Fantasy Football Nightmares for 2020 – Part 1

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

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

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

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


Dallas Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LA Rams Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cleveland Tight Ends

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

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

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

Kevin Stefanski – at the NFL Combine.

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

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


Miami Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Houston Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tampa Bay…everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

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

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

So what’s the outcome?

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

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

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


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

Season In Review – LA Rams

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Time for another installment of the Season In Review Series. This time, we turn our attention to last year’s Super Bowl participants, the LA Rams.

The Super Bowl hangover is still as bad as the Madden curse!

ENTERING THE SEASON


Coming into the 2019 season the Rams were looking to bounce back from their Super Bowl
disappointment and go one step better to earn the franchises 2nd championship.

Patrick Semansky/AP

HC Sean McVay returned most of the same players and staff, adding veterans like Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews to an impressive roster.

With Cooper Kupp returning after a serious injury ended his 2018 season prematurely and standout RB Todd Gurley with his own injury question marks, the pressure would be on Jared Goff to live up to his massive $134 million contract. At least on the other side of the ball, DC Wade Phillips would have the luxury of calling on all-world defensive linemen Aaron Donald to set the tone.


DURING THE SEASON


The Rams were consistent only in their inconsistency during the 2019 season, managing to go from a
28-12 beatdown of the Seattle Seahawks in week 14, to a 44-21 shellacking at the hands of the
Dallas Cowboys in week 15 that all but ended their postseason hopes.

While the 2019 season was ultimately disappointing there were still some highlights for the Rams
faithful, including a week 2 win against the New Orleans Saints in a Conference Championship
rematch from the previous season.

Offensively however, McVay’s Rams took a step back from 32.9 PPG in 2018 to only 24.6 in 2019. Quarterback Jared Goff endured his troubles throughout, while he did finish 3 rd in passing yards for the year he was only 22 nd in QB passer rating for the year, coupled with the line struggling to open holes in the running game it led to a offence that was strangely stagnant at times. While receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods both had impressive seasons, Todd Gurley was unable to repeat his league leading 2018 form, seemingly limited by injuries.

Image result for todd gurley
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty

The defence was led as always by the incomparable Aaron Donald as he continued his line wrecking
ways, while he didn’t manage to repeat his 20.5 sacks from 2018, he was still a force, demanding
double teams almost every week. The Rams paid a steep price to acquire help for the secondary,
trading 2 first round picks and a fourth round pick to the Jaguars for star corner Jalen Ramsey,
sending previous trade acquisition Marcus Peters to the Ravens to make room. Cory Littleton was a
playmaker at inside linebacker, recording 134 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Unfortunately
however, the defence as a whole remained middle of the pack, giving up 22.8 PPG ranking 17th in the
league.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


The Rams have a lot of question marks going forward, with shortages both in cap space and high
draft picks for the 2020 season. With pieces like LB Cory Littleton, LT Andrew Whitworth and DE’s
Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler among others entering free agency, and only $19.5 million of
cap space, GM Les Snead has plenty of work to do this offseason before the Rams move into their
brand new $5 billion home at SoFi Stadium.

foxla.com

The Rams are also undergoing major changes to their coaching staff, with the coordinators leaving
from all 3 phases. Brandon Staley and Kevin O’Connell are expected to be named as coordinators as
Sean McVay reshapes his staff. The NFC West is a highly competitive division and while the Rams
have enough talent to compete with any team, they’ll need Jared Goff to take a step forward for
them to win the big one.

Full10Lookaheads – Week 13

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y) and Euan De Ste Croix (@dissy89)


Who’ll be the Turkey at Thanksgiving?

Image result for thanksgiving nfl turkey

Although they’ve done away with the Galloping Gobbler award on thanksgiving, many people will be looking to see if Jason Garrett will be ripe for roasting once again as they host the Buffalo Bills in their traditional home Thanksgiving game.

A lot of criticism went Garrett’s way after his decision to kick a field goal late in the game at Foxboro’ and the dangerous Buffalo Bills could put Garrett and his coaching qualities under the spotlight once again.

The Cowboys missed an opportunity to steal a march on the NFC East, which would have given him a bit less of a hotseat. With the Eagles now having an easy stretch of schedule, the Cowboys cannot afford to slip up, although it’s likely the NFC East title will come down to their Week 16 game, even if the Cowboys fall to a game behind. IF that scenario does play out, will Garrett even be the coach then?

Other potential Turkeys include third stringer QB David Blough for the Lions who goes up against a Bears defence that’s actually giving up less points than they did last year (funny how our opinions see them as less fearsome), Mitchell Trubisky (no explanation needed) and the Atlanta Falcons, who have to prove it all again after their defeat to the Bucs as they host the Saints.


Helmets collide again

Image result for browns vs steelers
Image Credit: Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Usually, the game between the Steelers and Browns needs no introduction but this particular fixture will have more spice than Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.

There will be a few key protagonists missing from the game that were involved in the skirmish 2 weeks ago, some through suspension (Garrett, Pouncey) and some through inability to function as an NFL player (Rudolph).

What wont be lost is the heavy hitting, cheap shots between the players looking to continue their scuffles.

Keep an eye on the referees in this one as they will try to maintain order in the AFC North battle. The Browns will want the win more as they still have an outside shot at the playoffs, but can they keep their composure, can they execute their plans, something they’ve struggled with all season.


49ers and Ravens

Image result for lamar jackson jimmy garoppolo
Image Credit: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports

The mouthwatering clashes keep on coming for the neutrals as 49ers and the Ravens, the 2 trailblazers with a combined record of 19-3, meet this Sunday. Yet again the 10-1 49ers are the ones who seemingly have to prove their credential for the Super Bowl whilst many are quick to brandish Lamar Jackson the MVP award and the Ravens a Super Bowl berth.

This is of course a Super Bowl rematch from the “Harbaugh Bowl” back in Super Bowl XLVII when the Flacco led Ravens came out victorious of the Colin Kaepernick led 49ers in the Mercedes Benz Super dome (and of course that famous blackout).

Can the 49ers now do it on the road after recording home victories the past few weeks against the Packers and Cardinals. Teams usually get their due when travelling to tough environments in the NFL as home comforts can usually get you bye in case of any struggles.

There will be no room to hide with the spotlight currently beaming down on these two teams and it will be fascinating to see who comes out victorious when the dust settles.


LA-st chance Saloon

Image result for la rams
Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

That Jared Goff Contract is not looking like it will be conducive to them reappearing in the Super Bowl anytime soon.

With their embarrassing loss to the Ravens at home on MNF, the Rams are now 6-5 and 3 games back off Seattle, 4 off of the 49ers and 2 games back in the Wildcard race where the Vikings currently sit with the #6 seed.

It’s amazing how not even a year ago, the Rams annihilated everyone that was put in front of them and it was about this time last year when we were treated to the 100+ game in LA vs the Chiefs.

That Rams team is a far cry away from what it is now and you have to wonder whether or not McVay and co have the ability to turn it around.

Their recent trade for Jalen Ramsey means they don’t have any picks of great value for the next couple of years and Jared Goff’s salary means that they can’t move on from him (nor Todd Gurley’s for that mattter).

It could be a spiral out of control situation and it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility that the whole organisation is blown up.

PS: Dallas, send the Rams a 1st round or 2nd rounder for McVay.


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Playoff INDTEN-tions

Image result for indianapolis tennessee
Image Credit: Icon Sportswire / Getty Images

An AFC South battle sees the current #8 and #9 seeds going toe to toe in effectively a playoff matchup.

Indianapolis and Tennessee will leave it all out on the field in Lucas Oil Stadium as the winner could potentially move in to the 6th seed which the Steelers currently hold. Pittsburgh face the Browns and the #7 seeded Raiders face the Chiefs, so chances are the winner here leap frogs all of them.

The Titans has seen a resurgence under Ryan Tannehill, currently the highest rated QB since he took over from Mariota. HC Mike Vrabel and OC Arthur Smith will look to keep on rolling as they face a slightly banged up Jacoby Brissett, Marlon Mack-less Colts team. Indy have won the last 3 between these two so recent history is against them but this wasn’t a Ryan Tannehill led Titans team.

The Titans then travel to Oakland before facing Houston in 2 of their last 3 games.

You have to feel the Titans have it all in their hands. The question is can they grab it?


Can the decibel best the mentor?

Image Credit: Boston Herald

Bill O’Brien is comfortably the most successful graduate from the Bill Beikchick coaching tree but that is hardly a seismic feat. After serving under the most successful head coach of the modern era from 2007-11, O’Brien must be considering privately, this Sunday Primetime game, would represent his best chance to finally claim a victory against the New England dynasty. But Bill is currently 0-5 against them and 0-2 since the drafting of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Perhaps the closest the the Texans have come was in Watson’s rookie season. Not going for a 4th & 1, saw the Texans hand the ball back to new England and miss out on their best chance to beat their perennial superiors rivals since 2011.

The New England offence, post the loss of Gronkowski, is still attempting to find an identity and it’s output won’t be one that will scare any potential opponents and particularly Watson and the Texans offence who will likely fancy their chances, all things being equal. The key will be – can O’Brien’s Houston team learn from the great one and play mistake free football? A central theme to the success for footballs ever persistent powerhouse.

The Texans have their not so secret weapon in speedster, Will Fuller, who O’Brien publicly declared the up turn in Hopkins and Watson’s game when he’s on the field. Fuller, often injured, but immeasurably effective when on the field, has missed the previous two clashes with Watson under centre.

If O’Brien and his coaching staff can come out of the headlights of a primetime game win against his professor, prior to move Pat’s personnel chief, Nick Caserio, to Houston as GM this off season. Then the Texans will possibly have their first one over New England in a long time, until at least the play-off’s.


A Cross-State Battle with more Questions than Answers at QB.

Image Credit: Douglas R. Clifford

Tampa Bay visit their Florida rivals in Jacksonville this Sunday in a game that will likely be shunned by neutrals and for good reason. The visiting side perhaps put their best performance of the season against division rivals in Atlanta, last Sunday. Jameis Winston, continues to the show up short of his draft status and the franchise is at a cross roads on what to do with the 5th year passer.

Taking last weeks game in isolation, that alone would suggest Winston would be in line for an off-season extension, but his interception filled stint would not in Tampa, would not. Winston has 5 games to avoid a career as eternal back-up. Regardless the outcome, a year on the franchise tag may be all he can hope for, if he’s to stay in south Florida.

On the other side of the field, a similarly intriguing proposition lies, as big money free agent and former super bowl MVP, since returning form injury has appeared to take Jacksonville backwards. In his absence, Gardner Minshew appeared to have won the job in 9 games posting, 13 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and racking up 2,285 yards at a completion rate of above 60%.  Losing both games since his return, albeit putting up more accurate passing numbers, Foles has thrown two TD’s but the team doesn’t appear to carry the same spark as it did, when Foles was watching from the sidelines.

The Jag’s are not so far removed and from an AFC championship berth but have had many salary-cap casualties when signing Foles to a his deal. It could be argued that the lack of cap space was the initial driver of the Jalen Ramsey trade and it would seem they are lily to lose edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. A lot is riding on Foles to be successful in Duval county but it would seem, the rest of their roster has suffered in an attempt to replace the Blake Bortles saga.

Both teams are looking for reasons for optimism but it would seem change lies ahead in either coaching or personnel to revive either teams fortunes.


Games to Get Right Or Quelling underlying fears?

Image Credit: David Maialetti

Both Philadelphia and Carolina face two games which on the surface of it would seem automatic wins. Both are 10 point favourites. Both, on the surface have strong rosters and will feel their respective records should be healthier than they currently read.

Regardless if they win by the outlined margin, does the 6.25% step forward, really represent anything other than short term progress. The Eagles, at the outset would have been set for a Super Bowl run or at least deep into the play-offs, by many on lookers. Hindered by a poor secondary and a quarterback – who after a number of injuries and changes to his offensive personnel – seems lost, in not overwhelmed. Wentz’s regression is stark and in spite of a bounce back game on Sunday against Miami, there are longer terms concerns for a team who were heralded for Howie Roseman’s roster building acumen. This is now the second consecutive season of under achievement after their Super Bowl win and concern has to be there and unaffected, even by a 50-point win on Sunday.

The Carolina Panthers, have a quandary at the most important position in all of sports also. The continual decline of Cam Newton’s health has seen Kyle Allen step in a lead the ship admirably. An underachiever in the college game has never been doubted talent-wise but it would appear his consistency and application has. There have been some strong outings for Allen. But he also has has some games to forget, the showing at home versus at Atlanta, rightly called into question his decision making. Even with a strong follow up performance against a struggling Washington team, Kyle will be looking to re-assert some positively  after their narrow loss to New Orleans. A game they should have won, if not for the missed five points by their rookie kicker Joey Slye.

There are question to be asked about how much Allen’s play is bolstered by Christian McCaffery’s all-pro and possibly MVP calibre season at running back. As limitations have been shown, so is there enough there to give confidence to ambitions new owner, David Tepper? A many who made his fortune in investments, will shortly tell us how willing he is to invest the future of the franchise in Kyle Allen.


Does Defence win Championships still?

Image Credit: Pete Smith

The adage has been echoed round NFL-based discussions for decades. If you didn’t have a league leading defence with multiple blue-chip players, at all three levels your chances were nullified. This uprising of the San Francisco 49er’s has perhaps shown that the notion is alive and well. The undoubted strength of the team is it’s defence. The litany of first round draft picks across its front seven make it difficult for the opposition to move the ball. Whether it’s, Ford, Bosa, Armstead, Thomas or Bucker. There isn’t 5 tougher blocking assignments for an offensive line in the game.

This front has allowed the linebackers and secondary to flourish with the additional pressures this unit brings. Witherspoon finally seems to be realising his talent at corner and Richard Sherman appears to be having a plus year, after looking not his former self last season. So the leading statement has proven to have varying levels of validity across the season. So much so, the performances have been questionable from their quarterback but Jimmy-G plays within a system that he suited to and it doesn’t require him to chase big plays outside of it. The running game the defence will ensure that’s not the case. But Sunday they face their biggest test of the year.

An apposing body evidence to this argument would be the Baltimore Ravens who, defence is strong in its own right and have done an amicable job of letting players go and finding replacements throughout the draft. But their real revelation has been the improvements show in the game of second year quarterback, come magic man, Lamar Jackson.

After crashing out the play-off’s he has come back with vengeance. Their unique brand of offence is an intriguing one which relies on the run. The league seem to have changed and in a way that has allowed Jackson to flourish rather than one that would have traditionally rejected his athleticism. His play and level at the offence is running at, is unrivalled through this point of the year. The two and three tight end sets have allow Baltimore to control the line of scrimmage and pick off high percentage throws and run the ball to the tune of over 200 yards per game.

The 49ers perhaps pose the strongest test of their system to get the best out of Jackson. This Sunday, will likely be one for the old school lovers of ground and pound running game. Whilst the game could provide a timely reminder that in 2019 offence may well win championships. Or is the old platitude still correct? The number 1 rushing team plays the number 2 team in a clash which should help us in that understanding, come Sunday.


Only the Young & Offensive Minded need apply

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Image Credit: Steve Dykes

When a failed college head-coach in Cliff Kingsbury was hired by the Arizona Cardinals it seemed odd. Relieved from his duties at Texas Tech, he had only just taken up the Role of USC’s offensive co-oridnator in the weeks prior. But some how he had landed one of the prized 32 gigs to coach at the highest level. It seemed odd on the face of it. Kingsburry was allowed to draft Kyler Murray No1 overall in this years draft, re-make an offence and a team with limited talent for year one of a multi-year project.

Last off season – that was the latest trend for every franchise who wanted to get ahead of the curve or at least join it, was to hire a specific model of coach, to take them into the next decade of a changing league. At one point last off-season the common joke was: “I once cleaned Sean McVey’s pool so I’d like to apply for the Head Coaching job.”

Fast forward not even three quarters of a season and those remarks certainly won’t contain the same level of relevancy, compared to when team owners/GM’s were looking for a new team leader, last off season. Often referred to as an acronym off ‘Not For Long’ the NFL has a habit of building you up just as quickly as it will bring you down with a crash. The Ram’s offence appears to have embodied a typical NFL cycle and crash it has done, but with such alarm. After letting linemen leave the building and extending Jared Geoff, no longer receives to the same level of protection and wide open targets he previously enjoyed. It would seem that their once heralded system appears to have dropped in effectiveness. Just as the brightest head coach in the NFL galaxy doesn’t appear quite as bright as it once gleamed.

Now, Sunday represent a milestrone game and clear barometer of how these two young coaches are set for the following seasons and beyond. Both need a further influx of talent to be competitive with the play-off calibre teams. But it will show, how was has Geoff fallen from his perch of league leading offence against a questionable defence – out with safety Budda Baker. But it will also show how the QB of choice, young dream coach experiment is rounding into shape.

It will be an intriguing watch if this archetype is desired for the next round of, off-season, head coach carousel, in 2020.

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC West

It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Depending on your outlook on such things, that’s good or bad.

In this series of articles, we take a look back over those 8 glorious weeks of pigskin action and also project how the 2nd half of the season will play out.


AFC West

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By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  • Kansas City Chiefs 5-3
  • Oakland Raiders 3-4
  • LA Chargers 3-5
  • Denver Broncos 2-6

*Kansas City Chiefs*

Midseason Grade: B

How has it gone so far?

The offensive juggernaut picked up where they left off. Patrick Mahomes has spread the ball around with ease despite missing Tyreek Hill for most of the 1st half of the season. A trade on the eve of the season for LeSean McCoy had solidified the backfield and Travis Kelce remains the league’s best tight end.

However the achilies heel is once again the defence. In particular it has been the Chiefs inability to defend the run. Only the winless Bengals have given up more yards on the ground and teams have found a formula to beat the Chiefs.

Having tasted defeat in 3 of the past 4 contests the Chiefs will be anxious to get Mahomes back from injury to allow the offence the greatest opportunity to make up for the defensive deficiencies. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Chiefs are comfortable within the division and the 3 losses they have tasted were against quality opponents. They take care of business in the games that you would expect them to do so. They will not be concerned with regular season record however as they will be concentrating on what they want to achieve in January.

Fixing the run defence will have to be a top priority as the ground game becomes more of a factor as we get towards playoff time. The offence will continue to cause problems for anyone and outside of games with the Vikings and Patriots, the Chiefs will be big favourites in the other contests they have left to play.

Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5 – Division Winners


*Oakland Raiders*

Midseason Grade: C

How has it gone so far?

The team of hard knocks has very quickly moved on from Antonio Brown to post some decent performances in the first half of the season.

Losses to the Chiefs, Vikings, Packers and Texans are nothing to be ashamed of. Derek Carr has been very accurate, completing over 72% of his passes as he has found himself 2 new best friends. Darren Waller has been a revelation at tight end, he leads the team with 46 receptions,over twice the amount of the next leading receiver.

Josh Jacobs is arguably one of the leading candidates for offensive rookie of the year honours with 620 rushing yards from the 7 games played.

Rest of Season Outlook:

Winnable looking games against the Jets, Bengals and Chargers provide plenty of optimism for the Raiders in the second half of the season.

The impending move to Vegas should hopefully mean plenty of motivation to give the fans over in the Bay area a good send off.

Look out for the continued development of the 2 young playmakers mentioned as the Raiders may have stumbled across a nice young core to develop with. 

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9


*LA Chargers*

Midseason Grade: D+

How has it gone so far?

In the conversation for the most underwhelming team of the 2020 season, the Chargers have fallen off massively from where they were last year. The offensive line has been a problem throughout and what feels like the standard injury curse has once again struck. Melvin Gordon backed himself in a contract hold out in a move that appears to have backfired having been outperformed by Austin Ekeler during the campaign.

Mike Williams found the endzone on 10 occasions last campaign but has yet to find pay dirt this time around. In fact Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry are the only 2 skill positions outside of the running backs that have scored a touchdown for the Bolts so far.

Rest of Season Outlook:

Looking for consistency, the Chargers need to stop beating themselves. 2 games against the Chiefs along with difficult looking matchups against the Vikings and Packers make the road ahead look difficult. WIth 5 divisional games still ahead though, with a heavy fair wind the Chargers aren’t quite out of things just yet.

Getting Michael Badgeley back on the field will help also as even if the Chargers get into winning positions the find a way to lose.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9


*Denver Broncos*

Midseason Grade: D

How has it gone so far?

As you would expect a Joe Flacco led offence to look, a little pedestrian. Ranked just 28th in points scored at just 15.6 per game the defence is keeping the Broncos competitive. That unit ranks 8th in terms of points against so its clear to see where the issues are in Mile High. An 0-4 start has been followed by a 2-2 stretch for a team struggling to establish an identity.

Philip Lindsay is still the most valuable offensive piece but despite his superior production he is stuck in a timeshare with Royce Freeman. Von Miller is having a relatively quiet season with only 4 sacks so far on the campaign.

Rest of Season Outlook:

After criticizing the defensiveness of offensive play calling Joe Flacco has miraculously picked up an injury so Brandon Allen is in at QB. The schedule does not look kind with Vikings, Texans and Chiefs all still to come. The Broncos would have been hoping for more of a boost from Vic Fangio than they have received and this has a feeling of a 1 and done season.

Development of the young wide receiving core will be crucial as the Broncos will hope that Drew Lock will be able to take over this offence in the non to distant future.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 3-13


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NFC West

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By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Current Standings 

  • San Francisco 49ers – 7-0
  • Seattle Seahawks – 6-2
  • Los Angeles Rams – 5-3
  • Arizona Cardinals – 3-4-1

*San Francisco 49ers*

Midseason Grade: A

How has it gone so far?

Without doubt the surprise package of the season, the 49ers are not so much dark horses, but sparkly rainbow unicorns, with the only undefeated record in the NFC. How are they racking up the W’s?

A perfect blend of creative and consistent running and a tough tackling defense led by rookie Nick Bosa and wily veteran CB Richard Sherman. Jimmy Garoppolo has been upright all season and only sacked 11 times. He needs to cut down interceptions (7)  but at a nearly 70% completion rate Garoppolo is just fine. The strong running game is led by a three-headed monster of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert who have combined for over 1000 ground yards already and 10 combined touchdowns.

The receiving unit has been a big letdown, with the exception of All-Pro TE George Kittle, so a mid-season trade for Emmanuel Sanders from Denver was a welcome boost. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The remaining part of the 49ers schedule is much harder than the first half. Two matchups against the Seahawks, plus the Ravens, Saints and Packers. The 49ers will not go 16-0 regardless of however hard they run or tackle.

The two Seahawks games will define the season, and will provide the difference between a division win and a wild-card. Emmanuel Sanders will need to strike up immediate rapport with Jimmy G, as ridiculously his nine touchdown passes this season have gone to nine different team-mates. The return of versatile FB Kyle Juszczyk in the final third of the season will be a big boost.

Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a wild card)


*Seattle Seahawks*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

The Seahawks have not been convincing in 2019, winning their six games by a combined 32 points, including two one point wins. Regardless Russell Wilson is having a spectacular season, 2,127 yards, 17 touchdowns and just the one int in 8 full games.

Elsewhere the offence has been performing admirably, RB Chris Carson is on track for 1,200-1,300 yards and the mix of veteran WR Tyler Lockett and rookie WR DK Metcalf is providing a winning combination.

LBs Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright continue to play at a Pro-Bowl level and the addition of DE Jadeveon Clowney may not have yielded gaudy sack totals, but he leads the team in tackles for loss and forced fumbles. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Seahawks have the 49ers clearly in their line of sight, and the two games they face against each other will be box office television both times. It’s all NFC games for Seattle for the rest of the season and six more wins is a realistic target. Seattle and San Francisco should have safely punched their ticket to the post-season by Week 16, so the Seahawks hosting the 49ers in Week 17 will likely determine who wins the division.

CenturyLink Field is no longer a fortress for the Seahawks, but they will use the wet-weather to squeak a W17 win and with it a division title. 

Regular season record prediction: – 12-4 (and a division win) 


*Los Angeles Rams*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Rams so far, starting with a three game win streak, followed by a three game crash, before crushing two awful teams.

In the space of three weeks (2-4) L.A. put a beat down on the Saints, scraped past the Browns and then leaked 55 against Tampa. Jared Goff is on pace for 5,000 yards and WR Cooper Kupp is looking like an All-Pro. Kupp’s 220 yard outing at Wembley will take a long time to forget.

Todd Gurley has flattered to deceive, his 7 touchdowns hiding a rather unimpressive season so far. LBs Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews are on pace for double digit sacks. The biggest impact on defense is CB Jalen Ramsey who was traded in from the Jaguars in October. Ramsey is currently undefeated as a Rams star.  

Rest of Season Outlook: 

The Super Bowl hangover is for real.

A tough run of games against Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco are sandwiched between two contests against the Cardinals. There have been five receiving yardage leaders on the team in eight games, and Todd Gurley has not had a single 100 yard rushing game this year.

Two home MNF games (Chicago and Seattle) will put the Rams in the spotlight, but they are not going to make the playoffs because their offensive line is their weak link, that will cost them dearly in the Winter months.

Regular season record prediction: 9-7


*Arizona Cardinals*

Midseason Grade: C+

How has it gone so far? 

Three wins and a tie in half a season is above expectation for a Cardinals team expected to be near the foot of the conference whilst they let rookie QB Kyler Murray settle in to the team.

The three wins were against weak opponents by a combined 10 points. Murray has shown improvement from his first four games, but he has been let down by a poor running game, which now has former Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake moving to Arizona from Miami.

The immortal WR Larry Fitzgerald is still churning away, and with an upsurge in targets could get another 1,000 season under his belt. David Johnson is still underperforming and he has more touchdowns catching than he does rushing. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

There are not a lot of winnable games left for the Cardinals in the second half of the season, ending in two tough road-trips to Seattle and L.A. Kyler Murray is going to see better days as the Cardinals move into a new era.

The youth movement will soon takeover throughout the roster, with WRs Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella making competition healthy of offense. Arizona still need help on the defense and offensive line, but another impactful draft could see them competitive as early as 2020.

One small shoutout to LB Terrell Suggs, coming up to his 38th birthday, as he is still performing at a high level – five sacks, four forced fumbles and 9.5 tackles for loss. Oh and he can act too if you have seen Ballers. 

Regular season record prediction: 5-10-1

NFC West Breakdown

By Andy Moore – (AJMoore21)

Last Season

Los Angeles Rams – 13-3

Seattle Seahawks – 10-6

San Francisco 49ers – 4-12

Arizona Cardinals – 3-13

LA Rams:

Draft selections: Taylor Rapp (R3 P.61), Darrell Henderson (R3 P.70), David Long (R3 P.79) Bobby Evans (R3 P.97), Greg Gaines (R4 P.134), David Edwards (R5 P.169), Nick Scott (R7 P.243), Dakota Allen (R7 P.251)

Offseason key additions: Clay Matthews (Packers/FA), Dante Fowler (Re-signed), Eric Weddle (Ravens/FA)

Offseason key departures: Roger Saffold (Titans/FA), Lemarcus Joyner (Raiders/FA), Ndamukong Suh (Buccaneers/FA)

Super Bowl odds: 15/2

Analysis:

Last season ultimately ended in disappointment for the Rams, but no-one could deny that they fully deserved their place in the Super Bowl. Averaging 32.9 points a game, Sean McVay’s offense was exhilarating to watch, with Wade Philips assembling an equally impressive cast on the other side of the ball.

Expectations have only grown this time around, with both Mcvay and Jared Goff both determined to bounce back from a spluttering Super Bowl performance.

Key to that bounce back will be the continued proficiency of Todd Gurley. A lot has been written this off-season about the health of the former Georgia star’s knee, which is rumoured to be hampered by arthritis. A reduced pre-season schedule would appear to confirm something is amiss, as did the drafting of Darrell Henderson out of Memphis.

If Gurley can’t drive the offense, renewed emphasis will be placed on Goff and his receiver core. The healthy return of Cooper Kupp will be a boost, and in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks the Rams have two of the most versatile threats in the league. The key question will come when defensive co-ordinators start to learn lessons from Bill Belichik, putting pressure on McVay to guide Goff through defensive looks he might not have seen before.

Most of the Rams key personnel losses have come on defense, with Ndamukong Suh and Lemarcus Joyner the major departures. The addition of Clay Matthews and Eric Waddle will go some way to soothing that loss, and although both players are into the twilight of their career they’ll do nothing but add a ton of experience to an already mean unit.

Look out for:

The way Sean McVay updates his playbook in the wake of a Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots will be incredibly interesting to watch. Despite a scintillating season, McVay said of the 10-3 defeat ‘I didn’t give us the chance really to have offensive production, period.” A frank omission from the man who has been hailed as the premier creative mind in the league. Expect to see that mind generate new ideas that we’ve never seen before in 2019.

Seattle Seahawks

Draft selections: LJ Collier (R1 P.29), Marquise Blair (R2 P.47), DK Metcalf (R2 P.64), Cody Barton (R3 P.88), Gary Jennings (R4 P.120), Phil Haynes (R5 P.124), Ugochukwu Amadi (R4 P.132), Ben Burr-Kiven (R5 P.142), Travis Homer (R6 P.204), Demarcus Christmas (R6 P.209), John Ursua (R7 P.236)

Offseason key additions: Ziggy Ansah [Lions/FA], Mike Iupati [Cardinals/FA], Jason Myers [Jets/FA]

Offseason key departures: Earl Thomas [Ravens/FA], Frank Clark [Chiefs/trade], Doug Baldwin [Retired], Kam Chancellor [Retired]

Super Bowl odds: 28/1

Analysis:

The Seahawks continued their transition from their storied Legion of Boom era to a new look team this offseason.

Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin departed off the back of serious injuries, Earl Thomas got the move he has long desired and dominant defensive-end Frank Clark was dealt to the Chiefs. New, exciting faces came through the door, Ziggy Ansah, LJ Collier and DK Metcalf are all generating a buzz in the Pacific Northwest.

It couldn’t be clearer that Pete Carroll is fully invested in rebuilding around his two prized assets, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. Both players signed new deals in the off-season ($140m & $54m respectively), and both are at least top five players in their position in the NFL.

If they’re going to kick on from a promising 2018 season, new players are going to have to step up. Tyler Lockett is being crowned as the receiver who will take on the role of Wilson’s primary target, Shaquill Griffin needs to establish himself as a true lockdown corner and Rashaad Penny will be looking to push past Chris Carson and justify his first-round pick.

The new additions need to contribute as well, with Ziggy Ansah’s addition standing out as particularly intriguing. The Ghanaian has two seasons with 12+ sacks, but has been hampered by injury and inconsistency. Carroll and Defensive Co-ordinator Ken Norton clearly have a track record of developing defensive talent and if they can get Ansah fit and healthy he could be a steal on his $9m ‘prove it’ deal.

There’s still a few holes in the roster, namely at Tight End and Corner, where Nick Vannett and Griffin are the best of an average bunch, but with Wilson’s versatility and Wagner’s leadership, Seahawks fans will be expecting another playoff berth.

Look out for:

Rashaad Penny – there were flashes of quality in Penny’s rookie season, 108 yards against the Rams and a 20-yard touchdown run against the 49ers the main examples, but by and large it was a disappointing campaign. Where Penny struggled, Chris Carson stepped up with a 1000-yard season as the Seahawks looked to move to a ground and pound offensive style.

Renewed emphasis has been placed on his pass protection skills this offseason, and there appears to be a plan to go with whoever is hot to the touch on any given Sunday. This can only be beneficial for Penny who might find himself firmly behind Carson if he didn’t happen to be a first rounded.  Look for him put everything in when his chance comes and maybe, just maybe, grab the RB1 job.

San Francisco 49ers

Draft selections: Nick Bosa (R1 P.2), Deebo Samuel (R2 P.36), Jalen Hurd (R3 P.67), Mitch Wishnowsky (R4 P.110), Dre Greenlaw (R5 P.148), Kaden Smith (R6 P.176), Justin Skule (R6 P.183), Tim Harris (R6 P.198),

Offseason key additions: Dee Ford [Chiefs/Trade], Kwon Alexander [Buccs/FA], Tevin Coleman [Falcons/FA]

Offseason key departures: Pierre Garcon [Free Agent], Cassius Marsh [Seahawks/FA]

Super Bowl odds: 33/1

Analysis:

Kyle Shanahan is entering his third season as the Head Coach of the 49ers, and it’s fair to say the fanbase, and possibly the ownership, will want to see some improvement. Over the past two seasons the ‘Niners are 10-22 having seen injuries ravage their starters on both sides of the ball.

The Athletic reports that no team had more contract value on the injured reserve than San Fran in 2018, with key players such as Jimmy Garoppolo & Jerick McKinnon missing most or all of the season.

With those players back, and a stack of good business across the offseason, many are tipping Shanahan and go to turn things around and put together a winning season in the Bay Area.

There’s certainly merit to that argument, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander are high quality additions, with Bosa and Ford joining DeForest Buckner on what is a now a ridiculously talented defensive line. Talent will have to turn into production quickly if that 4-12 record is going to improve, the defence only managed six sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception all year.

Offensively, anticipation is slowly building with fans looking to see what Shanahan can do with three running backs who all have RB1 potential. Tevin Coleman joins Matt Breida and McKinnon in what seems like a fantasy football player’s nightmare, in reality it will give San Fran a punch they may have lacked in recent seasons. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd will look to compliment George Kittle as the Tight End seeks to repeat what was a monster 1377 yard season.

All that considered, perhaps the most crucial element of a successful 49ers season is the health of the franchise Quarterback. After signing a $137.5m deal in 2018, Garoppolo played in three games before tearing his ACL. There are some that have their doubts about his play, but Shanahan and the coaching staff have complete faith in the former Patriots backup and will be relying on them to carry them towards an improved record in 2019.

Look out for:

Dante Pettis – everyone is touting Pettis as a breakout star, Pete Schrager even detailing how San Francisco avoided making moves for Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown because they liked the tools possessed by their second year wide out.

Pettis’ route running is one of his most exciting traits, his burst off the line and deep ball threat only aiding that. With Samuel, Hurd and veteran Marquise Goodwin all drawing coverage with threats of their own, look for Pettis to establish himself as a dominant WR1.

Arizona Cardinals

Draft selections: Kyler Murray (R1 P.1), Byron Murphy (R2 P.33), Andy Isabella (R2 P.63), Zach Allen (R3 P.65), Hakeem Butler (R4 P.103), Deionte Thompson (R5 P.139), KeeSean Johnson (R6 P.174), Lamont Gaillard (R6 P.179), Joshua Miles (R7 P.248), Michael Dogbe (R7 P.249), Caleb Wilson (R7 P.254)

Offseason key additions: Terrell Suggs [Ravens/FA], JR Sweezy [Seahawks/FA], Jordan Hicks [Eagles/FA], Robert Alford [Falcons/FA]

Offseason key departures: Josh Rosen [Dolphins/Trade], Antoine Bethea [Giants/FA], Jermaine Gresham [Free Agent]

Super Bowl odds: 120/1

Analysis:

Not many teams hired a Head Coach that had a losing record in the NCAA last year. Not many teams traded their 2018 1st round QB to draft a new one in 2019. The Cardinals are not however, most teams.

Kliff Kingsbury arrives in Arizona riding the wave of the Sean McVay’s revolution. His offensive mind and Air Raid scheme promise high octane thrills for the Cardinals’ faithful. The question is, can he deliver it?

First overall pick, Kyler Murray, will be the make it or break it man, and you can’t help but feel if he makes it, he could herald a real long-term change in the NFL. The undersized QB has long been an anomaly in the NFL, but with Drew Brees and Baker Mayfield setting a precedent, Murray seems to have arrived on the scene a little differently. The hype has been constant all through the offseason, and somehow it seems the media have decided he’ll be a certain success.

Whilst that remains to be seen, the Cards have done a fair bit of business to improve his receiving options. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk have been joined by Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler in a revamped wide out group. The four-receiver set is the main stay of the Air Raid offense, and it’s fair to say all of the above players are going to need to produce a lot if the 3-13 record is going to improve.

On defence, talisman Patrick Peterson has been suspended for six games, but the addition of Robert Alford & Terrell Suggs gives the unit a couple of out and out playmakers. But it wasn’t the defence that was that bad last season.

With the NFL estimating Kingsbury’s men face the 12th hardest schedule in 2019, will the Cards be picking near the top of the draft again next Spring? Either way, there’s an awful lot of responsibility on a 5ft 10” QB out of Oklahoma, but that sounds familiar, right?

Look out for:

David Johnson – it seems obvious to spotlight one of Arizona’s best players, but, after a disappointing campaign last year, Johnson will hope to be back to his best.

The Air Raid offense, whilst focused on the passing game, should prevent opposition defences stacking the box, giving Johnson more freedom to search for those strong power runs and allowing him to be as dangerous as ever as the pass catching back he is. Look for nearly 2000 all-purpose yards if he can stay healthy.

2019 Season Prediction

LA Rams 13-3

Seattle Seahawks 8-8

San Francisco 49ers 7-9

Arizona Cardinals  5-11

Where Do They Go From Here; LA Rams

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Los Angeles Rams.

Don’t forget to check out the NFC West podcast where we talked to a fan from each team and got their thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

It’s hard to determine whether or not this was a successful season or not. I guess with a gun to my head that you’d have to call the season disappointing overall despite the Super Bowl appearance. The reason I call it a failure is not only the performance in the Super Bowl, but also the luck involved in getting them there (more on that shortly) and the fact that they pushed all their chips into the middle for this season with their signings on defence.

Suh, Talib et al were all drafted in to make a Madden Ultimate Team in effect and just came up short. Yes, they’ll be among the favourites again in 2019 but you wonder if this was their boat sailing? Sometimes, you only get one chance.

Let’s rewind back to the regular season, stormed out to an 8-0 record before their humbling by the New Orleans Saints in a high scoring 35-45 affair with nearly 1000 yards of offence in the game (not one for Lee). Other season highlights was of course the week 11 slobber knocker in LA (which should have been in Mexico) which had over 100 points to its name.

There was a slight wobble after the bye in weeks 14 and 15 with losses @Chicago and at home to a Nick Foles led Eagles, costing them the #1 seed. None the less, a #2 seed and a 1st round bye, they proved too strong for the Cowboys (though you have to wonder whether if Zeke converted on that 4th down, how it may have played out).

The NFC title game will forever be remembered for the non PI call which would’ve let New Orleans run the clock down to a few seconds and Lutz to kick a chip shot, but that is now why coaches will be able to challenge these calls in 2019. Some like it, I hate it but it’s happening. Make your own judgement call on whether it is good for the game.

The main storyline over the latter part of the season on top of the charge to the biggest game of them all was Todd Gurley’s injury niggles. CJ Anderson was signed from week 15 and produced a stand out performance in his absence which trickled in to the post season. His rumbled over Dallas with a 100+ yd performance and a couple of touchdowns which leave many scratching their heads as to why he wasn’t re-signed. It was later released that Todd Gurley has arthritis in his left knee and we all knew that the Rams were playing it down and Todd Gurley telling a few white lies about him playing soft. No-one ever really bought it though because it told on the field with the amount of snaps CJ Anderson saw. It remains to be seen what lie ahead for the highest paid RB in the game in terms of next season’s workload. Dynasty owners, hold your breath.

Housekeeping

The Rams own pick number 31 for being Super Bowl runners up.

They hold no 2nd round picks but 2 3rd rounders (pick 99 is compensatory) along with a pick in rounds 4,5,6 and 7.

The Rams’ pursestrings are a bit tight with around $5m cap space at this moment.

Outgoings

LaMarcus Joyner, Roger Saffold, Mark Barron and Ndamukong Suh and the main names out the door.

Incomings

Replacing them are Green Bay legend with the long golden locks Clay Matthews, Eric Weddle and his great beard and clearly the biggest signing of them all, Blake Bortles. You watch him get turned into Dan Marino by McVay.

Outlook for Next Year

Pretty much as you were for the Rams with a few pieces being changed. The Rams will be expecting to visit the big one again and go one better.

Cooper Kupp, who seemingly was the glue that kept this team together should be back and raring to go and a lot of eyes will be on Todd Gurley and his knees. Expect a top offence once more with plenty of points to go around everywhere. The Rams will play a winners schedule as well as the NFC South and AFC North. Added on top, a trip to London to take on Zac Taylor who was employed by the Rams in 2018.

Prediction

There may well be stiffer competition in the NFC West in 2019 with the Seahawks and also Jimmy G being welcomed back by Kyle Shanahan. Should be another division title for the Rams but the division plays hard. Another season of double digit wins if Gurley’s war wounds are nothing too serious and Sean McVay does Sean McVay things on the Rams offence. To the post season, the Rams will once again be a juggernaut to stop, but someone will.

Fantasy Football

Jared Goff – later rounds – low QB1

Todd Gurley – 1st round pick (buyer beware) – RB1, if fit and firing.

Brandin Cooks – 3rd/4th Round pick – WR2 – potential bargain

Cooper Kupp – 5th round – low WR2 – PPR machine

Robert Woods – 4th round – WR2

Tight Ends – no chance!