Full10Lookaheads – Week 10

By Lawrence Vos and Tim Monk

Sunday night football


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

Image Credit: JEFF SINER

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!

Image Credit: SI.com

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.

Everyone beware!


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Will Wilson win in the West?

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Image Credit: John Bazemore / AP

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 door.

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

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Image Credit: Ian Walton / AP

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

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Image Credit: Ron Schwane / AP

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? 

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Image Credit: Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports

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

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Image Credit: Mark LoMoglio / AP

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 

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Image Credit: Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

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 !!!! 

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC South

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.


AFC South

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  • Indianapolis Colts 5-2
  • Houston Texans 5-3
  • Tennessee Titans 4-4
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4

*Indianapolis Colts*

Midseason Grade: B+

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)


*Houston Texans*

Midseason Grade: B

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)


*Tennessee Titans*

Midseason Grade: C+

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


*Jacksonville Jaguars*

Midseason Grade: B-

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

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NFC South

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By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (7-1)
  2. Carolina Panthers (4-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (1-7)

*New Orleans Saints*

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)


*Carolina Panthers*

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


*Tampa Bay Buccaneers*

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.

*Atlanta Falcons*

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…

Full10Lookahead – Week 6

By Tim Monk and Lawrence Vos

Eau de Toilet Bowl

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In the game widely regarded as the #tankbowl, Bill Callahan takes charge of his first game as interim head coach of the Washingotn Redskins as they take on the Dolphins.

Many will see the loser of this one in prime position to bag that lucrative #1 spot in the 2020 draft but you could argue that the #1 pick is needed by one of these teams more than the other.

Miami have a plethora of early picks in the next few years after some trading that has gone on from the Dolphins front office but Washington are in a bit of a mess.

Seemingly lacking in direction, focus and with barely any foundations in which to build this team on for both sides of the ball, Washington and their fans probably wouldn’t mind a terrible performance here to get ahead in the race for #1, even if that means it gives them the ability to acquire more picks by trading back from the 1st overall selection which will be highly sought after next year.

Miami do not have much more talent on their roster but have the war chest of picks in order to ease the pain the Dolphins fans are currently suffering and hopefully the light is at the end of the tunnel.

I think Washington’s tunnel may have caved in.

There once was a time that the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins were NFL powerhouses. The teams were gritty, and won games by using a dominant running game to outmuscle opponents and break their will.

In fact the two teams have met twice in Super Bowls, once in the 70s and the second time a decade later. The results were split, the 1972 Dolphins ended up undefeated and the 1982 Redskins survived a strike-shortened season to lift the trophy thanks to the irrepressible RB John ‘The Diesel’ Riggins. Fast forward to 2019 and you have debatably the most pitiful NFL matchup since the woeful games of the 2018 0-16 Dan Orlovsky led Detroit Lions. Even they managed a fairy-tale ending as the Lions DE Cliff Avril went on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks.

Either Case Keenum or Josh Rosen will be responsible for their once-proud franchise falling to 0-6 with absolutely no end in sight. Redskins new interim head-coach Bill Callahan will be feeding Adrian Peterson the rock faster than a five-year old after consuming a selection box at a Christmas Day game of Hungry Hippos. The Dolphins will be looking for absolutely anything to stick, including any balls throw in the direction of UDFA WR Preston Williams. If rubbernecking is your thing, and you like to slow down at a motorway car crash then get your dash cam at the ready as the footage from this game will be a live recording of a crime against football. It should just about be a Redskins win (there I said it and thus the curse begins) but who is to say that Washington GM Bruce Allen is huge military fan. After all he may like a ‘tank’ as much as the Dolphins ownership.

When these two teams met in Super Bowl VII one of the greatest mistakes ever was committed when Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian had a kick blocked, and instead of doing anything sensible he passed the ball right into a Redskins player who ran it back for a touchdown.

It is absolutely possible that the only scorers on Sunday are defensive players. 


Can Cousins continue chucking?

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Image Credit: Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

There was definitely a focus on making sure the Cousins throwing narrative was chucked out of the window vs the Giants. The Big Blue defence provided a timely opportunity for Cousins to quell the detractors (which included some of his teammates) of the fully guaranteed signal caller as he was able to have time in the pocket and throw multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time since week 16 last year.

Will that continue as they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles?

Whilst they aren’t quite as bad as the Giants defence, they are no world beaters either due to injuries. It will be interesting to see if Cousins continues to throw as much as he did last week or whether they revert back to type and hand the ball off to Cook.


Watson vs Mahomes

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Image Credit: Kevin Jairaj /USA Today sports

2 quarterbacks that always put on a show get it on in week 6 with the Texans travelling to the recently Colt conquered Arrowhead stadium.

Both QBs combined account for just under 3400 yards so far this season and when they are healthy, they are definitely up there as the most exciting players to watch with the ball in their hands.

Mahomes is a bit dinged up, a feeling that Watson knows oh so well after having to resort to bus as a means of transport to and from games last season. Watson wasn’t actually touched by the Falcons last week so it’s possible this is the healthiest Watson will feel all season. The Chiefs’ defence isn’t the greatest, nor is the Texans, so we should get a shootout here in an all AFC clash.

On one of the rare occasions, Mahomes and the Chiefs have to bounce back from a defeat.


jack in the box

Image Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

People are starting to question the credentials of the 2018 #32 overall pick after a couple of poor performances.

A trio of interceptions on Sunday saw him fail his fantasy owners and now everyone is wondering whether or not Lamar Jackson has actually improved in his 2nd year.

First few games were plain sailing and as it turns out, against 2 very poor teams. Now that he’s faced a few tougher defences (and Arizona), things aren’t looking as rosy in the Baltimore garden.

We’ve mentioned on the NFL podcast before that he’ll have these questions to answer for pretty much every week of this season because of the nature of his play and the polarising opinion he gives the analysts and that will continue this week as he faces a Bengals team that should provide some respite for Jackson and his fans as a QB of similar ilk in Kyler Murray just got the win in the Jungle and a decent rushing performance.


Sunday Night Footb-oh

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

Prior to the start of the season, the Steelers and Chargers were two teams expected to make the playoffs and produce an entertaining game.

Fast forward to now and this game looks like it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on.

Pittsburgh down and out for the 2019 and now down to possibly their 3rd QB after Mason Rudolph got walloped against the Ravens whilst the Chargers have whimpered so far this season losing last time out to Denver at “home”.

I think it’s fair to say that only the fans of these two teams will watch this one in the UK in the early hours, purely because I don’t think there are any Chris Collinsworth fans. Now here’s a guy who can get on your nerves…


Showcase showdown in London 

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Image Credit: Pitchcare.com

I haven’t got the intestinal fortitude to check if this has happened before in a regular season contest in England. This Sunday’s clash between the English noobs the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers features three current major statistical category leaders.

The leading rusher, the leading tackler and the leading sack master all belong to teams who will be competing in the 26th NFL London matchup. Most surprising or impressive depending on your lens is Shaquil Barrett the Buccaneers edge who leads the league in sacks with 9 so far in 5 games. Not far behind him is the Panthers DE Mario Addison with 6.5 to his name.

What makes both of these feats truly impressive is that neither actually were drafted by any of the 32 teams. Addison bounced around three teams (Bears, Colts and Redskins) in his first two years before being signed by the Panthers in 2012. He has a solid 52 sacks in his career. Barrett, who has a Super Bowl ring from his stint with the Denver Broncos, had only started 15 games in four seasons at Mile-High, notching his best sack total of 5.5 as a rookie. Now he stands alongside the legendary Jets pass rusher Mark Gastineau (who sported a fine moustache) with the most sacks ever in both the first three and first four games in a season.

To see both players coming over to play at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur stadium will be a highlight for the 60,000 fans this Sunday. 


Fools Gold or real prospects? 

Image Credit: Tony Avelar/AP/Shutterstock

The Jimmy Garoppolo led San Francisco 49ers have been patient, they have had a plan and GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan are starting to show that they know their way around a football field.

Both the GM & HC signed epic six-year deals just days apart in 2017, and vowed to bring back the 49ers to a time when they were as dominant as the New England Patriots are right now. The plans to progress were seriously scuppered in 2018 when both QB Jimmy Garoppolo and highly-touted RB Jerrick McKinnon both got injured. McKinnon is still crocked but Jimmy G has been kept upright and his team are now 4-0. No they have not faced the likes of the Saints or Bears yet, but to be the last undefeated NFC team is still an achievement.

The 49ers travel to L.A. on Sunday to play the reigning NFC champion Rams. This will be a true test if the 49ers are the real deal or a shiny lump of pyrite. The dual punching power of a bruising running game, made up of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman is arguably the best backfield pairing in the league, and this is only enhanced by the lead blocking of the NFL’s top fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Jusczyzk to his credit can catch the ball too as evidenced by his 6 snags so far.

Being able to draft the premier defensive chess piece in this year’s draft in the form of Nick Bosa (Joey’s not so little brother) has helped a lot, but this is a team that boasts the league’s number one rushing attack (200 yards a game) and the second highest scoring offense (31.8). Not even laid-back Californian surfer dude types would have projected the 49ers to be undefeated heading into Week 6.

This is not the 49ers of old, but spending years shining the shoes of, and carrying the clipboard for Tom Brady looks to be paying dividend. 


Can someone tune up Le’Veon Bell

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Image Credit: Michael Owens / Getty Images

After a year spent on his sofa chewing on sunflower seeds and experimenting no doubt with himself as the protagonist in a Madden Franchise, Le’Veon Bell returned to the NFL with a new team, a new attitude but an old goal, to win a Super Bowl. So far this is as likely as the Miami Dolphins going on an 11 game winning streak.

The New York Jets are languishing in the cess pool that is the lower half of the AFC East. Without a win, without a starting quarterback and averaging under 10 points a game is classic Bruce Coslet territory (an old and unsuccessful Jets head coach in the 1990s). Behind a poor offensive line Bell is averaging under three yards a carry, has zero rushing touchdowns and is only barely being tolerated by fantasy owners because he is projected to end the season with a whopping 108 catches.

If this was any other season the Jets would be the lowest power ranked team, but even they are unable to sink to the levels of ineptitude on display in South Florida. Sam Darnold, the saviour, is due to return to action after his bout of Mono in a tough contest against a crest-fallen Dallas Cowboys team who will be wanting to prove to doubters that the incredibly slow start against Green Bay was an anomaly. Bell when on fire is a sight to behold. His 2017 running style was a unique blend of power, patience and incredible vision, mixing snake hips with poisonous tongue darts between defenders. Bell at the moment is more komodo dragon than slippery lizard.

After the Cowboys allowed four touchdowns to Aaron Jones in Week 5 the Jets will at least go into this Week 6 matchup with some degree of hope, along with Sam Darnold at the wheel. Look to Bell to maintain his short passing route production, but ultimately enter Week 7 without a team victory in sight.


Third becomes first after Mason mashed

Not one to stay up for, but it is worth noting undrafted rookie Delvin Hodges will make his first start in Sunday Night Football for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Hodges got a $1000 signing bonus and initially made the team because the Steelers traded backup Josh Dobbs to the Jaguars in September. Undrafted quarterbacks have performed miracles – the likes of Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme and Mike Tomzak have all reached Super Bowls.

In Tomzak’s case he won a ring backing up Jim McMahon on the legendary 1985 Bears team, and for Kurt Warner he got a ring starting against the Tennessee Titans. Mason Rudolph, deputising for an already injured Ben Roethlisberger, suffered a horrific hit in Week 5 but managed to get up after minutes of collective breath holding. The NFL may be doing some things wrong but the concussion protocol is being taken dead seriously now, unlike in the past when players would be back far earlier that they should have been.

Nothing is expected from Delvin Hodges against a Chargers team that still cannot find a way to post a winning record in the first half of a season, but 2019 it seems is a year that will go down as one that saw unknown quarterbacks take centre stage and perform admirably. Hodges could be the man to spark Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster back to life after a somewhat soggy start to the season.

Without Antonio Brown (remember him) as his partner in crime prevention JuJu is looking like a rather distressed Robin, and not even the good one from the 1960s TV show, he looks like the Chris O’Donnell version who wore the red nipple-protruding chest piece.

The Chargers are going to have to face life without QB Philip Rivers at some point soon, so this is a much needed win that would put them at 3-3 and still in contention for a Wild-Card berth come the Winter. 

Full10Takeaways – Week 5

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Ouch!

Image Credit – Joe Sargeant / Getty Images

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!


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16 Weeks on the Road?

Image Credit – Harry How / Getty Images

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

Image Credit – Troy Taorimina / USA Today Sports

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

Image Credit – James Kenney / AP Photo

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?


Super Ted

Image Credit – David Grunfeld / nola.com

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.


Tottenham triumph 

Image result for white hart lane nfl
Image credit: Pitchcare.com

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 

Image Credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

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. 


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Redskins change the locks 

Image Credit: Nick Wass/AP

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.  

Surprise Packages

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

Everyone likes a surprise, from an unplanned gift out of the blue from a loved one to your favourite team scoring a huge upset against an ‘on-paper’ better opponent.

It may only be the start of Week 3 but some highly desirable packages are already being unwrapped across the landscape. Here, we take a look at the five early surprises in the 2019 NFL season.


John Ross III – WR – Cincinnati Bengals


Ross was a top-ten first round selection in 2017 who wowed scouts with a 4.22 40 yard dash. His first season, bar one run, was obliterated by injury, and his second, despite suiting up in 13 games was abysmal, only catching 21 balls (from 58 targets). The small ray of light in 2018 was that one third of his catches resulted in touchdowns. Expectations had been lowered entering 2019, with the buzz falling at Tyler Boyd’s feet after A.J. Green was declared out for the early part of this season. Ross has stunned lots of folks with two 110+ yard games (270 yards in total) in two weeks, scoring three touchdowns. Andy Dalton looks like he has done an Andy Dufrense after the removal of Marvin Lewis and his top splash-plsy target is John Ross. This production won’t sustain a full season, but stating on the field Ross can break 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Gardner Minshew – QB – Jacksonville Jaguars


Coming into the 2019 season, unless you were a College football aficionado or you wore a teal T-shirt with the words ‘Duuuuuuval’ emblazoned on the front, then the likelihood is you didn’t know who Gardner Minshew was. Now thanks to his facial hair and cheeky smile he is sweeping the nation with Minshew Moustache Mania, a phenomenon only intensified with a nationally televised Thursday Night win over the Tennessee Titans. Minshew was a Round 6 pick after a spectacular senior season at Washington State where he ended up fifth in Heisman Trophy. In 2018 Minshew won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, an accolade that has been picked up in the past by the likes of Peyton and Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. Minshew is the new cult hero in the NFL, which is a welcome distraction from the Antonio Brown debacle for the Commissioner. I’ll meet you down the joke shop for a Fu Manchu moustache.


D.J. Chark (do do do do do do do do) – WR – Jacksonville Jaguars


Yes it is mandatory that every time you say D.J. Chark’s name (do do do do do do do do) that you hum that tune. The Jaguars second round draft pick in 2018 was under the water as a rookie, averaging just over one catch a game in 11 contests (14-174). In just two games this year the co-MVP of the 2018 Senior Bowl had two starts, two touchdowns and two-hundred and one receiving yards, at 18.3 yards a catch. In Week 3 he caught a touchdown for a third consecutive game and is now averaging 5 balls and 90 yards a game. After a rookie season where Chark (do do do do do do do do) fumbled on his first ever catch he has been reborn in year two. He doesn’t have significant college tape, having not recorded a catch until his third season at LSU. In three weeks this season he already has enough You Tube highlights to make a montage with some cheesy rap music featuring Crystal and ‘Yac. If you haven’t already make sure you check if he is on any of your fantasy waiver wires.


Carlos Hyde – RB – Houston Texans


This dude has already played on one-eighth of the NFL’s rosters, suiting up in 66 contests to date, including two this season for the Houston Texans. With over 3,400 rushing yards and 120 career catches Hyde is no slouch. When Lamar Miller went down for Houston in late August there was a big hole in the backfield, so the Texans traded tackle Martinas Rankin to the Chiefs for Hyde. Quietly but efficiently in 2019 Hyde has accumulated 173 yards rushing at 5.8 a carry in two starts. No touchdowns to date, and not a perfect pickup, Hyde is getting the ugly yards, the first and second down work in the middle 50 yards of the field. Deshaun Watson has looked a bit funky so far this year and he needs Hyde to ensure he has someone in the backfield that can run and pass block. Hyde is not a pass catcher, but he knows how to sustain drives. With a scattering of scores Hyde becomes fantasy relevant, but for now he is still surprising fans with some veteran savvy toting the rock.


Eddy Pineiro – K – Chicago Bears


The term ‘double-doink’ only existed in the pantheon of a clown display in circus tents, or for you ancient people, by Timmy Mallet on an episode of Wacaday. That changed forever when Cody Parkey the Chicago Bears kicker made that not-so-sweet metallic pipe music in a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears kicking game became a punchline since the doinktastic miss, and the Training Camp and Pre-Season kicking battle in the Windy City has suffered from national ridicule. Step up Eddy P, who has fully justified his coach’s decision to keep him as he scored a game winning 53-yard field-goal as time expired against the Broncos in Week 2. Pinerio has been 100% on all 5 of his kicks so far, but the Bears kicking woes are not yet eliminated as he is listed as questionable for MNF against the inept Redskins.

One other name to mention in the surprise package category is New England Patriots punt returner Gunner Olszewski, the best unit based name since the legendary Detroit Lions quarterback of the early 90s the one and only Chuck Long, There is a long way to go in the 2019 season, and it will be fascinating if these guys are still fan favourites by the time we reach December.

AFC South Breakdown

By Adil Khan Deshmukh (@dillytoon)

Last Season
Texans 11-5

Colts 10-6

Titans 9-7

Jaguars 5-11

Houston Texans:

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

Analysis:

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.

Indianapolis Colts

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

Analysis:

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.

Tennessee Titans

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

Analysis: 

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. 

Jacksonville Jaguars 

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

Off-season Key Departures: Malik Jackson DT, Tashaun Gipson FS, Donte Moncrief WR, Ereck Flowers RT, TJ Yeldon RB, Blake Bortles QB

Super Bowl Odds: 50/1

Analysis: 

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

Colts 10-6

Titans 7-9

Jaguars 6-10

*Ratings created with assumption that Andrew Luck is healthy

I’ve Got Your Back

By Lawrence Vos, 6 June 2019 (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

In Baseball they are called relief pitchers, guys who come out of a pen, previously occupied by bulls, to try and either maintain a winning position or play an important part in reviving a team’s chance of winning.

In the NFL they are called backup quarterbacks, and their appearance on a playing field is normally one of two scenarios, either as a tokenistic couple of kneel-downs to finish a game that’s outcome has long been decided or to replace either an injured or ineffective starter.

Nobody actually wants to be a backup quarterback, pretending to be the ultimate team player, but secretly wishing the starter throws a pick-six on his first drive.

The position is personified by the iconically named Clipboard Jesus, Mr Charlie Whitehurst. The hirsute wizard played for seven teams, winning two of nine career starts. (A little sprinkling of trivia here, Whitehurst was part of a trade from Seattle to San Diego in 2010 that saw the Seahawks grab Golden Tate with the second round pick they acquired.)

Backups can be both loved and feared by fans, adored if they are about to come in and mount a John Rambo style rescue mission, and frightening if they are that obscure nobody even knows who they are or what college they played for. Cue the likes of Chad Litton in Kansas City who could out-duel Chad Henne this pre-season to gain the spot behind Patrick Mahomes. Litton by the way went to Marshall, was an UDFA in 2018 having been signed, waived, and then moved his entire rookie season to the practice squad with KC.

It also turns out backup quarterbacks make excellent coaches. Who would have thought spending years and years in the shadows of greatness would actually payoff? Three names immediately spring to mind here – Gary Kubiak, Frank Reich and Doug Pederson.

Kubiak, now assistant head-coach in Minnesota, will be hoping to revive the form of another former backup in the form of Kirk Cousins. Kubiak backed up John Elway for nine seasons, including three times in Super Bowls, before moving into coaching in 1995. Kubiak was again patient, and when he returned for a third time to the Rockies he led the Broncos to a Super Bowl win.

Pederson followed in a similar vein to Kubiak, with 10 seasons in the NFL and just three wins (the exact same number a Kubiak), but he managed to get a ring in 1996, backing up Brett Favre in Super Bowl XXXI, getting on the field as the holder on kicks. Pederson went on to win a second ring as the Eagles head coach, behind the talents of yep – a backup quarterback.

In contrast Reich has the unenviable record of being the only backup quarterback in NFL history to be the backup in four consecutive Super Bowls, behind the legendary Jim Kelly.  Now head coach of the Colts, its highly likely he joins Kubiak and Pederson as a Super Bowl winner, maybe even as early as this upcoming season.

The second-string quarterback can make or break a team. Examples of overwhelming success by a backup include Nick Foles with the Eagles (2017) and Jeff Hostetler with the Giants (1990) both who went on to lift the Lombardi Trophy when all was said and done.

Now the full-time starter in Jacksonville, Foles, playing in his second stint with Philly (he was an original Eagles draft pick in 2012) is the most recent example of zero to hero, leading the Eagles to an improbable Super Bowl win, and almost a second consecutive trip to the promised land in 2018. Not that Cody Parkey had anything to do with the Eagles 2018 playoff progression.

So who are the cream of the veteran clipboard (or should I say Microsoft Surface) holding crop coming into 2019? If the likes of Big Ben finally does a London Bridge, or if Mayfield mutilates his meniscus who are the top 10 backup quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season.

10)  AJ McCarron – Houston Texans

McCarron has made this list based on potential and not on any kind of actual achievement. A lifetime backup, with just three starts (in 2015 for the Bengals), McCarron is an insurance policy in Houston. He was signed by the Bills in March 2018 but never played a down, as he was traded to Oakland in September, where he ended up backing up David Carr. McCarron has an impressive, if not legendary, college resume, having won back-to-back BCS titles with Alabama in 2011 and 2012, he has just not managed to translate this winning mentality to the NFL. Deshaun Watson is in some circles being projected as the number one fantasy QB for 2019, but if he goes down with an injury McCarron will be thrust into the spotlight.

9) Blaine Gabbert – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Normally even the thought of Blaine Gabbert sends shivers down fantasy owner’s spines, but like David Dunn (the former football star played by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable) Gabbert does appear to be made of some stern stuff. Aside from 2014, where he managed just 7 pass attempts) Gabbert has somehow managed to start at least 3 NFL games in 7 seasons, including the last four, for three different teams (49ers in 2016, Cardinals in 2017 and Titans in 2018). It’s a bad omen for Jamies Winston that Gabbert is loitering in the background, waiting for his mandatory three game stint. Buccs fans you have been warned – Gabbertime is coming.

8) Nick Mullens – San Francisco 49ers

A name that only die-hard 49ers fans knew before he made his debut in the middle of 2018, Nick Mullens became a media darling after he won in his NFL debut 34-3 forcing fans to go from ‘whoooooo?’ to ‘wooooooh!’ (in a Rick Flair style). Mullens no doubt wears the #4 jersey in honour of some no-name quarterback’s single-season passing record he broke at Southern Miss. For those of you struggling to join the dots yes Nick Mullens owns a passing record in the Deep South once held by Brett Favre. 8 starts in 2018 for a guy who was hoping to remain on a practice squad was some feat. Mullens has proven he can be serviceable when needed, and his grit is clear to see. Jimmy G is the unquestioned starter when fit, but Mullens will only have learnt how to cope well from half a season under center.

7) Josh Rosen – Miami Dolphins

Rosen’s departure video aimed at Kyler Murray as he left Arizona for Miami earlier this year seemed to show him as a genuine decent kind of guy, but inside he must be seething. How often a first round QB gets not only replaced but traded within 12 months is a rarity. How often this could in theory happen two years in a row is infinitesimally small, but if Miami fail to gain any traction in the win column in September and October and we could be Tweeting out the #tankforTua hashtag on a daily basis. Rosen is currently being outperformed by the bearded magician Ryan Fitzpatrick and is on a trajectory to open the season as a backup. Rosen is in a unique position amongst this top-10 as he can viably become the Week 1 starter, but you would be foolish to bet against a 2019 sprinkling of Fitzmagic.   

6) Blake Bortles – Los Angeles Rams

Bortles has missed only 5 games in 5 seasons, producing 17,646 yards and 103 touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Where he has failed to get impressive numbers is the win column, with only one successful season (10-6 in 2017) in five, which has included 49 losses. Perhaps a head-scratching move by the Los Angeles Rams to pick-up Bortles, when scrutinised the one-year deal is low risk and low cost, and gives the current NFC Champions a veteran backup who knows how to perform under pressure. Jared Goff has no fear he will be replaced, and for Bortles he will likely be on his third NFL roster by 2020, but surely even he beats having Sean Mannion as your number two.

5) Robert Griffin III – Baltimore Ravens

Talk about a carbon-copy backup. There has to be some sort of irony in this situation where a guy who was criticised for not being able to slide is now backing up a guy who he will replace on the field if he is equally unable to master self-preservation as a runner. RG3 is backing up L-Jax in 2019, names that sound like a couple of Star Wars extras in a Mos Eisley cantina. Lamar Jackson is indeed the shining star in Baltimore, and RG3 is the personification of the faded star. RG3 had one of, if not the finest rookie QB season in NFL history back in 2012, passing for 3,200 yards and rushing for 815, along with just 5 interceptions in 15 regular season games. Never to repeat that season RG3 has only won 6 games between 2013 and 2018. L-Jax has the physical tools to break the NFL single-season rushing record, but by definition he could also suffer an injury in Week 1 as a result. RG3 is poised for a quality pre-season and this will make fans think twice about giving him real game time.

4) Tyrod Taylor – Los Angeles Chargers

When you take a team to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years you become a little bit of a folk hero, which is what Tyrod Taylor did with the Buffalo Bills in 2017. Yes he didn’t get the win and the Bills managed only three points in a loss to the Jaguars, but Taylor deserved credit for giving some life to a living-dead franchise. Taylor was a 2015 Pro-Bowler, quite a remarkable achievement considering his first four NFL seasons in Baltimore saw him pass for a total of 199 yards and zero touchdowns behind Joe Flacco. Taylor had the unenviable job of de-icing the windows and turning on the heated seats in the Brownsmobile as Baker Mayfield, the overall top pick of the 2018 Draft by the Browns took the driver’s seat during week 3. Taylor didn’t get a sniff after Baker took the field, and it’s unlikely he will get any planned playing time in the City of Angels in 2019 behind Old Man Rivers, but this doesn’t diminish his place in this top-10.

3) Case Keenum – Washington Redskins

The Redskins for once had lady luck on their side when Dwayne Haskins landed in their lap in the middle of the first round of the 2019 draft. Haskins will be the fan favourite to start Week 1, with Case Keenum reverting back to his original NFL role of backup. Now with his sixth team in seven seasons, Keenum has been a bit of a rags to riches story since his rookie year with the Houston Texans back in 2012. In the last two seasons Keenum started 30 games (14 for the Vikings and 16 for the Broncos) helping the Minnesota to an improbable NFC Championship in 2017-18. Coach Gruden wanted a veteran presence on the field (as opposed to limping along the sidelines) and Keenum fits the mould. The future is not Keenum, but the Redskins present may well involve some game time for the player voted #51 in the NFL’s top 100 for the 2017-18 season.

2) Jacoby Brissett – Indianapolis Colts

Pretty much the ideal backup, Jacoby Brissett has not only got significant experience starting for his current team the Colts, he has also served his apprenticeship under the real Dark Lord of the Sith – Bill Belichick. There is no controversy in Indy as Andrew Luck is the future Hall of Fame starter. Brissett may have only thrown for 2 yards in 2018, but don’t let that fool you, this is a highly mobile, highly intelligent and above all highly resilient QB. Brissett started 15 games in 2017 for the injured Luck, passing for over 3,000 yards and rushing for over 250. What makes Brissett stand out was that he hung in there two seasons ago, getting sacked 52 times by a porous offensive line. Now transformed to one of the top offensive lines the Colts have a rock solid backup who they may only be able to keep a hold on until the end of the 2019 season.

1) Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans

Ok it’s a bit of a cheat but Ryan Tannehill is now facing his first season with a new team and games a new role of backup quarterback. Having started 88 games in six seasons, Tannehill is a seasoned veteran who will be the most experienced number two in the league. The former Texas A&M wide-receiver (112 catches between 2008 and 2010 for the Aggies) has never played in an NFL game he hasn’t started. He has also failed to ever get his former team the Miami Dolphins to 9 wins mark in a season. With over 20,000 yards passing under his belt and a 2.6% career interception average, Tannehill has a surprisingly good set of stats to show, but this is not reflected in his winning games. Marcus Mariota has been a career underachiever and is one of those fantasy quarterbacks you simply avoid. Tannehill could end up starting for the Titans at some point in 2019 so watch the waiver wire in the latter part of the season if you need a bye-week replacement or a best-ball bargain.

Pick It Apart; Tytus Howard

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: 23

Player: Tytus Howard

Drafted by: Houston Texans

Grade: C

Analysis: Despite the Houston Texans probably having Howard high on on their draft boards, they must be hating the Eagles right now. Andrew Dillard taken by the Eagles who traded up to get in front of the Texans is a masterstroke by Philadelphia and Houston must be feeling like they have been robbed.

Houston’s achilles heel last season was the offensive line. They gave up the most sacks in 2018 and was a big area of need in this year’s draft. Whilst Tytus Howard will go in some part to addressing the need at tackle, you have to wonder whether it was wise to take him here.

That said, he had a good combine; 89th percentile in the 40-yard dash with just a smidge over 5 seconds. We are talking about a 322lbs guy here, folks. Seriously impressive.

He may not appreciate the fact that his biggest comparable on mockdraftable is the human turnstile himself, Chaz Green, though.

He’ll need a bit of work developmental wise as he hasn’t been a Tackle all his life;

Howard has played at QB in high school so moving to O-line, he’ll appreciate the job that needs doing and the job expected of him from Deshaun Watson (also had a go at Tight End too, jack of all trades this guy!).

Fantasy Football Impact:

The indirect impact will be for the Houston offence. His main job will be to keep Deshaun Watson upright and create gaps for [insert average RB name here]. Whether he can do that as well as Dillard would have done, we’ll never know. What we do know is, he has a very important job this season for Watson owners.