Season in Review – Kansas City Chiefs

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

As we get to the end of our Season in Review series, we finally get to the story with the fairy tale ending. Here’s the lowdown on the 2019 campaign that saw the Kansas City Chiefs lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 50 years.


ENTERING THE SEASON


2018 had been a successful year for the Chiefs, winning the AFC West and getting within a coin toss of reaching the Super Bowl. An overtime loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots may have ended differently if Patrick Mahomes had started with the ball instead of Tom Brady…

In the offseason, KC released two of their most established players in linebacker Justin Houston (now with the Colts) and safety Eric Berry (still a free agent). They also shipped out newly acquired receiver Sammie Coates, now starring in the XFL for the Houston Roughnecks.

DE Dee Ford was franchise tagged before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, while Frank ‘The Shark’ Clark came in from Seattle. He was joined by running back Carlos Hyde, corner Bashaud Breeland and the Honey Badger himself, safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

All this trade action left KC with no first-round option in the 2019 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, with their first selection (#56 overall), the Chiefs acquired WR/return specialist Mecole Hardman from Georgia, who went on to the Pro Bowl in his first season. Their other Round 2 choice, safety Juan Thornhill, formed a solid partnership with Mathieu.

During pre-season, Chiefs fans wouldn’t have had a sense of what was to come. Of course, they beat the Bengals but lost the other three warm-up games to the Steelers, 49ers and Packers.


DURING THE SEASON


In 2019 – the Chiefs’ 50th NFL campaign, 60th in total and seventh under Andy Reid as Head Coach – they shot out of the gate with four straight wins. As well as going to Jacksonville (three receiving TDs for Sammy Watkins), Oakland (four TD passes by Patrick Mahomes in the second quarter) and Detroit (three rushing touchdowns), they dished out a rare L to the much-fancied Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. One of Hardman’s two receiving plays that day was an 83-yard score during which he was clocked at 21.7 mph.


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But given how the season started and finished, it’s hard to believe that KC then went on a run of just two wins in six. Their 19-13 loss to the Colts ended a 25-game streak of scoring at least 25 points, and they also fell at home to the Texans (having only 20 minutes of possession didn’t help). Matt Moore stepped in at QB after Mahomes injured his knee in a TNF win over Denver, and started two home games: a loss to the Packers and a win against Minnesota, decided by a Harrison Butker FG with three seconds left.

Mahomes returned with a bang to face the Titans, attempting 50 passes, racking up 446 passing yards and nailing three TD throws, including a 63-yarder to Hardman, but it still ended in defeat. Luckily, it was their last one of the campaign.

James Kenney/Associated Press

Through their sticky patch, KC had stumbled from a confident 4-0 to an unsteady 6-4. But from Week 11 onwards – when the Chiefs dispatched the LA Chargers in Mexico City – they became the model of perfection, recording nine wins in a row, including The Big One in Miami on 2 February. 

After their bye week, the Kansas City defence really stepped it up, keeping Oakland to just nine points and running a blocked kick back to the house with the final play. After a 23-16 win over the Patriots, which sealed the AFC West crown for the fourth time on the bounce, the Chiefs held both the Broncos and Bears to a single field goal in easy wins. 

In Week 17, Hardman returned a kick-off for a 104-yard TD in another victory against the Chargers, earning them the No.2 seed in the AFC and a free pass through to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chiefs battled back from 24-0 down after 15 minutes to see off the Houston Texans 51-31, with Mahomes throwing three of his five TDs passes to TE Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams running in two more. Their points tally was a KC postseason record, it sealed back-to-back playoff wins for the first time in franchise history and it was first time any team has scored TDs on seven consecutive drives since 1970, when Kansas last won the Super Bowl. (Oooh, spooky…)

Jeff Curry

The Chiefs hosted the AFC Championship, where they got their revenge over the Tennessee Titans in front of the Arrowhead faithful. Again, they trailed at the end of the first quarter but five TDs (including two for Tyreek Hill) saw them advance to Super Bowl LIV with a 35-24 win.

As we all know by now, Mahomes rallied his team once last time in the season finale, leading a late charge to beat the 49ers 31-20 and take their first championship title since Super Bowl IV exactly 50 years ago. Read my take on the game here.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


Heading into the offseason, it’s obvious that KC really need a new quarterback… ha ha, as if.

While they may need a new backup, with Matt Moore entering free agency, their top priority should be re-signing Chris Jones, the team’s sack leader for the last two years. The defensive lineman’s contract could set them back around $20m a year – akin to what they pay Frank Clark – and when the time comes, they’ll have to pay Mahomes mega-bucks too. This won’t leave GM Brett Veach much of his $13.9 million cap space (the sixth lowest in the league) to be as aggressive as he has in previous offseasons unless something else gives.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Of the Chiefs’ 24 players whose contracts are expiring, LeSean McCoy, Terrell Suggs and Spencer Ware are three that will probably depart or even retire. And when it comes to April’s NFL Draft, the Chiefs only have five picks, having traded away their sixth and seventh rounders. As champions, they’ll pick last, starting at #32 overall.

Given the free-agent status of Jones, as well as Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs may target a defensive lineman (Jordan Elliott from Missouri?), cornerback (Clemson’s AJ Terrell seems a possibility) or linebacker (I’m seeing Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma and LSU’s Patrick Queen mocked to the Chiefs). Another edge rusher could complement Clark well, so Curtis Weaver (Boise State) or Zack Baun (Wisconsin) may also be in the mix.

On the other side of the ball, WR Sammy Watkins has another year left but he didn’t score after Week 1. The Chiefs could release him, save a shed-load of money and pluck a young pup from a loaded 2020 class. They could also upgrade at running back, either with a draft pick like Johnathan Taylor from Wisconsin or maybe a free agent, with the names Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida being bandied about.

But as you’d expect with a Super Bowl-winning side with a much-respected HC, there’s a lot of silver lining and not very much cloud in the long-range forecast. So if you fancy a flutter on the year ahead, the Chiefs (in or around 6/1) are the current favourites to defend their title next year in Tampa.

Full10Takeaways – Super Bowl LIV

By Tim Monk @Tim_MonkF10Y

The Super Bowl is done and dusted and the analysis is ongoing for the foreseeable future. Here I take a look at some storylines coming out of the Super Bowl and the 2 teams.


The sizeable difference in talent at the QB position

Patrick Mahomes only needed 1 quarter to obliterate double digit leads held by the 49ers, Titans and Texans in this years playoffs. Mahomes led the Chiefs to 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter in the biggest game of them all. By doing so, he has put down another bit of tarmac on his path towards Canton.

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On the other side, Jimmy Garoppolo went missing in the 4th quarter after doing what he was told for the first 45 minutes. “Jimmy G” seems to split opinion on how good/bad a Quarterback he is; The yay-sayers will point to his winning record as a starter, his TDs and his yards per play. The nay-sayers will point to the scheme, the HC and his supporting cast getting YAC, masking the actual air yards per attempt.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, there was a gulf in class on the field at the Quarterback position and was essentially what it came down to at Hard Rock on Sunday.

The one big question to be taken from SF though is the state Kyle Shanahan’s belief, trust and allegiance to his handsome Quarterback. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Jimmy G will not be the SF 49ers QB after next season (or maybe even the 2020 season!) if the tendencies of the HC from Sunday’s game are to be any indication of that relationship.

One thing we will learn in 2020 is whether or not Jimmy G can bounce back, whether he’ll thrive under the pressure and the character that the man possesses.


The running back debate

Super Bowl running backs Damien Williams and Raheem Mostert were both undrafted free agents.

One could argue they have ascended into NFL relevance and proved all the critics wrong and are here to stay in the NFL after bouncing around the league trying to find their spot. They recently exchanged jersey’s due to their friendship and appreciation of one another, leading to Mostert actually handing back his exchanged jersey to the Super Bowl winning RB.

@anezbitt on Twitter

Williams was the first player in Super Bowl history to garner 100 rush yards along with a rush and receiving TD. Raheem Mostert was one of the stories if not THE story of the 2nd half of the NFL season culminating in 220 rush yards and 4 TDs in the NFC championship game.

Both these players are on paltry contracts in comparison to the other skills positions on offence and the running back position is undervalued generally by most of the 32 teams in the league.

Despite their efforts in getting their respective teams to the biggest game of them all, they’ll have a tough time persuading each of their front offices for a healthy rise.

Why?

Todd Gurley, LeVeon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon and Jerick McKinnon are all running backs that have been paid handsomely over the past few years and it’s fair to say those investments have not returned the required production relative to the rest of the league. Add in Derrick Henry’s recent quotes of wanting to equal Ezekiel Elliott’s money, it’s very hard for running backs to get their due in this league.


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Deebo Samuel could be a star

One of the stars from the losing side in Super Bowl LIV was Deebo Samuel.

Samuel, a 2nd round pick, enjoyed a stellar first season in the NFL totaling over 1,000 scrimmage yards (inc payoffs) and 6 total touchdowns.

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Erza Shaw / Getty

He may have only mustered 159 of those yards in the postseason and may not have found pay dirt in January, but Deebo Samuel put down a marker in his first season and is a perfect fit for the Kyle Shanahan system due to his rushing ability and his versatility to fulfil a variety of roles in this highly creative offence including as a blocker.

Expect more to come from “Deebo” in 2020.


1 curse laid to rest, 1 still to pacify.


In the NFL there are two well known curses. The Madden Curse and the Super Bowl hangover.

The Madden curse for those that don’t know, stems from an American Football computer game. Each year, a different players sports the spotlight and hits the game’s front cover and bestowed upon them, a curse which has thought to be such a thing, that players have declined the opportunity to appear on it.

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Go back over the past 10 years and you’ll see some of the greatest names to play the sport and the majority will find their way in to the Hall of Fame. They include Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Odell Beckham and Tom Brady. For each season each superstar graced the Madden cover, a mysterious spell was cast over their following season. All but 1 player (Richard Sherman) saw their PFF grade drop from the previous season and as a rule, you were lucky to play all 16 games and in some instances fell off the face of the earth (insert image of Peyton Hillis on a milk carton).

Step forward Patrick Mahomes. The man who can do no wrong.

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The Kansas City QB glowed over the red and yellow background for Madden 20 and has hopefully laid to rest the curse once and for all. But, it was looking dicey for the new prodigy as a dislocated knee injury struck Mahomes down during the regular season. He was able to see the field again fairly quickly and go on to win a Super Bowl win to add to his MVP award last season hopefully allays all the fears from the front cover going forward. Or perhaps we can just continue to keep Mahomes on it forever more and give him the gig full time?

The other curse is a 2-parter: The Super Bowl Curse and the Super Bowl Hangover.

The curse is relating to the team hosting the Super Bowl; No team has ever played the big game in their own back yard. Atlanta and Minnesota, the 2 hosting teams prior to Miami this year were more than equipped to go all the way, only to fail. Minnesota were however, the closest to breaking that curse when they got all the way to the championship game (including the Minneaplois Miracle), eventually losing to Philadelphia.

It’s a 54 year curse that is yet to be broken…on to you Tampa.

Whilst Tampa cannot attribute their poor recent run of form to a Super Bowl appearence, Carolina, Atlanta and most recent sufferers, the LA Rams have all struggled after Super Bowl defeats.

This is known as the Super Bowl hangover.

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Some people point to a shorter offseason due to an extended run from the season prior whilst some point to a change in attitude in the locker room, with many players demanding a more lucrative salary and the coaching staff being poached by other teams wanting to taste the same success.

Only 3 teams have managed a Super Bowl win after a Super Bowl loss and whilst the league is aligned to making it difficult to achieve the feat, it seems unexplainable the struggles some teams suffer after an appearance in the big game.

It’s not something the Patriots have had to worry about however, much to the dismay of the other 15 AFC teams.

Super Bowl LIV: Reid all about it

By Sean Tyler (@seantyleruk)

In his 21 seasons as Head Coach, Andy Reid had won everything except the thing that mattered most: the Super Bowl. Having missed out 15 years ago with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid finally broke the hoodoo on Sunday evening (or Monday morning here in the UK), overseeing a 31-20 victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid reacts as he is doused following Kansas City’s 31-20 Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
David J. Phillip / AP

Ahead of Sunday’s triumph in South Florida, Reid’s impressive list of accomplishments – 207 regular season and 14 postseason wins, 10 divisions titles and seven conference championship games – still had a hollow ring to it. But that’s all changed with career victory #222 and Super Bowl victory #1.

After the game, when asked if it was worth the wait, even that superb walrus moustache couldn’t hide his broad grin. “Absolutely,” came Reid’s reply. “Absolutely.” And for all the talent and potential in the 49ers’ camp, who could begrudge ‘Big Red’ his moment of glory?


Did the game stick to the script?


With no clear pre-game favourite, this one was a tough one to call beforehand. As it happened, the momentum ebbed and flowed, and the result hung in the balance till the end.

In many ways, Super Bowl LIV in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium was exactly as billed. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named the game’s MVP, Niners kicker Robbie Gould maintained his faultless postseason record with two field goals and two PATs, and Kansas trailed in the final quarter before yet another comeback. 

And then again, Mahomes struggled for much of the night, both tight ends had understated outings and the Niners’ running game wasn’t quite the well-oiled machine we’ve seen of late. Granted, Kyle Shanahan’s attack used play-action and misdirection to keep the KC defence guessing, but Raheem Mostert (58 yards) and Tevin Coleman (28 yards) largely flattered to deceive.


Did Mahomes deserve the MVP crown?


Yes. And no.

San Francisco’s best bet was always to keep Mahomes off the field by dominating possession with their running game, then keep him under wraps as best they could. And for much of the game, Robert Saleh’s defensive game plan worked.

And yet, despite starting slowly again, Mahomes still rushed for the opening TD and threw for three more. With ‘The Mahomes Factor’, the Chiefs can win from anywhere, at any time. He began with a three-and-out, was pressured all night and when flushed out of the pocket, he was forced to scramble or attempt a risky pass. Hence, he didn’t deliver the all-out air raid some pundits predicted.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates a Super Bowl victory on Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers.
Getty Images

His stats – 26-of-42 for 286 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs (for the first time this season) – don’t scream MVP but it’s more about context than box score. Sure, he was far from perfect, following up sacks with interceptions to Fred Warner and Bashaud Breeland on consecutive second-half possessions, but when it mattered most, he rose to the occasion.

On the other side, Garoppolo (20-of-31 for 219 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) found some rhythm with Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne, connected with Kyle Juszczyk for a 15-yard TD and set up Raheem Mostert’s 1-yard rushing score. But he also gifted Bashaud Breeland an interception with an unnecessary and desperate throw in the first quarter. And that was really how it went – he didn’t play poorly but equally, it never felt like it was going to be the Jimmy G show.

Hats should also be tipped in the direction of SF’s Deebo Samuel for the most rushing yards for a receiver in a Super Bowl (53 yards on just three carries), and the Chiefs’ Damien Williams (17 carries, 104 yards, 2 TDs), the only 100-yard rusher on the day. The guy had his struggles when playing for the Dolphins on the very same field but he seems to have left them well behind him.

But despite these fine efforts, and those of trench warriors such as Chris Jones and Mitchell Schwartz (check out our Super Bowl podcast for more on them), the MVP was probably Mahomes, if only for what he masterminded in the final quarter. Which brings me to…


The turning point


At the end of the third, after Mahomes was sacked and then intercepted, the Niners were up by 10 and looking good for their sixth Super Bowl title. The Lombardi Trophy was heading back to California, right?

Wrong. Having seen the Texans and Titans games, we know better than to rule the Chiefs out, especially when the odds are stacked against them. They were at least 10 points behind in both those postseason match-ups and eventually won by at least as many. It’s like they need to be down by double figures before they realise the seriousness of the situation.

And in Miami, lightning struck yet again. Mahomes turned the game on its head by finally morphing into the gunslinger. Facing a third-and-15 from his own 35, he had the nerve to drop back nine steps before connecting on a 44-yard bomb to the turbo-charged Tyreek Hill (9 catches, 105 yards). Four plays later, Mahomes hit Kelce for a 1-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 20-17.

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Charlie Riedel / AP

The 49ers were limited to a three-and-out, so back came Mahomes, notching a 38-yard pass to wideout Sammy Watkins (5 catches, 98 yards), before finding running back Damien Williams for the go-ahead score. Despite being sacked again, Mahomes recovered to release Williams down the sideline from 38 yards to ice it with a killer two-play TD drive. In response to the 49ers’ 17 unanswered points, the Chiefs notched up 21 of their own in the final six-and-a-bit minutes.

Garappolo still had time to muster a comeback attempt of his own with 1:40 left to play, but when called upon, he overcooked a pass to an open Emmanuel Sanders on a third-and-10 that coulda – shoulda – been the go-ahead score. The moment was gone.

Cue Reid being drenched with a barrel of Gatorade.


How the (mind) game was won


The 49ers were arguably the more complete team but they couldn’t compete with the never-say-die attitude of Mahomes and the courage of HC Andy Reid, who twice rolled the dice on crucial 4th-and-1 attempts. Damien Williams converted both, the first of which set up a 1-yard scoring run by his QB. On the flip side, Shanahan settled for two field goals that gave the 49ers a 10-point advantage, rather than the 14 or 18 it could have been.

The HC’s play-calling was also pivotal, especially when he veered away from what works for the Niners: the run game. In the fourth, for example, Mostert found a lane but got hauled down on a first down. Two throws then fell incomplete, which stopped the clock and handed the ball back to the Chiefs with plenty of time for the go-ahead touchdown.

Under Steve Spagnuolo’s guidance, Kansas’ defence also held up when it mattered, with Chris Jones batting down a couple of passes, Daniel Sorensen clobbering Garoppolo with a massive hit, Frank Clark grabbing a sack and Kendall Fuller snatching the game-ending interception.

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the dust settles…


Kyle Shanahan was minutes away from taking the 49ers from 4-10 last year to winning this season’s finale. The loss is going to hurt for a while yet, especially as it’s the second time in four seasons he’s been on the wrong end of an heartbreaking collapse. (His final game as the OC for the Atlanta Falcons saw them blow a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI and lost to the Patriots in OT.) But the Niners have plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2020 and beyond. They’ll lick their wounds and rise again, especially considering that Jimmy G’s only started 29 games. As George Kittle eloquently told the press: “The Legendary Revenge Tour of 2020. It’s coming.”

As for KC, Mahomes (eventually) earned his corn to become the second-youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He’s now racked up 30+ points in all five of his postseason appearances and should never be written off until the game clock hits zero. He is resilience personified. He isn’t fazed when things go wrong; he just presses the reset button and goes again. Undoubtedly the current face and the future hope of the franchise, I doubt that’s the last time we’ll see him strutting his stuff on the NFL’s biggest stage.

Bottom line: it was all about Andy

The Chiefs couldn’t have won their first NFL title in 50 years without their inspirational quarterback but to come full circle, this win was all about Andy Reid. A Super Bowl title was the only thing missing from his CV and that’s now been rectified.

As the after-game soundbites from his players suggest, they couldn’t be happier for their Head Coach. And I’m dead chuffed for the fella too.

Full10Lookaheads – Week 10

By Lawrence Vos and Tim Monk

Sunday night football


Massive game for those chasing the division titles in the NFC and NFC North as the Dallas Cowboys host the Minnesota Vikings.

With Philadelphia on a bye, the Cowboys need to win to keep their heads just in front of Philadelphia and it’s looking fairly likely that the 2nd placed team in the East could miss out on the playoffs.

Minnesota at 6-3 still sit one game behind Green Bay over in the North and whilst, this one is possibly less important for the #SKOL army, they don’t want to run the risk of running in to the cowboys for the wildcard and losing on the head to head tie breaker.

It may be a tight, cagey affair on Sunday Night Football, and that’s just Kirk Cousins we are talking about. Whilst Kirk most recently won vs the Redskins on Primetime television on TNF, it is more than well documented that Cousins can have the tendency to be a rabbit in the floodlights when push comes to shove.

Can Captain Kirk pull his socks up and lead his Minnesota team to a victory this week? His current record of 6-13 in primetime games suggests not.


Life after Cam

Image Credit: JEFF SINER

It’s going to be interesting watching how Kyle Allen performs down the stretch now that he is going to be starting from here on out.

Cam Newton has recently landed on Injured reserve, leaving us to wonder whether Cam Newton will ever be seen in a Carolina jersey again (look out for an article on that coming your way) but now you have to debate whether the pressure is now more on Kyle Allen to perform as he is “the guy” or whether there is less pressure on him as he no longer has to look over his shoulder or live in Cam’s shadow.

Kyle Allen does have the pressure of getting the Panthers to the playoffs though as they are right there in the thick of the wildcard race and that adventure makes it’s next stop at Lambeau Field.


Lights, Kamara, Action!

Image Credit: SI.com

Some of the NFL’s biggest superstars should be returning to the field this week with Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes and New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara should be available to suit up for their respective teams.

It’s fair to say though that the rest of the roster and the Head coaches has performed admirably in their absences over the past few weeks.

It says a lot about the adaptability of these teams to be able to read off a different script and still pull out the level of performances that they have. Unfortunately now for the rest of the league, two of th most potent and high octane offences get arguably, their main cogs back.

Everyone beware!


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Will Wilson win in the West?

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Image Credit: John Bazemore / AP

MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson and the Seahawks travel to Levi’s stadium to face the last undefeated remaining team in the 49ers.

A win for the Seahawks here and the NFC West is all to play for. A win for the 49ers, and the NFC West is pretty much all wrapped up. Russell Wilson is coming off a 5TD performance vs the Buccaneers last week so confidence couldn’t be much higher, and Josh Gordon has just walked through the door.

However, he will need to be at the peak of his powers once again as he faces one of the best defences in the league away from home to stand any chance of picking up the win on Monday Night Football.


Nowhere for haters to Hyde any more

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Image Credit: Ian Walton / AP

We are just over the half-way point of the season and the general trend for feeding a lead back seems to be on the rise from twelve months ago, or maybe there has simply been less injuries at the RB position.

Standing at number eight in the 2019 rushing charts is a back that has bounced around the league and is now on his fifth team. This season, based on current projections, Carlos Hyde will break all of his own personal rushing records, and easily have his first 1,000+ season.

Hyde had two monster runs at Wembley last week, even if the longest resulted in a fumble on the goal line. His opening carry was as important as it was a tone-setter for the Texans – a 9 yard dart. That drive ended with Houston taking a 3-0 lead. Hyde ended the game with 160 yards rushing and the respect of over 80,000 fans.

For someone who never settled in Cleveland or Jacksonville, and didn’t even make it to the regular season in KC, this is a genuine comeback player of the year candidate. No need to Hyde in the shadows any more Carlos.


We’re all going on a Chubb-Hunt

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Image Credit: Ron Schwane / AP

Two seasons ago Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing with 1,327 yards, outpacing Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as a rookie.

Fast forward to Week 10 2019 and Hunt finally makes his season debut for the Cleveland Browns. His last NFL action was over a season ago in the game of the season as the Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51. Hunt was cut by the Chiefs for lying, when questioned, about an incident of domestic abuse that was recorded and went on to be shared on TMZ.

Many people are still divided as to Hunt’s ability to pick up his career after a half-season suspension, and the majority of teams would have stayed away from signing him because of what they saw. It does seem that in the U.S.A. and especially the NFL that players in the main get a second chance despite committing acts that are completely unacceptable.

Hunt has been out a year and starting Browns tailback Nick Chubb is no slouch, but Cleveland do need to snap out of their nightmare stretch and Hunt could offer that spark in the red zone.


Steelers storming back? 

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Image Credit: Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports

With Big Ben Roethlisberger out for the season it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Following an abysmal 0-3 start Steelers are on a three game win streak and beyond the Rams face the Browns twice, Bengals and Cardinals weeks 11 to 14. Mason Rudolph has been streaky but is hanging in there. The Steelers run game has been a bit under par and James Connor is ruled out of this weekend’s contest. Another big dose of Swiss army knife Jaylen Samuels is expected. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has been underwhelming 33-459 and 3 touchdowns and the #2 and #3 WRs Dionate Johnson and James Washington have been uninspiring.

Despite all this adversity the Steelers are on a three-game win streak and have only lost once, in an epic tussle against the Ravens, since the start of October. 1-4 to a genuinely possible 9-4 record will save Mike Tomlin his job and put the Steelers in an improbable playoff position. Enjoy Sunday’s game it will be a barnstormer. 


Godwin and Evans epic season wasted

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Image Credit: Mark LoMoglio / AP

What a shame that easily the best wide receiver combination in the NFL at the half-way point, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, are on a 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.

The Godwin/Evans combo has 104 catches, 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns. Outside of this pairing any other WR combined have 14 catches for 145 yards and one score. Evans and Godwin have moved the chains 82 times between them to date and together are averaging 100 yards in the air each per game.

Under normal circumstances this pairing would equate to wins, but they are getting thrown the ball from an erratic Jameis Winston who goes from a 5 interception game (at Tottenham v Panthers) to a zero pick impressive display on the road at Seattle.

The Buccs offensive line is part of the problem, with Winston already on the receiving end of 30 sacks. It will be fun to watch this combo battle it out for the most impressive stat line. Who said both are going to the Pro-Bowl – I did right here! 


Doggedly avoiding a cat-astrophe 

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Image Credit: Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

In a sports league filled with bears, lions, Bengal tigers, jaguars, broncos, rams, panthers, and colts it took a four-legged friend to stroll across an NFL field last week to create a media furore akin to a niptastic Super Bowl reveal.

Some of the best social media and digital activity includes a mocked up Madden 21 cover featuring the black cat along with the Panini Huddle digital trading card app that issued a special cat card with a paw-print autograph. There has been previous animal hijinx on NFL fields before, a simple YouTube search will reveal squirrels and pigeons causing chaos in recent years.

Reality is that there are canines that make it into the seating areas of every NFL stadium every week, even when teams play in London, after all where would we be without a delightful half-time hot dog !!!! 

Full10Takeaways – Week 7

By Tim Monk (Tim_MonkF10Y)

Week 7 is in the books. 2 teams going into the weekend undefeated remained so and a future hall of fame QB had himself a career day.

Lot’s of stories, lots of stats, so let’s get them injected in to your eyeballs.


Rodger that


Image Credit: Jeffrey Phelps / AP

If I said to you that Aaron Rodgers had a career day, you have to think of some pretty big numbers considering how glittering it has been thus far.

As a Cowboys fan, I have seen plenty of stellar performances from the Packers’ #12.

Sunday against the Raiders, Rodgers lit up the Black Hole for 25/31 429yds, 5 TDs and an extra one on the ground. It was the first time ever, a QB for the Packers posted a perfect passer rating and was the first time Rodgers had posted a 400+ yard passing game and 5TD combination.

For fantasy owners, he posted his 2nd highest score and the most since 2011 with a score of 43.76pts.

We mentioned last week that this Packers team looks pretty decent and Rodgers had not even really got going yet.

Now he’s gotten going, the league best be on notice.


There may be Trub-les ahead


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Image Credit: Stacy Revere / Getty Images

This Bears offence…yikes.

Prior to garbage time yesterday, Cordarelle Patterson’s 102yd kick off return was more yards than the offence had been able to muster.

There boos were deafening inside soldier field, the fans have no confidence at all in their franchise QB.

The Bears have yet to put up 300 yards of offence in ANY game this season and it’s not hard to see why.

What was probably the cherry on top for the Bears, Sean Payton on the other sideline put on yet another clinic on how to use all the tools at your disposal to go and win a game. No Cook, no Kamara, no Brees, no problem.

The problems are all with Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears offence.


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Hush by Rush


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Image Credit: Steven Bisig

Lamar Jackson once again finds himself in our articles, in the spotlight of the NFL highlight reel and at the forefront of defensive co-ordinator’s nightmares.

Whilst you can try and account for his designed run plays, Lamar Jackson was like Harry Houdini in Seattle, scrambling for 86 yards, the most by any QB this season and a record high for Jackson.

Multiple times, the Seahawks defenders thought they had him pinned down for a loss, only for Jackson to get loose from the straightjacket and speed down the field for big chunk plays.

Century Link field is not an easy place to go to with the #12 screaming down on to the field but Lamar Jackson had long drives, which caused the stadium to hush somewhat.

Lamar Jackson is now 6th in rushing yards in the NFL amongst all players this season. 6th and is well on course to smash the 1000 yard mark.

Michael Vick’s record of 1039 is not looking like a difficult ask either.

I think his body though will appreciate the Week 8 bye. Rest up, champ.


Melvin Gor-done?


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Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel /USA Today Sports

Melvin Gordon bet on himself, and it seems to be a losing bet.

If you asked Melvin Gordon or even the Chargers “what would be the worst case scenario this year with the holdout?”, how it has played out so far wouldn’t be far off.

As per Evan Silva (@evansilva),  75% of Melvin Gordon’s carries (27/36) have gained 3 yards or less and had 2 fumbles. 11 of his 14 targets have gained 3 yards or fewer. All of Melvin Gordon’s plays since his return have averaged a gain of just 2.3 yards and only 4 plays where he has gained a first down.

This has culminated in a 0-3 record since his return and you have to wonder whether or not Melvin Gordon is a trade candidate in the next few weeks. On his current showing, there is no way the Charger’s pay him anything close to the going rate, especially with Austin Ekeler, who is making just over $550,000 this season.


Moore woes for KC?


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Image Credit: Justin Edmonds / Getty Images

Matt Moore will be the QB for Kansas City for at least the next few weeks.

On a fateful quarterback sneak on TNF against the Broncos, Patrick Mahomes dislocated his patella and thankfully that’s all that happened. Whilst it was a freak occurrence and is desperately unlucky (Madden curse continues!), Andy Reid now has to prepare for a few games with the 2007 undrafted rookie out of Oregon State.

To date, Moore has less than 1000 pass attempts, a rating of 81.2 and a 46-36 TD-INT ratio. It’s fair to say the 35 year old will not be what Patrick Mahomes is, but Andy Reid is a master at getting QBs to do what they need to with a bit of time and prep. This is a HC that made Alex Smith look like a world beater.

The red hot Packers come to town on Sunday Night Football so it will be a baptism of fire. Andy Reid will have his work cut out to try and devise a plan to take the W here. Luckily for the Chiefs, their divisional rivals are (knee) capped.


Don’t go Chase-ing my heart


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Image Credit: Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports

If you fielded Arizona Cardinals backup RB Chase Edmonds in fantasy this week, chances are it was probably because you had to or it was in a bestball format. His 3 touchdowns, all over 20 yards in length was just the 5th time that this has occurred.

David Johnson played just 3 snaps against the Giants and apparently was never intending to see the field despite being made active on Sunday. It’s hard enough to get any appreciation in the NFL in any sphere, but annoying fantasy players isn’t a recommended approach.


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How very patriotic


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Image Credit: Robert Deutsch/Reuters

This Patriots’ defence….oh boy.

Before we get in to the details of what can only be described as a suffocating defence, let’s take a moment to commiserate those that would have lost their fantasy matchup despite being in a winning position when playing Sam Darnold at QB…

Right, there we go.

This was the 2nd occassion THIS SEASON that New England scored 30+ points and shut out their opponent after their thrashing of the Jets 33-0 on Monday Night Football. New England have now outscored opponents 223-48 (both lead league by the way), allowed only 1 passing TD Allowed and are 1st in YPG Allowed (223.1) and PPG Allowed (6.9) this season.

If you have them in fantasy, they are currently the 4th highest scoring player in the god damn game, posting double digit scores in every game this season.

They currently have 18 INT so far this season, a mark not bettered since the Packers in 1996. Why do i bring this up? The Packers beat the Patriots that year in the Super Bowl.

Yes they have had one of the easiest schedules (looking at you, AFC East) and it does get a bit harder, but this defence was epitomised when cameras cut to Belichick huddling in and laying the law down with the defence….24-0 up before halftime.

Oh, and they just traded for Mohammed Sanu.

Good luck, everyone else.


Maher-ful kicking display


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Image Credit: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Brett Maher became the first Kicker in NFL Super Bowl era to kick 3+ 60 yard Field goals and the first ever to do it in back to back games.

The ups and downs of a kicker are well documented (another doink this weekend too!) and Brett Maher certainly has more thrills than a creeky rollercoaster. One thing that isn’t in doubt though, is his mentality and his self belief. The 63 yarder against the Eagles on SNF would have been good from 66 yards and I have a funny feeling that Maher is going to eclipse Matt Prater’s current record of 64 yards.

A lot was made in Cowboys Nation when he took over from Dan Bailey, hopefully his leash will be just a tad longer, which is always nice for a kicker.


San Fran-6-and-0


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Image Credit: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

If you go back and watch the game in 40 or the highlight, make sure to wear waterproof attire, because this one was wetter than a 10year old goldfish.

It wasn’t pretty and it’s one of those games that only come round every couple of years, but the 9ers did what they had to do. Win, and win ugly.

This game was only 2hrs 36 mins in duration, the shortest game since week 16 in 2009 when the Patriots smashed the Jags in the same amount of time.

Whilst this will help fuel some skewed stats that sound impressive, even the most stubborn have to doth their cap to the 49ers start. The pick of them being (as per @NFLReasearch) that the 49ers have allowed 98 pass yards in their last 2 games combined, which is the 3rd-fewest pass yds allowed by the 49ers in a 2-game span in the Super Bowl era & the fewest in a 2-game span by the 49ers since Weeks 8-9, 1977 (62 pass yds).


Cousins and Vikings


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Image Credit: Rick Osentoski /AP

It’s amazing what an apology and a bit of play action passing can do to your team.

Captain Kirk makes yet another appearance in the takeaways after another stellar performance (with the assist of some lovely catches, tipped cap to Adam Thielen).

The $84m guaranteed signal caller:

  • Leads NFL in yards per pass attempt (9.1)
  • Leads NFL in passer rating (114.3)
  • Ranks 5th in TD passes (13) and 4th in completion rate (69.8%)

In his last 3 games, he became the first QB in NFL history to have over 300 passing yards and a QB rating of over 130 and also became the first Vikings QB since Dante Culpepper to throw for 4TDs in consecutive games.

With the defence playing how it is, this team SHOULD be going deep in January, unless normal service either with paly calling or Captain Kirk himself resumes.

Until then, he has a revenge game on Thursday Night football againast the hapless Redskins.

Full10Lookaheads – Week 7

By Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Rams to the slaughter?


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Image Credit: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports

I’m worried for the Rams. Behind in the NFC West, injuries piling up and an offensive scheme that seems to have been found out.

The activity and negotiating that has been conducted this week just adds to the worries;

First, they traded away Marcus Peters to the Ravens and then very shortly after, gave up 2 1st round picks and a 4th rounder for star CB Jalen Ramsey, who comes over from the Jags (I hope his back will be ok on the flight).

Considering there are a few needs on this team, it’s quite surprising that they’ve mortgaged their future for a CB. Fellow CB Aqib Talib is on IR and their options are awfully thin at the position, but there are glaring needs at offensive line and linebacker, which now will not be replenished high in the next 2 years NFL drafts.

Add to that, their top 5 paid players now account for $108m of the salary cap, even free agency signings will be hard to come by.

There is a lot of talent on this Rams team, but I am a firm believer in that you should always build from the inside out. Sort the lines out first and then everything follows. The Rams have taken a massive gamble, I’m not sure it’ll pay off.

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NFC East on Primetime


Big game in prime time between the nose diving Cowboys and the Eagles.

With both teams 3-3, the winner takes a big step to a division title and the loser seriously having the prospect of no January football. Plenty of positives and negatives to talk through with both teams, plenty of injuries both side of the ball and plenty of questions being asked of these teams right now.

Can Dallas’ offensive line hold up against a decent Eagles pass rush or can Dak and his weapons exploit the gaping holes in the Eagles secondary? Will the Dallas defence be able to get some pressure and pin down escape artist Carson Wentz and will Doug Pederson outsmart Jason Garrett? Whilst the answer to the last question is a bit easier than the others, it should be a great game on Sunday Night Football.


AFC Wildcard eliminator in Nashville


Not a game that will be watched by many people outside their respective fanbases (do the Chargers have one?), but the game between Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans could be a loser goes home in terms of playoff aspirations.

Both teams are 2-4, struggling to get any offence going and are not impressing anyone in the league. With the loser going to drop to 2-5, you have to assume that  the losing team does not have any way back from the defeat to play football in January.

Even if they do find their way back, they could be ousted by the head to head tie breaker. All to play for in this one in Nashville.


Mario-nah


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Image Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Talking of the above game, Ryan Tannehill has been named the starter for Tennessee.

Whether or not this was to try something different and try something to invigorate the team to get that win we don’t know for sure. It can be argued (and some people do) that Tannehill is an improvement on Mariota and this was a long time coming.

Tannehill was serviceable enough in Miami under center through his 6 year career there (when healthy) despite having only 1 winning season and an overall losing record. When playing full seasons, he hits around the 4000 passing yard mark with 25ish TDs and 12INTs.

Comparing that to Mariota, Tennessee fans shouldn’t be too disillusioned with the fact that it is infact, potentially an upgrade on what they’ve had since he was selected at no.2 overall in 2015.


Quinn-tessential to get a few wins


Dan Quinn needs a win…and fast.

Problem is their next 4 fixtures don’t give me any enthusiasm that they’ll find one.

Home games vs the Ramsey Rams (Julio not loving that!) and the Seahawks before their bye are not teams you want visiting to try and get that all important win. If Atlanta get embarrassed to the same tunes that are currently bellowing from the record player, Dan Quinn wont even make it to the Saints game in week 10.

On defence, they’ve conceded the 2nd most points, 7th worst in yardage given up, worst on 3rd down conversion % allowed along with a bottom 3 in turnovers created. Yes, they’ve had injuries of similar ilk to last season but unfortunately, that’s only going to get you excused for a period of time.

With Quinn being a defensive minded HC, the writing is on the wall for him.


K.C. and the not very sun-shining backfield 


Four weeks in and we were all drooling over the Kansas City Chiefs and their MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Everything Mahomes was passing to was turning into on-field gold. This was an offense buzzing through the NFL like a lumberjack’s chainsaw.

Two weeks later and two losses later the Chiefs are looking mortal, and the chainsaw is now a handsaw that is looking a little bit rusty. Mahomes is looking out of sorts but he is being hindered by a running game that is blunt. Zero hundred yard rushing performances and some shocking lead performances.

Three out of six games has seen the Chiefs leading rusher go under 50 yards, and since Week 1 the top output has been 62 yards by Darrel Williams. Kansas City will be trying desperately to get some traction with the ground game tonight against the Denver Broncos. LeSean McCoy has a healthy 5.4 yard per carry average which may surprise some, but the hottest RB in last season’s playoffs Damien Williams has been a non-factor so far in four games, with a longest run of just 6 yards on 32 carries.

If the Chiefs want to get back on track offensively they need to get back to basics and get control of the time of possession. A loss to the surging Broncos will be a big blow to those ambitions to do one better than last season and reach the Super Bowl.


Pats perfect possibility? 


The dominance of the New England Patriots has going on for that long that it no longer registers as anything remarkable. 6-0 is not seen as anything special, it is expected, it’s normal.

Thing is it’s not normal it’s a feat, it’s an achievement and it is certainly worth talking about. Tom Brady is for once not hogging the headlines as the Patriots defense is dominating the coverage in the papers and dominating the coverage on the field. The defense is producing stats that are mind-boggling. Allowing 8 points a game, 234.7 yards, 161 in the air and 73.7 on the ground. They travel to the Big Apple on Monday night to face a Jets team with one win, albeit one they achieved in the last week.

This does not look like the hardest task for the Patriots, who will be looking to go 16-0 in the regular season before repeating as Super bowl champions. Weeks 9 and 11 – travelling to Baltimore and Philadelphia will be a clearer indication if this is another fine vintage or not.

One little crumb of comfort and one thing that must cause Bill Belichick to lose 5 minutes from his probable 3 hour daily sleep routine was that Frank Gore and his 36 year old legs ran for over 100 yards for the Bills in their Week 4 loss to the Pats. In other words feed LeVeon Bell the ball early and often. 

Full10Lookahead – Week 6

By Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Eau de Toilet Bowl

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In the game widely regarded as the #tankbowl, Bill Callahan takes charge of his first game as interim head coach of the Washingotn Redskins as they take on the Dolphins.

Many will see the loser of this one in prime position to bag that lucrative #1 spot in the 2020 draft but you could argue that the #1 pick is needed by one of these teams more than the other.

Miami have a plethora of early picks in the next few years after some trading that has gone on from the Dolphins front office but Washington are in a bit of a mess.

Seemingly lacking in direction, focus and with barely any foundations in which to build this team on for both sides of the ball, Washington and their fans probably wouldn’t mind a terrible performance here to get ahead in the race for #1, even if that means it gives them the ability to acquire more picks by trading back from the 1st overall selection which will be highly sought after next year.

Miami do not have much more talent on their roster but have the war chest of picks in order to ease the pain the Dolphins fans are currently suffering and hopefully the light is at the end of the tunnel.

I think Washington’s tunnel may have caved in.

There once was a time that the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins were NFL powerhouses. The teams were gritty, and won games by using a dominant running game to outmuscle opponents and break their will.

In fact the two teams have met twice in Super Bowls, once in the 70s and the second time a decade later. The results were split, the 1972 Dolphins ended up undefeated and the 1982 Redskins survived a strike-shortened season to lift the trophy thanks to the irrepressible RB John ‘The Diesel’ Riggins. Fast forward to 2019 and you have debatably the most pitiful NFL matchup since the woeful games of the 2018 0-16 Dan Orlovsky led Detroit Lions. Even they managed a fairy-tale ending as the Lions DE Cliff Avril went on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks.

Either Case Keenum or Josh Rosen will be responsible for their once-proud franchise falling to 0-6 with absolutely no end in sight. Redskins new interim head-coach Bill Callahan will be feeding Adrian Peterson the rock faster than a five-year old after consuming a selection box at a Christmas Day game of Hungry Hippos. The Dolphins will be looking for absolutely anything to stick, including any balls throw in the direction of UDFA WR Preston Williams. If rubbernecking is your thing, and you like to slow down at a motorway car crash then get your dash cam at the ready as the footage from this game will be a live recording of a crime against football. It should just about be a Redskins win (there I said it and thus the curse begins) but who is to say that Washington GM Bruce Allen is huge military fan. After all he may like a ‘tank’ as much as the Dolphins ownership.

When these two teams met in Super Bowl VII one of the greatest mistakes ever was committed when Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian had a kick blocked, and instead of doing anything sensible he passed the ball right into a Redskins player who ran it back for a touchdown.

It is absolutely possible that the only scorers on Sunday are defensive players. 


Can Cousins continue chucking?

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Image Credit: Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

There was definitely a focus on making sure the Cousins throwing narrative was chucked out of the window vs the Giants. The Big Blue defence provided a timely opportunity for Cousins to quell the detractors (which included some of his teammates) of the fully guaranteed signal caller as he was able to have time in the pocket and throw multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time since week 16 last year.

Will that continue as they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles?

Whilst they aren’t quite as bad as the Giants defence, they are no world beaters either due to injuries. It will be interesting to see if Cousins continues to throw as much as he did last week or whether they revert back to type and hand the ball off to Cook.


Watson vs Mahomes

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Image Credit: Kevin Jairaj /USA Today sports

2 quarterbacks that always put on a show get it on in week 6 with the Texans travelling to the recently Colt conquered Arrowhead stadium.

Both QBs combined account for just under 3400 yards so far this season and when they are healthy, they are definitely up there as the most exciting players to watch with the ball in their hands.

Mahomes is a bit dinged up, a feeling that Watson knows oh so well after having to resort to bus as a means of transport to and from games last season. Watson wasn’t actually touched by the Falcons last week so it’s possible this is the healthiest Watson will feel all season. The Chiefs’ defence isn’t the greatest, nor is the Texans, so we should get a shootout here in an all AFC clash.

On one of the rare occasions, Mahomes and the Chiefs have to bounce back from a defeat.


jack in the box

Image Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

People are starting to question the credentials of the 2018 #32 overall pick after a couple of poor performances.

A trio of interceptions on Sunday saw him fail his fantasy owners and now everyone is wondering whether or not Lamar Jackson has actually improved in his 2nd year.

First few games were plain sailing and as it turns out, against 2 very poor teams. Now that he’s faced a few tougher defences (and Arizona), things aren’t looking as rosy in the Baltimore garden.

We’ve mentioned on the NFL podcast before that he’ll have these questions to answer for pretty much every week of this season because of the nature of his play and the polarising opinion he gives the analysts and that will continue this week as he faces a Bengals team that should provide some respite for Jackson and his fans as a QB of similar ilk in Kyler Murray just got the win in the Jungle and a decent rushing performance.


Sunday Night Footb-oh

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

Prior to the start of the season, the Steelers and Chargers were two teams expected to make the playoffs and produce an entertaining game.

Fast forward to now and this game looks like it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on.

Pittsburgh down and out for the 2019 and now down to possibly their 3rd QB after Mason Rudolph got walloped against the Ravens whilst the Chargers have whimpered so far this season losing last time out to Denver at “home”.

I think it’s fair to say that only the fans of these two teams will watch this one in the UK in the early hours, purely because I don’t think there are any Chris Collinsworth fans. Now here’s a guy who can get on your nerves…


Showcase showdown in London 

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Image Credit: Pitchcare.com

I haven’t got the intestinal fortitude to check if this has happened before in a regular season contest in England. This Sunday’s clash between the English noobs the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers features three current major statistical category leaders.

The leading rusher, the leading tackler and the leading sack master all belong to teams who will be competing in the 26th NFL London matchup. Most surprising or impressive depending on your lens is Shaquil Barrett the Buccaneers edge who leads the league in sacks with 9 so far in 5 games. Not far behind him is the Panthers DE Mario Addison with 6.5 to his name.

What makes both of these feats truly impressive is that neither actually were drafted by any of the 32 teams. Addison bounced around three teams (Bears, Colts and Redskins) in his first two years before being signed by the Panthers in 2012. He has a solid 52 sacks in his career. Barrett, who has a Super Bowl ring from his stint with the Denver Broncos, had only started 15 games in four seasons at Mile-High, notching his best sack total of 5.5 as a rookie. Now he stands alongside the legendary Jets pass rusher Mark Gastineau (who sported a fine moustache) with the most sacks ever in both the first three and first four games in a season.

To see both players coming over to play at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur stadium will be a highlight for the 60,000 fans this Sunday. 


Fools Gold or real prospects? 

Image Credit: Tony Avelar/AP/Shutterstock

The Jimmy Garoppolo led San Francisco 49ers have been patient, they have had a plan and GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan are starting to show that they know their way around a football field.

Both the GM & HC signed epic six-year deals just days apart in 2017, and vowed to bring back the 49ers to a time when they were as dominant as the New England Patriots are right now. The plans to progress were seriously scuppered in 2018 when both QB Jimmy Garoppolo and highly-touted RB Jerrick McKinnon both got injured. McKinnon is still crocked but Jimmy G has been kept upright and his team are now 4-0. No they have not faced the likes of the Saints or Bears yet, but to be the last undefeated NFC team is still an achievement.

The 49ers travel to L.A. on Sunday to play the reigning NFC champion Rams. This will be a true test if the 49ers are the real deal or a shiny lump of pyrite. The dual punching power of a bruising running game, made up of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman is arguably the best backfield pairing in the league, and this is only enhanced by the lead blocking of the NFL’s top fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Jusczyzk to his credit can catch the ball too as evidenced by his 6 snags so far.

Being able to draft the premier defensive chess piece in this year’s draft in the form of Nick Bosa (Joey’s not so little brother) has helped a lot, but this is a team that boasts the league’s number one rushing attack (200 yards a game) and the second highest scoring offense (31.8). Not even laid-back Californian surfer dude types would have projected the 49ers to be undefeated heading into Week 6.

This is not the 49ers of old, but spending years shining the shoes of, and carrying the clipboard for Tom Brady looks to be paying dividend. 


Can someone tune up Le’Veon Bell

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Image Credit: Michael Owens / Getty Images

After a year spent on his sofa chewing on sunflower seeds and experimenting no doubt with himself as the protagonist in a Madden Franchise, Le’Veon Bell returned to the NFL with a new team, a new attitude but an old goal, to win a Super Bowl. So far this is as likely as the Miami Dolphins going on an 11 game winning streak.

The New York Jets are languishing in the cess pool that is the lower half of the AFC East. Without a win, without a starting quarterback and averaging under 10 points a game is classic Bruce Coslet territory (an old and unsuccessful Jets head coach in the 1990s). Behind a poor offensive line Bell is averaging under three yards a carry, has zero rushing touchdowns and is only barely being tolerated by fantasy owners because he is projected to end the season with a whopping 108 catches.

If this was any other season the Jets would be the lowest power ranked team, but even they are unable to sink to the levels of ineptitude on display in South Florida. Sam Darnold, the saviour, is due to return to action after his bout of Mono in a tough contest against a crest-fallen Dallas Cowboys team who will be wanting to prove to doubters that the incredibly slow start against Green Bay was an anomaly. Bell when on fire is a sight to behold. His 2017 running style was a unique blend of power, patience and incredible vision, mixing snake hips with poisonous tongue darts between defenders. Bell at the moment is more komodo dragon than slippery lizard.

After the Cowboys allowed four touchdowns to Aaron Jones in Week 5 the Jets will at least go into this Week 6 matchup with some degree of hope, along with Sam Darnold at the wheel. Look to Bell to maintain his short passing route production, but ultimately enter Week 7 without a team victory in sight.


Third becomes first after Mason mashed

Not one to stay up for, but it is worth noting undrafted rookie Delvin Hodges will make his first start in Sunday Night Football for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Hodges got a $1000 signing bonus and initially made the team because the Steelers traded backup Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars in September. Undrafted quarterbacks have performed miracles – the likes of Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Mike Tomzak have all reached Super Bowls.

In Tomzak’s case he won a ring backing up Jim McMahon on the legendary 1985 Bears team, and for Kurt Warner he got a ring starting against the Tennessee Titans. Mason Rudolph, deputising for an already injured Ben Roethlisberger, suffered a horrific hit in Week 5 but managed to get up after minutes of collective breath holding. The NFL may be doing some things wrong but the concussion protocol is being taken dead seriously now, unlike in the past when players would be back far earlier that they should have been.

Nothing is expected from Delvin Hodges against a Chargers team that still cannot find a way to post a winning record in the first half of a season, but 2019 it seems is a year that will go down as one that saw unknown quarterbacks take centre stage and perform admirably. Hodges could be the man to spark Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster back to life after a somewhat soggy start to the season.

Without Antonio Brown (remember him) as his partner in crime prevention JuJu is looking like a rather distressed Robin, and not even the good one from the 1960s TV show, he looks like the Chris O’Donnell version who wore the red nipple-protruding chest piece.

The Chargers are going to have to face life without QB Philip Rivers at some point soon, so this is a much needed win that would put them at 3-3 and still in contention for a Wild-Card berth come the Winter. 

Full10Lookahead – Week 4

By Tim Monk, Lawrence Vos and Shaun Blundell

Week 4 already here folks! Why does it go so quickly?!?!

Without wasting any more time thinking about such things, here is what we ehre at F10Y HQ are thinking about as we look ahead to the week’s action.


Die Eagles Die!

As a Cowboys fan, this could be a huge week for America’s Team.

A depleted Eagles team travel on a short week to Lambeau field to face a resurgent Packers defence and Aaron Rodgers. At 1-2, this is potentially already a must win game for an Eagles team without a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. A loss here coupled with a Dallas Cowboys win vs a Drew Bree-less Saints, and the cowboys could be 3 games ahead in the NFC East.

Yes, there are still the 2 divisional games they have to play in Week 7 and 16, but the Eagles will not want to go in to the week 7 game finding themselves 3 games back and having to win that one.

If there is one team who is set up to come from disadvantageous situations such as this though, it’s Wentz, Pederson and the 2018 Super Bowl Champions. They’ll need to achieve what noone outside the NFC North has done this far in 2019, beat an NFC North team. NFC North vs all opposition outside division- 7-0-1.


Water Under the Bridge(water)

Image Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Teddy Bridgewater put in a composed performance at CenturyLink Field last week, condemning Pete Carroll to his first loss in September at home in his tenure as the Seahawks HC. No turnovers, but no aggressive play calling either as Bridgewater only threw the ball once over 15 yards, and that was incomplete.

That’s a sign of a good head coach though, putting plans in place to help his players succeed as easily as possible.

Bridgewater and co return home this week in primetime to face a 3-0 Cowboys team that are looking to wrap up the NFC East as early as possible.

Will Sean Payton be more aggressive with how he gameplans for Bridgewater? Or will it be more of the dink and dunk style we saw last Sunday? Either way, everything will probably need to right to have any chance of winning, even at home. If Teddy Bridgewater does come away with a victory and puts in another assured performance, maybe i’ll let bygones be bygones and take notice of the understudy in “Naw’lins”.


Multiplication and Division

Some tasty divisional games this week which will go some way in determining final finishing positions like they do every year.

This week sees all of the AFC North squaring up as the Ravens and the Browns face off and someone’s 0 must go when Pittsburgh face the Bengals. If the Ravens win this one, it could be a long rest of the season for the other 3 teams as the Ravens will have a couple of games on the field and an early tiebreaker.

The NFC North gets in on some divisional action as well which pits the Vikings against the Bears, where both teams need the win having both already lost to the 3-0 Packers, the loser of this game may start to fall back in the wildcard playoff race.

Talking of 3-0, we have a 3-0 bowl in Buffalo where the Patriots will want to put the Bills in their place in the AFC East. Surely Buffalo will come unstuck against the masters. Worth noting that New England have not lost in Buffalo since 2011 and only twice in the Tom Brady era.

Other div matchups that maybe aren’t as important in terms of playoffs and divisional races sees that Seahawks travel the Glendale to try and get back to winning ways as they face the winless Cardinals and Kyler Murray and finally, the Redskins travel to Big blue to face Danny Dimes and a Barkley-less Giants.

Divisional games are always hotly contested and form some of the most heated rivalries in the sport so whichever one you may end up watching should be a good one. Well, maybe except the Giants/Redskins game. Yawn.


Homefield Disadvantage

Image Credit – Dennis Wierzbicki / USA TODAY Sports

It feels as though each week Patrick Mahomes does something that we have never seen before in the NFL.

After tying Kurt Warner’s record of most 300 yard games within his first 20 career starts last weekend, what will be the record he smashes this week? Well how about a cast iron guarantee, Mahomes will throw for more yards in a domed stadium then he ever has before. Sunday will mark the first time in his 21 career starts when the Chiefs signal caller will suit up with a roof over his head as the Lions host the Chiefs.

How about a bold prediction? The single game passing yardage record of 554 yards held by Norm Van Brocklin falls in this game. Why not? Mahomes seems set to break every other record going. With perfect conditions in his favour expect to see the young quarterback shine yet again.


Myles Better Than Lamar

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2 hype trains are on an AFC North collision course this weekend as the Browns face Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.

It was a “back to reality” type of game for Jackson last week where he found not facing the teams ranked 29th and 32nd defensively rather tricky. His final stat line could and should have been much worse with some ill advised heaves and garbage time yards padding his overall figures. On the opposite side of the field this week he gets Myles Garrett who has 6 sacks to his name already through 3 games this year.

For all the offensive hype preseason, Garrett has been the Browns most dominant player and will look to continue his hot start to the campaign. This promises to be a stellar match up for years to come and Jackson will be advised running away from the Browns #95 if he relies on his legs too often this weekend.


Hyde & Seek

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The Texans traded a conditional 3rd round pick for Duke Johnson on the eve of the 209 season, 3 games in and he appears to have gotten lost. Johnson touched the ball just 4 times in last Sundays victory over the LA Chargers.

He is currently being out played by Carlos Hyde. Hyde had been with the Chiefs during camp but was also traded for by the Texans following the Lamar Miller injury in preseason. This was supposed to be Johnson’s opportunity to shine after becoming frustrated at dropping down the Browns depth chart previously.

With the season reaching the quarter pole it will be interesting to see how the Texans backfield continues to be utilised. Johnson’s strength is catching the ball out of the backfield but at the moment he looks like nothing more than a very poor man’s James White.


Someone’s “0” Has Got To Go

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ESPN must have really annoyed someone at the league office. This weeks Monday Night Football offering sees a battle of 2 teams yet to taste victory this year. The Bengals travel to Heinz Field to take on the Steelers with both looking to kick start their respective campaigns.

The Steelers will be once again suiting up Mason Rudolph behind center as he gets his 2nd consecutive start. Outside of 2 big plays last week he went 12/25 for 59 yards with an interception. James Conner is under 100 yards on the ground in 3 games, averaging less than 3 yards per carry.

In short, the Steelers are really struggling. The Bengals have played 2 close games either side of being blown away by the 49ers so we aren’t quite sure how good or how bad they are. Monday night is a big game for both and barring a draw at least 1 of them will get into the win column.


Oooh Ek(eler) Melvin’s back

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The Los Angeles Chargers are notoriously slow starters and 2019 is no exception, as the team boast a 1-2 record. Facing the Dolphins in Week 4 will ease the Bolts to 2-2, as they utilise Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in the backfield.

The news in the last couple of days that stud running-back Melvin Gordon has ended his holdout will be a huge boost to the fans in Hollywood. Gordon has finally grown bored of playing Madden and watching Sports Centre. Melvin could well miss the Dolphins game as he gets up to speed with the offense and renews his bond with old man (Philip) Rivers.

The Chargers are right at the precipice of remaining Super Bowl relevant with Rivers at the helm, and with Gordon back this is a bigger boost than that of a truck of IV drips. This will make Austin Ekeler a borderline flex, as he becomes a third-down back as opposed to a viable starter in fantasy. Gordon is a top 8 running back talent, he just needs to rather appropriately hit the ground running.

For those of you who were patient and kept Gordon on your bench you deserve a round of applause. If you are in multiple leagues then dig around the waiver wire and you may just unearth a Melvin or two.


Can the real Carson Wentz stand up

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It’s a small sample size but Carson Wentz is underperforming so far as the Eagles, only two years removed from their first Vince Lombardi Trophy, are 1-2 and at risk of falling three games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East with just a quarter of the season in the books.

Wentz has started sluggishly in contests so far, throwing only one first-half touchdown. A large part of this lack of production has been due to injuries. After three weeks Nelson Agholor leads the team in catches (18) but he is averaging less than 10 yards a catch. Wentz has seriously missed Desean Jackson who exploded Week 1 against a poor Redskins secondary. The Eagles running game has also failed to take-off this season, the combination of rookie Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and pocket-rocket Darren Sproles has failed to make a significant impact.

The Eagles travel to Green Bay for a juicy Thursday Night Football matchup, where we get to see the ever improving Packers defense, led by Week 3 NFC Defensive Player of the Week Preston Smith. Wentz needs to step up this week or it will be an uphill battle already with twelve games remaining.

To start or not to start Dwayne Haskins that is the question…

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There is something rotten in the state of Maryland, a true Shakespearian tragedy is unfolding as Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is enduring a 0-3 start and calls for his head are getting louder and louder.

In the first two weeks it was the Washington defense that was primarily to blame, but the loss fell clearly on the bruised and battered shoulders of veteran QB Case Keenum in Week 3. Keenum’s MNF woes included three fumbles and three interceptions, including a pick-6 to begin the nationally televised humiliation. The New York Giants used Week 3 to make the change and play their first round rookie, with great success, so now is the time for the Redskins to consider following suit.

Coach Gruden came out of the MNF dismantling saying he wanted consistency, in other words carry on with Case. It’s a tough situation to bring a rookie in, where the offensive line is leaky, the running game is not shining, and the wide receivers are poor, with the exception of Terry McLaurin.

One major thing to note is that Dwayne Haskins, the future at QB for the Redskins was team mates with McLaurin at Ohio State. With nothing to lose, and as Yazz would sing ‘the only way is up’ so let’s unleash the Haskins.