10 SERIES: 10 TEAMS THAT NEED A GOOD DRAFT

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the big live NFL Draft event planned in Las Vegas has been shelved and, rather than sitting together in physical “war rooms”, team representatives are now preparing to dial in remotely from home. Obviously, all 32 teams could do with a successful haul come close of business on 25 April but if they can master Zoom or Skype, which teams really need to nail this first-ever virtual draft?


Cincinnati Bengals

(7 picks: #1, #33, #65, #107, #147, #180, #215)

The league’s worst team last year obviously need as good a draft as any but it’s not quite as crucial as usual. In Cincy terms at least, they had an active free agency and filled a few holes, especially in defence. That said, with Andy Dalton still under contract, and Dre Kirkpatrick and Cordy Glenn released, Cincinnati’s best chances of acquiring extra picks didn’t come to fruition so they’ll just have to make the seven they do have count.

Trades notwithstanding, the Bengals are due to pick first in every round, giving them the next 10 days or so to decide what to do with the first overall pick (as if we didn’t know) and several hours each evening to consider any trade offers they receive before starting Days 2 and 3. They shouldn’t mess this up but you only have to go back 12 months to see how a draft can be a total washout. With injuries (Jonah Williams) and underperformance (Drew Sample, Ryan Finley) in abundance, only LB Germaine Pratt came out of the class of 2019 with any credit.

After, we assume, Ohio native Joe Burrow becomes their new franchise quarterback, the Bengals should get a couple of skill-position weapons for him to work with (as AJ Green and John Ross both hit free agency next season), at least another offensive lineman for protection and probably another linebacker.

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Washington Redskins

(7 picks: #2, #66, #108, #142, #162, #216, #229)

Picking second after a terrible 2019, it should be no surprise to anyone that Washington also feature in this article. They have a sackful of needs, even after a busy free agency, just the standard seven picks with which to address them and a new Head Coach in Ron Rivera who’s going to want to make progress PDQ. So this draft matters.

Rick Scuteri / Associated Press

Almost everyone has the ‘Skins taking Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young at #2 overall and while the defensive line isn’t their most pressing need, it would be hard to pass on a player widely regarded as a “generational talent”. Then again, they may trade the second spot away to someone like Miami, and grab one or two other first round picks. After that, the Redskins don’t pick again until #66, so they’re not going to get the pick of the bunch. They’ll need a tight end or two after Jordan’s Reed’s departure and Vernon Davis’ retirement, and a WR mate for Terry McLaurin: Chase Claypool or Antonio Gandy-Golden maybe?

If Trent Williams decides he’s washed his hands of the franchise after sitting out last year, left tackle will suddenly become a pressing need too.


Miami Dolphins

(14 picks: #5, #18, #26, #39, #56, #70, #141,
#153, #154, #173, #185, #227, #246, #251)

The Dolphins opted for a total reboot last year, trading away the likes of Kenyan Drake and Minkah Fitzpatrick in exchange for a million draft picks (OK then, just 14, including three in Round 1 alone). Having acquired all this capital in exchange for bombing last year out, the Dolphins can’t afford to waste any of it now they have so many holes to plug. 

With Josh Rosen probably not the guy and Fitzmagic a stop-gap at best, the Fins will probably take Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, and have the ammo to move up from #5 if they need to. Their woeful pass rush has been bolstered in free agency with LB Kyle Van Noy and defensive end Shaq Lawson, and they now have the highest-paid corner in the business in Byron Jones, so that leaves their O-line as the other main priority. Picking at #18 may mean they miss out on the top-tier OL talent and have to wait for someone in the second wave, like Isiah Wilson or Ezra Cleveland, or they may double-dip on Days 1 and 2.

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Los Angeles Chargers

(7 picks: #6, #37, #71, #112, #151, #186, #220)

On paper, the Chargers don’t look in bad shape so suggesting they need a blinding draft might seem to be over-stating it. But many of their best players –DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, TE Hunter Henry and centre Mike Pouncey among them – are entering the final year of their contracts. It’s time to put some successors in place now, as they won’t be able to keep them all.

In Philip Rivers’ wake, Tyrod Taylor is the bridge QB for now but LA are touted to pick their playcaller of the future at #6; whether that’s Tua, Herbert or Love remains to be seen.

Free agency signings such as corner Chris Harris and right tackle Bryan Bulaga suggest the Chargers might be going all out this year. Another lineman or two are on the cards too, so expect a tackle in Round 2 – a Josh Jones or a Lucas Niang maybe. Later rounds will give the Chargers the chance to fill out the wide receiver room and beef up the secondary.


Carolina Panthers

(8 picks: #7, #38, #69, #113, #148, #152, #184, #221)

Having shelled out $33 million for Teddy Bridgewater, a full-scale rebuild seems to be on the cards in Carolina under new HC Matt Rhule.

Chuck Cook

Jets WR Robby Anderson joined during free agency, so their offensive focus can probably be directed towards O-line help to support the running game of Christian McCaffrey, and a TE to replace Greg Olsen. That said, they’re more likely to look at their immediate defensive needs. With Luke Kuechly’s retirement, only one starting cornerback of note and the D-line needing help, just picking the best defensive player available for several rounds might not be a bad tactic.

They have more than enough picks to haul in a strong draft class this year. They’re out of the gate at #7, behind three QB-needy teams so they’ll be spoilt for choice when their time comes: at least one of LB Isiah Simmons, CB Jeff Okudah and DT Derrick Brown should be there for the taking.


Jacksonville Jaguars

(12 picks: #9, #20, #42, #73, #116, #137, #140, #157, #165, #189, #206, #223)

You could argue that the salary-cap-strapped Jags need help pretty much everywhere and anywhere. HC Doug Marrone is in one of hottest hot seats in the NFL and needs his 12 picks to pay off if he’s to avoid another losing season.

Jacksonville’s defence has more holes than a block of Emmental, having lost Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye and Calais Campbell, so they’ll need to use some of their extensive draft capital early on. With picks #9 and #20, they could start at corner and on the edge. If Okudah falls to them, they’ll snap him up and Yetur Gross-Matos would be a solid pick at 20. Gardner Minshew may yet get some competition on Day 2 if the Jags consider Jacob Eason at #42.

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Las Vegas Raiders

(7 picks: #12, #19, #80, #81, #91, #121, #159)

Las Vegas made some decent FA pick-ups, including LBs Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski and safety Jeff Heath, so a few more shrewd selections could propel them from also-ran to playoff contender.

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Now that the draft is online rather than at a massive public event, there’s slightly less need for the former hosts to make a big splash in their new home. Nonetheless, the Silver and Black have two first round selections with which to make some Day 1 headlines, with wide receivers like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and CeeDee Lamb being widely mocked to the Raiders. If they go that route, their selection would probably leapfrog Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones in the pecking order.

Cornerback could be the other likely first-round target while Days 2 and 3 will likely see them hone grab a defensive tackle and added depth at safety and linebacker.


Minnesota Vikings

(12 picks: #22, #25, #58, #89, #105, #132, #155, #201, #205, #219, #249, #253)

A contract extension for QB Kirk Cousins can only mean one thing: the Vikes are in “win-now” mode. But if they are going to go a step or two further than last year, they’ll have to address several areas, on both sides of the ball, with their dozen 2020 picks.

Offensively, the Stefon Diggs trade to the Bills means a viable #2 wideout to support Adam Thielen is vital. The WR class is deep this year but I suspect pick #22 or #25 could well be used on someone like Tee Higgins or Laviska Shenault.

Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

A guard or two might be wise, having released Josh Kline, but addressing the defence is arguably as pressing. They could do with two or three corners to fill the vacancies left by Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander (both Bengals now) and Xavier Rhodes, now with the Colts. There’s also no depth at safety and with Eversen Griffen also off to pastures new, a defensive end like Iowa’s AJ Epenesa is also on Minnesota’s shopping list.


New England Patriots

(12 picks: #23, #87, #98, #100, #125, #172, #195, #204, #212, #213, #230, #241)

There was a time, not that long ago, when suggesting the Pats really need to nail this draft would’ve been considered heresy, or even the first signs of madness. But for a change, they need a lot of their 12 picks to hit the target.

With the untested Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer their only choices at QB, Bill Belichick suddenly has much to ponder in the post-TB12 era. Are they happy with their options or will they be in the market for someone like Jordan Love at #23 or even Jalen Hurts in a later round?

Both are possible, but their offense could really benefit from a track star who can take the top off a defence. If they go WR in Round 1, Henry Ruggs could be available, or they might wait for Denzel Mimms or Chase Claypool. Post-Gronk, there’s also been a noticeable TE-shaped hole in the Patriots’ ranks so the top dog here, Cole Kmet, might even be the first selection.

In later rounds, New England really need some of those compensatory picks to find viable replacements in their defence, having lost linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, during free agency. And they don’t have a kicker on their roster, so a top prospect like Tyler Bass may well be Boston-bound.

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Chicago Bears

(7 picks: #43, #50, #163, #196, #200, #226, #233)

In complete contrast to the Dolphins, the Bears don’t pick till midway through Round 2. Having had limited cap space to play the free agency field, Chicago are going to have to play a canny game to make the picks they do have count.

Having already acquired Nick Foles to give the troubled Mitchell Trubisky some competition, they’re not likely to consider anything but a late-round ‘project’ at QB. Therefore, expect the gaps in the backfield left by departing safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and corner Prince Amukamara to be the ones the Bears fill at #43 and #50. Could Grant Delpit fall that far, for example, or maybe Antoine Winfield Jr?

It won’t be until staggering 113(!) picks later that Chicago will get the chance to do anything else, like find a wideout to complement Allen Robinson or add a piece to their O-line, but they’ll probably need to do both with their Day 3 choices.

10 things that defined the 2019 NFL season

By Sean Tyler (@seantyleruk)

Looking back at last season, there were some great games and some awful ones. Amazing throws, catches and runs. Incredible touchdowns. Last-ditch tackles. But that’s the case every year. So what were the events that really defined the campaign? Here’s the @Full10Yards take on what 2019 should be remembered for.


1. Luck finally runs out as Colts’ QB retires


The first headline of the 2019 season was written during Indianapolis’ preseason game with the Chicago Bears, when 29-year-old franchise quarterback Andrew Luck suddenly announced his retirement. Sadly, he was booed off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the news leaked out.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

The reasons cited at an emotional press conference in August centred on the mental and physical toll of the injuries sustained during his career. Referring to the seemingly endless cycle of injury and rehab, he said “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game… and the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. It’s the hardest decision of my life but it is the right one.”

Touted as a generational talent, the Stanford QB was selected as the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft as the successor to Peyton Manning. He immediately delivered, leading the Colts to the playoffs in his first three seasons without missing a start. His best season, 2014, saw him throw an NFL-leading 40 touchdowns as Indy reached the AFC Championship game.

But during his final four years, he missed 26 games and played in pain most of the time. He tore abdominal muscles, rib cartilage and a labrum, lacerated a kidney, suffered concussion and, in what was probably the final straw, endured a mystery ankle issue that was never resolved.

Despite an injury-blighted 2015, he signed a $140m extension to become the highest-paid player in the NFL, but then missed all of 2017. The four-time Pro-Bowler came back with a career-high 4,593 yards in 2018, and finished his career with 23,761 yards (third on the Colts’ all-time list) and 171 touchdowns.


2. Player holdouts become a thing


The 2019 season saw more NFL holdouts than ever before. Skipping training camp seemed to be an increasingly common and effective tactic as players tried following in the footsteps of Le’Veon Bell, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack.

There are several reasons why players hold back their services and demand a trade: it’s usually about money so each franchise needed to weight up whether keeping the player active benefits either party in the long run. And in 2019, the results were mixed.

Take Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon from the LA Chargers. With two years left on his rookie deal, Zeke held out through August and got a six-year, $90m contract extension for his troubles. Gordon didn’t. He was looking to prove his value though his absence but the Chargers dug their heels in and leaned on Austin Ekeler instead. Gordon, in the fifth year of his rookie deal, caved after a few weeks of cat and mouse, and slinked back into the fold in late September when his request fell on deaf ears.

Despite being set to make a paltry $1.1 million in 2019, Saints star wideout Michael Thomas was adamant that he wouldn’t hold out, but he did. But boy, did it pay off. Negotiations led to a $100m, five-year deal – a new record for a receiver.

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The Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney also had a deal below market value so he sat out all of preseason, prompting a trade to the Seahawks days before the start of the campaign, while the Jaguars’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue refused to attend minicamp and preseason workouts until his contract was resolved.

There were also two holdouts not driven by the dollar: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey demanded a trade after a touchline bust-up with head coach Doug Marrone during their Week 2 game against Houston, and Washington tackle Trent Williams sat out the entire year due to the way he believed the Redskins medical staff handled a health scare. 

To me, saying you won’t play till you get what you want feels like a spoilt child sulking and stamping their feet. Then again, it might be worth a try if you’re gonna get paid $100 million to zip it.


3. Antonio Brown quits the NFL


The former Pittsburgh wide receiver had a difficult 2019 to say the least. Having bounced around three different teams in under a year, he tried to claim back around $40 million in unpaid wages, fines, guarantees and bonuses from the Raiders and the Patriots.

Lynne Sladky/AP

Oakland acquired him from the Steelers but cut him before Week 1, creating a flurry of complaints concerning fines, lost guaranteed money and a $1m signing bonus voided because he was axed prior to playing a regular season game. Picked up by the Patriots just hours later, Brown is also attempting to salvage his unpaid Week 1 salary plus another $9m signing bonus, accusing the franchise of breach of contract. Then there’s the two (unsuccessful) grievances he filed against the NFL while disputing the ban on his preferred style of helmet.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Brown was also accused of sexual assault by his former trainer, Britney Taylor, while another woman accused him of sexual misconduct and sending intimidating text messages. Brown strenuously denies the charges but that final claim tipped the scales for the Pats. He was released after just 11 days and one game.

Soon after, AB84 hit social media saying he wasn’t going to play in the NFL any more, as team owners can obviously cancel whatever deals they liked. He also took pot-shots at Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger, who had both been linked with scandals in the past without much fall-out.

The investigations rumble on but whatever the eventual outcome, the league has lost a star. The 31-year-old was one of football’s most prolific offensive players with the Steelers, where his 686 catches and 9,145 receiving yards were the highest totals for a receiver over a six-year span. But it has also lost a troubled soul. Let’s hope he gets the support and professional help he needs.


4. Kaepernick holds a weird workout


Colin Kaepernick is undoubtedly a divisive figure. At his peak, the quarterback led the 49ers to consecutive NFC championship games but in his last season, the Niners went 2-14. He has been out of the league since 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem – a protest against police brutality on people of colour. Since then, there has been no love lost between the player and the NFL.

Having settled a lawsuit with the NFL in February after claiming teams blanked him in retaliation for his protests, the league organised an out-of-the-blue, take-it-or-leave-it tryout for Kaepernick in mid-November. He was given just two hours to accept. A work-out for 25 teams was scheduled to start at the Atlanta Falcons’ training complex but amid bickering over terms and conditions, Kap pulled out and held his own private workout at a high school in Georgia, 60 miles away. About six representatives made it to the new location in time.

Carmen Mandato, Getty Images

The workout was clearly a PR stunt by the NFL – probably in an attempt to deflect criticism of their treatment of Kaepernick – but it was his only shot to get in front of scouts. As a free agent, he is eligible to sign with any team and at the time, several potential suitors were being mooted.

Regardless of the motivations behind it, one guy did something out of it but it wasn’t Kaepernick. Jordan Veasy, one of the receivers used in the workout, was subsequently signed to the Redskins’ practice squad, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.


5. A new position is invented: the quarterback-up


How many quarterbacks saw game time in 2019? Would you believe 57? Most teams had to rely on at least one stand-in and in a few cases, more than one. Every week or two, it seemed like a franchise QB was replaced by a stand-in for one reason or another, and with varying degrees of success. 

Injuries were obviously the main reason for a swap and for some, there was hardly a blip. 41-years-young Drew Brees lost five weeks but the Saints’ stand-in Teddy Bridgewater held the fort admirably, going a perfect 5-0 in his stead. Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes also missed game time when he dislocated his kneecap against Denver, but veteran Matt Moore ably took over.

Alas, it didn’t always work out so well. Jets back-up Trevor Siemian – pressed into action when Sam Darnold contracted mono – didn’t even complete two quarters before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Luke Falk’s two subsequent starts produced 0 TDs, 3 INTs and 14 sacks. Likewise, after Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow surgery, Pittsburgh were forced to call upon Mason Rudolph and then Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges (both underdelivered) while Matthew Stafford’s deputies were Jeff Driskel (0-3) and then David Blough. The undrafted rookie had a blinding first few minutes, throwing TD passes against the Bears on his first two possessions, but the rest of his five-game run was ‘sub-optimal’.

Retirement also played it part, with the Colts forced to start Jacoby Brissett after Andrew Luck retired, while the Giants hastened the changing of the guards just two weeks into the season, subbing in Daniel Jones at the expense of the outgoing Eli Manning.

USA-TODAY

But for many teams, starting QBs were benched left, right and centre purely due to their performance. After a mediocre stretch in Miami, Ryan Tannehill took the Titans’ starting job from an underwhelming Marcus Mariota in mid-season and promptly went 9-4, including two on-the-road playoff victories at New England and Baltimore. With 22 TDs and 6 INTs, Tannehill went from ‘work in progress’ for the Dolphins to Comeback Player of the Year in Tennessee.

Back in Miami, Josh Rosen floundered for six games, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to pick up the pieces and win five games (despite the team being in full rebuild mode) while in Washington, journeyman Case Keenum paved the way for young buck Dwayne Haskins, the possible future of the franchise. In contrast, Ryan Finley really isn’t the future in Cincinnati. Andy Dalton was benched with the Bengals at 0-8 but the rookie was beyond terrible. After three more painful losses, Dalton was restored.

Likewise for the Panthers, Cam Newton’s injury gave Kyle Allen his chance. After four wins in four starts, he was sacked seven times by the 49ers (with a painful 28.9 passer rating) in Week 8, and was replaced by Will Grier. But he was even worse in his two starts: amid a flurry of interceptions, fumbles and sacks, Carolina lost both by 32 points.

There was one other guy I deliberately haven’t mentioned, as he deserves an entry of his own, so let’s move on… 


6. Minshew Mania


Having signed a $88m deal to become Jacksonville’s QB1, Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury in Week 1. The Jaguars needed a new hero. Step forward sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew II.

The rookie put the Jags’ first W on the board in his second start, a Thursday night win over the Titans, and by the end of September, he’d been named Offensive Rookie of the Month, having thrown for 905 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in four games. The Jags were 4-5 when he handed the reins back to Foles but not before “Minshew Mania” had taken hold.

Not all heroes wear capes; some wear helmets and cleats. And on their days off, they wear aviators, headbands and cut-off denim ‘jorts’. Aided by giveaways of fake moustaches at home games, fans dressed themselves and their kids as Minshew. His distinctive look even became the Halloween costume of choice. With plans for his own fashion range, Minshew has since filed trademark applications for several terms, including Minshew Mania.

Somewhat appropriately for our moustachioed maverick, the mania ended in November (see the UK men’s health campaign Movember to see why), when Nick Foles returned. However, Minshew wasn’t quite done, replacing the former Eagle halfway through a 28-11 loss to the Buccaneers in Week 13.

Looking beyond the hype and hysteria, Minshew racked up 3,217 yards, 21 TDs and six INTs in 14 appearances, and oversaw all six of Jacksonville’s wins. Solid enough production to reassure fans, should he be called upon again.


7. Myles Garrett loses his head


As we all know (*cough*), Rule 12, Article 17 of the NFL rulebook states: “A player may not use a helmet … as a weapon to strike, swing at, or throw at an opponent.”

Well, eight seconds from the end of Cleveland’s fractious 21-7 victory over Pittsburgh in November, that’s exactly what occurred. Steelers QB Mason Rudolph had just completed a pass when he was engulfed by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. The players shoved each other, then wrestled and grabbed each other’s face masks. The top draft pick from 2017 pulled Rudolph’s helmet off and clobbered him over the head with it.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The ensuing melee led to three immediate ejections, followed by fines for both teams and suspensions for the main protagonists. Garrett’s indefinite ban for his actions – termed “totally unacceptable and inexcusable” by coaches, players and pundits alike – was only rescinded after the season ended. And he had previous: Garrett had already been handed a $50,000 fine for punching a Titans player and two roughing-the-passer penalties against the Jets, one of which ended Trevor Siemian’s season.

At the time, Garret said: “I lost my cool and I regret it. I hurt my whole team.” He later stated: “A win’s a win. I don’t think it’s overshadowed by what happened.” Yeah right, fella – we’re only going to remember the result.

Contrite at the time, Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens added: “I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good. He understands it’s totally unacceptable.” But just a couple of weeks later, Kitchens was pictured wearing a “Pittsburgh started it” T-shirt, reigniting tensions just 48 hours before the teams’ rematch. Smart.


8. The Patriots play i-spy (again)


There’s a well-known saying: “To get caught spying on your opponents once is unfortunate; to get caught twice is foolish.” OK, there isn’t, but given New England’s track record, there should be.

In early December, the Patriots acknowledged that a video crew working for them filmed the Bengals’ sideline during their game with the Browns, violating league rules in much the same way they did in 2007 during the original Spygate scandal. The Patriots admitted that a crew, making an online series titled “Do Your Job”, inappropriately filmed the field from the press box, and failed to inform the Bengals and the league of their intentions. They did, however, hand over all footage. In a statement, the Patriots accepted full responsibility for the incident (blamed on an error with credentials) but Bill Belichick distanced himself and the team from the shenanigans.

AP Photo/Gary Landers

When confronted by security, the video guy reportedly said he was an employee of Robert Kraft, not the team itself. That’s very interesting, as a key witness 12 years ago told investigators that was exactly what he’d been told to say if caught.

The seized tape apparently showed eight minutes of footage focusing on Bengals coaches signalling during the game. Sounds incriminating enough to me, especially with a game with Cincy coming up. Yet according to the NFL investigation, there was no clear evidence of the Patriots trying to gain a competitive advantage.

Maybe it was just a communication breakdown but with the Pats also at the centre of the 2015 Deflategate scandal, I can’t help thinking “there’s no smoke without fire” – and that is a well-known saying.


9. Tough Mudder comes to the NFL


In October, the Super Bowl-bound 49ers faced the Redskins at FedEx Field, holding them to 154 total yards and zero points in a 9-0 win. The game was played in appalling conditions: driving wind and rain turned the already substandard field into a quagmire, with many players struggling to keep their feet in the pooling surface water.

Not surprisingly, literally nothing of any note happened during the regulation 60 minutes (check out the box score if you like). ‘Skins QB Case Keenum made nine throws for 77 yards and Washington had -7 net yards in the fourth quarter. On the other side, Jimmy G only made 12 of 21 attempts and the game’s only points came courtesy of Robbie Gould’s boot.

That’s why the game will be remembered for what happened after the last play. Nick Bosa sacked Keenum as the clock hit zero and celebrated with a headfirst slide 10 yards across the grass. Fully embracing the conditions and their inner child, several teammates joined in. Before you knew it, a pack of white jerseys (OK, brown) were skimming across the sodden field like body-boarders.

Niners defensive end Deforest Buckner said. “It was a lot of fun. It was definitely worth it. Everybody started sliding around. It was like a bunch of little kids out there. That’s part of the game, having fun. Right now, we’re having a lot of fun.” Cornerback Richard Sherman added: “It takes you back to being a kid: you’re sloshing around and your shoes are full of water and mud. Guys had a lot of fun slipping and sliding out there.”

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

10. A new UK venue earns its spurs


Coming to London for regular season games since 2007, the NFL continues to grow over here. British fans sport flags, foam fingers, face paint and the jerseys of all 32 teams. We hang out like old friends, then scrap like alley cats for the merchandise fired into the crowd by the ‘party patrol’. And then there’s the possibility of a London-based franchise.

In 2019, we got four games for the first time as the all-singing-and-dancing Tottenham Hotspur Stadium joined Wembley as a UK International Series venue. In early October, the Oakland Raiders saw off the Chicago Bears in front of 60,463 people. The Raiders led 17-0 at half-time, the Bears fought back with 21 unanswered points but Oakland eventually triumphed 24-21.

But it wasn’t Josh Jacobs’s late TD or Gareon Conley’s game-ending interception that will stand the test of time. It was the authentic experience created by an arena built to NFL specifications that went down so well with players, coaches and fans. The dual-purpose venue has a grass football pitch (used just five days earlier for Spurs’ 7-2 Champions league defeat to Bayern Munich) that retracts beneath the stand, revealing a synthetic, NFL-ready surface. Then there’s the bespoke, super-sized locker rooms and conference suites for both teams.

Miles Willis Photography

No wonder Raiders QB Derek Carr liked it so much. “Everything is first class, every little detail,” he said afterwards.This is definitely one of, if not the best, stadiums I’ve ever been at. Bears coach Matt Nagy concurred, adding: “It blows you away – it’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Rather than borrowing a ‘soccer’ stadium like Wembley, the NFL may just have found its spiritual home on these shores.


11. And one more for luck…


We started with a story about Luck so for a purr-fect finish, we should end with one too, even if it takes us over our designated 10 items.

During the second quarter of Dallas’ Monday night game at the Giants’ MetLife Stadium on 4 November, play was delayed for a few minutes when a black cat trotted onto the field. Displaying Amari Cooper-esque speed and agility, the elusive feline evaded players, officials, stewards and security with some neat route running and play-action before heading off under one of the stands.

Game caller Kevin Harlan had a ball, providing play-by-play commentary on the moggy’s progress: “Now he’s at the five… he’s walking to the three… he’s hit the two. A state trooper has come on to the field and the cat runs into the end zone! That. Is. A. Touchdown!”

The black cat seemed to give the Giants instant bad karma, as the home side threw away a 9-3 lead to eventually lose 37-18. And for weeks afterwards, superstitious fans clocked the fact that the ‘cat’ teams – the Lions, Panthers, Bengals and Jaguars – couldn’t buy a win for love nor money. In fact, it took almost a month, when Cincy beat the Jets on 1 December, for the hex to be lifted.

AMIK ROBERTSON: ALL-IN

By Alex Lewis @(alexlewis226)

About this time last year, I wrote an article about now-Washington Redskins corner back Jimmy Moreland.

Coming out of James Madison, Moreland was undersized and playing at a small school with little credible, quality opposition, but presented some of the most intriguing and impressive highlight reel I had seen in the entire process.

Despite now being an established nickle corner for Washington, Moreland wasn’t always so highly rated.

Despite being just 5”10, the JMU prospect boasted excellent instincts, an uncanny eye for the ball and really sticky coverage, which at least in my mind, had him being drafted well before the end of proceedings in Tennessee.

Eventually taken 227th overall, Moreland has since made himself a major part of the Redskins defence as the nickel corner, even with less than ideal play on the outside by the veterans, with Josh Norman being released after the seasons conclusion.

So here we are in 2020, and I’m seeing chatter begin to grow about another small school, undersized defensive back called Amik Robertson out of Louisiana Tech, so it would be rude not to have a look what all the fuss is about.


What’s to love?


Amik Robertson has a lot to love when you watch his tape from the last year.

Not only can he give you all the coverage ability that you get from some of the top prospects, but he also has some of the more elite instincts of any corner in the draft.

Whether that’s reading the ball in the air and deciding when to come out of coverage to go get it or when to come up and make tackles, Robertson has a confident and enjoyably aggressive play style.

In general, Robertson’s tackling is impressive, and you can find lots of clips from his tape where his reading of the play has led to big hits and crushing blows.

In the modern age where tackling on DB’s is often their weakest link, Robertson’s willingness to get players down by any means necessary is a welcome change.

His attributes, all of which lead me to believe he can become a starting nickel corner in the NFL, show a raw athleticism that should excite scouts and evaluators across the teams.

An injury to his groin means that Robertson will not participate in the combine drills in Indianapolis this week, but if his own predictions are to be believed, a 4.3 40 could have been on the cards.


What’s not to love?


Amik Robertson is not a perfect prospect, despite a whole host of upsides.

The size is certainly not prototype at just 5”9 and 182 pounds, but in his own words, his height isn’t changing, so probably best to try and look past it.

Robertson has good jumping and has addressed the need to put some weight on in the gym, so it should be possible to survive the NFL at his size, his quest likely aided by the increasing need for smaller nickel corners.

In full, his lack of size concerns me far more in the running game than the passing, he understandably struggled with 6”6 Collin Johnson against Texas this past season.

His instincts, as great as they are, also need some harnessing; the splash plays where he blows up a screen in the flat look great when they work but leave his team hurting when they don’t, so any defensive co-ordinator worth his salt will want to control Robertson’s overshoots sooner rather than later.

In reality there is small degree of rawness to Robertson’s game.

In forgoing his senior year as a Bulldog, Robertson will miss out on an opportunity to polish his skills but that shouldn’t be something that people look down on, and instead as a harness-able weapon that some late round picks won’t have to fall back on.


Robertson in review


I find it particularly fitting that Robertson’s twitter profile has a photo of Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu as its header.

The apparent need to inspire players around him through his own passion is visible even through the screen and his character helps to define his potential as a prospect.

I love his instincts, his passion and his desire to make every tackle and every play, and this will carry him through a lot as he adjusts to the size and speed of the pro-game.

Overall though, Robertson is an outstanding prospect with excellent speed and agility which gives him sticky coverage ability in short and intermediate routes.

His height will probably have him move inside to nickel corner at the pro-level and this should help him avoid some of the bigger receivers in an attempt to make him feel comfortable.

Expect a third or fourth round pick to be used on Robertson, but also expect him to make waves the second he gets on the practice field as a pro player.

I look forward to using him as a comparison this time next year.

New Head Coaches: Time to Judge who’ll Rhule

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

After disappointing campaigns, three NFC East teams – the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants –as well as the Panthers and Browns decided it was time for a new Head Coach. A fortnight after the regular season finished, four of the five had filled their hot seats, and the Browns have since found their man too. Now that the game of musical chairs has stopped, let’s take a look at who’s landed where and how they might fare.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS


Fired: Jay Gruden
Hired: 
Ron Rivera 

The switch: Washington got a two-month head-start on the rest, setting the HC conveyor belt in motion in October. After going 0-5, they decided enough was enough and fired Jay Gruden, who made the postseason just once in his five years in the capital.

A day after they closed out their 3-13 season with a 47-16 humbling by divisional rivals Dallas, long-time team president Bruce Allen was given the order of the boot, not long after he’d told the world the team’s culture was “damn good” (no laughing at the back, please). They swiftly followed that by agreeing to make Ron Rivera, let go by the Carolina Panthers, their new HC.

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The pros: Rivera is experienced, respected and no stranger to success, having led the Panthers to three consecutive NFC South titles from 2013. His hot streak culminated in a 15-1 regular season in 2015 and an appearance at Super Bowl L against the Denver Broncos. Having evolved from ultra-cautious to more progressive and forward-thinking, ‘Riverboat Ron’ could be the man to ensure Dwayne Haskins delivers on his early promise. The ‘Skins also need to sharpen up on the defensive side, but Rivera has form here too: he had five top-10 defences in Carolina. Bringing in former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator can only help.

The cons: While his overall record stands up to scrutiny, it’s been tough going of late. Rivera’s last two seasons in Charlotte were both injury-affected and both went south after promising starts. Without Cam Newton, last year’s 5-11 saw them prop up the NFC South and the year before, they also finished with a losing record (7-9). That said, everyone to a man was complementary when he left.

The outlook: A fresh start was just what the doctor ordered and for Rivera’s sake, let’s hope the toxic Washington set-up is history. With the power to bring the crowds back to FedEx Field and reset the culture within the building, he’s already having a positive effect. Apparently, left tackle Trent Williams – who sat out last year because he lost trust in the medical staff and then the front office – has vowed to return to the fold because of the new HC and the organisational restructure.

The verdict: The pick of the bunch. He’ll have his hands full but with Allen out of the picture, there’s a distinct chance ‘Riverboat Ron’ will turn this ship around and steer the Redskins towards calmer waters.


DALLAS COWBOYS


Fired: Jason Garrett
Hired: 
Mike McCarthy

The switch: The Cowboys were the second team to make their move, eventually parting ways with Jason Garrett after nearly 10 years at the helm and an exit process that seemed to take just as long. Jerry Jones made it clear he wasn’t going to spend time bringing a college coach up to speed so they interviewed two experienced NFL guys: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and long-time Bengals HC Marvin Lewis. Once Garrett was finally out the door, Dallas took less than 24 hours to announce McCarthy. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The pros: Of our five coaches, McCarthy has the best pedigree, having led the Packers to nine playoff appearances, six NFC North division titles and a Super Bowl win (ironically at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium) in his 13 seasons. Although his relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers deteriorated, it was effective for much of his tenure so McCarthy should be able to strike up a good rapport with Dak Prescott.

The cons: McCarthy was fired midway through Green Bay’s 2018 season and he didn’t work during 2019 so will having a year out of the game hinder him? He has allegedly spent the time studying the latest NFL trends but equally, he might have lost some momentum.

The outlook: McCarthy has also been developing a new playbook, which will hopefully compensate for Dallas’ failures over the last decade. McCarthy needs to hit the ground running and start securing the late-postseason appearances Garrett should’ve achieved with the talent at his disposal. His credibility and reputation are high, but so are the expectations on him to bring success pretty much straight away.

The verdict: The one with everything to prove. McCarthy is a fine choice but the control he might want or expect isn’t up for grabs. In Dallas, Jerry is King: he calls the shots and makes (and breaks) the rules. Where the lines are drawn will decide whether McCarthy leads Dallas back to the heights of old or if he’s just the next guy to be stifled by the Jones dynasty.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS


Fired: Ron Rivera
Hired: 
Matt Rhule

The switch: In early December, when the wheels were falling off another Panthers’ season, Ron Rivera was released. Owner David Tepper announced that he would be targeting an offensive-minded replacement, and did exactly that in hiring Baylor coach Matt Rhule. As it happens, Rhule was supposed to meet with the Giants (where he spent a year as an assistant O-line coach) after his trip to Carolina but never made it, having been made an offer he couldn’t refuse and the Giants couldn’t match. (For the record, I wouldn’t turn down $60 million over seven years, if anyone’s offering…)

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The pros: The size of his contract suggests Carolina are all in on their new man. Rhule is a leader and has a knack for turning struggling teams around in double-quick time. He took Baylor from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 just two years later and, before that, transformed Temple from a 2-11 outfit to a conference-winning one.

The cons: It’s important to remember that Rhule has no league experience at HC (a red flag to some). He will need to make the not-insignificant leap from college to the big league if he is to bring the franchise some stability and, eventually, success.

The outlook: Rhule won’t need to repeat the complete turnabouts he managed in his college programmes. He’ll have assets to work with – not least a solid defence and one of the league’s top stars in running back Christian McCaffrey – but there is also work to do, with linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring and tight end Greg Olsen joining the Seahawks. It will also be interesting to see whether he plumps for Cam Newton, Kyle Allen or someone else as his long-term QB. In the draft, he might grab a couple of guys with potential and the right character traits, and take the time to nurture them.

The verdict: The slow-burner. If Rhule can get on top of things in the pro world, the Panthers could be back in the mix again. However, I suspect, as we saw with some of last year’s rookie coaches, we shouldn’t expect results overnight. It took him a couple of years to get to grips with Temple and Baylor, and he’s been afforded ample time to set things up the right way so peg him for a successful rebuild from 2021 and beyond.


NEW YORK GIANTS


Fired: Pat Shurmur
Hired: 
Joe Judge

The switch: Despite a strong finish by Saquon Barkley and a decent showing by young QB Daniel Jones, the Giants had a disappointing 2019 under Pat Shurmur. They could ill-afford to let another season slip by with such talent in their ranks so, after Shurmur’s two underwhelming seasons ended with a 9-23 record, the Giants were next to step up to the plate (to mix my sporting metaphors).

Just minutes after the Panthers announced Rhule, the Giants revealed Joe Judge as their man. Interestingly, New York ran the rule over Rhule too, and were given the opportunity to match Carolina’s massive offer. The Giants declined.

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

The pros: Judge was a special teams assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama for three seasons and then spent eight years with the Patriots as special teams and wide receivers coach. He won three Super Bowls in New England and has been plucked right off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Being a special teams guy, he’s used to having close contact with most players on the roster, which will stand him in good stead.

The cons: Compared to the likes of Rivera and McCarthy, Judge is a relative unknown. He also hasn’t held a head coaching role at any level, which to some might make him the weakest candidate on paper.

The outlook: Judge may be a rookie but the 38-year-old is a good communicator, has high standards and a blue-collar work ethic. Judge’s initial press conference suggested that New York have a good fit. He told the media to expect an intense, aggressive, old-school team that will reflect the community in which they play.

The verdict: The left-field choice. I don’t want to judge too early but he comes across as hard-nosed and disciplined. He can certainly talk the talk, so let’s see if he can walk the walk.


CLEVELAND BROWNS


Fired: Freddie Kitchens
Hired: 
Kevin Stefanski

The switch: Armed with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett to name but a few, the Browns were many people’s top tip for a playoff run or even a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. Even Sports Illustrated ran with “Bold prediction! Cleveland’s first division title in 30 years” on one cover. As it turned out, The Ill-Advised Freddie Kitchens Experiment was abandoned after a year, with a disappointing 6-10 season ending with a three-game losing streak. As they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get Kitchens out” (or something) so they did, with GM John Dorsey also sent packing.

Cleveland interviewed a host of candidates – Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Ravens OC Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz, Uncle Tom Cobley and all – but in the end, they plumped for Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The pros: Part of the furniture in Minneapolis since 2006, Stefanski is a schemer, an analytical thinker and someone who can maximise offensive talent. The Vikes had a 10-6 season and a Wild Card win over the Saints, and their attack was largely effective under Kirk Cousins.

The cons: Initial reactions to the hire were mixed at best, not least because he wasn’t McDaniels – seemingly the fans’ preferred choice – and because of Minnesota’s poor offensive performance in their playoff loss to the 49ers. He’s untested as an HC, and was second choice when Kitchens was ultimately hired 12 months ago, which makes him feel like a consolation prize.

The outlook: Only time will tell whether this was the right move, but Cleveland seriously need an experienced, attack-minded guy to take their offence by the scruff of the neck and sort it out. But hiring an unproven Head Coach won’t give the long-suffering fans in Cleveland much confidence that they’ve got one right for a change.

The verdict: The jury’s out. How many times have the Browns been primed to turn things around at last, only to fail? They haven’t kept an HC for more than four seasons over the last 20 years. Stefanski may succeed where others before him have fallen by the wayside but he isn’t a safe bet. It’s a coin-flip for me but at least he shouldn’t be any worse than Freddie…

Season in review – Washington Redskins

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

The three time Super Bowl winners finished the decade without a single playoff victory and only three post-season games. 2019 turned out to be yet another disaster, as Chucky’s little bro had the locks changed when he wasn’t looking.


Entering the season 


This was not going to be an easy season for the Redskins to do anything meaningful. Two previous 7-9 seasons and 3rd place NFC East finishes were no great cause for optimism, and head coach Jay Gruden was many tipsters favourite as the first HC to get the axe after just 35 wins and one playoff appearance in five full seasons in charge. 

The team traded back up into the 1st round of the 2019 draft to acquire DE/OLB Montez Sweat after selecting their fourth 1st round QB this century, in the form of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Haskins would be competing with veteran free agent acquisition Case Keenum, who came from the Broncos for a 6th round pick this year. Veteran QB Alex Smith was still recovering from a horror leg break and was a huge outside shot to play a single snap. 

Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Elsewhere the ‘Skins brought in FA safety Landon Collins (above) from divisional rivals the New York Giants, and moved on from some big, but not superstar names, including WR Jamison Crowder (Jets) and Preston Smith (Packers). 

The running back situation was filled with optimism as second year back Derrius Guice managed to survive the pre-season intact and was hoping to make a big impact ahead of future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, who signed a two-year deal.

Wide receiver was the team’s huge weakness, having released former first rounder Josh Doctson, carrying an injured and inconsistent but expensive Paul Richardson along with zero impact free agent signings, leaving the likes of Trey Quinn, and two rookies, Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon, to try and make some sort of impact. 

The biggest single issue in Washington, as the 2019 season was about to begin, was the holdout of stud 7-time Pro Bowler OT Trent Williams, who fell out with the team following surgery he had on his head to remove a cancerous growth, claiming the team medical staff did not take his concerns seriously. 


During the season 


Up 17-0 in Week 1, on the road against the 2018 Super Bowl champion Eagles, and Redskins fans were in a state of euphoria, but the defense, much as it would be for the entire season, collapsed, as former star WR Desean Jackson scored on two bombs as Philly pulled off a 32-27 win. 

Picture credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Things got worse as the Redskins slid to 0-5, including three home losses, under Coach Gruden and Case Keenum. Keenum was benched Week 4 for rookie Dwayne Haskins (above), but he too failed to create a spark, throwing three interceptions in his first game action against the Giants.

The big but inevitable move then happened as Jay Gruden was fired before Week 6, replaced by former Raiders Super Bowl losing coach Bill Callahan, who took the job on an interim basis. In a battle between to 0-5 teams Callahan and the Redskins eeked out a 17-16 win in Miami against the Fitzmagic led Dolphins. The Redskins stopped a 2-point conversion with six seconds left to get win number one. 

The single win was not built on as four consecutive losses followed, with just 35 points scored in the four contests, including a 0-9 home shutout to the San Francisco 49ers in a quagmire. 

Standing at 1-8 after 10 weeks the Redskins somehow managed to put together a two-game win streak, under rookie QB Dwayne Haskins in just hs third and fourth career starts. The victories against the Lions and Panthers turned out to be the last notes in the win column for the 2019 Redskins. 

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Bizarrely entering Week 14 the Redskins were still in playoff contention at 3-9, due to the ineptitude of the rest of the NFC East, but that dream died in a 5 point loss to the Green Bay Packers. 

The season ended with three consecutive divisional games, three consecutive divisional defeats, including a 47-16 humiliation by the Dallas Cowboys to end a miserable season. 

Finishing 3-13 the Redskins managed to rank 31st in the NFL, finished bottom of the NFC East and the NFC as a conference, and as a result ‘won’ the 2nd overall pick in the 2020 draft. Redskins OT Trent Williams didn’t take a snap, the team lost all six divisional games, and they ended the season without a permanent head coach. 

Photo credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In a grave season there were few signs of life, with the exceptions being punter Tress Way (above), who became the NFC Pro Bowl starter and second-team All-Pro, and rookie 3rd Round pick Terry McLaurin having an outstanding year (58-919-7tds) and a place on the PFWA All-Rookie team.    


Offseason outlook 


The Redskins made a lightning quick move to get a new head coach in place, hiring former Panthers boss Ron Rivera to lead the team on New Years Day. Accompanying Rivera as defensive coordinator was another former NFL linebacker, in the form of Jack Del Rio, who served time as the Jaguars head coach. Bill Callahan is now back coaching the offensive line, and will be with the Cleveland Browns in 2020.

With the number two pick in the draft many experts are projecting Ohio State’s EDGE Chase Young as the obvious pick to make, after the 20 year old set a team record with 16.5 sacks in 2019. The Redskins will be hoping to emulate the success the 49ers had drafting a Buckeye at number two, namely Nick Bosa. 

After round one the Redskins need to target a tight end and secondary upgrades. With TE Vernon Davis retired, and TE Jordan Reed about as stable as a polystyrene statue, Washington need a blocking and receiving playmaker in the mould of former h-back Chris Cooley. 

Photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The quarterback situation is not locked in. Dwayne Haskins will be entering his second offseason, under his second head coach, and therefore no loyalty. With an absolute plethora of free agents available the Redskins will likely avoid a big name as they kick the tyres very gently on Alex Smith (above) who will be 36, but still under contract. 

The strength on paper, the defensive line, is not living up to it’s draft position as Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have been gashed by running backs and need to go back to basics to tackle harder. 

In a division with Saquon Barkley, Zeke Elliot and rising star Miles Sanders, the Redskins need to beef up the front seven. One name to look out for that may finally get some award recognition in 2020 is DT Matt Ioannidis, who ended 2019 with 8.5 sacks. 

Even the most optimistic Redskins fan will only be reaching for mediocrity in 2020. 8-8 would be an acceptable finish, and in the NFC East that could win a division crown. 

FULL10 TAKEAWAYS – WEEK 13

by Lawrence Vos (@NFLFANINENGLAND & @F10YRetro)

Appetisers – Bite size NFL news from Week 13

  • Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders was the first NFL kicker to score a receiving touchdown in the regular season since Denver Broncos booted caught a 25 yard TD in 1977 from Punter/QB Norris Weese. 
  • Talking of rare touchdowns Houston’s QB Deshaun Watson’s receiving touchdown was only the third time in the Super Bowl era a QB has thrown 3 tds and caught one. We all know the last one was Nick Foles in the big game in 2018. The other was Bears QB Jim McMahon back in 1985. 
  • The Washington Redskins win was the only one registered by an NFC East this week, just as it was in the division last week too. With four games left the Redskins can still clinch the division crown. 
  • The Bengals finally won a game and became the final team to register a victory in the 2019 season. Their worst ever season finish was in 2002 when they started 1-13 before beating the Saints in Week 16 to then finish 2-14. With their #1 pick in 2003 they drafted Carson Palmer who went on to become the 13th most prolific passer in NFL history.
  • With the Buffalo Bills Thanksgiving win they move just one game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. Considering they have made the playoffs just once since the Milllennium this is their best record after 12 games since 1991, when they went 10-1 before reaching Super Bowl XXVI.
  • In a meaningless game Denver Broncos rookie QB made a winning start to his career with an overtime win against a bad Chargers team. Lock threw for only 134 yards but his two scores were enough. He is the 7th Broncos QB in just over two seasons. 

The top three Week 13 games everyone is talking about

Patriots (10-2) @ Texans (8-4)

You take a look at the final box score and you might be misled to believe the Texans somehow pulled this one out the bag late with some DeShaun Watson body contorting heroics.

Nothing could be further from the truth as the Texans took a 19 point lead with under 10 minutes left in the game before Tom Brady and his faithful servants (James White and Julian Edelman) made the score look respectable. Brady made up late for a first half shocker. The immortal one went 7 of 19 in the opening half with no TDs and one INT, and 15 of 30 in the second, with three scores and no picks.

Brady looked lost in the first 30 minutes and despite being in a dome he looked like he was fighting through a ginormous wind and rain storm.

For the Texans WR Deandre Hopkins was heading for another quiet one, considering his talent, before making a minor bit of NFL history as he ended a 9-play 75-yard Patriots-style drive by passing to none other than Deshaun Watson for the score. This was Hopkins first career completion, his first pass was an interception against the Panthers in Week 4.

Truth be told the Texans dominated for three quarters and the 28-22 final scoreline flattered a flatfooted Patriots team. One ever-present Patriots contributor was WR Julian Edelman who on one third-quarter route managed to wipe out not one but two Texans defensive backs on a downfield block.

The Texans are hitting some form at the right time, and the once invincible Patriots defense finally could not make up for an offense that is looking like the worst it has in 20 years. 

49ers (10-2) @ Ravens (10-2) 

In a game that could become a Super Bowl rematch the 49ers and the Ravens fought of the the wet and blustery conditions to deliver a game that oozed defensive quality and showed flashes of offensive brilliance.

It began with a gutsy 4th down attempt that resulted in a 33 yard TD between Jimmy Garoppolo and rising star WR Deebo Samuel and ended with the number one ice-veined K Justin Tucker driving a soggy pigskin through the dampness for the winning score with no tickets left on the clock.

Both teams only committed one turnover, including a rare fumble lost for MVP in waiting Lamar Jackson. Lamar was bottled up passing, managing just one td and barely over 100 yards, but he did continue his assault on the NFL record books as the first QB in NFL history to have four 100+ rushing games. By the end of Week 14 against Buffalo LJax could be sitting atop the all-time rushing throne by a QB – with three games to spare.

For the 49ers RB Raheem Mostert, who has always had a healthy YPC throughout his career, earned his own damp Wilson branded souvenir with 146 yards on the ground. If this is to be a rematch in Miami in a few months then there will be no complaints. 

Seahawks (10-2) @ Vikings (8-4) 

Monday Night Football and Vikings QB Kirk Cousins added another notch to his unwanted NFL record. Entering the game he had a historically bad 0-7 record on MNF, now it stands at 0-8.

Seattle started slowly as did Russell Wilson who threw his second pick-six of the season on a bizarre attempt that went awry that he tried to bat down that instead went into Anthony Harris’s welcome mitts.

17-10 to the Vikings at the half and all sorts of confidence in the lower room for the road team. That confidence crumbled away as the Seahawks in their colour rush luminous green uni’s went on a third-quarter tear with 17 unanswered points including a 60 yard David Moore catch from Wilson.

Wanting to put the game to bed Rashaad Penny’s second score in just over 10 minutes early in the 4th gave the Seahawks an apparently unassailable 17 point lead. This was where Kirk Cousins woke up, and in under 6 minutes he tossed two TDs, one on possibly the biggest blown coverage of the season to the career underperforming Laquon Treadwell, and one to Santa’s right hand man TE Kyle Rudolph.

With seven minutes left it was a 4 point game. The Vikes D held the Seahawks to a 5 play drive that ended in a punt and with just over 3 minutes left Cousins had the chance to become a hero. It was then he realised that he chokes on MNF and his final two passes, including a 4th down attempt were incomplete.

To add a kick in the balls to the punch in the face received Seattle recovered a late onside kick. Seattle now take over the NFC West and will be determined to stay there for the last four weeks. For the men with purple helmets and red faces they remain a game behind the Packers in the NFC North.

Dessert – somethings light and fluffy to finish the meal 

Who gets to wear the rushing crown?

With four weeks still to go, and a quarter of the regular season left, five RBs have already eclipsed 1,000 yards, and three more have over 980 yards. We also cannot forget that the number nine rusher is none other than QB Lamar Jackson. In other words there are legitimately almost ten players capable of winning the rushing crown. 

Week 13 saw a few rushing milestones met, including Raiders RB Josh Jacobs become the first Raiders rookie to hit the 1k milestone. Elsewhere Titans RB Derrick Henry moved over 1,000 yards too. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook had the opportunity to move to #1 but he got hurt against the Seahawks, and ended up with only 29 yards.

The current king of the hill is Browns second year back Nick Chubb with 1,175 but with the Panthers Christian McCaffrey just 8 yards behind, and the man who lives with a beavers tail poking out the back of his lid, Titans Derrick Henry just 35 yards behind him, its the best rushing race since Norris McWhirter announced Roger Bannister had broken the four minute mile over 65 years ago.

Despite being the third highest fumbler in the league I am going to stick my rather grubby and stubbly neck out and predict Derrick Henry to lift the crown when the season ends. 

A little side note – with their 8 game current win streak the Baltimore Ravens have three of the top five YPA (yards per attempt) players for anyone who has had over 75 carries. Obviously Lamar at 7.0, Gus Edwards at 5.1 and Mark Ingram at 5.0. 


Full10Takeaways – Week 12

By Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Garrett of my pub!

Image result for jason garrett
Image Credit: Adam Hunger / AP

Jason Garrett, the bane of Cowboys’s fans since 2011, has come under fire yet again this season for his conservative play calling and coaching decisions. This is mainly in relation to his decision to kick a field goal when down a touchdown with just over 6mins to go in the 4th Quarter.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and you only actually have to go back 2 weeks where it was exactly the same situation against the Vikings.

Some will point to the fact that despite the conservative nature of playcalling, Dallas has a chance to win the game on their final drive which would have rendered this conversation to be a little less under the spotlight.

However, when you play the better ranked teams or when you are up against it and need a spark, you just have to push down on the throttle. Jason Garrett simply did not do that.

Everyone is aware of the coaches that are more conservative than the Tories (#politicsjoke) and there is a reason why the Dallas Cowboys HC has his own special segment on our NFL podcast to highlight instances of poor HC decisions.

If you switched the coaching staff from both teams, the Cowboys would have won by 30 as the Cowboys have elite talent on their roster worthy of a double digit team. The coaching style and quality of Garrett however, is of a top 3 draft pick team.

This is why they are 6-5 and a middle of the road team and Jerry Jones is not happy. But until he Cowboys move on from Garrett, they will NEVER win a Super Bowl.


Turning on the JETS

Image result for new york jets
Image Credit: Adam Hunger / AP

Yes, the Jets have not had the most formidable of opponents the last 3 weeks but even so, the way they have gone about their business has been impressive and it’s a timely morale boost to their 2nd year QB Sam Darnold.

The Jets 34-3 mauling of the Oakland Raiders was perhaps their most impressive of the three most recent games as the Raiders are legitimate playoff/wildcard contenders and the reason being that they did it on both sides of the ball.

Darnold finished with an impressive 20/29, 315 yards 3TDs and 0 turnovers, a problem that’s dogged him since he has been in the league. He finally got Robby Anderson more involved and Ryan Griffin has been a great addition to the team leading to the front office inking him to a 3 year, $10m deal this week.

Next on the slate is the Bengals and the Dolphins. Expect the Jets to keep rolling not just in the NFL but for the start of your fantasy playoffs too.


Bengals go back to D’oh-lton

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Image Credit: Frank Victores / AP

Zac Taylor has announced that the team will be going back to Andy Dalton as Quarter Back for the rest of the season taking over from Ryan Finley, who started 3 games.

Finley has consistently struggled to push the ball downfield and accuracy has also been an issue with just a 47% completion rate on 87 pass attempts which has accounted for 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 3 fumbles. He failed to reach 200 yards passing in any of the three games and has a 62.1 passer rating, 17 points below that of Dalton’s this season.

It’s clear that the team who have a 2 game “lead” for the #1 overall pick in 2020 have done their evaluation of Finley and you can expect Finley to never see the field in a Bengals Jersey again unless it’s through injury or suspension.

The low level production filtered through to the players as Tyler Boyd recently expressed his displeasure at a lack of targets from the 2019 draft pick which led to him being fed in the game against the Steelers. Fellow WR AJ Green has been MIA for the season and you have to wonder if their QB selection had anything to do with it, look out for AJ Green to make a miraculous recovery and return to the field catching passes from Dalton.


Stop Interfering!

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints challenges a play against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter in the game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on November 24, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Image Credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Pass Interference became a challengeable element this season after the Saints were, let’s face it, robbed in last year’s NFC title game against the Rams.

This season, it’s not stayed away from the front pages of the NFL news outlets.

PI not being overturned enough, inconsistent ruling on it and has led to many teams, fans and players not understanding exactly what is or isn’t worth challenging.

The game between the Panthers and Saints nearly allowed PI to rear it’s ugly head once more as the Panthers challenged a non PI call which was overturned to a PI penalty. You can imagine how irate Sean Payton was at the overturn, something that has happened on less than 10% of the time so far this year.

The Saints though, were able to overcome with a little bit of Slye help and the win could end up being the difference between the #1 seed or the #2 seed and now gives the Saints huge momentum and morale boost as they look forward to extracting revenge against the Falcons on Thanksgiving night.


Derrick Henry Szn

Image Credit: AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

It’s almost December, that means Christmas is coming.

It also means it’s Derrick Henry time.

In games Derrick Henry has played after November 10, he has racked up a whopping 1493 yards, averaging 5.74yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns.

He is definitely a polarising player in terms of fantasy football and even at the head coaching level as previous Head Coaches have seemingly refused to put the rock in his hands.

You cannot argue his production as the season wears on though and anyone entering their fantasy playoffs will hope for Henry to continue the trends on the ground.


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Socially inept

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

On the verge of your first win as a rookie NFL quarterback you can excuse doing a Thurman Thomas and maybe losing your helmet, but to do what the Redskins Dwayne Haskins did was inexcusable. With eight seconds left in the game and the Detroit Lions looking for a miracle Jeff Driskel was picked off for a third time.

Meanwhile Haskins was wandering the sidelines and borrowed a fans ‘cellphone’ to take a selfie. As Haskins was increasing his Insta profile poor old Case Keenum had to run onto the field to take the victory kneel.

We all know crazy things happen at the end of NFL games, but for Dwayne Haskins his pursuit of socialness will far outlast his first professional victory in NFL history. 


Lineman’s dream comes true 

Image Credit: Getty Images

“It was all a dream…” is a famous opening lyric from a Biggie Smalls song, it was also what happened to Tampa Bay Buccaneers DL Vita Vea who hauled in a touchdown pass against the Atlanta Falcons. Talking of biggie size frames Vea became the heaviest NFL player to catch a TD since 1950. at 347lb the behemoth first round draft pick was all kinds of excited when he hauled in the 1 yard score from Jamies Winston.

We all love seeing the big guys get some love and Vea’s score was particularly pleasing and helped the Buccs to gain a win against the in form Falcons.

To compare Vea against one of the most famous big guys to have an offensive cameo every now and then he weighed 12lb more than William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry. 


ABC its as easy as 1-2-3-4-5. 

Image Credit: Michael Reaves / Getty Images

It feels wrong even making a humorous reference to the dethroned King of Pop, but when one commentator blurted out ‘that’s a Jackson Five’ after Ravens QB Lamar Jackson tossed his fifth TD of the game against the Rams it did raise a small chuckle.

LJax is making an awfully convincing march towards the NFL MVP award after yet another jaw-dropping performance both in the air and on the ground. With another blowout victory in the can Lamar could unwind and watch his older backup Robert Griffin III steer the ship in the final period.

By the time we hit the end of the 2019 regular season it’s likely the 2020 NFL Record and Fact Book (well PDF) will need a new #8 annex. 


Making a big moustake

Image Credit: Clutchpoints.com

Down by 32 points at one point against the dictionary definition of an average NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff must be seriously wondering if they made a mistake bringing back Nick Foles into the starting lineup.

Since his return Foles led teams have lost by a combined 42 points. Yes Gardner Minshew had a poor outing at Wembley, but the buzz he generated up to that point was at a Lin-Sanity type level. Nobody I saw walking up Wembley way a few weeks ago was dressed up like Napoleon Dynamite, but there were plenty of Fu-Man-Chu moustaches.

The Jaguars season, currently boasting a 4-7 record, is all but over so why not throw Minshew back in the spotlight. The Jags have three winnable games and two that they could play spoilers. #Unleashthemoustace 


10 carat Gold

Image Credit: Robert Reiners / Getty Images

With 12 weeks in the books only two teams have reached 10 wins. One was predictable and one certainly wasn’t.

In the past 5 seasons prior’s to 2019 the San Francisco 49ers registered 25 wins – averaging five wins and exactly zero playoff performances. Under head coach Kyle Shanahan and most likely the single most impressive offseason the Niners already have the same amount of wins they managed in 2017 and 2018 combined. It’s going to be the single best divisional race to the finish in the NFL as the 49ers will go toe to to with the Seahawks for the division and home field advantage.

Jimmy G and top target TE George Kittle looked magical against the Packers, but the Niners D is the real reason for such a superb season. If only that pesky Russell Wilson wasn’t around San Fran would still be undefeated. Roll on the rematch in Week 17. 

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC East

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

Nonetheless, Let’s give them some grades:


AFC East 


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By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland)

Current Standings 

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

*New England Patriots*

Midseason Grade: A+

How has it gone so far? 

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook:

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

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

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


*Buffalo Bills*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far? 

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

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

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

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


Regular season record prediction: 10-6


*New York Jets*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook:

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

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

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

Regular season record prediction: 3-13


*Miami Dolphins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far?

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook: 

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

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

Regular season record prediction: 0-16


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NFC EAST


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Current Standings 

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

*Dallas Cowboys*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook :

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

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

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

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


*Philadelphia Eagles*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far? 

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook

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

Regular season record prediction: 9-7


*New York Giants*

Midseason Grade: D-

How has it gone so far? 

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook: 

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

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

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

Regular season record prediction: 4-12


*Washington Redskins*

Midseason Grade: E

How has it gone so far? 

It’s no surprise the Redskins are cellar dwellers;

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

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

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

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

Rest of Season Outlook: 

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

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

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

Regular season record prediction: 2-14