Today we take a look at the New York Jets. Not quite saving the best ’til last but alas, another season to break down for you. Is Adam Gase the answer in New York? Is Sam Darnold still their guy? Will LeVeon Bell still be a Jet next season? Let’s find out.
Entering the season
Adam Gase punched the 2nd hole in his AFC East loyalty card when moving from Miami up the east coast to East Rutherford, New Jersey. Whilst I very much doubt he’ll get a full house with New England/Buffalo, there were many amongst the Jets’ fanbase that were hoping that he’d get his chance sooner rather than later. It just seems like yesterday that he had that extraordinary eye bulging press conference when being introduced to the media, to be later dubbed “Taco man”.
LeVeon Bell’s exodus from Pittsburgh saw him end up in the green of New York, looking to finally sort out the muddling backfield which it has been for years. He signed a 4 year $52.5 million deal with $35m of it fully guaranteed. Whilst many in the fanbase were “happy”, Adam Gase seemingly wasn’t, causing tension between him and Mike Maccagnan. Elsewhere, Sam Darnold was expected to step up in his 2nd year, especially with Gase being the “Quarterback Whisperer”.
Draft wise, Quinnen Williams was the pick at #2 whilst their next pick, Jachai Polite didn’t even make it to the Regular Season, ultimately ending up on the Seahawks/Rams practice squads. The rest of the draft class was not much to write home about with Tackle Chuma Edoga and Tight End Trevon Wesco both playing cameo roles in their first season.
DURING THE SEASON
It turned out to be a peculiar season for the Jets, finishing 7-9, but you have to say the assist goes to the strength of schedule and you could argue that the team should have had a better record.
The early part of the schedule saw Sam Darnold sit out due to a case of Mono (the price of fame, eh?) but he returned in week 6 to demolish the Cowboys at home to register their first win of the season.
They finished off the back half of the season 6-2 with losses coming against the Ravens and the Bengals. Their wins against a half Rudolph/half Duck led Steelers and a “nothing to play for” Bills team in week 17 meant they were able to finish with a 7-9 record.
This was a team that were 2nd worst in terms of points scored, 3rd down conversion %, total 1st downs and total rush yards on the season. Not great, Bob.
The running back position was as bad as it’s ever been with off-season free agent signing LeVeon Bell averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry and did not have a 100-yard rushing game (no running back on the roster mustered over 4 yards per carry). How much of that was on him or the poor offensive line play or playcalling, is up to you to decide.
One glimmer of hope for the Jets offence was the chemistry between Sam Darnold and Jamison Crowder, who’ll look to build on their rapport which enabled the slot receiver to find the endzone 6 times (team high) on 78 receptions. Fellow wide receiver Robby Anderson didn’t quite have the breakout he was perhaps expecting and the tight end production from Ryan Griffin, filling in for Chris Herndon, varied on a week to week basis but he managed to find the endzone 5 times.
The defence as a whole unit played averagely, with their run defence being one of the better units in the league.
You could argue Quinnen Williams had a quiet start to his career, totaling just 2.5 sacks on the season and 15 solo tackles. Leaders on the defence started and ended with Jamal Adams, especially when CJ Mosley went down after week 2. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins was their sack leader with 8, giving him 20 on his career and building nicely upon his 7 from 2018. Certainly a name that flies under the radar in the NFL.
The Jets probably hindered themselves more with that back half win collection they achieved, picking from the #11 spot. There are a variety of needs so would be candidates to trade back if the opportunity presents itself.
In free agency, WR Robby Anderson looks likely to head for the exit door and the LeVeon Bell/Adam Gase rift rumours continue and has led to speculation about the Jets trying to trade Bell this offseason, something that seems unlikely because of the $13 million guaranteed he has coming his way this season.
Many will continue to question Adam Gase and his suitability in the organisation and with good reason, this team seem to be behind the 8-ball in terms of being the team that overhauls the Patriots (if that ever becomes a thing) with both divisional rivals putting themselves in a much better position to do just that. The Jets may be landed for a while in New York.
Week 9 in the NFL saw the an undefeated team lose, an unsuccessful team win and Houston Texans demolish Minshew Mania in the final game of the International Series in London.
Here’s what else to take away from the weekend’s action.
And then there was one
With the Ravens beating the Patriots on SNF, that leaves just the San Francisco 49ers as the last undefeated team. The 49ers themselves were run close on TNF by Arizona and as well all know, anything can happen on any given Sunday.
With the schedule toughening up slightly down he stretch, it’ll be a tough ask to expect the 49ers to go the distance, but i am sure their main priority will be to clinch the division and a 1st round bye in January.
They’ll be kept honest from here on out as the Seahawks and Rams are not too far back so the pressure will be on all the way to week 17.
Kiss my butt-ker
In a slobberknocker from the early slate, the game between 2 of the better teams in the NFL got in on and the Chiefs were able to come away with the win due to the boot of Harrison Butker.
We all know about the fragility and volatility of kickers, their jobs and reliability but the Chiefs kicker put in a textbook effort that even Johnny Wilkinson would have been proud of.
With his perfect performance of 4/4 on FG (including a 54yard long) and his 2 XPs, Harrison Butker has surpassed HOF Jan Stenerud (356) for the 2nd-most points scored through a player’s first 3 seasons in Chiefs history (trailing only Cairo Santos).
I wonder what price Chicago would pay for him…
Talking of Chicago, there are some real troubles in Illinois. The first half was. not. pretty.
The last time these two met, it was in the divisional round of the playoffs last year (#doubledoink) and ever since that class, it’s all been downhill since.
Mitchell Trubisky had just 2 passing yards at the end of the 1st quarter, the Bears gained their first down INSIDE THE 2 MINUTE warning of the 1st half. Whilst they gained some traction in the 2nd half, if you can call it that (Trubisky ended up with just 10 completions for 125 yards) they were out of sight at that point with no hope of winning the game.
Nagy, Trubisky and even the defence which committed more offsides than a Fillippo Inzaghi masterclass, are all under fire for their performances to date this season.
What made matters worse, returning former Bears Alshon Jeffrey and touchdown scorer Jordan Howard enjoyed a good day on their new teams. They would have gained plenty of pleasure from heaping more misery on their former employers.
For Chicago, they must all be feeling like grizzlys with sore heads.
lockett and load it
With the 12 currently enjoying the prospect of Josh Gordon joining the wide receiving core imminiently, it’s another of their wideouts that is stealing the show.
The Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett connection is pure poetry in motion and it’s no flash in the pan.
Last season Wilson enjoyed a perfect passer rating when throwing to #16 and it’s easy to see that this has carried forward to this season.
Since the start of last season, Lockett has hauled in 103 receptions from 124 targets, averaging over 14 yards per target and a healthy 83% catch rate. For a team that use a run heavy approah, you could say that Lockett is just as important to the team as QB Russell Wilson and Chris Carson.
Lockett, a former 3rd round pick in 2015 is still searching for his 1st 1000 yard season with the Seahawks but with 615 receiving yards at the half way point, he looks certain to accomplish that achievement. He’s turning into one of the league’s best wide receivers and certainly one of the most reliable.
That will be music to the ears of Pete Caroll, Russell Wilson and the 12 as they make a push for the postseason.
The Tank Continues…..
We have been witnessing a team intent on losing in South Florida for what feels like the entire season. That continued this weekend, but not from the Dolphins themselves who chalked up their first win of the season. The narrative has been that Ryan Fitzpatrick gave them the best opportunity to win and he had himself a nice afternoon, throwing 3 touchdown passes with preseason darling Preston Williams finding the end zone twice.
Surely Adam Gase will be one and done in New York and that should signal the end of his NFL head coaching opportunities for the foreseeable future. The supposed quarterback whisperer oversaw a performance from Sam Darnold that lacked any explosion as short range passing to Jamison Crowder, Lev Bell and Ryan Griffin dominated the game plan. Much optimism in the preseason feels like a distant memory and give me the Dolphins right now to finish with a better record at season end than the men in green.
Same Old Browns
Remind me next year to not buy into any hype. Another Sunday, another defeat for the Cleveland Browns and the likelihood is that you can “stick a fork in them” when it comes to playoff aspirations. A team that has preached the importance of discipline and execution every day of the week, once again fails to deliver that mantra on Sunday. This weekend it was Jarvis Landry and OBJ wearing cleats which violated the leagues uniform policy. Not to be outdone the starting free safety then had a twitter meltdown and threatened to fight and kill anyone who rightly criticized his awful performance.
This is a team that looks lost and unfortunately the captain of the ship appears to be all at sea also. Freddie Kitchens continues to make puzzling play calls and personnel decisions such as having Nick Chubb on the bench for 2 running plays inside the Broncos 5 yard line. That sequence led to a turnover on downs and the Broncos marched the field to all but ice the game. In truth, it never felt like the Browns would do anything other than find another way to lose on Sunday.
Backing Up The Backup
Jacoby Brissett has played so well this season that the Colts haven’t had to mourn the loss of Andrew Luck on the eve of the season too much. Brissett has proven to be a more than capable starter who has marshalled the troops to a respectable position. Check the injury news this week though as he suffered what appeared to be a nasty looking injury when one of his own lineman first stood and then fell on his leg.
The initial look didn’t look good, but there was encouragement that he walked off the field under his own power, and remained on the sidelines throughout. The Colts will be desperate to get him back as soon as possible but will be fearing the worst as Frank Reich explained it could be an MCL sprain. Brian Hoyer came in and looked pretty much as he always does and proved why he was signed to fulfill the role of backup. The Colts will be hoping in a competitive division that they don’t have to play the backup to the initial backup for very long.
Double Dolphins celebrations
Not only did Week 9 witness the Miami Dolphins win their first game of the 2019 season on Sunday, their legendary 1972 undefeated team remain the only squad to go through a whole season without a loss.
Baltimore Ravens second year QB Lamar Jackson not only got the win against the New England Patriots, he managed to personally elevate himself into the running for NFL MVP in the same game. LJax and the dominant running game stomped all over the Patriots for another team 200+ yards on the ground, and three rushing scores.
Mark Ingram went over 100 yards and LJax scored twice on the ground and once in the air. The scorer of the Ravens passing td was none other than Nick Boyle, a backup tight end, and five year veteran of the NFL, who up until Sunday had bizarrely never scored a touchdown.
I hope he didn’t get too excited and throw the ball into the crowd. At his current rate he won’t get another leather souvenir of that type until 2024.
Minshew Mania mangled at Wembley
The 80,000+ crowd on Sunday were treated to plenty of replica moustaches, and even some authentic ones, along with an assortment of bandanas and handkerchiefs wrapped around fans heads as they dressed up in respect of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie QB sensation Gardner Minshew III.
Unfortunately the real Gardner Minshew failed to board the plane from Florida last week as fans were left watching a sixth round rookie perform like a sixth round rookie. Minshew Mania misfired for 60 minutes, including two interceptions, three sacks allowed and two fumbles lost, as the Houston Texans, in large part thanks to two seismic runs from Carlos Hyde, dominated a game that was billed to be a shootout. The 26-3 win for the Texans would have likely been even bigger if their All-Pro DE J.J. Watt would have been playing.
I know its not Halloween anymore but Nick Foles will be smelling blood after Minshew’s misfires. Napoleon Dynamite v Minshew Mania – for the Jaguars starting QB – sounds like an ITV PPV wrestling matchup.
Living up to their Bill-ing as an easy scalp
The Washington Redskins are trying, trying fans patience that is, after a third consecutive game without a touchdown. 0, 9 and 9, points per game, consisting of six total field-goals, is not going to earn Bill Callahan a shot at the permanent head coach position at the end of the season.
This was the first official start for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who looked uncomfortable all game once forced out of the pocket by the likes of Bills DE Jerry Hughes. To his credit Haskins lasted the whole game and did not commit a single turnover, which is a positive sign, but without any offense aside from Adrian Peterson and fellow rookie Terry McLaurin to move the sticks the prospects for the team in burgundy and gold look bleak. Even punter Tress Way who was leading the league in punt average had an under par game.
Thankfully the Redskins were on the road, against a Bills fanbase that were aggressively booing their own QB Josh Allen despite his team having an 11 point lead at one point in the contest.
Right now Redskins fans don’t care if they deliver 10 yards of offense per half (incidentally more than the Chicago Bears did in the first half of Week 9) if they get a few more wins.
One for the road…
Chargers now finally plugged in
No-one expected the Packers to lay an egg against Los Angeles this weekend.
Aaron Rodgers and the high flying packers have stormed to an NFC North divisional lead on the back of 4 straight wins.
For the Chargers though, this win puts them at 4-5 and right back in the wildcard hunt.
Mainly down to the dynamic and destructive duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers defence had it’s way with the Packers offensive line and Aaron Rodgers who turned in a Chicago Bears impersonation in the first half.
Whether the firing of Ken Whisenhunt had anything to do with it, we’ll unlikely to ever find out, but the Chargers, notoriously slow starters, are now giving themselves a chance at playing January football.
For their fans, hopefully it doesn’t take too long to get fully charged.
Time to head east for the last 2 sets of Half-Term reports. Quite a few teams in these divisions have underwhelmed and then there’s the Patriots. At the very least the NFC equivalent should be a bit more exciting, but that wouldn’t be hard to do when you are comparing against the AFC East.
Nonetheless, Let’s give them some grades:
New England Patriots – 8-0
Buffalo Bills – 5-2
New York Jets – 1-6
Miami Dolphins – 0-7
Midseason Grade: A+
How has it gone so far?
At some point the never ending story of Patriots success has to end, but the 2019 season still has the tale without an end in sight.
The AFC’s only undefeated team at the half-way point Sith Lord Belichick and his cyborg QB Tom Brady are continuing to excel, but the offense is being out-shadowed by a defense that is looking like the 1985 Bears on some old-school steroids. A remarkable statistic to come to the fore after 7 games was that the Patriots would have been 4-2-1 if they had all of their offensive touchdowns removed.
Current Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman is still the heartbeat of the offense, catching more balls than a set of snooker table pockets, and the recent acquisition of sure-handed WR Mohammed Sanu from the Falcons will immediately compensate for the loss of Josh Gordon to injury.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Pats go up against the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs to open up the second half of the season, and you read it here first they WILL lose one of this handful of high-profile games. You can run on the Patriots, just don’t turn the ball over.
Ever since the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl they flicked on a switch of defensive dominance and 61 points allowed in 8 games is quite simply amazing. The Patriots are a bit of Mahomes magic from yet another trip to the Big Dance. Just give up betting against them.
Regular season record prediction : 15-1 and trip to Super Bowl.
Midseason Grade: B+
How has it gone so far?
One of the genuine surprise units of the NFL, aside from a rather lacklustre loss to the Eagles the Bills have played solid defense to help them to five wins in their first six games. Josh Allen has not exactly lit it up so far but he is now completing 60% of his passes.
Free agent WR John ‘Smoky’ Brown is on target for over 1k and the Peter Pan of the NFL RB Frank Gore is leading the team in rushing with 422 yards.
On their defence, the strongest part of their setup, CB Tre’Davious White and S Jordan Power lead a top 10 secondary. The Bills allowed a maximum 21 points against them in the first six weeks.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Buffalo’s next four are all winnable, before a tougher ending that includes trips to Dallas, New England and Pittsburgh and home against the Ravens.
The Bills could have a rather shiny 9-2 record heading into Week 12 if they continue their brand of bend but don’t break football. Josh Allen does need to reduce the turnovers and rookie RB Devin Singletary needs to get back on the field.
At some point in the next three weeks Frank Gore will remarkably pass Barry Sanders in the all-time rushing table, with just Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith ahead of him.
This is a team on the rise but likely another one and done in the playoffs.
Regular season record prediction: 10-6
Midseason Grade: E
How has it gone so far?
The Jets have won six games so far, oops that’s the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The New York Jets unfortunately kissed goodbye to a winning season when their QB Sam Darnold went down with mono. The combination of backups Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk were atrocious.
Mega signing RB Le’Veon Bell has been disappointing, and was even allegedly in the shop window at the trade deadline. His 536 total yards in 7 games is not what was expected and his two scores is pitiful.
With the exception of a bizarre upset win over the Cowboys in Week 6 this is a team heading in the wrong direction fast. Trading away DE Leonard Williams (to the same stadium) will not help matters, but the Jets must love namesake DT Quinnen Williams.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The Jets have perhaps the softest schedule in the entire league over the next six weeks, including two contests agains the Dolphins and trips to Cincy and Washington.
They should come away with two wins at least in this tea cake of a period. The Jets came into 2019 with a new uniform, a new superstar RB and even a wild-card buzz, but this is clearly not a playoff team, and its back to the drawing board already for Adam Gase, who may not be in post when St Nick comes down your chimney.
Trying to shop your top assets, such as Jamal Adams S and Roby Anderson WR is hardly inspiring confidence and will only serve to further fracture an already shattered locker room.
Regular season record prediction: 3-13
Midseason Grade: E
How has it gone so far?
The entire Dolphins team were given a lovely present just before the start of the 2019 season, a one year digital subscription to ‘The World of Tanks’.
With QB Ryan Fitzmagic at the helm Miami are surprisingly competing in games but the feeling is they are told to pump the brakes if there is any danger of actually winning a game. QB Josh Rosen was clearly not the answer, and judging by the trade of RB Kenyan Drake for little more than a handful of conkers, the team is not serious about winning football games.
The ‘Fins trade at the deadline for CB Aqib Talib was merely to get better pick status, and losing CB Xavien Howard to injury is a blow. The tiny ray of offensive light is resurrection project RB Mark Walton who will look for 700 yards rushing.
Anything is better than RB Kalen Ballage, who is averaging less yards per carry than the team’s punter Matt Haack.
Rest of Season Outlook:
This is a team capable of going 0-16, having scored less than anyone else to this point, and only behind the Falcons (who have played one more game) in terms of points conceded. Fitzmagic has shown up in patches, and it’s not beyond belief that the bearded wizard pulls off one or two wins against the Jets (two games) or Giants or Bengals.
Problem is Miami will be desperate to get the number one draft pick. The ultimate irony would be to beat a 15-0 Patriots team in Week 17 if they rest their starters and their backups. It won’t happen, but it would put a cap on a historically Sherman-styled season.
Regular season record prediction: 0-16
Dallas Cowboys – 4-3
Philadelphia Eagles – 4-4
New York Giants – 2-6
Washington Redskins – 1-7
Midseason Grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
Despite a horrendous three-game losing streak the Cowboys are still the class of the NFC East and are atop the division, albeit due to having had a bye week.
The Cowboys had a marshmallow schedule to start, and when they had quality opponents (Saints, Packers) Day and Zeke couldn’t get the W, but a monster 27 point win over the Eagles will have Jerry Jones smiling in the executive box.
Ezekiel Elliot is gunning for a third rushing title, with 602 and 6 scores in 7 weeks. WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are stretching the field – 65 catches, over 1,000 yards and just under 16 yards a catch between them.
Rest of Season Outlook :
HC Jason Garrett has been in the corner quite a lot this season, clapping to himself as no-one will even give him a high-five. Somehow Garrett is still in post, but this is an appearance in the NFC Championship (most likely as the road team) or bust for the guy who has been in Dallas for 10 seasons.
The Cowboys have a quality roster on both sides of the ball, but they cannot afford to fall asleep at the wheel again for the rest of the season as they did in the shocking loss to the Jets in Week 6.
Look for Zeke to get fed more than Eddie Hall did on his tour of American eateries.
Regular season record prediction: 11-5 and trip to NFC Championship.
Midseason Grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
The Eagles are a hard team to gauge, so can the real team please stand up.
Losses to the Lions and Falcons and wins over Buffalo and Green Bay is a clear sign that there is a lack of consistency.
QB Carson Wentz has been OK (1,821 yards and 14 touchdowns) and he has sorely missed the deep threat of DeSean Jackson, who returned to Philly after five seasons away. Jackson hasn’t suited up since Week 2 leaving WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to average under 10 yards a catch combined.
Rookie RB Miles Sanders has played second fiddle to Jordan Howard who leads the team with six scores.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Philadelphia’s second half has five very winnable games including three in-division contests, but New England and Seattle games will be season defining matchups. The Eagles defense has regressed and their secondary is their weakness so they will struggle against superior passers like Russell Wilson and an evergreen Tom Brady. Just two seasons away from lifting a Vince Lombardi Trophy this Eagles team is arguably underperforming, and judging by the 4-4 record to date its not clear which team is coming out of the locker room each week.
Regular season record prediction: 9-7
Midseason Grade: D-
How has it gone so far?
This season will go down in New York history as the end of the Eli Manning era and the start of the Daniel Jones one.
The Giants made a bold move to draft Jones early and doubled up when they inserted his in the starting lineup in Week 3. Jones did come out the gate on fire gaining the Giants two wins on the bounce, but that has been followed by four consecutive losses. Jones is on target for around 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Stud RB Saquon Barkley has already missed three games and only has three touchdowns in the five contests he has played in.
The only other half-decent offensive performer is TE Even Engram who has 38 catches to lead the team.
Rest of Season Outlook:
With the Jets, Dolphins and Redskins on their second-half slate the Giants should equal their first half win total. Daniel Jones is growing in confidence week by week and the recent return of WR Golden Tate from a suspension will be a big boost.
The Giants need to improve pretty much everywhere on defense and also they need to get better performances from their offensive line. It is a real shame that Saquon is on such a poor team as he has All-World potential.
Another season of frustration in the Big Apple and an emotional farewell to double Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning in December.
Regular season record prediction: 4-12
Midseason Grade: E
How has it gone so far?
It’s no surprise the Redskins are cellar dwellers;
Their best offensive piece T Trent Williams has held out to this point and the team only announced this week that they are willing to trade him.
Veteran QB Case Keenum has been serviceable as a bridge passer, and will likely see more snaps than expected as rookie Dwayne Haskins has been the proverbial ‘deer in the headlights’ in his limited appearances.
The biggest surprise has been rookie WR Terry McLaurin who leads the team in anything meaningful. The biggest move of the season in Washington was the removal of head coach Jay Gruden, who failed to win a game before the locks were changed.
Interim replacement Bill Callahan won (barely) in his first outing, and has changed the mentality of the team on both sides of the ball. In his three games in charge the Redskins have fed Adrian Peterson the ball and played solid defense, only allowing three touchdowns in three games.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The season was a lost cause from Week 1 when the Redskins had Coach Gruden in charge. With 8 games left the Redskins will play tough, but their lack of offensive weapons will cost them dearly.
The only achievable target will be trying to finish above the equally woeful Giants in the NFC East. There are two potential Pro Bowl candidates, rookie WR McLaurin and a very under the radar CB Quinton Dunbar, who has shone on a defense that has underperformed considering the early round picks they have spent trying to build a competitive unit.
If they do trade Trent Williams that could at least bring a good pick in the 2020 draft.
Week 6 is in the books, here’s 10 takeaways as we hit the cruise control into the main belly of the season.
Super Bowl Aspirations Drifting Down The River(s)
Several teams have disappointed to start off the 2019 campaign, but if you are looking for an overwhelming underachiever look at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Many casual fans dark horse Super Bowl pick preseason the Chargers are unraveling and are only being kept in faint contention by the Chiefs having their own hiccups. This one got ugly early as Phillip Rivers turned the ball over twice early as the Steelers jumped into a 14 point lead that the Chargers would never recover from.
Rivers is becoming a bit of a turnover machine and he will need to correct a lot of wrongs if the Chargers are to make a playoff run. Melvin Gordon’s return has so far netted an average of 33.5 rushing yards per game, not exactly screaming “Pay Me!”.
Nothing Phoneyniner Here
Robert Saleh, take a bow my friend.
The 49ers defence bottled up the once thought unstoppable LA Rams offence to move to 5-0 on the year. The 49ers were a perfect 0-9 allowing 3rd down conversions and a perfect 0-4 allowing 4th down conversions limiting the Rams offence to just 165 total yards. Offensively another heavy dose of the run game was backed up by an efficient if not spectacular game from Jimmy G. George Kittle was of course the main target hauling in 8 grabs for 108 yards, not bad for a guy who was questionable to play.
Huge game in the division which now sees the 49ers in a convincing position.
Stop Having A Digg At The Vikings Passing Game
Make no mistake about it, this is still Dalvin Cook’s team, but for this week at least he took a back seat to the passing game.
The Vikings lead by an all of a sudden explosive Kirk Cousins saw his 2 favourite targets combine for 13 receptions and both find the end zone. Stefon Diggs was the main man this week as he compiled a season best 7/167 and 3 touchdown effort as the passing game that went missing for a few weeks continued its resurgence against a banged up Philly defence.
There were whispers of trades a week or 2 ago for the Vikings top pair on the outside, I’d label that as “fake news”.
Winston or Mariota? How About Neither
5 years after the debate of who the Buccaneers would take with the number 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft there is a new question about those 2 “top” quarterbacks. Which 1 is worse?
Jameis had a horror show in London, fumbling the ball away, getting sacked 7 times and throwing 5 picks. Just when you think he has turned a corner, he throws in a game like this just to remind you of how inconsistent he is. Mariota was benched as the Titans were shutout by the Broncos and replaced by Ryan Tannehill. The Titans offence has been anemic outside of their week 1 win over the Browns and this change has been a long time coming.
Jameis probably wins you more games but also costs you more games, either way look for both franchises to address the position next Spring.
Murray momentum mounts
With four weeks gone the Arizona Cardinals were winless and looking in trouble. After six weeks the same team is hotting up after a two-game win streak.
Yes the opponents have been the Bungles and the porous Falcons defense, but you can’t do any more than win against the teams on your schedule. Behind rookie quarterback Kyle Murray and rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury the Cardinals are starting to turn a few heads.
Their next four games are a real split of two winnable (Giants and Buccaneers) and two very tough matchups (Saints and 49ers). Murray completed just under 73% of his passes in the Week 6 win against the Falcons, and he has only thrown one pick in the last three games. His vision is on the rise as he has only been sacked once in the last two games, after taking twenty in his first four outings. In addition Kingsbury is allowing Murray to use his small but speedy legs, and this has resulted in 125 yards rushing in the two victories, more than his ground output in the first four combined.
If the Cardinals can get a winning record it will be a major achievement in the inaugural season for Kyler and Kliff. If they somehow scrape a Wild-Card berth it will be a minor miracle.
The Cardinals defense is the team’s Achilles heel, but when you have the talent of Murray and the ageless Larry ‘see you in Canton’ Fitzgerald catching the ball you never know.
Watch this space.
The Washington Redskins have a history of drafting wide receivers early in the draft who end up flaming out.
The latest example being Josh Doctson, picked 22nd in the 2016 draft. Doctson was jettisoned from D.C. during the offseason after racking up a disappointing 81 catches for 1,100 yards in 33 games. He is now on I/R with the Vikings.
In the 2019 Draft the Redskins waited until the third round to grab Doctson’s potential replacement, Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin. Six weeks in and McLaurin has 23 catches, 408 yards and a stellar five touchdowns, including two in the ‘Skins first win of the season against the Miami Dolphins. six weeks in and McLaurin leads all rookie WR in catches, yards and touchdowns, all this inclusive of not even suiting up in Week 4.
The last great Redskins player to wear the number 17 shirt was Super Bowl winning quarterback Doug Williams, now the Senior Vice President of Player Personnel. It’s a big set of shoes to fill, but at his current pace McLaurin is going to have a 1,000 yard rookie season and will be in the running for offensive rookie of the year honours.
Wins might be hard to come by for the 2019 Redskins, but sometimes you have to face adversity to see who is still standing. For Terry McLaurin he is not standing, he is streaking down the sidelines catching pigskins.
Redskins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins was McLaurin’s signal-caller in college, so if you think the results are good with Case ‘fill-in’ Keenum then 2020 could be a real blast.
Jets win sealed without a kiss
Over this side of the pond we call it glandular fever, but over in the land of the free and the home of the brave they call it mononucleosis or ‘mono’ for short. More affectionately known as a teenage kissing infection, ‘mono’ was the reason the New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had missed three games between Week 2 and 6.
After being declared fit for last Sunday’s game in Dallas there was not a high degree of expectation, so when the Jets travelled east on Sunday night with a victory it was headline worthy. 338 yards passing from Darnold was his second best output in his two seasons, and his 92 yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson was the longest by any QB this season.
In the win against the Cowboys the Jets at one point had an 18-point lead, but despite an impressive Dallas second-half comeback, this was a statement victory at Met Life Stadium. Leveon Bell scored his first TD in a Jets uniform, but had another ho-hum game, leaving the contest to be won or lost by Darnold. This was a weird game statistically as Dallas did not commit a turnover, and were far more efficient on third-down.
Sometimes the stats are not the story, and on Sunday this was about the Jets franchise QB returning to a team that had looked like it had thrown it’s hat in the ring for a chance at the number one pick in the 2020 draft.
With Darnold back the Jets are not a playoff ready team, but they are capable of 4-5 wins by the end of the season, something their AFC East division rivals the Dolphins can only dream of.
Watson outshines Sherlock Ma’Holmes’
Ok ok the headline is a stretch but it does not take a fictional detective to deduce that Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson is playing an an MVP type level after six weeks of NFL football.
Watson managed to out-duel his dynamic counterpart Patrick Mahomes last Sunday, with 280 yards in the air, and two huge touchdowns on the ground, including the game winner with just over six minutes left in the final quarter. Watson, like Kyler Murray, has avoided being sacked for two consecutive games, something he simply couldn’t avoid in 2018 when he was sacked a punishing 62 times in the regular season.
Watson now has 17 total touchdowns in six games, along with four wins and a division lead. The Texans were supported by a very solid performance from RB Carlos Hyde, part of a rushing attack that finished with just under 200 yards on the ground. Texans WR Will Fuller came back to earth after his stratospheric Week 5 performance. The Chiefs again were let down by their running game, a unit that simply has not been the same since dispensing of Kareem Hunt’s services last season. Hunt himself is nearing a comeback from a half-season suspension at his new team the Browns.
Talking of comebacks, Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill came back with a big fantasy splash in Sunday, with 5 catches, 80 yards and two touchdowns. It may only be Week 6 but this came could determine who ends up with the number two seed in the AFC when the regular season concludes.
Lazard the 6ft 5inch lizard pounces
In a game dominated by field-goals, a grand total of eight converted, including the 23 yard winner from the Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby with no time left on the clock, it was a lesser known WR who delivered the true highlight of Green Bay’s late late win against the Detroit Lions.
Allen Lazard’s first catch of the season, and only second catch of his career, was an absolute jaw-dropper. Aaron Rodgers threw a rainbow to the left side of the end-zone into a window smaller than that seen in a smurf’s double-glazed box room. On the receiving end was the lesser-spotted Allen Lazard who made a highlight grab to bring the Packers within three points of the leading Lions.
Lazard, undrafted in 2018, spent time on the Jaguars and Packers practice squad in the past two seasons. The former Iowa State Cyclones WR, Lazard holds a number of his college team’s receiving records, including catches, yards and consecutive games with a catch (48). Scoring your first NFL touchdown in front of a worldwide MNF audience is the dream debut score for anyone, and catching it from Aaron Rodgers is a big bonus. They both play second fiddle to helping your team move to 5-1. Lazard’s four catches, his first four of the 2019 season all took place in the fourth quarter. It helps when you have such a huge frame and wingspan, and when your superstar teammate Davante Adams is injured.
This performance will no doubt have the waiver wire buzzing, but even if Lazard doesn’t score again this season, his debut touchdown is one he can show his grandchildren in 40 years time through a holographic “lazar” chip projection device embedded in his ear-lobe.
Great to see so many NFL network personalities over to support the 2nd London game this year.
The Gameday Morning crew took the call, and although its not to everyone’s taste it adds a great deal of humour and personality to the proceedings in my eyes. The Around The NFL heroes also made their return to these shores as the boys helped out on Sky Sports coverage throughout the broadcast. Live shows and podcasts were also on the agenda throughout the week as the investment in the UK goes from strength to strength.
We should remind ourselves not take this stuff for granted, and be thankful we have so much content to get our teeth into.
In the game widely regarded as the #tankbowl, Bill Callahan takes charge of his first game as interim head coach of the Washingotn Redskins as they take on the Dolphins.
Many will see the loser of this one in prime position to bag
that lucrative #1 spot in the 2020 draft but you could argue that the #1 pick
is needed by one of these teams more than the other.
Miami have a plethora of early picks in the next few years
after some trading that has gone on from the Dolphins front office but
Washington are in a bit of a mess.
Seemingly lacking in direction, focus and with barely any
foundations in which to build this team on for both sides of the ball,
Washington and their fans probably wouldn’t mind a terrible performance here to
get ahead in the race for #1, even if that means it gives them the ability to
acquire more picks by trading back from the 1st overall selection
which will be highly sought after next year.
Miami do not have much more talent on their roster but have
the war chest of picks in order to ease the pain the Dolphins fans are
currently suffering and hopefully the light is at the end of the tunnel.
I think Washington’s tunnel may have caved in.
There once was a time that the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins were NFL powerhouses. The teams were gritty, and won games by using a dominant running game to outmuscle opponents and break their will.
In fact the two teams have met twice in Super Bowls, once in the 70s and the second time a decade later. The results were split, the 1972 Dolphins ended up undefeated and the 1982 Redskins survived a strike-shortened season to lift the trophy thanks to the irrepressible RB John ‘The Diesel’ Riggins. Fast forward to 2019 and you have debatably the most pitiful NFL matchup since the woeful games of the 2018 0-16 Dan Orlovsky led Detroit Lions. Even they managed a fairy-tale ending as the Lions DE Cliff Avril went on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks.
Either Case Keenum or Josh Rosen will be responsible for their once-proud franchise falling to 0-6 with absolutely no end in sight. Redskins new interim head-coach Bill Callahan will be feeding Adrian Peterson the rock faster than a five-year old after consuming a selection box at a Christmas Day game of Hungry Hippos. The Dolphins will be looking for absolutely anything to stick, including any balls throw in the direction of UDFA WR Preston Williams. If rubbernecking is your thing, and you like to slow down at a motorway car crash then get your dash cam at the ready as the footage from this game will be a live recording of a crime against football. It should just about be a Redskins win (there I said it and thus the curse begins) but who is to say that Washington GM Bruce Allen is huge military fan. After all he may like a ‘tank’ as much as the Dolphins ownership.
When these two teams met in Super Bowl VII one of the greatest mistakes ever was committed when Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian had a kick blocked, and instead of doing anything sensible he passed the ball right into a Redskins player who ran it back for a touchdown.
It is absolutely possible that the only scorers on Sunday are defensive players.
Can Cousins continue chucking?
There was definitely a focus on making sure the Cousins
throwing narrative was chucked out of the window vs the Giants. The Big Blue
defence provided a timely opportunity for Cousins to quell the detractors (which
included some of his teammates) of the fully guaranteed signal caller as he was
able to have time in the pocket and throw multiple touchdowns in a game for the
first time since week 16 last year.
Will that continue as they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles?
Whilst they aren’t quite as bad as the Giants defence, they
are no world beaters either due to injuries. It will be interesting to see if
Cousins continues to throw as much as he did last week or whether they revert
back to type and hand the ball off to Cook.
Watson vs Mahomes
2 quarterbacks that always put on a show get it on in week 6
with the Texans travelling to the recently Colt conquered Arrowhead stadium.
Both QBs combined account for just under 3400 yards so far
this season and when they are healthy, they are definitely up there as the most
exciting players to watch with the ball in their hands.
Mahomes is a bit dinged up, a feeling that Watson knows oh
so well after having to resort to bus as a means of transport to and from games
last season. Watson wasn’t actually touched by the Falcons last week so it’s
possible this is the healthiest Watson will feel all season. The Chiefs’
defence isn’t the greatest, nor is the Texans, so we should get a shootout here
in an all AFC clash.
On one of the rare occasions, Mahomes and the Chiefs have to
bounce back from a defeat.
jack in the box
People are starting to question the credentials of the 2018
#32 overall pick after a couple of poor performances.
A trio of interceptions on Sunday saw him fail his fantasy
owners and now everyone is wondering whether or not Lamar Jackson has actually
improved in his 2nd year.
First few games were plain sailing and as it turns out,
against 2 very poor teams. Now that he’s faced a few tougher defences (and
Arizona), things aren’t looking as rosy in the Baltimore garden.
We’ve mentioned on the NFL podcast before that he’ll have these questions to answer for pretty much every week of this season because of the nature of his play and the polarising opinion he gives the analysts and that will continue this week as he faces a Bengals team that should provide some respite for Jackson and his fans as a QB of similar ilk in Kyler Murray just got the win in the Jungle and a decent rushing performance.
Sunday Night Footb-oh
Prior to the start of the season, the Steelers and Chargers were two teams expected to make the playoffs and produce an entertaining game.
Fast forward to now and this game looks like it’s not even
worth the paper it’s written on.
Pittsburgh down and out for the 2019 and now down to possibly
their 3rd QB after Mason Rudolph got walloped against the Ravens whilst
the Chargers have whimpered so far this season losing last time out to Denver
I think it’s fair to say that only the fans of these two teams will watch this one in the UK in the early hours, purely because I don’t think there are any Chris Collinsworth fans. Now here’s a guy who can get on your nerves…
Showcase showdown in London
I haven’t got the intestinal fortitude to check if this has happened before in a regular season contest in England. This Sunday’s clash between the English noobs the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers features three current major statistical category leaders.
The leading rusher, the leading tackler and the leading sack master all belong to teams who will be competing in the 26th NFL London matchup. Most surprising or impressive depending on your lens is Shaquil Barrett the Buccaneers edge who leads the league in sacks with 9 so far in 5 games. Not far behind him is the Panthers DE Mario Addison with 6.5 to his name.
What makes both of these feats truly impressive is that neither actually were drafted by any of the 32 teams. Addison bounced around three teams (Bears, Colts and Redskins) in his first two years before being signed by the Panthers in 2012. He has a solid 52 sacks in his career. Barrett, who has a Super Bowl ring from his stint with the Denver Broncos, had only started 15 games in four seasons at Mile-High, notching his best sack total of 5.5 as a rookie. Now he stands alongside the legendary Jets pass rusher Mark Gastineau (who sported a fine moustache) with the most sacks ever in both the first three and first four games in a season.
To see both players coming over to play at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur stadium will be a highlight for the 60,000 fans this Sunday.
Fools Gold or real prospects?
The Jimmy Garoppolo led San Francisco 49ers have been patient, they have had a plan and GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan are starting to show that they know their way around a football field.
Both the GM & HC signed epic six-year deals just days apart in 2017, and vowed to bring back the 49ers to a time when they were as dominant as the New England Patriots are right now. The plans to progress were seriously scuppered in 2018 when both QB Jimmy Garoppolo and highly-touted RB Jerrick McKinnon both got injured. McKinnon is still crocked but Jimmy G has been kept upright and his team are now 4-0. No they have not faced the likes of the Saints or Bears yet, but to be the last undefeated NFC team is still an achievement.
The 49ers travel to L.A. on Sunday to play the reigning NFC champion Rams. This will be a true test if the 49ers are the real deal or a shiny lump of pyrite. The dual punching power of a bruising running game, made up of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman is arguably the best backfield pairing in the league, and this is only enhanced by the lead blocking of the NFL’s top fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Jusczyzk to his credit can catch the ball too as evidenced by his 6 snags so far.
Being able to draft the premier defensive chess piece in this year’s draft in the form of Nick Bosa (Joey’s not so little brother) has helped a lot, but this is a team that boasts the league’s number one rushing attack (200 yards a game) and the second highest scoring offense (31.8). Not even laid-back Californian surfer dude types would have projected the 49ers to be undefeated heading into Week 6.
This is not the 49ers of old, but spending years shining the shoes of, and carrying the clipboard for Tom Brady looks to be paying dividend.
Can someone tune up Le’Veon Bell
After a year spent on his sofa chewing on sunflower seeds and experimenting no doubt with himself as the protagonist in a Madden Franchise, Le’Veon Bell returned to the NFL with a new team, a new attitude but an old goal, to win a Super Bowl. So far this is as likely as the Miami Dolphins going on an 11 game winning streak.
The New York Jets are languishing in the cess pool that is the lower half of the AFC East. Without a win, without a starting quarterback and averaging under 10 points a game is classic Bruce Coslet territory (an old and unsuccessful Jets head coach in the 1990s). Behind a poor offensive line Bell is averaging under three yards a carry, has zero rushing touchdowns and is only barely being tolerated by fantasy owners because he is projected to end the season with a whopping 108 catches.
If this was any other season the Jets would be the lowest power ranked team, but even they are unable to sink to the levels of ineptitude on display in South Florida. Sam Darnold, the saviour, is due to return to action after his bout of Mono in a tough contest against a crest-fallen Dallas Cowboys team who will be wanting to prove to doubters that the incredibly slow start against Green Bay was an anomaly. Bell when on fire is a sight to behold. His 2017 running style was a unique blend of power, patience and incredible vision, mixing snake hips with poisonous tongue darts between defenders. Bell at the moment is more komodo dragon than slippery lizard.
After the Cowboys allowed four touchdowns to Aaron Jones in Week 5 the Jets will at least go into this Week 6 matchup with some degree of hope, along with Sam Darnold at the wheel. Look to Bell to maintain his short passing route production, but ultimately enter Week 7 without a team victory in sight.
Third becomes first after Mason mashed
Not one to stay up for, but it is worth noting undrafted rookie Delvin Hodges will make his first start in Sunday Night Football for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Hodges got a $1000 signing bonus and initially made the team because the Steelers traded backup Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars in September. Undrafted quarterbacks have performed miracles – the likes of Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Mike Tomzak have all reached Super Bowls.
In Tomzak’s case he won a ring backing up Jim McMahon on the legendary 1985 Bears team, and for Kurt Warner he got a ring starting against the Tennessee Titans. Mason Rudolph, deputising for an already injured Ben Roethlisberger, suffered a horrific hit in Week 5 but managed to get up after minutes of collective breath holding. The NFL may be doing some things wrong but the concussion protocol is being taken dead seriously now, unlike in the past when players would be back far earlier that they should have been.
Nothing is expected from Delvin Hodges against a Chargers team that still cannot find a way to post a winning record in the first half of a season, but 2019 it seems is a year that will go down as one that saw unknown quarterbacks take centre stage and perform admirably. Hodges could be the man to spark Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster back to life after a somewhat soggy start to the season.
Without Antonio Brown (remember him) as his partner in crime prevention JuJu is looking like a rather distressed Robin, and not even the good one from the 1960s TV show, he looks like the Chris O’Donnell version who wore the red nipple-protruding chest piece.
The Chargers are going to have to face life without QB Philip Rivers at some point soon, so this is a much needed win that would put them at 3-3 and still in contention for a Wild-Card berth come the Winter.
Week 2 is already here folks. Time flies when you are having fun!
Hope everyone enjoyed their stay at overreaction town, now it’s time to depart for context city, where hopefully you’ll be able to see some indicators as to what was the real deal and what were outliers from last week.
Here are 10 things we are looking forward to this week in the NFL:
The Panthers QB will be looking to rectify a performance from week 1 that was classic Cam. Some good plays but also a few errant and shocking high passes.
66% completion rate is about where Cam has been with Norv Turner pulling the strings but if it wasn’t for Christian McCaffrey, these numbers would not be great at all. You could argue that this is now the offence the Panthers will employ going forward.
As per next gen stats, Cam only attempted 1 pass over 20 yards in the week 1 game vs the Rams which agrees with the narrative that the offence is going to show similar results this season. Yes he attempted around 40 passes, but if they are averaging on 5 yards in the air, is it really a proper NFL throw?
The players they have in McCaffrey, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel suit the style they are trying to enforce on other teams but I think this merely could be covering over some cracks. Is this the play style because of Cam’s shoulder or is this a coincidence?
The problem is, every team needs a vertical threat; if it becomes too predictable and similar to the chart above, Christian McCaffrey may struggle to be as efficient as he has been thus far because teams will just load the box and ask Cam throw longer passes. Below is DJ Moore’s routes run vs the Rams, not even an indication that there was an interest in throwing deep. Unfortunately, i dont have Curtis Samuel or Greg Olsen’s routes run because i feel these would probably be a bit more vertically orientated.
Back to Cam though, the reason I say all this is and that it is something we are intrigued in seeing in week 2 is that we still probably require further confirmation that Cam’s shoulder is #fine and that his play is not restricted by the multiples surgeries endured over recent years. We’d all love to see him at least attempt a few more deeper passes right?
What wont help is a short week this early on in the season so all eyes will be on Cam in Thursday Night Football as we try to ascertain whether or not everything is ok with #1.
Da do Ron Run Run da do Ron Run
Arguably the single most disappointing rookie performance by anyone drafted in the top two rounds of last year’s draft was Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones II, who recorded 44 yards at 1.9 a pop in the whole season. Already Jones has almost doubled his performance with 75 yards on the ground in Week 1 (at 5.8 a carry) along with an 18-yard catch. If Jones keeps up this rate of rushing he can end up with 1,200 yards of ground and pound.
The Buccaneers face the Panthers in Week 2, a team that gave up over 150 yards rushing and two scores to the Rams combo of Gurley and Brown. Jones may not be listed as the starter but if his contributions remain positive then he will take carries away from Peyton Barber. Buccs fans will likely be in for another season of mediocrity but they could have bit of a dusty gem that is starting to sparkle in the Florida sunshine.
Don’t You Forget About Me!
It’s easy to forget that Sammy Watkins came off the draft board earlier in 2014 than both Mike Evans and OBJ. The former Clemson star has often been out performed when compared to his peers in the same draft class, but maybe, just maybe 2019 will be different. Watkins exploded out of the gate on Sunday with a 9 catch, 198 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Showing plenty of breakaway speed to pile up yards after the catch, he was the best friend of Pat Mahomes to open up the season. With the news that Tyreek Hill will miss 4-6 weeks through injury, Watkins is in a prime position to remind everyone of the talent he possesses for a red hot Chiefs offence that will surely have too much for the Raiders. Let’s see if his week 1 performance wasn’t just another tease of his brilliance and he can find some consistency.
Hype Train Derailed?
Freddie Kitchens wanted to know how his team would handle adversity, He gets his wish in week 2. Humbled by the Titans in a week 1 blow out, the eyes of the nation will be looking for a response on Monday Night Football. The talent in the skill positions offensively appears to be in place but can the Browns find a way to keep Baker Mayfield upright? He was harassed all throughout the opener as the obvious preseason concern was exposed by Cameron Wake and co. One storyline that has slipped under the radar in this one, is the fact that the Jets DC is now Gregg Williams who was actually the man in charge of the Browns during their renaissance in the 2nd half of last year. He will be out to inflict more misery on his former employers after not securing the job permanently. With the Rams ahead on the week 3 schedule could we already be talking about a must win game for the off seasons most talked about franchise?
Time to call a Gardner
After winning a Super Bowl by coming off the bench in the regular season, the irony is not lost in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars starting quarterback Nick Foles is now the one injured whilst his backup is now in the spotlight. The big difference here is the guy in the spotlight is the 2019 version of Nick ‘who the hell is that’ Mullens.
Gardner Minshew bounced around three colleges in four years of eligibility, starting at tiny Northwest Mississippi Community College (who gave us Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison) and ending up at Washington State, helping them to 11 wins in 2018. The Jaguars drafted Minshew in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and we all know what happened to a certain gentleman who got drafted in the sixth round. Minshew’s surprise debut was special, 88% completion rate, two tds and almost 300 yards in the air.
Minshew will be an underdog against the Texans, but we have seen they are vulnerable in the air (Brees torched them for 370 yards in Week 1) so this suddenly becomes a fascinating contest where we get to see if the grass is greener when you use a Gardner.
I’m arriving on a Jet plane
The Antonio Brown saga has taken a turn this week that is beyond any form of joke, but keeping this strictly on the field the Jets are now part of this extrapolated storyline after the Patriots traded Demaryius Thomas to the Big Apple, the green ones of course.
Thomas comes into the Jets just as the incredibly unlucky Quincy Enunwa is put on season-ending I/R with a recurrence of a neck injury that cost him the 2017 season. Thomas is four years older than Enunwa and is more prone to dropping the ball, but the important factor of chemistry will be eased by the fact Demaryius was coached by Jets head coach Adam Gase when he was receivers coach and offensive coordinator in Denver from 2010-2014. Sam Darnold and Enunwa had worked on exclusive routes together and now it will be a case or re-establishing part of the offensive game-plan.
The Jets face the Burst Bubble Browns in Week 2 and they match-up well against Cleveland. It might only be Week 2 but the loser here goes 0-2 and starts facing a lot more scrutiny. Worth staying up for in the unsavoury hours of Tuesday morning to see how this one plays out.
Best Of A Bad Bunch?
They say that defence wins championships, the Broncos will be hoping that statement rings true based on the state of their quarterback room. Joe Flacco looked as advertised in week 1, not the worst quarterback in the league but immobile (always) and inaccurate (at times).
Vic Fangio, the former Bears DC who will surely have a perfect game plan to get the best of the Bears at home whilst also trying to confuse Trubisky with disguised coverages, I expect a turnover feast.
Both sides need to bounce back from opening week defeats and maybe for one of the few times this year, Denver will get superior quarterback play.
Talking of Chicago, many folk in Illinois including Matt Nagy, were not happy with the way the Bears performed on opening night.
“3 points is ridiculous” said the Bears HC after the game and he’s right. You do not win games scoring 3 points.
How will he, Trubisky and the Bears team rebound?
It gets even spicier once you realise that they travel to Denver, an already difficult away destination to get a W from. Why is it spicy? They not only travel to a hard and hostile environment, but they also travel to play a team whose HC is Vic Fangio, a guy who will know a hell of a lot about the team after being their DC last year.
Other storylines include how will the Chicago backfield work in the rotation? Will they lean to their defence once again to try and get a win on the road?
More importantly, are Chicago in trouble??
As for Mitch Trubisky, you want to give young guys time and we shouldn’t forget he only started 13 games in college but the fact is he still looks like a rookie in year 3. Several of his passes give opponents chances for picks, particularly when he throws across his body to the left.
Lot’s of intrigue in this one, just like a cabaret (Chicago reference).
DOING THE BARE MIN-IMUM
Staying in the NFC North, a tasty game for the eyeballs at Lambeau.
This game is another one of those that the fully guaranteed Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has to try and get the monkey off his back in the sense that he can’t do it when it matters.
Only attempted 10 passes in week 1, so his arm is going to be sore and you would expect him to throw more in this one.
Packers squeaked a win at Soldier field on opening night whilst the Vikings could not have been more dominant vs a fancied Falcons team.
A win for a the Cheeseheads here wouldn’t mean at the very worst, split records against their divisional rivals, something Minnesota probably need to avoid to have a chance at winning the division or perhaps even a wildcard spot.
The same fixture last year ended in controversial tie with 2 missed Field Goals both at the end of the game and 2 in OT, multitude of bad referee calls on hits. It had everything. The final spice in the melting pot.
If Minnesota get the win here, it’ll be another “really unique” thing for Cousins this season.
Remember, dont do the wave!
Every angle has been covered about the notorious non PI call from last year’s championship game (wonder if Paddy Power will do a special on whether a PI call will be reviewed).
Luckily for the Rams, this isn’t back at the scene of the crime but judging by LA’s fanbase, there will be a lot of Saints fans in the stands with referee uniforms on.
Can emotions stay in check for the Saints? Can Goff and company put the saga to rest? And will there be any more incidents as bad as that one back in late January?
Both of these teams met in a classic in the regular season too and this one should be no different. Two high powered offences with great players and playcallers. One for the everyone to sit down and enjoy on the late slate of games. Both will no doubt be expecting to make the post season and likely write in another log of this recently fierce rivalry.
In a new weekly feature, here are our 10 top things we are most looking forward to this week in the NFL.
-Zeke and destroy-
Ezekiel Elliot, the newly $90m, 6 year contracted running back.
Will his offseason away from the team in Cabo turn in to rustiness and on field lack of rhythm and chemistry with Dak? Probably not, especially seeing as though Tanner Lee was flown out to Cabo for Zeke to get the requisite reps. That being said, it’s been far from ideal for the Dallas Cowboys with contract stories literally in every position group in their team. Dak and Amari Cooper will probably be dealt with next offseason now judging by the other contracts that were settled over the past few weeks but now it’s time for America’s Team to get on the field and put away the Giants.
If they can put all of it behind them, there is Super Bowl calibre team here. Regardless of how well they do this season, surely all eyes are on how Zeke slots back in to the operation of this offence.
-How Charged up is the LA running game-
L.A. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has stuck a marker in the Californian sand with a refusal to negotiate RB Melvin Gordon’s contact until the season is complete. A bold move, but you don’t want such a big distraction as you start a season with QB Philip Rivers in the twilight of his Hall of Fame worthy career.
With Gordon still disgruntled and not reporting this means the powder-blue ball pounders will be Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. Ekeler has proved to be a quality plug and play, but the real excitement lies with Jackson and his burst.
The Chargers are a balanced team that are pretty safe locks for a playoff spot, and if Ekeler and Jackson can find early rhythm then they will be saying “Melvin who?” by January.
-Chiefs grabbing Shady-
K.C. head coach Andy Reid helped LeSean McCoy to become a superstar in Philadelphia, and now the two are reunited. Grabbing McCoy, who was unceremoniously cut by the Buffalo Bills, is a move that will be making Chiefs fans scratch their heads.
For fantasy fans they will be doing more that scratching, they will be pulling clumps of hair out. RB Damien Williams proved he can manage the spotlight and is a quality ball-catcher. Darwin Thompson has shown too that he can pound the rock, but now you add in a veteran back who is on the downward spiral.
Reid will reignite McCoy’s career as will being in the same huddle as Patrick Mahomes. So tough to project his immediate impact, but stay tuned Week 1.
-I’ll take a Big Mack-
Khalil Mack was on his way to making Aaron Donald sweat for the Defensive Player of the Year, was it not for a small injury that slowed him down a tad.
Mack was the biggest news of the start of the 2018 season, and twelve months later he has a year of better appreciating his surroundings in Chicago. The Bears defense is the best unit in the NFL, and with tackling machine Roquan Smith by his side Mack is going to be gunning for 20 sacks in 2019.
I can see the Bears v Eagles in the NFC Championship, and pray to the spirit of George Halas that Mack’s outstanding play is not crippled by another double-doink.
-Pats Old Guard try to repeat the trick-
New England will start the defence of their Super Bowl crown with the visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, and will do so with the oldest roster in the NFL when young players have seemingly never been so valuable.
In todays salary cap age, the ability to keep cost controlled draft picks is seen as a vital way to remain competitive. However, the Patriots have seemed to eschew that school of thought recently. Arguably the only impactful players playing on their rookie deals are running back Sony Michel and guard Joe Thuney, although they will no doubt hope that this years class headlined by messrs Harry and Winovich and one of last years first rounders, tackle Isaiah Wynn, will make an impact following a rookie season curtailed by an Achilles injury sustained in camp.
It seems Bill Belichick is forever zigging while the rest of the league zags, the rest of the league looks to get quicker, stronger and more athletic he is relying on know-how and experience to take them back to the Super Bowl. Even today, surrounded by the electrifying technicolour highlights of Mahomes, Barkley etc few would bet against them doing just that.
-Kliff, Kyler and the air raid offence-
In Glendale on Sunday evening the Arizona Cardinals will try to take their franchises first baby steps back to viability as a contender when they welcome the similarly rebuilding Detroit Lions to the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Attention will certainly be focused on how rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury and no. 1 pick Kyler Murray perform in the first test of the pass-happy, hyperactive Air Raid offence. While its fair to say elements of the scheme have been a staple for many teams over the past few years, the Cards have made it clear they will ride or die with their youngsters for better or worse this year.
With a fresh receiving core including Christian Kirk and rookies Andy Isabella and Keesean Johnson, complemented by old reliable Larry Fitzgerald and star running back David Johnson, hopes are high in the desert that the road back to competitiveness starts here. And if not, it will certainly be fun to watch!
-Rams try to avoid Super Bowl hangover-
Sean McVay will try to pilot his teams path back to the Super Bowl beginning with a cross country trip to Charlotte to face Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers. While last years offence was, for large parts of the season unstoppable, they seemed to run out of steam as the season reached its most crucial phase.
Over the season the Rams were the second highest scoring offence in football, only behind the remarkable Chiefs led by MVP Patrick Mahomes, however over the last month of the regular season their PPG decreased by over 10 points capped off by the 3 point performance on the biggest stage at Super Bowl LIII.Young receiver Cooper Kupp went down with an season ending injury and when star running back Todd Gurley was hampered by a knee injury by the latter stages of the season, the Rams overall effectiveness on offence seemed to go with him.
Has the rest of the NFL caught up to Sean McVay’s scheme or will the Rams be back lighting up the scoreboard this year? Any team boasting the talents of reigning DPOY Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle, Jared Goff, Robert Woods etc plus the hopefully back to full health Gurley and Kupp should be challenging in the very competitive NFC.
-OBJ = Odell’s Browns Jersey-
It really wasn’t a dream…..OBJ will be wearing orange and brown to kick of the 2019 NFL campaign.
The sensational trade that shook the NFL back in March has been the standout moment in a summer full of positive vibes out of North Eastern Ohio and at last we get to see the on field product on Sunday. OBJ has been wrapped in cotton wool throughout the offseason, practising sparingly and not seeing any preseason action so all eyes will be on how quickly he establishes a connection with Baker Mayfield.
The Browns host the Titans looking to win a season opener for the first time since 2004, here’s hoping!
-Ring that Bell!-
So Le’Veon Bell didn’t win any additional money from his contract holdout, but did he win by preserving his body?
The running back will see the field for the first time in over 18 months when the Jets open up against the Bills on Sunday in New York. Bell has always had a patient running style but would have been afforded superior line play during his time with the Steelers. Will he be able to transition this style to his new surroundings or will we see him bouncing to the outside more regularly?
Despite plenty of optimism of growth in the second season of Sam Darnold, the Jets may only go as far as Bell can carry them.
-Time for a new Colt hero?-
Jacoby Brissett, what an opportunity you have in front of you.
You may argue he had this chance in 2017 when as the full time starter for the year he led the Colts to a 4-12 record, but don’t underestimate how much better this overall Colts team is now. He will have arguably the best O-line in football in front of him with Quenton Nelson leading the group in his 2nd year. He has a nice array of options in the passing game to throw to and a committee approach at running back should see the Colts very competitive.
Once considered a potential heir to Tom Brady, I’m looking forward to seeing Brissett grasp his chance this time around.
Every year a bunch of shiny new faces are selected by NFL teams to improve the fortunes of the franchise and replace aging veterans. Some have instant pay off (hello Baker Mayfield) whilst others take some time to come to fruition. Below I take a look at a number of players entering their 2nd season who are poised to make a significant leap from their performance levels of 12 months ago.
There is no doubt Saquon Barkley is a huge talent but make no mistake about it the New York Jets had a huge present fall right into their laps last April when the New York Giants passed on Sam Darnold. As a rookie, the No. 3 overall pick last year had plenty of ups and downs but flashed the kind of potential which had many draft analysts calling him the best prospect in last years draft. The Jets have done a nice job inn adding protection up front on the offensive line, and add into the equation running back Le’Veon Bell then all of a sudden this whole offence has potential. If Darnold and new offensive minded head coach Adam Gase mesh well, the Jets could surprise quite a few teams this year.
Arizona drafted Kirk in the second round out of Texas A&M last year, and he is primed to replace future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald as Arizona’s no. 1 option in 2019. There is a tremendous buzz about what Kliff Kingsbury is going to bring to the Cardinals, certainly from an offensive perspective and Kirk could be set to be the main beneficiary. Proof will be in the pudding of course but with rumoured desires to be running 90 plus offensive plays per game and many in 5 wide receiver sets then opportunity should be plenty for Kirk. He is familiar with Kingsbury’s Air Raid system from his college days at Texas A&M, which also improves the confidence rating behind this selection.
Somebody has to take the targets that usually went the way of Antonio Brown, and although JuJu Smith-Schuster will put up big numbers, look out for Washington to make a nice leap in year 2. A second-round pick in 2018, Washington was expected to put up better numbers in his rookie year. Slated to be the starter opposite the aforementioned JuJu he will certainly get the opportunity especially considering that Big Ben throws as often as any quarterback in the league. He’l have Donte Moncrief to beat out in camp and throughout the preseason, but considering 2 other teams have already given up on him, that shouldn’t too hard to do.
The Detroit Lions running back was putting together a nice rookie season with over 850 all purpose yards before a knee injury cost him the last 6 games of the season. Not only does Johnson have obvious ability himself, when you add in the fact that the Lions released Theo Riddick, it’s fair to assume that Johnson could see his role expand to a 3 down back giving him even more opportunities to shine. He has the opportunity to become the focal point of the Lions offence assuming he can steer clear of injury this campaign. For those that are worried about CJ Anderson pulling off a LeGarrette Blount, with the amount the Lions want to run this year, Kerryon will still be knocking on the door of RB1 territory.
Expectations were big for Tremaine Edmunds as a 20-year-old rookie drafted on the first round 16th overall by the Bills. Its fair to say he initially did not reach those expectations and got off to a slow start to the campaign. However, by the end of the season, the unbelievably athletic linebacker turned into the key cog in the Bills defence. He was named NFL defensive rookie of the month for December and If the former Virginia Tech star can keep improving, the Bills defense will be even better this season.
Nobody questions the talent of the Houston Texans front 7, all the questions are aimed at the back end of the defence. The Texans may have found a gem in the third round of the 2018 draft when they selected Justin Reid from Stanford. He quietly put together a nice rookie campaign with 88 tackles, 10 pass break ups and 3 interceptions from 12 starts. With the honey badger being signed by Kansas City look for the Texans to maximise Reid’s versatility and for him to transcend into a real playmaker on the back end during his second full season.
This is a classic example of a player benefitting from the addition of greater talent around him. Jaire Alexander began his NFL career with a strong rookie campaign. In 11 starts last season he made a significant impact for the Packers tallying 66 tackles, 1 interception, 11 passes defended, and 0.5 sacks. Green Bay added significant talent to its defence this offseason with 3 starters added via free agency and 2 first round selections booth on that side of the ball. That will benefit Alexander and the team’s secondary as a whole. The Packers finally seem to have realised that the defence needs to help out Aaron Rodgers and Alexander could well be the leading light on that side of the football.