With just hours to go before the first of four fascinating NFL Divisional Playoff games its time to turn back the clock and take a visit to Candlestick Park and a truly memorable contest between the two teams that open up this weekend’s four game slate……
January 9, 1988.
The 1987 NFL season was a strange one, a player strike meant one game (Week 3) was lost from the 16 game regular season schedule, and Weeks 4-6 were played by a vast majority of unknowns and ‘scabs’ – starters who crossed the picket lines.
One of the biggest names to cross the picket line was San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana, who played in and won two strike games.
The 49ers finished the regular season with the NFLs best record winning 13 of 15 contests, earning the NFC #1 seed and a home Divisional Playoff game.
Their playoff opponent the Minnesota Vikings limped into the post-season as the #5 seed Wild Card team with an 8-7 record, having lost three of their last four regular season contests.
The Vikings travelled to New Orleans for their Wild Card game, facing a team that finished 12-3 courtesy of Coach of the Year Jim Mora. Heavy underdogs the Vikings came away with an epic 44-10 upset win, in what was the first Saints playoff game in their 21 year history.
The win set up a second road playoff game for the 50-1 outsiders all the way across the country, in California, against a team that featured four All Pro’s (QB Joe Montana, WR Jerry Rice, DT Michael Carter and S Ronnie Lott).
The game started slowly as both teams exchanged first quarter field goals. Both teams defences were enjoying the soggy conditions as drives stalled.
It was the Vikings who scored the first touchdown, set up by a huge Wade Wilson scramble that put Minnesota at the 49ers 7 yard line. On first and goal Wilson found TE Carl Hilton a yard outside the end zone as he beat Ronnie Lott to get the score. Hilton was double happy as he dropped a potential score on the opening drive of the game for Minnesota.
The Vikings extended the lead to 10 with a second Chuck Nelson FG, having had a first and goal drive stall after three consecutive runs.
Just under a minute later the relentless Vikings pass rush was rewarded when Joe Montana was intercepted on a medium depth pass to WR Dwight Clark by Georgia Tech rookie safety Reggie Rutland (who subsequently changed his name to Najee Mustafaa), who took the ball 45 yards to pay-dirt and a 20-3 half-time lead.
Roger Craig dropped a late first half touchdown catch and 49ers K Ray Wersching missed a 26 yard field goal as momentum had completely disappeared from the heavily favoured home team.
The 49ers did manage to exact some early revenge in the second minute of the second half, defensive back Jeff Fuller picking off Wade Wilson and returning it 48 yards for San Francisco’s first TD of the game. Fuller would go on to suffer a career ending spinal injury in 1989, after picking up his second Super Bowl winners ring.
Any thoughts of a comeback were quickly quashed as Wade Wilson recovered his composure to lead a touchdown scoring drive to #84 WR Hassan Jones, completing a 5 yard pass on 3rd and goal in the red painted end zone. The TD was the first that 49ers CB Don Griffin had allowed all season.
Down by 17 49ers head coach Bill Walsh made the bold decision to bench Montana and bring in backup Steve Young to try and find a spark.
With excellent starting field position Young hit RB Roger Craig on his first pass for 30 yards. On second and goal Young’s 10 yard rushing score was called back for holding. Following a 7 yard completion Young scrambled left on a deliberate run play and dived into the left corner of the end zone for the score.
The Vikings were clearly unfazed as they extended their lead late in the 3rd and early in the fourth with two additional field goals.
Young gave hope to the 49ers fans with a drive that ended in a hair-raising 16 yard touchdown pass to TE John Frank. (Frank went on to become an otolaryngologist, a head and neck surgery specialist. Frank has performed over 2,000 hair transplant operations and opened a hair clinic in New York in 2006.)
In the final minute Nelson kicked his fifth successful field goal and that was it, an earth shattering 36-24 upset win for the Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota travelled to Washington, their third consecutive road playoff game, for the NFC Championship. Redskins CB Darrell Green broke up a Vikings pass in the end zone on the final play of the game to prevent the Vikings from tying up the game, as Minnesota fell 17-10.
Fast forward to 2020 and we have history repeating itself as the lowest seeded NFC team the Minnesota Vikings, fresh off an upset Wild Card win against none other than the New Orleans Saints, face the #1 NFC seed San Francisco 49ers.
For Kirk Cousins and the Vikings fans they will certainly ‘like that’ history is clearly on their side.
Enjoy the game tonight – and if the Vikings get the upset victory you read it here first on the Full 10 Yards.
The playoffs are here and are accompanied by the usual stresses and pressures that the post-season provides.
This week’s Wild Card Weekend will feature the New England Patriots for the first time since 2009 following their disappointing slip up against the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.
They face a Tennessee Titans team that is built for some cold weather up in Foxborough with a strong rushing game and a quarterback on a hot streak with his receiving corps.
Elsewhere, the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles play host to a Seattle Seahawks team that few considered a serious challenger before the season.
The New Orleans Saints will seek out some revenge as they welcome the Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome in an attempt to heal the wounds of the Minneapolis miracle.
The other AFC match-up sees two of the NFL’s youngest quarterbacks face off against each other as Josh Allen leads his Buffalo Bills into battle with Deshaun Watsons Texans.
But who is heading into the 18th week of the season with the weight of the world on their shoulders and who will thrive in the pressure?
Titans @ Patriots
The Patriots made a costly error last week by failing to beat the lowly Dolphins.
It is the sort of situation that Brady and Co. have become infallible in, which may explain why the Dolphins went into the game as 14-point underdogs.
In a year where Tom Brady has been questioned more than ever, registering his lowest ever adjusted QBR score of 55.0 in comparison to Lamar Jacksons 81.7, the Week 17 result continues to heap pressure on the 42-year old to prove he is not done and dusted.
Bill Belichik will also face questions over Miami’s last-ditch winning drive against what was one of the best defences in the league.
The Titans enter the game feeling far less pressure on the table.
Heading into the season out of the playoff picture, with questions marks at the quarterback position and a second-year head coach, things have gone better than many envisaged.
They have also performed well over the odds given their mid-season QB switch and have been helped a long by the thumping downhill power of Derrick Henry in the back field.
PRESSURE IS ON: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Bills @ Texans
Its AFC East vs AFC North part two as Buffalo head southwards to visit a Texans team still giddy with the news that talismanic edge rusher J.J Watt has returned early from a pectoral injury.
The Texans who sealed up the division a week early, concluded their season with a loss to the division rivals, Titans.
Now the fourth season of six under Bill O’Brien where they have finished top of their division, the pressure will begin to fall on the head coach to deliver some deeper runs into the post-season.
For the Bills, very few coaching staffs can consider to have done more with less.
Sean McDermott has just one pro-bowler on his roster and a quarterback that still has an uncertain ceiling, managing to look more developed to incredibly raw from week to week under centre.
For this reason, there is little pressure on the Bills who probably expected a more mediocre season than this.
Any further playoff progression is just extra credit.
PRESSURE IS ON: HOUSTON TEXANS
Vikings @ Saints
These two franchises are pretty hard to separate when it comes to who’s under more pressure to win.
Both of them have quarterbacks in need of a deep playoff run but for very different reasons.
Drew Brees is a lock for the Hall of Fame but aged 40 and 10 years removed from his Superbowl, the window for a second Lombardi Trophy is gradually closing.
The quarterback of the Vikings, Kirk Cousins, is not fighting to seal his Hall of Fame status but instead just looking to set himself up another big contract once his time in Minnesota expires after next season.
Still attempting to prove himself as one of the leagues elite quarterbacks, Cousins needs some primetime, big-time playoff performances to stack a currently empty CV.
Both teams also have a fairly young core of talented players, giving them both a bigger Superbowl window than some of the other teams in the Wild Card.
Overall the pressure will lie on the Saints though as they try to forget and forgive their acrimonious playoff exits in 2017 and 2018.
PRESSURE IS ON: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
SEAHAWKS @ EAGLES
How good is Carson Wentz? That’s the real pressure here.
The 2016 second overall pick has played in spells of brilliance, including his MVP trajectory of 2017 before his injury kept him out of the Superbowl run.
The Eagles paid Wentz big in June of last year and are waiting to see some return on that investment in the form of a play-off run.
The North Dakota State alumnus has done a lot alongside an un-experienced receiving corps so far, but whether they can withstand the rigors of playoff football is a new question.
In Seattle, another impressive season for superstar QB Russell Wilson has meant that the Seahawks are in a playoff that many did not predict.
Considered to be a rebuilding year by lots of experienced pundits and commentators prior to Week 1, Pete Carroll’s teams should feel little pressure going into the Wild Card Weekend.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
on the JETS
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.
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.
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.
go back to D’oh-lton
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
season, it’s not stayed away from the front pages of the NFL news outlets.
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.
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.
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
December, that means Christmas is coming.
means it’s Derrick Henry time.
Derrick Henry has played after November 10, he has racked up a whopping 1493
yards, averaging 5.74yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns.
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.
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
“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.
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
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
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.
Massive game for those chasing the division titles in the
NFC and NFC North as the Dallas Cowboys host the Minnesota Vikings.
With Philadelphia on a bye, the Cowboys need to win to keep
their heads just in front of Philadelphia and it’s looking fairly likely that
the 2nd placed team in the East could miss out on the playoffs.
Minnesota at 6-3 still sit one game behind Green Bay over in
the North and whilst, this one is possibly less important for the #SKOL army,
they don’t want to run the risk of running in to the cowboys for the wildcard
and losing on the head to head tie breaker.
It may be a tight, cagey affair on Sunday Night Football,
and that’s just Kirk Cousins we are talking about. Whilst Kirk most recently
won vs the Redskins on Primetime television on TNF, it is more than well
documented that Cousins can have the tendency to be a rabbit in the floodlights
when push comes to shove.
Can Captain Kirk pull his socks up and lead his Minnesota team to a victory this week? His current record of 6-13 in primetime games suggests not.
Life after Cam
It’s going to be interesting watching how Kyle Allen performs down the stretch now that he is going to be starting from here on out.
Cam Newton has recently landed on Injured reserve, leaving
us to wonder whether Cam Newton will ever be seen in a Carolina jersey again
(look out for an article on that coming your way) but now you have to debate
whether the pressure is now more on Kyle Allen to perform as he is “the guy” or
whether there is less pressure on him as he no longer has to look over his
shoulder or live in Cam’s shadow.
Kyle Allen does have the pressure of getting the Panthers to
the playoffs though as they are right there in the thick of the wildcard race
and that adventure makes it’s next stop at Lambeau Field.
Lights, Kamara, Action!
Some of the NFL’s biggest superstars should be returning to
the field this week with Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes and New Orleans Saints running
back Alvin Kamara should be available to suit up for their respective teams.
It’s fair to say though that the rest of the roster and the
Head coaches has performed admirably in their absences over the past few weeks.
It says a lot about the adaptability of these teams to be
able to read off a different script and still pull out the level of
performances that they have. Unfortunately now for the rest of the league, two
of th most potent and high octane offences get arguably, their main cogs back.
Will Wilson win in the West?
MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson and the Seahawks travel to
Levi’s stadium to face the last undefeated remaining team in the 49ers.
A win for the Seahawks here and the NFC West is all to play
for. A win for the 49ers, and the NFC West is pretty much all wrapped up.
Russell Wilson is coming off a 5TD performance vs the Buccaneers last week so
confidence couldn’t be much higher, and Josh Gordon has just walked through the
However, he will need to be at the peak of his powers once again as he faces one of the best defences in the league away from home to stand any chance of picking up the win on Monday Night Football.
Nowhere for haters to Hyde any more
We are just over the half-way point of the season and the general trend for feeding a lead back seems to be on the rise from twelve months ago, or maybe there has simply been less injuries at the RB position.
Standing at number eight in the 2019 rushing charts is a back that has bounced around the league and is now on his fifth team. This season, based on current projections, Carlos Hyde will break all of his own personal rushing records, and easily have his first 1,000+ season.
Hyde had two monster runs at Wembley last week, even if the longest resulted in a fumble on the goal line. His opening carry was as important as it was a tone-setter for the Texans – a 9 yard dart. That drive ended with Houston taking a 3-0 lead. Hyde ended the game with 160 yards rushing and the respect of over 80,000 fans.
For someone who never settled in Cleveland or Jacksonville, and didn’t even make it to the regular season in KC, this is a genuine comeback player of the year candidate. No need to Hyde in the shadows any more Carlos.
We’re all going on a Chubb-Hunt
Two seasons ago Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing with 1,327 yards, outpacing Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as a rookie.
Fast forward to Week 10 2019 and Hunt finally makes his season debut for the Cleveland Browns. His last NFL action was over a season ago in the game of the season as the Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51. Hunt was cut by the Chiefs for lying, when questioned, about an incident of domestic abuse that was recorded and went on to be shared on TMZ.
Many people are still divided as to Hunt’s ability to pick up his career after a half-season suspension, and the majority of teams would have stayed away from signing him because of what they saw. It does seem that in the U.S.A. and especially the NFL that players in the main get a second chance despite committing acts that are completely unacceptable.
Hunt has been out a year and starting Browns tailback Nick Chubb is no slouch, but Cleveland do need to snap out of their nightmare stretch and Hunt could offer that spark in the red zone.
Steelers storming back?
With Big Ben Roethlisberger out for the season it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following an abysmal 0-3 start Steelers are on a three game win streak and beyond the Rams face the Browns twice, Bengals and Cardinals weeks 11 to 14. Mason Rudolph has been streaky but is hanging in there. The Steelers run game has been a bit under par and James Connor is ruled out of this weekend’s contest. Another big dose of Swiss army knife Jaylen Samuels is expected. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has been underwhelming 33-459 and 3 touchdowns and the #2 and #3 WRs Dionate Johnson and James Washington have been uninspiring.
Despite all this adversity the Steelers are on a three-game win streak and have only lost once, in an epic tussle against the Ravens, since the start of October. 1-4 to a genuinely possible 9-4 record will save Mike Tomlin his job and put the Steelers in an improbable playoff position. Enjoy Sunday’s game it will be a barnstormer.
Godwin and Evans epic season wasted
What a shame that easily the best wide receiver combination in the NFL at the half-way point, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, are on a 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team.
The Godwin/Evans combo has 104 catches, 1,608 yards and 13 touchdowns. Outside of this pairing any other WR combined have 14 catches for 145 yards and one score. Evans and Godwin have moved the chains 82 times between them to date and together are averaging 100 yards in the air each per game.
Under normal circumstances this pairing would equate to wins, but they are getting thrown the ball from an erratic Jameis Winston who goes from a 5 interception game (at Tottenham v Panthers) to a zero pick impressive display on the road at Seattle.
The Buccs offensive line is part of the problem, with Winston already on the receiving end of 30 sacks. It will be fun to watch this combo battle it out for the most impressive stat line. Who said both are going to the Pro-Bowl – I did right here!
Doggedly avoiding a cat-astrophe
In a sports league filled with bears, lions, Bengal tigers, jaguars, broncos, rams, panthers, and colts it took a four-legged friend to stroll across an NFL field last week to create a media furore akin to a niptastic Super Bowl reveal.
Some of the best social media and digital activity includes a mocked up Madden 21 cover featuring the black cat along with the Panini Huddle digital trading card app that issued a special cat card with a paw-print autograph. There has been previous animal hijinx on NFL fields before, a simple YouTube search will reveal squirrels and pigeons causing chaos in recent years.
Reality is that there are canines that make it into the seating areas of every NFL stadium every week, even when teams play in London, after all where would we be without a delightful half-time hot dog !!!!
Today’s Half-Term report focuses on the AFC and NFC South.
Which teams are heading south in terms of short term outlook and which teams will we be watching in January?
Let’s find out.
Indianapolis Colts 5-2
Houston Texans 5-3
Tennessee Titans 4-4
Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4
How has it gone so far?
Having your starting franchise quarterback retire on the eve of the season would knock many of a franchise for 6. Thankfully for the Colts, they had a very good back up plan in Jacoby Brissett. He has marshalled the troops to a 5-2 record and crucially a big win in the division against the Houston Texans. Another significant road win was earned at Arrowhead as the Colts took down the Chiefs. They are positioned nicely for any potential tie breaks that may come into play come the post season shake up.
Marlon Mack is on pace for over 1000 yards rushing as there has been a clear commitment to establish the running game. With that said, T.Y Hilton is also putting together a nice receiving campaign and has already found the endzone on 5 occasions.
Rest of Season Outlook:
With games against the Steelers and Dolphins next on the slate you would have to fancy the Colts reaching a 7-2 mark ahead of a vital 3 game divisional game stretch. They then face 3 foes from the NFC South before closing out the campaign away at Jacksonville which could be a hugely important contest.
Ranked as a top 10 defence, expect the Colts to continue to be involved in competitive games but get enough production offensively to come out on top more often than not, particularly if the ask is for Adam Vinateri to kick the game winning field goals, something he has done consistently better than anyone else ever has done.
Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5(Division Winners)
How has it gone so far?
What a fun team to watch! The Texans always seem to be involved in a game packed with points or lead changes. DeShaun Watson is a special player who Texans fans can look forward to seeing playing for many a year, especially if he is protected. Thankfully the team took steps to address the protection issue by trading for Laremy Tunsil. Yes, the price was high but the pay off has been instant as the sack numbers have come down over the past month.
Carlos Hyde has been a nice addition in the backfield and DeAndre Hopkins is on pace to reach over 1200 yards receiving. The biggest surprise has been the production from tight end Darren Fells who along with Watson himself paces the team with 5 touchdowns.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Similar to the Colts, the Texans have a big stretch of key divisional games coming down the tracks. In an ultra competitive division it’s obvious to say how crucial these games will be. One of those games is this weeks matchup with the Jags in Wembley as they make the plane journey across the pound for the first time. A marquee matchup with the Patriots is also looming on the horizon which could have bearings on AFC playoff seedings all around.
Expect more great value out of the Texans as we head towards the business end. The loss of JJ Watt is a massive blow and possible keeps them behind the Colts but still very likely to be playoff bound.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6(Wildcard spot)
How has it gone so far?
A huge opening day win had people talking about the Titans. 7 weeks on and rather unsurprisingly the Titans sit at a 500 record. A team so inconsistent they are impossible to get a read of.
The inconsistency has lead to a much overdue change at the quarterback position as former Dolphin, Ryan Tannehill has replaced the underwhelming Marcus Mariota. The Titans have responded with 2 wins in his 2 starts as he looks to stake his claim on the job for the long term.
AJ Brown has been a nice addition at the receiver position giving whomever plays quarterback a nice big target on the outside. Derrick Henry continues to churn out yardage and defensively Logan Ryan is having a nice campaign having forced 3 fumbles and compiled 3 interceptions so far on the year.
Rest of Season Outlook:
Almost impossible to predict what this team will do. One thing is for sure though, if nothing else, the next 8 weeks are a trial for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans only sit 1 game back on the divisional lead so they can not be written off by any stretch of the imagination but there can also be no amount of confidence placed in them either.
The only thing I can say with relative confidence is the Titans finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-8
How has it gone so far?
The Jags celebrated the off-season moves to address the quarterback position. Nick Foles threw a beautiful touchdown pass in his opening game but got injured on that play. It might be the best thing that could have happened to the Jags.
Enter Gardner Minshew.
The unfancied rookie has been phenomenal, throwing for just shy of 2000 yards with 13 touchdowns to just 2 picks.
Leonard Fournette has put together a nice season on the ground and the locker room looks a far more harmonious place following the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams. 29 sacks on the season also has the “Sacksonville” label ready to return.
Rest of Season Outlook:
The biggest question ahead of the Jags, is can Minshew hold onto the job when Nick Foles returns to fitness? The London game starts a sequence of 3 divisional games which as per all of these teams will be vital given the tight nature of the standings.
Outside of the remaining divisional games the schedule is favourable with the Bucs, Raiders, Chargers and Falcons on the slate a realistic playoff opportunity is in sight.
I feel they just miss out on a tie breaking scenario.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7
New Orleans Saints (7-1)
Carolina Panthers (4-3)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
Atlanta Falcons (1-7)
Midseason grade: A
How has it gone so far?
After franchise icon Drew Brees’ injury in week 2’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, most hoped backup QB Teddy Bridgewater could keep them in playoff contention until Brees returned. Bridgewater managed that and more, winning all 5 of his games during the future Hall of Famer’s absence.
With Ryan Ramczyk and the rest of the O-line performing at a high level, running lanes have been there for both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, with Saints averaging well over 4 yards per carry this year and only giving up 12 sacks on the year so far, while largely neutralising rushers of the calibre of Khalil Mack and JJ Watt.
The defence has also more than played their part with the 2nd ranked rush defence, Cameron Jordan playing to all-pro standard and Demario Davis leading the linebacker core.
Rest of season outlook:
This squad is set up for a deep run in the playoffs and will hope to bring a 2nd Lombardi trophy back to the Big Easy. A matchup with the unbeaten 49ers looms large on December 8th which could go a long way to deciding playoff positioning.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 13-3 (#1 Seed)
Midseason grade: B-
How has it gone so far?
Carolina’s season has been a confusing one to say the least, franchise QB Cam Newton continued to struggle in the early part of the season, continuing a worrying trend from the latter part of 2018.
When he succumbed to lingering issues after week 2’s loss to the Bucs most thought the Panthers hopes relied on him returning form injury in short order, however up stepped second year undrafted QB Kyle Allen, winning 4 four consecutive games to drag the Panthers to the edge of the NFC playoff race before week 8’s sobering blowout loss to the 49ers.
Rest of season outlook:
While the odds would appear to be against the Panthers making a playoff run, any team with the talents of all-pro LB Luke Kuechly and the electric Christian McCaffrey can’t be entirely ruled out. It will no doubt hinge on when (or maybe even “if” at this point) Cam Newton returns and how much ring rust there is to shake off.
Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7
Midseason grade: C-
How has it gone so far?
Tampa look like a franchise approaching a turning point. With QB Jameis Winston in a contract year and the same old issues of turnovers blighting the offence, it would appear there are poised to reset at the position after this year. However, there are other issues that need to be addressed before the Buccaneers can make a realistic run at the postseason. While Winston is certainly not without blame for his poor ball security and decision making, the offensive line is porous at best.
There are certainly pieces promising a better future, with Chris Godwin making his awaited step forward this year, to give a formidable 1-2 at receiver with Mike Evans. Shaq Barrett, Carl Nassib and Devin White have all impressed at times this season, but the secondary is a real weakness surely that must be addressed this offseason, with the 31st ranked pass defence this season.
A huge plus so far has been the top ranked run defence, shutting down the likes of Gurley, McCaffrey and Barkley. Certainly however, the Bucs have a lot of question marks going into the offseason, surely they must identify a QB to take the team forward but will HC Bruce Arians stick around to be a part of it?
Rest of season outlook:
Bruce Arians has a lot of deadwood potentially to clear out on the roster on the offence whilst the secondary always seems to be a quandry for the Buccaneers so i would expect the HC to use the rest of the season to assess players that he wants to use going forward and those that he wants to chuck out.
That includes 1 Mr Jameis Winston.
Midseason grade: E
How has it gone so far?
Arguably no team has been more disappointing than the 2019 Falcons, the defence has had a myriad of problems leaving HC Dan Quinn under huge pressure to salvage his job over the second half of the season.
While only 7 sacks in 8 games tells its own story of where things have gone wrong, things have hardly been much better at the other end of the field with the secondary giving up big plays on a regular basis. Keanu Neal’s season ending injury in week 3 meant one of the big leaders in the secondary was missing for almost the entire season for the second year running.
While the offence has got plenty yards from messrs Ryan, Freeman, Jones et al turnovers have plagued the offence, giving away 9 interceptions and 6 fumbles, ranking 28th in the league for turnovers allowed.
Rest of season outlook:
While spirited showings late in games seem to show the locker room is still working for Quinn, big questions hang over this franchise’s future direction. Don’t be surprised that if by the time you are reading this, he is out the exit door.
The season is already over to the dismay of the Falcons’ faithful and you have to wonder whether it’s time to blow most of this team up and try to start again because despite all the talent on both sides of the ball, something just isnt right here. Maybe all it’ll take is a coaching change…
Week 8 sees the 3rd of the London games take place between the Bengals and the Rams, the Bears, Chargers and Eagles fighting to save their seasons and lot’s of revenge on Thursday Night. Let’s get our binoculars out and look ahead to week 8!
DOUBLE REVENGE GAME ON THURSDAY NIGHT
The last time the Redskins and Vikings squared off in Week 10 of 2017, Kirk Cousins was Washington’s QB and Case Keenum was Minnesota’s.
The last time a starting QB faced each other for both teams in same match-up was Norm Snead and Sonny Jurgensen for Eagles and Redskins in 1963-64.
Add into the melting pot that Washington’s Adrian Peterson is a Minnesota Vikings legend.
He’ll look to somehow overcome a high and low ankle sprain to try and stick it to his former team but will have his work cut out to get anything against a Kirk Cousins led team that has found their groove in the last few weeks through the air.
Lot’s of revenge for Thursday Night Football which is apt for the time of year and it remains to be seen which players are in scary movies and which players escape unscathed. You have to feel the Kirk Cousins and the Vikings will be the killers, with Peterson and the Redskins the victims.
Sanu and Sanders slip away from the slop
What a difference a day makes for two veteran wide receivers Mohammed Sanu and Emmanuel Sanders. Both are swapping conferences, and far more importantly they are moving from cellar dwellers to a 30th floor VIP champagne bar.
For Sanu, who was a genuinely nice guy when he came to Birmingham recently as part of an NFL tour party, he moves from a septic Falcons team to the only undefeated AFC team the Patriots. For Sanders he escapes the Flacco floundering Broncos for the only team in the NFC that has not lost a game, the 49ers.
Sanu will look to be the recipient of the targets that were going to Josh Gordon, who sadly went onto I/R on Wednesday. Sanu has excellent hands and will be able to support Brady by running routes that would have been made by the likes of Rob Gronkowski in the past.
Sanders has been signed to immediately move into the number one spot, to improve a rather eclectic bunch of WRs, none of whom were anywhere near as good as their top catcher – TE George Kittle.
The Patriots wanted Sanu before the start of the season, so they will be happy the Falcons form has been that bad that Atlanta has started jettisoning players before the half-way point in the season.
Both the Patriots and the 49ers play in the second game window this weekend, so expect to see Sanu and Sanders in some RedZone highlights on Sunday.
Ty goes to the runner
If you are a Detroit Lions fan and you bought a replica shirt with second-year RB Kerryon Johnson’s surname on the back then you can arguably save a few quid after yet another high-profile injury claimed an NFL star.
Kerryon Johnson went down in the first half of his Week 7 contest against Minnesota and was yesterday put on I/R. Johnson was leading the Lions in rushing with over 300 on the ground. Next man up in the Motor City is rookie Ty Johnson who has shown some burst in his limited appearances so far this season.
Former Maryland Terrapin Ty had a stellar college career, racking up 4,196 all purpose yards, third highest in team history. Ty is a dual threat, as he impressed as a kick return specialist too, going to the house against Ohio State and Michigan. The Lions had high hopes for Kerryon Johnson before his injury, but apart from a 125 yard outing against Kansas City he has been underwhelming.
Ty was drafted in the sixth round by the Lions after a trade with the Falcons, with little expectation as a rookie. That has all changed now and Ty will be under the spotlight at home to the dreadful Giants defensive unit.
This is another situation to watch out for on Sunday if you tune into RedZone, as Ty makes his first start. Expect 70-80 yards rushing and 3-5 catches in a winning effort.
Is it now Gumbo and cheese instead of Texas BBQ and California Rolls?
At the start of the 2019 season the NFC ‘on-paper’ favourites looked to be the Rams and the Cowboys, just as Zeke signed his new contract.
Almost at the half-way point and one surprise package, the Green Bay Packers, are now heading the NFC power rankings with the New Orleans Saints just a smidge behind.
Teddy Bridgewater has performed admirably whilst future Hall of Fame enshrinee Drew Brees recovers from his injury, guiding New Orleans to five wins on the bounce and an overall 6-1 record. The age old adage of ‘offense wins games but defense wins championships’ has never rung truer than this season as the Packer and Saints would not both be 6-1 if their defense wasn’t performing at such a high level.
After being robbed of a potential trip to the Super Bowl thanks to a horrendous non-call the Saints have rallied around the injustice and come back fighting even harder. The Packers have got the ‘real’ Aaron Rodgers back, after a few seasons filled with injury and underperformance.
The 49ers may be the conference’s only undefeated team heading into Week 8 but anyone sensible knows the true class of the NFC at this point in time is the Saints and the Packers.
Both teams have very winnable games, the Saints play a rather hot Cardinals team, and the Packers travel to KC, to face Matt Moore and not Patrick Mahomes.
Bungling back to Wembley
The last time the Cincinnati Bengals travelled to London to play a regular season NFL contest they came away undefeated, but because they are the Bungles they didn’t come away with a win, they in fact tied a contest against the Washington Redskins.
The Bengals (0-7) travel over this week to face the Los Angeles Rams (4-3) in the third English game of the season.
Andy Dalton is looking frustrated, the Cincy running game is looking non-existant and their defense is looking raggedy with nine games left to play. You only have to look at their ‘star’ running back Joe Mixon’s stat line last week – 10 rushes for 2 yards and 2 catches for 1 yard (ok yes one did go for a touchdown). That’s 3 yards of offence in a game. Mixon’s stats have been historically awful – in four out of seven games his ground output has been 35 carries for 39 yards. That can’t be all his fault, this ineptitude has to be shared with the offensive line and the play calling.
The Rams are fresh of a monster win over the equally poor Falcons, and will take this game as another walkover. For Bengals fans this season of woes brings back memories of Akili Smith the Bengals biggest bust at QB ever. Head Coach Zac Taylor could be out the door at the end of the season if he can’t show some sort of backbone.
Maybe Wembley is time to unleash rookie passer Ryan Finley. If this does happen remember you read it here first.
Eagles got Bills to pay?
Interesting matchup this weekend up in Buffalo as the Eagles travel over to New Era Stadium.
The Bills are an impressive 5-1 after victory over the lowly Dolphins last week whilst the Eagles are in all sorts of trouble after being embarrassed by Dallas on primetime. Philadelphia can’t lick their wounds for too long considering this is the start of a fairly difficult schedule and if they aren’t careful, could slip in to the “No football in January” quicksand.
The Bills matchup pretty well on both sides of the ball, with Josh Allen and John Brown having that exposed Eagles Secondary and the Bills pass defence being one of the best in the league.
On paper, not the most eagerly anticipated matchup of the year, but there is actually quite a lot on the line.
brees-y does it
Drew Brees is practising this week and hoping to play in the week 8 clash at home to the Cardinals. I, for one hope that he sits this one out and uses this and the bye week to get back to 100%.
The future hall of famer obviously knows his time is up soon and wants to savour every possible second on the pitch, but it is surprisingly short sighted in my opinion from #9 if he want’s to continue playing in to next season. A thumb injury is hardly the most likely to end a career but even putting yourself in a position to reinjure a less than 100% body part is not something that should be recommended. His backup and potentially next Saints starting QB Teddy Bridgewater has done more than enough in his absence, leading them to 5 straight wins against some decent opponents. OK, maybe the defence can take more than the fair share of credit for that run, but why risk Brees against Arizona on Sunday? I’m sure Teddy B can take care of business once more and hand the reins back to Brees in Week 10.
Cleveland and Carolina try and take the 0
San Francisco and New England remain undefeated as we head into week 8 so undoubtedly everyone now looks at the teams trying to be the first to score a victory over those teams.
Out of the two teams this week, you have to feel that Carolina (+5.5 currently on the handicap) are the more likely to kill the streak as they travel to Levi’s Stadium to face the 49ers after a bye with the hapless Baker Mayfield and his Browns (+13) tackling the red hot Patriots in Foxborough.
Whilst both New England and San Francisco will start to see their schedule get that little bit tougher, the bullseye on their backs will also get that little bit bigger.
if at first you don’t succeed, trade, trade again
If you don’t know by now, the trade deadline shuts next week. Don’t worry, the USA doesn’t have an equivalent of Jim White in a yellow tie, but there’ll certainly be more deals going through on deadline day.
Look for veterans (AJ Green) or guys on rookie deals (Kenyan Drake) to keep the rumour-mill busy over the next few days as teams try and jostle around their rosters to help give them the best chance at not only January football and the Super Bowl but also more picks as those planning rebuilds can start to get a handle on the picks they have for the next NFL Draft. Like Free Agency, some may overpay, whilst some may get players at bargain basement prices. With Sanders, Sanu and Quandre Diggs already heading to their new teams, there’ll be plenty of movement to come before the trade deadline slams shut.
Dan Quinn bye bye?
We’ve mentioned it a few times already, but keep an eye out on how the Falcons get on this weekend. Once again embarrassed at home against the Rams, they face a Seahawks team smarting from a defeat at home against the Ravens. If the Falcons lose considerably once more in their own back yard, you can fully expect Arthur Blank to fire HC Dan Quinn during their bye week and look to rebuild.
It’s somewhat telling that they allowed Mohammed Sanu to go to New England for a 2nd round draft pick (which is pretty much a 3rd, let’s face it) and the other usual life saving technique of firing their co-ordinators already happened last offseason. So the are not many lives left at all for Dan Quinn and it’ll be interesting to see the fight the players show on the field this Sunday.
By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)
You could be excused for confusing the NFL redzone coverage on Sunday for an episode of casualty. Several times the electric cart was brought out onto an NFL field on Sunday as what was a day that several players saw their season come to an abrupt end.
2 of the more notable season ending ones were Colts 2nd year pass rusher Kemoko Turray, who broke his ankle in SNF. Tony Jefferson tore his ACL earlier in the day to leave a big hole in the Ravens secondary. Several players left games with varying injuries throughout the day but the scariest of the lot though without doubt was Mason Rudolph lying unconscious on the Heinz Field turf. It certainly wasn’t the worst hit you will ever see but a combination of Brandon Carr from behind and an Earl Thomas helmet to the chin had the young QB out cold.
Thankfully he regained consciousness and walked from the field which was lucky as the electric cart broke!
16 Weeks on the Road?
Talking of injuries, thats a nice link to arguably the most unlucky team in football the LA Chargers.
A team that seemingly gets a bigger slice of the injury pie than anyone else, actually welcomed back a player this week, as Melvin Gordon saw the field. He however was part of a predictable and conservative gameplan which was too much dink and not enough dunk. On a day that Austin Ekeler caught a career high 15 passes the Chargers couldn’t get anything going consistently offensively, as Vic Fangio tasted success for the first time in his short head coach career.
Its unsurprising that this brand of football isn’t attracting fans into watch the franchise as the move from San Diego continues to look like a mistake as the Broncos fans hugely outnumbered the fans of the supposed “home” team.
Texans Feast on Falcons
DeShaun Watson is good.
DeShaun Watson when not getting pressured is superb, and that was the case on Sunday as the Texans dropped a 50 burger on the Falcons. A career high 426 yards through the air was accompanied by 5 touchdown passes and a further 47 yards rushing. His main weapon on the day was Will Fuller who caught 14 balls for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Atlanta battled and had the deficit at a 1 possession game for much of the contest but the takeaway here isn’t so much how good Watson and co were offensively but just how bad this Atlanta defense is.
Tim wrote last week about Dan Quinn and his seat getting warmer, displays by the side of the ball he is supposed to be stronger in will do nothing to turn the temperature down a few degrees.
High, Wide and Not Handsome
Cairo Santos, dear oh dear oh dear. In a game that was the most obvious candidate ever to be decided by a small margin, it wasn’t a good night for the Titans kicker to suffer a disastrous tilt.
He left a total of 12 points off the board with field goal misses from 50, 36, 32 and 53 yards away. Missing kicks, especially from 50 plus yards is obviously not uncommon, but Santos was closer to threatening supporters sitting behind the posts as opposed to the kicking net as he kicks were way off throughout.
A strange decision by Mike Vrabel to even attempt the 53 yarder when down by 7 points and under 7 minutes left in what had proven to be the defensive slugfest that we had predicted.
Maybe he will find himself as a member of Jason Garret corner on this week’s podcast?
Ladies and gentlemen, Teddy Bridgewater can still throw!
For the first time in nearly 4 years the signal caller threw for over 200 yards as he powered the Saints to a dominant divisional win over the Bucs. 4 touchdown passes also found the box score as on the day Teddy remembered how to air it out, Michael Thomas remembered how to dominate on the outside. He was a perfect 9/9 when lined up against press coverage on a day when the Bucs star receiver Mike Evans was held catchless.
The post game interview with Teddy was a reminder of just how far he has come since suffering what many thought to be a career ending injury. He couldn’t tie his shoelaces and now he has steadied the Saints in Drew Brees absence, a remarkable turnaround.
All the hype about the shiny new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is 101% justified. The stadium is situated right on the Tottenham High Road opposite some local shops such as bookies and kebab outlets.
Fans took full advantage of the road being closed, throwing balls and gathering en-mass to play NFL jersey bingo. Any fans wanting to buy any merch can expect to queue up as the store has security arches. Inside the stadium the views are awesome wherever you are sitting, and the experience is full immersive. The three rings of digital information screens, along with jumbo screens in all four corners mean you will never miss a highlight, a replay or a challenge. The sound is quality and the lights are stunning.
Fans were treated to some pyrotechnics around the roof’s inner ring on Sunday which is something you simply have to be in the stadium to experience. If the NFL plan to lure an existing team to London it won’t be a hard sell on the stadium.
England captain and World-Cup golden boot winner Harry Kane was a guest of honour on Sunday and he looked like he had a whale of a time. If he does decide to one day transition to an NFL kicker, what’s the odds that he doesn’t even need to change his parking pass?
You’d be crackers not to like Jacobs
As the top drafted rookie running back on a team in transition with a new (returning) head coach you could excuse the output to less than impressive for the Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs. Thing is Jacobs is absorbing that pressure like a seasoned veteran.
Jacobs was voted the Tottenham game ‘man of the match’ winner even before he went airborne for the game winning score. Jacobs has been a number one back all season and is easily justifying his high pick position.
After five weeks he is 6th in the league in rushing with 430 yards and four scores. Jacobs picked up the hard yards in London both rushing and receiving, and arguably could have had three scores. Backup RB Deandre Washington was a TD vulture.
Jacobs would not be achieving such positive results without two key factors being delivered – his ability to pass block when called upon and the play of the Raiders offensive line. Khalil Mack flew home with a Union Jack fridge magnet, a six inch Beefeater and a jar of Marmite but had no sack to put them in.
Redskins change the locks
Jay Gruden, when asked by the media on Sunday, after the Washington Redskins fifth consecutive loss, about his job security he said that he would carry on if his key still worked.
That was enough for owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen to dial up a locksmith and get a shiny new Chubb installed at the gates of Fed-Ex Field (no Browns fans they did not trade for Nick).
This was the most obvious firing and was inevitable after Tom Brady, in second gear, helped himself to an easy victory against a Redskins team that atrocious to say the least. Gruden was unable to overcome major injuries to stars, failed to develop and true WR talent and had zero playoff wins in his tenure.
New ‘interim’ Head Coach Bill Callahan led the Raiders to s Super Bowl in 2001, and is a true advocate of a strong running game. Gruden seemingly banged nails in his own coffin when he deactivated future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in Week 1. Trent Williams the All-Pro T is the last remaining holdout, and the defence has been as porous as Sponge Bob Square Pants.
In fact Spongebob would probably be an upgrade in the secondary.
By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y), Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)
Get your binoculars out folks, it’s time to look ahead to week 3 in the NFL.
Up 2, No good?
2 weeks in and we only 9 teams are left chasing the perfect 16-0 season.
There are some familiar names there with the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Cowboys all sitting pretty, but heading into week 3 there are 5 other teams who have yet to taste defeat. Looking ahead to the week 3 slate of games I predict that the Ravens perfect start ends against the aforementioned Chiefs and despite the Saints QB worries I see them handling the Seahawks who have won their 2 games by just a combined 3 points so far. The 49ers, Packers and Bills however, open their matchups with great chances to all move to 3-0.
You would have had pretty good odds on these teams all being undefeated after 3 weeks and maybe it’s just a reminder that sometimes you have to look past stats because I’m not confident that any of those teams are particularly good.
The $84 Million Mistake
What is up with Kirk Cousins?
After a week 1 performance where he threw for less than 100 yards on just 10 pass attempts, he was nothing short of woeful in week 2. After throwing 2 interceptions and fumbling twice against the Packers the pressure is on for a bounceback performance against the Raiders. Cousins has even admitted himself that if he continues to play so poorly he will not stay the starting quarterback for much longer. That seems unlikely though considering he is guaranteed $60 million over this year and next as the only way out of that contract is to find a trading partner.
Just checking the market for an overpaid below average quarterback…….yea, not that hot.
The Vikings need to continue to pound the rock and wish away the next 15 months until they can stop overpaying at the QB position.
Primetime in Cleveland
The Browns took care of business on MNF but it’s safe to say that the level of competition increases quite dramatically for SNF.
If you want an indicator of how bad the Browns have been in recent times, Sunday will mark their 1st appearance on Sunday Night Football for 11 years. The home opener against Tennessee saw the hyped up Browns completely fall flat ahead of high expectations and although expectations for Sunday are somewhat tempered in comparison they will not want to put on a show in the national spotlight. It’s a tough assignment against an impressive Rams team however, and Aaron Donald will be licking his lips at the prospect of taking on the Cleveland offensive line.
It could be a rough night for Baker Mayfield and company for the 2nd time in 3 weeks or could it be the offseason hype begins to be released on the biggest of regular season stages?
Game of Jones
Here we go, first NFL start for Quaterback Daniel Jones, the
#6 overall pick out of Duke in the 2019 draft.
Much scrutiny over the offseason on the selection and now it’s
time to see whether or not the pick was justified.
Can the Jones be a competent enough QB at this early stage?
He performed well in his pre-season action; on 34 passes he
had416 yards at a 85.3% completion percentage, 2TDs and 0 INTs. That’s even
with the wide receivers at his disposal.
The boy has some wheels and is actually and under the radar
athlete, something which may help unlock a bit more production out of this
offence that is leaning so heavily on Saquon Barkley, their 2nd overall
pick in 2018. But we don’t need to talk about that.
This is probably the end of the road for Eli Manning, now
being benched for the second time after the Geno Smith debacle in 2018. The 2
time Super Bowl winner, with a current
starting W/L record of 116-116, will probably not see the field unless there is
an injury to Jones.
Saints or Sinners
Talking of QB changes, there will be one in New Orleans in
week 3. Of course, not by choice. Drew Brees right thumb got Donald’d and will
now miss the immediate future.
We mentioned in our takeaways about Teddy B’s offseason
decision bearing fruits, but now it’s time to put up or shut up for the 2014 32nd
overall QB out of Louisville.
Not an easy game to start with as the Saints travel to Century
Link field to face the 12 and then the Saints have a home game to face the red
hot Cowboys in Week 4.
Bridgewater needs to lean on Kamara and Thomas, as the
saints have done in recent times and try and get out of the stretch without Brees
at .500 in order to stay in contention.
Myles better than anyone else
The Cleveland Browns have been known to make some truly godawful first round draft picks, but this has changed over the past two seasons with some big names who are helping transform a franchise from a Sports Illustrated side note to a front cover pin-up.
Part of that turnaround is thanks to 2017 number one pick Myles Garrett, who to date has recorded 5 sacks in two 2019 games. If he keeps up this phenomenal pace he could reach a record-setting 25 sacks in a season. Garrett joined Redskins defender Ryan Kerrigan to pay tribute to the WWE legend Shaun ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Michaels with his post sack pose. Garrett may be a wrestling fan, but the XFL can only dream they will attract a defensive superstar that performs at 10% of the rate of Garrett.
NFL legend Lawrence Taylor was a participant in a WrestleMania back in day, and who would put it past the chiselled torso of Garrett one day stepping inside the ring.
Frank-ly I’m speechless
There is a scene in Rocky IV when late on in the fight a deflated Ivan Drago turns to his trainers and says: ‘He’s not human, He’s like a piece of iron.” Quite an apt description of Buffalo Bills running-back Frank Gore, who at 36 is still churning out fantasy relevant performances.
His 19 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown (his first since the end of 2017) in week 2 against the Giants proved that Gore will actually out-live cockroaches if there was a nuclear holocaust tomorrow. 14,836 yards rushing from someone who was drafted with a reputation for being fragile is remarkable.
Gore is going to be a solid fantasy waiver wire pickup, as he is on a team that likes to run the ball, and has teams dedicating time using a spy to cover Josh Allen. Gore can realistically top 75 yards against the Bengals in week 3. The single most awe-inspiring stat we have to ponder though is, that with 434 more yards, this season he will pass Barry Sanders, just stop to think about that.
Is overtime a crime?
When you are in an era where a current NFL head coach is nicknamed ‘Riverboat’ then you know that teams are taking more risks than they used to.
Week 2 saw two games take more twists and turns than Jeremy Wade trying to reel in an arapaima. Two games in particular saw both head coaches gamble (in one case due to a penalty) and go for two point conversions to take the lead in games:
One worked (Flacco to Sanders) and one didn’t (Fournette running in quicksand) but in both cases an extra-point would have tied the game.
We know that the extra-point is no longer automatic, but it appears there is a trend to try and kill games off early without going for a fifth quarter. With speculation rife that the NFL move to an 18 game regular season the chips-in attitude will get even greater. Overtime is a great spectacle and can bring some truly memorable plays.
The trend by coaches to try and end a game in regulation in week 2 may come back to bite them. In the case of Jaguars head-coach Doug Marrone it could be a decision that costs him his job.
What a lovely Spread!
There have only been 11 occasions in recent times where an NFL team is favoured by 20 or more points against the spread. Those teams are 2-9 in terms of covering. Beware if you are betting these games!
The Cowboys face the Dolphins at home, who were whooped by
New England by 43points in week 2 and are now even more talent poor after the
exit of their 2019 1st round pick, Minkah Fitzpatrick.
New England have another opportunity to whoop another
division rival after beating the Dolphins as the Jets come to town and are down to their 3rd
string signal caller.
Regardless, you should be able to get through your survivor and last man standing picks this week comfortably with both Dallas and New England.
So there you have it folks, week 3 is on the horizon and you are all filled in on the latest stories making the headlines. If you enjoy these articles or if there is something you think we can improve on, we’d love to hear it so let us know via DM @full10yards on Twitter or using the contact form on the website.