tight ends. But was that as a consequence of a lack of outside talent? What will Tom Brady’s tendencies be in this new Bruce Arians offence – a typical vertical type offence. Does Brady still have the arm for it?

If the answer to that question is no, Mike Evans could be the guy that ends up disappointing those taking him with a 2nd round fantasy draft pick. Godwin’s versatility should see him be as safe as last year.

Another factor we must bear in mind is the decision making change at the quarterback decision. For all the intereceptions Jameis threw, he made up for it with the yardage and touchdowns afterwards whilst in comeback mode. You wont have that dynamic anymore in Tampa Bay, which will directly impact possessions and total yardage through the air. Couple that with the fact that the defence should be a bit better than it was last year (through talent but also probably having to spend less time on the field thus, being a bit fresher and not as worn down and ultimately should not concede as many points).

The nightmare was there for all to see last year with Godwin and Evans generally taking it turns to post big games with the other being taken out of the game, epitomised by only one game where both scored touchdowns.

Mike Evans (left), Chris Godwin (right) 2019 production

The headache remains for 2020 and we no longer have gunslinger and interception thrower Jameis Winston to bail us out. Pass me the aspirin.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Not only do we have pass catching nightmares, we potentially also have rock carrying ones too.

Tampa Bay invested a 3rd round pick/#76 overall in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, running back out of Vanderbilt. He comes in to do battle with Ronald Jones, the much maligned 2nd round/38th overall pick in the 2018 draft.

So what’s the outcome?

One factor to key in on here is Tom Brady’s love of dump offs to the running back. This is one of the main reasons why James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk (the list goes on) are given more love in the fantasy world and are so undervalued in real life by fans.

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In Tampa, considering the investments, this screams time share. Whilst Vaughn is more competent at the pass blocking which gives him a good opportunity to ciphen work away from Jones even from week 1 , Jones is still learning and is improving as his career and skill sets evolve. I think both with be flex worthy players during the season, but again may be one for bestballs rather than you redraft/dynasty leagues. Vaughn kind of fits the Arians/David Johnson mould of someone that can be a 3 down back but due to his exposure going to Tampa, everyone wants a piece and it’s not a piece I am looking to overpay for. He isn’t going to be peak David Johnson, before any starts to put those two dots together.

Still, there is one silver lining: at least we don’t have Peyton Barber to worry about – probably the only Barber that won’t be in demand after Covid19 is over.


What are your fantasy nightmares for 2020? Let us know through our social media @F10YFantasy and we’ll be happy to help solve them! Watch out for part 2 over the next few weeks.

XFL Week Five Preview

By Michael Lavery (@MichaelLavery98)

We have reached the half way point folks. Week five this weekend and we can slowly start to see the playoff picture taking place. Teams who looked like high flying certs at the start of the year have now fallen, and those who got off to slow starts look to be on the rise.


GAME ONE:

SEATTLE @ HOUSTON


A game which is heavily favoured for a Houston win is also a must win for the 1-3 Dragons. The Roughnecks sit atop all rankings with a 4-0 perfect start to the season and they can thank their star Quarterback for getting them there. PJ Walker has shone brightest of anybody in the league so far and having thrown for 987 yards and 12 TD’s he leads the way for Quarterbacks in the league. 

Last week Seattle made a change at QB. Brandon Silvers was benched in favour of BJ Daniels who entered the game against St. Louis and gave the Dragons a bit of life. I don’t think he has what it takes to get them over the line against Houston this week but I do think moving forward he will be a better fit for the offense. Seattle need to figure out a solution for their run game. The three headed rushing monster they had been attempting to go with just isn’t working. It’s time they place their trust in Kenneth Farrow and build an offense around him and Daniels.

Expect to see a lively hometown crowd cheer on their undefeated Roughnecks in a game which I expect will result in a double digit win for the home side.

Prediction: Seattle 15 – 32 Houston


GAME TWO:

NEW YORK @ DALLAS


This game is going to come down to whichever backup quarterback steps up to the plate best. Luis Perez and Philip Nelson will suit up for the Guardians and the Renegades respectively. Two 2-2 teams facing off in Dallas, where the Renegades are yet to register a win this season, will both be hoping to get on the right side of the win/loss scale.

New York had an important bounce back win against the Wildcats last weekend in the meadowlands after losing their two previous games. As for Dallas, well they were on the wrong end of the score line in last weeks “Texas Throwdown” when they lost to the Roughnecks.

Both teams will need to help their QB’s the best they can, scheming easy throws and perhaps looking towards their run games. Dallas may rely heavily on the work of Cameron Artis Payne or TE Donald Parham who have both been producing well on offence over the past couple of weeks.

I favour the Renegades at home in this one, but will say that if either team opens up a two possession scoring advantage, I don’t see them being caught.

Prediction: New York 20 – 24 Dallas

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GAME THREE:

ST LOUIS @ D.C


The sudden collapse of D.C from 2-0 to 2-2 over the last two weeks caught the attention of just about everyone. Cardale Jones’ perfected recorded as a starter was shattered and the overall on field product turned to dust. Two games on the road in a row resulted in two losses and now DC returns to Audi Field to face a Battlehawks team who has been on the ascendency since week one.

St Louis have won their last games convincingly, bouncing off the home town energy in the Dome. Its obvious St Louis has missed their pro football and they are showing a passion toward the Battlehawks and they have ever so gracefully repaid them. Jordan Ta’amu has been consistent at a high level for pretty much the whole season and based on both teams current form, it is going to take one hell of a performance from DC to stop St. Louis.

 It will be interesting to keep tabs on how D.C perform being back at home as opposed to being on the road. They were perfect at home before losing two straight while on their travels. Similarly it will be telling of the commitment of the XFL fan bases to see how they turn out to support a struggling Defenders team.

If Ta’amu and the Battlehawks hit their rhythm early then I can see this becoming a runaway victory.

Prediction: St. Louis 29 – 15 D.C


GAME FOUR:

TAMPA @ LOS ANGELES


A defining game in both teams seasons. The opportunity to move to 2-3 after both earned their first victories of the season against the aforementioned Defenders. The crazy yard gaining Tampa offence will hope to keep their winning formulae going as they travel cross country to face the Wildcats.

400 yards offence has become somewhat of a benchmark for the Vipers despite only having one win but it is fair to assume they are one or two pieces away from everything falling perfectly into place for them and allowing them to rack up more wins. As for LA, well the waters are slightly murkier. The team’s identity is still not clear after their opening losses, a shock win against D.C and then a somewhat disappointing loss against a struggling Guardians team.

Winston Moss will have to “Give it to his players RIGHT NOW!” (See week 4 sound bites to get that reference) if he has any hope of them getting something out of this game. Better play calling will be required this week as the Vipers will almost certainly try to lock down Tre McBride knowing full well he’ll be the main target with Nelson Spruce still out.

A tough one for the home team and a golden opportunity for the road team.  

Prediction: Tampa 30 – 24 LA

Hope you enjoyed this shortened format. How do you see this week’s games panning out? Let me know on twitter @MichaelLavery98

XFL WEEK ONE PREVIEW

By Michael Lavery (@MichaelLavery98)

Football is BACK!

That’s a sentence you’re not used to hearing in February, right?

This time of year is usually the beginning of a seven month drought which sees us clutching on to any form of relevant and somewhat interesting football news. Hypothetical trades, mock drafts, and record predictions for teams in the new season, which we all know doesn’t always go to plan (I’m talking to you, Adam Rank).

But finally, after a lot of build-up, exciting rules announcements and the occasional familiar name being thrown into the mix… It’s time for the XFL.

The following is a preview of each of the opening four games followed by my own personal predictions for the games which at this point are complete stabs in the dark but worth a go anyway.


Seattle Dragons @ D.C Defenders


The opening game of the second installment of XFL football comes from Audi Field in Washington D.C where the Dragons take on the Defenders. Both of these teams are the second professional football team in their respective cities, something which could be worth looking into regarding attendance and fan support.

The Defenders are being led by Cardale Jones at quarterback, someone who is already being touted as the potential league MVP before it even kicks off. Jones spent a short time in the pro’s, mostly as a backup or a third stringer. He was drafted 139th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 but has never played more than a half of professional football.

His career stat line: 6/11 98yds, 0TD, 1INT 46.0QBR

D.C Head Coach Pep Hamilton is more than qualified to lead this team to multiple victories this year. He has years of experience working as a positional coach in the NFL for several teams and was the Colts Offensive Coordinator for two years from 2013-15. The significance of this is that during that time he worked closely with Andrew Luck, someone who he also coached during his time at Stamford.

Why exactly is this important? Well for the success Luck had in his short NFL career, I don’t think it would be a bad idea for Cardale Jones to pick the brain of his new HC. Luck and Jones also have extremely similar measurables, something Hamilton might hope to take advantage of and craft Jones into a Luck style player.

Comparison: Luck v Jones
 HeightWeight40 Yard DashHand Size
Andrew Luck6’ 4”234lbs4.6710”
Cardale Jones6’ 5”250lbs4.819 ¾”

The Seattle Dragons signal caller goes by the name of Brandon Silver. Silver has no NFL in game experience despite trying out at the New Orleans Saints rookie minicamp and spending a month as a member of the New York Jets. He did however play for the Memphis Express in the short while that the AAF existed. He sat behind Johnny Manziel as a backup before taking over the starting job after a Manziel injury.

His AAF Stat line: 80/125 799yds, 4TD, 2INT, 86.1QBR

Despite not being the most decorated player at his position, he is at least being coached by someone who knows how to lead a franchise. Former Seattle Seahawks lefty QB; Jim Zorn.

Zorn was the Seahawks quarterback for the first eight years of the franchise’s existence. He made it a weekly habit of finding NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent in the end zone and now they are both members of the Seattle ring of honour.

In his professional coaching career he has been an assistant and also spent one year has the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins (08-09). Jim Zorn Washington revenge game, anybody?

What is key is that Zorn will know exactly what the city of Seattle will want to see from their Dragons. He knows the city, he knows the fans, he knows the seriousness and with that I think he will have the Dragons performing at a high level all year.

This should be a great game to kick off the season, the fireworks and hoopla of the rebirthed XFL will no doubt add to the festival like occasion and hopefully there will be fireworks on the field too. Explosive plays, new kick offs and extra point rules all to be seen this weekend.

Prediction: My week one stab in the dark prediction is for Seattle to win a crowd silencer on the road in D.C with a final score of 34-17.

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Los Angeles Wildcats @ Houston Roughnecks


The late slot on Saturday takes us to TDECU stadium in Houston where the Roughnecks will host the Los Angeles Wildcats. The 40,000 seater arena is the battleground for the first primetime matchup of the season.

Houston Quarterback P.J Walker, who played is college ball at Temple, is, by his own admission an undersized quarterback. At 5’ 11” and only 214lbs he draws the pro sized comparison to Russell Wilson and a quick look at his tape shows his footballing ability is similar too. Walker has excellent escape ability when he feels pressure and can get the job done either by rushing or make accurate throws on the move. Despite having this ability to avoid pressure, he doesn’t force early departures from the pocket and when complimented by good protection has the time needed to step into throws and successfully complete the long ball. Something ex-Texans receiver Sammie Coates will be happy about as he makes his return to pro football in Houston. But, when Walker does take off running he has the talent to make defenders look stupid.

The Roughnecks will be running a “Run N’ Shoot” style offence. A pass heavy scheme, it is hoped that Walker can find his receivers deep down field often and force teams to meet their high scoring targets if they have any hopes of winning.

Fronted by Head Coach June Jones, a former NFL QB and HC for the Atlanta Falcons, Houston will be hoping to deliver key blows early in this game and take advantage of playing at home. Jones won the CNN/Sports Illustrated National Coach of the year award back in 1999 before going on to take on several roles as an assistant in both college and pro teams.

Something to watch in the future: Jones stepped in as interim Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers after the now New York Guardians HC Kevin Gilbride was fired. Perhaps something to keep an eye on in the week 6 fixture between Houston and New York.

The visiting Los Angeles Wildcats have a veteran NFL journeyman at the helm. Josh Johnson has been a member of 13 teams since being drafted by the Bucs in the 5th round of the 2008 draft. A cousin of Marshawn Lynch, he played college football at San Diego. Perhaps an indication of his pedigree at his position, the Detroit Lions attempted to resign Johnson in November 2019 but the XFL denied this request.

Wildcats Head Coach Winston Moss was a professional linebacker for the Bucs, LA Raiders and Seahawks. He worked up 20.5 sacks and 3 interceptions during his career. A defensive minded coach, he will undoubtedly have his hands full this weekend but will be hoping to lean on the talents of his players to execute his game plan and slow down the Roughnecks attack.

Prediction: I think this will be one of the closer games of the weekend but I see the home team coming out on top. Houston wins it: 26-21.


Tampa Bay Vipers @ New York Guardians


Moving into the early slot on Sunday and we will get to see the first instalment of the Tampa Bay Vipers and the New York Guardians. Being played at MetLife this game is sure to have all the feelings of a regular football Sunday.

Guardians Head Coach Kevin Gilbride will be hoping to get his team off to a fast start in the league. Overseeing operations in New York as a play caller he will be hoping his team leave their mark as a smash mouth, run you over style football team, something which is always associated with teams playing in the meadowlands.

He will no doubt be confident that his team can pile up the wins, the Guardians start the season with seasoned pro, Matt McGloin under centre. A former raider who knows all about playing tough.

His Career Stat line: 13 Games Played 7 Started 161/277 1868yds, 11TD, 11INT 75.3QBR

I’m not entirely confident in McGloin’s ability to shine as the star of this league, but I do believe he will be more than capable of managing in-game situations at an effective and professional level and guiding this team to victory. That said, if he doesn’t perform, the New York fans will have no problem in letting him hear it.  

Making the trip up the east coast is the green and yellow of the Tampa Bay Vipers. Spearheaded by Head Coach Marc Trestman and Quarterback Aaron Murray, the team travels to New York in the hope of returning to Florida with a season opening win.

Murray, a former Georgia Bulldog was a 5th round pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. After bouncing between teams for a number of years, he took up a role as the QB for the Atlanta Legends of the AAF before coming to Tampa in the hope of being the cities best quarterback (30INT Jameis Winston shouldn’t be too hard to beat).

His Head Coach, Trestman, has an impressive history of coaching. Over 39 years he’s been with 10 NFL teams as either an assistant or a coordinator and has had his fair share of coffees elsewhere too coaching in both college and the CFL.

This should be a gritty game, with both teams trying to make some noise in the early Sunday window and gain some attention before week 2. A tough one to call so I’ll give the benefit to the team with a QB who has NFL experience and are playing at home.

Prediction: Guardians 27-20 Vipers.

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St Louis Battlehawks @ Dallas Renegades


Potentially the best game of the weekend slot, aptly left to the primetime Sunday evening slot. A city left in the lurch without pro football since 2015, St. Louis fans were beyond hurt when the rams left them and have been crying out for football since. The Battlehawks fans will have to wait until week 3 to see their team play at home but I don’t think that will stop them from travelling to Dallas show support to their team.

Dallas is a footballing hub, the Cowboys have been calling themselves America’s team for what feels like forever and the entire city of Dallas lives for the sport. The Renegades will count as the State of Texas’ 4th pro football team, but they will have no intentions of being known as such. They want to be number one and behind quarterback Landry Jones they are in great shape to do so.

Jones is the forefront of this offense and he will hope to lay down a marker for the standard at which other teams aspire to be at. He was the first player to be selected for the XFL at the start of the team’s allocation process.

Jones’ professional career saw him drafted by the Steelers with the 115th overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. A competent backup, he even saw some playing time in the playoffs, relieving an injured Ben Roethlisberger in the 2015 wild-card game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Roethlisberger would eventually return to the game but it is a credit to Jones and his work as a backup that he was ready to go when called upon. I think we can expect to see a great player coach chemistry with the Renegades. Jones and HC Bob Stoops worked together during his time in college. They will need to bring their “A” game in order to stop a resurgent St. Louis side who will be wanting to prove the point that pro football belongs in their city.

The Battlehawks are entering this game with quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and Head Coach Jonathan Hayes. Wanting to implement their status as winners from the start they will have to lean heavily on the knowledge of their HC and the veterans in the team with pro experience such as ex-Seahawks running back Christine Michael. In his career, he amassed over 1,000 rushing yards off 254 carries over a period of 4 years.

First special teams mention of the day, Marquette King, ex-Raiders punter makes his return to football for the Battlehawks in the hopes of re-igniting his career.

A primetime showdown to round out week one of the new XFL season, a game I think will come down to wire. Fourth quarter plays will be crucial and coaches aggression strategies on their PAT attempts will be important in determining a winner. I’ll side with the home team in this one but wouldn’t be surprised to see the visitors get a win.

Prediction: Renegades 28-26 Battlehawks.


So there you have it, the week 1 preview is at a close. Let us know your thoughts on the XFL by tweeting us @full10Yards on Twitter. Whether you love it, hate it or aren’t even going to watch it, we want to know!

Season In Review – Houston Texans

By Euan De Ste Croix (@podcastTexans)

The NFL season is over which means 2 things, 1 – it’s time to be sad for a few months until the NFL Draft and 2 – You now have a lot of time on your hands.

In this series of articles, we try and take care of number 2.


entering the season


Another Houston Texans season has come and gone with an all too familiar ending. A disappointing play-off loss and not for the first time, a resounding defeat to Kansas City. This was to be the final act for the players, prior to clearing out their lockers, at NRG stadium.

In July, the Texans decided against having a GM, when Brian’s Gaine was fired and the team were heavily scrutinised for the investment given in trade deals involving Laremy Tunsil & Kenny Stills coming in from the Dolphins. Conversely, Jadeveon Clowney was sent to Seattle for a cents on the dollar type of value, in a seemingly emotive move by O’Brien.

A mixture of an ageing defensive co-ordinator and erosion of defensive talent contributed to the biggest concerns of this team. The lack of pass rush, mixed with a continuously revolving personnel in the secondary would typically not provide a formula for effective defence. A historical shift in identity for a team which has been lead by it’s defensive stars.


during the season


The biggest change for team was beating the supposed upper echelon teams with wins against Kansas City and New England contributing to a 10-6 record and were even afforded the luxury of resting their starters for week 17 (for those with an interest in to patterns, go and check out the Houston win loss sequence this season).

This offence lead by Deshaun Watson, at times, looked capable of beating anyone. However, two regrettable off-days against Carolina and Denver, both at home, lead to much frustration amongst the fan base. O’Brien was caught on camera amidst a heated exchange with a fan, leaving the field in the latter, which summed up the frustration levels amongst the support.

Will Fuller’s absence towards the back end of the season again was a sore miss for the Texans. Fuller is a true game changer on offence and the Texans looked one dimensional without him on the field. The offensive improvement were equalised by the fading talent and injuries to their defence. Which ultimately left them cursing what could have been, if an automatic seed had been grasped, for a consecutive season.

Image result for houston vs kansas
Image Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty

In the Wildcard game they were reliant on a monumental comeback form Watson against the Buffalo Bills being. Acrobatic heroics from Watson we’re required, coupled with a John Allen implosion to sneak an overtime win. The divisional match up, reversed the roles, where the Texans, inexcusably threw away a 24point lead. As they were on the receiving end of an offensive schooling by Andy Reid and Patrick Mahommes.

Some players of note, Carlos Hyde had a bounceback season, rushing for over a 1000 yards, a career first, after bouncing around multiple rosters in the past few seasons. Duke Johnson was third in targets and provided a complementary piece to this offence. Both 1st and 2nd round picks Tytus Howard and Max Sharping had stellar rookie seasons to build upon and solidified the line in front of their quarterback.

On defence, Whitney Mercilius was able to put together 7.5 sacks and 2 interception on the season. The former Illinois, first round pick was rewarded with his second contract extension, despite his age. Jacob Martin off the edge has a great deal of potential if he can develop as a speed rusher. Zack Cunningham lead the team in tackles yet again and is perhaps their most important piece in that unit.

offseason outlook

After falling substantially short, it would seem changes to the coaching staff would likely follow. The loss of Jadeveon Clowney, left a big hole in the front seven which will be priority number one to address. There’s also issues with the personnel in the secondary left the Texans finishing 28th in defensive efficiency and in need of major upgrades. In his maiden season as defensive co-ordinator, will face a sizeable challenge to turn this unit around.

The biggest talking point this off-season will be the growing influence of coach Bill O’Brien. He as de facto-GM made major plays to add to the offence and the cornerback positions. This then lead to relinquishing draft picks but the teams record regressed and looked more than short of being genuine contenders in the playoffs. Long time cap guru Chris Olsen was let go just weeks after the season, with further changes in offing for the front office and its unquiet structure, centred around O’Brien.

Image result for bill o brien
Image Credit: Michael Wyke/AP

Another AFC South title is a modest achievement based on the draft capital expended. With many key players requiring extensions (Tunsil, Watson, Cunningham & Fuller) this off season, it will likely consume much of their cap space. The ability for Texans to acquire players cable of generating a pass rush and improving depth on Offence may not be an easy task, especially considering the lack of draft capital over the next few years in the early rounds.

As we stand today, the fan base is growing restless with Bill O’Brien who will need to build a roster capable of a top AFC seed and a deep play-off run if they are to be appeased. 

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

Image result for nfc south
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…

Full10Takeaways – Week 5

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Ouch!

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

You could be excused for confusing the NFL redzone coverage on Sunday for an episode of casualty. Several times the electric cart was brought out onto an NFL field on Sunday as what was a day that several players saw their season come to an abrupt end.

2 of the more notable season ending ones were Colts 2nd year pass rusher Kemoko Turray, who broke his ankle in SNF. Tony Jefferson tore his ACL earlier in the day to leave a big hole in the Ravens secondary. Several players left games with varying injuries throughout the day but the scariest of the lot though without doubt was Mason Rudolph lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf. It certainly wasn’t the worst hit you will ever see but a combination of Brandon Carr from behind and an Earl Thomas helmet to the chin had the young QB out cold.

Thankfully he regained consciousness and walked from the field which was lucky as the electric cart broke!


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16 Weeks on the Road?

Image Credit – Harry How / Getty Images

Talking of injuries, thats a nice link to arguably the most unlucky team in football the LA Chargers.

A team that seemingly gets a bigger slice of the injury pie than anyone else, actually welcomed back a player this week, as Melvin Gordon saw the field. He however was part of a predictable and conservative gameplan which was too much dink and not enough dunk. On a day that Austin Ekeler caught a career high 15 passes the Chargers couldn’t get anything going consistently offensively, as Vic Fangio tasted success for the first time in his short head coach career.

Its unsurprising that this brand of football isn’t attracting fans into watch the franchise as the move from San Diego continues to look like a mistake as the Broncos fans hugely outnumbered the fans of the supposed “home” team.


Texans Feast on Falcons

Image Credit – Troy Taorimina / USA Today Sports

DeShaun Watson is good.

DeShaun Watson when not getting pressured is superb, and that was the case on Sunday as the Texans dropped a 50 burger on the Falcons. A career high 426 yards through the air was accompanied by 5 touchdown passes and a further 47 yards rushing. His main weapon on the day was Will Fuller who caught 14 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Atlanta battled and had the deficit at a 1 possession game for much of the contest but the takeaway here isn’t so much how good Watson and co were offensively but just how bad this Atlanta defense is.

Tim wrote last week about Dan Quinn and his seat getting warmer, displays by the side of the ball he is supposed to be stronger in will do nothing to turn the temperature down a few degrees.


High, Wide and Not Handsome

Image Credit – James Kenney / AP Photo

Cairo Santos, dear oh dear oh dear. In a game that was the most obvious candidate ever to be decided by a small margin, it wasn’t a good night for the Titans kicker to suffer a disastrous tilt.

He left a total of 12 points off the board with field goal misses from 50, 36, 32 and 53 yards away. Missing kicks, especially from 50 plus yards is obviously not uncommon, but Santos was closer to threatening supporters sitting behind the posts as opposed to the kicking net as he kicks were way off throughout.

A strange decision by Mike Vrabel to even attempt the 53 yarder when down by 7 points and under 7 minutes left in what had proven to be the defensive slugfest that we had predicted.

Maybe he will find himself as a member of Jason Garret corner on this week’s podcast?


Super Ted

Image Credit – David Grunfeld / nola.com

Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Bridgewater can still throw!

For the first time in nearly 4 years the signal caller threw for over 200 yards as he powered the Saints to a dominant divisional win over the Bucs. 4 touchdown passes also found the box score as on the day Teddy remembered how to air it out, Michael Thomas remembered how to dominate on the outside. He was a perfect 9/9 when lined up against press coverage on a day when the Bucs star receiver Mike Evans was held catchless.

The post game interview with Teddy was a reminder of just how far he has come since suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury. He couldn’t tie his shoelaces and now he has steadied the Saints in Drew Brees absence, a remarkable turnaround.


Tottenham triumph 

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Image credit: Pitchcare.com

All the hype about the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is 101% justified. The stadium is situated right on the Tottenham High Road opposite some local shops such as bookies and kebab outlets.

Fans took full advantage of the road being closed, throwing balls and gathering en-mass to play NFL jersey bingo. Any fans wanting to buy any merch can expect to queue up as the store has security arches. Inside the stadium the views are awesome wherever you are sitting, and the experience is full immersive. The three rings of digital information screens, along with jumbo screens in all four corners mean you will never miss a highlight, a replay or a challenge. The sound is quality and the lights are stunning.

Fans were treated to some pyrotechnics around the roof’s inner ring on Sunday which is something you simply have to be in the stadium to experience. If the NFL plan to lure an existing team to London it won’t be a hard sell on the stadium.

England captain and World-Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane was a guest of honour on Sunday and he looked like he had a whale of a time. If he does decide to one day transition to an NFL kicker, what’s the odds that he doesn’t even need to change his parking pass? 


You’d be crackers not to like Jacobs 

Image Credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

As the top drafted rookie running back on a team in transition with a new (returning) head coach you could excuse the output to less than impressive for the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs. Thing is Jacobs is absorbing that pressure like a seasoned veteran.

Jacobs was voted the Tottenham game ‘man of the match’ winner even before he went airborne for the game winning score. Jacobs has been a number one back all season and is easily justifying his high pick position.

After five weeks he is 6th in the league in rushing with 430 yards and four scores. Jacobs picked up the hard yards in London both rushing and receiving, and arguably could have had three scores. Backup RB Deandre Washington was a TD vulture.

Jacobs would not be achieving such positive results without two key factors being delivered – his ability to pass block when called upon and the play of the Raiders offensive line. Khalil Mack flew home with a Union Jack fridge magnet, a six inch Beefeater and a jar of Marmite but had no sack to put them in. 


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Redskins change the locks 

Image Credit: Nick Wass/AP

Jay Gruden, when asked by the media on Sunday, after the Washington Redskins fifth consecutive loss, about his job security he said that he would carry on if his key still worked.

That was enough for owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen to dial up a locksmith and get a shiny new Chubb installed at the gates of Fed-Ex Field (no Browns fans they did not trade for Nick).

This was the most obvious firing and was inevitable after Tom Brady, in second gear, helped himself to an easy victory against a Redskins team that atrocious to say the least. Gruden was unable to overcome major injuries to stars, failed to develop and true WR talent and had zero playoff wins in his tenure.

New ‘interim’ Head Coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to s Super Bowl in 2001, and is a true advocate of a strong running game. Gruden seemingly banged nails in his own coffin when he deactivated future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in Week 1. Trent Williams the All-Pro T is the last remaining holdout, and the defence has been as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.

In fact Spongebob would probably be an upgrade in the secondary.  

#NFL100Memories – 7/100

The Music City Miracle – By Adam Foxcroft (@ADFoxcroft)

“There are no flags on the field. It’s a miracle. Tennessee has pulled a miracle!!”

I’ve been a fan of the Tennessee Titans since before they were even a Tennessee based football team, and my fandom goes back to the days of the Houston Oilers and Warren Moon.

However, what was one of the most exciting teams in the NFL became a source of farce and controversy as Bud Adams decided to move the team to Nashville (via Memphis for a couple of strange years while the stadium was being built). But in 1999, the Houston and then Tennessee Oilers became the Titans (and in the new Adephia Coliseum), Jeff Fisher’s team really started to make strides;

Steve McNair, Eddie George and others on Offense were more than capable of taking advantage of the short fields that the Defense were giving them to work with, and the team soared into the playoffs with a 13-3 record. The reward was a tough looking home game against Buffalo, which would go down to the wire.

The game, in truth, was dominated by defence. With the Bills kicking a Field Goal to seemingly win it 16-15 with 16 seconds left, it looked over. Now, Steve McNair may have had a Hail Mary in him. Or perhaps we were going to see one of those rugby style desperation plays like the one executed by Miami in 2018. But the Titans’ special teams had other ideas: with Defense on top, the best chance of rescuing the game was some trickery with the kick-off.

Poor old Jeff Fisher should be remembered more for moments like this – stealing a game with a clever play when the opposition least expected it – arguably on a par with Sean Payton running an onside kick in the Super Bowl. The move had been worked on in training; the only trouble was that different players had practised it – Derrick Mason, for example, had gone down injured earlier in the game. But at this moment, Tennessee had to make do, as this was the best, maybe only, opportunity to pinch the game.

The play itself? Lorenzo Neal fielded the kick, handed the ball off to Frank Wycheck, who lateralled the ball across to Kevin Dyson, who ran up the left-hand side of the field to score the winning Touchdown. But was the lateral across the field a forward pass? Not according to the officials, and while the play got reviewed, there was insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field call.

The play has been debated ever since, and to some, the pass looked forward as Frank Wycheck was standing behind the 25 yard line, even though he threw from in front of it. Detailed computer analysis may have “proved” that Sir Geoff Hurst’s shot didn’t actually cross the line in 1966, but nothing has ever convinced this Titans fan that this particular result should not have stood. Moreover, there are images that seem to indicate it was not forward – showing the ball as closer to the 25 yard line when Dyson gathered it than when Wycheck released it.

IMAGE CREDIT: TENNESSEE TITANS

To the Bills fans who remain unconvinced just know this: at least you didn’t end up suffering a Super Bowl heartbreak on the final play of THAT season.

Not that time, anyway.

AFC South Breakdown

By Adil Khan Deshmukh (@dillytoon)

Last Season
Texans 11-5

Colts 10-6

Titans 9-7

Jaguars 5-11

Houston Texans:

Draft Selections: Tytus Howard OT (1.23), Lonnie Johnson Jr. CB (2.22), Max Scharping OT (2.23), Kahale Warring TE (3.22), Charles Omenihu DE (5.22), Xavier Crawford CB (6.23), Cullen Gillaspia FB (7.06)

Off-season key additions: Tashaun Gipson FS, Bradley Roby CB, Matt Kalil LT, Duke Johnson RB (traded from Browns)

Off-season key departures: Tyrann Mathieu FS, Kareem Jackson CB, Kevin Johnson CB

Super Bowl Odds: 40/1

Analysis:

The Texans won the AFC South title last season with their stellar 11-5 record, however they were swept aside by the Colts in the Wildcard game 21-7 at NRG Stadium. However, DeAndre ‘big hands’ Hopkins ended the season as probably the most feared WR in the game and their defensive line is not too shabby either. The Texans decided to let the ‘Honey Badger’ Tyrann Mathieu leave to the Chiefs and they also lost their premier CB (Kareem Jackson) to the Broncos. At the time, GM Brian Gaine (now with the Bills), had tried to fill the gaps in the secondary with Tashuan Gipson (from Jacksonville), Bradley Roby and 2nd round draft pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. It’ll be interesting to see whether the secondary is effective as last year, but they sure can rush the opposing QB with JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. On the offensive side of the ball, they will run through messrs Deshaun Watson and Hopkins. Following D’Onta Foreman’s release, they acquired Duke Johnson in a trade with the Browns and he will provide a decent foil for Lamar Miller in the backfield. The biggest bug bear for most Texans fans was their inability to protect the QB, with their offensive line giving a league high 62 sacks and 126 QB hits. They’ve attempted to bolster their line with first round pick Tytus Howard and the acquisition of Matt Kalil (1 year deal).

Look out for: The ongoing saga that is franchise tagged DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has reached three successive Pro Bowls and wants to ‘get paid’ just like other elite defensive linemen. It will be interesting to see whether the Texans do indeed canvass the league for a trade. The most likely destinations from a cap space point of view are within the AFC South so it’s unlikely they’ll want to bolster their division rivals. As far as retaining their AFC South title, much will depend on how they deal with their difficult road start, with their first three away games against the Saints, Chargers and Chiefs. Additionally, they also have their first trip across the pond to the mighty Wembley Stadium.

Indianapolis Colts

Draft Selections: Rock Ya-Sin CB (2.02), Ben Banogu LB (2.17), Parris Campbell WR (2.27), Bobby Okereke LB (3.25), Khari Willis S (4.07), Marvell Tell III S (5.06), E.J. Speed LB (5.26), Gerri Green DE (6.26), Jackson Barton OT (7.26), Javon Patterson C (7.32)

Off-season Key Additions: Justin Houston DE, Devin Funchess WR, Spencer Ware RB

Off-season Key Departures: None

Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

Analysis:

The Colts came into the 2018 season off the back of an abysmal 2017 season and questions over how well Andrew Luck would play following a year on the sidelines. Fast forward a few months and Luck had answered that question with being awarded Comeback Player of the Year but that didn’t tell the full storyline. The Colts opened the season 1-5 and subsequently went to win 9 out of the next 10. The backbone of that charge was the offensive line, holding opposing defences to a league-best 18 sacks in the regular season. This offensive line is still intact for this season and the ‘pancake monster’ Quenton Nelson will only get better in his second year. When you add a top pass rusher in Justin Houston to the extremely impressive Darius Leonard, the limit could really be the sky for the Colts this season. It goes without saying that Andrew Luck and T.Y. ‘the Ghost’ Hilton are the elite skill position guys on offense. When you add the plethora of Tight Ends (TD magnet Ebron, Doyle, Alie-Cox), WR Devin Funchess and the potential of Parris Campbell and Deon Cain; Luck certainly has a lot of weapons to play with.

Look out for: We are in the midst of another Andrew Luck off-season injury drama. Luck has been struggling with a calf/high ankle injury of some sort which has inhibited his lateral movement. Colts fans are all too familiar with off-season injury drama regarding their franchise QB and it is still undecided whether he suits up for the season opener against the Chargers. As far as backup QBs go, Jacoby Brissett is a capable player, but he’s no Andrew Luck. Keep your eyes peeled on this situation as the Colts season completely depends on Luck’s fitness.

Tennessee Titans

Draft Selections: Jeffery Simmons DT (1.19), A.J. Brown WR (2.19), Nate Davis G (3.18), Amani Hooker S (4.14), D’Andre Walker LB (5.30), David Long Jr. LB (6.15)

Off-season Key Additions: QB Ryan Tannehill, Rodger Saffold G, Adam Humphries WR, Cameron Wake DE

Off-season Key Departures: Josh Kline G, Brian Orakpo (retirement), Quinton Spain G

Super Bowl Odds: 66/1

Analysis: 

To say that the Titans have been consistent over the last three seasons would be an understatement. They have been distinctly just above average by obtaining a 9-7 record in each of the seasons. The latter part of the 2018 season paved the way for Derrick Henry to break into the history books and it’s likely the Titans will try and rely on him as a workhorse back. They brought in free agent WR Adam Humphries to play the slot and we will see if he makes another stepped improvement from the 800+ yards he accrued last year. The quarterback position (as of this article being written) appears to be still up for grabs following the Titans’ trade for Tannehill from Miami. If we make the assumption that Mariota keeps the starting job, you just need to look at his stat line from last season – 2528 passing yards. This was the lowest of his career, and whilst he was marred by multiple injuries (nerve endings affecting hand / neck), he’s currently a middling quarterback at best. On the defensive side of the ball, they have a good pass rusher in Jurrell Casey and have added the well experienced Cameron Wake. Their first round draft pick Jeffery Simmons tore his ACL, compounding the loss of Brian Orakpo to retirement, thus the interior of the D-line is a bit weak. 

Look out for: The QB battle in Nashville should be clearer come Week 1. However, Mariota is on the 5th year of his rookie contract and neither him or Tannehill have managed to set the NFL on fire. It will be interesting to see if Mariota is able to stay healthy this year but one should not hold their breath. The benefit for the Titans fans is that once he does go down injured, they don’t have to rely on a QB like Blaine Gabbert. Unfortunately for the Titans, they just don’t have enough elite talent to get excited about for this coming season. 

Jacksonville Jaguars 

Draft Selections: Josh Allen OLB (1.07), Jawaan Taylor (2.03), Josh Oliver TE (3.05), Quincy Williams LB (3.35), Ryquell Armstead RB (5.02), Gardner Minshew QB (6.05), Dontavius Russell DT (7.21)

Off-season Key Additions: Nick Foles QB, Jake Ryan ILB, Chris Conley WR

Off-season Key Departures: Malik Jackson DT, Tashaun Gipson FS, Donte Moncrief WR, Ereck Flowers RT, TJ Yeldon RB, Blake Bortles QB

Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

Analysis: 

All aboard the change train at the Jags with them spending the big bucks on Super Bowl MVP and future-HOF (I jest on the second bit) Nick Foles; we mark the end of the Bortles era in Northern Florida. The Bortles era ended in a flop with the team being rock bottom of the division having only just been in the AFC Championship Game in 2017. Foles is a significant improvement on Bortles and the team has talented receivers that need to push on during their second (DJ Chark) and third seasons (Dede Westbrook / Keelan Cole) in the league. The question in the backfield will be whether Fournette succumbs to another injury (and subsequently ruins fantasy seasons for people). On the defensive side of the ball they have lost top players in Jackson and Gipson but they did draft Josh Allen. Their corners are still lock-down with AJ Buoye and Jalen Ramsey arguably being the best pairing in the league. As with every year, the Jags will make the trip over to Wembley and it will be interesting to see whether Foles continues the Bortles Wembley Magic!

Look out for: Major improvements in the passing game, one of the receivers from this corps could well have a break-out year as is common with third-year receivers. However, the Jags fans will be feeling Blue after the inevitable injury that will beset Leonard Fournette; turning their offense into one that is pass-heavy.

2019 Season Predictions
Texans 11-5

Colts 10-6

Titans 7-9

Jaguars 6-10

*Ratings created with assumption that Andrew Luck is healthy