Season In Review – Miami Dolphins

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

Time for everyone’s preseason favourite tankers, the Miami Dolphins. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but did the Dolphins do themselves any harm? Depends if your a tank half full or a tank half empty kind of person…


Entering The Season



After two losing seasons under Adam Gase, the Dolphins made a move for Brian Flores from the Patriots to further extend the Belichick coaching tree.

However this was not to be with a view to a galvanisation of the team to lead to a wildcard spot. Quite the opposite. The Dolphins front office put Flores and the team well and truly in the tank.

Laremy Tunsil was sent off to the Texans for a haul of picks including two first rounders and Ryan Tannehill was sent to the Titans for a 2020 4th rounder.

The writing was on the wall. If they could get valuable picks for you and you were playing well, Miami were packing your bags and driving you to the nearest airport.

Were we about to see another 0-16 season in the NFL? Could the Dolphins be historically bad?


During The Season


Week 1: Baltimore Ravens 59. Miami Dolphins 10. 
This could be a long season.

Time for a get right game, right? Wrong. The Dolphins got royally spanked 43-0 with two pick sixes and more punting yards than total offense. The season couldn’t have started much worse for the team whilst the front office were rubbing their hands at the prospect of that first round pick.

Things really didn’t improve for Miami until Week 6 when they started to put touchdowns on the board in a 17-16 loss to the Redskins. Both teams were winless and in what some might have termed a cynical move to lose the game, the Dolphins opted to go for an end-of-game 2 point conversion instead of kicking the XP to tie the game. The defeat took the Redskins to 1-5 and sank Miami to 0-5.

0-5 became 0-6, which became 0-7, which became 0-Hold The Phone It’s An Adam Gase Revenge Game!

That’s right! The 1-6 Jets against the 0-7 Dolphins. A divisional matchup for the ages. Step forward the only man for the job.

Ryan FitzMagicPatrick.

The bearded genius threw 3 touchdowns as the Dolphins secured their first win of the season against an equally hapless Gang Green. This result was reward for Flores and his team after becoming increasingly competitive with a poor roster over the prior month.

Flores and his charges would get further reward a week later with back-to-back wins, beating the understaffed-at-under-centre Indianapolis Colts 16-12.

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Two straight defeats to Buffalo and Cleveland preceded a stunning third win against a Philadelphia Eagles team who were looking to win their division. Miami overturned a 21-14 deficit at the half to win 37-31 to go 3-9. The best part of this game? The trick play with the punter Matt Haack throwing a one-yard shovel to kicker Jason Sanders with an utterly bizarre lineup from the Dolphins. If you haven’t seen it, get yourselves to YouTube ASAP.

Much like the Colts game, however, after a surprising win against a team chasing the playoffs, two defeats followed. This time on back-to-back weeks in East Rutherford against Gang Green and the G-Men to leave Miami at 3-11 and eyeing a top 3 pick or maybe even #1 if, IF, they conspired to lose to the hopless Bengals in Week 16.

What we got in the BurrowBowl/TankForTuaBowl was one of the most entertaining games of the season.

Heading into the 4th quarter the Dolphins lead 35-12 in what was turning into a blowout with FitzMagicPatrick throwing 4 touchdown passes including one to rookie DE Christian Wilkins (more on him shortly).

With 30 seconds left on the clock the Dolphins led 35-19.

The Bengals scored two touchdowns AND two 2 point conversions in thirty seconds! Sixteen points! Merry Christmas!

As you’d expect with these two, overtime went the distance. We had dropped passes, terrible route running, third down sacks and even some great defensive play in there but finally, finally as time expired Jason Sanders hit a 37 yarder to end the game and reward the handful of fans left in Hard Rock Stadium.

If you’re going to give up the #1 pick you may as well do it in the most entertaining way possible and the ‘Fins did not disappoint. Bravo.

As an addendum, Christian Wilkins not only made a name for himself with that touchdown pass but also for the funniest mic’d up moment of the season. Enjoy.

Now for the encore. A trip to New England to close the season out. The Patriots needed to win to secure a first round bye and with the Miami Miracle only twelve months prior surely they weren’t going to let their divisional rivals land another scalp…Surely?


The much vaunted Patriots defense of September gave up 320 passing yards to Wonderlic’s FitzMagicPatrick and even ran in a pick six. Ryan FMP also ran a touchdown in. What is this fresh madness? Miami cost New England a first round bye with their first win in Gillette Stadium since 2008!

I’d even stretch as far as saying that this result contributed greatly to Kansas’ Super Bowl appearance.

A 5-11 finish for a team that wanted the #1 pick will disappoint some but in the second half of the season, Miami were one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. There was a freedom to their play and under Brian Flores I think there are foundations – assuming their draft choices are sound – for a bright future in Florida.


Offseason Outlook


It’s all about the draft. With Tua seemingly recovered from a severe hip injury the thinking is that Miami expect him to fall to #5 if the first four picks go according to plan but with Detroit and New York above them and quarterback hungry teams below, there is a danger a team could usurp them.

Miami have the most selections (12) which include three first rounders and two second rounders. Add on the estimated $93 million in cap space and the room that Miami have this offseason is terrific.

There won’t need to be any trickery with the salary cap, just start rebuilding and maybe even make a big play or two in free agency for a true WR1. Just do one thing for us, Miami. Keep Ryan Fitzpatrick around. The league is better for it.

Next season brings matchups against the NFC West and the AFC West as well as a rematch that will be as hotly anticipated as Wilder v Fury III. That’s right. It’s Bengals v Dolphins back at Hard Rock! Make it primetime, schedulers, Burrow vs Tua? Yes please.

Full10Lookahead – Week 11

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Week 11 is here, plenty of juicy matchups on this weeks slate including a Super Bowl rematch and an AFC West classic in Mexico.


San Francisco Fallen-9ers

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Image Credit: Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News

The 49ers have now been defeated, ensuring that everyone that had betting tickets ona  perfect season ended up in the bin. To make matters worse, they are starting to get pretty banged up on both sides of the ball. Ronald Blair now adds to the injury list that includes Kwon Alexander, George Kittle and Matt Breida. Injury is the biggest way to negate execution; you can have the fancied schemes and the most cleverest of play designs, but if you don’t have the right personnel to execute it, it may as well be a run up the gut.

Can the 49ers now successfully start to negotiate their toughest part of their schedule with players that aren’t their starters and a squad that has just had their confidence slightly knocked after tasting defeat.

We’ll find out when they face familiar foes, the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.


Tank? What tank?


Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have the longest active win streak in the AFC East. Sounds impressive doesn’t it? It’s only 2 games though but even a win streak of that magnitude was seen as nothing more than a pipedream by the Miami Dolphins’ fans as we entered the season.

This week presents another winnable game as they welcome in division rivals, the Buffalo Bills.

Currently sitting with the #4 pick in the 2020 draft, a win for the Miami dolphins and other results panning out a certain way could see the dolphins pick nearer number 10 than number 1 which wasn’t the narrative coming in to the season.


SUBTRACTION BY DIVISION


A few divisional matchups this week sees potential playoff wildcard eliminators.

Thursday Night Football pits AFC North foes the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers togethr whilst the Colts and Jags do battle in the AFC South in Jacksonville.

The losers of these matches are likely not going to see January football due to what these matches mean for the head to head tiebreakers. For the neutrals and the viewers, it certainly does make for more interesting games with the stakes getting higher and higher as the weeks progress.


Fight for the AFC #2 seed


The game between Houston and Baltimore on Sunday could go a long way in deciding the potential number 2 seed in the AFC, with the potential of trying to catch the Patriots who face a tough game in Philadelphia in a Super Bowl rematch.

Houston are fresh off a bye after their win in London whilst the Baltimore Ravens are fresh off resting players in the 4th quarter against the Bengals. With 2 talented Quarterbacks, 2 questionable defences, this game has all the makings of a classic and a win for the Ravens coupled with a loss for the Patriots and the Ravens could see homefield advantage as a real possibility.


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Patriot bounceback?


Talking of the Patriots, as previously mentioned, the Patriots travel to Philadelphia for a rematch of Super Bowl. Fresh still in the memory is the titanic 41-33 classic in 2018 that I am sure the broadcasters will have enough filler to pad out the stoppages in play.

That being said, this is a critical game for both teams.

New England need a win to help secure yet another first round bye in January whilst Philadelphia need to try and overtake the Cowboys in the NFC East where it’s looking likely that only the division winner plays football in the postseason.

And on top of all that, maybe we’ll also answer the age-old question…Would Wentz have beaten the Patriots in the Super Bowl?


yeARS FROM TEARS


What a difference a year makes.

This time last year the Rams were about to improve to 10-1 when beating the Chiefs in the 54-51 classic in LA and the Bears gained a win over the Vikings to get to 7-3.

Fast forward to this year and there is a real chance that perhaps both of these teams miss the playoffs. They are both shadows of their former self and it’s amazing the contrast in confidence and execution from these two teams. I’m not saying that these 2 head coaches are in danger of being booted out on Black Monday, but Sir Alex Ferguson certainly has a phrase for how at least one of them may be feeling.

You may call it a Super Bowl hangover for the Rams, but what’s the excuse for the Bears?


Foles gold?

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Image Credit: Reinhold Matay

Nick Foles makes his return to the NFL field on Sunday for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Whether or not you feel that is the right decision based on your perception of Gardner Minshew’s efforts, Doug Marrone and the front office will certainly see the view that their $88m investment should have the right to first crack.

Foles returns from a broken collarbone suffered in against the Chiefs after leading them to a touchdown drive in the first quarter. It remains to be seen whether he can come back and pick up where he left off.

The Jaguars will hope so as it’s not out of the question that they can grab that #6 seed.


Stadio Asteca take 2

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Image Credit: @ComexMasters/Twitter

Rounding us off on Monday Night, Mexico gets another shot to host an NFL game.

Last year was the farce of the LA Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs where the Stadio Asteca was deemed not fit for purpose.

It was the Mexican natives that missed out on the game of the season with the Rams taking it 54-51.

No such worries this time (thus far) and hopefully this time around, the Chiefs and Chargers can put on a show for the international fans.

It’s just a shame that the billing may not live up to the hype…could be worse though, we got the Rams vs the Bengals.

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC East

Time to head east for the last 2 sets of Half-Term reports. Quite a few teams in these divisions have underwhelmed and then there’s the Patriots. At the very least the NFC equivalent should be a bit more exciting, but that wouldn’t be hard to do when you are comparing against the AFC East.

Nonetheless, Let’s give them some grades:


AFC East 


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By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Current Standings 

  • New England Patriots – 8-0
  • Buffalo Bills – 5-2
  • New York Jets – 1-6
  • Miami Dolphins – 0-7

*New England Patriots*

Midseason Grade: A+

How has it gone so far? 

At some point the never ending story of Patriots success has to end, but the 2019 season still has the tale without an end in sight.

The AFC’s only undefeated team at the half-way point Sith Lord Belichick and his cyborg QB Tom Brady are continuing to excel, but the offense is being out-shadowed by a defense that is looking like the 1985 Bears on some old-school steroids. A remarkable statistic to come to the fore after 7 games was that the Patriots would have been 4-2-1 if they had all of their offensive touchdowns removed.

Current Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman is still the heartbeat of the offense, catching more balls than a set of snooker table pockets, and the recent acquisition of sure-handed WR Mohammed Sanu from the Falcons will immediately compensate for the loss of Josh Gordon to injury. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Pats go up against the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs to open up the second half of the season, and you read it here first they WILL lose one of this handful of high-profile games. You can run on the Patriots, just don’t turn the ball over.

Ever since the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl they flicked on a switch of defensive dominance and 61 points allowed in 8 games is quite simply amazing. The Patriots are a bit of Mahomes magic from yet another trip to the Big Dance. Just give up betting against them.

Regular season record prediction : 15-1 and trip to Super Bowl. 


*Buffalo Bills*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far? 

One of the genuine surprise units of the NFL, aside from a rather lacklustre loss to the Eagles the Bills have played solid defense to help them to five wins in their first six games. Josh Allen has not exactly lit it up so far but he is now completing 60% of his passes.

Free agent WR John ‘Smoky’ Brown is on target for over 1k and the Peter Pan of the NFL RB Frank Gore is leading the team in rushing with 422 yards.

On their defence, the strongest part of their setup, CB Tre’Davious White and S Jordan Power lead a top 10 secondary. The Bills allowed a maximum 21 points against them in the first six weeks.

Rest of Season Outlook

Buffalo’s next four are all winnable, before a tougher ending that includes trips to Dallas, New England and Pittsburgh and home against the Ravens.

The Bills could have a rather shiny 9-2 record heading into Week 12 if they continue their brand of bend but don’t break football. Josh Allen does need to reduce the turnovers and rookie RB Devin Singletary needs to get back on the field.

At some point in the next three weeks Frank Gore will remarkably pass Barry Sanders in the all-time rushing table, with just Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith ahead of him.

This is a team on the rise but likely another one and done in the playoffs.


Regular season record prediction: 10-6


*New York Jets*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

The Jets have won six games so far, oops that’s the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The New York Jets unfortunately kissed goodbye to a winning season when their QB Sam Darnold went down with mono. The combination of backups Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk were atrocious.

Mega signing RB Le’Veon Bell has been disappointing, and was even allegedly in the shop window at the trade deadline. His 536 total yards in 7 games is not what was expected and his two scores is pitiful.

With the exception of a bizarre upset win over the Cowboys in Week 6 this is a team heading in the wrong direction fast. Trading away DE Leonard Williams (to the same stadium) will not help matters, but the Jets must love namesake DT Quinnen Williams. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

The Jets have perhaps the softest schedule in the entire league over the next six weeks, including two contests agains the Dolphins and trips to Cincy and Washington.

They should come away with two wins at least in this tea cake of a period. The Jets came into 2019 with a new uniform, a new superstar RB and even a wild-card buzz, but this is clearly not a playoff team, and its back to the drawing board already for Adam Gase, who may not be in post when St Nick comes down your chimney.

Trying to shop your top assets, such as Jamal Adams S and Roby Anderson WR is hardly inspiring confidence and will only serve to further fracture an already shattered locker room.

Regular season record prediction: 3-13


*Miami Dolphins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far?

The entire Dolphins team were given a lovely present just before the start of the 2019 season, a one year digital subscription to ‘The World of Tanks’.

With QB Ryan Fitzmagic at the helm Miami are surprisingly competing in games but the feeling is they are told to pump the brakes if there is any danger of actually winning a game. QB Josh Rosen was clearly not the answer, and judging by the trade of RB Kenyan Drake for little more than a handful of conkers, the team is not serious about winning football games.

The ‘Fins trade at the deadline for CB Aqib Talib was merely to get better pick status, and losing CB Xavien Howard to injury is a blow. The tiny ray of offensive light is resurrection project RB Mark Walton who will look for 700 yards rushing.

Anything is better than RB Kalen Ballage, who is averaging less yards per carry than the team’s punter Matt Haack. 

Rest of Season Outlook: 

This is a team capable of going 0-16, having scored less than anyone else to this point, and only behind the Falcons (who have played one more game) in terms of points conceded. Fitzmagic has shown up in patches, and it’s not beyond belief that the bearded wizard pulls off one or two wins against the Jets (two games) or Giants or Bengals.

Problem is Miami will be desperate to get the number one draft pick. The ultimate irony would be to beat a 15-0 Patriots team in Week 17 if they rest their starters and their backups. It won’t happen, but it would put a cap on a historically Sherman-styled season. 

Regular season record prediction: 0-16


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NFC EAST


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Current Standings 

  • Dallas Cowboys – 4-3
  • Philadelphia Eagles – 4-4
  • New York Giants – 2-6
  • Washington Redskins – 1-7

*Dallas Cowboys*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

Despite a horrendous three-game losing streak the Cowboys are still the class of the NFC East and are atop the division, albeit due to having had a bye week.

The Cowboys had a marshmallow schedule to start, and when they had quality opponents (Saints, Packers) Day and Zeke couldn’t get the W, but a monster 27 point win over the Eagles will have Jerry Jones smiling in the executive box.

Ezekiel Elliot is gunning for a third rushing title, with 602 and 6 scores in 7 weeks. WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are stretching the field – 65 catches, over 1,000 yards and just under 16 yards a catch between them. 

Rest of Season Outlook :

HC Jason Garrett has been in the corner quite a lot this season, clapping to himself as no-one will even give him a high-five. Somehow Garrett is still in post, but this is an appearance in the NFC Championship (most likely as the road team) or bust for the guy who has been in Dallas for 10 seasons.

The Cowboys have a quality roster on both sides of the ball, but they cannot afford to fall asleep at the wheel again for the rest of the season as they did in the shocking loss to the Jets in Week 6.

Look for Zeke to get fed more than Eddie Hall did on his tour of American eateries. 

Regular season record prediction: 11-5 and trip to NFC Championship. 


*Philadelphia Eagles*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

The Eagles are a hard team to gauge, so can the real team please stand up.

Losses to the Lions and Falcons and wins over Buffalo and Green Bay is a clear sign that there is a lack of consistency.

QB Carson Wentz has been OK (1,821 yards and 14 touchdowns) and he has sorely missed the deep threat of DeSean Jackson, who returned to Philly after five seasons away. Jackson hasn’t suited up since Week 2 leaving WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to average under 10 yards a catch combined.

Rookie RB Miles Sanders has played second fiddle to Jordan Howard who leads the team with six scores.

Rest of Season Outlook

Philadelphia’s second half has five very winnable games including three in-division contests, but New England and Seattle games will be season defining matchups. The Eagles defense has regressed and their secondary is their weakness so they will struggle against superior passers like Russell Wilson and an evergreen Tom Brady. Just two seasons away from lifting a Vince Lombardi Trophy this Eagles team is arguably underperforming, and judging by the 4-4 record to date its not clear which team is coming out of the locker room each week. 

Regular season record prediction: 9-7


*New York Giants*

Midseason Grade: D-

How has it gone so far? 

This season will go down in New York history as the end of the Eli Manning era and the start of the Daniel Jones one.

The Giants made a bold move to draft Jones early and doubled up when they inserted his in the starting lineup in Week 3. Jones did come out the gate on fire gaining the Giants two wins on the bounce, but that has been followed by four consecutive losses. Jones is on target for around 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Stud RB Saquon Barkley has already missed three games and only has three touchdowns in the five contests he has played in.

The only other half-decent offensive performer is TE Even Engram who has 38 catches to lead the team.

Rest of Season Outlook: 

With the Jets, Dolphins and Redskins on their second-half slate the Giants should equal their first half win total. Daniel Jones is growing in confidence week by week and the recent return of WR Golden Tate from a suspension will be a big boost.

The Giants need to improve pretty much everywhere on defense and also they need to get better performances from their offensive line. It is a real shame that Saquon is on such a poor team as he has All-World potential.

Another season of frustration in the Big Apple and an emotional farewell to double Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning in December.

Regular season record prediction: 4-12


*Washington Redskins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

It’s no surprise the Redskins are cellar dwellers;

Their best offensive piece T Trent Williams has held out to this point and the team only announced this week that they are willing to trade him.

Veteran QB Case Keenum has been serviceable as a bridge passer, and will likely see more snaps than expected as rookie Dwayne Haskins has been the proverbial ‘deer in the headlights’ in his limited appearances.

The biggest surprise has been rookie WR Terry McLaurin who leads the team in anything meaningful. The biggest move of the season in Washington was the removal of head coach Jay Gruden, who failed to win a game before the locks were changed.

Interim replacement Bill Callahan won (barely) in his first outing, and has changed the mentality of the team on both sides of the ball. In his three games in charge the Redskins have fed Adrian Peterson the ball and played solid defense, only allowing three touchdowns in three games. 

Rest of Season Outlook: 

The season was a lost cause from Week 1 when the Redskins had Coach Gruden in charge. With 8 games left the Redskins will play tough, but their lack of offensive weapons will cost them dearly.

The only achievable target will be trying to finish above the equally woeful Giants in the NFC East. There are two potential Pro Bowl candidates, rookie WR McLaurin and a very under the radar CB Quinton Dunbar, who has shone on a defense that has underperformed considering the early round picks they have spent trying to build a competitive unit.

If they do trade Trent Williams that could at least bring a good pick in the 2020 draft. 

Regular season record prediction: 2-14

#NFL100Memories – 5/100

My first US NFL experience @ Miami Dolphins – by Andy Moore (@ajmoore21)

I saw Jay Cutler’s last NFL throw live, in person. It was 3rd and 7 from the Miami 28-yard line. Cutler dropped back to pass, went through his progressions and threw towards Kenny Stills. E J Gaines almost picked it off.

I’d been to every NFL game in London from 2014 onwards, but this was my first game in the US. Week 17 2017, Hard Rock Stadium, the 6-9 Miami Dolphins hosting the 8-7 Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins were clearly done for the season but the Bills could still secure a play-off berth with a win on New Year’s Eve.

The night before we had attended the Orange Bowl, Miami vs Wisconsin and witnessed freshman Jonathan Taylor rush for 130 yards in a 34-24 win for the Badgers in front of a capacity crowd.

It was a lot different the next day, a sparse crowd knew that Miami would largely field a team of reserves and as such the Bills Mafia were prevalent all around the stadium. The tailgate wasn’t as raucous as the college crowd the night before, but it was still ten times better than NFL UK will ever put on in the car park of Wembley. A short walk from car park to the stadium saw hot dogs, burgers and bud lights pushed towards us with friendly smiles behind them.

After Cutler bowed out of the NFL in customary fashion, Tyrod Taylor got the Bills on the score board with a play action pass to a wide open Nick O’Leary. Buffalo’s scoring only continued and they were 22-3 ahead until Jarvis Landry and David Fales went into end zone to bring the final score to 22-16.

Landry and Kenyan Drake were ejected for fighting after the first of the 4th quarter touchdowns, finally getting the Dolphins crowd off their feet and matching the noise of their Bills counterparts. If you watch the post-game interview it’s quite clear that this was probably the final straw for Landry in Miami, with Adam Gase clearly fed up of his star wide-out’s behaviour.

However, the games biggest drama came after the teams had left the field. In the concourses around the ground Bills fans gathered to watch the final seconds of Cincinnati – Baltimore. They needed a Bengals win to send them into the post-season, but trailing 27-24 and Andy Dalton taking the snap on 4th and 12, it looked like the season was over. Dalton threw to Tyler Boyd who somehow took it to the end zone. Queue pandemonium.

The score may not have gone the way we wanted, but you simply can’t beat the experience of watching the NFL in the US with two sets of passionate fans. As for Cutler he probably went out and enjoyed the evening a lot more than I did whilst driving the six hours back to Orlando.

ACC Preview By Thomas Rowberry

Welcome to the Full 10 Yards ACC Conference Preview

Looking Ahead…

The ACC is very much a talent laden conference but realistically Clemson will again sit atop the conference when all is said and done. The defending National Champs return one of the most talented offenses in all of football with Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and a handful of offensive linemen returning to Death Valley.

Whilst I expect Clemson to run away with the ACC there are still teams that on their day could cause an upset against the Tigers. Syracuse gave the Tigers everything they could handle at the Carrier Dome in 2018, Miami look to be much improved in Manny Diaz’s first full season as Head Coach and Virginia return one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the conference in Bryce Perkins.

What About 2018?

Well…. Clemson finished the season 15-0, atop the Atlantic Division, beat the Pitt Panthers comfortably in ACC Championship game (winning 42-10) and then went on to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 in the College Football Championship game.

The Pitt Panthers (7-7) were the best team in a competitive yet somehow underwhelming Coastal Division in 2018. 5 teams finished above .500 in 2018 with Pitt (7-7), Georgia Tech (7-6), Virginia (8-5), Miami (7-6) and Duke (8-5) all besting the mark, unfortunately for Virginia and Duke who both posted better overall records than the Panthers their conference play was mediocre at best, Virginia finished 4-4 in conference play whilst the Blue Devils somehow managed to put together a 3-5 conference record.

Behind Clemson the Atlantic division was a little more competitive with both Syracuse (10-3) and North Carolina State (9-4) both posting records that would have come atop the Coastal division. No team in the ACC took a bigger step back in 2018 than the Louisville Cardinals, they went from finishing 8-5 in 2017 to just 2 wins. Losing Lamar Jackson, one of the most dynamic players college football has seen proved to be too big an issue to get over. Florida State went into 2018 with a new Head Coach for the first time in 8 years as Jimbo Fisher left for the challenges of the SEC and Texas A&M, a combination of Willie Taggart’s first season as head coach plus bad play from tumultuous quarterback Deondre Francois saw the Seminoles drop from 8 wins to just the 5 wins in 2018.

Back to Looking Ahead?

So, is there anybody in the ACC that can realistically push the Clemson Tigers? Probably the most suited to do so is are the Syracuse Orange, last season the Orange gave Clemson everything they could handle in a 23-27 loss, they go into this season with Tommy DeVito as their new starting quarterback. Whilst serving as Eric Dungey’s backup in 2017 DeVito flashed that he might be something special, against Florida State (whilst spelling for an injured Eric Dungey) DeVito guided the Orange to 24 second half points, against North Carolina the Orange blew a lead in the third quarter DeVito came in and changed their fortunes, tossing three touchdowns in a triple overtime victory. As well as going into the season with DeVito as QB1 the Orange return seven defensive starters, including Andre Cisco, one of the best safeties in the country who led College Football in interceptions in 2018.

The Miami Hurricanes look to be a completely different kettle of fish in 2019. This offseason they’ve seen a quarterback battle become the concentration of their Spring and Fall practices with returning sophomore N’Kosi Perry, freshman Jarren Williams and transferred ‘star’ Tate Martell battling for QB1. On August 12th Manny Diaz officially announced that Jarren Williams will be Miami’s starting quarterback heading into 2019, whilst Williams is a freshman and the decision was somewhat unexpected the hopes are that he can lead a much improved ‘Canes offense. Only four starters return from last years offense that finished 13th in the ACC in yards per game. Defensively Miami look to remain the best in the ACC and one of the best nationally, last season they finished 1st in the ACC and 14th nationally and bring back the best linebacking group in the country with Michael Pinckney, Shaq Quarterman and Zach McCloud returning for their senior years. The Coastal Division looks to run through Miami as they Hurricanes play both Virginia and Virginia Tech on home soil in 2019.

Speaking of Virginia, everything revolves around the play of Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins. Last season Perkins threw for 2680 yards and 25 touchdowns whilst rushing for an additional 923 yards and 9 touchdowns… that’s electric. Two of his top three receivers (Hasise Dubois & Joe Reed) return for 2019 so should help cover the loss of the Cavaliers leading guy in Olamide Zaccheaus and provide a level of stability going into this season. Virginia returns seven starters on one of the best defenses in the ACC, an explosive offense plus a very good defense in a division that has uncertainty for talented teams could mean the Cavaliers win the Coastal division for the first time.

Who Else Should You Keep Tabs On?

A couple teams that could surprise in 2019 are the Florida State Seminoles and Virginia Tech Hokies The Seminoles were horrific in 2018, Deondre Francois and all that comes with having him at quarterback are no longer on the roster, instead Willie Taggart will choose between James Blackman and Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook. Both of which should represent an upgrade over Francois, who will now be competing at the FCS level. There is a considerable amount of hype surrounding Florida State this offseason, they have bounce back candidates in running back Cam Akers and return eight starters on the defensive side of the ball. Florida State should bounce back and get themselves back into a bowl game.

The Virginia Tech Hokies finished last season 6-7 and yet they go into this season with a little bit of hype surrounding them. Defensively the Hokies put together the worst season that a Bud Foster unit has ever had, finishing 77th in the nation. The same eleven starters are coming back in 2019, and whilst that might sound bad it isn’t, all eleven starters come back more experienced than the year before and with a chip on their should after such a bad year. The main reason the Hokies are getting a bit of hype? Senior quarterback Ryan Willis, the former Kansas-transfer replaced Josh Jackson after two games last year (Jackson went down with an injury) and honestly outplayed all expectations, Willis threw for 2716 yards with 24 touchdowns to just the 9 interceptions. It is fair to expect Willis to replicate and even improve on those numbers in 2019, especially if the defense makes the jump people expect.

Anyone Else?

This might be slightly out on the limb but I really like what Wake Forest have coming into 2019. They have one of the best quarterback situations in the conference with both Sam Hartman and Jamie Newman proving to be more than capable starting quarterbacks. Before breaking his leg Hartman had thrown for 1984 yards, 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in nine games, whilst Newman played in six games tossing 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions for 1083 yards. Head Coach Dave Clawson should be more than happy with whoever trots out as the week one starter.

The biggest question marks surrounding the Demon Deacons revolve around their mediocre defense, last season they had no real stars and struggled to rush the passer with only 25 sacks all season long. They return only four starters from that defense so it’s unknown as to how their defense will look in 2019, there is a chance they could be every bit as bad but the hope is that an almost completely new defense can provide a little more test for teams than last year’s showing.

Dropping Down a Notch from 2018?

One team stands out as a team that is almost certainly going to take a step back in 2019 – the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Following back to back 9 win seasons you would be forgiven for thinking that NC State could build on that momentum, the problem is that they have lost as much offensive talent as any team in the country. They lost 3900 yards and 25 touchdowns in Ryan Finley, 1000 yards and 19 touchdowns in Reggie Gallaspy II, a combined 2000 yards and 11 touchdowns in Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers, All-American centre Garrett Bradbury and their offensive co-ordinator Eliah Drinkwitz left to become Head Coach of the Appalachian State Mountaineers. This many losses might be too much for the Wolfpack to overcome in 2019.

Shout Out To?

Boston College, Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils. All four of these teams won’t be good enough to compete for either the Atlantic or Coastal division in 2019 but have talented players and should be at least interesting to watch.

Boston College are Boston College, they’re about as consistently average as a college football programme can be, they more or less float around seven wins every season and there isn’t really any reason to expect differently this year. They return a trio of very good offensive players in quarterback Anthony Brown, receiver Kobay White and potential dark-horse Heisman candidate AJ Dillon. Unfortunately for BC their defense is bad, they only return three starters, this will probably halt any progress the offense has made.

Pittsburgh finished the 2018 season atop the Coastal division, they did so by having two 1000 yard rushers in Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall… unfortunately for Pittsburgh both Ollison, Hall and four of their starting offensive linemen are no longer on the team. Pitts defense should remain solid in 2019, their season will hang on the play of Kenny Pickett at quarterback. Pickett was less than spectacular in 2018, he threw for just shy of 2000 yards and just the 12 touchdowns. Those numbers need to improve, without Ollison and Hall Pickett will see far more opportunity to utilise his arm.

Why are the Tar Heels interesting to watch in 2019? One reason really, the return of Mack Brown. North Carolina don’t have a particularly good roster, there is a reason they won just the two games in 2018 but Mack Brown has proven to be a fantastic college coach (might be understating that a bit), if anybody can inspire a Tar Heels turn around its him.

The Blue Devils finished the 2018 season with an 8-5 record and a win against Temple in the Independence Bowl, so why isn’t there any real buzz surrounding them going into 2019? Well, they have a new quarterback in senior Quentin Harris but don’t have many weapons surrounding him. Their defense should remain solid as they return nine starters, but they have a brutal schedule in 2019, in non-conference play they face both Alabama & Notre Dame and face Syracuse & Wake Forest from the Atlantic division. The only way this could have been worse is if they ended up with Clemson on their schedule as well.

Also Rans?

There are only two teams that I expect very little from in 2019, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Louisville Cardinals.

I’ll keep this short and sweet, the Yellow Jackets hired Geoff Collins as their new head coach but don’t really have the personnel to play his traditional system. They return just four starters on offense and only the three starters on defense. That is a LOT of gaps that need filling, if that wasn’t enough to say the Yellow Jackets were going to be bad their schedule should put the final nail in the coffin. In 2019 they travel to Clemson, Miami (Fla) and Virginia whilst hosting Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Georgia to end the season…. I struggle to see a win in any of those games.

I’ll be equally as short with Louisville, they just don’t have a talented roster. The offense without Lamar Jackson was abysmal in 2018, quarterback Jawon Pass was really bad (8:12 TD:INT & less than 2000 yards in ’18), their leading rushers were backup quarterback Malik Cunningham and freshman Hassan Hall (who had only 303 yards) and their defense was horrendous, finishing last in the ACC in both scoring defense and yards allowed. Not a lot has changed heading into 2019, the Cardinals have seemingly fallen even further behind the rest of the ACC.

Predictions:

Atlantic

1. Clemson 12-0

2. Syracuse 10-2

3. Florida State 8-4

4. North Carolina State 8-4

5. Wake Forest 6-6

6. Boston College 6-6

7. Louisville 3-9

Coastal

1. Miami 10-2

2. Virginia 9-3

3. Virginia Tech 8-4

4. Pittsburgh 6-6

5. Duke 4-8

6. North Carolina 3-9

7. Georgia Tech 3-9

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AFC East Breakdown

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985)

Last Season

New England Patriots  11-5

Miami Dolphins  7-9

Buffalo Bills  6-10

New York Jets  4-12

New England Patriots:

Draft selections: N’Keal Harry, WR (1.32), Joejuan Williams, CB (2.45), Chase Winovich, DE (3.77), Damien Harris, RB (3.87), Yodny Cajuste, T (3.101), Hjalte Froholdt, OL (4.118), Jarrett Stidham, QB (4.133), Byron Cowart, DT (5.159), Jake Bailey, P (5.163), Ken Webster, CB (7.252).

Offseason key additions: Michael Bennett, DE (Philadelphia Eagles), Mike Pennel, DL (New York Jets), Ben Watson, TE (New Orleans Saints), Jamie Collins, LB (Cleveland Browns), Demaryius Thomas, WR (Houston Texans).

Offseason key departures: Rob Gronkowski, TE (retired), Dwayne Allen, TE (Miami Dolphins), Adrian Clayborn, DE (Atlanta Falcons), Trent Brown, LT (Oakland Raiders), Trey Flowers, DE (Detroit Lions).

Super Bowl odds: 6/1

Analysis:

The New England Patriots, and coach Bill Belichick, have had their annual off-season shake up but this year it just feels …… different. Rob Gronkowski’s retirement has left the Patriots very bare at the tight end position, especially with Ben Watson being handed a 4 game suspension to start the season. On the defensive side, Trey Flowers has joined Matt Patricia in Detroit and Trent Brown got his big payday in Oakland. The addition of Michael Bennett (DE) from Philadelphia as well as resigning Jamie Collins (LB) has covered some of the losses. The strength of the defense is clearly in the secondary and the resigning of Jason McCourty along with the emergence of J.C. Jackson to play alongside Stephon Gilmore should help give the front seven time to pressure. The Patriots have signed a catalogue of wide receivers for training camp as well as drafting N’Keal Harry (WR) in the first round. If Josh Gordon does get reinstated, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady will have a much more dangerous receiving core. But let’s be honest, the AFC East, as a division, is still pretty awful beyond the Patriots!

Look out for:

The Patriots to start the season 2-2 and everyone to have a melt down! Brady is finished, the dynasty is over, the world is ending! Back in the real world; Sony Michel to lead the offense with a 1000+ yard season as the Pats become a run first team behind a very strong offensive line. New England should win the division at a canter but an early exit in the playoffs could end the chance at a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance but who would ever bet against Brady and Belichick?!

Miami Dolphins:

Draft selections: Christian Wilkins, DT (1.13), Michael Deiter, OL (3.78), Andrew Van Ginkel, LB (5.151), Isaiah Prince, T (6.202), Chandler Cox, RB (7.233), Myles Gaskin, RB (7.234).

Offseason key additions: Dwayne Allen, TE (New England Patriots), Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Josh Rosen, QB (Arizona Cardinals), Chris Reed, G (Jacksonville Jaguars), Eric Rowe, CB (New England Patriots).

Offseason key departures: Danny Amendola, WR (Detroit Lions), Brandon Bolden, RB (New England Patriots), Ryan Tannehill, QB (Tennessee Titans), Andre Branch, DE (Arizona Cardinals), Robert Quinn, DE (Dallas Cowboys).

Super Bowl odds: 500/1

Analysis:

The Dolphins have made big changes during the off-season. New head coach Brian Flores has moved over from divisional rivals New England and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been traded to the Tennessee Titans. Miami made a very smart move bringing in Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick to battle it out for the starting QB job. ‘Fitzmagic’ (as he was known during a spell in Tampa) averaged 9.6 yards per attempt during the 2018 season. The highest mark recorded by PFF for a QB in 13 seasons! But he suffers massively from consistency issues. Kenyon Drake is a decent but not elite running back and losing Danny Amendola could prove to be a big mistake. Defensively, Miami ranked 29th in the 2018 season but Brian Flores is a defensive guy and has a young group to work with. The Dolphins do boast an elite corner back in Xavien Howard and have a solid linebacking group containing Kiko Alonso. They are a team in transition and should be picking quite early in next years draft.

Look out for:

Fitzpatrick to start the season as QB1 but Rosen to take over by week 8. The dolphins are building for the future and although Super Bowl 54 will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium (home of the Dolphins), do not expect to see the Dolphins competing in the big game. A fourth place finish in the AFC East beckons although they should pick up their obligatory win, at home, against the Patriots!

Buffalo Bills:

Draft selections: Ed Oliver, DT (1.09), Cody Ford, T (2.38), Devin Singletary, RB (3.74), Dawson Knox, TE (3.96), Vosean Joseph, LB (5.147), Jaquan Johnson, S (6.181), Darryl Johnson, DE (7.225), Tommy Sweeney, TE (7.228).

Offseason key additions: Cole Beasley, WR (Dallas Cowboys), Frank Gore, RB (Indianapolis Colts), LaAdrian Waddle, T (New England Patriots), John Brown, WR (Baltimore Ravens), Tyler Kroft, TE (Cincinnati Bengals).

Offseason key departures: Charles Clay, TE (Arizona Cardinals), Chris Ivory, RB (Free Agent), John Miller, G (Cincinnati Bengals), Logan Thomas, TE (Detroit Lions).

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

The Bills are built around their defense and they strengthened it further by adding quality through the draft, but they have also improve the offense with some key additions as well. Ed Oliver is a play wrecking defensive tackle and on the opposite side of the ball, Cody Ford could be used at either right tackle or guard to improve a struggling O-line. The Bills pressured opposing quarterbacks on 37% of drop backs last season (6th in the NFL) and there is no reason to think that this stat won’t be similar in 2019. Buffalo worked their salary cap in 2018 to allow them to build for the future and they appear well placed to make steps this season. The addition of Cole Beasley from the Cowboys should give quarterback Josh Allen a prime receiver to keep the chains moving. At running back the Bills have plenty of options led by LeSean McCoy. McCoy averaged just 3.2 yard per carry in 2018 but the offensive line has been greatly improved. As with most teams, the offensive development with very much depend of the progress of Josh Allen.

Look out for:

The Buffalo bills to be around the .500 mark. If Josh Allen can make decent progress, then a record slightly better than this could be achievable with an outside shot at the playoffs. Their run of games from week 13-16 are brutal (@Dallas, vs Baltimore, @Pittsburgh, @New England) and should be a good indicator of how far this team has developed throughout the season. Look for the Bills to cause some upsets along the way but consistency could be their undoing.

New York Jets

Draft selections: Quinnen Williams, DT (1.03), Jachai Polite, DE (3.68), Chuma Edoga, OT (3.92), Trevon Wesco, TE (4.121), Blake Cashman, LB (5.157), Blessuan Austin, CB (6.196).

Offseason key additions: Le’Veon Bell, RB (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tom Crompton, G (Minnesota Vikings), Jamison Crowder, WR (Washington Redskins), C.J. Mosley, LB (Baltimore Ravens), Kelechi Osemele, G (Oakland Raiders), Trevor Siemian, QB (Minnesota Vikings)

Offseason key departures: James Carpenter, G (Atlanta Falcons), Isaiah Crowell, RB (Oakland Raiders), Spencer Long, G (Buffalo Bills), Mike Pennel, DT (New England Patriots), Buster Skrine, CB (Chicago Bears).

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

Adam Gase has moved into the role of head coach after spending three seasons at their divisional rivals, Miami Dolphins. The Jets have made massive improvements to their roster but it was desperately needed! Through the draft, the Jets used four of their six selections on defensive players, selecting Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick. Greg Williams has also joined as defensive co-ordinator and on paper, the front seven looks promising. However, cornerback is still a big cause for concern. Trumaine Johnson picked up a very lucrative contract and needs to start earning that money if the Jets defence are going to take big strides forward. Offensively the addition of Le’Veon Bell at running back is a big upgrade. The Jets offense ranked 29th in 2018 but with Sam Darnold entering his second year with an elite running back and an explosive receiver in Bobby Anderson, I’m expecting to see the Jets finish 2nd in the AFC East and the offense to be ranked much higher in 2019.

Look out for:

The Jets have the personnel on the roster to be a challenger in the AFC. They have a solid defense, playmakers on offense and are building a strong team for the future. However, it may be a season too early for ‘Gang Green’ and I am seriously worried about head coach, Adam Gase! Seriously, what head coach sniffs smelling salts on the sidelines before a preseason game! The Jets were one of my ‘worst to first’ candidates (shameless plug of my last article) and I truly believe they will be very close to a wild card spot in 2019!

2019 Season Prediction

New England Patriots 11-5

New York Jets 9-7

Buffalo Bills 8-8

Miami Dolphins 4-12

Five Fantasy Wastelands

By Lawrence Vos (Twitter: @nflfaninengland) July 13 2019
For many of you that are relatively new to NFL fantasy football the thought of those late round picks may fill you with a bit of fear. After all who is Simmie Cobbs or Jeff Driskel?
Sometimes you need to take a punt, no not a 53-yard coffin-corner, but a shot in the dark at someone who is not a household name and realistically not someone that will make or break your season.
To help you figure out some situations to avoid, Lawrence Vos dons his best Mad Max costume and holds your hand to guide you through some team-unit fantasy wastelands to steer well clear from.

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks
I am saying it here and saying it loudly, the Dolphins are not tanking for Tua (Tagovailoa) they will be trying to win as many games as possible in 2019. Whether they actually obtain more than three wins is a completely different matter. Will there be some Fitzmagic in the sunshine or will everything come up smelling of Rosen? Ryan Fitzpatrick, the veteran bearded wizard, will likely open the season as starter, but despite his gaudy stats to begin 2018 there is no Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson or OJ Howard loitering on South Beach in 2019. Miami bought in former first-round selection Josh Rosen to compete. A better financial move than personnel move, as the Dolphins avoided paying any kind of signing bonus, already absorbed by the Arizona Cardinals. Nobody likes a situation where it’s Havaianas Time on a Sunday morning, and nobody wants to carry two quarterbacks that are not commanding starters. Fitzpatrick can burn brighter than a comet, but his rocket man arm can fizzle too, and guessing the week he is on fire is a lottery. Don’t light a candle in the wind for either of these signal-callers.

Washington Redskins wide-receivers
Much like drinking a Brussel sprout, cranberry and radish smoothie, drafting any Redskins wide-outs will leave you with a lingering bitter taste in your mouth, and likely a bit of something stuck in your back teeth. The situation may be significantly different in a season or two, but the combination of the woefully disappointing Josh Doctson (a first round pick in 2016 who has accrued 1,100 yards, 81 catches and eight touchdowns in three season) two unproven rookies Terry McLaurin (Round 3) and Kelvin Harmon (Round 7) and Paul Richardson, who in his five seasons has averaged 23 catches a year and two touchdowns, is truly unappetising. You have more chance of a breakout season from second-string third-year tight-end Jeremy Sprinkle. If you want to tank with your fantasy team then pick up one of these bundles of burgundy and gold decorated joy. And if you truly want to stun your league then why not add Redskins 5th WR Brian Quick, who had three catches for 18 yards in 2018.

Buffalo Bills running-backs
More messy than Mr Messy after he has done ten shots of tequila and then on the way home decided to douse his kebab in a pint of habanero sauce, the Bills have as eclectic a backfield as anyone in the NFL. Two veteran Pro-Bowlers, a potential rookie stud and an under-the-radar young free-agent. Great for depth and therefore superb for team rushing output, but a cold-sweat inducing nightmare for fantasy owners. Both in their 30’s, LeSean ‘Shady’ McCoy is on the downward spiral of his career arc and Frank Gore it turns out is a cyborg who cannot be terminated. McCoy performed badly in 2018 with rookie Josh Allen handing him the pigskin, averaging a paltry 3.2 a carry and three total touchdowns. Gore is clearly partaking in some wine from Cliff Richard’s vineyard as he continues his inevitable journey to Canton, Ohio via Western New York. Gore, much like Fitzmagic, will get the ball at some stage, and this means carries getting split. Throw in a dynamic rookie in the form of Devin Singletary, who scored nation-leading 32 touchdowns in 2017 for Florida Atlantic, and you have a 5ft 7inch end-zone vulture. Now throw in the grossly underrated T.J Yeldon, who has very soft hands, and averages over 40 catches a season, and you have wonderful talent, but no workhorse and as a team no clear fantasy asset.

New England Patriots tight-ends
He may currently look like he’s had colonic treatment that has sucked half his body weight up a faecal extraction tube, but the odds on Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement by week 15 is higher than you might think. Rich Eisen recently asked Gronk to perform a mock conversation between him and Tom Brady, and it ended with the tight-end saying ‘call me when it gets to the playoffs’. Meanwhile Brady will be facing at least three months of struggles with the return of Ben Watson delayed for the first four weeks of the season due to a substance misuse suspension. Watson was coaxed out of retirement thinking he could catch 50-60 balls from Tom Brady in a swansong, now he might play a bit-part from week 5 onwards. Sitting atop the depth chart as we stand in mid-July is one of my sleeper sweethearts Matt LaCosse. LaCosse has never been a feature tight-end but he does have the physical tools to develop some early season rapport with Brady. Behind LaCosse is third-year former Texans tight-end Stephen Anderson. You can likely get Watson and LaCosse cheap in deeper leagues, and in some cases one will be available on waivers. This does not mean you should pull the trigger on any Patriots tight-end. Gronk was a unique proposition, and cannot be replaced. If you want to take a gamble late with Patriots skill players grab rookie WR N’Keal Harry who will get a worthwhile target share to justify a spot on your bench.

Denver Broncos wide-receivers
Joe Flacco. The name alone makes you think about mediocrity, middle-of-the-road, conservative, no thrills gameplay. Hardly words that wide-receivers will want to describe the man that is throwing them the ball in 2019. This situation is not only eroded by an uninspiring passer, its due to the depth chart being equally vanilla, and no I’m not talking about Madagascan vanilla pods, I mean the budget ice-cream type you get at a child’s birthday party. Emmanuel Sanders is getting old and coming back from an Achilles injury, and the other two starters Desean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton are only in their second seasons yet they have to start from scratch building a pass catching relationship with the former Super Bowl MVP Flacco. There will be big pressure on Hamilton and Sutton to step up and one will likely establish himself as Flacco’s favourite by mid-season. Put simply there are better bench options to pick-up in the latter stages of your draft. You need big help with your team in you are drafting any Broncos wide-receiver to start. These three will likely sit on your fantasy bench for a few weeks before you lose faith and drop one for a waiver hot-shot. Do yourself a favour and avoid this dilemma wasting any time in your fantasy-football addled brain by avoiding drafting Denver wide-outs.

Are there any other wastelands you are avoiding? Let me know on Twitter personally or direct it at our Full10Yards Fantasy account, @F10YFantasy.

I’ve Got Your Back

By Lawrence Vos, 6 June 2019 (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10)  AJ McCarron – Houston Texans

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

9) Blaine Gabbert – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

8) Nick Mullens – San Francisco 49ers

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

7) Josh Rosen – Miami Dolphins

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

6) Blake Bortles – Los Angeles Rams

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

5) Robert Griffin III – Baltimore Ravens

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

4) Tyrod Taylor – Los Angeles Chargers

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

3) Case Keenum – Washington Redskins

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

2) Jacoby Brissett – Indianapolis Colts

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

1) Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans

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