F10Y – NFC and AFC Championships 19-20 Look ahead

by Lawrence Vos (@NFLFANINENGLAND and @F10YRetro)

This will be the 22nd time that the conference championship will be a regular season rematch. The advantage has gone to the home team winning 13 of 21 rematches. The last team to gain revenge for a regular season loss by winning a conference championship was the the 2013 Seahawks who beat the 49ers – a game that featured a touchdown from Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch. 

Now I’m not going to be popular if you like to do the tomahawk or if you support a team with a red helmet, but I am going for a Titans v 49ers Super Bowl. Below I have provided some narrative on the two teams I think are going to make it to the 54th annual festival of football.

AFC Championship – Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Photo caption: Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com

H2H – Chiefs lead all time series 29-24. Both are 1-1 in Super Bowl playoffs, and one win for the Titans in 1962 in double overtime when they were known as the Dallas Texans. Titans have won last four matchups by a combined 22. 

Titans 2019 record to date – 11-7 

  • Could become the first team in NFL history to beat their same conference division winners in a single season having dispensed the Texans Week 17, then the Patriots and the Ravens. 
  • If we include the Houston Oilers records, along with the Titans then this is the franchises 6th conference championship game – three for the Oilers – one from being in the AFL in 1967, two consecutive between 1978 and 1979, both as Wild Card entries, and both ending in defeats to the eventual Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers. 
  • As the Titans they reached two AFC title games in 1999 and 2002, beating the Jags in 99 and losing to the Raiders in 02. This will be the Titans 3rd AFC Championship in their 21 year existence as the Tennessee Titans.
  • They have of course played in one Super Bowl – 34 suffering one of three of the most heartbreaking losses in the finals history as Mike Jones the St Louis Rams LB tackled WR Keyin Dyson at the one yard line as the Titans looked to tie up the game in the dying seconds. 

Last decade – In the past 10 seasons the Titans haven’t won their division, and including this season are 3-1 in the playoffs. 

Outside of this season the Titans only playoff win in the past 17 seasons was in 2017 against none other than the Kansas City Chiefs. 

So what are the top 5 strengths of the Titans

Photo caption: Cbsnews.com
  • The running game and namely the hottest running back in the NFL Derek Henry. Henry became the first back in NFL history to record three consecutive 180+ rushing games. something that Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and even Jim Brown never managed.
  • Ryan Tannehill’s efficiency. From the point he replaced the ineffective Marcus Mariota this season Tannehill ended the 17 game slate with the highest rating in the league. Tannehill is an accurate passer 62.5% lifetime and 70.3% this season.
  • Jurrell Casey – You gotta love this defensive tackle who has started 137 of 139 games for the Titans. the four time pro bowler has recored 5 or more sacks for the last 7 seasons, and registered his first two playoff QB takedowns against Lamar Jackson last week. Casey has been twice voted the Titans Walter Payton Man of the year and he coaches a women’s flag football team made up of Titans WAGs. 
  • Head coach Mike Vrabel (pictured above) – This might be Vrabel’s first post season as a head coach but he won three rings as a player for the new england patriots in just a four year stretch. He has to be the only NFL player to have caught 12 touchdown passes on 12 career catches. 

Titans weaknesses 

  • Their field goal kicking.The team is 8-18 on field goal attempts
  • Pass rush – No player has more than 9 sacks and 1st round rookie dl Jeffrey Simmons had only two regular season sacks. 
  • Playoff experience – This is Tannehill’s third career playoff game and his only post season in his career. 

Keys for a Titans win 

  • Goes without saying feeding Derek henry the ball often – 25-30 carries and the Titans can dominate time of possesion and keep Mahomes off the field
  • Special teams tackling – The spark the Chiefs had last week was caused by a big Mecole Hardman kick return. If Haardman or Tyreek hill can find creases it means longer drives needed. 
  • Get the ball to the biggest playmaker. AJ Brown electrified as a rookie WR in the regular season, but he has been used as a decoy for two consecutive games to get a safety or corner to stay away from the line of scrimmage. Now is the time to unleash AJ in all his glory. 

NFC Championship – Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Photo credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

H2H – Packers lead the series 36-31-1. They have met 7 times in the playoffs the 49ers winning 3. The last time the 49ers recorded a shutout against the Packers was in 1954. The teams did meet in the 1997 NFC Championship – the Brett Favre and Reggie White led Packers beating the Steve Young led 49ers 23-10 in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

49ers record to date – 14-3 

  • Back in the NFC Championship for the 16th time – with 6 wins and 10 losses. Made three consecutive NFC Championships 2011-2013 with Alex Smith and then Colin Kaepernick. They lost Super Bowl 47 in 2013 to the Ravens. Weird fact on this game the last scoring play was a safety by the 49ers – Ravens  punter Sam Koch running out the back of the endzone. The 49ers team then featured Frank Gore who ran for 110 yards on the day. 
  • The Niners are 5-1 in Super bowls, having won 4 with Joe Montana who didn’t throw an interception in any of the three games, Super Bowl 24 in fact remains the biggest blowout game when they beat the Broncos 55-10. 
  • In the past 10 seasons the 49ers have won their division three times and are 6-3 in the playoffs. The last time they won their division before this season they mad it to the Superbowl. 
  • 49ers are the surviving 1 seed and only home team to host two playoff games this season. 

Top 5 strengths of the 49ers

Photo credit: Kyle Terada – USA TODAY Sports
  • Adaptability to their surroundings – they had a better road record than home record – going 7-1 on their travels. Wins ranged from a 9-0 grinder in a quagmire in Washington to outlasting the Saints 48-46 in the game of the season in New Orleans. 
  • The surprise of the running game. the team finished 2nd in rushing yards per game behind a combo of Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and even jeff bison, just don’t ask jimmy Garoppolo to run – his 1.3 yards a carry is Dan Marino Esque. Don’t forget about Kyle Juzchck who is arguably the best FB in football
  • Grab a teabag and put the Kittle on. All Pro TE George Kittle led the team in targets, receptions, and was the only Niners to go over 1000 yards in the air. His 5 tds paced the team. Kittle’s catch against the Saints was easily a top10 highlight of the season. 
  • Pass rush – the 49ers registered 48 regular season sacks and followed up with six lashes of Kirk Cousins last week. The biggest name is rookie Nick Bosa, but the leading regular season sacker was Arik Armstead with 10 and two forced fumbles. in their regular season matchup the 49ers had 5 sacks of Aaron rodgers on his 33 attempts. 
  • The offensive line – Veteran LT Joe staley and mauling 2nd year right tackle Mike McGlinchey (pictured above) are not getting the headlines, neither made the first or second all pro rosters but they are solid bookends and RG Mike Person is one to look out for as a late bloomer. The team averaged 4.6 yards a carry in the regular season and paved the way for 47 rushes last week. 

Weaknesses 

  • Kicking game has become a bit of a risk. Robbie Gould who was injured for three weeks has missed 8 of his 31 attempts after foil 33 of 34 last season. Fortunately for the 49ers Gould has never missed a field goal in 8 post season games. 
  • Penalties by the defense – The team committed the 7th most penalties in the regular season and need to cut down on giving up cheap yardage. 
  • Wide receivers – Its a grab bag of talent with the 49ers ball catchers – no one is a dominant number one. Trade aqusition Emmanuel Sanders has registered 36 catches and 3 tds in red and gold – good but not great. This can be a 49ers advantage as Jimmy G will likely look for Deebo Samuel early and often but there is no guarantee he has a gig receiving game. 

Keys for a 49ers win 

  • Keep bringing the heat all game long. Joey Bosa looked as fresh in the final two minutes against the Vikes as he did in the opening 2. Aaron Rodgers is 36 and uses more of his smarts than he does his feet to move the ball. 
  • Run the ball and wear down the packers defensive line. It might be Mostert or even Breida that gets the lions share of carries whoever carries the ball they need to keep hold of the rock
  • Game planning – Kyle Shanahan lives every day with the numbers 28-3 etched in his mind after taking a 25 point lead in the Super Bowl as the Falcons offensive coordinator before being Bill and Tommed. Lesson learnt Shanahan will take no lead for granted and will want to showcase his play calling in front of a fired up home crowd. 

Enjoy the games tonight, for some this week is better than Super Bowl Sunday. We have a top seed, a bottom seed and two teams that are #2 in their conferences.

Photo credit: Albert Dickson/Sporting News

Sit back, grab your popcorn, and have a blast.

NFC West Breakdown

By Andy Moore – (AJMoore21)

Last Season

Los Angeles Rams – 13-3

Seattle Seahawks – 10-6

San Francisco 49ers – 4-12

Arizona Cardinals – 3-13

LA Rams:

Draft selections: Taylor Rapp (R3 P.61), Darrell Henderson (R3 P.70), David Long (R3 P.79) Bobby Evans (R3 P.97), Greg Gaines (R4 P.134), David Edwards (R5 P.169), Nick Scott (R7 P.243), Dakota Allen (R7 P.251)

Offseason key additions: Clay Matthews (Packers/FA), Dante Fowler (Re-signed), Eric Weddle (Ravens/FA)

Offseason key departures: Roger Saffold (Titans/FA), Lemarcus Joyner (Raiders/FA), Ndamukong Suh (Buccaneers/FA)

Super Bowl odds: 15/2

Analysis:

Last season ultimately ended in disappointment for the Rams, but no-one could deny that they fully deserved their place in the Super Bowl. Averaging 32.9 points a game, Sean McVay’s offense was exhilarating to watch, with Wade Philips assembling an equally impressive cast on the other side of the ball.

Expectations have only grown this time around, with both Mcvay and Jared Goff both determined to bounce back from a spluttering Super Bowl performance.

Key to that bounce back will be the continued proficiency of Todd Gurley. A lot has been written this off-season about the health of the former Georgia star’s knee, which is rumoured to be hampered by arthritis. A reduced pre-season schedule would appear to confirm something is amiss, as did the drafting of Darrell Henderson out of Memphis.

If Gurley can’t drive the offense, renewed emphasis will be placed on Goff and his receiver core. The healthy return of Cooper Kupp will be a boost, and in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks the Rams have two of the most versatile threats in the league. The key question will come when defensive co-ordinators start to learn lessons from Bill Belichik, putting pressure on McVay to guide Goff through defensive looks he might not have seen before.

Most of the Rams key personnel losses have come on defense, with Ndamukong Suh and Lemarcus Joyner the major departures. The addition of Clay Matthews and Eric Waddle will go some way to soothing that loss, and although both players are into the twilight of their career they’ll do nothing but add a ton of experience to an already mean unit.

Look out for:

The way Sean McVay updates his playbook in the wake of a Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots will be incredibly interesting to watch. Despite a scintillating season, McVay said of the 10-3 defeat ‘I didn’t give us the chance really to have offensive production, period.” A frank omission from the man who has been hailed as the premier creative mind in the league. Expect to see that mind generate new ideas that we’ve never seen before in 2019.

Seattle Seahawks

Draft selections: LJ Collier (R1 P.29), Marquise Blair (R2 P.47), DK Metcalf (R2 P.64), Cody Barton (R3 P.88), Gary Jennings (R4 P.120), Phil Haynes (R5 P.124), Ugochukwu Amadi (R4 P.132), Ben Burr-Kiven (R5 P.142), Travis Homer (R6 P.204), Demarcus Christmas (R6 P.209), John Ursua (R7 P.236)

Offseason key additions: Ziggy Ansah [Lions/FA], Mike Iupati [Cardinals/FA], Jason Myers [Jets/FA]

Offseason key departures: Earl Thomas [Ravens/FA], Frank Clark [Chiefs/trade], Doug Baldwin [Retired], Kam Chancellor [Retired]

Super Bowl odds: 28/1

Analysis:

The Seahawks continued their transition from their storied Legion of Boom era to a new look team this offseason.

Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin departed off the back of serious injuries, Earl Thomas got the move he has long desired and dominant defensive-end Frank Clark was dealt to the Chiefs. New, exciting faces came through the door, Ziggy Ansah, LJ Collier and DK Metcalf are all generating a buzz in the Pacific Northwest.

It couldn’t be clearer that Pete Carroll is fully invested in rebuilding around his two prized assets, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. Both players signed new deals in the off-season ($140m & $54m respectively), and both are at least top five players in their position in the NFL.

If they’re going to kick on from a promising 2018 season, new players are going to have to step up. Tyler Lockett is being crowned as the receiver who will take on the role of Wilson’s primary target, Shaquill Griffin needs to establish himself as a true lockdown corner and Rashaad Penny will be looking to push past Chris Carson and justify his first-round pick.

The new additions need to contribute as well, with Ziggy Ansah’s addition standing out as particularly intriguing. The Ghanaian has two seasons with 12+ sacks, but has been hampered by injury and inconsistency. Carroll and Defensive Co-ordinator Ken Norton clearly have a track record of developing defensive talent and if they can get Ansah fit and healthy he could be a steal on his $9m ‘prove it’ deal.

There’s still a few holes in the roster, namely at Tight End and Corner, where Nick Vannett and Griffin are the best of an average bunch, but with Wilson’s versatility and Wagner’s leadership, Seahawks fans will be expecting another playoff berth.

Look out for:

Rashaad Penny – there were flashes of quality in Penny’s rookie season, 108 yards against the Rams and a 20-yard touchdown run against the 49ers the main examples, but by and large it was a disappointing campaign. Where Penny struggled, Chris Carson stepped up with a 1000-yard season as the Seahawks looked to move to a ground and pound offensive style.

Renewed emphasis has been placed on his pass protection skills this offseason, and there appears to be a plan to go with whoever is hot to the touch on any given Sunday. This can only be beneficial for Penny who might find himself firmly behind Carson if he didn’t happen to be a first rounded.  Look for him put everything in when his chance comes and maybe, just maybe, grab the RB1 job.

San Francisco 49ers

Draft selections: Nick Bosa (R1 P.2), Deebo Samuel (R2 P.36), Jalen Hurd (R3 P.67), Mitch Wishnowsky (R4 P.110), Dre Greenlaw (R5 P.148), Kaden Smith (R6 P.176), Justin Skule (R6 P.183), Tim Harris (R6 P.198),

Offseason key additions: Dee Ford [Chiefs/Trade], Kwon Alexander [Buccs/FA], Tevin Coleman [Falcons/FA]

Offseason key departures: Pierre Garcon [Free Agent], Cassius Marsh [Seahawks/FA]

Super Bowl odds: 33/1

Analysis:

Kyle Shanahan is entering his third season as the Head Coach of the 49ers, and it’s fair to say the fanbase, and possibly the ownership, will want to see some improvement. Over the past two seasons the ‘Niners are 10-22 having seen injuries ravage their starters on both sides of the ball.

The Athletic reports that no team had more contract value on the injured reserve than San Fran in 2018, with key players such as Jimmy Garoppolo & Jerick McKinnon missing most or all of the season.

With those players back, and a stack of good business across the offseason, many are tipping Shanahan and go to turn things around and put together a winning season in the Bay Area.

There’s certainly merit to that argument, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander are high quality additions, with Bosa and Ford joining DeForest Buckner on what is a now a ridiculously talented defensive line. Talent will have to turn into production quickly if that 4-12 record is going to improve, the defence only managed six sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception all year.

Offensively, anticipation is slowly building with fans looking to see what Shanahan can do with three running backs who all have RB1 potential. Tevin Coleman joins Matt Breida and McKinnon in what seems like a fantasy football player’s nightmare, in reality it will give San Fran a punch they may have lacked in recent seasons. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd will look to compliment George Kittle as the Tight End seeks to repeat what was a monster 1377 yard season.

All that considered, perhaps the most crucial element of a successful 49ers season is the health of the franchise Quarterback. After signing a $137.5m deal in 2018, Garoppolo played in three games before tearing his ACL. There are some that have their doubts about his play, but Shanahan and the coaching staff have complete faith in the former Patriots backup and will be relying on them to carry them towards an improved record in 2019.

Look out for:

Dante Pettis – everyone is touting Pettis as a breakout star, Pete Schrager even detailing how San Francisco avoided making moves for Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown because they liked the tools possessed by their second year wide out.

Pettis’ route running is one of his most exciting traits, his burst off the line and deep ball threat only aiding that. With Samuel, Hurd and veteran Marquise Goodwin all drawing coverage with threats of their own, look for Pettis to establish himself as a dominant WR1.

Arizona Cardinals

Draft selections: Kyler Murray (R1 P.1), Byron Murphy (R2 P.33), Andy Isabella (R2 P.63), Zach Allen (R3 P.65), Hakeem Butler (R4 P.103), Deionte Thompson (R5 P.139), KeeSean Johnson (R6 P.174), Lamont Gaillard (R6 P.179), Joshua Miles (R7 P.248), Michael Dogbe (R7 P.249), Caleb Wilson (R7 P.254)

Offseason key additions: Terrell Suggs [Ravens/FA], JR Sweezy [Seahawks/FA], Jordan Hicks [Eagles/FA], Robert Alford [Falcons/FA]

Offseason key departures: Josh Rosen [Dolphins/Trade], Antoine Bethea [Giants/FA], Jermaine Gresham [Free Agent]

Super Bowl odds: 120/1

Analysis:

Not many teams hired a Head Coach that had a losing record in the NCAA last year. Not many teams traded their 2018 1st round QB to draft a new one in 2019. The Cardinals are not however, most teams.

Kliff Kingsbury arrives in Arizona riding the wave of the Sean McVay’s revolution. His offensive mind and Air Raid scheme promise high octane thrills for the Cardinals’ faithful. The question is, can he deliver it?

First overall pick, Kyler Murray, will be the make it or break it man, and you can’t help but feel if he makes it, he could herald a real long-term change in the NFL. The undersized QB has long been an anomaly in the NFL, but with Drew Brees and Baker Mayfield setting a precedent, Murray seems to have arrived on the scene a little differently. The hype has been constant all through the offseason, and somehow it seems the media have decided he’ll be a certain success.

Whilst that remains to be seen, the Cards have done a fair bit of business to improve his receiving options. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk have been joined by Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler in a revamped wide out group. The four-receiver set is the main stay of the Air Raid offense, and it’s fair to say all of the above players are going to need to produce a lot if the 3-13 record is going to improve.

On defence, talisman Patrick Peterson has been suspended for six games, but the addition of Robert Alford & Terrell Suggs gives the unit a couple of out and out playmakers. But it wasn’t the defence that was that bad last season.

With the NFL estimating Kingsbury’s men face the 12th hardest schedule in 2019, will the Cards be picking near the top of the draft again next Spring? Either way, there’s an awful lot of responsibility on a 5ft 10” QB out of Oklahoma, but that sounds familiar, right?

Look out for:

David Johnson – it seems obvious to spotlight one of Arizona’s best players, but, after a disappointing campaign last year, Johnson will hope to be back to his best.

The Air Raid offense, whilst focused on the passing game, should prevent opposition defences stacking the box, giving Johnson more freedom to search for those strong power runs and allowing him to be as dangerous as ever as the pass catching back he is. Look for nearly 2000 all-purpose yards if he can stay healthy.

2019 Season Prediction

LA Rams 13-3

Seattle Seahawks 8-8

San Francisco 49ers 7-9

Arizona Cardinals  5-11

Exit Interviews – NFC West

To finish off our exit interview series we head back out to the wild, wild West and talk some NFC football.

Inside we’ll be talking Superbowls to the first overall pick obviously lots in between in this division… Lee took over for this one so in keeping with his style there’s a little bit of a draft element to all the segments! Thanks to Shona, Tom, Jordan and Mia of coming on… All fantastic guests who made this a great show to record. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I did recording it.

Exit Interview – AFC East

We kick off our mammoth review of every team in the NFL with the help of all you lovely fans. We look at last season’s pivotal moments and the questions in the upcoming offseason.

We tackle the AFC East first up and to help we have:

@StevieTRay (Patriots),

@All32Lee (Dolphins),

@Spot_Bills (Bills)

@Roachy1985 (Jets)

*Just a caveat for the whole series, these were recorded over the last few weeks so one or 2 bits may be outdated, but I think we are good for the AFC East!*

Wednesday, the AFC South is under the spotlight!

Super Bowl Winners, Losers and Stories

Rob Grimwood of Across the Fantasy pond joins Tim and Lee to review the Super Bowl which has differing opinions.

We talk about all the big storylines coming out of the game including McVay, Goff, Gurley and where the Rams go from here? We give our appreciation to Edelman and the Patriots on how they cruised to a comfortable victory.

We give out the Playoff Predictor winner and the NFL Jumper competition winner after Charlie from the Ice the Kicker pod tackles the Full10Questions.

Super Bowl Surprises

A very special Super Bowl episode with a few surprises.
We have a very special guest who likes to “look at the numbers” and was an inspiration for this podcast.
We look at more numbers with Adam in our best bets section. We go head to head with the £100 before we round out with all of you lovely people and your Super Bowl Predictions.

Super Bowl Time!

Get your foam fingers out and shut off your alarm clock, it’s Super Bowl week!
Tim and Lee give you the low down to the big one in Atlanta.
How did New England and Los Angeles make it to the big one? And what will be the keys to the game? What makes Brady so great and can McVay wrestle the torch from Belichick where it’s the upstarter vs the master.
The Fantasy Fam from across the pond tackle our quiz, with a keen eye on a previous contestant’s score…Can they beat it? Can you beat it?
Don’t forget to submit your Super Bowl predictions to be on Friday’s show and enter our free competition to win an NFL jumper! Head over to our twitter @full10yards for all the info.

QB or not to QB…

Championship Weekend! Bittersweet feelings with only 3 games left in the 2018 season but Tim and Lee give you the low down on the Conference Championship games.

Which QB could be the downfall to one team’s chances? And what is the key to the Patriots causing an upset in Arrowhead?

Adam and Tim then go through their best bets for the weekend’s games and also…which Italian chain has the best restaurants?

We finish off with a quick conversation about Lee’s new Mock Draft 2.0 which was put up recently.