Season in Review – Pittsburgh Steelers

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Next up in our NFL series taking a look back at the 2019 season, we travel to Heinz Field where we look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, where there was another Big Ben who was taken out of action for while…


Entering the season

An offseason removing the diva distractions of Antonio Brown and Leveon Bell saw the steelers lose obvious talent, but probably gain some locker room harmony.

They were aggressive in the draft trading up into the top 10 to select linebacker Devin Bush and were hopeful of nice follow up seasons from JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner.

Talk was quiet on the Ben Rothelisberger retirement front and as with most seasons, the Steelers started the year as many experts pick for the AFC North crown.


during the season

How quickly can a season unravel?

An opening Sunday Night Football embarrassment on the road in New England was a bad start. The loss of their starting QB for the season in week 2 was a heartbreaker. An 0-3 start was confirmed with defeat to the surging San Francisco 49ers and many people were getting their pitchforks ready to declare the season over before it had even really began. Do we never learn anything? Winners of 5 out of their next 6, all of a sudden the Steelers had a winning record and hopes of a playoff berth.

An in season trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick proved fruitful as the defence kept the team in games whilst rotating through Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges at quarterback.

JuJu and James Conner through a combination of injuries and poor quarterback play have not reproduced at the level people had hoped for but through good coaching the Steelers have hung around. A 3 game winning streak had them with control over their own playoff destiny but a late season skid sees them just fall short.

Image Credit – Jessie Wardaski / Post-Gazette

A season that the Steelers can be proud of, considering the hand they were dealt. Fitzpatrick has been a roaring success on the back end of the defence. TJ Watt has been a dominant force in the pass rush department and Devin Bush has grown as the season has developed. 


offseason outlook

The offseason focus will surely be on the offensive side of the ball. Will “Big Ben” return is the most pressing of questions.

All of the noises indicate that he wants to return and if that is the case some new weapons will be required. JuJu may not be the number 1 receiver they had hoped for so help is needed out wide. James Conner has struggled when healthy this year so an upgrade in the backfield would not go amiss either.

The line is solid and the defence is always competitive. Mike Tomlin should have a mention for coach of the year honours (he will not win it) so a restocked roster will see the Steelers primed to go again in 2020.

Full10Lookaheads – Week 16

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Crunch time! This week we are treated to the NFL being spread out over the weekend with 3 games on Saturday with huge implications as the Rams travel to the 49ers and the Bills try to upset the applecart in New England.

On Sunday, the SkySports offering serves up some fantastic matchups where New Orleans continue to chase for a 1st round bye against a Titans team effectively already in the playoffs. Plus, it’s the battle for the NFC East as Dallas travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles in a winner takes all matchup.

Winners progress, losers go home. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to week 16 in the NFL.


BATTLE FOR THE EAST

Image result for dallas vs philadelphia
Image Credit: Mitchell Leff / Getty

Fierce rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia get it on to essentially decide the winner of the #4 seed for the NFC playoffs. Both teams have underwhelmed this year for a variety of reasons, but it all comes down to this 60 minute game of football.

A win for the Cowboys, they are confirmed champions. A win for the Eagles and assuming a week 17 win against the Giants, they are in too. The Cowboys are the healthier, more potent team this season as judged by their week 7 hammering at At&T stadium. They will also be buoyed by their dominant performance last week at home to the Rams but form goes out of the window in these types of games.

Do Dallas and Jason Garrett have the cajones when it’s all on the line? Usually not, but can they still get the job done against an Eagles team that have been on the ropes more than the Sunday washing.

The coaching and talent on the Eagles are a testament to even be in with a live shout of still winning the division, but it’s also an indictment on how poor the division has been. Still, someone must win it and become the #4 seed for the playoffs, who’s stepping up?


Buffalo-ad of this!

Image result for buffalo bills new england patriots
Image Credit: Mike Groll / AP

Buffalo travel to Foxboro’ this weekend in another pivotal divisional clashe.

A win for the Bills sees a very interesting week 17 indeed. If Buffalo win out, they will take the #1 seed regardless due to conference record tie breaker and that is one hell of a carrot dangled in front of Josh Allen and Sean McDermott. They will be in bullish (or Billish perhaps?) mood after their win away at Heinz field on SNF and it’s now a question of whether they can step up to the plate once more.

Their week 4 meeting saw the Bills blow their chances a little, Josh Allen left with a head injury and still had a few drives to go and beat them late in the 4th quarter. They’ll certainly have to execute better than they did back in September but I feel this Bills team has come quite far since that game. The Bills match up quite well against New England and we don’t need to go over the offensive struggles that Brady and Co. have experienced this season.

A win for the Patriots will secure the #2 seed too and how many times have we seen before that New England just get the job done? New England have won the last 6 between the sides and you have to go back to 2014 when Buffalo last beat a Tom Brady led Patriots (though he did exit with an injury in that one!).


NFC 1st round bye shuffle


The #1 and #2 seeds have shuffled around between Seattle/San Francisco/New Orleans and Green Bay over the past couple of weeks and the jostling will continue this weekend. The current #1 seeds have a straightforward task against the Cardinals, whilst the 49ers will have to be on their toes against the Rams. New Orleans face a tough trip to Nashville and Green Bay travel to Minnesota in a key NFC North matchup.

If results go their way, the Seahawks could potential have their hands firmly placed on the #1 seed if results go their way which will be huge for Russell Wilson and the members of the 12 to ensure they can create a hostile environment in the playoffs and seal that homefield advantage.


HitchViking a ride into the playoffs

Image result for minnesota vikings
Image Credit: Leon Halip / Getty

The Vikings with a win in either of their last 2 games secure a playoff berth. Problem is they have to face old foes and divisional rivals in the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. They are at home which will help as they enjoy one of the bigger advantages with homefield.

In the 2 away games against those teams however, they only managed to must 22 points collectively and that is just not going to get the job done. This is what Kirk Cousins was brought in for, paid all that guaranteed money for; games like this.

Without Dalvin Cook who is nursing an injury and resting before helping them in the playoffs or rookie Alexander Mattison who is also struggling to be fit for the game, Kirk Cousins is going to have to step up and lead this team to victory.

A win, an the monkey starts to climb off of his back. A loss, and there is huge pressure on him in week 17 against the Bears.


battle for a top 3 pick


With Cincinnati taking on the Dolphins and the Redskins facing the Giants, the current top 4 picks in the 2020 draft face off on Sunday. It is always interesting to see how the teams down “that end” play and how much they really put in to the game.

Whilst the Bengals can win without affecting their position at #1 overall, the other 3 teams could see themselves cause detrimental ramifications should they win a game. These games will be nothing more than a “look at the result after the game” types of affairs, but for the fans of the respective teams, i guess it’s nice that the fans will still be biting their nails during the game, even if it’s for different reasons.


Three Griers for Will!

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Image Credit: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty

Carolina turn to their third QB of the season as 2019 3rd round pick Will Grier enters the fray. Kyle Allen seemingly not the answer for the Panthers front office and David Tepper, Grier has 2 games to show what he can do.

He faces a Colts team that is there for the taking and a New Orleans Saints team which should have something to play for. Quite a contrast in matches will mean ample sample sizes for the team’s scouts and evaluators to see whether he could be the answer and not theoft injured Cam Newton.

Whilst we wont know until late in the offseason who will be the starter, Will Grier has the chance to make a lasting impression and put down a marker for next training camp. At the very least, he can stop the Panthers from drafting a QB or signing one in Free Agency….


the afc #6 a steel?


It seems to be a straight shootout now between Pittsburgh and Tennessee for the #6 seed in the AFC. The Steelers have the easier schedule with the Jets and Ravens to come, the Titans have the better QB but face New Orleans and Houston. Both defences are pretty stout, perhaps the edge going to Pittsburgh but the Titans have the better running game and the healthier team. Pittsburgh have the tie breaker on Tennessee so effectively just need to beat the Jets to punch their ticket to Arrowhead.

Whichever team makes it will be a heavy underdog going in to what is likely to be Kansas City. Considering both teams’ journies this season, I think they will take just the chance to cause an upset in January (the Titans have previous vs the Chiefs!).


you’re quinn denial, dan

Image result for Matt ryan dan quinn
Image Credit: Bob Donnan / USA Today

Dan Quinn was a hot favourite to be handed his P45 on black monday, but after the handful of decent performances by Matt Ryan and the Falcons including their most recent victory as time expired against the 49ers, it’s now a bit more up in the air.

The Falcons are 5-9, which is still a bitter disappointment comparing it with pre-season expectations, but they’ve won 4 of their last 6 including 3 divisional wins on top of the 49ers victory. divisional wins have slightly more weight put on them due to their importance so if the Falcons are able to beat the 5-9 Jaguars and the depleted 5-9 Buccaneers, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Dan Quinn comes back next year.

He’ll definitely be getting “Blank” stares until the season and he walks in for his performance review…


is drew a lock for denver qb?

Image result for drew lock
Image Credit: Wesley Hitt /Getty

Drew Lock has performed well in his first 3 starts as Denver Broncos QB; A divisional win against the Chargers to go with a road victory against a playoff team. His last start against the Chiefs can be written off due to the weather and uncomfortable surroudings but all in all, the 2nd round pick from this year’s draft has probably outperformed his expectations when coming in, he was quite a raw prospect.

John Elway has never been the most convincing with his selections in the draft so far, especially at QB, but Drew Lock is looking like he fits over in Mile High. Whilst his completion % is low and his interceptions were not pretty, both lending to his gunslinger mentality, there are certainly some tools there for Lock to fine tune over the offseason and potentially be the answer at QB over in Denver.

With the weapons at his disposal sure to be added to during the offseason to compliment the running game, Drew Lock and the Broncos may not be in that bad of a position to challenge for January football come 2020.

A big tell will come against the Detroit Lions, as we will see how he responds to that rough game against Kansas and the criticisms he would have endured this week.

Half-Term report – AFC/NFC North

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

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


AFC North

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

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

*BALTIMORE RAVENS*

Midseason grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 – Division Winners


*CLEVELAND BROWNS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

The talent is there, can they turn it around?

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9 – Miss Playoffs


*PITTSBURGH STEELERS*

Midseason grade: C

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 6-10 – Miss Playoffs


*CINCINNATI BENGALS*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

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

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

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NFC NORTH

By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings

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

*GREEN BAY PACKERS*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 12-4

*MINNESOTA VIKINGS*

Midseason grade: B

How has it gone so far?

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

Rest of Season Outlook:

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 11-5



*DETROIT LIONS*

Midseason Grade: C

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-7-1


*CHICAGO BEARS*

Midseason grade: D

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular Season Record Prediction: 7-9

Full10Takeaways – Week 2

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y), Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) and Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

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Hungry for more? We’ve got some more takeaways for you to digest looking back at week 2 in the NFL…

Heisman Hullabaloo

Image Credits: Associated Press

Week 2 saw two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks pitted against each other, as Kyler Murray faced the red hot Lamar Jackson.

There appears to be a pattern developing from both teams, with Baltimore dominating early and Arizona dominating late. The single biggest play of the game was not a touchdown or turnover, it was a frozen rope from L-Jax to rookie wide receiver Hollywood Brown, a 41 yard sideline streak on 3rd and 11 in the 4th quarter. That play alone dispels the myth that he has no touch on his passes. Murray was again let down by a non-existent running game in the desert, David Johnson was a pathetic 7 carries for 14 yards and 1 catch for 1 yard.

The Murray Show is a prime time viewing experience but without any resemblance of a running game it’s going to be an exhausting season with far more Sports Centre highlights than wins.

Gold – always believe in your Jimmy G

Image Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are named and kitted out to remember the 1849 Gold Rush, when folks flocked to California in pursuit of something special, that was hidden amongst the rocks.

The 49ers are already starting to shine, after a quiet but highly efficient 2-0 start.  72 points and two road wins is a fantastic start against any opponent, and following that up with a home opener against a spluttering Steelers team this could be the most under the radar 3-0 team in the league.

Last season Jimmy G only lasted three games, now he is hoping for a post-season berth. Perhaps the biggest indicator of success is the fact Garropolo has only been sacked once all season, but the news that perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley is out for up to half the season is a huge blow. The Niners will need to find a replacement immediately to fill a huge hole.

Big call for Big Len but Big bust

Image Credit: Getty Images

The Jaguars will face the Texans at Wembley in their divisional rematch, here’s hoping the game is a better matchup than this forgettable encounter in Week 2.

Well almost unforgettable, as this game came down to a botched two-point conversion when Leonard Fournette failed to take a handoff the required two yards for paydirt. Until that point the NFL’s new moustachioed maestro Gardner Minshew had been conducting the Jaguars orchestra to perfection. Then Doug Marrone decided to opt for the triangle player to play the tune, and he hit a bum note. Music to the Texans fans ears, who have now moved to 1-1.

The Jaguars are still failing to impress and this is frustrating the hell out of their star defensive player Jalen Ramsay who has been quoted this week to say he just wants to ‘f%&*king win’. No one blames him, and whilst Minshew is a media darling and a cult hero, he is not winning games and that is all that matters.

Buffaload of this!

Image Credit: Associated Press (AP)

Buffalo are now officially the front runners to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East;

Miami, well are Miami. New York just lost their star QB until further notice whilst the Bills are quietly going about their work.

Yes, they didn’t beat much in the form of the Giants and their back-to-back “road games” were in the same stadium not far from home. But all you can do is do your job and beat what is in front of you. No fuss, no hassle. After their first drive ended in a punt, 3 straight touchdowns for the Bills was enough to get the W. Josh Allen had a much cleaner game; No turnovers (after 4 last week), over 8yds per attempt, completing passes to 8 different receivers

They have a solid Defence and enough of offence (though we’ll have to monitor Devin Singletary’s injury) to make it to the post season, especially when the other likely middling teams such as the LA Chargers, Pittsburgh, Cleveland are stuttering.

I’m not expecting a divisional challenge as such to the Patriots, but they are certainly building towards being the team that will have first dibs on divisional title aspirations when Belichick and co come back to the field.


Steelers digging a Pit for themselves

Image Credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The roses are wilting in Pennsylvania and is Mike Tomlin a dead man walking in terms of head coaching tenure at the Steelers?

A deflating loss to the Seahawks which in a vacuum cant do too much in the way of wildcard hopes, but now at 0-2 they are staring down the barrel already with the injury fallout. Long road trip west next week to face the 49ers which is not too far from the crime scene of their shocking defeat last year against the Raiders.

You cannot overstate the importance of this game and a loss here for the Steelers and they are already done if they aren’t done already;

The back end of the schedule is not too difficult with matchups against Dolphins, Bills, Jets, Cardinals and Colts along with 2 divisional games vs the Bengals but if they are 2-4 going in to the week 7 bye, they may struggle to make the postseason. Add in to that the loss of Big Ben for the season with an elbow injury, James Conner is nicked up and the defence being even worse than the offence. I’m not saying the final nail is in the coffin yet because i think Mason Rudolph is serviceable, but the Steelers franchise landscape as we know it could be all change and Mike Tomlin may be about to throw in the terrible towel.

On a more positive note, Steelers #1 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster became the youngest player to reach 2,500 career receiving yards in NFL history, previously held by randy Moss (per NFL Research). Might take him a bit longer to get the next 2,500 though…


Pack mentality

Image Credit: Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Even at this early stage, the Packers take a strong grip of the NFC after their dominant 1st quarter performance vs divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings.

TD throws the Jamaal Williams and Geronimo Allison complimented with a TD run by Aaron Jones saw the Packers blow away the Vikings D in the first home game for the Packers.

From that point on, the Packers always had the number of the Vikings and just whittled down the time on the game clock.

It could however, have been a different story if Kirk Cousins was not picked off late in the 4th at the Green Bay 8 yards line on a pass intended for Diggs. The throw itself was very reckless; 1st down, scrambling to the right, on the back foot and lofted in to double coverage. Not a good decision.

This is another row to put into the table of “Times Kirk Cousins didn’t show up in big games” database. Throw the ball away and dial up another play. Redzone turnovers are brutal in this league.

With the win, the Packers now have not only a game cushion over their 2 fiercest division rivals, but also a win, meaning that at worst, they can only split the series with the Bears and the Vikings should Head to head come in to play at the end of the regular season. Judging by the performances of the 3 teams so far, it probably wont.


Injuries Are A Real Kicker

Image Credit – Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

The LA Chargers would have been a popular Superbowl pick for many in the off season , 2 weeks in and that looks like a very optimistic prediction.

A team that feels as though it has to deal with more injuries than any other in the league has once again been struck with the dreaded curse and is missing key players in Derwin James, Hunter Henry, Russell Okung. Following the game against Detroit on Sunday we may be able to add Joey Bosa and Adrian Phillips to that unwanted list and I haven’t even mentioned Michael Badgley yet.

Why is the kicker significant? Well despite all of the injuries and a generally sloppy game the bolts still could have escaped Ford Field with a victory if they had a solid kicking performance but they left 6 points on the field with 2 missed field goals.

It would be harsh to criticise a punter stepping in whilst Badgley recovers but if the Chargers are serious about a deep playoff run then surely they should bring in a specialist!


Real Life Madden

Image Credit – Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

“He scores when he wants,” the chant heard in many a UK football stadium should be aimed squarely at Patrick Mahomes.

278 yards and four touchdowns would be a decent stat line by the end of the game but that was what Mahomes delivered in the 2nd period as the Chiefs quickly erased a 10 point deficit with the most productive quarter of play delivered by a QB since Drew Brees way back in 2008. The last 5 passes that he attempted to close the quarter covered 42, 32, 43, 27 and 39 yards respectively with 3 of those bombs finding the endzone. Arguably his best pass was one thrown back across his body and was called back by penalty, had it stood he would have had over 300 yards in the quarter.

Last week it was Sammy Watkins lighting up the secondary, this week it was Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. Moral of this story…. Mahomes is nothing short of incredible, whoever is lining up at wide receiver for the Chiefs he puts up video game numbers.
A real treat for the fans in the coliseum, who witnessed the final game where the baseball dirt was present on the field. Small victories.


Why Draft A Top 10 Clipboard Holder?

Image Credit – Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Interceptions, poor play and regression. Unfortunately for fans of the Giants and the Dolphins, they are the 3 things that initially spring to mind when I think about Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Another disappointing Sunday saw more touchdowns thrown to their respective opponents as opposed to their own teams. The real frustration here though is that nobody is really surprised!

Every man and his dog has seen Eli get worse and worse over the past few years and as fun as the occasional flash of Fitzmagic is, it happens far too infrequently for a starting quarterback.

Look at the side-lines and the potential starting quarterbacks of the future are standing there holding clipboards. Josh Rosen was a top 10 pick a year ago and Daniel Jones was the Giants first rounder this year, finally it’s time for Jones to get on the field when it matters, surely it’s time for Rosen too?

ANYONE GOT CHANGE OF A DOLLAR?

Image Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Couple of teams need a Quarterback! Injury at the starting QB position is the most brutal and immediately scuppers your chances of winning a Super Bowl. They are called backups for a reason. Teddy Bridgewater, who turned down a chance to start in Miami and preferred to stay patient in New Orleans has finally got his chance after years of turmoil and seemingly made the right choice (and only choice; it would have done even if he never played for the Saints because you don’t want to be in South Florida at the moment).

Brees is expected to miss around 6 weeks with the thumb injury which is causing Brees to not even be able to grip a football. Yikes.

The 32nd pick in the 2014 draft out of Louisville has a 17-12 record as a starter, 57% completion percentage and a 29-23 TD:INT ratio thus far in his career. He now gets the chance to show everyone if he still has it and is more than just a backup.

The New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and potentially the Carolina Panthers may have their secondary signal callers in action this weekend. The Fantasy waiver wires will be burning this week!

Did you have that change of a dollar?

Full10Takeaways

By Tim Monk, Shaun Blundell and Lawrence Vos

Week 1 is in the books and there are a good % of you lovely people out there that had a nice takeaway whilst watching the game or Redzone.

Talking of takeaways, this 2nd new weekly edition NFL article features our takeaways from the week’s games. So look out for more puns, play on words but more importantly some insight in to the real storylines from the NFL action.

Kellen Moore, Kellen Moore-did he get very far?

IMAGE CREDIT: Matthew Emmons /USA TODAY

The Kellen Moore era is here and boy, the sky is the limit.

Multiple pre snap motions, guys wide open, PASSING ON 1ST DOWN! Things not synonymous with the Cowboys certainly since I have been a fan looked liked pure poetry in motion on Sunday.

In fact, I am so excited that I created a song to the tune of “Tell Me More” in Grease (have I gone viral yet?).

Dak Prescott threw lasers all afternoon, culminating in Dak becoming the first Dallas QB to have a perfect QB Rating. He also become the 3rd Dallas QB alongside Meredith and Romo to have multiple 400yd passing games.

Multiple players getting open helped Dak and the Cowboys score touchdowns on 5 straight drives, something not seen in these parts for years if not decades if not ever. 7 different players caught passes from #4 and that included 4 passing Touchdowns to 4 different players including Witten, who loves the endzone vs Big Blue.

Yes, it was the Giants but the way they were dispatched of that was the impressive part. Elliott dipped his toes in before being rested late on and even when plays didn’t go as planned, there was an air of expectancy on the following play that they drive would just continue on and that the Giants could do nothing about it.

Cowboys next travel to the nation’s capital to face a feisty Redskins. Confidence is high and Kellen Moore seems to be unlocking new rooms in the Cowboy’s playbook mansion.

Is it the first time as a Cowboys fan that I don’t need to worry about a sucker punch of a performance?


Melvin Gor-done?

IMAGE CREDIT: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson could be off of Melvin Gordon’s Christmas card list this year.

Gordon, 26, is currently away from the team due to contract demands and is probably writing his list to Santa as we speak. Especially when he would have been sitting at home watching the game vs Colts where his backfield teammates WENT. OFF.

Austin Ekeler – 18 touches, 3 Total TDs, 16yards per reception, 4.8yards per carry including the game sealing TD in OT.

Justin Jackson – Averaged 9.5 (!) yards per carry.

That’s a set of numbers for Ekeler that will win you fantasy games. For Jackson, he is proving that he belongs on the big stage and is ready to go as a quality handcuff. The Chargers are hanging about in this win-now window and 2019 may be the last time the playoff portal remains open. Melvin might end up getting traded at this rate.

This was the nightmare scenario that played out for Gordon if he had any slither of a chance of getting any more moolah not just in LA but anywhere. Yes, the Chargers were taken to overtime by the Colts, but the fact is even with Melvin Gordon being in the lineup, not a lot would have played out different.

Gordon is slated to return in “6-8 weeks” according to Mike Garafalo/Ian Rapoport when he needs to report in order to accrue a season. Judging by this, he won’t be more than someone in the rotation in this backfield if things keep playing out how they did in week 1.

To use a phrase from Jerry Jones: “Melvin Who?”


Vikings mean business

IMAGE CREDIT: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The only thing that could stop the Vikings making a deep run this season is health.

Dalvin was cooking, the defence was mean. The Vikings pretty much snuffed out anything the Falcons had to offer. Falcons did not score until their final 2 drives and had everything from blocked punts to interceptions.

The Vikings will be very tough to beat, especially at home this season and a special mention to Kirk Cousins and his play vs the Falcons; Despite only attempting 10 passes (yes 10, do not refresh your box scores), he still had to stand tall in the pocket and make plays whilst his opposite signal caller couldn’t replicate and looked jitterey behind his new revamped offensive line that abandoned the run very early on.

Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball, they did. The Falcons knew they wanted to run the ball, they still couldn’t stop it. Cook had 2 TDs and averaged 5.3yards per carry on 21 touches (Alexander Mattison also showed well) and the result was never in doubt from when the first points were on the board. Matt Ryan is now 0-4 vs Minnesota in the Mike Zimmer era, Devonta Freeman was stifled and frustrated in his return, this was all one way traffic. There is a slight chance that Atlanta are not as good as they look on paper but all the same, this could eventually turn out to be a tiebreaker come week 17 and the way the Vikings handled business says to me they are ready for a deep playoff run.

On a side note, Garrett Bradberry had a baptism of fire in this game, not grading well according to PFF for both pass block and run blocking standpoint.


Steeling a living

IMAGE CREDIT: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Despite being handed one of the toughest draws on opening night, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked awful. The Patriots dominated in all facets of the game and Big Ben and co just weren’t given an inch. Aside from the fact that the false start penalty on the Steelers where everyone moved apart from the centre, there was nothing to make you smile as a terrible towel waver.

Josh Gordon made big plays, Julian Edelman was once again uncoverable and sexy Rex had a cut as beautiful as my latest trip to the barbers. Imagine if Antonio Brown was on the field…

It was a performance which epitomises the Patriots; Prepared, confident and executed to perfection. Everything the Steelers didn’t look capable of being.

On the Steelers’ side, yikes. This is only the 2nd time the Steelers have lost by 30+ since Big Ben was drafted and the lowest score posted by the Steelers since week 3 2016. Donte Moncrief had more drops than the Fantasy Footballers podcast mustering 3 receptions for 7 yards on 10 TARGETS!

On a recent podcast topic about head coaches on the hot seat, Mike Tomlin was earmarked as someone that could be under a lot of pressure with poor performances this season as there is no longer a hiding place with the divas out the door. I think his seat is just getting that little bit warmer…


BAKE AND WAKE

Image Credit – Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It was everything it was meant to be…until it wasn’t. Baker came out firing as the Browns marched there opening possession down the field for the touchdown, the first season opening drive touchdown since 1995. Unfortunately for the hyped up team of the off season, the Titans had not read the script.

Aided in no small part by 18 Browns penalties for 182 yards the Tennessee defence swarmed the Browns much maligned O-line with Cameron Wake looking like a younger version of himself and the ball hawking secondary picking off Mayfield on 3 separate occasions.

The game was close at one point 15-13 with momentum feeling as though it was shifting towards Cleveland but a 75 yard screen pass to Derrick Henry stretched the Titans back out to a 2 score lead and they never looked back, racking up 21 points in the 4th quarter. 

For the Titans its business as usual. Under the radar, limited expectations but a sneakily good team. The defence looks better than last year with an improved pass rush and IF Mariota can play this way week to week they have a nicely balanced team. As for the Browns? Someone pass me that drawing board!


With The 1st Pick Of The XFL Draft……

Image credit – Allie Goulding – Tampa Bay Times

Even the supposed quarterback whisperer cannot save Jameis Winston. The former number one pick has flashed potential for 4 years but has ultimately provided frustration behind center. Much hope was pinned on the out of retirement Bruce Arians to be the man with the magic answer, so far, not so good.

The interception shy 49ers fresh of just 2 picks during the entire previous campaign surely provided a nice opportunity for Winston and the Bucs offense to get a nice confidence booster under their belts. Well an opening day stat line of 20/36 with 3 INT feels very much like the same old Jameis.

With a pair of picks being returned to the end zone for pick 6’s the Bucs offense wasted auch improved effort from the defensive side of the ball. Vernon Hargreaves returned a pick six of his own for the Todd Bowles led unit that appeared more aggressive despite being dealt a poor hand from the offense.

Jimmy G was efficient (outside of the pick 6) if not spectacular but importantly, he didn’t lose the game for his team. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay fans however, this is an accusation that we can once again aim at your quarterback. Maybe the only way he can be saved is getting his name called by the Tampa Bay Vipers.


No Winners In Overtime

Image credit – Marcio Jose Sanchez – AP

Let it be known, I hate the NFL overtime rules! 2 games on opening Sunday went to the extra period with Colts/Chargers and Lions/Cardinals both level at the end of regulation. The extra periods gave us 1 winner and 1 tie but the whole set up of it drives me nuts.

Firstly make no mistake about it, things have improved. Once upon a short time ago we would have crowned 2 winners on Sunday evening. The Cardinals kicked a field goal to take the overtime lead which back in 2009 would have clinched the ball game. At least 10 years on the Lions had a chance to respond and they did just that this weekend with a Matt Prater field goal.

The Colts however were not so fortunate. A brilliant Jacoby Brissett game tying drive in the 4th quarter had the Colts with all of the momentum. That momentum was wiped away by the flip of a coin, had the coin landed the other way I’m convinced the Colts would be sitting at 1-0. It went the way of the Chargers who marched the field and scored the game winner on Austin Ekelers 3rd score of the game.

I get the argument that the defence has to step up and keep the opposition out of the end zone but surely it’s time that both teams get the opportunity to possess the ball in overtime, even if a touchdown is scored. My opinion would have been the same had the Colts won the coin flip, as Philip Rivers would have seen his team up by 8 following his last possession, to losing the game without seeing the field again. Surely it can’t be right? Maybe in another 10 years we might get there!


Number 1 pick number 1 shirt

IMAGE CREDIT: Mark J Rebilas

The biggest curiosity in the entire NFL this season, Kyler Murray the overall number one pick by the Arizona Cardinals made his long-awaited debut against the Lions. Murray looked out of place, frustrated and out of rhythm for three quarters. What made Murray the top pick was his fourth quarter heroics, going 15 of 19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Unfortunately, the comeback was not enough as the rare result was a tie. Murray has proved he can succeed in the NFL with 300 yards passing on his debut. You can be safe to start him in fantasy now, as Murray will be having to perform fourth quarter and overtime heroics for the next 15 weeks.

Da Pack D gelling early

IMAGE CREDIT: Stacy Revere / Getty Images

With a big reliance on a series of fresh faces on the Green Bay Packers defense, this was a situation that was unpredictable, but with Week 1 in the books it was the most impressive defensive unit performance of the week. We know Mitch Trubisky is a rollercoaster of a QB, but on the Thursday opener he looked like a lost rookie, and not a third-year pro. The Packers defense was spectacular, forcing 21 incompletions, with corner Jaire Alexander looking great and Adrian Amos the free-agent safety sharking around the field. Aaron Rodgers managed just enough output to defeat an aggressive Bears defense, but without the touchdown the Packers would have walked away with the W with just two field-goals. You have been warned Mike Pettine’s Packers defense is going to surprise people.

One for the road….

Rusty Tackling

Whats new?

New year, same tackling standards.

Austin Ekeler, Vernon Davis (hurdle alert!) amongst others including their fantasy owners benefitted from poor tackling which helped contribute to their touchdown plays this weekend.

It wasn’t the first time and definitely won’t be the last, but this modern day NFL defensive players place far too much emphasis on punching the ball loose instead of try to bring their offensive player down that it costs the defence more yards and conceding more points. Yes, rules are far more favouring to the offence in terms of how you neutralise a player (sounds sadistic, doesn’t it?) in the open field but the fundamentals of tackling are being a lost art of the game. I can appreciate that creating plays and causing turnovers give you more chance to win the game, but you could also argue it may help you lose it.

Part of it maybe that offensive players are harder to tackle (guys are getting bigger, faster, stronger. Evolution and all that) but the amount of broken tackles seen in week 1 isn’t a good thing for defences, even if it is good for highlight reels and Fantasy Football.

Head Coach Hotseats

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

At this point in the season every head coach in the NFL is 0-0 for the 2019 season, full of optimism and jam-packed with motivational speeches, outstanding PowerPoint content and a team willing to run through a brick wall for you, unless your name is of course Jay Gruden.

Tim and I ranked our coaches in terms of sleeping in a luxury king size bed, on the sofa, on someone else’s sofa or sleeping in the car in a recent podcast, go and check it out. Here are some of our disagreements and my side of the argument…

Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills

Coaching facts

The Bills 22nd head coach, McDermott boasts a 15-17 record in two seasons and a 0-1 playoff record. The team drafted QB Josh Allen early in 2018, but this failed to yield immediate results as the Bills slipped to 6-10 after a 2017 playoff berth. McDermott comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, having worked his way up from secondary coach in Philly to defensive coordinator, also serving as the DC in Carolina.

Coached DBs for Eagles in 2004 when they reached and lost Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots, alongside Pat Shurmur (QB coach), Brian Dawkins and Michal Lewis both starting safeties were Pro Bowlers. Fired as defensive coordinator by Eagles Jan 15 2011. Reached second Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Panthers – losing to the Broncos.

In 2017 made the massive error of benching Tyrod Taylor Week 10 following a huge loss to the Saints, bringing in Nathan Peterman – yes that game where Peterman threw five first half interceptions before being benched himself. Somehow steered the Bills to 9-7 and their first playoff game in 18 years – the biggest drought in the NFL. Bills lost that game 10-3 to Jaguars.

FUN FACT: McDermott was a National prep champion wrestler in high school.

Opinion

Since 2000 The Bills have had 10 head coaches – roughly one every two years. The last one to get into their third season was Chan Gailey (2010-2012). McDermott is a defensive guru and takes great pride in developing his defensive players but this is 2019 and you need to maintain possession of the ball and keep your defense fresh. A second sub .500 season for McDermott, and not enough progress from Josh Allen will see McDermott watching his back from around Week 12. Maybe not an in-season sacking, but this is someone who could be a Black Monday casualty.

Prediction: 7-9 and the Bills ownership lose patience.


Pat Shurmur – New York Giants

Coaching facts

Shurmur has a career NFL head coaching record of 9-23, including two years with the not so good Browns, and a 5-11 record with the Giants in 2018. Another disciple from the Andy Reid coaching tree, Shurmur has spent most of his time as an offensive coordinator – most recently helping the Vikings get one game away from a Super Bowl in 2017-18. His son Kyle is a quarterback, and in 2019 he was an Undrafted free agent pickup by the Chiefs.

Was Associated Press Assistant coach of the year in 2017 when the Vikings went all the way to the NFC Championship behind Case Keenum. His uncle Fritz Shurmur was a coach in the 70s – 90s. Coached Eagles quarterbacks in 2004 helping Donovan McNabb to a Super Bowl – a loss to the Patriots – alongside Sean McDermott.

Opinion

Shurmur has won 15 of 49 contests and made a huge splash in the 2019 draft taking Duke’s Daniel Jones at pick 6. Pick 6 how ironic. 9 wins in two years in Cleveland, 1 win as interim Eagles coach and 5 wins in NY last year, Shurmur has finished bottom of his division in all three full seasons. The NY media will be scrutinising Shurmur’s every move and another basement finish, whist hardly a surprise could signal a premature end to this coach’s stint. This will be all about how Daniel Jones develops and when he starts. Eli is untouchable, apart from the day he was benched for Geno Smith, but this could be a messy final year. The Giants mess is at WR– Corey Coleman won’t play on 2019, Golden Tate is suspended four games, Sterling Shephard is injured, leaving tight end Evan Engram become a Pro Bowler, but that means little. Barclay will shine, but it’s the weak Giants defense that will again let down this offensive minded coach.

Prediction: 5-11 – Misery in the Big Apple as Shurmur is hounded out by the media in the Big Apple.


Matt LeFleur – Green Bay Packers

Coaching facts

LeFleur has spent most of his career serving Kyle Shanahan, at three different NFL team. This is his first head coaching gig. He played for the Omaha Beef in the Indoor Professional Football League in 2003 as a backup QB. In May 2019 LeFleur tore his Achilles playing basketball – an offseason injury for a coach.

Since 2003 has had 11 coaching jobs. This is his sixth coaching job in the NFL. Following on the youth movement he is 39 – 40 in November. He was Redskins QB coach in 2012 when they drafted RG3 and Cousins. In 2016 LeFleur was the Falcons quarterback coach (reporting to Kyle Shanahan) and helped Matt Ryan to become league MVP and the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, but they could not hold on to a 28-3 lead. He choked. In 2018 he was the Titans offensive coordinator but Titans finished 25th in offensive output. In addition, the Titans is a place where wide receivers go to die.

Opinion

Big pressure on LeFleur to get Aaron Rogers back to the promised land, he is an offensive guru. The Packers have plenty of talent and a bucket load of WR ready to break out and Aaron Jones has one of the best yards per carry in the NFL. The defense is where the Packers will need to step up and I’m not sure he is the man to help the Pack with that issue. Packers have brought in three new starters in FA – Preston Smith OLB from the Redskins, Zadarius Smith OLB from the Ravens and Adrian Amos S from the Bears. The Packers D is going to be the team’s downfall. LA Fleur is safe but his posterior is already warming up.

Prediction: 9-7 – winning record but no playoffs


Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers

Coaching facts

Tomlin has a pretty decent records in Pittsburgh, 125-66-1 in the regular season, but a disappointing 8-7 in the playoffs and only one Super Bowl win, despite having arguably the most talented roster for al lot more than just one season. In the last six season he has finished first or second in his division.
Tomlin has never had a losing season in 12 years coaching the Steelers. Was Bucks DB coach when they won Super Bowl and had three defensive return touchdowns. Fined 100k for putting off Ravens Jacoby Jones on a kick return – look this up on You Tube.

Opinion

Steelers do not like making changes at head coach, and considering Tomlin got a winning season despite their star player not playing one down last year that is credit to his leadership. The NFL does not have many jobs for life but Tomlin has lasted a long time on just one Super Bowl win. With Helmet monster Brown gone this is going to be a different looking Steelers team, with T.J. Watt looking after the defence and Juju Smith-Schuster looking to go All-Pro. Tomlin and Big Ben are the next best thing to The Sith Lord Belichick and Tom Brady, and was it not for these two the Steelers would probably have had 2-3 Super Bowls in the last decade.

Prediction: 10-6 – Wild card winner but divisional playoff loser


Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals

Coaching facts

Another NFL head coaching newbie, Kingsbury is the most fascinating of all the new coaches to join in 2019 due to his offensive style, his brand new QB and his college pedigree.

Kingsbury set a ton of passing records playing at Texas Tech. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2003 – 6th round but went on I/R. He did get a Super Bowl ring, but was waived in 2004.

Bumped around the NFL and CFL on practice squads. Threw only two passes in the NFL in 2005  – 1 of 2 for 17 yards for the Jets in a 27-0 loss. He played in NFL Europe for the Cologne Centurions.

Opinion

An offensive genius at Texas Tech – he tutored Patrick Mahomes. He has averaged 550 yards offense and 42 points a game in college in past 7 years. This explosive output did not however equate to wins as he went 35-40 in six season, winning just one bowl game – Holiday Bowl in 2013. This is pure curiosity as Kingsbury has spent lots of time in NFL locker rooms as a clipboard holder but never as a head coach. He has the number one overall pick to work with, having dispensed of 2018 first rounder Josh Rosen. He will be looking for big things from running back David Johnson, and the veteran savvy of Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards have new wide receivers in Isabella and Johnson, and Christian Kirk will be looking for a 1,000-yard season. It will be a wild ride ahead but again the defense will let down the progress of the team.

Prediction: 4-12 – Keeps job as it’s the start of the journey.


Zac Taylor – Cincinnati Bengals

Coaching facts

Another head coach cutting his teeth in the NFL in 2019. Taylor was a QB at three different colleges including the Butler Community College Grizzlies. Two winning seasons at Nebraska. Was not very mobile – ran for –MINUS 64 yards at Nebraska. Was signed by Buccaneers in 2007 as quarterback but cut and was then 4th string at the Winnipeg Blue bombers in the CFL. Taylor is married to the daughter of former Packer head-coach Mike Sherman.

Opinion

This move is relative to waiting for a lovely Christmas present and thinking it’s something you always wanted like a signed Sean Taylor shirt only to open it and its socks, but not even nice M&S socks, pound shop novelty ones you won’t want to be seen dead in after December 26th. He originally worked his way up to offensive coordinator with the Dolphins.

Taylor was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2016, before becoming the Rams QB coach in 2018. He got Jared Goff to a Super Bowl and then got schooled by the Dark Sith Lord Belichick.

Prediction: 6-10 – Anonymous season anonymous coach anonymous team.


Bill O’Brien – Houston Texans

Coaching facts

O’Brien has steered the Texans to a 42-38 record in 5 years, including three division wins, but he only has one playoff win. This is a coach who always looks intense, but maybe a bit too intense for some.

Opinion

O’Brien has been coaching since 1993. Was offensive coordinator for Pats in Super Bowl 46 – a loss to the Giants. Became the replacement for Legendary Joe Paterno at Penn State and despite sanctions he became college coach of the year in 2012 – guiding Penn State to 8-4. Could have become the Jaguars coach that same year. He signed a four-year extension in 2018

Prediction: 11-5 another division win


Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers

Coaching facts

Shanahan is 10-22 in two full seasons and really needs a playoff run to keep his job. He is the son of Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shannahan – who won two titles with John Elway and the Broncos. Coached under his dad at the Redskins 2010-13. Was fired alongside his father – debatable nepotism. He resigned from OC job with the Browns in 2015 disagreeing about Johnny Manziel starting. He served under Jon ‘Chucky’ Gruden in 2004-5

Was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons when they collapsed against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Shanahan’s QB coach then, Zac Taylor, is now head coach at the Bengals.

Opinion

Shanahan’s head coaching tenure is in the hands of Jimmy Garropolo. Who was injured last season leaving the likes of Nick Mullens to take the helm for a team that has five Super Bowl wins. With new RB Tevin Coleman to be the feature back this is a team that many have as dark horses for a playoff push in 2019. I’m not as confident.

Prediction : I can see an 8-8 type performance.

Don’t forget to go and check out our in depth podcast from Tuesday 27th August where myself and Tim discuss all of these head coaches and their vulnerabilities ahead of the 2019 season.

AFC North Breakdown

By Thomas Rowberry (@Rowberry_)

Last Season

Baltimore Ravens 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-6-1

Cleveland Browns 7-8-1

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Baltimore Ravens

Draft Selections: Marquise Brown, WR (1.25), Jaylon Ferguson, OLB (3.85), Miles Boykin, WR (3.93), Justice Hill, RB (4.113), Ben Powers, G (4.123), Iman Marshall, CB (4.127), Daylon Mack, DT (5.160), Trace McSorley, QB (6.197)

Offseason Key Additions: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks), Mark Ingram, RB (New Orleans Saints), Seth Roberts, WR (Oakland Raiders)

Offseason Key Departures: Terrell Suggs, OLB (Arizona Cardinals), CJ Mosley, LB (New York Jets), Eric Weddle, S (Los Angeles Rams), John Brown, WR (Buffalo Bills), Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Green Bay Packers), Joe Flacco, QB (Denver Broncos), Michael Crabtree, WR (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 40-1

Analysis: Eric DeCosta’s first offseason as ‘the guy’ was spent overhauling the Ravens roster to fit the skills of their young signal caller. DeCosta completely overhauled the offensive threats around Lamar Jackson, ridding the team of starting receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree whilst adding former Saints running back Mark Ingram to be a bell cow back and drafting college standouts Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Miles Boykin as downfield threats.

Defensively the Ravens lost as much talent as any team in the league, losing stalwarts Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Eric Weddle as well as pass rushing specialist Za’Darius Smith. That being said they may now have the best defensive backfield in the league thanks to the addition of former All-Pro Earl Thomas who joins Marlon Humphrey, Travon Young, Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. The one area that remains a concern for the Ravens is the front seven, the losses of CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith haven’t really been addressed in the offseason meaning the likes of Tyus Bowser, Kenny Young and third round pick Jaylon Ferguson are going to need to have big seasons to cover the losses.

Don’t get it wrong, Baltimore still have one of the best situations in the league. There is talent at the offensive skill positions, they have one of the best offensive lines in the league and arguably the best defensive backfield in the league. Baltimore will be good.

Look Out For: The thing everyone is looking out for regarding the Ravens is the evolution of Lamar Jackson, will he take the steps to become a true passer in the NFL or will the Ravens zig whilst the league zags and lean into the running game that served them so well last year? One team played the Lamar Jackson led Ravens last year, the Los Angeles Chargers, they figured the Ravens out and forced Jackson to throw the ball to disastrous results so unless Jackson has improved the Ravens could struggle offensively even with the talent around him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Selections: Devin Bush, LB (1.10), Diontae Johnson, WR (3.66), Justin Layne, CB (3.83), Benny Snell Jr, RB (4.122), Zach Gentry, TE (5.141), Sutton Smith, LB (6.175), Isaiah Buggs, DE (6.192), Ulysees Gilbert III, LB (6.207)

Key Offseason Additions: Donte Moncrief, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars), Mark Barron, LB (Los Angeles Rams), Steven Nelson, CB (Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Offseason Departures: Antonio Brown, WR (Oakland Raiders), Le’Veon Bell, RB (New York Jets), Morgan Burnett, S (Cleveland Browns), Jon Bostic, LB (Washington Redskins)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: Has a team ever lost two of the best players at their respective positions in one offseason before? Because that’s what happened to the Steelers this offseason. Following a 9-6-1 season that saw Le’Veon Bell sit out the year and Antonio Brown ‘quit on the team’ the Steelers parted ways with both, allowing Bell to sign as a UDFA for the New York Jets and trading Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of draft picks (2019 third and fifth round picks).

In Bell and Brown’s absences last year the Steelers saw running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster breakout as two of the best young players at their respective positions, they’re hoping for similar jumps from their supporting casts. Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league so with Conner, JuJu and a supporting cast that features Vance McDonald, Eli Rogers and James Washington the Steelers offense should remain one of the best in the league.

In Devin Bush the Steelers have one of the most highly touted rookies in the league and look to have finally found someone to have filled the gap created by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury a few seasons ago. Reports suggest that Bush is already showing up as a leader for the Steelers defense, a unit which has been missing a true leader in the middle of the field.  The Steelers defensive backfield should be much better in 2019 with the additions of Steven Nelson from the Chiefs and rookie Justin Layne, both of who should feature somewhat heavily after seeing disappointing play from the likes of Artie Burns in 2018.

Look Out For: In order for the Steelers to be great this season they’re going to need Big Ben to have one of his best seasons, their schedule looks one of the most difficult in the league with them typically facing three tough games to every ‘easy’ game this season – First four quarter of the season see them play the Patriots, Seahawks, 49ers and Bengals, the second quarter sees them play the Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins and Colts, the third quarter they play the Rams, Browns, Bengals and Browns before finally ending the season with games against the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.

This team is still one of the most talented in the league, and they still haven’t had a losing record with Mike Tomlin as Head Coach but the schedule is rough, the offensive skill position players surrounding Conner and JuJu are mostly unproven at this point so if Big Ben doesn’t have a big season the Steelers could be in for a long season.

Cleveland Browns

Draft Selections: Greedy Williams, CB (2.46), Sione Takitaki, LB (3.80), Sheldrick Redwine, S (4.119), Mack Wilson, LB (5.155), Austin Seibert, K (5.170), Drew Forbes, T (6.189), Donnie Lewis Jr, CB (7.221)

Key Offseason Additions: Odell Beckham Jr, WR (New York Giants), Kareem Hunt, RB (Kansas City Chiefs), Olivier Vernon, DE (New York Giants), Sheldon Richardson, DT (Minnesota Vikings), Morgan Burnett, S (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Key Offseason Departures: Kevin Zeitler, G (New York Giants), Jabrill Peppers, S (New York Giants), Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Kansas City Chiefs), Brien Boddy-Calhoun, S (Houston Texans), Breshad Perriman, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: After a 7-8-1 season that saw Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and Gregg Williams given their marching orders and Baker Mayfield break the rookie touchdown passing record the Browns & John Dorsey have spent the offseason building arguably the most talent laden roster in the entire league. This offseason has seen the Browns acquire arguably the best receiver in the league in Odell Beckham Jr, one of the best but most troubled backs in the league in Kareem Hunt, beefed up a defensive line that already featured Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi with the additions of Olivier Vernon & Sheldon Richardson.

The Browns offense has the potential to be one of the best units in the league, Baker Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns in just 13 games last season as a rookie. With a full offseason working as ‘the guy’ in Cleveland it’s fair to expect him to make a leap this season, especially when you look at the talent Dorsey has put around him. Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku as receiving targets, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield…. There isn’t a more talented offensive roster in the league.

The Browns defense isn’t to be laughed at either, Dorsey and his staff have put together a defense that could be every bit as good as the offense. There aren’t too many defensive lines better than the Browns in the league right now, the linebacking group is solid without having a true superstar and now their secondary has a cornerback tandem that could develop into one of the best in the league with rookie second round pick Greedy Williams partnering sophomore Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.

Look Out For: Is it wrong to say the Browns as a whole? A team that went 7-8-1 last year probably shouldn’t be as high on people’s radars as the Browns are but they became one of the most fun teams to watch once Baker Mayfield took over last year and now have a roster full of blue chip talent. This Browns team could go onto win the Super Bowl as early as this year BUT they also have the potential to implode.

As good as Mayfield has been he runs his mouth a lot and could rub his teammates, will Odell Beckham continue to be as divisive as New York media would have you believe he was for the Giants? Can he co-exist with Jarvis Landry? Is Freddie Kitchens up to being a Head Coach after only a handful of games experience as an offensive co-ordinator? Will suspensions for Kareem Hunt and Antonio Callaway hurt in the early part of the season? And will the weight of expectations be too much for the Browns young roster to handle?

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Selections: Jonah Williams, OT (1.11), Drew Sample, TE (2.52), Germaine Pratt, LB (3.72), Ryan Finley, QB (4.104), Renell Wren, DT (4.125), Michael Jordan, G (4.136), Trayveon Williams, RB (6.182), Deshaun Davis, LB (6.210), Rodney Anderson, RB (6.211), Jordan Brown, CB (7.223)

Key Offseason Additions: John Miller, OG (Buffalo Bills), Kerry Wynn, DT (New York Giants), B.W. Webb, CB (New York Giants)

Key Offseason Departures: Vontaze Burfict, LB (Oakland Raiders), Michael Johnson, DE (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 100-1

Analysis: Has a team had as bad an offseason as the Bengals this offseason? The Bengals FINALLY made a good move in letting Marvin Lewis leave, replacing him with 36-year-old Zac Taylor but since then they have done very little to inspire confidence going into this season.

They spent very little in the offseason, John Miller will likely start at guard for them but he isn’t exactly great. Kerry Wynn and BW Webb were both backups for the Giants and will likely struggle to get into the Bengals rotation in the defensive line and secondary respectively. Many have questioned the quality of the Bengals draft class, which is now under more scrutiny with top pick Jonah Williams likely missing the entirety of the 2019 following surgery on a torn labrum. Star receiver AJ Green suffered ligament damage in a preseason practice session and will now likely miss 6 to 8 weeks, oft-injured speedster John Ross was expected to have a bigger role this year but he’s been out with a hamstring injury since July.

There just isn’t a lot to talk about with the Bengals, their draft was underwhelming, their offseason additions don’t inspire confidence and they’ve suffered injuries to two of their most important players this season. The only real positives for this team is that they do have talented young players and have one of the best running backs in the league in Joe Mixon. This could be a long year.

Look Out For: The Bengals aren’t going to be good in 2019, I know it’s a bit harsh to be so blunt but they play in a division that features the Ravens, Steelers and much improved Browns. In Andy Dalton you could argue they have the worst starting quarterback in the division and a have an unproven 36-year-old at Head Coach, that’s just not a recipe for success in 2019.

2019 Season Prediction

Browns 10-6

Ravens 10-6

Steelers 8-8

Bengals 3-13

Predicting the Playoff Merry-Go-Round

By Shaun Blundell – @Shaun_F10Y

One of the great things about the NFL is its designed to produce parity across its competing teams. Recent history suggests that roughly half of the teams that make the playoffs one year do not repeat 12 months later. Predicting the playoff field in August is a tough gig but without further ado let’s predict the 12 strong field and detail those that have been replaced and why.

Dropping Out

Chicago Bears – The formula for the Bears last year was to win tight games and win the turnover battle. It’s tough to win close games 2 years in a row, and can the defence turn over the ball as regularly? It’s a lot to ask, add in the fact that it’s a loaded division and I can see the Bears slipping out of the playoff field this season.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson is brilliant, but I just don’t see an awful lot else to get excited about on the Seattle roster. The once feared defence is certainly lacking star quality outside of Bobby Wagner and although Pete Carroll will have them competitive as always, but I can’t see another playoff run this year.

Philadelphia Eagles – I think it will be tight in the division (see below) but I don’t think the runner up record in the NFC East will be good enough for a wildcard spot. So much will depend on Carson Wentz after the safety net that was Nick Foles has been removed.

Houston Texans – The Texans roster has plenty of individual star power with the likes of Watt, Clowney, Hopkins and Watson but lacks overall depth. The offensive line and secondary are big concerns in what is a pass first league, and I believe they will not overcome both.

Baltimore Ravens – How long will it take for defences to catch up with the run heavy approach of Lamar Jackson and co? The Chargers handled them comfortably in last year’s playoffs and Jackson will have to develop quickly as a passer to allow the offence to be more balanced. I don’t think that happens this year, if at ever does.

Repeat Performances

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees has possibly 1 last chance to win at all and despite a strong division, I can see the Saints playing in January again next year.

LA Rams – I don’t buy a post Super Bowl hangover as there is just too much talent on this team along with question marks on others in the division.

Dallas Cowboys – QB question marks for the Skins and Giants probably make the NFC a 2-way fight between the Cowboys and Eagles. I’ll take the Cowboys, just!

Kansas City Chiefs – Still questions defensively but the offence will more than carry the Chiefs with MVP, Pat Mahomes entering year 3.

New England Patriots – Don’t they just always win the AFC East? Hard to see past yet another divisional crown in 2019.

LA Chargers – It could be another wild-card berth for the Chargers but expect them to go back and forth with the Chiefs all season.

Indianapolis Colts – After a poor start in 2018 a red-hot finish followed. Andrew Luck should be able to lead the Colts to the postseason as division winners this time around.

New Kids on the Block

Minnesota Vikings – Expect a greater return from the Kirk Cousins investment in year 2 with a better O-line in front of him. I still see the Vikings as the most complete team in the division and if they can keep Thielen and Diggs healthy along with Dalvin Cook I expect the offence to roll. Defensively the return most of the key players and Anthony Barr’s U-turn on the New York Jets in free agency is a massive plus.

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons were dealt huge injury blows to the defence last year and assuming that they don’t suffer the same fate they should be a middle of the road unit this time around. Matt Ryan and the high-powered offence will carry this team and Julio Jones thinks he might put up 3,00 yards receiving! I can’t see that but I can certainly see a big season from Atlanta and expect them to find a wild card berth.

Green Bay Packers – Call it blind faith but assuming Aaron Rodgers plays a full 16 games, I think the Packers find a way to get it done. Mike Pettine plays good aggressive defence and has plenty of young talent to work with. They are always so strong at home so if they can find a couple of road wins I believe they will sneak into a wildcard.

Cleveland Browns – I know…..believe it when you see it, it is the Browns! It is just impossible to look past how much talent has been assembled on this roster in just a year and a half under John Dorsey. Baker Mayfield, OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Myles Garret to name but a few of the stars that will be suiting up in orange and brown. It’s been a while, and as Browns fan it’s been painful, but this season promises to be great.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Similar to what I said about the Patriots, they just don’t miss the postseason party very often. Minus the diva that is Antonio Brown and the diva that is Le’Veon Bell, look for Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and James Conner to have nice campaigns. The Steelers have a habit of playing up or down to their competition and if the Browns do indeed fire then look for the AFC North to be sending 2 representatives into the January competition.

In Summary

So there you go, your 12 playoff teams are as follows: –

NFC – Saints, Rams, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons & Packers

AFC – Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Browns, Chargers & Steelers

Prediction for the Superbowl? Don’t be silly, nobody can predict what is going to happen that far advance in the NFL!