Top 10 NFL games to look forward to in 2019

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y) 7/7/2019

Only single digit weeks now until the NFL season begins. Hurrah! So I decided to have a bit of a look at the games this season and start building up a bit of hype!

The NFL regular season is 256 games in total. I’ve tried to whittle it down to the top 10 games that are going to be the most anticipated. Bias dictates that these are all wrong unless your team is in involved in the rankings, but let’s be honest, no-one is excited about Miami @ NY Giants in week 15…nor will it be flexed. Moving on:

Listed in Week Order as quite frankly, I don’t want to provide a countdown. I’m already behind the 8 ball with the games I’ll miss out.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears – Opening Kickoff Week 1

Chicago could be the opening night for Aaron Rodgers’ “Flip the Bird to the NFL” Tour.

This game of course is the first game of the 2019 regular season which only annoys Patriots fans so that’s fine. Seriously though, this could kick the season off with a bang and it will be fascinating for many reasons; Are the Bears here to stay? What is the impact of the defection of Adrian Amos to the Packers? Is the Packers’ defence improved enough to get them back to January football?

These two teams met on primetime in week 1 last year on Sunday Night Football and Rodgers once again broke the hearts of the Bears fans, overcoming a 20-0 hole from late in the 3rd. Whilst that’s not quite Patriots vs Falcons levels, it was still pretty awesome to see the fireworks late on and Rodgers working his magic including that 75yd Randall Cobb TD pass.

If we get anything like that on opening night, the long offseason wait would already have been worth it.

Indianapolis Colts @ LA Chargers – Week 1

Both teams had a playoff win last season, and both fans will expect a few more this season. In what COULD be a dress rehearsal for the AFC Championship game come the end of January 2020, we get to see what shape two of the main protagonists in the hunt are in for this week 1 tussle. These teams were top 10 last year in both Points for and Points allowed. The Colts will be hoping to get off to a better start than they did last year whilst the Chargers have a history of starting slow except for last year. Who starts hot in the Stub Hub? Can the Colts defence take another step forward? Is this the year Anthony Lynn and the Chargers put it all together? Is this the AFC title game come January?

Game Pass lovers please pray this one won’t succumb to the Sky Sports blackout.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots – Week 1 (SNF)

In the first time since the early 2000s, the defending SB champions won’t be playing on opening night (see above). The Patriots are however, playing on the first Sunday Night football. Hosting the Steelers, the 2 AFC juggernauts go at it straight out of the gate and there are question marks to be answered by voids left on both teams. Can Pittsburgh survive without Bell and Brown (and Jesse James of course!)? What does a Rob Gronkowski-less Patriots look like? Add in to the week 1 hype and the fact that at this point we want all of the football stuffed down our throats, this will be a game that is eagerly anticipated. Week 1 makes up almost a third of this list. NFL is back with a bang, baby.

New Orleans Saints @ LA Rams – Week 2 (SNF)

This one will have 99% last year’s NFC Championship game footage and 1% 2019 week 2 game time if TV Broadcasters have their way. The rumblings over the PI challenge change has rumbled all the way through the summer and Vegas will be prop bet crazy for this one (as will the fans…insert Futurama Fry take my money meme). If the Saints have still not picked up their broken, stomped on hearts before this game starts, they may be sorry yet again with QB1 Blake Bortles Jared Goff looking to shake off his poor end to last season.

On the field, the Saints will want to confirm their dominance and lay down a marker in what could be Drew Brees final season and this potentially will be his last visit to South California, the place where it all started for him with the Chargers (ok, it was San Diego at the time).

The Rams will want to show that they are the dominant team in the NFC again in this game and lets not forget that both these teams were fighting for the #1 seed last year after being head and shoulders above the rest. It’ll also be a good indicator to see if both teams have plugged the losses they suffered over the offseason (Ingram/Unger/Suh etc)

McVay vs Peyton, Brees vs Goff, Kamara vs Gurley/Henderson/Brown. It’s gonna be a goodun’.

Chicago Bears @ Oakland Raiders (London) – Week 5

The Khalil Mack Bowl in the 1st NFL game at White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur’s purpose-built NFL Stadium). What else is there to say?

Well, the Oakland Raiders didn’t travel too well to London last year. Gruden hates flying, they didn’t schedule the travel well from the front office and the Raiders could still be in rebuild mode. They have added a few nice pieces but I think that it could take another year or so before the Raiders are a noisy neighbour to the Chiefs and Chargers. Ranked bottom 10 in total offence and defence last year, they may fear the majority of their fixtures in 2019, but not as much as this one.

Mack and his Bears will be looking for a mauling here but it will be interesting to see the progression of Mitch Trubisky or if there is any and whether the Bears can stay hot. They have the talent to do so and they have Matt Nagy who took like a duck to water as a Head Coach last year. BUT, they have lost a few pieces on both sides of the ball, Vic Fangio has gone to Denver and this is a team that ranked 21st in Total Offence last year.

Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks – Week 11

2 games in Week 11 that are worth circling here. First up, we have another grudge match.

It’s perhaps not quite the Khalil Mack bowl, but Earl Thomas returns to the Hawk’s nest at Century Link Field to face his former team. It’s fair to say there was bad blood here with the way things ended for Thomas in Seattle and the whole contract situation, but there is more to this game. These two are expected to fight for divisions let alone Wildcard berths so this cross-conference battle has way more than the Earl Thomas storyline that the broadcasters will feed us in the 1st half. Expect this one to be a slobberknocker two with the two heaviest running games from 2018 going at it and you will have to use more than your fingers and toes to count the bruises that the lineman suffer in this one. One for the throwbacks, one for the old school NFL fans with the ground and pound. Should be a fun one.

Kansas City Chiefs @ LA Chargers – Week 11 (MNF)

Monday Night Football doesn’t always offer us the tastiest of games (or broadcasts, let’s be honest) but this one is the pick of the bunch.

It will have divisional and seeding ramifications as well as the usual head to head tiebreakers. These 2 served up two good divisional games last year (remember the Charger’s win in Arrowhead last season with the 2-point conversion?) and you have to expect more of the same here. LA at home never have the advantage but are now accustomed to playing at the Stub Hub which saw them banish the ghosts of their usual sluggish starts. Will Tyreek Hill be back at this point? Probably, which is unfortunate.

Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots – Week 14

Pretty sure UK fans will lose this one to the Sky Sports Blackout farce so set your VPNs to Venezuala or Brazil or whatever you can in order to get this game on the TV.

Brady. Mahomes. Belichick. Reid.

Potentially seeding ramifications with this one for the postseason and it will be interesting to see what Mahomes has learned from the AFC title game from just a few months ago.

Tyreek Hill will (hopefully not) be back for this game and if he isn’t, you have to wonder how the Chiefs have fared to this point. This game may be more difficult for the Chiefs being at Foxboro in December but this one will be just as much a slobberknocker as the last time these two teams met.

Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles – Week 16

Many will expect this one to decide the division. The winner could be home and hosed for the playoffs whilst the other could still be scrambling for a wildcard spot.

Dallas swept the Eagles last season so Wentz and co will be looking to put that right. Well, if Wentz is still healthy at this point.

Arguably 2 of the most talented teams in the NFL let alone the NFC will be battling it out just a few days before Christmas. I’ll be hoping that Santa gives Dallas an early Christmas present with a little division title under the tree all wrapped in a nice blue ribbon. Dallas are looking for back-to-back playoff berths for the first time in over a decade whilst Philly will be looking to ensure their SB win wasn’t a flash in the pan and that they rule the East.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Jets – Week 16

By this point in the season, we’ll know exactly whether or not the move for LeVeon Bell was a good one. It’s more than likely the Steelers will be nearer the playoffs than the Jets at this point, but what if LeVeon Bell could stop the Steelers reaching the playoffs by helping his new team get the victory at home? Headlines are there to be written; “Bell ends Steelers SB hopes”.

It’ll be championship week in Fantasy too. Get the trophies and the popcorn at the ready.

 

So there you have it, obviously hard to fit 256 games into 10. Well, 240 if you take out the Miami fixtures (sorry for the hate guys!). If you feel there are any outrageous omissions, please let me have the heat! @Full10Yards on the social or you can bring your angry mob to me personally at @Tim_MonkF10Y.

Now we wait…

 

Ready To Pounce – Five rookies in fantastic positions 

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) – 26 June 2019
We all know the mega-stars drafted early who are already projected as starters and are being projected to be wearing rookie achievement crowns come the end of the 2019 season. Some of you will draft these guys in the latter rounds of a traditional fantasy draft, and some will be high on waivers.
But what about those guys that are not big names, but are one injured colleague away from having a significant impact in the upcoming fantasy season?
Here are five names of rookies who are not necessarily the big names but are in an idealistic situation to have major fantasy success if the giant chocolate chip and maple pecan cookies, that they were persuaded to buy from a doe-eyed six-year-old girl scout, crumbles their way.
I’m not recommending you draft them all, but I am recommending that you monitor the waiver wire for these names like a hawk.

Alexander Mattison – RB – Minnesota Vikings
Big things are predicted for Dalvin Cook in his third season leading the Vikings backfield if he can stay healthy. Cook’s problem is he has only played in 15 of 32 regular season games. In addition, the Vikings moved on from backup RB Latavius Murray and instead opted to go down the draft route. Alexander Mattison is not a household name, but the third-round pick can be someone that could be an instant plug-and-play success. The former Boise State star opted to try the NFL after just three seasons in college, just like former smurf-turf Super Bowl winner Jay Ajayi. Mattison’s last two NCAA games saw him rush over for 200 yards in each contest. Mattison is a hard-nosed runner who has never missed a game. A fluent Spanish speaker and former wrestling champion Mattison has brains and brawn and is in an ideal place to make a big initial impact.

Benny Snell – RB – Pittsburgh Steelers
Another Junior who elected to enter the NFL draft a year early. Snell joined a select club in 2018 as one of only four running backs in SEC history to rush for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Not bad considering one of those four is Herschel Walker. With the Steelers RB James Connor being possibly the biggest breakout star of 2018, Snell has landed in a place where the immediate pressure is off him, but this situation is one hit from being back-stage to the spotlight. Snell owns a plethora of University of Kentucky records, and just in case you are wondering why the name Snell rings a historic NFL bell (not a LeVeon named one) his great uncle is Matt Snell (who ran for 121 yards in the Jets upset win over the Colts in Super Bowl III).

Josh Oliver – TE – Jacksonville Jaguars
Unlike Mattison and Snell, Josh Oliver has a legitimate shot at being the Jaguars starting tight-end from Week 1. The 6ft 5 inch Oliver played at the rather innocuous San Hose State Spartans and did nothing worth noting until his senior year. His competition in Duuuuuuval is none other than former Cowboys tight-end Geoff Swaim. With Napoleon Dynamite oops sorry Nick Foles now leading the offense the Jacksonville tight-end spot should see a boost and with Leonard Fournette due a significant bounce-back this is ideal spot for Oliver to be one of those rare fantasy relevant rookie tight-ends. Evan Engram bucked the trend a few seasons ago proving rookie tight-ends can make a difference, and Oliver has the physical toots to catch 50 balls plus in the Florida sunshine.

Terry McLaurin – WR Washington Redskins
The Redskins wide-receiver production in the past couple of seasons has been akin to eating American cheese, bland, unimaginative and very disappointing. Since the departure of DeSean Jackson (now back in the NFC East for a second stint with the Eagles) and Pierre Garcon the Washington wide-receivers have failed to impress. The supposed future star Josh Doctson’s career has never taken off and Jamison Crowder is now catching passes from Sam Darnold in the Big Apple. This leaves the door wide open for anyone who can show consistency. The Redskins drafted Terry McLaurin from Ohio State to re-join his signal-caller Dwayne Haskins in an NFL uniform. Haskins is not guaranteed the starting quarterback Week 1 but right now he will be targeting McLaurin early and often in camp. Someone has to step up for the Redskins and whilst later pick Kelvin Harmon could become a red-zone vulture, hopefully its McLaurin who will be establishing himself as a reliable PPR option and a potential cheap DFS consideration.

Hunter Renfrow – WR Oakland Raiders
Fans, colour commentators and team-mates alike will be focussed on the hands and route running of Antonio Brown in the Silver and Black (still the best looking uniform in the NFL).
Doubling Brown or putting a team’s top corner on him will leave the slot more open for the Raiders and this is where Renfrow can become a PPR monster. The former walk-on has had an amazing college career with Clemson, winning two National Championships, catching the winning score from Deshaun Watson in the 2017 title game. At 5ft 10inches Renfrow is the archetypal slot dude, and likely someone Bill Belichick had on a draft list (on this note watch out for Patriots second-year slot wideout Braxton Berrios – you have been warned). Renfrow can establish his credentials in the return game before he does anything impactful in the Raiders offense. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney described Renfrow as ‘Clark Kent’, but he has the opportunity to be a short Superman in Oakland.

Honourable mentions, and guys you should be monitoring;

  • Kelvin Harmon – WR Washington Redskins
  • Trayveon Williams – RB Cincinnati Bengals
  • Caleb Wilson – TE Arizona Cardinals (Mr Irrelevant).

5 Early Fantasy Sleepers

Written by Lawrence Vos – 27/5/2019

Early non-playing season sleepers

I feel for all the British railway historians and weekend landscape gardeners who will Google this article hoping to find glorious pictures of blocks of abandoned wood they can drool over.

A sleeper for this particular article is defined as a relatively unknown or non-famous NFL player (veteran or rookie) who is projected to far outweigh his previous production, and breakout by exceeding his expected statistics, based on traditionally being a mid-to-late draft pick.

Before we dive into the 2019 fantasy pool Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani like, wearing a pair of borrowed swimming trunks, let’s take a look at some of the outstanding 2018 sleepers who were highly unlikely to have been drafted in any fantasy leagues before the end of August last year, but ended up breaking out.

2018 actual sleeper breakouts

QB

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers (2017 Practice Squad)


Mullens came in for C.J Beathard, who himself was subbing for injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Mullens ended up starting the entire second half of the season and recorded a respectable 2,277 yards through the air alongside 13 passing touchdowns. Nobody drafted Mullens to their fantasy team for week 1, but by the latter part of the 2018 season he was proving to be a half-decent waiver wire or late bye pickup. Mullens is not someone to draft or roster in 2019, but he gives the 49ers a low cost reliable backup, if he makes the 53-man roster.

RB

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (2017 3rd round pick)

Philip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Lindsay and Edwards were not drafted but both started for their teams. Edwards played 11 games, including 6 starts, helping to act as a battering ram taking handoffs from silky running quarterback and fellow rookie Lamar Jackson. Edwards ended up as the fifth leading rookie rusher. The person who finished three slots above him for rookie rushing was Philip Lindsay. The former Colorado player not only went over 1,000 yards (1,037) he became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. Not so much a sleeper, more like someone coming out of a coma to run a marathon. James Conner’s story to date is remarkable, having recovered from cancer in 2016, he was somewhat of an afterthought when drafted by the Steelers at pick #105 in 2017, as LeVeon Bell was wowing the planet with his unique ‘delay and dash’ running style. Nobody thought Bell would hold-out the entire 2018 season, but he did and Conner came in to register just under 1,500 all-purpose yards (973 rushing and 493 through the air). Conner started the 2019 Pro-Bowl over Lindsay. 

WR

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (2016 2nd round pick)

Ok this is a bit of an anomaly to the traditional sleeper criteria as Boyd was picked #55 in the 2016 NFL draft. What gives Boyd the title is his progress from 2017 (1 start and 22 catches) to 2018 (14 starts 76 catches). In 2018 Boyd recorded his first 1,000-yard season (1,028) and led the Bengals in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns (7 – tied with John Ross). Boyd benefitted from a major injury to All-Pro wide-out A.J. Green, but circumstance does not generate statistics, effort, consistency and trust from your quarterback does.

TE

Chris Herndon, New York Jets (2018 4th round pick)

Herndon was the sixth tight-end to be drafted last year and as of Week 1 he was the fourth-string behind a rag-tag bunch that included Eric Tomlinson, Neal Stirling and Jordan Leggett, names only their mother loves (or knows about). In a position that is notoriously punishing to first-year players Herndon ended up on the 2018 All-Rookie Team. His 39 catches led all rookie tight-ends and his 502 yards only trailed fellow rookie tight-end Mark Andrews of the Ravens (552). Achieving this with a rookie quarterback was pretty remarkable too, as Herndon ended up the second leading receiver on the team.

Five 2019 offensive sleeper candidates

So where does this lead us to in 2019? Who is sitting there like an about-to-be disturbed roof full of asbestos in a 1960s primary school, ready to join Baker Mayfield’s ‘dangerous club’, in experiencing an external transformation? Here are five offensive sleeper candidates:

QB

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (2019 2nd round pick)

The Broncos have struggled at quarterback since the retirement of Peyton Manning at the end of 2015. Four passers have started since then, namely Brock Osweiler (4), Paxton Lynch (4),Trevor Simien (24), and Case Keenum (16). None are considered a franchise quarterback, and to top it off John Elway moved for past-his-prime quarterback Joe Flacco in free-agency. Still searching for a future star the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. Many draft-nicks had Lock getting selected in the first round, but he fell, and Denver had to move up and trade with the Bengals to acquire his John Hancock. Lock is the current backup on the depth chart, but he could be on the field by Week 6 if Flacco fails to get the Broncos moving smoothly. Lock was a highly productive college quarterback at Missouri throwing for over 12,000 yards and 99 touchdowns in 46 starts. Nobody is drafting Flacco in fantasy, but you may want to consider taking a flier on Lock on your bench.

RB

Ronald Jones III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2018 2nd round pick)

To say Ronald Jones’s rookie season was a disaster would be a gross understatement. If his inept performance was caused by injury there would be a valid reason to relax, but Jones participated in 9 games. His one touchdown (in a 26-23 win against the Browns) was a lone highlight. Besides that his 44 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards were barely worth typing in this sentence. Currently listed as number two on the Tampa depth chart, behind Peyton Barber, Jones has the opportunity for a fresh start under new head coach Bruce Arians. The Buccs didn’t draft a running back this year, another good sign for Jones to have some genuine fantasy impact in 2019. He is durable, as indicated by a 591 carry college career at USC, including a 1,550 rushing performance in 2017. Jones can go from zero to hero and with a good start to his season he could end with 1,000 all-purpose yards.

RB

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

The dictionary definition of an insurance policy, Brown is crouching in the weeds whilst the news of Todd Gurley’s knee ailments appears to be gaining growing concern by Rams coaches and fans alike. Brown has already been subject to a poaching bid earlier in the year by the Detroit Lions, with the Rams deciding he was too valuable to let go. Brown averaged a respectable 4.9 yards a carry in 2019. He missed the Rams playoff run to the Super Bowl having gone on injured reserve in December. Much like a cockroach after the apocalypse Brown has been on the Rams roster for four seasons now, and is one Gurley injury from one of the biggest opportunities of his career. Much like James Conner in Pittsburgh Brown is in a great positing to have immediate fantasy impact. You only need look at the production of C.J. Anderson as Gurley’s backup in 2018 to see how impactful a back in L.A. can be. Brown has fresh legs and knows the offense inside out. As a #2 he can get 400-500 rushing yards. As a starter he has the capability to go over 1,250 all-purpose yards in 2019.

WR
Demarcus Robinson, Kansas City Chiefs (2016 4th round draft pick)

Former Florida Gator wide-receiver Demarcus Robinson has been like a Velcro-covered ball that has been rolled around some freshly mowed grass, he has the potential to stick and hit the target but hasn’t quite managed to yet. The Chiefs have had Robinson on their roster for three seasons now, but he has only started 13 games (out of 48 he played in) and this has resulted in underwhelming statistical production (43 catches for exactly 500 yards and four scores). Where Robinson elevates his sleeper status over other wide-outs is not just potential, its opportunity. With Tyreek Hill (I shudder even typing his name) facing a major suspension and current #1 WR Sammy Watkins missing 18 games over the last four seasons, Robinson can easily triple or even quadruple his average production over the past two years. Yes the Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman, but with few exceptions, rookie receivers struggle to have a huge impact. With the NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to him in 2019 its time for Robinson to step up to the NFL dance floor.

TE

Matt LaCosse, New England Patriots (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

Up there with Snow White, Rip Van Winkle and Dracula Matt LaCosse is a classic sleeper. Another winner through self-destruction around him by others, not just pure talent, LaCosse is in a pretty perfect place at a pretty perfect time. With perhaps the greatest tight-end in NFL history now retired in New England, and ageless-wonder Ben Watson recently suspended, all the 6ft 6inch man mountain has to do is beat Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the starting spot for Week 1. LaCosse had a mini breakout of his own with the Broncos in 2018, with 24 catches for 250 yards. Prior to that LaCosse generated no impact with the Giants (two-stints), spent six days as a New York Jets player, and was on injured reserve throughout 2016. His three catches prior to 2018 were barely worth a Wikipedia note. LaCosse is the sort or reclamation project that Bill Bellichick will love to get his evil claws right into. Staying on the field both as a starter and part of some two tight-end sets could see LaCosse generate over 50 catches for over 650 yards and 6-8 touchdowns. That would be a viable starting output from someone who will be only slightly rising up fantasy draft boards at the moment.

NFC Storylines and LateRoundQBs

In Today’s podcast, we are joined by none other than JJ Zachariason (@lateroundQB) to chat about his podcast and late round QBs but more importantly, whether he would accept work as the first person narrator if they ever brought the TV show “Scrubs” back.

Talking of scrubs, we go through every AFC team and what headlines we will be reading in the offseason and also get JJ to give us a name that will fly under the radar in the upcoming draft.

Put the mockers on it looks at fizzy drinks and Sam from Head On A Swivel podcast tackles the quiz…can they get over the 8 hump?

PLUS info on some things we’ll be freshening up in April!

Where Do They Go From Here; Pittsburgh Steelers

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Don’t forget to check out the AFC North podcast where we talk to a fan and get their thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

Well, where can you start other than Le’Veon Bell? Decided he wasn’t being paid enough and wanted to stay healthy and fresh for 2019. Whether or not that pays off remains to be seen (personally, I think it’s unlikely) but one this is for sure, the next man up James Conner did admirably in his absence. Conner’s 2nd season went to the tune of 4.5 yards per carry on 215 attempts including 5 games of 100+ rush yards plus 55 receptions totalling just under 500 yards and 13 total touchdowns (not exactly going to help Bell’s value is it?). That all in 13 games this season, so room for more…I think the Steelers have no qualms about waving off Le’Veon Bell.

Aside from the backfield, the Steelers, perennially a hot/cold team were exactly that again this season; The Steelers got themselves off to a slow start, with an opening weekend tie with the Browns leading to a 1-2-1 record after 4 games. They then turned on the afterburners and won their next 6, taking them to 7-2-1. Then the Steelers steeled and had losses to Denver and Oakland (on top of losses to New Orleans and LA Chargers) in their final 6 games to somehow miss out on the playoffs. The Oakland one in particular was a vintage away Big Ben/Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers type of performance. Absolutely no right in losing a game of that stature, away to one of the worst teams in football but unfortunately, it is no surprise that this happened. Another statistic showing beautifully the hot and cold Steelers; They had 8 games where they scored 28+ points but 7 games with 21 points or less (averaging out on the season at 26.8pts per game).

Housekeeping

Pittsburgh own the 20th Pick in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds this year, I think predominantly they will look to bolster the defence that isn’t what it once was.

Let’s not forget, they could add to their draft picks if they are able to deal Antonio Brown for something decent but that remains to be seen. Maybe they’ll use the picks acquired in the Brown trade to find his replacement, too.

In terms of Free Agency, Pittsburgh have around $20m of cap space, but I expect that to fluctuate throughout the offseason depending how they wrangle the AB trade and some other pieces.

Outgoings

Antonio Brown will dominate all the headlines as he heads for the Heinz Field exit door and Le’Veon Bell will have a new home in 2019, but there are a few other names that may not return in 2019. Offensive lineman Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert along with Tight End Jesse James could see a fairly different offensive line to the one that has been so dominant for the past few seasons. Heyward-Bey, Grimble and Hunter at WR are all Free Agents too but you may see 1 return from that group. On defence, Ryan Shazier, still recovering from that awful injury, leads the list in terms of cap value.

Incomings

With not the biggest salary cap to wiggle around, the Steelers need to be smart in this year’s draft (certainly need to do better than the 2018 draft haul)

Needs at Corner are there for everyone to see; 2016 draft pick Artie Burns was benched during the 2018 season so I would assume that this would be their primary focus. A swarming linebacker too will be high on the priority list.  Players at Corner that will appeal to the Steelers include Byron Murphy (Washington) and Deandre Baker (Georgia) whilst Devin White (LSU) will have Mike Tomlin’s ears pricked up at Linebacker (hopefully he’ll be more successful in the NFL than Kevin White).

After selecting James Washington in round 2 last year, I would be surprised if the Steelers use an early pick on another WR despite the departure of Brown, but the Steelers have a long and successful history of drafting WR….

Outlook for Next Year

Steelers fans and owners’ aspirations are obviously a deep run in the playoffs, the growth of James Washington at WR (and let’s not forget Juju ascending to the WR1) and James Conner in the backfield, but anything short of that could see Mike Tomlin’s tenure called to an end but every circus tour has to end soon…

The offence is still a talented one and Big Ben is still around for another year or 2 at least (despite some of his hissy fits reminiscent of a 4-year-old who has just had their electronic device taken away) and if they are smart with their 2018 draft picks on defence, could yet be the favourite to usurp New England from their AFC throne after all.

Prediction

Due to the circus like fanfare that follows the Steelers each year, I am predicting that the arrow is going to point downwards for a few reasons;

I think Big Ben and the Steelers struggle without their 2 foundations from the last number of years in Bell and Brown and in a division where the Browns and the Ravens have some momentum about them, the Steelers could easily see themselves on the outside looking in again this season.

Their defence may be their Achilles heel again this season as well as the customary Mike Tomlin away performance to a poor team. The Steelers may be putting the “terrible” in the terrible towel in 2019 if they don’t sort their act out in that locker room and address the culture that Tomlin has allowed to manifest there.

The Steelers are like Netflix UK; A place where all the stars aligned and was the place to be with all the household names, but then one or two pieces moved away to go on their own and you now wonder where that leaves everyone else and the choice is starting to look a bit thin.

Fantasy Football

Once a goldmine for fantasy points, you may struggle for depth for fantasy football this year; Big Ben will have his backers, especially after passing for the most yards in 2018. I’ll pass though (pun intended) due to my fears he could cliff dive next season with the mass exodus at the skill positions. I am only really interested in 1 guy here. No, it’s not James Conner and no, it’s not JuJu (mainly because his fan base is bigger than the capacity of the mall he played in the other day will consequently see him drafted at an inflated price). It’s James Washington. There will be some leagues where he falls to a ridiculous round and will be a value. Washington could be a guy that goes in the 5th round or the 10th round depending on the casualness of your league. If he is still there in round 7/8, he is a guy that you may want to snap up before someone else does. Especially if Pittsburgh don’t bring in another WR.

The reason I won’t be a James Conner or a JuJu buyer this year is probably because of price and the fact that there will be a player I would rather have instead. James Conner (RB7 in 2018 in standard scoring) at the back of the first could look good paired with an Elite WR, but the likelihood is that Joe Mixon will be sniffing around the same part of the draft, and I will always take him over Conner. JuJu (WR9 in standard scoring in 2018) is going to go around mid to late 2nd round due to his WR 1 status in the offence but again, you have guys like Tyreek Hill and Mike Evans around here. I just would rather have those guys before as I want to see JuJu do it on his own vs the #1 CB against him each week. On the positive side for both, they’ll be the undisputed workhorses at their positions for the team and Big Ben consistently delivers for his pieces on offence.

Ben Roethlisberger – Late rounds in drafts – low end QB1

James Conner – late 1st round pick – RB1

JuJu Smith-Schuster – 2nd Round pick – WR1

James Washington – mid to late rounds – WR3 – potential value in drafts.

Vance McDonald – Late rounder/undrafted – TE2

 

 

Exit Interviews – AFC North

AFC North time in our mammoth review series.
Ravens – @chibsRSR
Steelers – @DFF_JamesH
Browns – @UK_Browns , @all32Shaun
Bengals – @trequartbeasta (@bengalsUK)
As said in the pod, Ravens segment was recorded prior to Flacco and Crabtree stuff soooooo yeah.
Thanks to those that participated for the podcast!
Enjoy!

Deadline Day – Fantasy Style

Written by Scott Mackay (@scottfmackay) – 20th Nov 2018

Sound the klaxon!

We are approaching deadline day, the last opportunity to secure your favourite stars that will help lift you to the championship game by way of trades! Waivers still are applicable right up until the final day of the season, but we all know the major players are stashed away in other teams in your league.

Now, we get that trading can be quite difficult, especially if you are in a league where some participants have merely given up but don’t let that put you off. In the words of Del Boy, ‘He who dares Wins’, so grab your Del Boy flat cap and get wheeling and dealing.

“But who should I pick up” I hear you cry. Don’t panic, I’ve taken a look at the teams who have the more favourable games in the final weeks of the season which could see their players be the different maker in the weeks ahead.

In position one I’m choosing the Broncos, with 6 games remaining, the middle 4 games comprise of Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders. That is a big chunk of winnable games and Phillip Lindsay, Emmanuel Sanders will be rubbing their hands together with glee. They are the focal point of offense for Denver and are primed to post up big numbers. Go hunt them down and add them to your team.

The Ravens go number two on the list, hear me out here. Favourable last 6 games with Raiders, Falcons, Buccs and Browns ahead, all very winnable, John Brown could well be a boom situation and be the one to earn you those vital Ws. Psssttt… if you can grab Lamar Jackson on Waivers, go do that, a dynamic running threat that if Flacco is still side-lined, could be an absolute steal.

The Giants are starting to find some kind of rhythm and you could find some value in trading for OBJ, yes he is a star but some owners could be frustrated with the lack of consistency but with a nice set of games coming up he looks ready to bounce back and some owners could be looking to let go for other options, especially if packaged with other players. I doubt anyone will give up Barkley but the right offer may trigger the accept button, if you are looking for a RB1 he’s your man.

The Steelers aren’t playing their best but they are finding the results, I would look to trade for Big Ben, Ju-Ju or Conner if you need an upgrade in these areas. These players have a lot of value but deals could be made especially if you offer up value in return.

Of course I could advise you to go for Mahomes, Gurley or Brees but you all already know these are on your list and you’d love to have them. If you can manufacture deals for them then why not, but I got a feeling these players will already be sitting in playoff teams and no fantasy owner in their right minds would trade them. Would they?

Who do you think are trade targets ahead of the thanksgiving games? get in touch with my @scottfmackay or the podcast @full10yards and let us know!

Thanks for reading and we’ll be back next week.

Joy Divisions – AFC North

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

AFC North:

On first look, it may be a simple one to solve, but the Steelers always make heavy weather of things…

TIM

Pittsburgh Steelers: 

Steelers have kind of owned the division for a while now and I have sneaky suspicions that they will either blow the division away again, or collapse and fall apart (potentially leading to Big Ben retiring, especially if he continues to self destruct when talk of Mason Rudolph surfaces). Whilst I believe it’s more likely of the former, their defence is not going to be as strong without Ryan Shazier and is a far cry from previous Pittsburgh defences.

On the offence, Martavis Bryant has left for Oakland and they have new shiny draft pick James Washington (a great late round pick in dynasty drafts), who could see the field a fair bit as the Steelers like playing 3 WR sets and were one of the teams with the highest % of doing so last season. JuJu Smith-Schuster is being way overdrafted but you cannot deny his talent, but Antonio Brown is also on the team too so JuJu will have more ups and downs than a theme park roller-coaster.

LeVeon Bell is once again playing under the franchise tag and could start off slowly like last season but expect him to be run in to the ground before he finds a new team next season (I am fascinated to see what he produces in a different scheme and setup, I liken it to Lionel Messi in soccer). QB Big Ben has never been in any of my fantasy teams and only offers value in Bestball leagues because I never can trust him and don’t want the headache each week of whether to start him or not but does have a low ADP in drafts this year.

Baltimore Ravens: 

Could be a sneaky playoff team this year and a lot will depend on how many games Joe Flacco plays…and I mean that in a good way.

If Flacco plays 16 games, that means that there are performing well and have a shot at the postseason. anything less than 12 or 13 and you’d expect the Ravens to end up with nothing better than 8-8. I honestly believe that the Lamar Jackson draft selection will prompt Flacco to play some good football because he has been absolutely dire in the last few years (well, ever since he won a Championship ring and got a new contract). Flacco can pretty much be discarded next year and it isn’t far-fetched to say that this could be his last season.

They have decent weapons on offence now though and have acquired Michael Crabtree from Oakland along with point to prove WRs in John Brown and Willie Snead.

I think it’s understated that the Ravens had seemingly a brilliant Draft. They took 2 Tight Ends in Mark Andrews and first round selection Hayden Hurst, both who can catch the ball and should be ready to go. Orlando Brown is a nice addition to the line to help keep that running game going.

Talking of running game, Alex Collins performed admirably at RB last season despite a depleted offensive line and should get a similar workload this year (just beware, Kenneth Dixon is lurking and could be a wildcard) so all things point to potentially an exciting season for Baltimore fans.

Cleveland Browns: 

I feel like everyone outside of the AFC North are rooting for the Browns this year. Whether that’s because they have been nothing short of a joke or whether it’s through sympathy. That said, this year they should be aiming for at least 5 wins.

Another team that has gone a major overhaul on offence. Carlos Hyde joins the running back room along with draft pick Nick Chubb to compensate for Isiah Crowell, who travels to the Jets. At WR, Jarvis Landry got PAID to come over and he joins a talented set of players in Josh Gordon (provided his issues stay away) and Corey Coleman (provided he shows his worth). David Njoku will be stellar in his 2nd season and Tyrod Taylor looks to bring some stability at the QB position, though it’s anyone’s guessat what point they bring in #1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. Similar to Baltimore, if Tyrod Taylor plays 16 games this season, it would indicate the Browns are having a good season (hard to fathom that it’s ever an outcome that is in the range of possibility). If Baker starts a handful, it’s because Hue Jackson is in the hotseat and will try and borrow even more time from somewhere.

Denzel Ward, #4 pick in the 2017 draft joins what could be a sneaky defence but it was a surprise that Bradley Chubb was not on this roster.

From a fantasy perspective, it’s hard to know who will produce the most out of this group. Gordon could prove to be a bust should his troubles stay in touch with him, Corey Coleman could end up being cut if Dez Bryant joins the team (his twitter feed is always worth a watch) and Jarvis Landry will need to improve on his 8.8 yards per catch from last year whilst keeping the sky high number of Touchdowns from last season. I think David Njoku is probably the play as a late TE off the board and Tyrod Taylor is a risk with Baker Mayfield lurking but could be a good Bestball player at the end of drafts.

Key Storyline: Can all of these players gel and can they finally win a game?

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals have the players to make a case for wildcard consideration this year but the offensive line needs to hold up, John Ross needs to live up to his billing now back from injury and Marvin Lewis needs to establish the teams identity.

Joe Mixon struggled to get efficiency from his runs last year but could prove a lot better for the experience, though Gio Bernard and draft pick Mark Walton are circling. AJ Green was his usual self (minus the ejection) and should do so again this year. Billy Price should sure up the line a little bit at center for the Bengals, helping Dalton have a bit more time and who knows whether Tyler Eifert will play this season (you could do worse than Tyler Kroft too).

On the defence, Burfict is suspended yet again and will be missed but the defence is a middle of the road type defence and should follow recent trends in terms of efficiency and production. I think it will be a few years until we see the Bengals in the palyoffs unfortunately.

Summary:

TM-

Not going to predict anything too drastic for the division but it would surprise me to see the Ravens get within 1 or 2 wins of the Steelers. Whether that’s because the Steelers implode or the Ravens get the grit between their teeth and improve. The Ravens have a good shot at January this year all things going well and it will certainly be interesting to see how many wins the Browns get (surely 1?!?!). I dont see the Bengals troubling anyone too much but Joe Mixon could be a top 5 running back in fantasy (contrarian hot take).

All the Steelers players you are paying for in drafts due to the high scoring potential, but Vance McDonald could be one to watch out for if you stream Tight End. The Ravens could provide some value by selecting their players in the later rounds (not Flacco though guys, let’s be real). The Browns probably wont return many points this year so would probably avoid most of those

Predictions:

1st – Pittsburgh Steelers,

2nd – Baltimore Ravens,

3rd – Cleveland Browns (!),

4th – Cincinnati Bengals

Lee

The AFC is going to be a really interesting division for the coming season. Every team has some storylines that will be worth keeping an eye an as we work through the season.

The least interesting storyline is that atop of the division is still the Pittsburgh Steelers. They still have the best players and best roster in the North but what’s going on with Le’Veon Bell? It’s pretty clear to see that there’s some bad blood between Bell and the front office and the star running back will most likely be playing his last season in Pittsburgh. How will this affect things? Well, I feel like the Steelers will try to get their money’s worth out of Bell and he’ll be looking at 400+ total touches through the regular season. Now, obviously giving your best players more opportunities means more opportunities for big plays but how much will that wear Bell down? How does it affect the offense overall? Is it putting him in the line of fire in terms of injuries?

Obviously with Bell, Ben, Brown and a top offensive line, the Steelers are going to score some point but can they keep other teams out? The defense doesn’t match up to the other side of the ball but they’re still going to be number 1 in the North. From a fantasy perspective, you can’t go wrong with Brown or Bell. Roethlisberger will stink a few weeks and probably get injured for a short time but a decent streaming option.

Next, a team who I personally find really interesting, the Cleveland Browns. On paper the Browns look like a really competitive team. Looking through their depth chart there are blue chip players throughout the roster. Yes, really. They also have some young players who they have drafted in the past couple of years who could grow into some of the better players at their positions.

I think what a lot of fans struggle to get past in the Browns name and recent history and because of that, they talk Cleveland down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Browns will be the next best team in the North. Todd Haley and Gregg Williams are top co-ordinators and now that Cleveland have moved away from moneyball, you can treat them as a normal football team again. I’ll come on to the Bengals and the Ravens soon but these team a excite me less than Cleveland at this moment in time. I’m not saying they’ll make the playoffs but they’re going to be better, much better. Fantasy wise; Landry is going to be gobbling up catches, if Josh Gordon has his mind and body in sync he could be a top 10 receiver. The back field is going to be a committee so wait and see who emerges and maybe try to get one off of waivers if you don’t fancy betting on one guy come your draft. My one to watch would be David Njoku, the super athletic tight and will be looking to become a big weapon in year two.

When it comes to the Bengals, I’m looking at that revamped offensive line. I’m seeing if they can help Joe Mixon break out, I’m seeing William Jackson can cement himself as one of the best corners in the game and can John Ross make positive yardage?

I think Mixon has a good chance to breakout and become a top running back. He’s definitely worth targeting in your fantasy drafts, some goes for A.J Green. Both late first to early second round players depending on the size of your league.

One thing that holds the Bengals back, to me is coaching. I was shocked when they kept Marvin Lewis on. He’s been in the job for a long time and really not yielded much success; didn’t Einstein say something about insanity and repeating stuff over and over and expecting different results? Hmmm.

The least interesting team in the division, to me, is the Ravens. Aside from Lamar Jackson, I didn’t like their draft, I don’t feel like they added much or improved very much at all. I feel like we’re just waiting for Lamar Jackson to unseat Joe Flacco and then things may get interesting. Then we’ll all be watching to see how the Baltimore offense evolves from a drab Flacco offense into something potentially really exciting with Jackson at the controls. At this point I feel like Flacco is only in a job because of the respect he’s earned through winning a Superbowl.

Jackson could be a nice pick up for you dynasty league by the way. Aside from him I’m not going anywhere near Ravens players in my drafts. The wide receiver room is awash with “meh” players and none of the tight ends interest me at all. Alex Collins could be a decent pick up but not someone worth targeting in my book.

This could seem pretty wild to some but my prediction is:

  1. Steelers
  2. Browns
  3. Bengals
  4. Ravens