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NFC: The good, the bad and the ugly

As part of our two-part series, here are your NFC teams’ season reviews. Do you agree with our selections for each category? Make sure you follow us on Twitter and join in the conversation!

Arizona Cardinals

The good: Kyler Murray-DeAndre Hopkins connection. You can forgive most players when transitioning to a new team, especially at the wide receiver position. However, Nuk hit the ground running and despite having precious little offseason to build rapport and chemistry with K1, Hopkins was able to tie his career best in receptions and post his third-best season in terms of receiving yardage. While he would have liked to find the end zone more than six times this year, it bodes well that he and Kyler were able to produce those numbers straight out of the gate, which included one of the season highlights in the “Hail Murray”.

The bad: 2019 WR class. The Cardinals tried to support their #1 overall pick with weapons from the start. Andy Isabella (2nd round), Hakeem Butler (4th) and KeeSean Johnson (6th) were all wide receivers selected in the same draft. Outside of a few Isabella highlight plays, these WRs have struggled to be on the team, be on the field or catch the ball. Isabella leads the trio with 30 catches for 413 yards and 3 TDs in both seasons since being drafted… nothing to write home about. Hakeem Butler is no longer on the team and now finds himself pushing for a TE in Philadelphia, while you’d struggle to even remember who KeeSean Johnson is. Cards fans will be hoping for some magic third-year breakout, but with Kirk and Nuk established in the team, it’s hard to see Isabella or Johnson play any bigger role than they currently occupy in Glendale.

The ugly: Post bye-week results. Arizona were in a good position heading in to their Week 8 bye, sitting at 5-2 after their OT win against the Seahawks. However, on the ‘back nine’, they posted just three wins and slumped to 8-8 with a lacklustre performance in their final game against a John Wolford-led Rams, with Murray failing to overcome the injuries suffered.

Atlanta Falcons

The good: Calvin Ridley. In a season of few bright spots, Ridley was one of them. The third year WR out of Alabama (where else?) surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career on 90 receptions from 143 targets. Life after Julio is no longer a fear for Falcons fans.

The bad: The 2020 season. As previously mentioned above, the season was another disappointment. Since their heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl to the Patriots, the Falcons are 28-36. We saw the departure of Dan Quinn as the Head Coach, and he has since been replaced by Arthur Smith from the Titans coaching staff.

Cowboys employed the “Watermelon kick” to pull off comeback

The ugly: The manner of losses. Atlanta were the butt of many a joke as they continued to lose big leads. The highlight? The famous ‘watermelon’ kick in Dallas in Week 2. Jumping out to a 20-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Cowboys came back to lead after the game clock hit double zero. That was bad enough, but the Falcons also lost in similar style against Chicago and Tampa Bay. In an already crappy 2020 for Falcons fans, it must constantly feel like Groundhog Day. No matter how big a lead they have in future, they’ll always be looking at the bookies’ odds to stick a token nugget on the eventuality that they will take another L.

Carolina Panthers

The good: Promising first season under Matt Rhule. Many teams saw Carolina as a team that would struggle to make waves in 2020. Even though they had only five wins to their name, there is a lot of promise in this Panthers team. They were fast starters too, which is unusual for teams with upheaval to the levels Carolina experienced, going 3-2 through their first five games. Matt Rhule was able to get a lot of production out of Curtis Samuel, allow Mike Davis to be relevant after CMC was sidelined and their defensive exclusive draft class made a lot of plays.

The bad: The RB big contract paradox. It’s a well-documented and often-debated issue: the value of paying your running backs a fair whack in terms of salary cap percentage. Christian McCaffrey one of THE stars in the NFL signed a four-year extension at approximately $16m a year. He only played three games in 2020, having potentially suffere the effects of shouldering the load in his first three seasons (403 touches in 2019).

The ugly: Having to stick or twist at QB and the NFL Draft. Matt Rhule and David Tepper decided on bringing Teddy Bridgewater in on a two-year, team-friendly deal. While it worked to a certain extent, a decision needs to be made with the Panthers currently picking at #8 overall. The NFL Draft is a minefield at the best of times but the Panthers must decide on whether they allow Bridgewater to play out his contract, whether to wait for the QB to fall to them at 8 (it is a good year to do so) or to package a deal together to go up to #2, #3 or #4 to get a Wilson or a Fields rather than Trey Lance/Mac Jones, who will probably be there at #8.

Chicago Bears

The good: The first six games. The Bears were one of the trailblazers in the NFC, starting 5-1 thanks to a collective effort from Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles (see below). In hindsight, it was an easy-ish schedule (wins coming against four teams with a losing record plus the pre-bye Buccaneers) and it led many a Bear fan down the wrong path. They were able to capitalise on only needing eight wins to get into the playoffs this year and, along with the Saints, participate in the first game with Nickelodeon slime!

The bad: The in-season quarterback carousel. One of the debated topics coming into the season was who was going to play QB in Chicago in 2020. Nick Foles was signed to a ridiculous deal by Ryan Pace to compete with Trubisky when there were perhaps better options available. Conspiracy theorists such as myself believe it’s all because he didn’t want anyone usurping his #2 overall draft pick from the 2017 draft, especially as Pace gave up capital to go from #3 to #2, too.

The ugly: The QB conundrum. Ryan Pace, despite seemingly willing to die on the Mitch Trubisky hill last year, won’t be doing it this season. As it stands, Trubisky is a free agent, with Chicago not exercising the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. This means Chicago are going to feature in all the articles relating to quarterback activity over the next few months. Matt Nagy remains at the helm and Ryan Pace probably doesn’t have many more cards to play from his self-dealt hand. That hand could have included the unhappy Deshaun Watson or Super Bowl winner and MVP Patrick Mahomes. That last sentence is probably the ugliest for Bears fans.

Dallas Cowboys

The good: CeeDee Lamb’s first season. In a tumultuous season in Dallas, and the NFC East, 1st round rookie WR CeeDee Lamb took to the NFL like a duck to water, or a lamb to whatever… I don’t know the metaphor that should be inserted here. Nevertheless, many wondered whether there would be enough production from Dak (and the unexpected long list of QBs that threw passes for Dallas since his injury) for all the mouths to be fed. The answer was “yes, there was” and Lamb helped himself to 935 yards and 5 TDs, including one of the touchdowns of the season against the Vikings.

The bad: The defence. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Dallas’ defence was worse than awful in 2020. Giving up almost 30 poinst per game, the defence saw a lot of yesteryear stars take a step back. DeMarcus Lawrence continues to underwhelm considering the contract he was given a few years ago, Jaylon Smith has disappeared and 2019 1st round pick Leighton Vander Esch struggled to stay on the field. At cornerback, 2020 2nd round pick Trevon Diggs went hot and cold in his first year, just showing the huge Byron Jones-sized hole that was left. As for the free agency additions, well, some didn’t even see the field (I’m talking to you Gerald McCoy).

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman – USA TODAY Sports

The ugly: Dak Prescott’s season and future. Here’s a joke: What’s been around for over a year, everyone is sick of hearing about it and we all can’t wait for it to be over? No, not the coronavirus (a close secnd) but Dak Prescott’s contract situation. Dak played on the exclusive rights franchise tag in 2020, and we all saw the pitfalls of doing so. His season ended early in Week 5 with a broken ankle suffered against the Giants, leaving us pondering even more questions about what to do in 2021. I didn’t think that was even possible. The same regurgitation of articles and speculation will circle this offseason. It has to end at some time, right? If Dak once again gets tagged, he’ll net around $37m in 2021, which by my reckoning will all but end his future with Dallas (as a third tag will probably be in the $50m region).

Detroit Lions

The good: D’Andre Swift’s rookie season and the running game. It really was slim pickings for the Lions, and I felt bad for thinking about putting Matt Patricia’s departure in as a good thing (although, you know, it probably is). That being said, for a team that went 5-11 in 2020, to manufacture 17 rushing touchdowns by Swift, Peterson and Kerryon Johnson is not a bad effort. OC and end of season HC Darrell Bevel does enjoy pounding the rock, but rushing attempts usually correlate to positive gamescripts, something Detroit did not enjoy much of in 2020.

The bad: Kenny Golladay’s availability. Kenny G hits free agency this offseason. It doesn’t seem plausible that the Lions will look to tag him (tag and trade possible, but unlikely) considering they have just shipped off Matt Stafford (see below) to the Rams. Whether his injuries were more “exacerbated” by the team’s poor record/performances a la Joe Mixon and AJ Green in Cincy remains to be seen but ideally, Kenny Golladay would have wanted to post decent numbers to earn himself a bigger pay check and a wider net of teams.

The ugly: Matthew Stafford’s time in the Motor City: With Stafford now in pastures new in Los Angeles, you have to feel that Stafford, a truly gifted quarterback who has put it all on the line for his team since entering the league back in 2009, has been one of the most disappointing in terms of being able to achieve anything in the NFL. Three post-season games, all ending in defeat, means Stafford never even saw the Divisional Round in Detroit. His highlight reel is up there with many other stellar QBs in the league, but his achievements are not. Hopefully, he can put that right in a Rams jersey.

Green Bay Packers

The good: Rodgers returns to MVP podium. After the 2020 draft, Aaron Rodgers must have thought to himself that there would be little chance of replicating the performance levels that saw him win his first MVP, especially with the Packers trading up to select Jordan Love. However, in the second year of Matt LaFleur’s system, the Packers returned to the NFC Champiosnhip Game, even hosting it this year, but again fell at the final hurdle. Rodgers fought off Josh Allen for his personal accolade, but I am sure he would have traded the trophy for a trip to Tampa.

The bad: Injuries. I’m clutching at straws a little bit here and there weren’t too many notches in the negative column except for the ugly below. However, a couple of injuries throughout the season, headlined by left tackle David Bakhtiari at the back end of the season, contributed to the Packers’ failure to get through their NFC title game with Tampa Bay. You could argue that Davante Adams’ injury in Weeks 3 and 4 cost him a visit to the 20 TD reception club alongside Jerry Rice (20) and Randy Moss (23).

The ugly: Falling at the final hurdle… again. Most fans and teams would snap your hand off if you said to them that they could have the chance to compete in back-to-back NFC Championship Games. However, the bigger the game, the harder the fall and now questions will be asked whether, despite getting so near yet so far in the last two seasons, the current set-up and assortment of players is right set to get Green Bay back to the Super Bowl.

Los Angeles Rams

The good: Aaron Donald. It’s pretty much a copy-and-paste job with #99 for the Rams enjoying another stellar season on his way to earning another Defensive Player of the Year crown. Donald added another 13.5 sacks this season, taking his career total to 85.5. It will be interesting to see how long he can keep up the production as he will hit his 30s before the 2021 season start.

The bad: Jared Goff and John Wolford switcharoo. You know things are rough at the quarterback position when the backup usurps the starter: ask any Chicago Bears fan. Jared Goff suffered a thumb injury at the business end of the season, prompting former AAF QB John Wolford to step in, take the reins and actually help to guide the Rams to the playoffs. This caused a media frenzy on trying to identify the Rams QB for their playoff game, leaving McVay very tight-lipped. In the end, it didn’t really matter either way.

The ugly: Future planning strategies. Many will see the trade of Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford as a great one. However, LA essentially paid to dump Goff’s salary, but they do get a more competent and talented QB to help get them back to another Super Bowl. However, with that trade, the Rams continue their love of trading 1st round picks. Funnily enough, that last 1st round pick the Rams made was for Jared Goff at #1 overall back in 2016. That trade saw them also trade away the 2017 Round 1 pick and have since made further moves, including the trade for Brandin Cooks. With this most recent trade, they are not scheduled to pick in the 1st round until 2024. The reason I have put this in the ugly section is that Rams fans must hate it when draft time comes around and also, you could argue that the plan isn’t working. All will be forgiven though if Stafford is the key that unlocks the Vince Lombardi trophy cabinet.

Minnesota Vikings

The good: Justin Jefferson. Only one place to go here. Justin Jefferson was on many people’s lists for Offensive Rookie of the Year. It wasn’t quite to be for Jefferson and he saw his namesake Herbert take that crown. However, Jefferson stole the hearts of many Minnesota fans and fantasy football GMs in 2020, with 1,400 receiving yards from 88 receptions. We also saw his “griddy dance” TD celebration seven times.

Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson stretching defenses, averaging more than 20  yards a catch – Twin Cities
John Autey

The bad: The defence. Not quite Dallas Cowboys levels here but for most parts of the season, the defence was about as stingy as Santa on Christmas morning. Like Dallas, the Vikings gave up almost 30 points per game and talking of Xmas, they were handed a 50 burger by the Saints while everyone was tucking in to their turkey. Long gone are the days of the Vikings defence of 2017.

The ugly: The kicking game. Dan Bailey, back in his Dallas days, was as automatic as they came but he was the complete opposite in Minnesota in 2020. Bailey made a paltry 68.2% of his kicks last season. The low point was the game in Week 13 against the Jaguars when the Vikings literally drove to the goal line to help Bailey make a successful field goal in OT to get the W.

New Orleans Saints

The good: Christmas Day feasting. The Saints and Vikings played a rare game on Christmas Day this year and while we were all gorging ourselves, Alvin Kamara feasted on the Minnesota defence. Week 17 usually throws a spanner in the works with some anomalies and Kamara helped himself to SIX RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS in a single game. He joined Gayle Sayers and Dub Jones as the only other players to find the end zone on six occasions. He totaled 155 yards on the ground and a relatively paltry 17 yards through the air to cap off one of the most dominant performances by an RB in a game.

The bad: Injuries. Sean Payton and the Saints had more than their fair share of injuries to key players this season. Drew Brees once against missed time, while his favourite target from 2019, Michael Thomas, also missed the back end of the regular season due to a high ankle sprain. But despite losing both of those, and other parts too, they were still able to generate touchdowns, points and wins with Taysom Hill, Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook. It was similar to last season when Teddy Bridgewater came in and was still able to go undefeated in his short stint at QB. Kudos to the coaching and preparation down in New Orleans.

The ugly: Drew Breeswill he/won’t he retire? At time of writing, we are still unsure whether Father Time has defeated Drew Brees and whether he’ll be joining us for the 2021 season. You’ll notice that if you search Drew Brees on Twitter/social media, there is a lot of fun poking relating to Drew Brees’ arm strength and power. There are split allegiances in New Orleans and in the NFL social community as to whether it’s in Drew’s best interests to play next season. I hope that it’s a decision that he chats with Sean Payton about and they come to a joint decision as the last two seasons’ injuries are not helping the team, possibly even hindering them looking far enough forward into the future.

New York Giants

The good: Joe Judge/Patrick Graham. There isn’t too much to draw a positive spin on if you are a Giants fan from the 2020 season. Not that you were expecting to contest a Super Bowl so if you can clutch at any straws, it’s that the players seemed to buy in to Joe Judge’s ethos and culture. His Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham got his name out there with the way his defence played this season, ending up surprisingly as a top 10 scoring defence. If the offence wasn’t the second-worst points scorers in the division, they may have well seen a playoff game this season.

The bad: The offence. Now to that offence. Ranked 31st in terms of points scored, they once again fought injuries. Saquon Barkley’s draft day and his rookie season seem like distant memories, as do any game where all of their receiving targets were all able to take the field. Expect the Giants to bolster their WR room in the draft and free agency.

The ugly: The turf monster grabs Daniel Jones. One of the highlights of the year saw the Giants quarterback Daniel Jones get swallowed up by the turf monster. In front of a primetime audience on Thursday Night Football, Daniel Jones caught all of the Eagles’ defensive players off guard on a designed run, as he tucked the ball and ran for paydirt. However, as you can see below, his legs were moving at a different speed than his mind and the invisible turf monster did the rest.

Philadelphia Eagles

The good: Jalen Hurts’ promise. I’m not going to lie, I nearly typed “literally none” or “you tell me and I’ll put it in here” for the Eagles because the season was an absolute abomination (this is supposed to be the good segment). I nearly plumped for Boston Scott’s last minute TD to beat the Giants in Week 7 but I thought I’d try and project some optimism at a time where there isn’t too much in the City of Brotherly Love. Hurts showed flashes this season when Carson Wentz was benched. The 2nd round pick from last year’s NFL Draft splits opinion on whether he is the future of the franchise, especially with the Eagles sitting at #6 overall in the 2022 draft . That’s about as good as I can get. Sorry.

The bad: Drafting receivers. Let’s face it, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson simply cannot pick a successful wide receiver in April. Jalen Reagor was this year’s 1st round selection and the Eagles tripled down later on with Quez Watkins and John Hightower. They combined for 669 yards and 2 TDs on the season. 2019 WR pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside somehow managed to have a worse year than his rookie season totaling just four catches and his only TD came from a teammate’s fumble. Their draft selections over the past few years are the main reason why they are in their current state but those wide receiver selections are something else.

The ugly: Carson Wentz. Again, plenty to choose from but quarterbacks get all of the love when they are winning, so they have to take the falls too. Wentz looked the smallest of shadows of himself compared to his Super Bowl winning season and the year where the MVP crown was robbed from him due to injury. However in 2020, he accounted for 15 interceptions, took 50 sacks and completed 57.4% of his passes. That is #NotGreatBob. The aftermath is that the fractured relationship between Wentz and HC Doug Pederson saw both of them walk through the exit door to pastures new. Can Wentz be fixed by teaming up with old OC Frank Reich in Indy? Will Doug Pederson end up with another HC gig in the future? Time will tell.

San Francisco 49ers

The good: Jimmy Garoppolo’s revenge win against the Patriots. I went a bit left field here as there were a few bright spots for a 49ers team that went 6-10 in 2020. It’s always to go back to your old stomping ground and pick up a win, but the 49ers’ 33-6 demolition of the Patriots in Foxboro’ in Week 7 must have been pretty sweet. Unfortuantely for the handsome QB, he was unable to throw a passing TD, as the ground work was all done… on the ground by Jeff Wilson. But those are the games you enjoy just that little bit more.

The bad: The humilation from the Dolphins. The 49ers succumbed to some Fitzmagic from the Dolphins in Week 5 and it was the Dolphins’ defence that also outshone a usually elite San Fran defence. Jimmy G threw two interceptions inside the final minute of the first half, handing the Dolphins a 30-7 lead at the half and that was the game done.

The ugly: Injuries. This was yet another team that suffered with key injuries. Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle and the majority of their running backs were missing for large portions of the season and this was replicated on defence too with Nick Bosa, Kwon Alexander, Richard Sherman and Dee Ford, to name just a few, all missed time. This left the 49ers playing with their arms behind their backs all season. Their 6-10 record was admirable in the circumstances but it remains to be seen if the momentum from reaching the Super Bowl in 2019 can be rekindled and replicated.

Seattle Seahawks

The good: Two 1,000-yard receivers. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are an excellent duo to have. DK seems to have grown immensely in his first few seasons in the NFL and is certainly not a one-trick pony, he can chase down defenders too! The duo had their ups and downs during the season but when they went big, they went big. Lockett had a huge Week 6 against Arizona, going for 200 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Metcalf, selected to his first Pro Bowl in his second year, went bananas the week after against San Francisco with 161 yards and 2 TDs. DK was able to post eight 100-yard receiving games and 10 games with a touchdown, which is great momentum to take into 2021. Honourable mention: Jason Myers – 100% FG made.

The bad: The loss against the Giants. In a loss that no one saw coming, the Giants walked into CenturyLink Field and stifled Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, defeating them 17-12. Just five points were scored in the first half (all by Seattle) but the Giants defence had their number all game and Alfred Morris piled on two touchdowns as a nice blast from the past.

The ugly: Pass defence. Far gone are the days of the Legion of Boom and in 2020, you could just throw on the Seahawks. They gave up the second-most yards through the air (4,560) and took the field collectively for the most snaps. They were actually outside the top 10 in terms of rush yardage given up; their ranking in terms of sacks was also pretty good but Seattle will look to vastly improve on this heading into next year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The good: First Super Bowl win since 2002. The move for Tom Brady and some of his pals paid off. In the biggest headline move in the last offseason, the Buccaneers prized Tom away from New England and it worked to perfection. Demolishing the reigning champions in their home stadium was music to the ears of Bucs fans. It was a team effort too, with the defence capturing their best levels of performance when it mattered most, having travelled to Green Bay for the NFC title game.

The bad: Early season form. It wasn’t all straightforward for the Buccaneers though, as they did suffer some low points early on. This includes a 38-3 ass-kicking by the Saints on Monday Night Football in Week 9, on the same field on which they eventually won the Super Bowl. It seems as if all that was needed was their Week 13 bye as they were pretty much perfect from that point on.

The ugly: The messy Super Bowl parade. Tom Brady and alcoholic beverages do not mix well. One of the lighter moments from the season was seeing Tom Brady get escorted to god knows where to take a timeout. He poked fun at himself later on Twitter saying that they were avocado shots. He was able to complete a successful pass of the Lombardi Tophy from his boat to his teammates’ boat, however ill-advised it was. For a guy who is approaching his mid-40s, to play at the levels he has, especially this season, his body must have been a temple with regards to guilty pleasures so it’s good to see him have a bit of fun. Not fun though was the other messy instance on the parade as Chris Godwin lost his phone after teammate Scotty Miller dropped it in the water. He needed a helping hand from Mike Evans’ Instagram to contact Verizon to help him get a new one.

Tom Brady blames a 'little avocado tequila' while enjoying boat parade
Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

Washington Football Team

The good: Alex Smith retaking the field. Alex Smith was by far the most appropriate recipient to ever be crowned the Comeback Player of the Year. His efforts were all worth it as he and the team claimed an NFC East crown and the team put up a sterling effort against the eventual Super Bowl winners in the Wild Card round. It’s a shame Smith wasn’t able to play a pivotal part in the offseason adventures, but we recommend going to watch the story on ESPN’s documentary. Honourable mention: Ron Rivera winning the cancer battle off the field.

The bad: The limitations of the offence. It’s probably a bit harsh considering the heroics of Mr Smith, but you have to think that Washington are only a QB away from being a real dark horse contender for the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay were there for the taking in the Wild Card round and while I’m not saying that Heinicke wasn’t good or Alex Smith would have won the game if 100% healthy, the cat would have been put among the pigeons had an average-to-decent QB was signal-calling for the team. There is an interesting decision to be made by Washington in this offseason about the quarterback situation.

The ugly: The defence. I’m going to use ugly in a positive way here. This defensive line, crowned by Chase Young this year, is mean. A top 5 defence in a plethora of categories is exactly what Super-Bowl-winning defences look like. As mentioned above, the offence has a few things to work on but they have a fabulous opportunity to capitalise on the youth on the defence and the line in particular, which has seen heavy draft capital investment over the past few years. Montez Sweat, Chase Young, Jon Allen and DaRon Payne were all selected in the 1st rounds of the last four years of the NFL Draft. They have been moulded together and are a perfect blend on that front line.

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Winds of change blowing for Brees

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

The traditional retirement gift is a nice carriage clock or maybe a gold watch. Why anyone would want a constant reminder of the sands of time ebbing away is anyone’s guess, but I’m assuming Saints QB Drew Brees won’t want reminding that time waits for no man. 

The 30-20 Divisional Round loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would’ve hurt badly enough if it does indeed mark Brees’ final appearance in the NFL. The fact that he went down to Tom Brady – the only active quarterback older than himself – just two days after his 42nd birthday only rubs salt into the wound.

Many were hoping that Brees’ year would end on a high, by winning Super Bowl LV in less than three weeks’ time. That would have been the perfect end to an illustrious career that has seen him play 287 games, and complete more than 7,000 passes for 80,358 yards (the current all-time record) and 571 TDs. But his stat line on Sunday night – 19-of-34 for 134 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs, 3.9 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 38.1 – does not scream future Hall of Famer, even though that’s what he is. It screams mediocre… at best. It feels like Father Time had finally tapped him on the shoulder and whispered “Well played son, good innings and all that – but I think you’re done.”

The quarterback appeared to lack the speed needed to thread those tight needles or the power to chuck bombs downfield. In fact, not only did he not complete a pass of 20+ yards through the air, he didn’t even attempt one (although his 16-yard TD lob to Tre’Quan Smith might have actually travelled 20 or so when you factor in Brees’ initial step-backs). The only properly long throw all night from New Orleans came when stand-in QB Jameis Winston connected with Smith on a 56-yard trick play, bringing the Saints wideout his second touchdown (from just three receptions). It was also the first passing TD in the play-offs by a Saints player not named Drew Brees for two decades.

It was also sad to see Brees’ fail to connect with Michael Thomas on any of his four targets, with one attempt getting cut out and returned 36 yards to the NO 3-yard line by Sean Murphy-Bunting. His other two (3 INTs is the most Brees has ever given away in a post-season game) came in the fourth quarter, essentially stifling any possible comeback. Only 23-20 down and looking for the lead, Brees fired a deep, low laser in the direction of Alvin Kamara around the halfway line but linebacker Devin White eagerly pounced on it and took it back 28 yards. Then, 10 points behind, Brees attempted to find Jared Cook but his throw was tipped as it came in, leaving Tampa defensive back Mike Edwards to snaffle it up gratefully. It was a relatively close contest until those two turnovers.

The last shots viewers had of Brees were of him applauding the Superdome crowd and his family, wiping a tear away and, as he walked down the tunnel, taking one brief but poignant glance back over his shoulder. The director’s script probably read “Fade to black. The End. Roll credits.”

Butch Dill – AP

Afterwards, Brees said he had no regrets about playing his 20th season, despite all the COVID craziness and his broken ribs. He talked about his memories and friendships but made it clear he was going to give himself time to think before making any decisions. Kamara and Head Coach Sean Payton both sang from a similar hymn sheet at the post-game press conference but you could still read the small print between the lines: there’s time enough to talk about Drew retiring, as and when he does.

If we assume there is change afoot in The Big Easy and that Brees is hanging up his cleats, how New Orleans addresses the quarterback position is going to be one of the most intriguing off-season storylines. Do we assume that Winston and Taysom Hill (out injured this weekend) are both still in the picture, or is Sean Payton in the market for a new signal-caller?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind…

Feature image: Derick E. Hingle – USA TODAY Sports

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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.

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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On the fence with…Teddy Bridgewater

By Jake Linley-Brown (@JakeLB12)

Don’t call it a comeback!

Over the next few months on the Full 10 Yards, the British home of all things fantasy, I’m going to channel my inner 2011 Tom Brady and give all the spotlight pieces and semi-irrational opinions I can.

My first foray on the fantasy scene this summer begins now with my ‘On the Fence’ series.

For this series of articles, the focus will be on those players who divide opinion, those who offer good and bad (I know names are already firing up in your head). In other words, that player who makes you (metaphorically, I hope) sit on the fence.

First up? Teddy Two Gloves.

The Stats

YearAttemptsCompletionsCompletion %YardsTDINT
*These stats are from his 5 starts hence the smaller sample size. I doubt you care about the 1 pass attempt he made in Week 17.

Teddy Bridgewater has found a new home since we last saw him. He stayed in the division (the NFC South for those suffering with amnesia), but Carolina is now where he suits up on Sundays. Going into his 6th year in the league, the 27-year-old is about to get the keys to his own offense. But is he ready?

The Discussion

First, lets give credit where credit is due. The table above, albeit a small sample size, makes for decent reading. What’s even better is the fact that those 5 starts resulted in 5 wins; victories over the Cowboys (cheap dig) and the Seahawks are in there, too. Most of the stories and press at the time were mostly in agreement that Teddy was a more than capable QB and a worthy replacement for the injured Drew Brees. Fair assessment, I’d say.

Now for the caveat.

Were those numbers put up because the shackles were off? Was it because he knew this was only a short-term thing, and the pressure on him wasn’t the same? It’s hard to say. Since his injury plagued Viking years, one could argue if we’ve even seen the best of Bridgwater. A 2015 Pro Bowl vote seems like a long time ago.

Fast forward to 2020 and here we are. Our boy Bridgwater is now following Matt Rhule’s orders, the new head coach of the Panthers who limped to 5-11 last season.

Joining Rhule is Joe Brady, the new Offensive Coordinator from LSU. Brady won the CFB last season when he was calling plays to a guy named Joe Burrow…the indication is that Teddy is in good hands. But are the new moving parts too much to handle? After all, these are 3 men effectively starting from scratch together. The preparation and practice will also be hindered this off season thanks to Covid-19, so it’s fair to say there’s a few hurdles to navigate.

Watch: Teddy Bridgewater's top plays from the 2019 season
Chuck Cook – USA Today Sports

However, if a QB ever needed a weapon to help with the settling in process, then you won’t get much better than Christian McCaffrey. The stalwart running back leads a cast of an offense with plenty of ability, which includes DJ Moore and newly signed Robby Anderson.

The biggest point to make here, and it’s vitally important in terms of fantasy production, is game script. I’m no mind reader but I don’t expect the woeful 2019 Panthers defence to make a giant leap forward. The strength of schedule is at .500, which is kind of fitting considering the name of this article, and no it wasn’t deliberate. But there’ll be opportunities here for Teddy to put some nice numbers up. Other times like going on the road to Kansas, Minnesota and Green Bay in the middle of winter, I don’t feel as good about.

What I’m trying to say is this defence, and that schedule, is going to put Teddy in certain spots where he’ll be throwing a lot. I can’t take the credit for this point, but I read an article online which called Teddy the perfect QB2 because the reality is some weeks, he’ll put up QB1 numbers. You just must be lucky enough to start him when he does.

Let’s finish on some real fantasy figures.

Barring injury, Teddy will no doubt smash the 90.5 points (PPR) he recorded last year. According to, they have a projection of 228.7 points (PPR) this time round. For the number’s guys in the house, that’s an average of 14.2 a game. ESPN, and any blogger with their own rankings system I’ve found has Teddy at around 25-27, which to me sounds just about right.  

The Conclusion

With all these articles, I will shoot from the hip and give my honest take on the player from a fantasy standpoint.

In this instance, I think Teddy is just fine. I doubt he’ll be pulling up any trees (fence joke) and leading the charge to the fantasy playoffs. But you can do a lot worse at the QB position, especially for those of you in 2 QB leagues. Heck, I selected Sam Darnold as my first QB last year.

If he can somehow lift Carolina off the bottom of the division which now gets Tom Brady and his travelling circus twice a year, that’s got to be seen as heading in the right direction.

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Season In Review – New Orleans Saints

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

This is the first team up in our new article series, “Season in Review”, is the New Orleans Saints.

We will go through EVERY team in the NFL and take a look back their season and what the future holds for each team.

The New Orleans Saints, the Bridesmaids of the NFC Championship game from the past few seasons and they were once again a front runner for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2019. How did it all pan out? We break it down here:

entering the season

After New Orleans’ second crushing playoff defeat in as many years there were legitimate questions to be asked about whether this team could put it all together again to go one step further and play February football.

Even more concerning was the apparent fading of Drew Brees’ star as post-Thanksgiving 2018 he was poor. Was it a blip or the stunning drop-off we saw from Peyton Manning a few years prior?

The expectation for the Saints would’ve been to go one further and appear in their second ever Super Bowl but with the Falcons seemingly healthy again after an injury-struck 2018 and Christian McCaffery turning in an impressive rookie year it looked for all the world like it’d be a very, very competitive NFC South.

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Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty

A huge factor heading into the new season was the retirement of Center, Max Unger, this was a player who was a figurehead of one of the most impressive offensive lines in the game, with the signing of free agent Nick Easton and the drafting of Erik McCoy in the 2nd Round of the 2019 Draft it seemed far from certain who #9 would be taking snaps from come Week 1.

The other major change for the Saints came in the skill positions as we said farewell to Mark Ingram II who left in free agency to join Baltimore but welcomed in Latavius Murray and Jared Cook from the Vikings and Raiders respectively. I think there was quite a shock when Ingram left and Saints fans weren’t exactly enamoured with Murray as his replacement given the chemistry between Alvin Kamara and Ingram had been a huge part of the near-perfect 2018 season. However, Ingram did have fumbling issues and perhaps it was Payton’s way of trying to freshen up the team.

Jared Cook was a definite upgrade at the Tight End position after Ben Watson left in the off-season and after a few swings and not-quite-misses-not-quite-hits at securing a solid WR2 behind Michael Thomas, it was definitely a sign that the Saints meant business. Especially given that they had never replaced Jimmy Graham since he was traded to Seattle.

During the season

There were so many stories around the Saints in the regular season it is hard to get your head around them all. How about Week 1, Monday Night Football at home to the Texans? The Saints kick a 47-yard field goal to go 27-21 up with 50 seconds to play. Vintage late drive from Drew Brees to seal the game? Not quite. Deshaun Watson uncorks a couple of bombs which result in Kenny Stills of all players taking the ball into the endzone just 13 seconds after the Saints had kicked that field goal! 28-27 and that’s a stunner for the Superdome. But wait…Here comes that vintage late drive…Sort of. The Saints work it to field goal range and Wil Lutz uncorks a bomb of his own to send a 58-yarder through the uprights as time expired. The Saints don’t do anything simply do they?

That would prove to be the case in Week 2 in what was already highlighted on the schedule as The Revenge Game. On the road in Los Angeles. After that non-call just eight months prior that ended the Saints season and allowed the Rams to go and roll over for the Patriots a fortnight later. Surely this is where New Orleans lay those ghosts to rest? Well…

Image result for new orleans saints cam jordan rams
Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

This is where the Saints lose without scoring a touchdown. This is where Aaron Donald bursts through that much vaunted offensive line, gets to #9 who, whilst throwing a pass has his throwing thumb broken/ligaments torn/completely busted. Out goes Brees, in comes Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints lose 27-9 and despite there being a strip sack from Cam Jordan returned 87 yards for a touchdown being denied because the refs had blown the play dead there could be no real complaints from New Orleans. They were beaten. Revenge will have to wait for another season.

So you lose your star Quarterback for 6-8 weeks who, by the way, was not showing any issues that plagued him toward the end of the season. You’ve got six games before your bye week. You have to go on the road to Seattle, host Dallas and go to Chicago alongside some easier games against the Bucs, Jaguars and Cardinals. Hope for 4-2? Expect 2-4? Settle with 3-3?

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Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty

Nope. Somehow the Saints go 6-0 with Teddy BridgeH2O under center for the first five. They did it in different ways, too. They score 2 twice on D/ST in Seattle, kick 12 points to win 12-10 against Dallas (their first win since 1998 without reaching the endzone). BridgeH2O threw for 300+ against Tampa, they ran all over Chicago and the Defense held Jacksonville to a pair of field goals.

This was a stunner for the NFC as for so long the Saints had been the team that would have to score 30 just to keep themselves in the game as their D would regularly crumble. Now you’ve got them winning games without Drew Brees? Meanwhile in the NFC South, the worries of their divisional rivals putting up more of a fight this season proved to be something of an unfounded concern as they all flopped spectacularly. The South was the Saints’ to lose and even by the time the Bye arrived in Week 9, the Saints were 8-1 and eyeing another Bye Week in January.

So in true New Orleans fashion they get blown out by the Falcons in the Superdome 26-9. This proved to be little more than a flesh wound as they won their next three (all divisional) games no problem. The big one was hosting the 49ers in Week 14 to essentially decide who gets that first weekend of January off.

It was a classic. A 48-46 victory for the 49ers on a time-expiring field goal. Another heartbreaker in the Dome but this time there were no contentious final plays. It simply came down to which team had the ball last would win and it broke San Francisco’s way. George Kittle proved once again magnificent he is and Emmanuel Sanders stuck 157 yards and a score on the Saints.

George Kittle
Image Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

What was getting lost amidst all the MVP talk surrounding Lamar Jackson was that Michael Thomas was setting record after record and was arguably in with a shout for MVP. The man did nothing but catch balls all year round and by the time the 49ers had left New Orleans in Week 14, he was on pace to break the single-season record for catches (143, Marvin Harrison).

Indeed, two weeks later on the road against the Titans he caught a pass at the one-yard line for 144 and then followed it up with catch 145 for a touchdown. Michael Thomas was the star for the Saints this year.

New Orleans closed out the season with a 42-10 blowout win over the Panthers to finish 13-3 but as luck would have it, those losses would come back to haunt New Orleans as they finished outside of the top two seeds for the playoffs. An absolute stunner for a team with that record to be playing Wildcard Football but with the 49ers and the Packers both having better inter-conference records the Saints wound up looking at hosting Minnesota then going on the road to Green Bay and then in all likelihood to San Francisco if they wanted to be playing in Miami come February 2nd. It’d be possible, but very difficult.

Lo and behold, the Saints laid an egg against the Vikings as they lost 26-20 in overtime. A scarcely believable result but yet again New Orleans found a new way to blow it in January. They barely deserved to get the game to OT as the Vikings completely outplayed them from first to last. What is a real kicker for the Saints is that the next week the Vikings – much like the Rams in the Super Bowl – turn up the next game and just stink the place out against San Francisco.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph held on to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to upend the New Orleans Saints, 26-20, in overtime.
Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are so many unanswered questions from the post-season. What would the Saints been like in Lambeau in January? Would we have seen another classic between New Orleans and San Francisco in the NFC Championship game? What would Kansas vs New Orleans looked like in Miami? We’ll never know.

The stars of the season – Thomas aside – came mainly from the other side of the ball, Cameron Jordan, Vonn Bell, rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and most of all, Demario Davis. The OLB played magnificently all season and was rightly named to his first ever Pro Bowl. After Brees went down in Week 2, Davis essentially became the leader of the team and after #9’s return they shared these pre-game leadership duties. A real testament to a player who has come on leaps and bounds since leaving the Jets in 2018.

offseason outlook

Going forward for the Saints, there are decisions to be made at Quarterback.

Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Saints
Image Credit:

Theoretically they could wind up without Brees, Bridgewater and Go-Go-Gadget Taysom Hill on the roster as they’re all free agents (although the only way Brees leaves is if he retires). It is hard to see a world in which all three of these players are on the team come September but if Brees takes another team-friendly deal and Bridgewater fancies his chances of replacing him in 2021 – if not before – then it is possible.

The offensive line will need shoring up as Andrus Peat was a real weakness in the defeat against the Vikings after injuries took their toll up front on both sides of the ball. Look for New Orleans to perhaps draft a Guard.

Another major issue – as ever – is a WR2. Tre’Quan Smith hasn’t done enough. Ted Ginn Jr isn’t getting any younger and it is doubtful he’ll be brought back. Deonte Harris seems to be restricted to Special Teams for now. The Saints will pick at #24 in the first round. I suspect they may use it on a wide-out who can stretch the field because that is the one singular limitation of Michael Thomas is that he isn’t the player that’ll rip off 50+ yarders and it is important to note that he doesn’t need to be that player but New Orleans do need someone else to do that.

New Orleans has roughly $12.4 million in cap space and will likely need to make room for a Marshon Lattimore contract extension that he richly deserves. However, there is the question of Alvin Kamara. In 2018, Kamara was incredible for the Saints but was something of a flop this season by comparison, especially in the scoring column as he went over ten weeks without finding the endzone. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays going forward as he is still on his rookie contract and by all rights, hasn’t done enough in 2019 to demand Ezekiel Elliott money. He becomes a UFA in 2021 so it’s potentially a prove-it season for the running back. Definitely a key thing to watch going forward.

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Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC South

Today’s Half-Term report focuses on the AFC and NFC South.

Which teams are heading south in terms of short term outlook and which teams will we be watching in January?

Let’s find out.

AFC South

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  • Indianapolis Colts 5-2
  • Houston Texans 5-3
  • Tennessee Titans 4-4
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4

*Indianapolis Colts*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

Having your starting franchise quarterback retire on the eve of the season would knock many of a franchise for 6. Thankfully for the Colts, they had a very good back up plan in Jacoby Brissett. He has marshalled the troops to a 5-2 record and crucially a big win in the division against the Houston Texans. Another significant road win was earned at Arrowhead as the Colts took down the Chiefs. They are positioned nicely for any potential tie breaks that may come into play come the post season shake up.

Marlon Mack is on pace for over 1000 yards rushing as there has been a clear commitment to establish the running game. With that said, T.Y Hilton is also putting together a nice receiving campaign and has already found the endzone on 5 occasions. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

With games against the Steelers and Dolphins next on the slate you would have to fancy the Colts reaching a 7-2 mark ahead of a vital 3 game divisional game stretch. They then face 3 foes from the NFC South before closing out the campaign away at Jacksonville which could be a hugely important contest. 

Ranked as a top 10 defence, expect the Colts to continue to be involved in competitive games but get enough production offensively to come out on top more often than not, particularly if the ask is for Adam Vinateri to kick the game winning field goals, something he has done consistently better than anyone else ever has done.

Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5 (Division Winners)

*Houston Texans*

Midseason Grade: B

How has it gone so far?

What a fun team to watch! The Texans always seem to be involved in a game packed with points or lead changes. DeShaun Watson is a special player who Texans fans can look forward to seeing playing for many a year, especially if he is protected. Thankfully the team took steps to address the protection issue by trading for Laremy Tunsil. Yes, the price was high but the pay off has been instant as the sack numbers have come down over the past month.

Carlos Hyde has been a nice addition in the backfield and DeAndre Hopkins is on pace to reach over 1200 yards receiving. The biggest surprise has been the production from tight end Darren Fells who along with Watson himself paces the team with 5 touchdowns.

Rest of Season Outlook:

Similar to the Colts, the Texans have a big stretch of key divisional games coming down the tracks. In an ultra competitive division it’s obvious to say how crucial these games will be. One of those games is this weeks matchup with the Jags in Wembley as they make the plane journey across the pound for the first time. A marquee matchup with the Patriots is also looming on the horizon which could have bearings on AFC playoff seedings all around. 

Expect more great value out of the Texans as we head towards the business end. The loss of JJ Watt is a massive blow and possible keeps them behind the Colts but still very likely to be playoff bound.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 (Wildcard spot)

*Tennessee Titans*

Midseason Grade: C+

How has it gone so far?

A huge opening day win had people talking about the Titans. 7 weeks on and rather unsurprisingly the Titans sit at a 500 record. A team so inconsistent they are impossible to get a read of.

The inconsistency has lead to a much overdue change at the quarterback position as former Dolphin, Ryan Tannehill has replaced the underwhelming Marcus Mariota. The Titans have responded with 2 wins in his 2 starts as he looks to stake his claim on the job for the long term.

AJ Brown has been a nice addition at the receiver position giving whomever plays quarterback a nice big target on the outside. Derrick Henry continues to churn out yardage and defensively Logan Ryan is having a nice campaign having forced 3 fumbles and compiled 3 interceptions so far on the year.

Rest of Season Outlook:

Almost impossible to predict what this team will do. One thing is for sure though, if nothing else, the next 8 weeks are a trial for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans only sit 1 game back on the divisional lead so they can not be written off by any stretch of the imagination but there can also be no amount of confidence placed in them either.

The only thing I can say with relative confidence is the Titans finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-8

*Jacksonville Jaguars*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far?

The Jags celebrated the off-season moves to address the quarterback position. Nick Foles threw a beautiful touchdown pass in his opening game but got injured on that play. It might be the best thing that could have happened to the Jags.

Enter Gardner Minshew.

The unfancied rookie has been phenomenal, throwing for just shy of 2000 yards with 13 touchdowns to just 2 picks.

Leonard Fournette has put together a nice season on the ground and the locker room looks a far more harmonious place following the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams. 29 sacks on the season also has the “Sacksonville” label ready to return.

Rest of Season Outlook:

The biggest question ahead of the Jags, is can Minshew hold onto the job when Nick Foles returns to fitness? The London game starts a sequence of 3 divisional games which as per all of these teams will be vital given the tight nature of the standings.

Outside of the remaining divisional games the schedule is favourable with the Bucs, Raiders, Chargers and Falcons on the slate a realistic playoff opportunity is in sight.

I feel they just miss out on a tie breaking scenario.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7

NFC South

Image result for nfc south
By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (7-1)
  2. Carolina Panthers (4-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (1-7)

*New Orleans Saints*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

After franchise icon Drew Brees’ injury in week 2’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, most hoped backup QB Teddy Bridgewater could keep them in playoff contention until Brees returned. Bridgewater managed that and more, winning all 5 of his games during the future Hall of Famer’s absence.

With Ryan Ramczyk and the rest of the O-line performing at a high level, running lanes have been there for both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, with Saints averaging well over 4 yards per carry this year and only giving up 12 sacks on the year so far, while largely neutralising rushers of the calibre of Khalil Mack and JJ Watt.

The defence has also more than played their part with the 2nd ranked rush defence, Cameron Jordan playing to all-pro standard and Demario Davis leading the linebacker core.

Rest of season outlook:

This squad is set up for a deep run in the playoffs and will hope to bring a 2nd Lombardi trophy back to the Big Easy. A matchup with the unbeaten 49ers looms large on December 8th which could go a long way to deciding playoff positioning.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 13-3 (#1 Seed)

*Carolina Panthers*

Midseason grade: B-

How has it gone so far?

Carolina’s season has been a confusing one to say the least, franchise QB Cam Newton continued to struggle in the early part of the season, continuing a worrying trend from the latter part of 2018.

When he succumbed to lingering issues after week 2’s loss to the Bucs most thought the Panthers hopes relied on him returning form injury in short order, however up stepped second year undrafted QB Kyle Allen, winning 4 four consecutive games to drag the Panthers to the edge of the NFC playoff race before week 8’s sobering blowout loss to the 49ers.

Rest of season outlook:

While the odds would appear to be against the Panthers making a playoff run, any team with the talents of all-pro LB Luke Kuechly and the electric Christian McCaffrey can’t be entirely ruled out. It will no doubt hinge on when (or maybe even “if” at this point) Cam Newton returns and how much ring rust there is to shake off.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7

*Tampa Bay Buccaneers*

Midseason grade: C-

How has it gone so far?

Tampa look like a franchise approaching a turning point. With QB Jameis Winston in a contract year and the same old issues of turnovers blighting the offence, it would appear there are poised to reset at the position after this year. However, there are other issues that need to be addressed before the Buccaneers can make a realistic run at the postseason. While Winston is certainly not without blame for his poor ball security and decision making, the offensive line is porous at best.

There are certainly pieces promising a better future, with Chris Godwin making his awaited step forward this year, to give a formidable 1-2 at receiver with Mike Evans. Shaq Barrett, Carl Nassib and Devin White have all impressed at times this season, but the secondary is a real weakness surely that must be addressed this offseason, with the 31st ranked pass defence this season.

A huge plus so far has been the top ranked run defence, shutting down the likes of Gurley, McCaffrey and Barkley. Certainly however, the Bucs have a lot of question marks going into the offseason, surely they must identify a QB to take the team forward but will HC Bruce Arians stick around to be a part of it?

Rest of season outlook:

Bruce Arians has a lot of deadwood potentially to clear out on the roster on the offence whilst the secondary always seems to be a quandry for the Buccaneers so i would expect the HC to use the rest of the season to assess players that he wants to use going forward and those that he wants to chuck out.

That includes 1 Mr Jameis Winston.

*Atlanta Falcons*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

Arguably no team has been more disappointing than the 2019 Falcons, the defence has had a myriad of problems leaving HC Dan Quinn under huge pressure to salvage his job over the second half of the season.

While only 7 sacks in 8 games tells its own story of where things have gone wrong, things have hardly been much better at the other end of the field with the secondary giving up big plays on a regular basis. Keanu Neal’s season ending injury in week 3 meant one of the big leaders in the secondary was missing for almost the entire season for the second year running.

While the offence has got plenty yards from messrs Ryan, Freeman, Jones et al turnovers have plagued the offence, giving away 9 interceptions and 6 fumbles, ranking 28th in the league for turnovers allowed.

Rest of season outlook:

While spirited showings late in games seem to show the locker room is still working for Quinn, big questions hang over this franchise’s future direction. Don’t be surprised that if by the time you are reading this, he is out the exit door.

The season is already over to the dismay of the Falcons’ faithful and you have to wonder whether it’s time to blow most of this team up and try to start again because despite all the talent on both sides of the ball, something just isnt right here. Maybe all it’ll take is a coaching change…

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Full10Takeaways – Week 5

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)


Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

You could be excused for confusing the NFL redzone coverage on Sunday for an episode of casualty. Several times the electric cart was brought out onto an NFL field on Sunday as what was a day that several players saw their season come to an abrupt end.

2 of the more notable season ending ones were Colts 2nd year pass rusher Kemoko Turray, who broke his ankle in SNF. Tony Jefferson tore his ACL earlier in the day to leave a big hole in the Ravens secondary. Several players left games with varying injuries throughout the day but the scariest of the lot though without doubt was Mason Rudolph lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf. It certainly wasn’t the worst hit you will ever see but a combination of Brandon Carr from behind and an Earl Thomas helmet to the chin had the young QB out cold.

Thankfully he regained consciousness and walked from the field which was lucky as the electric cart broke!

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16 Weeks on the Road?

Image Credit – Harry How / Getty Images

Talking of injuries, thats a nice link to arguably the most unlucky team in football the LA Chargers.

A team that seemingly gets a bigger slice of the injury pie than anyone else, actually welcomed back a player this week, as Melvin Gordon saw the field. He however was part of a predictable and conservative gameplan which was too much dink and not enough dunk. On a day that Austin Ekeler caught a career high 15 passes the Chargers couldn’t get anything going consistently offensively, as Vic Fangio tasted success for the first time in his short head coach career.

Its unsurprising that this brand of football isn’t attracting fans into watch the franchise as the move from San Diego continues to look like a mistake as the Broncos fans hugely outnumbered the fans of the supposed “home” team.

Texans Feast on Falcons

Image Credit – Troy Taorimina / USA Today Sports

DeShaun Watson is good.

DeShaun Watson when not getting pressured is superb, and that was the case on Sunday as the Texans dropped a 50 burger on the Falcons. A career high 426 yards through the air was accompanied by 5 touchdown passes and a further 47 yards rushing. His main weapon on the day was Will Fuller who caught 14 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Atlanta battled and had the deficit at a 1 possession game for much of the contest but the takeaway here isn’t so much how good Watson and co were offensively but just how bad this Atlanta defense is.

Tim wrote last week about Dan Quinn and his seat getting warmer, displays by the side of the ball he is supposed to be stronger in will do nothing to turn the temperature down a few degrees.

High, Wide and Not Handsome

Image Credit – James Kenney / AP Photo

Cairo Santos, dear oh dear oh dear. In a game that was the most obvious candidate ever to be decided by a small margin, it wasn’t a good night for the Titans kicker to suffer a disastrous tilt.

He left a total of 12 points off the board with field goal misses from 50, 36, 32 and 53 yards away. Missing kicks, especially from 50 plus yards is obviously not uncommon, but Santos was closer to threatening supporters sitting behind the posts as opposed to the kicking net as he kicks were way off throughout.

A strange decision by Mike Vrabel to even attempt the 53 yarder when down by 7 points and under 7 minutes left in what had proven to be the defensive slugfest that we had predicted.

Maybe he will find himself as a member of Jason Garret corner on this week’s podcast?

Super Ted

Image Credit – David Grunfeld /

Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Bridgewater can still throw!

For the first time in nearly 4 years the signal caller threw for over 200 yards as he powered the Saints to a dominant divisional win over the Bucs. 4 touchdown passes also found the box score as on the day Teddy remembered how to air it out, Michael Thomas remembered how to dominate on the outside. He was a perfect 9/9 when lined up against press coverage on a day when the Bucs star receiver Mike Evans was held catchless.

The post game interview with Teddy was a reminder of just how far he has come since suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury. He couldn’t tie his shoelaces and now he has steadied the Saints in Drew Brees absence, a remarkable turnaround.

Tottenham triumph 

Image result for white hart lane nfl
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All the hype about the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is 101% justified. The stadium is situated right on the Tottenham High Road opposite some local shops such as bookies and kebab outlets.

Fans took full advantage of the road being closed, throwing balls and gathering en-mass to play NFL jersey bingo. Any fans wanting to buy any merch can expect to queue up as the store has security arches. Inside the stadium the views are awesome wherever you are sitting, and the experience is full immersive. The three rings of digital information screens, along with jumbo screens in all four corners mean you will never miss a highlight, a replay or a challenge. The sound is quality and the lights are stunning.

Fans were treated to some pyrotechnics around the roof’s inner ring on Sunday which is something you simply have to be in the stadium to experience. If the NFL plan to lure an existing team to London it won’t be a hard sell on the stadium.

England captain and World-Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane was a guest of honour on Sunday and he looked like he had a whale of a time. If he does decide to one day transition to an NFL kicker, what’s the odds that he doesn’t even need to change his parking pass? 

You’d be crackers not to like Jacobs 

Image Credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

As the top drafted rookie running back on a team in transition with a new (returning) head coach you could excuse the output to less than impressive for the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs. Thing is Jacobs is absorbing that pressure like a seasoned veteran.

Jacobs was voted the Tottenham game ‘man of the match’ winner even before he went airborne for the game winning score. Jacobs has been a number one back all season and is easily justifying his high pick position.

After five weeks he is 6th in the league in rushing with 430 yards and four scores. Jacobs picked up the hard yards in London both rushing and receiving, and arguably could have had three scores. Backup RB Deandre Washington was a TD vulture.

Jacobs would not be achieving such positive results without two key factors being delivered – his ability to pass block when called upon and the play of the Raiders offensive line. Khalil Mack flew home with a Union Jack fridge magnet, a six inch Beefeater and a jar of Marmite but had no sack to put them in. 

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Redskins change the locks 

Image Credit: Nick Wass/AP

Jay Gruden, when asked by the media on Sunday, after the Washington Redskins fifth consecutive loss, about his job security he said that he would carry on if his key still worked.

That was enough for owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen to dial up a locksmith and get a shiny new Chubb installed at the gates of Fed-Ex Field (no Browns fans they did not trade for Nick).

This was the most obvious firing and was inevitable after Tom Brady, in second gear, helped himself to an easy victory against a Redskins team that atrocious to say the least. Gruden was unable to overcome major injuries to stars, failed to develop and true WR talent and had zero playoff wins in his tenure.

New ‘interim’ Head Coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to s Super Bowl in 2001, and is a true advocate of a strong running game. Gruden seemingly banged nails in his own coffin when he deactivated future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in Week 1. Trent Williams the All-Pro T is the last remaining holdout, and the defence has been as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.

In fact Spongebob would probably be an upgrade in the secondary.  

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#NFL100Memories – 10/100

My First Game: Saints vs Chargers – By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Date: 26th October 2008

Venue: Wembley Stadium

Your first ever experience of live NFL action. You never forget it.

Despite what was the washout between the Dolphins and the Giants in it’s inaugural year, the International series returned in year 2 with the then San Diego Chargers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

At this point, i was still in the early days of following this great sport to the point where i still didn’t really have a team. I ended plumping for the Dallas Cowboys and the rest is history (check out NFL100Memories #3 for more on that).

I mention this as there were plenty of people, and there still are, that go to these International Series games and don’t support a team. Primarily because they are new to the sport and trying something new. Wembley is not known for partisan crowds or hostile atmospheres, it’s a more of a celebration about a sport that is growing and will continue to do so, even if they do send the Dolphins over anytime in the next few years.

Does it add to the experience? In some ways, yes. There’s nothing like turning up to a game and getting heckled for wearing a Tony Romo Dallas throwback jersey (Jacksonville vs Philadelphia last year) . But if you are a fan of either of the two teams in the fixture, it probably doesn’t…purely because you aren’t surrounded amongst you fellow tribe.

To this particular game, the tailgate was #OK. It’s one of those that because you’ve not been there or seen it before, it passed as something more than acceptable to the whole experience; You didn’t mind queueing up 45 minutes to see if they had any International Series game balls left or just ending up having to get a measly lanyard or a scarf.

After the tailgate, popped in to the local bookies as you do, with all the “regulars” befuddled at the invasion of weird looking sports goers who weren’t wearing England football tops. Placed a bet on winning margin, first TD scorer. The usual. Went for New Orleans to win by 7-12 points at 7/2. more signifigance to that later.

Game itself was very entertaining. Stereophonics had the honour of opening the entertainment, just so happen to be a band I was listening to at the time so happy days.

Image Credit: Getty Images

A few magical plays by Brees saw my winning margin bet currently towards the end of the game. I thought my bet was in when a late Philip River’s drive ended in an interception Jonathan Vilma. Saints could not get a first down, it was 4th and 2 from the New Orleans 26. 14 seconds left on the clock. Surely this is all over… but wait, WHY ARE THEY NOT PUNTING?!?! Drew Brees stays on the field and the 4th down play is in the history books as a Drew Brees run “up the middle” for -26yards. Safety. A bloody Safety.

I couldn’t believe what I had just seen! On a side note, imagine having that on your fantasy team!

A return from Darren Sproles on the ensuing kick saw Philip Rivers have a Hail Mary chance to sneak the win. But unfortunately Vincent jackson and the boys couldn’t haul it in and give the Saints what they deserved for ruining the ultimate game day!

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#NFL100Memories – 9/100

Today we have another guest piece by an NFL and Chicago Bears Super Fan who resides at GiveawayHQ!

Make sure you give her a follow on Twitter @clairedabear85. Definitely worth it folks!

Sharing my passion – By Claire Ball (aka Clairedabear)

I have been very lucky, I could of picked to tell a story about going to the states to see games both home and away, also watching here in the UK at home or at venues but I have chosen something different… so here goes.

Still to this day 11 years on this memory of a game still gives me a physical reaction when I tell it. Having been an American Football fan since 1986, I’ve always loved the sport and been very passionate about it.

One of my favourite things to do is to introduce other people around me to the sport with the hope that I can ignite the passion in them. So I’d like to tell the story of how I hooked one of my friends….

It all started 2008 the second game in the London international series (I attended the first game on my own) I decided to book an extra ticket for a friend as their birthday present, the tickets were of course the Club Wembley Seats this time round.

Back then the tailgates were much more exclusive and a raffle was held to allocate tickets and I was lucky enough to be a winner and get a pair. So my friend and I travelled to Wembley and how wonderful to see lots of different teams fans travelling peacefully and friendly to the same event. I know of no other sport of where this would happen, really friendly and all inclusive.

We had a great time at the tailgate and talked to some wonderful Saints fans who had traveled from New Orleans despite what had happened with hurricane Katrina and not only themselves but their team being made homeless (now that’s commitment). So I encourage Jon to support a team and told him there was five teams that were strictly off limits anything other than these were fine. Since this was a Saints game Jon said as it’s his first experience it would only be right to support them. He bought a Colston jersey and still has and wears it to this day.

We then get to go through and enter through the George Best doors for Club Wembley. We have some nice food, sitting in nice seats with great views and drink some pricey drinks. I explained the rules of the game to Jon in very simple terms and how the scoring works, but forget to talk about safety’s as these rarely happen in the game and didn’t want to overload him and give him to much to digest what with it being his first experience (and don’t you know it a safety is one of the scores, doh!).

We get flags on our seats, then proceed to get into the game. He quite enjoyed the cheerleaders “for some unknown reason” so a good game is put on by both teams, but this is the part that gives me goosebumps… it was last few minutes of the game and the Saints were behind, Drew Brees pulls off what can only be described as a Miracle:

He hefts the ball down the field with moments to spare as the crowd of 80 thousand plus spectators watch on… (our seats were as far away from this happening as possible in fact right down the other end of the field) each and every spectator appears to hold their breath and stand on their feet… by some miracle it is caught in the corner of the end zone. By this time no matter who you supported the crowd went wild, an utter eruption, new fan or old, big or small, home, away or neutral, the feeling was electric JON WAS HOOKED. He becomes a newly passionate NFL and Saints fan forever more.

To this day we continue to go to the International series games in our team colours and are proud to rep them here in the UK.

The following season, the Saints win the Super Bowl and to get there they had beaten the bears in a gritty game….. (I’m not bitter at all on this matter) .

He only had to wait a season and a half to see his team win the Super Bowl. I’m still waiting 33 years on DAMMIT (again, not bitter at all)!

But hope springs eternal.

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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


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?

Image Credit – Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

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


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?

Image Credit – Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

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.


IMAGE CREDIT: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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).


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.