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…

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

Predicting the Playoff Merry-Go-Round

By Shaun Blundell – @Shaun_F10Y

One of the great things about the NFL is its designed to produce parity across its competing teams. Recent history suggests that roughly half of the teams that make the playoffs one year do not repeat 12 months later. Predicting the playoff field in August is a tough gig but without further ado let’s predict the 12 strong field and detail those that have been replaced and why.

Dropping Out

Chicago Bears – The formula for the Bears last year was to win tight games and win the turnover battle. It’s tough to win close games 2 years in a row, and can the defence turn over the ball as regularly? It’s a lot to ask, add in the fact that it’s a loaded division and I can see the Bears slipping out of the playoff field this season.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson is brilliant, but I just don’t see an awful lot else to get excited about on the Seattle roster. The once feared defence is certainly lacking star quality outside of Bobby Wagner and although Pete Carroll will have them competitive as always, but I can’t see another playoff run this year.

Philadelphia Eagles – I think it will be tight in the division (see below) but I don’t think the runner up record in the NFC East will be good enough for a wildcard spot. So much will depend on Carson Wentz after the safety net that was Nick Foles has been removed.

Houston Texans – The Texans roster has plenty of individual star power with the likes of Watt, Clowney, Hopkins and Watson but lacks overall depth. The offensive line and secondary are big concerns in what is a pass first league, and I believe they will not overcome both.

Baltimore Ravens – How long will it take for defences to catch up with the run heavy approach of Lamar Jackson and co? The Chargers handled them comfortably in last year’s playoffs and Jackson will have to develop quickly as a passer to allow the offence to be more balanced. I don’t think that happens this year, if at ever does.

Repeat Performances

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees has possibly 1 last chance to win at all and despite a strong division, I can see the Saints playing in January again next year.

LA Rams – I don’t buy a post Super Bowl hangover as there is just too much talent on this team along with question marks on others in the division.

Dallas Cowboys – QB question marks for the Skins and Giants probably make the NFC a 2-way fight between the Cowboys and Eagles. I’ll take the Cowboys, just!

Kansas City Chiefs – Still questions defensively but the offence will more than carry the Chiefs with MVP, Pat Mahomes entering year 3.

New England Patriots – Don’t they just always win the AFC East? Hard to see past yet another divisional crown in 2019.

LA Chargers – It could be another wild-card berth for the Chargers but expect them to go back and forth with the Chiefs all season.

Indianapolis Colts – After a poor start in 2018 a red-hot finish followed. Andrew Luck should be able to lead the Colts to the postseason as division winners this time around.

New Kids on the Block

Minnesota Vikings – Expect a greater return from the Kirk Cousins investment in year 2 with a better O-line in front of him. I still see the Vikings as the most complete team in the division and if they can keep Thielen and Diggs healthy along with Dalvin Cook I expect the offence to roll. Defensively the return most of the key players and Anthony Barr’s U-turn on the New York Jets in free agency is a massive plus.

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons were dealt huge injury blows to the defence last year and assuming that they don’t suffer the same fate they should be a middle of the road unit this time around. Matt Ryan and the high-powered offence will carry this team and Julio Jones thinks he might put up 3,00 yards receiving! I can’t see that but I can certainly see a big season from Atlanta and expect them to find a wild card berth.

Green Bay Packers – Call it blind faith but assuming Aaron Rodgers plays a full 16 games, I think the Packers find a way to get it done. Mike Pettine plays good aggressive defence and has plenty of young talent to work with. They are always so strong at home so if they can find a couple of road wins I believe they will sneak into a wildcard.

Cleveland Browns – I know…..believe it when you see it, it is the Browns! It is just impossible to look past how much talent has been assembled on this roster in just a year and a half under John Dorsey. Baker Mayfield, OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Myles Garret to name but a few of the stars that will be suiting up in orange and brown. It’s been a while, and as Browns fan it’s been painful, but this season promises to be great.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Similar to what I said about the Patriots, they just don’t miss the postseason party very often. Minus the diva that is Antonio Brown and the diva that is Le’Veon Bell, look for Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and James Conner to have nice campaigns. The Steelers have a habit of playing up or down to their competition and if the Browns do indeed fire then look for the AFC North to be sending 2 representatives into the January competition.

In Summary

So there you go, your 12 playoff teams are as follows: –

NFC – Saints, Rams, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons & Packers

AFC – Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Browns, Chargers & Steelers

Prediction for the Superbowl? Don’t be silly, nobody can predict what is going to happen that far advance in the NFL!

I’ve Got Your Back

By Lawrence Vos, 6 June 2019 (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

In Baseball they are called relief pitchers, guys who come out of a pen, previously occupied by bulls, to try and either maintain a winning position or play an important part in reviving a team’s chance of winning.

In the NFL they are called backup quarterbacks, and their appearance on a playing field is normally one of two scenarios, either as a tokenistic couple of kneel-downs to finish a game that’s outcome has long been decided or to replace either an injured or ineffective starter.

Nobody actually wants to be a backup quarterback, pretending to be the ultimate team player, but secretly wishing the starter throws a pick-six on his first drive.

The position is personified by the iconically named Clipboard Jesus, Mr Charlie Whitehurst. The hirsute wizard played for seven teams, winning two of nine career starts. (A little sprinkling of trivia here, Whitehurst was part of a trade from Seattle to San Diego in 2010 that saw the Seahawks grab Golden Tate with the second round pick they acquired.)

Backups can be both loved and feared by fans, adored if they are about to come in and mount a John Rambo style rescue mission, and frightening if they are that obscure nobody even knows who they are or what college they played for. Cue the likes of Chad Litton in Kansas City who could out-duel Chad Henne this pre-season to gain the spot behind Patrick Mahomes. Litton by the way went to Marshall, was an UDFA in 2018 having been signed, waived, and then moved his entire rookie season to the practice squad with KC.

It also turns out backup quarterbacks make excellent coaches. Who would have thought spending years and years in the shadows of greatness would actually payoff? Three names immediately spring to mind here – Gary Kubiak, Frank Reich and Doug Pederson.

Kubiak, now assistant head-coach in Minnesota, will be hoping to revive the form of another former backup in the form of Kirk Cousins. Kubiak backed up John Elway for nine seasons, including three times in Super Bowls, before moving into coaching in 1995. Kubiak was again patient, and when he returned for a third time to the Rockies he led the Broncos to a Super Bowl win.

Pederson followed in a similar vein to Kubiak, with 10 seasons in the NFL and just three wins (the exact same number a Kubiak), but he managed to get a ring in 1996, backing up Brett Favre in Super Bowl XXXI, getting on the field as the holder on kicks. Pederson went on to win a second ring as the Eagles head coach, behind the talents of yep – a backup quarterback.

In contrast Reich has the unenviable record of being the only backup quarterback in NFL history to be the backup in four consecutive Super Bowls, behind the legendary Jim Kelly.  Now head coach of the Colts, its highly likely he joins Kubiak and Pederson as a Super Bowl winner, maybe even as early as this upcoming season.

The second-string quarterback can make or break a team. Examples of overwhelming success by a backup include Nick Foles with the Eagles (2017) and Jeff Hostetler with the Giants (1990) both who went on to lift the Lombardi Trophy when all was said and done.

Now the full-time starter in Jacksonville, Foles, playing in his second stint with Philly (he was an original Eagles draft pick in 2012) is the most recent example of zero to hero, leading the Eagles to an improbable Super Bowl win, and almost a second consecutive trip to the promised land in 2018. Not that Cody Parkey had anything to do with the Eagles 2018 playoff progression.

So who are the cream of the veteran clipboard (or should I say Microsoft Surface) holding crop coming into 2019? If the likes of Big Ben finally does a London Bridge, or if Mayfield mutilates his meniscus who are the top 10 backup quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season.

10)  AJ McCarron – Houston Texans

McCarron has made this list based on potential and not on any kind of actual achievement. A lifetime backup, with just three starts (in 2015 for the Bengals), McCarron is an insurance policy in Houston. He was signed by the Bills in March 2018 but never played a down, as he was traded to Oakland in September, where he ended up backing up David Carr. McCarron has an impressive, if not legendary, college resume, having won back-to-back BCS titles with Alabama in 2011 and 2012, he has just not managed to translate this winning mentality to the NFL. Deshaun Watson is in some circles being projected as the number one fantasy QB for 2019, but if he goes down with an injury McCarron will be thrust into the spotlight.

9) Blaine Gabbert – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Normally even the thought of Blaine Gabbert sends shivers down fantasy owner’s spines, but like David Dunn (the former football star played by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable) Gabbert does appear to be made of some stern stuff. Aside from 2014, where he managed just 7 pass attempts) Gabbert has somehow managed to start at least 3 NFL games in 7 seasons, including the last four, for three different teams (49ers in 2016, Cardinals in 2017 and Titans in 2018). It’s a bad omen for Jamies Winston that Gabbert is loitering in the background, waiting for his mandatory three game stint. Buccs fans you have been warned – Gabbertime is coming.

8) Nick Mullens – San Francisco 49ers

A name that only die-hard 49ers fans knew before he made his debut in the middle of 2018, Nick Mullens became a media darling after he won in his NFL debut 34-3 forcing fans to go from ‘whoooooo?’ to ‘wooooooh!’ (in a Rick Flair style). Mullens no doubt wears the #4 jersey in honour of some no-name quarterback’s single-season passing record he broke at Southern Miss. For those of you struggling to join the dots yes Nick Mullens owns a passing record in the Deep South once held by Brett Favre. 8 starts in 2018 for a guy who was hoping to remain on a practice squad was some feat. Mullens has proven he can be serviceable when needed, and his grit is clear to see. Jimmy G is the unquestioned starter when fit, but Mullens will only have learnt how to cope well from half a season under center.

7) Josh Rosen – Miami Dolphins

Rosen’s departure video aimed at Kyler Murray as he left Arizona for Miami earlier this year seemed to show him as a genuine decent kind of guy, but inside he must be seething. How often a first round QB gets not only replaced but traded within 12 months is a rarity. How often this could in theory happen two years in a row is infinitesimally small, but if Miami fail to gain any traction in the win column in September and October and we could be Tweeting out the #tankforTua hashtag on a daily basis. Rosen is currently being outperformed by the bearded magician Ryan Fitzpatrick and is on a trajectory to open the season as a backup. Rosen is in a unique position amongst this top-10 as he can viably become the Week 1 starter, but you would be foolish to bet against a 2019 sprinkling of Fitzmagic.   

6) Blake Bortles – Los Angeles Rams

Bortles has missed only 5 games in 5 seasons, producing 17,646 yards and 103 touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Where he has failed to get impressive numbers is the win column, with only one successful season (10-6 in 2017) in five, which has included 49 losses. Perhaps a head-scratching move by the Los Angeles Rams to pick-up Bortles, when scrutinised the one-year deal is low risk and low cost, and gives the current NFC Champions a veteran backup who knows how to perform under pressure. Jared Goff has no fear he will be replaced, and for Bortles he will likely be on his third NFL roster by 2020, but surely even he beats having Sean Mannion as your number two.

5) Robert Griffin III – Baltimore Ravens

Talk about a carbon-copy backup. There has to be some sort of irony in this situation where a guy who was criticised for not being able to slide is now backing up a guy who he will replace on the field if he is equally unable to master self-preservation as a runner. RG3 is backing up L-Jax in 2019, names that sound like a couple of Star Wars extras in a Mos Eisley cantina. Lamar Jackson is indeed the shining star in Baltimore, and RG3 is the personification of the faded star. RG3 had one of, if not the finest rookie QB season in NFL history back in 2012, passing for 3,200 yards and rushing for 815, along with just 5 interceptions in 15 regular season games. Never to repeat that season RG3 has only won 6 games between 2013 and 2018. L-Jax has the physical tools to break the NFL single-season rushing record, but by definition he could also suffer an injury in Week 1 as a result. RG3 is poised for a quality pre-season and this will make fans think twice about giving him real game time.

4) Tyrod Taylor – Los Angeles Chargers

When you take a team to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years you become a little bit of a folk hero, which is what Tyrod Taylor did with the Buffalo Bills in 2017. Yes he didn’t get the win and the Bills managed only three points in a loss to the Jaguars, but Taylor deserved credit for giving some life to a living-dead franchise. Taylor was a 2015 Pro-Bowler, quite a remarkable achievement considering his first four NFL seasons in Baltimore saw him pass for a total of 199 yards and zero touchdowns behind Joe Flacco. Taylor had the unenviable job of de-icing the windows and turning on the heated seats in the Brownsmobile as Baker Mayfield, the overall top pick of the 2018 Draft by the Browns took the driver’s seat during week 3. Taylor didn’t get a sniff after Baker took the field, and it’s unlikely he will get any planned playing time in the City of Angels in 2019 behind Old Man Rivers, but this doesn’t diminish his place in this top-10.

3) Case Keenum – Washington Redskins

The Redskins for once had lady luck on their side when Dwayne Haskins landed in their lap in the middle of the first round of the 2019 draft. Haskins will be the fan favourite to start Week 1, with Case Keenum reverting back to his original NFL role of backup. Now with his sixth team in seven seasons, Keenum has been a bit of a rags to riches story since his rookie year with the Houston Texans back in 2012. In the last two seasons Keenum started 30 games (14 for the Vikings and 16 for the Broncos) helping the Minnesota to an improbable NFC Championship in 2017-18. Coach Gruden wanted a veteran presence on the field (as opposed to limping along the sidelines) and Keenum fits the mould. The future is not Keenum, but the Redskins present may well involve some game time for the player voted #51 in the NFL’s top 100 for the 2017-18 season.

2) Jacoby Brissett – Indianapolis Colts

Pretty much the ideal backup, Jacoby Brissett has not only got significant experience starting for his current team the Colts, he has also served his apprenticeship under the real Dark Lord of the Sith – Bill Belichick. There is no controversy in Indy as Andrew Luck is the future Hall of Fame starter. Brissett may have only thrown for 2 yards in 2018, but don’t let that fool you, this is a highly mobile, highly intelligent and above all highly resilient QB. Brissett started 15 games in 2017 for the injured Luck, passing for over 3,000 yards and rushing for over 250. What makes Brissett stand out was that he hung in there two seasons ago, getting sacked 52 times by a porous offensive line. Now transformed to one of the top offensive lines the Colts have a rock solid backup who they may only be able to keep a hold on until the end of the 2019 season.

1) Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans

Ok it’s a bit of a cheat but Ryan Tannehill is now facing his first season with a new team and games a new role of backup quarterback. Having started 88 games in six seasons, Tannehill is a seasoned veteran who will be the most experienced number two in the league. The former Texas A&M wide-receiver (112 catches between 2008 and 2010 for the Aggies) has never played in an NFL game he hasn’t started. He has also failed to ever get his former team the Miami Dolphins to 9 wins mark in a season. With over 20,000 yards passing under his belt and a 2.6% career interception average, Tannehill has a surprisingly good set of stats to show, but this is not reflected in his winning games. Marcus Mariota has been a career underachiever and is one of those fantasy quarterbacks you simply avoid. Tannehill could end up starting for the Titans at some point in 2019 so watch the waiver wire in the latter part of the season if you need a bye-week replacement or a best-ball bargain.

NFC Storylines and LateRoundQBs

In Today’s podcast, we are joined by none other than JJ Zachariason (@lateroundQB) to chat about his podcast and late round QBs but more importantly, whether he would accept work as the first person narrator if they ever brought the TV show “Scrubs” back.

Talking of scrubs, we go through every AFC team and what headlines we will be reading in the offseason and also get JJ to give us a name that will fly under the radar in the upcoming draft.

Put the mockers on it looks at fizzy drinks and Sam from Head On A Swivel podcast tackles the quiz…can they get over the 8 hump?

PLUS info on some things we’ll be freshening up in April!

Exit Interviews – AFC South

Podcast 2 of the Exit Interviews Series sees us tackle the AFC South.

We look at how Houston can keep the other teams at bay, where the Colts need to strengthen to make a Super Bowl run, the reasons behind the Titans funny season and what exactly is needed in Jacksonville to revert to their 2017 form?

Can’t do it on our own though so we enlist the help of some of our friends!

Houston – Ben Rolfe (@BenRolfe15)

Indianapolis – Rob Grimwood (@FFBritballer)

Tennessee – Adam Foxcroft (@ADFoxcroft)

Jacksonville – James Fotheringham (@FFThinker)

If you enjoy these podcasts or enjoyed a certain guest, please let us know – @full10yards on the social.

Tomorrow sees the AFC North under the microscope. We hope you can join us for that!

Enjoy!

 

Let’s get divisional

Friday podcast! Things are heating up so Tim brings the heat on what Kliff Kingsbury has ruined for him and why Nick Foles is like a 17yr old.
Lee gets the Foxboro’ jitters with the Chargers travelling to New England and we both again give the Eagles a reason to defy all the odds.
Adam joins Tim to rue the double doink costing us our bets from the Wildcard round but look towards the 4 games on the weekend.
Before that, NEW SEGMENT alert, The Full10Yards Warm Welcome and an update on the HC vacancies.
Enjoy!

A wild Wildcard Weekend

Some fantastic Wildcard games from the weekend and we have fantastic coverage.
Tim and Lee update the Head Coaching vacancies before they recap all the games including whether Houston should consider firing Bill O’Brien and some words for Baltimore fans calling for Flacco.
Roger breaks down some of the plays that were under the microscope and had us all searching the rulebooks (36:56).
Chris and Adam from 5yardrush join us in the first ever Full10Questions duo contestants. Can they top the leaderboard on a joint effort (59:27)?
We finish off with Tim and Lee looking at the Superbowl picture and a handy hint of betting advice on betting on it and confirming the winners of our Full10Yards awards from last week which we put to the Twitter vote(1:06:09)!
Shout out to Chris Carpenter, whose intro wins our December competition.