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Big Ten Preseason All-Conference Team

Welcome to the second of our preseason all-conference teams for each of the Power-5 conferences.

Check out the first instalment of the series here where our guy Will Lane gave you his picks for the SEC. Right now though, Lee Wakefield is giving you the best of the Big Ten conference, widely thought of as the next best conference in the country after the SEC.

Check out Lee’s picks below;

Here is Lee’s analysis of the picks:

No shocks here as the dominant team in the conference, Ohio State, dominates our preseason All-Conference team with the Buckeyes contributing seven players across both sides of the ball. Which includes the biggest superstars of the team in CJ Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba on offense.

It may be somewhat surprsing to see Iowa share the number two spot with Maryland in terms of contributors here.The Terepins should have a pretty legit offense in particular, and in truth, there would have been more Maryland selections in we had extended the exercise to include a second team! It really was a toss up between Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus at wide receiver and these two guys should be really fun to watch if Taulia Tagovailoa (another guy who might have pushed for second team) can bring it all together as a passer.

In true Big Ten fashion, I love the offensive line here with the whole unit being made up of guys who could eventually be top-50 draft selections when they do enter the league. Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson headline the group but Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz could be the first center off the board come next April’s draft.

Flipping over to the defensive side of the football, this Big Ten defense has a whole bunch of playmakers, in the front seven in particular – Watch out for Mazi Smith of Michigan, he is the #1 player on Bruce Feldman’s Freak List for the 2022 season and if Durrell Nchami can put it all together he’s going to be a fast-rising edge defender as we move through the draft cycle. Keith and I mentioned Jack Campbell on our Summer Scouting Episode on linebackers as the quintessential Bin Ten linebacker and he would truly be the heartbeat of this unit from America’s heartlands.

Finally, on the back end, it’s super-solid. Joey Porter, Tiawan Mullen and Riley Moss give the team three great coverage guys, with Avery Moss providing a whole bunch of versatility! This All-Star team really could run with the best of them in college football, and there will be some unbelievable clashes in the conference within the conference as usual this coming season.

Thanks again for reading! Tomorrow we will hit you up with our selections for the ACC at Midday (UK) and also the Big XII at 5pm (UK)

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Sunday 6pm Preview: Kevin Stefanski Returns To Minnesota In Prove It Game For Browns & Vikings

All eyes will be on Kevin Stefanski as he returns to his employer of over a decade as his Cleveland Browns travel to US Bank Stadium to take on the in-form Minnesota Vikings.

Stefanski held seven roles at the Purple and Gold between 2006 and 2019, making a name of himself most notably as offensive co-ordinator during Minnesota’s most recent playoff season before being named as Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Last year, the two sides had contrasting luck as Stefanski guided the Browns to their first playoff berth since 2002, while the Minnesota Vikings slumped to 7-9 and third in the NFC North.

This will be the first time Stefanski has gone up against the Vikings since the move, and it comes at a pivotal moment in the season for both the Browns and the Vikings alike.

Strong Starts

This game sees both sides come into the game with their tails up. The Browns having cruised to their second win in a row, taking down the Bears quite literally with nine sacks the main feature of the afternoon.

Meanwhile the Minnesota Vikings got their first win of the season in great style, overwhelming the Seattle Seahawks in the second half to come back from a 14 point deficit after narrowing losing to the Arizona Cardinals the week before.

Both will feel that they come into the game with great confidence and the ability to go toe-to-toe with anyone that comes across their path, which should make for an exciting game.

Offensive powerhouses of the same kin

Points mean prizes, and that’s definitely the viewpoint of these two quite explosive offenses. The Vikings and Browns are 8th and 9th in the league respectively scoring 29 and 28.7 points per game, while the NFC North side boasts the three greatest yards haul so far at 425 a game. Cleveland isn’t too far behind in 7th (410).

As you can expect, Kevin Stefanski took his blueprint of offensive style he developed at Minnesota and installed it at Cleveland to great effect: using multiple TE sets and strong offensive line and running back play to assist the passing game and move the sticks.

Both offenses have had a similar start too. Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield’s stats are practically identical when it comes to passer rating and completion percentage. The Browns have been able to use the ground game more to their advantage thanks to their explosive one-two punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (2nd best in league with 174.7 yards per game on the ground) while Minnesota have been forced into shootouts the last couple of weeks and made to turn to Alexander Mattison who sparkled in deputising Dalvin Cook who went off injured against Seattle.

Dalvin Cook is questionable for Sunday’s matchup, and may prove a key piece in Minnesota’s gameplan.

Better defenses

Mike Zimmer last year called out his defense as the worst he’s ever had, but this year looks much happier with his set up as Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods joined the side.

While we’ve not seen the results of this just yet with an average of 26 points a game conceded, a lot can be said of the teams played so far (particularly in Seattle and Arizona) as excusable points, and that the defense will gel as time goes on.

The visitors are buoyed by the nine sacks they delivered on Bears’ QB Justin Fields in his debut start last week, and the one net passing yard allowed in that performance as the team looks to show that the unit is starting to gel after the unit was entirely overhauled in the offseason.

The Browns currently lie 3rd in yards conceded (248.7) and 7th in points conceded (20). The Browns are currently also the fifth most efficient in limiting yards in the air and the ground.

Minnesota’s offense will provide a much more challenging prospect than the Texans and Bears however, and we’re likely to be in a shootout where any defensive stops will be gold dust.

Predictions

If there is a person outside the building who knows what the Vikings are likely to throw up against the Browns, it’s the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns, and that should help enormously.

Questions over Cook’s availability, as well as the Browns’ proficiency in stopping the run this season will force Kirk Cousins into throwing situations which may or may not be to the benefit of the Vikings.

Minnesota on the other hand, have allowed around 120 yards on the ground so far this year, something that Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will look to exploit, providing an easier task for Baker Mayfield to deliver on key passing downs at what should be a loud and intimidating atmosphere at US Bank Stadium.

It should be a close fought game, and homefield advantage will make things more interesting as these two sides look quite closely matched. However, I do believe that the trenches will swing this game for Cleveland unless the Vikings rushing defense can provide stops.

Cleveland 30, Minnesota 24

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College Football: Winners & Losers Week 4

Well.. we’re still trying to recover from another weekend of upsets, big plays and solid (really solid) defense.

On the weekend which saw Clemson effectively knocked out of playoff contention, Texas A&M humbled by Arkansas and Georgia Tech running wild against UNC, it’s a difficult job to pick only three winners and three losers. 

As ever, we’ve given it our best shot, but if you disagree or simply want to get involved in the debate then hit us up at @Full10YardsCFB.

Winners – Jake (@ACCUKAnalysis1)

Jake Haener – QB, Fresno State

Haener was mentioned in last week’s loser of the week for his role in upsetting UCLA, this time he gets his own recognition. He was impressive in the win over UNLV, throwing for 378 yards and 5 touchdowns. Fresno State struggled early on in this game, trailing 14-0 after the 1st Quarter, but Haener came alive, and his stats show their own story with his performance.

Haener has started this season in unbelievable form, he currently leads the nation in passing yards and joint-2nd in touchdowns thrown. He has led Fresno State to 18th in the latest AP Top 25 and that’s not by coincidence. They lost by a single score in Oregon in the 2nd week, but since then they have been impressive against Cal Poly, UCLA and again this weekend.

A big part of that has been the rise in stock of Jake Haener. The last 2 weeks has seen him throw for 833 yards in 2 standout performances. He could easily have made the Winners section last week, but really stamped his mark this week.

With all the questions about 2022 NFL Draft-eligible Quarterbacks this year and how they have been very hit and miss, Haener has really stepped up to be one to watch for the rest of the season.

Jake Haener picks his pass (photo: Cal Headline)

NC State Wolfpack

The decline of Clemson is evident. They hadn’t lost to an unranked team for 36 matches, plus had only lost 4 times to ACC opponents since 2015. However, despite the frailties of Clemson, there is plenty of positives from the side of NC State.

It was their first win against a top-10 side since 2012 and allowed them to surpass Clemson in the latest AP Top 25. Generally, NC State is a tough team to face. They may not always pick up the wins their performances deserved, and this looked the case again when they missed a 39-yard field goal in OT, but they stood firm and picked up the vital touchdown in 2OT.

This is a team not based on individual performances. The combination of consistency on the ground, in the air, and on defense saw them put away a Clemson side that really struggled to get anything going. They allowed just 214 yards, restricting D.J. Uiagalelei to just 111 passing yards.

On the other side of the ball, Devin Leary had 238 yards, with 4 touchdowns, whilst the combination of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. rushed for 170 yards, albeit without a touchdown. This level of balance, combined with grit and determination is always going to pick up wins against teams that are struggling to find a true identity. 

NC State have overtaken Clemson in the ACC, and only time will tell whether they can maintain that, but this is another impressive performance that could define their season.

Arkansas Razorbacks

The old saying is that pigs can’t fly, well they clearly haven’t seen the Hogs this season. Arkansas is sitting at 4-0, jumping 8 places in the most recent AP Top 25. This weekend’s victory over Texas A&M was a massive statement, after an impressive start to 2021.

The Aggies were beaten by a physical and resilient Hogs defense, totaling just 272 yards for the game. Although Texas A&M have struggled to really put together offensive stats in recent weeks, this highlights their struggles when facing a tough opponent with a tougher defense. Zach Calzada was sacked 3 times, and there were 9 tackles for a loss from the Hogs.

Offensively they got the job done. K.J. Jefferson only threw 15 times, completing 7 of them, but still put up 212 yards and had 2 touchdowns. The slight worry was that he left the game in the 3rd Quarter, but Malik Hornsby did enough when he came into the ground, and even receiver Warren Thompson threw a 27-yard completion. Treylon Burks had 165 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown, that really made the difference between the two teams. There weren’t big numbers put up by the rest of the offense, but they did what they needed and blew the Aggies off the field in the first half.

There will be question marks over whether they continue this form throughout the season, but a Texas double, and a Top-10 ranking shows that they are a tough team to beat. The real test will be Georgia next week, but these Hogs have their wings and definitely don’t want to be brought back down to Earth any time soon.

Losers – Andy (@Ajmoore21)  

The Clemson Tigers Offense

Was this predictable? The Tigers lost a superstar QB, their starting RB, two starting WRs and a starting Tackle to the NFL Draft, and so far in 2021 their offense has been absolutely abysmal, ranking 105th in the country.

We’ve become so accustomed to watching Clemson dominate the ACC and nearly every other opponent in College Football, so to watch what is currently happening is really quite remarkable. But the reality is that this Tigers’ offense is stale, relying on the sheer talent of those executing it to elevate it to the standard we’ve come to expect. Dan Orlovsky broke it down well on Twitter, saying that there are no drop back concepts, no use of play action and the offensive line can’t give DJ ​​Uiagalelei time to execute.

In this game the lack of developed talent at the receiver position was on show for all to see, only two receivers made a catch in the game and it was really just Justyn Ross that had any impact. In the run game Will Shipley had been a bright spark on the year for the Tigers, but in this game he was ineffective before being carted off with an injury. Lyn Dixon left the programme last week after Shipley secured his spot as the starter, but with the freshman set to miss some time that now looks like a bad decision for both Dixon and Clemson.

This week’s loss to NC State effectively rules the Tigers out of playoff contention, and in some ways that might be good for Dabo Swinney. The Clemson Head Coach now has the time to reevaluate and refresh his scheme, but there’s a new looming question… will Uiagalelei be the QB of the future?

NC State take the overtime win against Clemson (photo: The State)

Florida State Seminoles  

Somehow, despite being the laughing stock of College Football over the last three weeks, the Seminoles have avoided this list. Well, no more! 

Florida State moved to 0-4 with a 31-23 defeat to Louisville in Tallahassee on Saturday, and it was clear that the very small crowd didn’t really expect anything else. This is the first time since 1974 that the ‘Noles have opened a season with four straight losses, and Mike Norvell has got to do something very quickly or he’ll find himself in danger of putting a sizable dent in his fledgling coaching career.

The Seminoles’ main problem is generating consistent offense and getting to opposition QBs on defense. On Saturday, the first half saw both of these problems rear their ugly heads again, as the FSU defense was run over by Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals offense and McKenzie Milton couldn’t get anything going in response.

The second half gave ‘Noles fans a glimmer of hope for the coming weeks, as Louisville failed to put up any points and the offense chipped away at the 31-7 halftime deficit. Still, it was too little, too late and the programme that won a Natty less than 10 years ago sits at the very bottom of the ACC standings.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Firstly, shoutout Bowling Green – four games in and they’ve already smashed through the 1.5 win total that the bookies gave them this season. Secondly, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are bad.

In a loss which saw Minnesota end their record of 21 straight non-conference wins, the Golden Gophers were woeful on offense and couldn’t get the ball moving through the air against their FCS opponents. Tanner Morgan attempted 13 passes, completing five of those for 59 yards, whilst throwing two interceptions. Morgan was once tipped as a potential NFL prospect, but through four weeks he’s averaging 135 yards a game and completing just 52% of his passes.

For a team that lost their locker room leader and standout running back, Mo Ibrahim, to a season ending injury in week one, Morgan should be a leader on and off the field. However, it looks likely that backup RB, Trey Potts, is fulfilling that role – the sophomore back has rushed for 474 since taking the starting job in week one, putting up five touchdowns in the process.

Despite that positive, the Gophers simply can’t be losing games to a team of Bowling Green’s stature if they want to maintain their reputation as an established, NFL talent producing, Power 5 team.

Need more CFB content?! Check out our weekly Top 25:

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NFL Deep Dive – Mid-Season Special / NFC

By Ste Tough (@SteTough)

As we reach the halfway point in the NFL season, let’s have a look at the state of play of all 32 franchises. Who is getting top marks and who has the dreaded “Must try harder” remarks? We’ve already been through the AFC, so let’s turn our attention to the NFC…

(Note: written after Packers vs 49ers on 5 November)


NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (2-6)

Half-Term Report

The Cowboys have been one of the biggest disappointments in 2020. With a new Head Coach, a good draft and their star QB back (albeit on the franchise tag), most picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East. How that has all unravelled! While Dak’s injury was a real gut-punch, Mike McCarthy just doesn’t look like he has what it takes to drag this team into the post-season. Their defence looks a mess, conceding 266 points through eight games (the worst in the NFL) and their offence hasn’t been much better (even taking the Dak injury into account). Key players like Zeke have not been contributing as McCarthy would have liked, especially for someone who loves the run game as much as he does.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Dak Prescott – I know, I know, he’s injured now and out for the season, but you just have to tip your cap to the fifth year QB for the season he was having. Until he went down with that horrible ankle injury in Week 5 against New York, he had more than 1,800 yards with 9 TDs and a 75.4 QBR. Had he kept that up, he would have thrown for over 5,900 yards and 29 TDs… It is now a case of ‘what could have been’ for Dallas fans. Has Dak played his last game in a Cowboys jersey?

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Dallas is the worst team in the NFL right now. Yes – in the entire NFL. Philadelphia put the game on a plate for them last week and they had absolutely nothing on offence to be able to go and get it. If a team can’t score points, it won’t win games: it’s that simple. If Andy Dalton can come back from concussion and COVID-19 protocols and get some semblance of fluidity with the talented Dallas WR room, then they could pick up a couple more wins this campaign, sealing a final record of around 4-12. But I think a bigger question looms for Jerry Jones. Is Mike McCarthy really the man to lead ‘America’s Team’ going forward?


Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)

Half-Term Report

I’m not really too sure what is happening in Philadelphia right now, although old curses still remain. They have been rocked by injury. On the offensive line alone, they are missing four starters (Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson and Andre Dillard) as well as TE Zach Ertz and WRs DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Their offence and defence seem incapable of playing well in the same game and their franchise QB is having a really difficult season, leading the league in interceptions and turnovers. With wins coming against the Cowboys and Giants, Philly fans are hardly filled with confidence that this team can go far. However, the defence has shown signs of promise with 28 sacks (equal 2nd) and the shutdown play of star CB pickup Darius Slay.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Brandon Graham – The 2010 first-round pick defensive end is having his best season in the NFL, at 32 years old. It cannot be understated how good Graham has been so far. He has seven sacks and is on course to get into double figures for the first time in his career. He also has nine tackles for loss and 11 QB hits. He’s playing at a very high level this season and I would expect the Philly veteran to make the Pro Bowl on this trajectory. Another honourable mention goes to Travis Fulgham, the former Detroit Lions sixth rounder. He has 435 receiving yards since he came into the team in Week 4 and leads the entire NFL since then.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Birds should win the NFC East but they have to improve if they want to go any further than that. Carson Wentz is having a really down season and needs to play better than he has been. They also need to get healthy, and with a bye week this week, that should help with the likes of Miles Sanders, Lane Johnson and Alshon Jeffery expected to return for the Week 10 game with the Giants. Their schedule is tough and many are expecting that they won’t get more than 6 or 7 wins in total – which amazingly should be enough for them to host a playoff game! Doug Pederson needs to give more playing time to his young break-out players. With guys like Jeffery, Jackson and Peters unlikely to be in the City of Brotherly Love next season, I’d like to see more of the likes of Fulgham, Jalon Reagor and Jordan Mailata.

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Chris Szagola – AP

Washington Football Team (2-5)

Half-Term Report

Aside from their impressive Week 1 comeback win against Philadelphia, Washington have been a bit of a dumpster fire this season. New Head Coach Ron Rivera is having a tough first season, much like his NFC East counterparts. However, his decision to drop young QB Dwayne Haskins not just to the bench, but to third choice – behind a QB who hasn’t played a snap in almost two years – is a puzzling one. With their only other win against a depleted Dallas side, Washington looks destined for another losing season. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There have been some signs of life from their D-line, who have 22 sacks on the season (sixth in NFL).

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Montez Sweat – One of very few stand-out players this far for Washington, Sweat has five sacks this season and looks to be improving all the time. The 2019 first-rounder terrorised Baker Mayfield in Week 3 with a sack and three QB hits and did the same in Week 7 against Dallas with a couple of sacks and three QB hits. Washington’s pass rush has been a major positive for Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio, and Sweat has been a key component of that.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Washington Football Team have the benefit of being in the 2020 NFC East – the worst division in the NFL (perhaps ever). What this means is that amassing even six or seven wins could be enough to clinch the division and with it, a play-off berth. While Philadelphia leads at the moment, the NFC East hasn’t had a repeat winner since 2004. Washington’s schedule is also very kind; they have games left against the Giants, Lions, Bengals, Cowboys, Panthers and Eagles, all of which could be considered winnable. If Washington can put a run together and get some momentum going, I would not be surprised if they take the NFC East title this season.


New York Giants (1-7)

Half-Term Report

The Giants, like divisional rivals Washington and Dallas, have a new coaching staff this season and just like those other two teams, they’re struggling. HC Joe Judge has a solitary win against Washington in Week 6 and, aside from that, has struggled to get his team going. New York has only scored 145 points in eight games, which is 31st in the league. However, one positive has been the production from their defence, one with limited pieces. They have allowed only 199 points (14th in NFL) so considering the Giants are 1-7, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham deserves a ton of credit for that. Losing star RB Saquon Barkley to an ACL injury in Week 2 has obviously been a huge blow and their run game has suffered dramatically since.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

James Bradberry – The big name free agency pick-up for GM Dave Gettleman continues to look like a shrewd investment. Bradberry has started all eight games and all 533 defensive snaps in those games. He has three INTs, 12 pass break-ups and a forced fumble, making Bradberry one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise grim Giants team.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Questions continue to be raised at the QB position, like ‘Is Daniel Jones the guy when the 2021 draft class looks so strong?’ As he continues to struggle, the microscope will be put over Jones and HC Joe Judge. The Giants still need to play each divisional rival once as well as the Bengals. Then they have four games against teams with winning records (Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns and Ravens). It looks likely that the Giants may not win again this season. With another high draft pick looming, the main question must surely be whether Dave Gettleman is the guy they still want to be overseeing that pick?

Al Bello – Getty Images

NFC North

Chicago Bears (5-3)

Half-Term Report

Chicago have raised a few eyebrows so far in 2020. It took HC Matt Nagy just three weeks to realise that the Mitch Trubisky experiment was over. However, Chicago have put together impressive wins this season against Detroit, Tampa Bay and that incredible comeback against Atlanta in Week 3. They also took New Orleans to overtime and only narrowly missed out on the win last week. Their QB situation still doesn’t look solid. Nick Foles has had periods where he has struggled but Chicago has managed to grind out wins when it mattered and have certainly put themselves in the conversation for the NFC North title, especially with Green Bay stuttering. Not many would have expected them to be 5-3 by the halfway stage, but here we are!


Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Allen Robinson – Where else is there to go here other than the stand-out WR? The wideout has been the go-to man for Foles and Trubisky, amassing 631 yards through eight games. His average YPC is 12.6 and he has 3 TDs. That incredible TD catch against the Saints in Week 8 highlights how crucial he is to the success of Chicago. Expect Foles to continue going to him to drive this Bears offence.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia – Sun-Times

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The theme of the second half of the season for Chicago is divisional. They still have to play five divisional games (two each against the Packers and Vikings, and one against the Lions). Divisions can be won and lost against your rivals (see NFC East) and if Chicago can go even 3-2 in those games, they will put themselves in a strong position, even for one of the Wild Card spots now that seven teams per conference make the playoffs this year. However, doubts will remain as long as there is a question mark hanging over the QB position.


Detroit Lions (3-4)

Half-Term Report

Detroit has had a somewhat underwhelming first half of the 2020 season. Aside from that eyebrow-raising Week 3 victory over the Cardinals, their only other wins this season have come against teams they would be ‘expected’ to beat (the Falcons and Jaguars). Head Coach Matt Patricia’s overall record since he came in is 12-25-1 and some fans in Detroit have understandably had enough. Their defence has really struggled, with 206 points against through seven games which is 26th in the NFL. They’ve also conceded 35+ points on three separate occasions so far this campaign.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Marvin Jones Jr – The veteran wide receiver was expected to help carry the Detroit offence this season but he only has 265 yards from 22 receptions. Aside from his stand-out game against Arizona, Jones has been largely disappointing with only 3 TDs from 37 targets through seven games. He needs to improve down the stretch.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The chances of Detroit tasting the postseason in 2020 are slim-to-none. Even though they have five of their remaining nine games against teams with losing records, they’d still have to win another two or three outside of those divisional games to be in with a shout. I’m just not sure the Lions have it in them. Some big questions could be asked in Detroit again this off-season if they fail to play in January yet again.


Green Bay Packers (6-2)

Half-Term Report

The Packers started this season on fire, racing out to an impressive 4-0 record and looking unstoppable, with Rodgers back to his best and several young playmakers around him. Their offence scored a mammoth 122 points in their first three games and by their Week 5 bye, they had amassed over 150 points on offence. However, their losses have looked ugly, only managing 10 points and 22 points in losses to Tampa Bay and Minnesota respectively. The defence is beginning to show some holes and Matt LaFleur needs to get them back on track if they are to clinch that coveted single play-off bye spot in the NFC.

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings game recap: Everything we know
Dan Powers – Appleton Post-Crescent / USA TODAY

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Za’Darius Smith – It would be easy to mention Aaron Rodgers here (2,253 yards, 24 TDs, 2 INTs, 86.9 QBR), but I’m not going to go with him. I’m going to pick their stand-out Pro-Bowl OLB Za’Darius Smith, who has seven sacks, eight tackles for loss and 13 QB hits. He’s also forced and recovered a crucial midfield fumble in their Week 3 victory in New Orleans and another on Week 9 TNF against San Francisco. Look for him to kick on in the coming weeks.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

After their shock loss to poor divisional rivals Minnesota in Week 7, the NFC North isn’t as wrapped up as Green Bay may have hoped. The 5-3 Bears are breathing down their necks and it could go down to the wire. This week, they had a tough road trip to San Francisco (but won comfortably, due in part to the Niners’ injury woes) but they now have four match-ups against teams with losing records and they still have to play Chicago twice. The Packers should win at least another five or six games. If they can get to 10 or 11 wins, that should be enough to take the NFC North, but the NFC overall? We’ll have to wait and see.


Minnesota Vikings (2-5)

Half-Term Report

Minnesota has been one of the most disappointing teams so far in 2020. I don’t think many would have predicted them starting their season 1-5 until they managed an impressive win in Lambeau at divisional rivals Green Bay in Week 8. Their schedule hasn’t been too kind, with match-ups against Seattle, Indianapolis and Tennessee so far. However they also suffered a humiliating loss in Week 6 to Atlanta. The loss of go-to WR Stefon Diggs has clearly had an impact in Minnesota.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Kirk Cousins – The 32-year-old gunslinger has struggled this campaign, and his 12 TD to 10 INT ratio hasn’t helped the Vikings’ offence. He’s been sacked 15 times and has a measly QBR of 52.9, which is 26th in the league. Cousins’ contract APY is $33m so he needs to be playing far better than he is. An honourable mention here goe to Dalvin Cook who has rushed for 652 yards and 10 rushing TDs, as well as one receiving TD from 127 receiving yards.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The good news for the Vikings is their second-half schedule is kind. With matches against Dallas, Carolina and Jacksonville as well as two games against fellow NFC North strugglers Detroit still to play, Minnesota has a clear path back to .500. However, they also face tough match-ups against the likes of New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Chicago twice. Their season could very quickly unravel if they suffer further ‘unexpected’ defeats. Of course, there is no such thing as an ‘easy’ game in the NFL but for a team that has finished with a winning record in four out of the last five seasons, a sub .500 season would be quite the setback.


NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2)

Half-Term Report

Tom Brady packed his bags this offseason and shipped out of Boston. The result? A Tampa Bay team that looks like a real Super Bowl contender. With experienced HC Bruce Arians at the reins, the Bucs are really challenging New Orleans for the NFC South title this season. Brady has picked up where he left off in New England: he’s thrown for 2,189 yards (fourth in NFL) and 20 TDs (third). They also have eight rushing TDs (two from Brady) and have scored 247 points (second). Defensively, they have been dominant too, with 28 sacks (T-2nd) and holding teams to an average of 300 yards per game (third). Tampa Bay did have a surprise loss against Chicago in Week 5 and it will be interesting to see if that was just a blip, or if they also have similar struggles as the season goes on.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Jason Pierre-Paul – I didn’t want to talk about Brady here, everyone knows he’s been great. Instead, the veteran LB has been superb for the Buccaneers so far this season. Alongside Devin White, JPP contributes to one of the most fearsome LB groups in the NFL, with 6.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and three forced fumbles to date. He really aids the Bucs rush defence, having allowed only 563 rushing yards (2nd in NFL) in the first half of this season.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

I expect the Buccaneers to continue to dominate and put themselves in the conversation for the NFC Championship game. Next week, they face the return of Drew Brees and New Orleans after that hotly contested Week 1 match-up. They also have interesting games at home to the Rams and Chiefs before their bye in Week 13. Then they end with Minnesota, Atlanta (twice) and Detroit – you’d imagine they finish 4-0 after their bye. Many predicted Tampa Bay to be the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium; no team has ever done it before but the Bucs could well be the first in 2020.


Atlanta Falcons (2-6)

Half-Term Report

The 2020 Atlanta Falcons are somewhat of an enigma. A Super Bowl team just four years ago, they now look a shadow of that, giving up points and throwing away games. After their Week 3 loss to Chicago, they became first team in NFL history to have back-to-back games in which they blew a 15+ point fourth-quarter lead and lost. They fired their HC of five years, Dan Quinn, after starting the season 0-5 and since doing so, they’ve gone 2-1. Matt Ryan is, incredibly, second in the NFL for passing yards per game with 292.4 so it isn’t Atlanta’s offence that is struggling this season.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Atlanta Defence – Atlanta’s defence has been so poor as a unit that it was impossible to single out one or two players. They are allowing 331.4 passing yards per game (31st in NFL) and have allowed 224 points through eight games (29th in NFL). Dante Fowler Jr. was given a monster three-year, $45m contract in Atlanta and so far has posted a lacklustre two sacks and six QB hits. Since 2016, their defence has been getting progressively worse and this year, HC Dan Quinn finally paid the price.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Atlanta reside in a division with two teams who already have six and five wins respectively so they won’t be tasting the off-season this year. After parting ways with their HC and GM, they need to decide who is going to take the franchise in its next direction – in the front office and coaching positions especially – as it looks like they may have another top 5 draft pick in 2021. The rest of this season looks difficult with games against New Orleans, Las Vegas, LA Chargers, Kansas City and Tampa Bay (twice) following their Week 10 bye. All of those teams will look to this game and place it in their prospective ‘W’ column. It’s hard to disagree.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brian Blanco – Getty Images

Carolina Panthers (3-5)

Half-Term Report

The Panthers are putting together a very respectable campaign considering all of the transition they went through during the off-season. Rookie HC Matt Rhule turned some heads when he was hired but so far, he appears to be doing a great job transforming the culture in Carolina. Since their 2015 Super Bowl appearance, they seem to have been suffering from that hangover and have only been to the playoffs once (2017) where they suffered a Wild Card loss to New Orleans. This season, they’ve had an impressive win against Arizona in Week 4 and were actually sitting at 3-2 after Week 5. However, consecutive losses against Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta have dragged them to 3-5.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Robby Anderson – Anderson has been such a good free-agent signing for Carolina. They had been desperate for a star WR to compliment second-year wideout DJ Moore. Anderson is providing OC Joe Brady with another speedy weapon in this exciting Carolina passing game. He’s proving to be good value for his two-year, $20m contract. Anderson could afford to improve his contributions with more TDs but so far, he’s doing a terrific job of helping Teddy Bridgewater spread the ball around the field – especially with franchise poster-boy, Christian McCaffrey, still out injured.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The remaining eight games for Carolina are a mixed bag. On the one hand, they face teams with losing records (Detroit, Minnesota, Denver and Washington) but they also need to play tough games against teams doing very well (Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Green Bay and New Orleans), all of whom could be vying for the NFC title come January. They’ll welcome Christian McCaffrey back either this week or next, a very welcome return from IR after being out since Week 2. I think Matt Rhule would be happy with 7-9 or 8-8 this season, knowing that it is a foundation year to start the rebuild. But with questions at QB looming, Carolina needs to decide what to do with Bridgewater too.


New Orleans Saints (5-2)

Half-Term Report

Drew Brees and his chase for that second Super Bowl ring seems like the never-ending love story; if anyone in the league deserves another, it’s him. Brees has had a Super Bowl-calibre team for the last few seasons, and they’ve faltered in the play-offs every time. This time around, he’s signed a fresh two-year deal in what is surely his final dash to grasp the Vince Lombardi once again. The Saints stuttered at first, with back-to-back losses to the Raiders and the Packers, but since then have won out and now sit at 5-2. What is possibly more impressive is that they’ve done it all without star WR Michael Thomas due to an ankle injury. Once he comes back, I would only expect they’d get even better. They are averaging 29.4 points-per-game (7th in NFL) on offence and allowing an average of 28.1 points-per-game (23rd in NFL) – every Saints game seems to be a shootout! It’s worth noting that their rush defence is one of the best around – only allowing an average of 90.6 yards per game (3rd in NFL).

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Alvin Kamara – Sometimes you run out of superlatives to describe players, and Kamara is one of those players. In mid-September, the Saints and Kamara agreed on a five-year, $75m contract extension keeping him with the franchise until 2025. He is looking very good on that investment so far. He is one of the best ‘dual-threat’ RBs in the league. He has posted 431 yards rushing but perhaps more impressively, he has 556 yards receiving, adding up to almost 1,000 all-purpose yards through seven games. Kamara leads the Saints in broken tackles (nine) and TDs (seven), making him absolutely crucial to their success.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Saints just seem to find ways to get it done in the regular season. Even without Thomas, when Brees normally struggles, they have five wins. They should have Thomas back for Week 10 at the latest and that will only add to their offensive weapons. Their remaining schedule is relatively kind. Aside from tough games against the Buccaneers and Chiefs, they should stand a good chance of winning their remaining games. I would fully expect the Saints to be in the play-offs, as they usually are. However, with some of the quality around the NFC, they may find it difficult to make it to the top of the conference and book their slot at Raymond James Stadium in February 2021.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Derick E. Hingle – USA TODAY Sports

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (5-2)

Half-Term Report

After admitting their shortfalls at QB and going back into the draft and selecting Kyler Murray #1 overall in 2019, the Cardinals are beginning to look like a young, up-and-coming team that has everything together. Off-season addition DeAndre Hopkins has given HC Kliff Kingsbury yet another offensive weapon and allows the Cardinals to be more aggressive and spread the ball around the field. So far, they are keeping up with the leading pack at 5-2 and have had a couple of impressive wins against divisional rivals (49ers and Seahawks). However, they’ve also had a couple of underwhelming losses against Detroit and Carolina that have kept their feet firmly on the ground. They lead the league in average offensive yards per game with 419.1 and are second in the league in rushing yards per game with 160.7.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

DeAndre Hopkins – It’s difficult to pick anyone else than the league leader in receiving yards. When Hopkins became available from Houston in the off-season, Kliff Kingsbury must have been straight on the phone to GM Steve Keim and packing David Johnson’s bags himself. Hopkins has been one of the best receivers in the league for several seasons. This time around, he has 704 receiving yards (first in NFL) and is one of only two WRs in the league averaging more than 100 yards per game (along with Green Bay’s Devante Adams). Hopkins has continued his impressive production in Arizona and just carried straight on from where he left off with the Texans.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The Cardinals are in the most competitive division in the league. Any of the four teams could still realistically win the NFC West (although the 49ers’ injury woes are seeing them fall away). However, outside of their remaining divisional games, the schedule is tricky. Miami have one of the best defences in the league and Buffalo being led by Josh Allen have been impressing so far in 2020. They should win games against the Patriots, Giants and Eagles but they will have to do well in their divisional match-ups. It’s also worth noting they are 2-0 in their divisional games so far. If they keep that up, the NFC West could be heading to Arizona for only the second time since 2009.


Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

Half-Term Report

The story of the Los Angeles Rams so far in 2020 is defence, defence, defence. They lead the league in average yards allowed per game with 291.9 and are holding teams to an average 19.0 points (T-3rd), holding five of their eight opponents this season to under 20 points. They also have 25 sacks on the season (fourth in NFL). DC Brandon Staley has done a terrific job with the defence. Their offence hasn’t been quite as productive but Jared Goff has been spreading the ball around with five different pass-catchers having more than 220 yards and at least one TD so far. Their five wins have come against teams you’d probably expect them to beat (the entire NFC East, plus Chicago) and their losses have all been relatively close. Los Angeles have been a bit too ‘predictable’ so far.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Aaron Donald – I know, it’s a bit boring to talk about the six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Defensive Player of the year, 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year and current sack leader in the NFL… but it is a testament to just how dominant he is and how crucial he is to the success of the Rams. He is equal first for sacks with nine so far in 2020, including four in a single game against Washington. He also has 15 QB hits and 11 tackles for loss. Since he entered the league in 2014, he leads the league in sacks with 81. I think Donald’s most incredible statistic is that in his 6.5 years in the NFL, he has only missed two of 104 games. He keeps himself so healthy, which is even more impressive given the position he plays.

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

The second half of the Rams’ season is where things start to get a bit tricky. They still have five divisional games remaining as they have only played at San Francisco (a 24-16 loss) so far. They have a bye in Week 9 then, after a tough home game against Seattle, they travel to Tampa Bay for the prime-time MNF slot in Week 11. The only remaining games on LA’s schedule you would expect them to win are at Foxborough in Week 14 and at the Jets in Week 15. That said, with the dominance of their defence so far, LA should remain competitive. I’m just not convinced they can get any more than another three or four wins. Wild Card weekend could be beckoning for Sean McVay.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams
Sean M. Haffey – Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks (6-1)

Half-Term Report

The Seattle Seahawks are the best team in the NFL right now, with their dominant offence brushing teams aside. They are third in yards per game (289.0) although Dallas is top and I expect them to drop off now Dak is injured. They are leading the league with 34.3 points per game, which is wild – and a full 2.7 points above their closest competitor (Green Bay). What has perhaps been most impressive about Seattle’s offence has been their ability to adapt without a consistent, healthy running back. Chris Carson only has 323 yards rushing and 3 TDs so far, but HC Pete Carroll has let Russell Wilson take the reins on offence and spread the ball around. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett look like they’re going to have career seasons – both have seven TDs – with Wilson under centre. Defensively, the ‘Hawks have been the polar opposite. They are deal last in average yards per game allowed with 460.0, and 23rd in average points per game allowed (28.4). Pete Carroll’s approach seems to be just get the ball back in Russell Wilson’s hands as quickly as possible, no matter how, and let him work his magic…

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Russell Wilson – Who else is there other than the current league MVP favourite? Let’s look at his 2020 stats. Total passing TDs: 26 (1st in NFL); average YDS/G: 307.3 (3rd in NFL); passer rating: 120.7 (1st in NFL); completion percentage: 71.5% (3rd in NFL). On top of those numbers, he also has 260 rushing yards, making him the ultimate dual-threat QB. Wilson has been nothing short of incredible in 2020 and I fully expect his dominance to continue right the way to the NFC Championship game and perhaps even Super Bowl LV.

Alika Jenner – Getty Images

Expectations for the Second Half of the Season

Seattle should continue its early season dominance as long as it can keep its stars healthy. The breakout of DK Metcalf has been a welcome addition to the WR room and gives Wilson another reliable asset down the field. They still have four divisional games to play (including two against the Rams) but then should pick up at least four wins from their remaining five (Bills, Eagles, Giants, Jets and Washington). Their only loss so far came in overtime. I can see this Seattle team going 13-3 and clinching that first round play-off bye.


San Francisco 49ers (4-5)

Half-Term Report

No team in the NFL has had worse luck with injuries than the San Francisco 49ers. For their Week 9 TNF game against Green Bay, San Fran had almost $80m worth of contract cap hit on Injured Reserve, including QB Jimmy Garoppolo, CB Richard Sherman, DT Solomon Thomas, DE Nick Bosa, DE Dee Ford, TE George Kittle and RB Raheem Mostert. With such substantial injury problems, it is actually incredible that the 49ers have accrued four wins this season. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers put them to the sword on TNF but they still managed 17 points and 337 total yards. Aside from their loss to Philadelphia in Week 4, the other losses probably would have been expected, especially given their injuries. They’re very middle of the road when you look at statistics – 225 points for (18th in NFL) and 207 points against (10th) – but they have just struggled to convert that into wins.

Star Pupil or Detention Specialist

Brandon Aiyuk – The rookie WR out of Arizona State is having an impressive year after being asked to contribute much more than expected after injuries to key 49ers WRs. While his stats don’t light up the page (seven games, 371 yards, 4 TDs and a modest 66.7 catch percentage), he has been an important factor. He’ll be an important piece in San Francisco in the coming seasons and offers Kyle Shanahan a young, cheap option at WR , a position they have struggled to add depth at in recent years. There was also his atheltic hurdling of Eagles safety Marcus Epps in Week 4… it was beyond belief.

Expectations for Second Half of the Season

It feels unlikely that the 49ers will improve much further this season with number of players they currently have out. Jimmy G and George Kittle are both expected to be missing until at least Week 14 and without them, San Francisco will struggle to pick up Ws. They face a tough road game to New Orleans in Week 10 and then they have their bye, perhaps a chance to get a couple more players back from injury. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with games against the LA Rams, Buffalo, Arizona and Seattle. I think this season might just have to be a write-off for Kyle Shanahan, especially given the competition in their NFC West division. They can regroup, get healthy in the off-season and go again in 2021.



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Big Ten Conference Preview

By Liam Lodge (@Liam66NFL)

Welcome to the latest of Full 10 Yards College Football’s conference previews.

Our series has already featured the ACC, Big XII and SEC back when they were beginning their respective seasons.  It is incredible to think that the latest Power 5 conference to kick off is doing so on what will be Week 8 of the overall schedule – such has been the way of the college football world in 2020.

This weekend we finally get the start of the Big Ten conference.

Conference Overview

The Big Ten (also referred to as Big 10 or B1G) is a wonderfully competitive college football league and as the oldest conference in the NCAA, it has loads of history and some of the best rivalries in the game among its strong depth of teams.  Wherever you look throughout the entire Big Ten, you can expect to see exciting offenses, strong defenses… oh, and there’s Rutgers.

(Sorry, Rutgers fans).

The Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes are by far the two most successful programmes in terms of Big Ten Championships. They also boast the most National Championship victories, but there are many other teams in the Big Ten with multiple national titles to their names, which highlights how deep the conference is.

Some of the biggest rivalry games in the Big Ten include Minnesota vs Wisconsin (oldest Big Ten rivalry, with the sides playing for Paul Bunyan’s Axe), the in-state battle of Michigan vs Michigan State (for the Paul Bunyan Trophy) and, of course, the biggest matchup of all between Michigan and Ohio State.

Geographically the conference is represented by schools from the extreme north-east of America.  For this reason, games are often played in difficult conditions where the ability to slow things down with a solid run game and a good defense is required.  This is great for fans who enjoy the hard-nosed, tough style of football needed to play in freezing cold weather.

Due to COVID-19 the Big Ten chose to suspend their season earlier in the year until next spring.  It was later decided that this week was the appropriate time for the action to get started, leading to a revised schedule for each team consisting of 8 conference-only games squeezed into 8 weeks.  This will be followed by the first-ever “Champions Week”.  During Champions Week on December 19th, not only will we get the Conference Championship Game, but each school from each division will match up with the school that finished with the same standing in the opposite division: the second-placed teams will also play each other, as will the third-placed teams, and so on.

Also of note is that when we reach Bowl Season, the Big Ten has a long-standing tie-in to send a team to the biggest of them all, the Rose Bowl Game.

Teams And Last Season’s Record

The Big Ten consists of 14 members (Yes, they have noticed there are more than ten!) who are split evenly into the East Division and the West Division.  Below are how the conference standings ended last season.

EAST DIVISION

Team – (Conference Record) – Overall Record

Ohio State (9-0) 13-1
Penn State (7-2) 11-2
Michigan (6-3) 9-4
Indiana (5-4) 8-5
Michigan State (4-5) 7-6
Maryland (1-8) 3-9
Rutgers (0-9) 2-10

WEST DIVISION

Team – (Conference Record) – Overall Record

Wisconsin (7-2) 10-4
Minnesota (7-2) 11-2
Iowa (6-3) 10-3
Illinois (4-5) 6-7
Purdue (3-6) 4-8
Nebraska (3-6) 5-7
Northwestern (1-8) 3-9

Team In Focus

Ohio State – The Big Ten team attracting the majority of attention this year are the Ohio State Buckeyes.  They are favourites to win the conference and to take a place among the top four teams in the nation in the College Football Playoff, even with a reduced 8-game regular season.

Head coach Ryan Day has done an excellent job since taking over and appeared to have been one of the leading voices in coaxing the Big Ten back into playing during the fall.  Perhaps this is because Day knows the quality of the team he has means the time is now to win some titles.

As we discussed on this week’s Full 10 Yards College Football Podcast, reaching the Playoff may depend on Ohio State remaining unbeaten as a defeat, even just one to drop their final record to 7-1, could see them slide out of contention.  Having said that, the Buckeyes have a very capable group this year and I am backing them to go 8-0 this year and claim a post-season selection.

In fact, even with the likes of heavyweight programmes in Alabama and Clemson potentially awaiting them for a title challenge, I have picked Ohio State to go all the way and win the National Championship.  I truly think the Buckeyes are as talented a side as any in college football.

The leader of the offense is quarterback Justin Fields, who will be expected to guide Ohio State into the Playoff, then enter the 2021 NFL Draft as one of the best at the QB position.  I will dive more into his play in a little bit.

Behind Fields, I cannot wait to see how the coaches deploy Master Teague and Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon as a running back tandem out of the backfield.  Look out too for Chris Olave to be the primary target as a good all-rounder at wide receiver.

The defense will be tough to beat and include a few guys along the front seven who will earn more attention and increase their stocks the longer the season progresses.  My favourite Ohio State defender though is cornerback Shaun Wade, who has chosen to return for another season and will be the team’s main secondary playmaker with the ability to both cover and hit hard out of the slot.

Ohio State have strength in depth across many areas of the roster and will no doubt begin the season as the team that the rest of the conference will be chasing.

Players To Watch

Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State – At this point I am risking turning this into a Buckeyes-only article.  But now is the time to look at Fields as a player in some more depth.

Following a transfer from Georgia I thought it was impressive how quickly Fields settled into playing in new surroundings with a new offensive playbook.  He put up big production during last year and got Ohio State to within a game of the National Championship, falling to Clemson in a really enjoyable Fiesta Bowl match.

Watching Fields you can see that everything is pro-quick; mentally he can assess defenses and make reads quickly and physically he can fire the ball wherever it needs to go.  The excitement around him as a draft prospect centres on the fact there is still room for growth as this season will be only his second full year as a starter.

It is a case of further development during 2020 in what will be Fields’ junior year.  All the pieces are in place for him to excel in this offense and I look forward to seeing him get going this weekend.

Shaka Toney, Edge Rusher, Penn State – In the aforementioned podcast, I chose to highlight Toney as a player to watch on the Penn State defense.

I expect Penn State to be a top 10 team in the country throughout this season and to give Ohio State their toughest challenge.

The Nittany Lions will again return a strong defense, despite the losses of top pass rusher Yetur Gross-Matos to the last NFL draft and star linebacker Micah Parsons who has opted out for this season.  Along the defensive front there is a spot for somebody to step into and become the focal point and I think Toney will be the player to do so.

He already produced good numbers in terms of sacks and tackles for loss during last season and Toney can only build further in what will be his senior year.  He is a slimmer and faster type of edge rusher – best suited to playing as a 3-4 OLB rather than defensive end – beating blockers with speed and explosiveness.  Toney can certainly play bigger than he is and I look forward to seeing if he can add more strength and physicality to his game.

Look for Shaka Toney to attract attention as a top NFL draft prospect as the season progresses.

Rondale Moore, Wide Receiver, Purdue – A Big Ten preview minus Rondale Moore would be incomplete.  He will be one of the conferences most exciting offensive weapons this season.

To get an idea of Moore’s style of play, think Marquise “Hollywood” Brown now of the Baltimore Ravens or KJ Hamler of the Denver Broncos from the last couple of NFL drafts.  That short size with fast speed combination is the name of his game.

Moore’s perceived small statue has been no hinderance during his college career and his flashy playmaking and yards after the catch ability are the sort of traits being utilised in the modern NFL.  His sharp acceleration means he will always create space.

Purdue will often be underdogs this season, but in Moore they have a receiver capable of causing any defense problems whenever he is on the field.

Game To Watch

November 28th, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan – Penn State @ Michigan.

This game between two of the best in the Big Ten East will go a long way to determining who will be the biggest threat to Ohio State in the division.

Penn State and Michigan have had some enjoyable encounters in recent years, and I think this fixture will be another good one as the two rosters for this season match up well.  Look for the talent on all sides to make plays and create scoring opportunities; I think this will be the closest game on both team’s schedule.

The game will take place in Michigan’s stadium known as “The Big House”, which is the largest sporting stadium in the western hemisphere.  The only thing missing will be the enormous atmosphere as the place will not be to full capacity.

This has the potential to be a really interesting contest that will likely come down to the fourth quarter.  One of the unmissable games on the Big Ten calendar.

Record Predictions

EAST DIVISION

Ohio State 8-0
Penn State 6-2
Michigan 5-3
Michigan State 4-4
Indiana 3-5
Maryland 2-6
Rutgers 0-8

WEST DIVISION

Wisconsin 7-1
Minnesota 6-2
Iowa 6-2
Illinois 3-5
Nebraska 2-6
Purdue 2-6
Northwestern 1-7

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Five teams that nailed the 2020 NFL Draft

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

From the record-breaking television ratings to the lack of technical issues, the NFL’s first virtual draft was an undoubted success (unless you’re a Green Bay fan). Like a bizarre episode of Through The Keyhole, we also saw inside the homes of the star players, and the makeshift war rooms of the general managers and coaches: Kliff Kingsbury’s huge villa, Dave Gettleman’s basement and Mike Vrabel’s total madhouse. As I alluded to earlier this week, some teams left us with more questions than answers but here’s a quick round-up on who ‘won’ the 2020 NFL draft.


BALTIMORE RAVENS


Most analysts concur that Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh knocked this draft out of the ballpark, with A and A+ grades being handed out like candy. They made their 10 picks count with good value on both sides of the ball and didn’t seem to reach. Instead, they waited for the likes of LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (#28) to fall into their laps, as well as Ohio State running back JK Dobbins and speedster WR Devin Duvernay on Day 2.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Queen should make an impact in the heart of the defence with his sideline-to-sideline speed, especially after Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes left in free agency. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike also had many a pundit purring, with the defensive tackle getting snaffled at pick #71 despite being widely predicted to go in the 30s.

Alongside Mark Ingram, Dobbins should give yet more oomph to their league-leading rushing offense, while linebacker Malik Harrison and guard Ben Bredeson add depth across the board. Baltimore also picked up a couple of late steals, with receiver James Proche, who logged almost 4,000 receiving yards and 39 receiving touchdowns over four seasons at SMU, and Iowa safety Geno Stone, rated by both Move the Sticks’ Daniel Jeremiah and PFF’s Mike Renner as the best value pick of the final round.

Baltimore were exceptional last season and didn’t have many needs. But even so, they improved even more over the weekend, staying neck and neck with the Chiefs as the team to beat in the AFC Conference.

In short: they smashed it.


DALLAS COWBOYS


When drafting, the big question that faces every team now and again is whether you go for the best player available or fill your biggest need. The Cowboys entered the 2020 draft with the league’s top offense and obvious needs in defence, yet opted to spend their first-round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Bullseye.

Alonzo Adams/AP

Lounging around on his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar super-yacht, team owner/president Jerry Jones must have been laughing into his champagne cocktail when he picked Lamb at #17. Arguably the best receiver in this loaded class, there was no way he should have been the third off the board. With the ‘Boys having signed Amari Cooper to a $100 million extension, Lamb probably wasn’t on the radar but taking him was a no-brainer: Christmas came early in Texas. Preventing their receiver-needy rivals in Philadelphia from securing his run-after-catch abilities was just the icing on the cake.

Only then did Dallas move on to address their two main areas of need, cornerback and defensive tackle, and they did so with great value picks. Stefon’s lil’ brother Trevon Diggs, mocked by many to go (to Dallas, as it happens) on Day 1, landed in the second round to help fill the void left by CB Byron Jones. Oklahoma’s huge defensive lineman Neville Gallimore also came a day later than many expected. Steals? All three picks border on daylight robbery.

Rewriting the draft textbook, the Cowboys also picked up Utah edge rusher Bradlee Anae with pick #179 (90 picks later than predicted by Mel Kiper of EPSN). I saw a comparison with Maxx Crosby recently, which means he should be a viable replacement for the departed Robert Quinn. They also snatched up another corner in Reggie Robinson, adding depth in a weak spot, and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, arguably this year’s top center. If he can stay healthy, he could step straight in for the retired Travis Frederick.

After a disappointing campaign in which they didn’t seem to want to win the NFC East, despite the stuttering Eagles handing them chance after chance, Dallas are shaping up nicely to boss the division in 2020. Jones can now start to focus on getting Dak Prescott’s deal inked. With a mouth-watering trio of targets at his disposal – Lamb, Cooper and Michael Gallup – it’s time to keep the franchise QB (and his bank manager) happy.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS


Vikes GM Rick Spielman is probably still resting up after selecting a massive 15 players in the 2020 NFL Draft, the biggest haul since the seven-round format was introduced in 1994.

He did a great job addressing the team’s needs, particularly in the first three rounds. To replace wide receiver Stefon Diggs, he used the 22nd pick to take LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Jefferson can play out wide or in the slot, and should give Kirk Cousins a tasty option alongside Adam Thielen, if his 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns last year are anything to go by.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

They then moved down a few spots, giving #25 to the 49ers in return for the 31st and two later selections, but still found another would-be star in TCU corner Jeff Gladney. Minnesota then double-dipped to take Cameron Dantzler (#89) to boost a depleted cornerback room missing Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, while Ezra Cleveland should add useful depth at left tackle.

A total of 11 picks on Day 3 brought several more decent pick-ups, including James Lynch, a defensive tackle from Baylor, Oregon LB Troy Dye and defensive end Kenny Willekes.  

Boom. Job done.


CINCINNATI BENGALS


Who knows if any trade offers were received and rejected but with the first pick in the draft, the Bengals held fast to secure their quarterback of the future and their franchise poster boy.

Joe Burrow was the obvious choice, having just completed the best college football season by anyone, ever. He starts from the get-go as the incumbent QB, Andy Dalton, was finally released (while I was writing this article) after a lack of trade interest. If Burrow’s success at LSU is any guide, the 2019 Heisman winner could eventually end Cincy’s three-decade playoff win drought and have the Who Dey Nation eating out of his hands. I bet they’re already planning a statue outside Paul Brown Stadium.

Associated Press

After last season’s struggles, just picking the Ohio native makes Cincinnati a winner in this draft. Admittedly, he can’t reverse their fortunes alone, so it’s just as well de facto GM Duke Tobin and HC Zac Taylor kept their foot on the gas. Mirroring the 2011 draft when they picked AJ Green and Andy Dalton in the first two rounds, they paired Burrow with WR Tee Higgins with the first pick of Day 2. The 6’4” jump-ball specialist notched 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final season at Clemson, and has been compared to Green, his new teammate (and favourite player). Higgins may even replace the franchise-tagged wideout in time.

With the only slight gripe being a (misguided) belief that their O-line didn’t need help, three of their five remaining selections were used to beef up their underperforming linebacker corps. Cincinnati opened Round 3 with Logan Wilson, who excels in pass coverage, while Akeem Davis-Gaither is a one-man highlight reel who might see some special teams action early doors. The Bengals chose a third linebacker in Purdue’s Markus Bailey with their final pick. Touted to break the Top 100 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury last season, Bailey may yet prove to be a real find, if he can stay healthy.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS


Let’s face it. Before Cincinnati was even on the clock, Tampa had probably won the offseason, having replaced turnover merchant Jameis Winston with GOAT Tom Brady, and then enticed TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement for one last hurrah alongside his ol’ pal. But the Buccs complemented their trade prowess with a strong draft, focusing on giving their new (but old) QB some much-needed O-line help and more offensive weapons.

In Round 1, Tampa traded up one place to #13, coughing up their 14th and 117th picks to the 49ers, to ensure Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, arguably the draft’s top tackle, was theirs. He wasn’t expected to drop that far after storming the Combine, so I bet the Buccaneers did some last-minute big-board shuffling.

Getty Images

In the third round, they turned to skill positions, collaring Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (#76) to beef up their backfield before diving into the deep wide receiver class to come up with Tyler Johnson (#161). Johnson’s Minnesota teammate, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (#45), is a versatile ball hawk could yet turn out to be one of the best snares over the three days. For added spice, his dad was a Pro-Bowl defensive back who intercepted Brady in 2001 when playing for the Bills.

If Bruce Arians deploys the battle-weary Gronk sparingly, alongside his other tight ends OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, the Buccaneers could be a team to watch next season.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS GM Chris Ballard filled a lot of needs, even without a first-round pick (traded for 49ers DT DeForest Buckner, which won’t do them any harm). Second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. from USC could become a top receiver, while explosive RB Jonathan Taylor – averaging 2,000 yards a year over three years – is a hot prospect, despite some concern about the tread left on his tyres after his heavy workload in Wisconsin. A day later than many predicted, the 6’6” Washington quarterback Jacob Eason got picked up in Day 3. The big-armed gunslinger won’t play next year but, under HC Frank Reich, he’ll be groomed to take over from Philip Rivers in due course.


The MIAMI DOLPHINS had 14 darts – including three first-rounders – and most hit the target (though they did use one on a long snapper). Despite some pre-draft smoke and mirrors, GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores selected Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa first. Who knows if his injury woes are behind him but the Dolphins had to take the risk on the most naturally talented QB out there. His hip injury was bad luck but it made him available at #5, an equivalent slice of good fortune after Miami didn’t quite #TankForTua. Tua will line up behind a shiny new offensive line including another Round 1 pick, tackle Austin Jackson, and while cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was one of Day 1’s biggest reaches, they got better value in later rounds with DE Jason Strowbridge and edge rusher Curtis Weaver. Outside the draft bubble, acquiring Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Byron Jones and Matt Breida only increases the sense that Miami will be much, much better next year.

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY

Earlier this month, I suggested going best defensive player available for a few rounds might be a wise tactic for the CAROLINA PANTHERS. Well, whaddya know? Despite having a new offensively minded Head Coach in Matt Rhule, GM Marty Hurney used all seven of his picks on defence, including a big ol’ run stuffer in Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (#7) and athletic Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos (#38). Later on, they traded up to the last pick in Round 2 to get safety Jeremy Chinn, while cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was also good value in the fourth. The moves they made in free agency – replacing Cam Newton with Teddy Bridgewater and adding Jets receiver Robbie Anderson – should also reinvigorate the team’s offence, making the Panthers a contender again.


I also liked the high-risk, high-reward approach of the ARIZONA CARDINALS. Picking at #8, GM Steve Keim somehow ignored the team’s needs at offensive tackle and went for Clemson linebacker/safety hybrid Isiah Simmons. It might have been a risk (especially having shipped out their second-round pick in the DeAndre Hopkins trade) but 63 picks later, the ace in the pack came up when they snaffled Houston left tackle Josh Jones. After standing out at the Senior Bowl, there was some Day 1 hype about him but he fell… and fell… and fell. Apparently, Kliff Kingsbury even called Jones’ college coaches to ask if there was something he ought to know about. Some steals feel like pick-pocketing but getting Jones in Round 3 was a ram-raid.

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Season in Review – Minnesota Vikings

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Next in our series, we take a look at Captain Kirk and the Minnesota Vikings. Was this season a success? Vikings fans, let us know your thoughts – @full10yards on the Social!


Entering the Season


The Vikings have always had the end goal of reaching a Super Bowl the moment they signed Kirk Cousins to that huge fully guaranteed contract. With pretty much the same pieces on the team, the pressure was the same as last year, the expectations were the same as last year, get to the big one.

Garrett Bradbury was the new anchor at Center and they also brought in Irv Smith to deploy some 2 tight end sets to help #establishtherun.

Kirk Cousins was entering his 2nd season as a Viking with no more excuses, no more mulligans and certainly nowhere to hide. The team was built to reach a Super Bowl and Kirk Cousins was assigned the role to lead them there. Simple.


DURING THE SEASON


If you put the last 2 seasons of the Vikings back to back, it pretty much was groundhog day;

Struggled in the division, with 3 of their 6 losses coming in the division and swept by the Bears for the 2nd straight season. A top 10 defence in terms of points per game and Kirk Cousins stinking it up on Prime Time/island games when it matters. Oh and Dalvin Cook not being fully healthy for a stretch.

They kicked off their season with home wins against the Falcons and Raiders, but away losses in Lambeau and Soldier Field.

Adam Thielen, who would later go on an miss some time through injury, along with Stefon Diggs kicked up a fuss about the offence and their involvement in it led to a lot of unrest in the VIkings camp, including Diggs being fined for missing practice.

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Image Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

They seemingly managed to kiss and make up as Kirk Cousins then went hell for leather with the rock and a relatively easy stretch saw them improve to 8-3 with their only loss before the bye coming to the Kansas City Chiefs (the Matt Moore led one, not the Patrick Mahomes one).

Losses against Green Bay and Chicago meant that they entered the playoffs as a wildcard and a 10-3 record.

Perhaps their most dominant display of the season came in the wildcard round, where they absolutely dominated the red hot Saints andVikings fans thinking maybe, just maybe, Kirk Cousins has turned a corner.

Unfortunately, around that corner was step 1 as a dismal performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round saw them go out with a whimper amidst more rumours of unrest with Stefon Diggs, who visibly threw his helmet to the ground during that Wildcard game.

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Image Credit: Adam Bettcher/Getty

With no NFC title game being played, you have to grade the season as that the Vikings underachieved and Kirk Cousins really hasn’t gone to prove that he was worth that guaranteed contract or that he is the guy to take this team to the holy land.


offseason outlook


Kevin Stefanski has agreed to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Mike Zimmer is likely to be retained by the Vikings.

It’s hard to put a finger on what to do with Minnesota to help them take the next step, though many will still point to the Quarterback position, as they have done for the past several years. There are a lot of well paid players on both sides of the ball and some creativity with the salary cap will be required. It’s hard to pinpoint where they’ll bolster in the draft as one week they look complete and another they have more holes than a cheese grater (NFC North Green Bay Packers joke there). You have to feel that they’ll add something to the offensive line due to the way they want to run their offence, and they’ll probably focus on defence, Xavier Rhodes did not have a pro bowl worthy season.

Come next season, will it be Groundhog day once again for the Vikings in 2020? Probably.

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Half-Term report – AFC/NFC North

It’s just about the half way point in the NFL regular season. Sad times.

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


AFC North

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  1. Baltimore Ravens 5-2
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 2-4
  3. Cleveland Browns 2-5
  4. Cincinnati Bengals 0-8

*BALTIMORE RAVENS*

Midseason grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

The Ravens came flying out of the blocks with bug wins against the Dolphins and Cardinals. Back to back defeats to the Chiefs and the Browns raised questions about if this team was “for real” but a subsequent 3 game winning streak including an impressive road win in Seattle sees the Ravens with a healthy lead in the division. 

Lamar Jackson is on historic pace for yards on the ground and has shown progress throwing the football in year 2. The defence isn’t as feared as it once was but still ranks highly and is 11th against the pass and 2nd against the run respectively.

Rest of Season Outlook

It’s fair to say that the schedule stiffens for the Ravens down the stretch. With games to come against opponents with a plus 500 record in the Patriots,Texans, Rams, 49ers and Bills. A weak division means this commanding lead would appear to be extremely secure however with a divisional game against each opponent and the lowly Jets providing the other contest. Even on a “worse case scenario” basis you have to fancy the Ravens getting to at least 9-7 from here and that should be ample to win the division.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 – Division Winners


*CLEVELAND BROWNS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

The product has certainly not lived up to the preseason hype. Steamrolled by the Titans and 49ers along with close losses to the Rams and Seahawks the Browns face an uphill tussle to get back to relevance in the division. A defeat coming out of the bye week to the Patriots has again raised questions about discipline and preparation 

A big road win at Baltimore was the lone bright spark on what has been a disappointing campaign. The promising end to the 2019 season seems like a distant memory and Baker Mayfield appears to be regressing in year 2.

Rest of Season Outlook

Ironically despite the record, everything is still in play for the Browns. The schedule is such that 5 divisional games remain and as stated earlier, they have won the only game of such nature to date. The plan will be to go 6-0 in the AFC North and hope that tie breakers enable them to find a way into a wildcard berth. For that to happen though they need to improve massively, reducing turnovers and penalties, a category that they lead the league in with an average of 10 per game.

The talent is there, can they turn it around?

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9 – Miss Playoffs


*PITTSBURGH STEELERS*

Midseason grade: C

How has it gone so far?

Smashed by the Patriots on opening night and losing your starting quarterback part way through your 2nd game isn’t exactly the way the Steelers drew up the plans for this season. The reality is though that the Steelers season was probably over before it had even really began following the QB injury. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges have anchored the squad to some respectable performances and with a turnover differential of plus 7 they are getting opportunities within games.

Big names JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have struggled to reproduce anything close to what they did a year ago and the offence lacks weapons outside these 2. Defensively the rank middle of the pack but an in season trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick signals intent to improve the playmaking on the back end.

Rest of Season Outlook

Similar to the Browns in that the division schedule is heavily back loaded so 4 games still to play in that regard and an opportunity if they can build momentum to make a late run. Difficult to trust that Mason Rudolph will be able to get them there however. Ranked 30th in both team passing and rushing there just isn’t enough production from this unit. The defence ranks 6th in points allowed so the Steelers will stick around in games but its hard to see anything better than a 500 record at this point.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 6-10 – Miss Playoffs


*CINCINNATI BENGALS*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

A record of 0-8 will pretty much answer that question. With the worst record in the NFL at the week 8 stage the Bengals can’t get any worse. Ranked 28th offensively and 27th defensively, unfortunately there is not an obvious quick fix as the poor play is on both sides of the ball. 

Offensively AJ Green has not been able to dress after picking up an injury in the preseason and Joe Mixon has not been able to get anything going on the ground. Defensively the pass rush has been a little non-existent with only 9 sacks and they have not taken the ball away with any regularity.

Rest of Season Outlook

There are some winnable games on the schedule with games against the Browns, Dolphins and Jets all on the horizon so nobody should be panicking around a 0-16 season just yet. Unfortunately for the Bengals, wins will now likely only hinder draft capital as the season is well and truly lost. 

The remaining games need to be used as an assessment of the roster and a decision needs to be made with regards to the long term future of Zach Taylor. The Bengals are very likely to pick high in the upcoming draft and now that Ryan Finley is in the driving seat, his performances over the back nine will determine how high up in the rounds they take their next QB (if at all).

Regular Season Record Prediction: 2-14 – Top 3 pick


NFC NORTH

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings

  1. Green Bay Packers (7-1)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
  3. Detroit Lions (3-3-1)
  4. Chicago Bears (3-4)

*GREEN BAY PACKERS*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

One of the most intriguing storylines to follow at the beginning of the season was the union of new HC Matt Lafleur and franchise QB Aaron Rodgers, so far the results have been good with the offence improving with every game.

In the early part of the season, it was the defence that was leading the team, DC Mike Pettine’s unit looking vastly improved from the previous year. Free agent signees Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith have contributed hugely, added to standout corner Jaire Alexander and leading tackler in the NFL Blake Martinez, have led to a unit that may have conceded yards but has stood up when needed.

Given the injury suffered by leading receiver Davante Adams, Rodgers has entered one of his hot streaks at precisely the right time.

Rest of Season Outlook

The Packers look well set for a playoff run, time will tell whether it will take them all the way to Miami in February. With the head to head wins vs all their division opponents thus far, they are looking quite rosy to maybe even push for a wildcard round bye.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 12-4

*MINNESOTA VIKINGS*

Midseason grade: B

How has it gone so far?

Behind the leading rusher in the NFL in Dalvin Cook, the Vikings have bulldozed their way into the playoff discussion. Beyond this though, there has been some discord within the group, notably receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen expressing frustration with the offence. Kirk Cousins’ improved play of late has helped to quell these noises, with Diggs especially going on a tear of late to the tune of 453 receiving yards in the last 3 weeks. The defence has continued to perform at a high level throughout, with Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Eric Kendricks particularly impressing.

Rest of Season Outlook:

With the talent throughout on the defensive side of the ball, and if the offensive line can support Dalvin Cook, this team can compete with anyone. They’ll need continuing support from Kirk Cousins though, where for some, the questions remain. They’ll need to settle the score with the Packers in the return fixture and also negotiate a tough stretch immediately starting with the Chiefs and then the Cowboys. Negotiate that, they could look at a first round bye.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 11-5



*DETROIT LIONS*

Midseason Grade: C

How has it gone so far?

The Lions have been competitive in every game this season and could easily find themselves right in the mix for a playoff spot. However, poor execution at crucial times have led to a middle of the pack record. They have lost late leads in 2 of their losses to the Chiefs and the Packers as well as in the tie with the Cardinals, with redzone inefficiency plaguing them in the Packers loss in particular.

There have been high spots for the team with QB Matthew Stafford having a very good year. Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson have also been playmakers this year before the latter’s injury, TJ Hockenson has hinted at what might be to come from the TE position too.

Perhaps surprisingly, given HC Matt Patricia’s pedigree, the defence has been the bigger issue. They have struggled especially against the run, where Mike Daniels’ injury has been especially problematic.

Quandre Diggs’ recent trade to Seattle has been met with scepticism too, depriving the back end of the defence with one of their key players.

Rest of Season Outlook

Judging by the 2 teams that preceeded them in this Half-Term report, it is probably a long shot that the Lions taste January football this year, but as a long term view, the Lions fans must be optimistic about some playoff football sooner rather than later. That being said, their schedule does not look too tough with games against Oakland, a double header vs the Bears along with tussles against the Broncos, Redskins and Buccaneers.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-7-1


*CHICAGO BEARS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

The expected step forward for the Bears offence in the second year of HC Matt Nagy’s reign has yet to come to fruition. The offence currently ranks 27th in PPG, with both the run and pass games struggling to get out of second gear.

While QB Mitch Trubisky has yet to prove his pedigree as a starting calibre player at this level, playcalling has also been an issue at times. The coaches have seemed to go away from the run too early at times, placing too much pressure on the young signal caller. While Trubisky’s development is crucial to the future success of the Bears, at the moment the best chance of success would surely involve committing fully to the rungame and using Trubisky to take judicious shots downfield to keep the defences honest.

The defence is still performing at a very high level (if not quite the league leading unit of 2018), Mack, Trevathan, Floyd, Goldman, Clinton-Dix, Fuller et al are still a fearsome unit, although lineman Akiem Hicks is a big loss after his loss to IR following his elbow injury.

It wouldn’t be a Bears season without kicking troubles either, following Eddy Piniero’s potential game winning missed kick in week 8.

Rest of Season Outlook

While this team certainly could go on a run, they have a hard road back to the playoffs with games remaining against fellow NFC playoff hopefuls Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Rams. Possibly the best case scenario for the Bears would be that week 17 at the Vikings ended up a playoff eliminator, they have a lot of work in front of them to get that far.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9

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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.



Hush by Rush


Image result for lamar jackson
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.



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


Image result for kirk cousins
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.

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Full10Lookahead – Week 2

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Week 2 is already here folks. Time flies when you are having fun!

Hope everyone enjoyed their stay at overreaction town, now it’s time to depart for context city, where hopefully you’ll be able to see some indicators as to what was the real deal and what were outliers from last week.

Here are 10 things we are looking forward to this week in the NFL:

Me-Cam-ical Issues?

Cam Newton’s Pass attempts vs LA Rams

The Panthers QB will be looking to rectify a performance from week 1 that was classic Cam. Some good plays but also a few errant and shocking high passes.

66% completion rate is about where Cam has been with Norv Turner pulling the strings but if it wasn’t for Christian McCaffrey, these numbers would not be great at all. You could argue that this is now the offence the Panthers will employ going forward.

As per next gen stats, Cam only attempted 1 pass over 20 yards in the week 1 game vs the Rams which agrees with the narrative that the offence is going to show similar results this season. Yes he attempted around 40 passes, but if they are averaging on 5 yards in the air, is it really a proper NFL throw?

The players they have in McCaffrey, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel suit the style they are trying to enforce on other teams but I think this merely could be covering over some cracks. Is this the play style because of Cam’s shoulder or is this a coincidence?

The problem is, every team needs a vertical threat; if it becomes too predictable and similar to the chart above, Christian McCaffrey may struggle to be as efficient as he has been thus far because teams will just load the box and ask Cam throw longer passes. Below is DJ Moore’s routes run vs the Rams, not even an indication that there was an interest in throwing deep. Unfortunately, i dont have Curtis Samuel or Greg Olsen’s routes run because i feel these would probably be a bit more vertically orientated.

DJ Moore routes run vs LA Rams

Back to Cam though, the reason I say all this is and that it is something we are intrigued in seeing in week 2 is that we still probably require further confirmation that Cam’s shoulder is #fine and that his play is not restricted by the multiples surgeries endured over recent years. We’d all love to see him at least attempt a few more deeper passes right?

What wont help is a short week this early on in the season so all eyes will be on Cam in Thursday Night Football as we try to ascertain whether or not everything is ok with #1.


Da do Ron Run Run da do Ron Run

IMAGE CREDIT: MONICA HERNDON

Arguably the single most disappointing rookie performance by anyone drafted in the top two rounds of last year’s draft was Tampa Bay’s Ronald Jones II, who recorded 44 yards at 1.9 a pop in the whole season. Already Jones has almost doubled his performance with 75 yards on the ground in Week 1 (at 5.8 a carry) along with an 18-yard catch. If Jones keeps up this rate of rushing he can end up with 1,200 yards of ground and pound.

The Buccaneers face the Panthers in Week 2, a team that gave up over 150 yards rushing and two scores to the Rams combo of Gurley and Brown. Jones may not be listed as the starter but if his contributions remain positive then he will take carries away from Peyton Barber. Buccs fans will likely be in for another season of mediocrity but they could have bit of a dusty gem that is starting to sparkle in the Florida sunshine.


Don’t You Forget About Me!

Image Credit – Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

It’s easy to forget that Sammy Watkins came off the draft board earlier in 2014 than both Mike Evans and OBJ. The former Clemson star has often been out performed when compared to his peers in the same draft class, but maybe, just maybe 2019 will be different. Watkins exploded out of the gate on Sunday with a 9 catch, 198 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Showing plenty of breakaway speed to pile up yards after the catch, he was the best friend of Pat Mahomes to open up the season. With the news that Tyreek Hill will miss 4-6 weeks through injury, Watkins is in a prime position to remind everyone of the talent he possesses for a red hot Chiefs offence that will surely have too much for the Raiders. Let’s see if his week 1 performance wasn’t just another tease of his brilliance and he can find some consistency.



Hype Train Derailed?

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Freddie Kitchens wanted to know how his team would handle adversity, He gets his wish in week 2. Humbled by the Titans in a week 1 blow out, the eyes of the nation will be looking for a response on Monday Night Football. The talent in the skill positions offensively appears to be in place but can the Browns find a way to keep Baker Mayfield upright? He was harassed all throughout the opener as the obvious preseason concern was exposed by Cameron Wake and co. One storyline that has slipped under the radar in this one, is the fact that the Jets DC is now Gregg Williams who was actually the man in charge of the Browns during their renaissance in the 2nd half of last year. He will be out to inflict more misery on his former employers after not securing the job permanently. With the Rams ahead on the week 3 schedule could we already be talking about a must win game for the off seasons most talked about franchise?


Time to call a Gardner

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After winning a Super Bowl by coming off the bench in the regular season, the irony is not lost in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars starting quarterback Nick Foles is now the one injured whilst his backup is now in the spotlight. The big difference here is the guy in the spotlight is the 2019 version of Nick ‘who the hell is that’ Mullens.

Gardner Minshew bounced around three colleges in four years of eligibility, starting at tiny Northwest Mississippi Community College (who gave us Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison) and ending up at Washington State, helping them to 11 wins in 2018. The Jaguars drafted Minshew in the sixth round of this year’s draft, and we all know what happened to a certain gentleman who got drafted in the sixth round. Minshew’s surprise debut was special, 88% completion rate, two tds and almost 300 yards in the air.

Minshew will be an underdog against the Texans, but we have seen they are vulnerable in the air (Brees torched them for 370 yards in Week 1) so this suddenly becomes a fascinating contest where we get to see if the grass is greener when you use a Gardner.


I’m arriving on a Jet plane

The Antonio Brown saga has taken a turn this week that is beyond any form of joke, but  keeping this strictly on the field the Jets are now part of this extrapolated storyline after the Patriots traded Demaryius Thomas to the Big Apple, the green ones of course.

Thomas comes into the Jets just as the incredibly unlucky Quincy Enunwa is put on season-ending I/R with a recurrence of a neck injury that cost him the 2017 season. Thomas is four years older than Enunwa and is more prone to dropping the ball, but the important factor of chemistry will be eased by the fact Demaryius was coached by Jets head coach Adam Gase when he was receivers coach and offensive coordinator in Denver from 2010-2014. Sam Darnold and Enunwa had worked on exclusive routes together and now it will be a case or re-establishing part of the offensive game-plan.

The Jets face the Burst Bubble Browns in Week 2 and they match-up well against Cleveland. It might only be Week 2 but the loser here goes 0-2 and starts facing a lot more scrutiny. Worth staying up for in the unsavoury hours of Tuesday morning to see how this one plays out.


Best Of A Bad Bunch?

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They say that defence wins championships, the Broncos will be hoping that statement rings true based on the state of their quarterback room. Joe Flacco looked as advertised in week 1, not the worst quarterback in the league but immobile (always) and inaccurate (at times).

Vic Fangio, the former Bears DC who will surely have a perfect game plan to get the best of the Bears at home whilst also trying to confuse Trubisky with disguised coverages, I expect a turnover feast.

Both sides need to bounce back from opening week defeats and maybe for one of the few times this year, Denver will get superior quarterback play.


Sh*tcago?

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Talking of Chicago, many folk in Illinois including Matt Nagy, were not happy with the way the Bears performed on opening night.

“3 points is ridiculous” said the Bears HC after the game and he’s right. You do not win games scoring 3 points.

How will he, Trubisky and the Bears team rebound?

It gets even spicier once you realise that they travel to Denver, an already difficult away destination to get a W from. Why is it spicy? They not only travel to a hard and hostile environment, but they also travel to play a team whose HC is Vic Fangio, a guy who will know a hell of a lot about the team after being their DC last year.

Other storylines include how will the Chicago backfield work in the rotation? Will they lean to their defence once again to try and get a win on the road?

More importantly, are Chicago in trouble??

As for Mitch Trubisky, you want to give young guys time and we shouldn’t forget he only started 13 games in college but the fact is he still looks like a rookie in year 3. Several of his passes give opponents chances for picks, particularly when he throws across his body to the left.

Lot’s of intrigue in this one, just like a cabaret (Chicago reference).


DOING THE BARE MIN-IMUM

IMAGE CREDIT: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

Staying in the NFC North, a tasty game for the eyeballs at Lambeau.

This game is another one of those that the fully guaranteed Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has to try and get the monkey off his back in the sense that he can’t do it when it matters.

Only attempted 10 passes in week 1, so his arm is going to be sore and you would expect him to throw more in this one.

Packers squeaked a win at Soldier field on opening night whilst the Vikings could not have been more dominant vs a fancied Falcons team.

A win for a the Cheeseheads here wouldn’t mean at the very worst, split records against their divisional rivals, something Minnesota probably need to avoid to have a chance at winning the division or perhaps even a wildcard spot.

The same fixture last year ended in controversial tie with 2 missed Field Goals both at the end of the game and 2 in OT, multitude of bad referee calls on hits. It had everything. The final spice in the melting pot.

If Minnesota get the win here, it’ll be another “really unique” thing for Cousins this season.

Remember, dont do the wave!

Revenge time!

IMAGE CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Every angle has been covered about the notorious non PI call from last year’s championship game (wonder if Paddy Power will do a special on whether a PI call will be reviewed).

Luckily for the Rams, this isn’t back at the scene of the crime but judging by LA’s fanbase, there will be a lot of Saints fans in the stands with referee uniforms on.

Can emotions stay in check for the Saints? Can Goff and company put the saga to rest? And will there be any more incidents as bad as that one back in late January?

Both of these teams met in a classic in the regular season too and this one should be no different. Two high powered offences with great players and playcallers. One for the everyone to sit down and enjoy on the late slate of games. Both will no doubt be expecting to make the post season and likely write in another log of this recently fierce rivalry.