After missing almost the whole 2019 season due to injury Ben Roethlisberger is poised for a big comeback.
While I’m not a fan of this man, he’s undeniably a great player and given the problems the Steelers had with their quarterback situation last year, I’m sure most Steelers fans want to see him back. Even though Duck Hodges is undeniably one of the best personalities in the sport, his play isn’t quite up to scratch.
I’m a betting man so my money is on Big Ben winning the comeback player of the year with the weapons around him.
Todd Gurley – RB, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons landed the former first round running back, giving him a one year deal worth $5.5 Million.
Now this is more of a risky pick given Gurley’s history with injuries, but provided he can stay healthy, Gurley will want to prove what a mistake the Rams made by dropping him the way they did.
The Atlanta Falcons have a ton of weapons going into this season, so look for Gurley to be a big part of this offence and, health permitting, make a big comeback.
Baker Mayfield – QB, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was, to put it bluntly, a complete shambles last year. After a record-breaking rookie season Mayfield was poised to come in and bring the Browns their first winning season in years. He sadly flopped. You knew by midseason that hacks like Colin Cowherd were foaming at the mouth watching the Browns struggle to put it together come game time, despite their stacked roster.
The biggest reason for the Browns underperformance was having a first time head coach trying to manage a team full of talent and strong personalities. Oh, and instead of getting an extra piece for their offensive line, they just added OBJ and gave up a first round pick. Never change, Cleveland. Never change.
Mayfield has the talent to be a top tier quarterback in the league, and provided he gets the right attention in camp and stays away from filming so many endorsement deals, I see Mayfield being a serious contender for comeback player of the year in 2020.
Mathew Stafford – QB, Detroit Lions
Until his unfortunate injury last season, Matthew Stafford was looking like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He ranked 8th amongst quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus grading from week 1 to week 9; no small feat.
Now factor in all the weapons this offence has. TJ Hockenson, Kenny Golliday, Danny Amendola and now D’Andre Swift (Top receiving running back in the draft) among others.
If Stafford can start the season strong, and even string together some decent wins for the Lions, there’s no reason we can’t see Stafford take this award home for a second time. Honestly, Stafford has a good a chance as any.
J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans
It’s a shame that a man like J.J. Watt has been so unlucky with injuries. One of the best defensive players in the league and, before Aaron Donald came along, probably the best pass rusher, it’s fitting that the only person that can slow down J.J. Watt is J.J. Watt.
Provided he can stay healthy next year as the Texans push for another run at the playoffs, he’s going to be a force. It would be really great to see the former Walter Peyton man of the year award winner add a comeback player of the year award to his collection.
At 31, Watt’s days in the NFL may soon come to a close, so a return to form would be a fitting conclusion to a storied career. Watch for J.J. to leave it all on the field this year if he can stay healthy.
A few days ago you were treated to a fantastic Sells equivalent which you can check out here. Today we take a look at those you should be trying to acquire. Let us know your thoughts, let us know YOUR OPINION. Because that’s what it is all about! Let’s see who can get these guys the cheapest!
The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.
Courtland Sutton – Denver Broncos
There’s a feel-good factor around Denver’s offense at the moment. After finishing the season 4-1 with Drew Lock under centre, John Elway has added Pat Shurmur to his coaching staff and signed Melvin Gordon, Graham Glasgow and Nick Vannett in free agency.
All this looks good for third year receiver Courtland Sutton. Coming off a 1,112 yard, 125 target, 72 reception season, the former SMU man has firmly established himself as the Broncos WR1.
The addition of Shurmur looks set to only help Sutton’s development, with his track record as an Offensive Co-ordinator unquestionably good for young QBs and the passing game. If Shurmur can recreate this in Denver, then look for more fireworks from Lock and Sutton as they look to navigate a difficult AFC West.
In your Dynasty League, the time to buy Sutton might not be now. There are plenty of rumours linking the Broncos to a high quality deep threat receiver in the draft, with CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs both regularly mocked their way. This shouldn’t harm Sutton’s production, in fact it should help minimise double coverage. Others may disagree, getting caught up with the inevitable post draft-fever, make your offer then!
The Associated Press
Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles
Another young player that finished the season well, Miles Sanders was a game changer during the Eagles’ late drive to secure a play-off spot.
The 3rd round pick out of Penn State had an up and down start to 2019, with Jordan Howard forcing him out of the starting role for a string of games before going down injured in week 9. Sanders capitalised on this, increasing his playing time and yardage increase until he peaked against the Redskins in week 14.
Howard is now completely out of the picture, having joined the Dolphins, leaving Sanders in competition with Boston Scott as the Eagles’ presumptive week 1 starter. It’s a battle he should win, considering his potential as a dual threat back and the relative draft capital invested in both.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons
You’ve all seen the stat doing the rounds at the moment, the Atlanta Falcons have a starting offense built solely from first round picks. Calvin Ridley is amongst those, with the third year receiver currently occupying the WR2 designation behind Julio Jones.
Jones is contracted through 2024 and given the huge salary the Falcons have invested in him, it doesn’t look like he’ll be going anywhere soon. So why Ridley?
It’s all about consistency. In both his years in the league so far, Ridley has locked up 92 and 93 targets respectively, catching 64 of those in 2018 and 63 in 2019, those catches have gone for 821 and 866 yards, with 10 TDs in his rookie year, compared to 7 last year.
He’s the perfect flex player for your line ups, averaging above 10 points per game and providing the perfect complement to Julio it Atlanta’s offense. With such a stacked WR class this year, chances are he’s available relatively cheap in your league, and with Julio entering a period in which some players decline, Ridley could be set to ease in the other direction.
TJ Hockenson – Detroit Lions
After week one of the 2019 season, Hockenson was cleared off waiver wires everywhere. The first rounder caught six passes from Matthew Stafford, going for 131 yards and a TD. Huge numbers for a rookie Tight End.
From there, things went downhill, with Hockenson only adding another 230 yards across the whole season. When you look at the cards dealt to the Iowa product, it’s not hard to see why his form trailed off, when Stafford went down injured, a combination of Jeff Driskel and David Blough stepped into uninspiringly fill the void and the Lions only managed one win after week three.
So, why trade for him now? Everyone knows that rookie Tight Ends are to be avoided in fantasy, so that shouldn’t put you off when looking at Hockenson’s rookie production. Instead look at the upside, this year’s TE class is poor, he was a top 10 NFL pick for obvious reasons last year, and when fit, his QB is one of the most reliable in the game. Pick him up cheap where you can, and watch him develop into one of the league’s elite TE options.
Marcus Mariota – Las Vegas Raiders
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Mariota – Las Vegas Raiders
This time last year I picked up Ryan Tannehill in 3 leagues, I didn’t get a complete bargain in all cases, but he was cheap for a QB in superflex leagues. The things I liked about Tannehill were, his work ethic, his commitment to his team, his experience as a starter and the precarious nature of the QB he was backing up.
Fast forward 12 months and the irony is there for all to see that we could say the exact same of that QB, Marcus Mariota. The new Raiders QB has always been the model of professionalism, he’s got a ton of starts (including playoff games) under his belt and he’s backing up Derek Carr, who just doesn’t seem to fit the Jon Gruden school of thought.
So, I’m picking up Mariota where I can this year, half the league had him down as QB1 in the 2015 draft class, and in places he has flashed exactly why they believed that. With a bit of encouragement and the freedom to use his legs, Mariota can certainly be a starter in the NFL, if Carr slips you can bet Mariota will be straight in. Buy low, and buy now!
Time to look in the basement of the NFC North. In there were find the Lions, with no witches and no wardrobes. Can Matt Patricia turn this franchise around?
entering the season
The Lions were under the 2nd year guidance of Matt Patricia, a Bill Belichick disciple. Rumour has it the pencil behind his ear has not changed or moved since being appointed.
The Lions went Tight End heavy during the offseason, signing Jesse James from Pittsburgh which ultimately turned out to be a poor investment, and drafting TJ Hockenson in the first round and Isaac Nauta in the the bargain basement 7th round of the 2019 draft.
Heading out of Ford Field was Ziggy Ansah who signed a 1 year deal with the Seahawks whilst Darrell Bevell came the other way from the Seahawks after being released shortly after the 2018 season to oversee offensive playcalling duties and did ok with the weapons at his disposal.
during the season
The Lions were actually fast starters going the first 3 games unbeaten including an opening weekend tie against the Cardinals followed up by wins against the Chargers and upsetting the Eagles away from home.
A much ridiculed NFL staple, the early bye week put pay to their season as they then went on to win just 1 of their remaining games of the season against the lowly Giants.
The main storyline was at the Quarterback position, where is was unearthed that Matthew Stafford played with a back injury, linked to a back fracture back from the 2018 season. From week 10, Jeff Driskel (5 games) and David Blough (3 games) were under center and the season spiraled from there, only scoring more than 20 points just once compared to 7/8 in the games with Stafford as their signal caller.
It wasn’t just the QB position which suffered as a result of injury. Running Back Kerryon Johnson continue his form of injury setbacks, just playing the 8 games this season. A patchup consisting of 6th round draft pick Ty Johnson, Seattle Seahawk castaway JD McKissic and Dallas Cowboy reject Bo Scarborough were employed from the back half of the season with Scarborough probably doing enough to earn a roster spot for next season. Other cameos at the running back position included Tra Carson, CJ Anderson and Paul Perkins. Enough said.
The running game numbers, something which OC Darrell Bevell is well known for were similar to the previous year and it’s fair to say that Bevell managed to get the most out of Stafford in his curtailed season. He was able to ensure that Stafford became the fastest player to reach 40,000 passing yards on a career.
In the passing game, Kenny Golladay probably had one of the most quiet 1190 yard season to be ever achieved and Marvin Jones was unable to replicate a decent 2018, finishing with just short of 800 yards on 62 receptions. talking of 62 receptions, that was the total that offseason FA signing Danny Amendola amassed on the season for 678 yards and 1 touchdown which came in week 1. He did have a passing touchdown in week 17 so a nice bookend season for him.
The defence was bottom 10 defence in terms of points allowed, turnovers, yards given up and 1st downs allowed.
A few gaps to fill for Detroit, but have the luxury of a pick #3 in the 2020 draft. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see them trade back in a QB needy year with lots of QBs ripe for the picking.
Wide receiver will probably be addressed after Marvin Jones is getting up there in age. There are a few holes on defence that need to be filled including defensive tackle and a passrusher. They may take a shot with a late round running back too to help cover for Kerryon Johnson, who will unlikely be trusted with a full workload.
It bodes well for the Lions that the most notable names that could hit free agency are Graham Glasgow, the versatile offensive lineman and Danny Amendola, an ageing slot receiver. The Lions may look to extend one of their more reliable defensive pieces in Darius Slay, too.
Talking of staying, Matt Patricia and co. are seemingly here to stay after no changes were made personnel wise. In a division where wins will be hard to come by, the outlook isn’t as bright as some other teams out there but if Stafford is able to stay healthy in 2020 (ditto Kerryon Johnson), the Lions could surprise next season. Don’t expect January football though.
You will have noticed that however hard you try it’s impossible to avoid watching the Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The day is seen as a North American event, where families get together and consume vast amounts of turkey, candied yam and cranberry sauce whilst fighting for the best spot in front of the tv to watch some gridiron.
What you may not know is that these festivities would not have been possible without the intervention of none other than King Henry VIII. As part of the 1536 English Reformation, which saw the Church of England break away from traditional Catholic rule, Henry VIII drastically reduced the number of national English church holidays from 147 to 27.
Some people, called Puritans, wanted to further purify the church by eliminating more holidays, including Christmas and Easter, and replace them with Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. One of the earliest English ‘Days of Thanksgiving’ was in fact called in 1588 after victory over the Spanish Armada.
By 1607 these Puritans, who were being persecuted for their beliefs, moved to a more free Holland, but just 13 years later, fearing their children were becoming too Dutch, decided to emigrate to America, after obtaining a land grant north of Virginia, to be called New England.
399 years ago the famous Mayflower voyage of 1620 set off from Southampton in September, with 102 passengers, including William Mullins from my home town of Dorking in Surrey, and it arrived at Cape Cod in November.
The passengers, known as the Pilgrim Fathers, are described in history as a symbol of early European colonisation of what would become the USA. Just one year before, in 1619, a smaller group of Pilgrims who made it alive to Charles City County, declared they would forever celebrate the arrival as a day of thanksgiving. Two years later this day was celebrated by Pilgrims together with Native Americans, especially as it was a terrific harvest.
Fast forward to 1863 and it was the 16th President Abraham Lincoln who declared Thanksgiving an official holiday, thanks in part to a 40 year campaign led by author Sarah Josepha Hale, the lady who penned ‘Mary had a little lamb’. Lincoln made it law that Thanksgiving was the last Thursday in November.
In 1939 President Franklin D.Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the second-last Thursday, and in 1941 he signed a joint resolution to change Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday. Playing American football on Thanksgiving goes back to the late 19th Century, with the likes of college teams Yale and Princeton playing a recorded game in 1876.
The first official NFL Thanksgiving Day games were played in 1920, with the majority of teams now dead and buried, including the Detroit Heralds, who lost 0-28 to the Dayton Triangles.
The tradition of the Detroit Lions playing Thanksgiving games began in 1934, a 16-19 loss to the Chicago Bears, the legendary Bears back Bronco Nagurski throwing the winning score to Bill Hewitt, one of the last NFL players to refuse to wear any form of headgear.
Back in the 1930s NFL teams had autonomy on when they would play on a game week. Lions owner George A.Richards, who owned a local radio Station called WJR, negotiated a deal with NBC to carry the game live across the radio network nationally. The decision to move the game was huge success, both at the University of Detroit Stadium, with a then record crowd of 26,000 in attendance, and on the national airwaves.
The second traditional Thanksgiving Day team, the Dallas Cowboys, began their Turkey Thursday streak in 1966, just six seasons after joining the NFL as an expansion franchise. The Cowboys agreed with the NFL that they would only host a Thanksgiving game if they were guaranteed future games on the same day. This tradition only lasted nine years, as then commissioner Pete Rozelle swapped out the Cowboys for the St Louis Cardinals in 1975 and then in 1977.
The Cardinals lost the two games by a combined 59 points so the Cowboys came rushing back to fill the slot, and from 1978 the Lions have hosted an early Thanksgiving game and the Cowboys have hosted a later Thanksgiving game. Ever eager to make the NFL bigger and better this two-game tradition expanded to three in 2006, to include a juicy game, often a marquee divisional rivalry game. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the Lions have played the most Thanksgiving Day games (79), and also have the most wins (37) and losses (40). The Cowboys are inevitably second with 51 games, 31 wins and 19 losses.
The 2019 Thanksgiving Day games feature the Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack led Chicago Bears travelling to the Motor City, the playoff bound Buffalo Bills flying to Dallas to play the Super Bowl 37 and 38 matchup, and the New Orleans Saints line up in Atlanta against a red-hot Falcons team (for two of the last three weeks!). The Saints are one of a small handful of NFL teams who are undefeated on Thanksgiving, and in case the game feels familiar it was the Falcons who hosted the Saints in the 2018 primetime Turkey twizzler.
It’s always a bonus to get extra NFL coverage, so make sure you leave work early on Thursday and grab a Turkey sub on the way home. It may start off with a bit of a burnt offering, but it should end with a sweet treat in the late game. Just such a shame that Fox decommissioned the rather handsome Galloping Gobbler award in 2016 (incidentally a joint win by the Cowboys Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott).
As a little bonus here are ten things you didn’t know about Thanksgiving NFL history:
The first NFL Thanksgiving Day game were played on November 25 1920. Six games were played, half the teams failed to score a single point, and one contest between the Columbus Panhandles and the Elyria Athletics ended in a 0-0 tie.
The Chicago Bears hold the NFL record as the only team to have played in the first and to play in the next Thanksgiving Day contests. That’s a 99 year history as they first played in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys.
Only one NFL team has never played a regular season NFL game on Thanksgiving Day. The snub belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who joined the league as an expansion team in 1995.
Four current NFL teams, and ten defunct teams, are undefeated on Thanksgiving Day. The Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints are 2-0 and the Panthers and Texans are 1-0.
The most points scored by a team on Thanksgiving Day was by the Miami Dolphins – 55 – in a crushing win over the St Louis Cardinals. on November 24 1977. Dolphins QB Bob Griese tossed 6 TDS on just 15 completions, with three scores caught by WR Nat Moore.
The highest scoring professional Thanksgiving Day game was held in 1962, between two AFL teams, the Denver Broncos and the New York Titans (who became the Jets two years later). The final score was 46-45 and the winner was caught by the Titans WR Art ‘King Pin’ Powell.
Thanksgiving Day 2012 was the date the infamous ‘butt fumble’ took place. The New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez, in fight or flight mode, ran directly into the rear end of one of his offensive linemen and coughed up the ball to the Patriots, who ended up scoring 49.
In the 21st century every NFL team to have played a game has scored points. The last team to fail to score on Turkey Day was the 1999 Miami Dolphins, who lost 0-20 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Just five Thanksgiving Day games have gone into overtime, since the fifth quarter was introduced to regular season games in 1974. The most recent O/T contest, in 2011, was won by the Houston Texans 34-31 over the Detroit Lions. Matt Schaub led Houston on the winning drive.
The triple-header Thanksgiving NFL format only began in 2006, with a non-Lions/Cowboys prime time evening matchup. The first of these juicy games was won by the Kansas City Chiefs 19-10 against the Denver Broncos. K.C. kicker Lawrence Tynes scored 13 points.
So there is a look back at one some history in the the NFL, we’ll start to be doing more here at the Full10Yards in our Retro branch which will launch in the new year. Head over to Twitter and follow @F10YRetro and @NFLFanInEngland for updates when it kicks off!
It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Sad times.
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.
Baltimore Ravens 5-2
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-4
Cleveland Browns 2-5
Cincinnati Bengals 0-8
Midseason grade: B+
How has it gone so far?
The Ravens came flying out of the blocks with bug wins against the Dolphins and Cardinals. Back to back defeats to the Chiefs and the Browns raised questions about if this team was “for real” but a subsequent 3 game winning streak including an impressive road win in Seattle sees the Ravens with a healthy lead in the division.
Lamar Jackson is on historic pace for yards on the ground and has shown progress throwing the football in year 2. The defence isn’t as feared as it once was but still ranks highly and is 11th against the pass and 2nd against the run respectively.
Rest of Season Outlook
It’s fair to say that the schedule stiffens for the Ravens down the stretch. With games to come against opponents with a plus 500 record in the Patriots,Texans, Rams, 49ers and Bills. A weak division means this commanding lead would appear to be extremely secure however with a divisional game against each opponent and the lowly Jets providing the other contest. Even on a “worse case scenario” basis you have to fancy the Ravens getting to at least 9-7 from here and that should be ample to win the division.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 – Division Winners
Midseason grade: D
How has it gone so far?
The product has certainly not lived up to the preseason hype. Steamrolled by the Titans and 49ers along with close losses to the Rams and Seahawks the Browns face an uphill tussle to get back to relevance in the division. A defeat coming out of the bye week to the Patriots has again raised questions about discipline and preparation
A big road win at Baltimore was the lone bright spark on what has been a disappointing campaign. The promising end to the 2019 season seems like a distant memory and Baker Mayfield appears to be regressing in year 2.
Rest of Season Outlook
Ironically despite the record, everything is still in play for the Browns. The schedule is such that 5 divisional games remain and as stated earlier, they have won the only game of such nature to date. The plan will be to go 6-0 in the AFC North and hope that tie breakers enable them to find a way into a wildcard berth. For that to happen though they need to improve massively, reducing turnovers and penalties, a category that they lead the league in with an average of 10 per game.
The talent is there, can they turn it around?
Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9 – Miss Playoffs
Midseason grade: C
How has it gone so far?
Smashed by the Patriots on opening night and losing your starting quarterback part way through your 2nd game isn’t exactly the way the Steelers drew up the plans for this season. The reality is though that the Steelers season was probably over before it had even really began following the QB injury. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges have anchored the squad to some respectable performances and with a turnover differential of plus 7 they are getting opportunities within games.
Big names JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have struggled to reproduce anything close to what they did a year ago and the offence lacks weapons outside these 2. Defensively the rank middle of the pack but an in season trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick signals intent to improve the playmaking on the back end.
Rest of Season Outlook
Similar to the Browns in that the division schedule is heavily back loaded so 4 games still to play in that regard and an opportunity if they can build momentum to make a late run. Difficult to trust that Mason Rudolph will be able to get them there however. Ranked 30th in both team passing and rushing there just isn’t enough production from this unit. The defence ranks 6th in points allowed so the Steelers will stick around in games but its hard to see anything better than a 500 record at this point.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 6-10 – Miss Playoffs
Midseason grade: E
How has it gone so far?
A record of 0-8 will pretty much answer that question. With the worst record in the NFL at the week 8 stage the Bengals can’t get any worse. Ranked 28th offensively and 27th defensively, unfortunately there is not an obvious quick fix as the poor play is on both sides of the ball.
Offensively AJ Green has not been able to dress after picking up an injury in the preseason and Joe Mixon has not been able to get anything going on the ground. Defensively the pass rush has been a little non-existent with only 9 sacks and they have not taken the ball away with any regularity.
Rest of Season Outlook
There are some winnable games on the schedule with games against the Browns, Dolphins and Jets all on the horizon so nobody should be panicking around a 0-16 season just yet. Unfortunately for the Bengals, wins will now likely only hinder draft capital as the season is well and truly lost.
The remaining games need to be used as an assessment of the roster and a decision needs to be made with regards to the long term future of Zach Taylor. The Bengals are very likely to pick high in the upcoming draft and now that Ryan Finley is in the driving seat, his performances over the back nine will determine how high up in the rounds they take their next QB (if at all).
Regular Season Record Prediction: 2-14 – Top 3 pick
Green Bay Packers (7-1)
Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
Detroit Lions (3-3-1)
Chicago Bears (3-4)
Midseason grade: A
How has it gone so far?
One of the most intriguing storylines to follow at the beginning of the season was the union of new HC Matt Lafleur and franchise QB Aaron Rodgers, so far the results have been good with the offence improving with every game.
In the early part of the season, it was the defence that was leading the team, DC Mike Pettine’s unit looking vastly improved from the previous year. Free agent signees Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith have contributed hugely, added to standout corner Jaire Alexander and leading tackler in the NFL Blake Martinez, have led to a unit that may have conceded yards but has stood up when needed.
Given the injury suffered by leading receiver Davante Adams, Rodgers has entered one of his hot streaks at precisely the right time.
Rest of Season Outlook
The Packers look well set for a playoff run, time will tell whether it will take them all the way to Miami in February. With the head to head wins vs all their division opponents thus far, they are looking quite rosy to maybe even push for a wildcard round bye.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 12-4
Midseason grade: B
How has it gone so far?
Behind the leading rusher in the NFL in Dalvin Cook, the Vikings have bulldozed their way into the playoff discussion. Beyond this though, there has been some discord within the group, notably receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen expressing frustration with the offence. Kirk Cousins’ improved play of late has helped to quell these noises, with Diggs especially going on a tear of late to the tune of 453 receiving yards in the last 3 weeks. The defence has continued to perform at a high level throughout, with Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Eric Kendricks particularly impressing.
Rest of Season Outlook:
With the talent throughout on the defensive side of the ball, and if the offensive line can support Dalvin Cook, this team can compete with anyone. They’ll need continuing support from Kirk Cousins though, where for some, the questions remain. They’ll need to settle the score with the Packers in the return fixture and also negotiate a tough stretch immediately starting with the Chiefs and then the Cowboys. Negotiate that, they could look at a first round bye.
Regular Season Record Prediction:11-5
Midseason Grade: C
How has it gone so far?
The Lions have been competitive in every game this season and could easily find themselves right in the mix for a playoff spot. However, poor execution at crucial times have led to a middle of the pack record. They have lost late leads in 2 of their losses to the Chiefs and the Packers as well as in the tie with the Cardinals, with redzone inefficiency plaguing them in the Packers loss in particular.
There have been high spots for the team with QB Matthew Stafford having a very good year. Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson have also been playmakers this year before the latter’s injury, TJ Hockenson has hinted at what might be to come from the TE position too.
Perhaps surprisingly, given HC Matt Patricia’s pedigree, the defence has been the bigger issue. They have struggled especially against the run, where Mike Daniels’ injury has been especially problematic.
Quandre Diggs’ recent trade to Seattle has been met with scepticism too, depriving the back end of the defence with one of their key players.
Rest of Season Outlook
Judging by the 2 teams that preceeded them in this Half-Term report, it is probably a long shot that the Lions taste January football this year, but as a long term view, the Lions fans must be optimistic about some playoff football sooner rather than later. That being said, their schedule does not look too tough with games against Oakland, a double header vs the Bears along with tussles against the Broncos, Redskins and Buccaneers.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-7-1
Midseason grade: D
How has it gone so far?
The expected step forward for the Bears offence in the second year of HC Matt Nagy’s reign has yet to come to fruition. The offence currently ranks 27th in PPG, with both the run and pass games struggling to get out of second gear.
While QB Mitch Trubisky has yet to prove his pedigree as a starting calibre player at this level, playcalling has also been an issue at times. The coaches have seemed to go away from the run too early at times, placing too much pressure on the young signal caller. While Trubisky’s development is crucial to the future success of the Bears, at the moment the best chance of success would surely involve committing fully to the rungame and using Trubisky to take judicious shots downfield to keep the defences honest.
The defence is still performing at a very high level (if not quite the league leading unit of 2018), Mack, Trevathan, Floyd, Goldman, Clinton-Dix, Fuller et al are still a fearsome unit, although lineman Akiem Hicks is a big loss after his loss to IR following his elbow injury.
It wouldn’t be a Bears season without kicking troubles either, following Eddy Piniero’s potential game winning missed kick in week 8.
Rest of Season Outlook
While this team certainly could go on a run, they have a hard road back to the playoffs with games remaining against fellow NFC playoff hopefuls Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Rams. Possibly the best case scenario for the Bears would be that week 17 at the Vikings ended up a playoff eliminator, they have a lot of work in front of them to get that far.
It’s the first of 4 London games this weekend as part of the International Series, so let’s take a trip down memory lane at 5 memorable moments in the history of the game played this side of the pond.
5. Allen Hurns TD vs Buffalo
Despite 4 punts in the opening 5 drives, this game came alive shortly after as Buffalo and Jacksonville traded blows. In what was supposed to be an easier assignment than other years at “home”, the Jags raced out to a 27-3 lead. Then 28 unanswered points from Buffalo, led by EJ Manuel saw the Bills take the lead inside of 5 minutes left in the game.
Blake Bortles then escapes the pressure, rolls to his left and throws a pinpoint 31 yard bomb in to the front corner of the endzone where Allen Hurns managed to dive, touch his elbow/shoulder in bounds on the slide for one of the best touchdowns seen at Wembley stadium.
4. The tied game/Missed field goal
Washington and Cincinatti produced a decent matchup in this International Series game but it was a game full of turnovers and missed field goals.
Kirk Cousins threw for 458 yards (might take him a whole season to accomplish that this year!) in a game that was nip and tuck all game.
In overtime, Kirk Cousins drove 67 yards to the Bengals 16 yards line for Dustin Hopkins to miss the 34 yard field goal, leading to the first ever tie in London.
3. Matt Prater field goal
The Detroit Lions found themselves 21-0 down at half time in this one despite being the favourites. They were still 21-10 down going in to the 4th quarter.
Deep in the 4th, the Lions managed to score a touchdown but FAIL the 2pt conversion, leaving the score at 21-19 to the Falcons. The Falcons were unable to run the clock down and left 1:38 on the clock after pinning the Lions down inside their own 10.
Matthew Stafford drove the Lions down immediately, with big plays to Golden Tate and Theo Riddick. After a Stafford spike, there was :04 left in the game. Matt Prater steps up and misses from 43 yards. However, due to a delay of game penalty, Prater got another shot 5 yards further back. Of course, he nails it straight through and the comeback is complete.
2. Titans Tried for 2
In a strange game between the Titans and the Chargers, the trend for going for two at the death may have started here.
Down for the majority of the game, the Titans thought they found the endzone on 3rd and goal on a Mariota scramble but was overruled. On 4th and goal, they go to Luke Stocker on the run fake with 35 seconds left on the clock.
Mike Vrabel and co decided to get out with the win by trying to go for a two point conversion.
Mariota’s pass to Tajae Sharp was incomplete, but due to defensive holding, they get another go from the 1 yard line. Give it to Derrick Henry. No, don’t be silly. They try another play deep in the tomfoolery playbook to Taywan Taylor but Adrian Phillips was able to tip the pass, giving the Chargers the win.
1. Landon Calling
Couldn’t get through the article without a pun (and it’s a beauty to be fair!) but here is one for the defensive guys!
In a cold Autumn evening in Twickenham, there was a red hot play on the defensive side of the ball.
In what was a pretty poor game overall, the one highlight was with the Giants 10-3 behind, Landon Collins picking off Case Keenum at the 45 yards line and literally going through the whole Rams team into the endzone.
This helped the Giants facilitate a 17-10 win at the home of Rugby and is regarded by many as the single greatest play in London to date.
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.
Draft selections: David Montgomery (3.9), Riley Ridley (4.24), Duke Shelley (6.32), Kerrith Whyte Jr. (7.8), Stephan Denmark (7.24)
Offseason key additions: CB Buster Skrine, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Mike Davis
Offseason key departures: CB Bryce Callahan, S Adrian Amos, RB Jordan Howard, K Cody Parkey
Super Bowl odds: 14/1
The Bears had a breakout season last year led by the addition of Khalil Mack. The defence rocked opponents to the tune of a divisional crown. After a successful season the DC Vic Fangio departed for a head coaching position in Denver. Chicago did a wonderful job in replacing him and the rest of the players lost in free agency. Chuck Pagano will have reinforcements in the names of Buster Skrine and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The key to defending the North will be to continue shutting down opponents and grinding out the clock on offense. If David Montgomery has a fast start it will be a long year for the rest of the division.
Look out for:
Mitch Trubisky. He must continue to improve as this team is beginning to look like the Jaguars of a couple seasons ago. In order for this team to be a legitimate super bowl threat Trubisky must progress into a franchise QB.
Draft selections: TJ Hockenson (1.08), Jahlani Tavai (2.11), Will Harris (3.17), Austin Bryant (4.15), Amani Oruwariye (5.8), Travis Fulgham (6.11), Ty Johnson (6.13), Isaac Nauta (7.10), PJ Johnson (7.15)
Offseason key additions: EDGE Trey Flowers, CB Justin Coleman, WR Danny Amendola, TE Jesse James, RB C.J. Anderson, DT Mike Daniels
Head coach Matt Patricia is trying to emulate the New England Patriots, his old employer. By signing several ex-Patriots to the roster this team is equivalent to a New England Patriots B squad. Last season was a disaster in Detroit as it was riddled with injuries and losses. Detroit fans are growing restless with GM Bob Quinn and Matthew Stafford as the team hasn’t won a playoff game since 1992 and has never won the NFC North division. However, some may say Coach Patricia is re-aligning the ship towards calmer seas as this offseason looks promising. Key additions of Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman should help limit opponents scoring opportunities. Jesse James and first round draft pick TJ Hockenson should help in both the run and pass game this Fall.
Look out for:
This season will be the best ground game in Detroit since the great Barry Sanders danced around the field. Wit the addition of two new tight ends and a new offense coordinator that likes to run Kerryon Johnson may put up monster numbers this season.
Draft selections: Rashan Gary (1.12), Darnell Savage Jr. (1.21), Elgton Jenkins (2.12), Jace Sternerger (3.11), Kingsley Keke (5.12), Ka’dar Hollman (6.12), Dexter Williams (6.21), Ty Summers (7.12)
Offseason key additions: S Adrian Amos, EDGE Za’Darius Smith, EDGE Preston Smith, G Billy Turner
Green Bay has underperformed the last few seasons and Aaron Rodgers can’t seem to stay healthy. Matt Lefleur is now the man in charge in Green Bay. After an offseason of adding talent and protection for Rodgers there is no excuses to miss out on the playoffs once again. This team is built to win now, only time will tell if they do.
Look out for:the health along the offensive line. There is little depth behind the starting line. If one gets injured Rodgers may have to do a lot of running once again this season.
Draft selections: Garrett Bradbury (1.18), Irv Smith Jr. (2.18), Alexander Mattison (3.38), Dru Samia (4.12), Cameron Smith (5.24), Armon Watts (6.17), Marcus Epps (6.18), Olisaemeka Udoh (6.20), Kris Boyd (7.3), Dillon Mitchell (7.25), Olabisi Johnson (7.33), Austin Cutting (7.36)
Offseason key additions: G Josh Kline, DT Shamar Stephen
Offseason key departures: DT Sheldon Richardson, C Nick Easton, RB Latavius Murray, RT Mike Remmers, G Tom Compton, S Andrew Sendejo, S George Iloka, CB Marcus Sherels
Super Bowl odds: 25/1
Last year there were incredibly high expectations for the Vikings. After signing Kirk Cousins to a massive deal the Vikings were unable to keep up with the NFC North darlings in Chicago. This offseason Minnesota was unable to resign many of their playmakers who helped them reach the NFC championship game two seasons ago. There is no more pressure than ever on Cousins to live up to his massive contract to fight for the division crown. With many holes left unfilled it will be a hard task.
Look out for:With a lot of losses in the defensive backfield I predict a regression as Harrison Smith struggles to cover the whole field. The defence as a whole will not be as intimidating after losing a lot of depth from a year ago.