It’s an historic day in the NFL amidst all the uncertainty at the moment about the new league year and beyond with the looming hindrance of the Coronavirus outbreak with Free Agency/rookie pro days scheduled in jeopardy along with the potential postponement of the draft.
However in the past few hours and after months of negotiation, it has been confirmed that the NFL players have agreed to the terms of the new Collection Bargaining Agreement.
The deal was voted on by the players over the last 10 days and the final vote turned out in favour of passing the deal by 1019 votes to 959, as only a simple majority was required. This means just 51.5% of players voted in agreement of the change (something we know a great deal about here in the UK #brexit). More of concern though, is that only around 80% of the players voted. Reasons as to why the 20% or so didn’t remains to be seen.
Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL issued a statement, saying:
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football.”
So what does this mean for the NFL and you, the fan?
Well, fans of the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans look away now as it also means that there is no longer the facility to use both a franchise tag AND a transition tag meaning things could get quite interesting for Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Rumour has it that the league is considering delaying the start of the new league year in order to allow these teams to usher along negotiations with their respective parties.
It has been announced the salary cap for the upcoming season is $198.2m, a rise of just $10m. This is expected to shoot up over the next couple of years once the extra revenue streams and TV deals start leaking their money into the bloodstream of the NFL.
Looking a bit further into the future and the 2020 season, you will likely see a new playoff format come in to effect, with 7 teams now advancing to the playoffs from each conference and consequently, only the #1 seed from both the AFC and NFC will get a first round bye. Whilst unlikely, if all the dominoes fell the right way, this could actually see 1 division provide 4 playoff teams.
Fast forward to 2021, this is where the league could exercise it’s right to move to 17 regular season games (with the last pre-season game making way) , and thus trigger the upper echelon of player revenues to 48.5%, a 0.5% increase from season where 16 games are played.
Some other bits of cornerstones surrounding the new CBA which will take effect in 2020:
Changes to the league’s drugs testing and disciplinary process has tweaks including the allowance of Marijuana for the players for usage under self medicating. However, where no suspensions will come in to effect, there is a possibility that the fines replacing the suspension could essentially mean that a player misses a game cheque but still being allowed to play in a game. This is important for player bonuses on contracts and qualifiers on thresholds on extra contract bonuses for players.
Minimum salaries are now increased which filters through to practice squads, meaning those players at the bottom end of rosters have more money in their pockets sooner.
Expanded game day rosters moves from 46 to 48 (one of which must be an offensive lineman).
Players at the higher end of the play scale have publicily voiced their disapproval at the deal and you have to wonder whether or not there may be some repercussions from the big names of the NFL (I’m not suggesting a holdout, but you have to wonder if there are any loopholes that will allow the Russell Wilsons or JJ Watts to miss time without punishment.
The crux of the matter is though, that the NFL and it’s players have an agreement in place which will run through to 2030, which means good news for the majority including the millions of fans across the globe.
The fallout however, is only just beginning.
Who will Dallas and Tennessee franchise tag? How will Free Agency and the players entering it be affected? And will the leagues stars have a trick up their sleeve to show their dissatisfaction? How will the coronavirus affect the next few weeks and months and possibly the season? Make sure you keep those eyes peeled to find out and keep it here at Full10Yards.
Next up in our review series is the Tennessee Titans.
Before the season the Tennessee Titans were one of those teams that nobody really thought much about. They were “just a team” who were too good to be bottom of the pile in the AFC South, but behind the Texans and Colts. When Andrew Luck announced his retirement, hopes grew, but the prospect of DeShaun Watson on offence, JJ Watt on defence and strong teams in other divisions, making the playoffs via a wildcard look difficult.
The Coaching team lost OC Matt LaFleur to the Packers which led to Arthur Smith being promoted from the TE coach role. Otherwise, nothing changed. Mike Vrabel was HC, Jon Robinson GM and Dean Pees DC.
On Defence the team had 5 rookies in the final roster, but mostly the team was led by veterans Jurrell Casey, Kevin Byard and Logan Ryan with developing stars Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry and Jayon Brown all stepping up. Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Butler began their 2nd seasons at the Titans while Cameron Wake joined from Miami.
On Offence the team added AJ Brown in the 2nd round of the draft to pair with Corey Davis (taken in the 1st round last year). They also grabbed Adam Humphries from Tampa Bay and retained Delanie Walker for another year. Walker went down very early and so Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser shared to load. Ryan Tannehill joined from Miami so act as backup to Marcus Mariota (who started the season with a rather short leash). The Running back duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis were retained while the offensive line was improved by the addition of Roger Saffold from the Rams to join Jack Conklin, Taylor Lewan and co. Henry and Lewis were okay in 2018 but Henry only just scraped over 1000 rushing yards and his utilisation stopped him from reaching his full potential. A lot of experts doubted he’d be able to become elite but as the season unfolded, he exploded.
The Regular Season
Cast your minds back to the conclusion of week 6. The Titans had just been shutout 16-0 by the Denver Broncos to drop to 2-4. The Bills, Jags and Colts had each got the better of them and wins away against the Browns and the Falcons were the only high points. Marcus Mariota was struggling and the team as a whole only scored more than 20 points in 2 games (those in which they won) and had 3 games scoring 7 points for fewer.
During and after the loss in Denver the Titans switched QB and put Ryan Tannehill under centre and that decision was key in turning around their season. They went on to in 6 of their next 7 games to move to 8-5 and in a fight with the Texans for the AFC South. In 10 starts and 2 relief games, Tannehill would complete 201 passes for 2,742yds and 22TCs with only 6INTs. A 117.5 passer rating and completion percentage over 70% was a revelation for the Titans while he was also able to rush 43 times for 185 yards and 4TDs. This support and change in playing style caught teams off guard and gave Derrick Henry the room and licence to run.
Tannehill made the team a passing threat and brought relevance to the likes of 2nd round pick AJ Brown, 2018 1st rounder Corey Davis and the Delanie Walker replacements at TE in Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser. Brown grew throughout his rookie season and became a serious big play threat. Even more so when Henry got into his stride. Brown managed to break the 1000yd reception plateau with 1,052 on 52 receptions, with many of them being more than 20yards. 8 TDs made him an invaluable asset and he was ably backed up by Davis and Humphries.
Dion Lewis was largely ineffective all year. With enough good passing options Lewis was left as more of a backup and a decoy while Derrick Henry ran the show. Henry never had more than 3 targets, so all his work was done on the ground, but after 9 weeks he had only had one game with over 100 rushing yards. Fantasy owners weren’t feeling to need to trade for him and even though the team was improving, nobody could foresee what was coming. In week 10 at home to Kansas City, Henry had 188 rushing yards on 23 attempts and his first multiple TD game of the season. Up to that point he’d had 644 yards and 6TDs in 9 games. This game was the turning point as the 35-32 win (mostly on Henrys back) was the start of a 4 game win streak in which Henry would amass 641 scrimmage yards and 7TDs and each of the 4 games would see him rush for over 100 yards. It was an incredible run which made them the form team going into their crunch divisional game against the Texans.
The week 15 head to head was critical as it effectively decided whether then Texans would win the division or whether the Titans would overhaul them. With the Steelers currently in the wildcard spot, whoever lost would be in a scrap to make the post-season. The Texans were off form, totally the opposite to the Titans but DeShaun Watson and co secured a 24-21 win. the Titans were left scrapping with the Steelers for the final wildcard and a loss to the Saints (with Derrick Henry missing from the line-up) the following week proved not to be critical as the Steelers loss to the Jets gave Tennessee the jump on them based on strength of opponent. The Titans then had a simple “Win and in” game against the already playoff bound Texans. An easy 35-14 win against a below strength Houston sealed the deal. A 9-7 record and with the 2nd wildcard spot they’d go in as the 6th seeds in the AFC.
If seeing the Patriots lose the Dolphins and fall into the Wildcard round (much to the benefit of the Chiefs) wasn’t surprising enough, then what happened at Gillette Stadium certainly was. Very few analysts gave the Titans a chance. They squeaked in on the last day as the final wildcard, have Ryan Tannehill as their QB and weren’t a top 5 defence. Meanwhile the Patriots have Brady and Edelman, a top 3 defence and Belichick in control.
In the regular season Derrick Henry totalled 1,505 rushing yards on 303 attempts and a (tied) league leading 16TDs. In the post season, he looked unstoppable. He had 34 attempts for 182 yards and a TD against the Patriots, while the defence stifled an increasingly annoyed Patriots offence. Ryan Tannehill only completed 8 passed (from 15 attempts) for 72 yards and a TD but that was all he needed. Anthony Firkser caught the 12 yard pass in the first quarter before Henry took in in from the 1 yard line just before half time to see the Titans into a 14-13 lead. A stalemate second half was finally broken when Logan Ryan picked off Brady with 9 seconds left and took it to the house to cue wild celebrations nationwide.
The upset against the Patriots was incredible and many anti-Patriot fans were quick to get behind them, but very few people would have said they had a chance against the top seed Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson. Once again, the Titans proved the world wrong. Derrick Henry again would star with 30 rushes for 195 yards at 6.5yrds per carry. He did get a TD, but it was neither rushing, nor receiving. A 3 yard loop ball to Corey Davis on a trick play was probably the moment where the game was won. The defence held, what some argue was the most potent offence in the NFL, to just 12 points while on offence Ryan Tannehill got them over the line without really doing much.
Tannehill only completed 7 passes, but 2 of those were touchdowns. First to Jonnu Smith to set the tone early and then followed up by Kalif Raymond as they took a 14-0 lead. 2 Field goals for the Ravens brought them back into it but the trick play from Derrick Henry to Corey Davis took the wind out of the Ravens. Only minutes later Tannehill was rushing the ball in himself and at 28-6 with less than 20 minutes to go, it was over. The Ravens would get one back through Hayden Hurst, but it was too little too late.
The AFC Championship game against the Chiefs wasn’t the matchup expected on most people’s brackets, but with the Titans on form and Patrick Mahomes being Patrick Mahomes, it was going to be fun to watch. A heavy run offence vs a heavy pass offence and in the end, despite the Titans taking 10-0 and 17-7 leads, the Chiefs did what they have done so often, and scored a succession of TD’s to swing the balance in their favour. A Greg Joseph field goal and a Derrick Henry 4 yard TD run gave the Titans a perfect start to the game. The response from Mahomes to Hill kept it tight but the 10 point lead was restored when lineman Dennis Kelly caught a pass from Tannehill when labelled as an eligible receiver. Another trick that worked a treat.
After that, it became the Patrick Mahomes show. 4 TD’s in 12 game minutes including a short pass to Hill, a dazzling run, a rush from Damien Williams and a 60 yarder to Sammy Watkins finished off the Titans. At 35-17 with 7:33 left on the clock it was a mountain to climb. Tannehill did get another TD to Firkser but with the team behind, he was being forced to throw more. He had 209 yards and 2 TDs with no INTs but with Derrick Henry limited to under 70 rushing yards the Chiefs got the job done and would go on to the Superbowl.
At no point in the season did anyone truly think the Titans would be in the AFC Championship game. They just kept surprising people and after years of not realising his potential, Derrick Henry has finally shown how elite he can be. No shadow from Demarco Murray, no split responsibilities with Dion Lewis and a QB that is capable of running and providing an alternative which keeps the opponents guessing.
It’s hard to say what they need to concentrate on in the off season since the only thing that stopped them was the brilliance of Patrick Mahomes. They had a good young secondary who are learning fast, a pass rush which maybe could use a fresher set of legs (but are still playing to a high level) and some good special teams’ players. On offence, if Henry stays healthy and the likes of Davis and Brown keep developing and the Smith/Firkser combo can evolve into the long term replacements for Delanie Walker then it’s hard to suggest what else they can do. The O-Line is great, and Ryan Tannehill has been a revelation. The big decision is whether the Titans see him as their future. Tannehill is a UFA this off season and it will depend on contracts and cap space whether he returns. I’d be very keen to keep him on as low level deal as he is willing to take if I was the GM. The foundations of something great are there. I’d like to see Tannehill to AJ Brown for another year.
After the loss to the Chiefs Dean Pees announced his retirement (again) and so the team will need a new defensive co-ordinator next season. Their defence was a big reason why Derrick henry was able to be so dominant. There is still room for improvement as they gave up 20+ points on 8 occasions in the regular season and they need to figure out a way of stopping Mahomes, but the signs are positive and maybe a the new DC can tip them over than edge.
It will be interesting to see how they cope next season with the new weight of expectation and teams targeting Henry and Brown, but if you are a Titans fan then this has been a season to remember and you have some exciting times ahead. #TitanUp
Derrick Henry, or King Henry as most now know him, is an animal on the field with the ability to physically dominate anybody that goes within touching distance of a football field.
You can stack the box, employ the National Guard, or even put extra-men on the field and ill bet you any money or commodities that he still falls forwards for a seven-yard gain.
Sure, Christian McCaffery will get you 1000 touches a game, and Aaron Jones can get you four touchdowns in Jerry World, but Derrick Henry is the true definition of power back.
His build is totally unique at the position; 6 foot 3 inches, 250 pounds and absolutely rapid in the open field, it’s literally no wonder that defensive backs barely slow him down.
To try and describe it, take the biggest wardrobe you have, have it placed at the top of a steep hill and then wait for it at the bottom with a hard hat on.
That’s what it is like trying to stop King Henry when he’s at top speed, so give Earl Thomas some slack for turning around rather than face a tackle.
Point is, that the running back in Tennessee should be the highest paid in the league for at least four years.
“But Henry isn’t nearly as good in the passing game like Christian McCaffery?”
The biggest knock on King Henry and his crown as the best running back, is his inability/lack of experience in catching the ball out of the back field as a dual threat.
And to a degree, that’s a relevant point, teams are far less likely to stack the box against someone like Christian McCaffery knowing the damage he can do on a screen play.
Despite Henry’s improvement this year with 200+ receiving yards for the first time, including a 75-yard touchdown, it doesn’t take much to see that Henry is not as much of a threat when the ball is pulled out of his belly.
However, if you put your Bill Belichick hat on for a second, you can quickly see that this lack of action in the passing game is in fact potentially protecting him from Todd Gurley syndrome.
The LA Rams have lost a large chunk of their investment in Gurley as his body has failed to fully live up to the rigours of his second, big contract.
Over the first four years of his career, Henry had a total of 861 touches of the ball during regular season football in Tennessee, in comparison, Todd Gurley racked up nearly 1233 total touches over that same spell.
That lack of touches in his early career wasn’t intended as an attempt to conserve his body, but by chance, and with the touches unlikely to go much higher than this year, Henry might be the back most likely to give you the most of a big, long-term contract.
“But surely Saquon Barkley deserves a bigger contract when it becomes time?”
I’m not so sure about this either.
I absolutely love Barkley, he’s an unbelievable athletic freak, a homerun hitter and all-round generational talent.
But not only does he have some of the risk of too many touches leading to injury like I described earlier (he missed three games through injury this season) but he is also in a up and down franchise.
Henry plays for the Titans who have been well coached, well run and unbelievably consistent with their performance since he arrived.
He has a top-10 O-line, a head-coach who is persistent with the run game and is going to be there for a long time, and a cast of players on the outside who demand coverage and attention.
Saquon Barkley has none of that, and the chaos around the organisation has meant that his rookie season, and any strong performance last year has come from his own herculean efforts.
It’s not his fault – but in his situation, with so miles already on the milometer, Henry still seems a better shout.
“But surely teams will eventually catch onto him game-in and game-out?”
This is the big one.
Can Henry still dominate when teams know exactly what is going to happen next season?
And the answer is yes. 100% yes. Don’t bother asking again, yes.
Ryan Tannehill has been effective in the play-offs but overall pretty ineffective, and yet against the incredible defences of both Bill Belichick and Jon Harbaugh, with the ball only going to one person, Henry still recorded at least 180 yards rushing.
Everyone knew that Henry was getting the ball and yet time and time again he found himself into the second level of the defence.
This is what gives him the edge over LeVeon Bell or Ezekiel Elliot, his ability with his direct style to run through you even with the right call and scheme.
Set up how you like.
Put your biggest linebacker in the A-gap or build a concrete wall between the centre and the guard, it doesn’t matter what you do, this Titans Train is rolling with Henry at the wheel and it isn’t stopping for anybody.
Crunch time! This week we are treated to the NFL being spread out over the weekend with 3 games on Saturday with huge implications as the Rams travel to the 49ers and the Bills try to upset the applecart in New England.
On Sunday, the SkySports offering serves up some fantastic matchups where New Orleans continue to chase for a 1st round bye against a Titans team effectively already in the playoffs. Plus, it’s the battle for the NFC East as Dallas travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles in a winner takes all matchup.
Winners progress, losers go home. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to week 16 in the NFL.
BATTLE FOR THE EAST
Fierce rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia get it on to essentially decide the winner of the #4 seed for the NFC playoffs. Both teams have underwhelmed this year for a variety of reasons, but it all comes down to this 60 minute game of football.
A win for the Cowboys, they are confirmed champions. A win for the Eagles and assuming a week 17 win against the Giants, they are in too. The Cowboys are the healthier, more potent team this season as judged by their week 7 hammering at At&T stadium. They will also be buoyed by their dominant performance last week at home to the Rams but form goes out of the window in these types of games.
Do Dallas and Jason Garrett have the cajones when it’s all on the line? Usually not, but can they still get the job done against an Eagles team that have been on the ropes more than the Sunday washing.
The coaching and talent on the Eagles are a testament to even be in with a live shout of still winning the division, but it’s also an indictment on how poor the division has been. Still, someone must win it and become the #4 seed for the playoffs, who’s stepping up?
Buffalo-ad of this!
Buffalo travel to Foxboro’ this weekend in another pivotal divisional clashe.
A win for the Bills sees a very interesting week 17 indeed. If Buffalo win out, they will take the #1 seed regardless due to conference record tie breaker and that is one hell of a carrot dangled in front of Josh Allen and Sean McDermott. They will be in bullish (or Billish perhaps?) mood after their win away at Heinz field on SNF and it’s now a question of whether they can step up to the plate once more.
Their week 4 meeting saw the Bills blow their chances a little, Josh Allen left with a head injury and still had a few drives to go and beat them late in the 4th quarter. They’ll certainly have to execute better than they did back in September but I feel this Bills team has come quite far since that game. The Bills match up quite well against New England and we don’t need to go over the offensive struggles that Brady and Co. have experienced this season.
A win for the Patriots will secure the #2 seed too and how many times have we seen before that New England just get the job done? New England have won the last 6 between the sides and you have to go back to 2014 when Buffalo last beat a Tom Brady led Patriots (though he did exit with an injury in that one!).
NFC 1st round bye shuffle
The #1 and #2 seeds have shuffled around between Seattle/San Francisco/New Orleans and Green Bay over the past couple of weeks and the jostling will continue this weekend. The current #1 seeds have a straightforward task against the Cardinals, whilst the 49ers will have to be on their toes against the Rams. New Orleans face a tough trip to Nashville and Green Bay travel to Minnesota in a key NFC North matchup.
If results go their way, the Seahawks could potential have their hands firmly placed on the #1 seed if results go their way which will be huge for Russell Wilson and the members of the 12 to ensure they can create a hostile environment in the playoffs and seal that homefield advantage.
HitchViking a ride into the playoffs
The Vikings with a win in either of their last 2 games secure a playoff berth. Problem is they have to face old foes and divisional rivals in the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. They are at home which will help as they enjoy one of the bigger advantages with homefield.
In the 2 away games against those teams however, they only managed to must 22 points collectively and that is just not going to get the job done. This is what Kirk Cousins was brought in for, paid all that guaranteed money for; games like this.
Without Dalvin Cook who is nursing an injury and resting before helping them in the playoffs or rookie Alexander Mattison who is also struggling to be fit for the game, Kirk Cousins is going to have to step up and lead this team to victory.
A win, an the monkey starts to climb off of his back. A loss, and there is huge pressure on him in week 17 against the Bears.
battle for a top 3 pick
With Cincinnati taking on the Dolphins and the Redskins facing the Giants, the current top 4 picks in the 2020 draft face off on Sunday. It is always interesting to see how the teams down “that end” play and how much they really put in to the game.
Whilst the Bengals can win without affecting their position at #1 overall, the other 3 teams could see themselves cause detrimental ramifications should they win a game. These games will be nothing more than a “look at the result after the game” types of affairs, but for the fans of the respective teams, i guess it’s nice that the fans will still be biting their nails during the game, even if it’s for different reasons.
Three Griers for Will!
Carolina turn to their third QB of the season as 2019 3rd round pick Will Grier enters the fray. Kyle Allen seemingly not the answer for the Panthers front office and David Tepper, Grier has 2 games to show what he can do.
He faces a Colts team that is there for the taking and a New Orleans Saints team which should have something to play for. Quite a contrast in matches will mean ample sample sizes for the team’s scouts and evaluators to see whether he could be the answer and not theoft injured Cam Newton.
Whilst we wont know until late in the offseason who will be the starter, Will Grier has the chance to make a lasting impression and put down a marker for next training camp. At the very least, he can stop the Panthers from drafting a QB or signing one in Free Agency….
the afc #6 a steel?
It seems to be a straight shootout now between Pittsburgh and Tennessee for the #6 seed in the AFC. The Steelers have the easier schedule with the Jets and Ravens to come, the Titans have the better QB but face New Orleans and Houston. Both defences are pretty stout, perhaps the edge going to Pittsburgh but the Titans have the better running game and the healthier team. Pittsburgh have the tie breaker on Tennessee so effectively just need to beat the Jets to punch their ticket to Arrowhead.
Whichever team makes it will be a heavy underdog going in to what is likely to be Kansas City. Considering both teams’ journies this season, I think they will take just the chance to cause an upset in January (the Titans have previous vs the Chiefs!).
you’re quinn denial, dan
Dan Quinn was a hot favourite to be handed his P45 on black monday, but after the handful of decent performances by Matt Ryan and the Falcons including their most recent victory as time expired against the 49ers, it’s now a bit more up in the air.
The Falcons are 5-9, which is still a bitter disappointment comparing it with pre-season expectations, but they’ve won 4 of their last 6 including 3 divisional wins on top of the 49ers victory. divisional wins have slightly more weight put on them due to their importance so if the Falcons are able to beat the 5-9 Jaguars and the depleted 5-9 Buccaneers, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Dan Quinn comes back next year.
He’ll definitely be getting “Blank” stares until the season and he walks in for his performance review…
is drew a lock for denver qb?
Drew Lock has performed well in his first 3 starts as Denver Broncos QB; A divisional win against the Chargers to go with a road victory against a playoff team. His last start against the Chiefs can be written off due to the weather and uncomfortable surroudings but all in all, the 2nd round pick from this year’s draft has probably outperformed his expectations when coming in, he was quite a raw prospect.
John Elway has never been the most convincing with his selections in the draft so far, especially at QB, but Drew Lock is looking like he fits over in Mile High. Whilst his completion % is low and his interceptions were not pretty, both lending to his gunslinger mentality, there are certainly some tools there for Lock to fine tune over the offseason and potentially be the answer at QB over in Denver.
With the weapons at his disposal sure to be added to during the offseason to compliment the running game, Drew Lock and the Broncos may not be in that bad of a position to challenge for January football come 2020.
A big tell will come against the Detroit Lions, as we will see how he responds to that rough game against Kansas and the criticisms he would have endured this week.
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…
Part 2 – My Weekend with The Chargers – Sunday, Gameday – By Lee Wakefield
Welcome back to the second part of my weekend with the Chargers.
At this point it’s Sunday, it’s gameday, it’s a few mere hours until Chargers football. The only issue is that I’m back on the train up to London, for the second time in two days. At this point, as a commuter at the mercy of Themeslink or Southern, another train journey wasn’t exactly my idea of fun at the time.
However, I was buoyed by the previous day and also, of course, the day ahead. It was a sunny but crisp October morning and the Chargers were gathering some momentum – After a 2-2 start, the Bolts had won their last three games – And to top it all off, they were going to be wearing the greatest uniform in sports, the powder blues.
Speaking of uniforms, as a person who holds uniform aesthetics in high regard, it’s probably no surprise that I played everyones’ favorite game when going to a Wembley game – Where you have to spot all 32 team jerseys before the game.
I’m pleased to report that I was successful in doing so and even more pleased to report that I even saw the odd college football jersey.
Anyway, I’m getting slightly off topic… Back to Wembley and by now, I’d arrived (ridiculously early).
What can I say, I was eager to get there, to soak up the atmosphere and take in all that I could in what was my first, live, NFL experience.
First things first, let’s see where I’m going to be watching the game from. I do this all the time, when I’m going to watch live sport – I like to go into the stadium or arena and find my seat before I inevitably head to the bar and get a pre-match pint to settle the nerves.
In terms of seat, I don’t think I could have wished for a better seat.
The Atmosphere was good. I know the Wembley games get a little bit of a bad rap for maybe not having the most partisan crowd but I felt like the crowd was quite pro-Chargers, on the day at least.
[Insert tired joke relating to fans and the Chargers etc].
The game itself was good. Plenty of big plays from the Bolts and the Titans played their part too.
Now I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow replay but I will talk about a couple of moments that will stay with me for a long while.
Firstly, my moment of the game and the moment that literally got me jumping out of my seat; the interception by Denzel Perryman late in the first half. This was a huge moment in the game, it felt like it and it was just such an exciting moment to see live. I distinctly remember shouting, “PIIIIICCCKK!” when the ball was tipped in the air, just before Perryman gobbled it up.
A great moment just before half time that meant that L.A. went into the break with a 10-6 lead.
The other moment I want to relive is actually the final moments of the game.
It was 20-13 and the Titans drove down the field and scored a touchdown with literally seconds remaining. 20-19.
Now, at this point, I’d been dying for a pee for most of the second half…Those pre-match pints (and during match pints) had come back to haunt me.
Anyway, as soon as Tennessee scored I jumped up from my seat; I thought I’d fly to the loo and get sorted before overtime started.
I ran off and was relieving myself and I heard a cheer, “ahh well, that’s the extra point going over”, I (stupidly) though, next thing, I overheard someone talking about Tennessee going to two…
I finished by business and I actually just found the nearest TV on the concourse to finish off watching the game. The cheer I’d actually heard was the crowds’ reaction to the Titans first attempt!
Oh my god, they’ve gone for it!
Well, thank god for Adrian Phillips. Phillips made the play, with 31 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory for the Chargers and send me home very happy indeed.
The Music City Miracle – By Adam Foxcroft (@ADFoxcroft)
“There are no flags on the field. It’s a miracle. Tennessee has pulled a miracle!!”
I’ve been a fan of the Tennessee Titans since before they were even a Tennessee based football team, and my fandom goes back to the days of the Houston Oilers and Warren Moon.
However, what was one of the most exciting teams in the NFL became a source of farce and controversy as Bud Adams decided to move the team to Nashville (via Memphis for a couple of strange years while the stadium was being built). But in 1999, the Houston and then Tennessee Oilers became the Titans (and in the new Adephia Coliseum), Jeff Fisher’s team really started to make strides;
Steve McNair, Eddie George and others on Offense were more than capable of taking advantage of the short fields that the Defense were giving them to work with, and the team soared into the playoffs with a 13-3 record. The reward was a tough looking home game against Buffalo, which would go down to the wire.
The game, in truth, was dominated by defence. With the Bills kicking a Field Goal to seemingly win it 16-15 with 16 seconds left, it looked over. Now, Steve McNair may have had a Hail Mary in him. Or perhaps we were going to see one of those rugby style desperation plays like the one executed by Miami in 2018. But the Titans’ special teams had other ideas: with Defense on top, the best chance of rescuing the game was some trickery with the kick-off.
Poor old Jeff Fisher should be remembered more for moments like this – stealing a game with a clever play when the opposition least expected it – arguably on a par with Sean Payton running an onside kick in the Super Bowl. The move had been worked on in training; the only trouble was that different players had practised it – Derrick Mason, for example, had gone down injured earlier in the game. But at this moment, Tennessee had to make do, as this was the best, maybe only, opportunity to pinch the game.
The play itself? Lorenzo Neal fielded the kick, handed the ball off to Frank Wycheck, who lateralled the ball across to Kevin Dyson, who ran up the left-hand side of the field to score the winning Touchdown. But was the lateral across the field a forward pass? Not according to the officials, and while the play got reviewed, there was insufficient evidence to overturn the on-field call.
The play has been debated ever since, and to some, the pass looked forward as Frank Wycheck was standing behind the 25 yard line, even though he threw from in front of it. Detailed computer analysis may have “proved” that Sir Geoff Hurst’s shot didn’t actually cross the line in 1966, but nothing has ever convinced this Titans fan that this particular result should not have stood. Moreover, there are images that seem to indicate it was not forward – showing the ball as closer to the 25 yard line when Dyson gathered it than when Wycheck released it.
To the Bills fans who remain unconvinced just know this: at least you didn’t end up suffering a Super Bowl heartbreak on the final play of THAT season.
Draft Selections: Tytus Howard OT (1.23), Lonnie Johnson Jr. CB (2.22), Max Scharping OT (2.23), Kahale Warring TE (3.22), Charles Omenihu DE (5.22), Xavier Crawford CB (6.23), Cullen Gillaspia FB (7.06)
Off-season key additions: Tashaun Gipson FS, Bradley Roby CB, Matt Kalil LT, Duke Johnson RB (traded from Browns)
Off-season key departures: Tyrann Mathieu FS, Kareem Jackson CB, Kevin Johnson CB
Super Bowl Odds: 40/1
The Texans won the AFC South title last season with their stellar 11-5 record, however they were swept aside by the Colts in the Wildcard game 21-7 at NRG Stadium. However, DeAndre ‘big hands’ Hopkins ended the season as probably the most feared WR in the game and their defensive line is not too shabby either. The Texans decided to let the ‘Honey Badger’ Tyrann Mathieu leave to the Chiefs and they also lost their premier CB (Kareem Jackson) to the Broncos. At the time, GM Brian Gaine (now with the Bills), had tried to fill the gaps in the secondary with Tashuan Gipson (from Jacksonville), Bradley Roby and 2nd round draft pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. It’ll be interesting to see whether the secondary is effective as last year, but they sure can rush the opposing QB with JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. On the offensive side of the ball, they will run through messrs Deshaun Watson and Hopkins. Following D’Onta Foreman’s release, they acquired Duke Johnson in a trade with the Browns and he will provide a decent foil for Lamar Miller in the backfield. The biggest bug bear for most Texans fans was their inability to protect the QB, with their offensive line giving a league high 62 sacks and 126 QB hits. They’ve attempted to bolster their line with first round pick Tytus Howard and the acquisition of Matt Kalil (1 year deal).
Look out for: The ongoing saga that is franchise tagged DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has reached three successive Pro Bowls and wants to ‘get paid’ just like other elite defensive linemen. It will be interesting to see whether the Texans do indeed canvass the league for a trade. The most likely destinations from a cap space point of view are within the AFC South so it’s unlikely they’ll want to bolster their division rivals. As far as retaining their AFC South title, much will depend on how they deal with their difficult road start, with their first three away games against the Saints, Chargers and Chiefs. Additionally, they also have their first trip across the pond to the mighty Wembley Stadium.
Draft Selections: Rock Ya-Sin CB (2.02), Ben Banogu LB (2.17), Parris Campbell WR (2.27), Bobby Okereke LB (3.25), Khari Willis S (4.07), Marvell Tell III S (5.06), E.J. Speed LB (5.26), Gerri Green DE (6.26), Jackson Barton OT (7.26), Javon Patterson C (7.32)
Off-season Key Additions: Justin Houston DE, Devin Funchess WR, Spencer Ware RB
Off-season Key Departures: None
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1
The Colts came into the 2018 season off the back of an abysmal 2017 season and questions over how well Andrew Luck would play following a year on the sidelines. Fast forward a few months and Luck had answered that question with being awarded Comeback Player of the Year but that didn’t tell the full storyline. The Colts opened the season 1-5 and subsequently went to win 9 out of the next 10. The backbone of that charge was the offensive line, holding opposing defences to a league-best 18 sacks in the regular season. This offensive line is still intact for this season and the ‘pancake monster’ Quenton Nelson will only get better in his second year. When you add a top pass rusher in Justin Houston to the extremely impressive Darius Leonard, the limit could really be the sky for the Colts this season. It goes without saying that Andrew Luck and T.Y. ‘the Ghost’ Hilton are the elite skill position guys on offense. When you add the plethora of Tight Ends (TD magnet Ebron, Doyle, Alie-Cox), WR Devin Funchess and the potential of Parris Campbell and Deon Cain; Luck certainly has a lot of weapons to play with.
Look out for: We are in the midst of another Andrew Luck off-season injury drama. Luck has been struggling with a calf/high ankle injury of some sort which has inhibited his lateral movement. Colts fans are all too familiar with off-season injury drama regarding their franchise QB and it is still undecided whether he suits up for the season opener against the Chargers. As far as backup QBs go, Jacoby Brissett is a capable player, but he’s no Andrew Luck. Keep your eyes peeled on this situation as the Colts season completely depends on Luck’s fitness.
Draft Selections: Jeffery Simmons DT (1.19), A.J. Brown WR (2.19), Nate Davis G (3.18), Amani Hooker S (4.14), D’Andre Walker LB (5.30), David Long Jr. LB (6.15)
Off-season Key Additions: QB Ryan Tannehill,Rodger Saffold G, Adam Humphries WR, Cameron Wake DE
Off-season Key Departures: Josh Kline G, Brian Orakpo (retirement), Quinton Spain G
Super Bowl Odds: 66/1
To say that the Titans have been consistent over the last three seasons would be an understatement. They have been distinctly just above average by obtaining a 9-7 record in each of the seasons. The latter part of the 2018 season paved the way for Derrick Henry to break into the history books and it’s likely the Titans will try and rely on him as a workhorse back. They brought in free agent WR Adam Humphries to play the slot and we will see if he makes another stepped improvement from the 800+ yards he accrued last year. The quarterback position (as of this article being written) appears to be still up for grabs following the Titans’ trade for Tannehill from Miami. If we make the assumption that Mariota keeps the starting job, you just need to look at his stat line from last season – 2528 passing yards. This was the lowest of his career, and whilst he was marred by multiple injuries (nerve endings affecting hand / neck), he’s currently a middling quarterback at best. On the defensive side of the ball, they have a good pass rusher in Jurrell Casey and have added the well experienced Cameron Wake. Their first round draft pick Jeffery Simmons tore his ACL, compounding the loss of Brian Orakpo to retirement, thus the interior of the D-line is a bit weak.
Look out for: The QB battle in Nashville should be clearer come Week 1. However, Mariota is on the 5th year of his rookie contract and neither him or Tannehill have managed to set the NFL on fire. It will be interesting to see if Mariota is able to stay healthy this year but one should not hold their breath. The benefit for the Titans fans is that once he does go down injured, they don’t have to rely on a QB like Blaine Gabbert. Unfortunately for the Titans, they just don’t have enough elite talent to get excited about for this coming season.
Draft Selections: Josh Allen OLB (1.07), Jawaan Taylor (2.03), Josh Oliver TE (3.05), Quincy Williams LB (3.35), Ryquell Armstead RB (5.02), Gardner Minshew QB (6.05), Dontavius Russell DT (7.21)
Off-season Key Additions: Nick Foles QB, Jake Ryan ILB, Chris Conley WR
All aboard the change train at the Jags with them spending the big bucks on Super Bowl MVP and future-HOF (I jest on the second bit) Nick Foles; we mark the end of the Bortles era in Northern Florida. The Bortles era ended in a flop with the team being rock bottom of the division having only just been in the AFC Championship Game in 2017. Foles is a significant improvement on Bortles and the team has talented receivers that need to push on during their second (DJ Chark) and third seasons (Dede Westbrook / Keelan Cole) in the league. The question in the backfield will be whether Fournette succumbs to another injury (and subsequently ruins fantasy seasons for people). On the defensive side of the ball they have lost top players in Jackson and Gipson but they did draft Josh Allen. Their corners are still lock-down with AJ Buoye and Jalen Ramsey arguably being the best pairing in the league. As with every year, the Jags will make the trip over to Wembley and it will be interesting to see whether Foles continues the Bortles Wembley Magic!
Look out for: Major improvements in the passing game, one of the receivers from this corps could well have a break-out year as is common with third-year receivers. However, the Jags fans will be feeling Blue after the inevitable injury that will beset Leonard Fournette; turning their offense into one that is pass-heavy.
2019 Season Predictions Texans 11-5
*Ratings created with assumption that Andrew Luck is healthy