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Dynasty Stock Trend 08/06/21

Good day to everyone!

Logo here bringing another dynasty stock trend to see who is on the rise and who is on the fall going into the month of August. If you didn’t check out my last article regarding Best Ball, I would highly recommend it here. I go over tips tricks and a few of my late round sleepers I am targeting. Back in April I wrote an article on some dynasty buy lows and sell high which mentioned Laviska Shenault, James Robinson and Josh Reynolds (missed on that one with the Julio Jones signing). This was just a month before the 2021 NFL draft which I mentioned to sell Robinson and buy Shenault.


Trending up: Darnell Mooney

5 comparisons to Darnell Mooney rookie season with Chicago Bears
Quinn Harris / Getty

There was potential for Mooney to be the number 1 wide receiver on the team if Allen Robinson was leaving the Chicago Bears, however as for now Mooney is the perfect complement of Robinson and is trending up on dynasty players platform. Currently at wide receiver 52-55 in rankings, the 2nd year wide out will look to break into the top 30 in relative dynasty rankings with potential to be a top 24 wide out this season.

Last season Mooney saw 98 targets, which was ahead of Brandon Aiyuk, Chris Godwin, Laviska Shenault, and just 10 shy from Tee Higgins total. His average yard per catch was 10.34 and added 4 touchdowns on the year. Where can Mooney improve? Receptions over 20 yards, better quarterback play and touchdowns. Looking ahead to the first few weeks of the 2021 season, the Bears play: LA Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Look for Mooney to get off to a hot start with Robinson getting the double coverage.

Obtaining Mooney in your dynasty league isn’t going to be difficult but will be challenging to find a player that is equal to his explosiveness and caliber. Any 2nd round rookie picks you can give up (2021 or 2022) would be a steal to get him. As far as player wise, trading someone like Antonio Brown or Jarvis Landry could be a great deal to get the 23 year old. 


Trending down: Adam Thielen

Will Adam Thielen return to form for the Vikings in 2020?
Hannah Foslien / Getty

Nobody wants to get caught holding the bag on the dynasty player who is in his 30’s came off one of his best wide receiver fantasy football finishes and has an up and coming rookie to take his presumed alpha role.

Last season Justin Jefferson was going undrafted in fantasy football redraft drafts because the assumption was Adam Thielen and nobody else. Whew, was the fantasy community wrong on leaving Justin Jefferson left for dead because he exploded and won a lot of people a fantasy championship last season (myself included). Why was Thielen’s WR 7 finish an outlier season?

Touchdowns.

In 2020 he scored 14 touchdowns with 925 yards. I mentioned above he tied for his best WR finish at 7, which was also in 2018. What was the difference? 2018 he had 1373 yards and just 9 touchdowns, on oh yeah 153 targets. That is as many targets he got in 2019 and 2020 combined.

The Vikings defense was a total nightmare last year causing Captain Kirk Cousins to lead the ship throwing the ball on average 30 times a game. Moving on from the veteran might feel like your getting out too early, however Jefferson has made it known he is able to play in the NFL. Some still believe he has another 2 strong years left however with an aging QB in Cousins, the presumed number 2 wide receiver on the team (possibly 3rd target with Dalvin Cook in the mix), it might be difficult for Thielen to get back to a top 12 WR again.

I would try to capitalize on his 2020 season and move him for Chase Edmonds, Darnell Mooney (as referenced above), or a QB move of Dak Prescott could be in the cards for the right manager. 


Dynasty Wild Card (Deep Sleeper):  Javian Hawkins

2021 NFL Draft: Do not sleep on Louisville RB Javian Hawkins
Andy Lyons / Getty

2021 NFl rookie Javian Hawkins has some work to do to make it on the field this season. This is a hold and see approach as Hawkins enters his NFL rookie 2021 season.

Hawkins is a nice change of pace role compared to the bruisers they have ahead of him Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison and Cordarrelle Patterson. He compliments the former Atlanta Falcon Ito Smith, which last season had 63 rushing attempts and 26 receiving targets to go with his smaller NFL stature. With Matt Ryan’s contract causing him to be a Falcon longer than the team may want him too and a 28 year old starting running back ahead of him (he is older than Todd Gurley and look at the fantasy decline he has had), the 2022 season could be totally different for the Falcons.

To snag him away from the majority of the dynasty owners who have heard the potential will be challenging for any player for player trade, however should someone be willing to accept a 3rd round pick for an opportunity like this could be beneficial compared to Rhamondre Stevenson (RB for the Patriots who has a LONG way to go to as his RB coach stated).

Go out and do a price check on him, and if your roster construction allows you to move the 3rd round rookie pick for him, it could pay off next year. 

I’d recommend using Sleeper for any dynasty formats. Find friends to get involved with as you are surprised where some people will draft players and you can get a good feel for the lay of the land.

As always thanks for reading and let’s connect on Twitter @loganbrown0805 

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Diamonds in the rough: 2020’s best value rookies

In the NFL, March is a nothing month, the no-man’s-land between the last Super Bowl and the next draft. At this time of year, there are more mock drafts out there than I’ve had hot dinners, with everyone mulling over the value buried somewhere in those seven rounds. That makes it as good a time as any to take stock of last year’s rookies.

Obviously, not every Day 1 pick will have worked out (*cough* Isaiah Wilson *cough*) but the opposite is also true: there are always some hidden gems to be unearthed after the obvious names have come off the board. If you’re a supporter of the Rams or the Texans maybe, and don’t have a first-round pick to look forward to this year, fear not – all is not lost! If your Day 2 and 3 picks turn out half as well as some of those from 12 months ago, you won’t be complaining.

Without further ado, here are my best 2020 picks from Round 2 onwards. Where indicated (*), some of these picks actually made the Professional Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team of the Year.


ROUND 2

#33: Cincinnati Bengals – Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson) *

With the first pick of Day 2, Cincy found a weapon for their #1 overall pick, Joe Burrow. Many pundits thought Higgins would go in Round 1 so when he was still sitting there the next morning, the Bengals had to pounce. With AJ Green and John Ross failing to provide the necessary deep threat for Cincinnati, the Clemson wideout stepped up admirably with 908 yards (third only to Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb among rookie receivers) and six touchdowns. Higgins only broke through as a starter in Week 3 and lost Burrow for the last six-and-a-half games, yet had two 100-yard games (and a 99). In fact, it took a hamstring injury, early in the final game against Baltimore, to deny Higgins a 1,000-yard debut season. It also meant he only tied Cris Collinsworth’s franchise record of 67 catches in a rookie season rather than beating it. Higgins is the epitome of a Round 1 talent falling into Round 2, and there’s the promise of more to come.    

#41: Indianapolis Colts – Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin) *

The Colts’ second pick had a disappointing start to his first NFL campaign but the former Wisconsin running back suddenly hit a white-hot streak around Thanksgiving, becoming one of the very best RBs down the stretch. From Week 11 onwards, only some bloke called Derrick Henry had a higher rushing grade from PFF than the Taylor’s 91.2, and he averaged 6.2 yards per carry during that spell. He ended the season with 1,169 rushing yards (3rd in the NFL and easily the best of the 2020 class) and 11 touchdowns (T-7th), with only one fumble and one drop. He topped 100 yards on the ground on only his second game, stuck a nice, round 150 on Las Vegas and his 253 rushing yards in Week 17 against the Jaguars set a new franchise record, and carried Indy into the playoffs. For Taylor, the sky’s the limit.

Julio Aguilar – Getty Images

#45: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Antoine Winfield Jr. (S, Minnesota) *

Landing Winfield in the middle of Round 2 definitely feels like a decent bang for the Bucs (sorry). He was a productive blitzer with nine pressures on 58 rushes – including two strip-sacks – and he finished the regular season with the second-highest PFF grade for run defence at his position (86.3). The Buccaneers’ 26-14 win over the Vikings in mid-December saw Winfield notch 10 tackles, two assists and a sack, while taking great delight in snuffing out a pass aimed at Tyreek Hill in the Super Bowl a few weeks ago was yet another highlight to add to the reel. His solid debut season featuring 64 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, six passes defended and an interception.

#49: Pittsburgh Steelers – Chase Claypool (WR, Notre Dame)

Without a Day 1 selection, Claypool – the 11th WR off the board last year – was actually Pittsburgh’s first pick of the 2020 draft and he came out all guns blazing from the start. The Notre Dame wideout, who saw more deep targets than anyone in the NFL, ended the year with 62 catches for 873 yards and nine regular-season touchdowns, including two against Cincinnati, three in a 38-29 win over the Eagles and an 84-yarder against Denver. He also bagged two more scores from just five receptions in the Wild Card loss to Cleveland. Claypool looks well placed to kick on from here, especially if JuJu Smith-Schuster hits free agency.

Patrick Smith – Getty Images

#52: Los Angeles Rams – Cam Akers (RB, Florida State)

Akers, LA’s highest pick in the past three years at #52 overall, joined a busy backfield and missed some time with injuries in the first half of the season. But he started to pick up, peaking with 171 rushing yards in a 24-3 trouncing of the New England on Thursday Night Football. He was also used more in the receiving game as the year went on, not least in the Week 17 win over Arizona when he logged 52 yards from four catches, compared to only 34 yards from 21 rushing attempts. Ending the regular season with 748 yards from scrimmage, he carried on where he left off in the Rams’ two playoff games, racking up 221 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards from just three catches and a rushing touchdown in each game. Akers may yet prove to be the heavy lifter in Sean McVay’s running back committee if he keeps this trajectory going.

#64: Carolina Panthers – Jeremy Chinn (S/OLB, Southern Illinois) *

Carolina only selected defensive players in the draft last year and with the last pick of the second round, they opted for Chinn, a safety/outside linebacker from Southern Illinois. Chinn wasn’t perfect by any means, giving up six touchdowns in coverage and struggling in run defence at times, but the signs are promising, having logged 116 total tackles, the most among all NFL rookies, as well as two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Chinn was even in with a shout of winning Defensive Rookie of the Year at one point, not least because of his two fumble recovery touchdowns on consecutive plays in the third quarter of a 28-27 loss to the Vikings in Week 12, aas well as his two NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month awards.

Jim Mone – AP Photo

ROUND 3

#66: Washington Football Team – Antonio Gibson (RB, Memphis)

We also know that #2 overall pick Chase Young was the high-profile pick but he wasn’t the only Washington Football Team rookie to make his mark in 2020. Memphis running back Gibson also produced a PFF grade above 80.0, with 795 rushing yards (20th in the league) and 11 TDs (T-7th), as well as 247 yards receiving. His two 100-yard days both came against divisional rivals Dallas, racking up 243 rushing yards on 40 carries and scoring four total touchdowns in two meetings.

#85: Indianapolis Colts – Julian Blackmon (S, Utah)

Julian Blackmon switched to safety during his final season at Utah after a few underwhelming seasons at corner, and the move seems to have paid off big time. Through the first 11 weeks of his professional career, Blackmon played lights out and was by far the highest-graded rookie at his position in the league. In a complete role-reversal with Jonathan Taylor (see above), he went off the boil after that. Nonetheless, for a late Day 2 pick, Blackmon was definitely successful, with 35 solo tackles, six passes defended, one forced fumble and two interceptions.

#89: Minnesota Vikings – Cameron Dantzler (CB, Mississippi State) *

Obviously, top rookie Justin Jefferson took a lot of the limelight in Minnesota but kudos must go to Vikings front office for taking Dantzler, the corner from Mississippi State, late in the third round – especially having already picked a corner in Jeff Gladney on Day 1. A debut NFL season is always going to be a mixed bag but with Dantzler, there were more highs than lows, even with injuries early in the season limiting him to just 11 games. With 46 total tackles, three tackles for loss, four pass defenced, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, as well as two interceptions, he racked up nine solo tackles against Atlanta in mid-October and finished on a high, with his performances against Jacksonville (Week 13) and Chicago (Week 15) securing the top two PFF grades from a rookie corner all year.

Getty Images

ROUND 4

#128: Buffalo Bills – Gabriel Davis (WR, UCF)

As a Day 3 pick, some degree of inconsistency is to be expected but there were times during the season when Davis made some big plays and looked the real deal, rather than the 17th wide receiver off the board. The rookie finished the regular season with 599 receiving yards from just 35 receptions (his average of 17.1 yards per catch was 4th best across the entire league) and bagged seven TDs, having carved out a role alongside Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. He also made a name for himself as a sideline toe-tapper, bringing in two tight catches in quick succession in his first playoff game against the Colts. Alas, he didn’t manage to haul in anything in the Divisional Round or the AFC Championship games, but the fourth-rounder looks set fair for another good year in 2021.  

#138: Kansas City Chiefs – L’Jarius Sneed (S, Louisiana Tech) *

Sneed wasn’t even among the first 10 safeties off the board but he certainly represented exceptional value at the end of Round 4. Having played in the slot, out wide and deeper at college, his versality was a contributory factor in becoming PFF’s top rookie defensive back. He allowed just one gain of 20+ yards and according to PFF, only one touchdown, while notching 41 total tackles, three interceptions, two sacks, two tackles for loss, four pass breakups and seven passes defended during the regular campaign –despite missing six weeks with a broken collarbone. With only six starts and nine regular season appearances under his belt, it’s still early days but he’s already sacked both Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen in the playoffs, and played in a Super Bowl (his first loss as a professional). I think snaring Sneed in Round 4 already feels like daylight robbery and I’m not the only one who thinks so: a recent redraft by CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso had Sneed going to the Carolina Panthers at #7 overall.

Jay Biggerstaff – USA TODAY Sports

ROUND 6

#182: New England Patriots – Michael Onwenu (G, Michigan) *

Round 5 was a bit of a desert but when we got to Round 6, ker-ching! Jackpot! The Patriots love a sixth-round bargain out of Michigan(!) and Onwenu might just prove to be the biggest steal in the entire draft. The 6’3”, 350lb lineman logged more than 80 snaps at three different positions (left guard, right guard and right tackle) and posted at least a 79.0 PFF grade at each. Despite playing guard in his four years at Michigan, his rookie campaign was mainly spent at right tackle (616 snaps). In a class that featured six first-round offensive tackles, Onwenu scored the highest PFF grade of all of them – and ranked third among all rookies, in all positions, behind only Justin Jefferson and Chase Young. Impressive stuff from the big fella!

#187: Cleveland Browns – Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, Michigan)

Peoples-Jones was another steal in the sixth round, helping to fill out the Browns’ receiving corps when Odell Beckham Jr was lost for the season. Although he only made 14 receptions and no more than three in any one game, he posted 304 regular season receiving yards – that’s nearly 22 yards a pop. Of his two touchdowns, one was a 75-yarder against the Titans in a game they led 38-7 by the break but earlier, in Week 7, a 24-yard catch for the game-winning score against AFC North foes Cincinnati with just 11 seconds remaining made him an instant hero in the Dawg Pound. Given Cleveland’s roster, Peoples-Jones may remain a supplementary weapon but he’s already proved that he can make the big plays when called upon.

Kareem Elgazzar – Imagn Content Services, LLC

#188: Buffalo Bills – Tyler Bass (K, Georgia Southern)

Sixty picks after they selected Gabriel Davis, Buffalo netted Bass. The rookie kicker bookended his first pro season with bad games – he missed field goal attempts of 34 and 38 yards in his NFL debut, and also missed a pair of kicks in the Divisional Round win over Baltimore (to be fair, the conditions weren’t great that day). Otherwise, Bass was pretty solid, going 28-of-34 for FGs (82.4%) and 57 of 59 on extra points (96.6%), including 19 successful attempts in his last three regular season games. The 141 points he scored for his team was the fourth-best total in the league.

#199: Los Angeles Rams – Jordan Fuller (S, Ohio State)

With pick-ups like Fuller in Round 6, you can see why teams like the Rams are willing to keep trading their Day 1 picks away for more draft capital. Fuller was an immediate starter on the NFL’s best-ranked defence and even though he missed four games with a neck injury, he still accumulated 60 total tackles, five pass breakups and three picks, two of which came off a certain Mr T. Brady of Tampa during a 27-24 primetime win on Monday Night Football. A further 12 tackles in two postseason games leaves the former Ohio State safety with a tidy Year 1 record on which to build.


ROUND 7

#216 Washington Football Team – Kamren Curl (S, Arkansas) *

There was one stand-out selection in the final round of the 2020 draft and yet again, Washington came up trumps. Curl, the Arkansas strong safety, emerged from the shadows when Landon Collins was lost for the year with a torn Achilles in Week 7. He soon became a key part of the secondary, finishing the regular season as the highest-graded safety from the 2020 rookie class. He also made the Rookie of the Year team and one PFF article I read suggested that Curl had a legitimate claim for being the runner-up Defensive Rookie of the Year behind Chase Young, finishing second on the team for tackles (88), as well as notching 3 INTs, four passes defended, two sacks and three tackles for loss. Of his interceptions, taking a game-winning pick back for a 76-yard touchdown against the 49ers in mid-December was definitely one for the Curl family archives.  

Ross D Franklin – AP Photo

UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS

We can’t end without mentioning two of the undrafted free agents who got picked up after the draft, given the impact they had.

The Jacksonville Jaguars has 12 picks last year but their best move was probably made afterwards, when they got James Robinson* to sign on the dotted line. The Illinois State RB was a revelation, ending up with 1,070 rushing yards (T-5th in the NFL) and seven touchdowns. He also added 49 catches for 344 yards and three receiving touchdowns for good measure. A legitimate contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year with seven games with 100+ total yards, Robinson posted awesome numbers for an UFA playing on the league’s worst team, especially when you consider they would have been playing catch-up in pretty much every game they played.

I think Indianapolis ‘won’ last year’s draft with Pittman Jr, Taylor and Blackmon among their haul, but they also played a blinder in the undrafted free agent market, securing the services of Rodrigo Blankenship*. The former Georgia kicker became a cult figure during the season, on his way to kicking 43 of 45 extra points (95.5%), 32 of 37 field goals (86.5%) and a tally of 139 points for his team (5th across all players in the league). He was also responsible for 13 of the Colts 19 points in a 19-11 win over Chicago in Week 4, pretty much winning the game by himself. Respect the Specs!

As a side note, the New York Jets were also able to pick up Lamar Jackson after the draft was over. Alas, this particular version was a cornerback from Nebraska but still, it sounds like good value to me!

Feature image: Associated Press

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NFL Week 16 Sky Sports TV Preview

Xmas football is here! Just 2 weeks left of the regular season before we separate the men from the boys. Yet another feast of action provided by SkySports this weekend including a Christmas Day game and 3 on Boxing day. So get your mince pies in your hands as you peruse through the games. Use the handy menu below to choose your game!

Merry Christmas to everyone and hope that it is as good as it can be considering the year we have had, but thankfully the NFL is here to keep us company if you can’t be with those that you intended to be with.


| MIN @ NO | TB @ DET | SF @ ARI | MIA @ LVR | IND @ PIT | LAR @ SEA | TEN @ GB | BUF @ NE |


Xmas Day 9.30pm – Vikings @ Saints

You have to wonder how much stuffing has been knocked out of the Vikings after their loss against divisional rivals Chicago. They have conceded an average of 28 points over the last few games and take on a Saints team on a 2 game losing streak but should have a as healthy as can be Drew Brees under center.

Personally, I feel that Drew Brees came back too early but considering the position the Saints are in, I can understand why. currently the #2 seed, chasing the Packers and had Kansas coming to town, totally get why they brought back the future hall of famer, even if it was a bit hastily.

He’ll have a better time of it against the Vikings but it isn’t a fixture thay’ve had too much success in, with Minneosta leading the all time series 23-12 and winning 3 of the last 4 (who can forget the Minneapolis Miracle).

Brees will have to do it without Michael Thomas who landed on IR so that he can as fit as possible for the playoff and try and rekindle that partnership on the field in the post season with the Saints guaranteed to be there. The Saints (10-4) still need to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the division and the Buccaneers are making a late charge, only one game back.

Alvin Kamara likely to return for Saints Sunday | Vols Wire
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Alvin Kamara has had far from a vintage year and you have to go back to week 6 since he had his last 100yard scrimmage game and the recent switch at QB and an under par Brees and missing Michael Thomas has played its part in that. That being said, he is still the leading rusher AND receiver on the team so expect similar outputs from him here against a Vikings defence that ranks 23rd against the rush and 24th against the pass in terms of yardage.

The Saints defence has come to play and is getting better as the season goes on. Their 32 points conceded against the Chiefs, which is no embarrassment at all, was the first time they conceded 30 plus since week 5. Since their week 6 bye, they have limited opposing offence to under 14 points 4/9 times and under 300 yards of total offence 5 times.

Led by leading team sacker Trey Hendrickson, who was able to be more than a nuisance for Patrick Mahomes last week, will look to add to his current 12.5 sack total on the year. Fellow Defensive end and partner in crime Cameron Jordan, whilst not having his best year has still been able to notch 6.5 sacks and are a good pass-rushing duo that Kirk Cousins will no enjoy getting to know this Xmas.

For Minnesota, despite being the 9th seed currently, are all but out of it by name being 2 games behind Arizona and also now behind Chicago in the tie-breaking ranks.

Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson developing into complete receiver
John Autey

They’ll look to play spoiler here and they do have the talent on offence to score the points and star rookie WR, who earned a pro Bowl nod (for what it’s worth) this week, will continue to add to his 1182 yards and 7 Touchdown dances this season. A perfect compliment to Jefferson is Adam Thielen who has gotten the Touchdowns and redzone looks, if not the yardage and has 13 TDs and just a few ticks under 800 receiving yards this season.

This team is a run first offence though as Dalvin Cook, also a Pro Bowler for 2020, will look to find the endzone against a Saints defence giving up the fewest amount of rushing scores. that being said, he did find the endzone against Chicago who are also a top 5 stingy team when it comes to scores on the ground. Cook has mustered 8 games with over 100 rushing yards this season and has scored in all but 3 games.

For Minnesota to have any chance, they’ll have to be clean in the turnovers battle, a metric that Saints rank 6th (+6 turnover differential) compared to the Vikings lowly 23rd (-5).


Writer’s Pick: Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

I can’t see anything but a Saints victory here against a Vikings team that only has pride to play for now. That being said, if Brees is no better than he was last week, they could struggle but considering how dominant the defence has become since their bye (Kansas game aside), they could bail the offence out anyway. Saints should cover the 7 points that the bookies have handicapped them and I feel the total points line of 51 is too high.

Saints 27 – 17 Vikings

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Boxing Day 6pm – Buccaneers @ Lions

Brady and the Bucs struggled to get going in the first half against the Falcons, but they got out of jail because they were playing the Falcons.

They remain a game back from the Saints who are far from guaranteed win either of their remaining games in the division but they also sit level with the Rams at 9-5 and they’ll at least want that #5 seed which is a trip to play the NFC East winner, so essentially a bye in the Wildcard round in January. As the Rams are facing the Seahawks, a win for the Bucs in this one likely lifts them into that 5th spot regardless of the NFC West battle result.

Tom Brady roasts Tony Dungy on Twitter over QB rankings
Kevin C. Cox / Getty

So how good has Tom Brady been this year? Well stat wise, it’s in keeping with most of his years. Consistent, if not spectacular. A win in either of his last 2 games will continue his streak of double digit wins in the regular season, with 2002 the ONLY season he won less than 10 games as a starter and that includes a 11-1 season (due to suspension) in 2016. It’s fair to say the Belichick vs Brady debate clearly is a battle that Brady has won this year. You can still tell that he has the fire in his belly after his riposte to Tony Dungy on Twitter when he ranked him as his 6th hardest QB to play against.

It helps when you have players like Mike Evans, Anotnio Brown and Chris Godwin catching balls for you. Evans, who paces the Bucs with just 779 receiving yards, epitomises what Brady has done this year, which is spread the love around. 5 receivers have over 30 receptions and all have over 300 yards and there are 10 different players that have caught a receiving touchdown off the future Hall of Famer.

Leonard Fournette, with 2 TDs last week will continue in place of Ronald Jones, who will continue on IR but this is a pass first offence who rank in the top quarter of most passing metrics including yardage, Touchdowns and points.

They face a Lions team that are 1-5 at home and a defence which rank in the bottom 5 in most metrics in either passing, rushing or total defence including a league worst 31.1 pts per game given up so should be able to do what they want, when they want.

Whilst there are points giving up on defence, on offence, they are able to score too so signs point to a potentially high scoring game. Matthew Stafford doesn’t seem as though he’ll miss this game despite having multiple injuries including a back injury, a consequence of trying to carry this team for years.

Matthew Stafford questionable vs. Titans | Yardbarker
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The same can’t be said for Golladay who clearly has some serious hip issues that have kept him out for the majority of the season. Marvin Jones has rolled back the years somewhat over the past few weeks, with 2 TDs and 276 yards in his last 3 games. Like he did in New England, Mo Sanu has made a decently positive impact in his first few weeks for the Lions and will look to continue his part in the last 2 weeks.

The team’s main target hog who fumbled last week, TJ Hockenson, will look to get back on track and add to his 6 TDs on the season, which has seen him earn a Pro Bowl nod (though Evan Engram did also, so whether we can use Pro Bowl as an achievement is very much debatable).

Stafford an Co. take on a Bucs defence that has seemed to have been more frivolous in recent weeks, allowing at least 4 scores (TD/FG) in 6 of it’s last 7 games (would have been 7/7 if not for Dan Bailey) and have been picked apart through the air all season giving up an average of 255 yards.


Writer’s Pick: Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Hard to see anything other than an away day victory for the Bucs on “Bucsing Day” (sorry). The 9.5pt handicap line indicates a tough day for the Lions, which would be in keeping with their defensive performances throughout this season. I’d probably fancy the Bucs to win by double digits.

The Bucs defence has gotten into the Xmas giving spirit too though and the total points line of 54 appeals on taking the over.

Buccaneers 38 – 24 Lions

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Boxing Day, 9:30pm – 49ers @ Cardinals

It’s Christmas, and on Boxing Day we get served up two tasty match-ups to enjoy after everyone has eaten approximately 781kg of turkey & stuffing. The evening game sees a depleted San Francisco team, hobbling to the end of the season at this point, visit State Farm Stadium to play the Cardinals. Is this now a home game for San Francisco? As they’re temporarily playing out of State Farm? Should they not choose a neutral venue? Sod it, send them both to Wembley. Not much going on there right now…

Okay, okay, London is a long way from the West coast. I get it. If this had been the reverse game it would have been very interesting, especially seeing as Arizona is currently allowing some fans into the games. Not much of a home game for SF? Focusing on the game, San Francisco comes into this one beaten down and hurting from their extensive injury list this campaign. Jimmy G is still on IR and according to reports isn’t expected to return again this season. Fans have to be wondering if he can be relied on moving forward from here. Since tearing his ACL after 3 games of the 2018 season, he will now have missed 23 games from a possible 45 (assuming he doesn’t start again in 2020). Could he have played his last game in a 49ers uniform? The bad news doesn’t end there either, with Nick Mullens also headed to IR after elbow surgery this week. The end of the season can’t come soon enough for Kyle Shanahan.

Jimmy Garoppolo
Charlie Riedel/AP

However, defensively San Francisco might actually be able to put up a bit of a fight. They currently have the 5th-best ranked defence in the NFL in total yards allowed, they are also 4th in the NFL when it comes to passing yards allowed (2,938). The 49ers secondary is looking good and if they can pressure Murray into quick first and second read throws, they might be able to create some turnovers and hand their offence a short starting field position, which will certainly help given the boat load of injuries they have on that side of the ball. They will have to rely on their secondary as their pass-rush just isn’t getting it done. With Ezekiel Ansah and Dee Ford both on IR, San Francisco aren’t getting the sacks to try and pressure opposing offences. They only have 25 sacks this season, which is almost half that of the league leaders (Pittsburgh – 47).

Arizona come into this game on the back of the game of the week versus Philadelphia. A shoot-out between the two ex-Ohio State QBs ended in a narrow victory for Kyler Murray. He threw over 400 yards in the process with 3 scores, but had some real ‘interesting’ moments. The interception throw straight into the arms of Eagles safety Marcus Epps was puzzling to say the least. Murray obviously still has plenty time to improve, he’s only in his sophomore season in the league and with one more win will lead Arizona to their first winning season since 2015. He’s also on the brink of a milestone; he needs a further 363 passing yards to reach 4,000, and 259 rushing yards to reach 1,000 on the season respectively. One would imagine he will fall short of the rushing total, but its a monumental effort – note that no QB has ever done that before, showing how difficult it is to achieve.

cardeagle1.jpg
Getty Images

Kyler’s youthfulness was bailed out a couple of times from some truly incredibly catches by his receivers. The DeAndre Hopkins catch pictured above was eventually the game-winning score, and just a truly mesmerising display of athleticism. He ended up one handing that catch down to the ground. Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald also caught a wonderful low pass at the back of the end zone, making it 255 games in a row that he has caught a pass. A absolutely mesmerising statistic – he’s only missed 8 games in 16 seasons in the league.

On the ground Arizona should be a dominant force too. They are 4th in the league in rushing yards – averaging 147.8 per game with 4.8 yards per attempt average (T-7th). Murray’s elusiveness will prove tricky for the 49ers defensive line and pass rushers, if he can get out of the pocket and run the ball on either designed runs or RPOs, Arizona could have some success but they shouldn’t expect a walk in the park against the 7th ranked rush defence in the league (104.4 yards per game).

On the face of things, this Arizona defence should have an easier time of things if Garoppolo isn’t playing and CJ Beathard gets the start. San Francisco are also still without star RB Raheem Mostert, not making their attack on the ground much more formidable than the one in the air. However, there is no such thing as an easy game in the NFL and just 4 weeks ago the 49ers pulled off an upset win against the Los Angeles Rams. Haason Reddick and co should be licking their lips with a chance to get to the top of the sacks table. Arizona has 43 on the season, only 4 away from the league leaders. If he can have another 5-sack game like he did in week 14, I can’t imagine SF will be leaving (or staying in) Arizona with the W.

Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

Writer’s Pick (Steve Tough – @SteTough)

Despite some real hearty performances from San Francisco this season in the face of absolutely horrible injury luck, I just don’t think they have enough to overcome Arizona. Kyler Murray is coming off a 400+ yard passing game and will be looking to add to that total. DeAndre Hopkins also leads the league in receiving yards with 1,324 and will be looking to take that crown for the first time in his career. It will be interesting to see if the San Francisco defence can enjoy the same success that Philadelphia did against Arizona, if they can, this game could be closer than most anticipate it will.

San Francisco 10 – 27 Arizona

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Saturday, 1.15am Dolphins @ Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders will hope that quarterback Derek Carr can return for Sunday to face the Miami Dolphins, as the Silver and Black look to pursue very narrow play-off dreams entering Week 16.

Carr, who left the defeat to the LA Chargers with a suspected groin injury last week, has split time in practice with Marcus Mariota, who looked ultra-capable when he came in to cover for Carr in Week 15, despite the over-time loss to Justin Herbert.

The loss marked a fourth crushing defeat from the last five games, the only win coming in that last gasp deep-ball win over the New York Jets, a run that has seen them slip from play-off consideration to holding on for dear life at 7-7.

A win over the Dolphins who sit at 9-5 would at least give them a shot going into Week 17 should other results go their way, but the miserable season collapse has paid way to them deciding their own destiny for 2020/21.

Josh Jacobs ran for 76 yards and a touchdown last Saturday which looked impressive when partnered with the 88 yards from Mariota but averaging just 2.9 yards a carry and without a 100-yard rushing game in four attempts is a worrying trend for the young starlet.

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The offence will be aided should Carr return, especially with tight-end Darren Waller continuing to play at an exceptional level as the second best tight-end in the league behind the incomparable Travis Kelce.

The former-receiver notched 150 yards and a magnificent looking deep score as he approaches the 1000 yard mark with two remaining games to go on the season.

Defensively, the Raiders may also be boosted by the return of safety, Jonathan Abrams who has practiced all week, and they might need the help as they continue to shift big yards against all most everybody they face.

Corner Trayvon Muller had a particularly tough outing against the Chargers, as they gave up 314 yards through the air to rookie Herbert and now rank 7th worst in passing yards allowed on the year and 6.0 yards per play on the season, which is 5th most and in competition with some of the worst defences in the league.

On the other side of that scale however is the Miami Dolphins constricting defensive unit who held the New England Patriots to just 12 points in a victory over their division rivals in Week 15.

The group was also coming off the back of a game in which they picked off Patrick Mahomes on three occasions, as the high-paid cornerback combination of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones prove their value to this defence first set up that Brian Flores has built.

The group has been under pressure to perform throughout the year, as rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa attempts to find his feet in the NFL before they potentially reach the play-offs for the first time since Adam Gase.

Credit by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

The Alabama-alumni has shown glimpses of what made him the fifth overall pick last year, and why the Dolphins replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick with the young-gun half-way through the year as the leftie has done well to continue building rapports with Mike Gesicki and Devante Parker in particular.

Gesicki has become a good safety valve for the young QB, and now has over 600 receiving yards on the season as he looks to further his numbers against a team who has shifted 700 yards against tight-ends in their 14 games this season.

The Week 16 matchup with the Raiders will prove a further test for Tua with the opportunity to kick the Raiders out of contention for that 7th and final play-off spot providing he gets the Florida team a big win on the road in Las Vegas.


Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

Overall, the Carr news only makes a small difference to what I think will happen when these two teams face up on Saturday. The Raiders have struggled a bunch in all four of their recent losses and they cant seem to stop anybody with any consistency on defence.

Miami however can stop just about anyone and even made the Chiefs sweat for the entire game which is a far more effective offensive unit than the Raiders, and I expect them to grind out a low-scoring, but important win to keep themselves in the driving seat of that final play-off spot.

Dolphins 21-15 Raiders

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Sunday 6pmColts @ Steelers

With major play-off implications at stake, these two postseason-bound teams may have similar records but they are on quite different trajectories. The visitors are fresh off a 27-20 victory over divisional rivals the Texans, their third win in a row, while the Steelers suffered an unexpected 27-17 loss to AFC North foes the Bengals – their third defeat in succession.

If we use a New Year Eve’s fireworks display as our analogy, the 10-4 Colts are a Catherine Wheel, spinning away nicely at an even tempo. These steady Eddies have been slugging it out with the Titans (also 10-4) in the AFC South and it’s all still up for grabs, although they lag behind on a tiebreaker. In stark contrast, the 11-3 Steelers are a Skyrocket. Everyone went “oooh” and “aaah” as they raced out to an 11-0 record, only to explode in a big, noisy and colourful way. The ashes are now drifting back to earth.

With a chance to wrap up the AFC North, the wobbly Steelers had a Monday night match-up on primetime at Cincinnati: talk about the perfect get-right scenario. The pundits queued up to predict an easy win for the 14-point favourites. Everything that transpired thereafter felt like it belonged to the alternative universe from His Dark Materials: close to the one we know but not quite the same. The Bengals D was fierce; Ryan Finley was competent; Ben Roethlisberger was poor; Diontae Johnson wasn’t Mr Butter Fingers; there were three first-half turnovers in favour of Cincy. All very odd indeed. The 10-point upset, in front of a national TV audience, saw the Bengals snap a five-game losing streak and an 11-game run of defeats against their nemesis.

Pittsburgh’s offence has been held to under 20 points for four consecutive games now and was restricted to a measly 244 total yards by Cincinnati. Big Ben clearly wasn’t at his best (throwing 4-of-10 for -5 passing yards in the first quarter), even though he became the seventh player to pass for more than 60,000 yards. His 62.4 QB rating set a new low for the season.

Michael Conroy – AP

The pressure is growing on the ailing Steelers’ QB and his WR corps because the team owns the league’s second-worst rushing attack. With the banged-up James Conner once again missing, they’ve gained an average of 51 yards on the ground during the three-game losing streak. If it weren’t for Benny Snell’s 84 yards and a rushing TD on Monday, Pittsburgh would have posted a net total of 2 yards rushing.

Their once-invincible defence is still the second-best in the league but it has been weakened by a number of key injuries of late, not least to linebacker Bud Dupree and on Monday, to fullback Derek Watt. At least his brother, TJ, continues to excel. His league-leading 13 sacks make him a Defensive Player of the Year contender but he can’t do it all by himself.

You could argue that, like Pittsburgh, Indy’s defence (ranked 7th in the NFL) has been the backbone of the team for much of the campaign. Their mainstays stepped up again to complete the season sweep over Houston, with Darius Leonard forcing the game-deciding fumble, rushing up and punching the ball out of Keke Coutee’s hands as he headed for the end zone with just 23 seconds on the clock. And one of the trades of the year, DeForest Buckner, sacked Deshaun Watson three times, despite operating on one good leg.

Brett Coomer – Houston Chronicle

The revitalised unit has allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the league – not great news for the Steelers’ weak running game. Indy’s D have also forced the third most turnovers in the league so Diontae Johnson’s handling needs to be error-free in this game.

Another similarity between these teams is that they both have a veteran quarterback plucked from the 2004 Draft class. Unlike Big Ben’s current funk, Indianapolis winning four of the last five is down in no small part to Philip Rivers, who could be back to his best (11 TDs to 2 INTs in that spell). His 419 career TDs leave him needing just two more to pass Dan Marino and go fifth in the all-time list, a milestone he could esily reach in this game. The team ranks ninth in overall offence, with major contributions from the league’s RB10, the second-round rookie Jonathan Taylor (842 yards, 7 TDs). Top wideout TY Hilton is also quietly effective but his 675 yards only just scrape him into the NFL’s top 40.

The Colts have not committed a turnover in their last three but it’s also noting that they relied on a last-minute fumble for the second time in three weeks to grab the W against Houston. This doesn’t shout Super Bowl contender from the rooftops but nonetheless, Indy just keep on clearing one hurdle at a time and moving on to the next.


Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@Sean TylerUK)

A month ago, the Steelers looked locked in as AFC North champions elect and a bye in the Wild Card round was within their grasp. Now, it’s all starting to slip through their fingers. Their postseason place is in the bank but their current form probably makes them the team others want to face. Having lost twice in recent weeks to teams below .500, the AFC’s No.3 seed needs to end the slump – and fast – if they’re to stay ahead of the Browns and Ravens.

Yet the Colts are no pushovers. They have enough going for them on both sides of the ball to bloody the collective Pittsburgh nose for a fourth straight week. But playing at Heinz Field, could the Steelers bounce back after a short week and stun Indy? Of course they could and in fact, the Steelers are slight favourites at the time of writing. But I sense another upset brewing here. Unlike their hosts, the Colts look solid at the moment so I’m expecting them to take care of business, leaving the Steelers with more questions than answers once again.

Colts 31-27 Steelers

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Sunday 9.25 pm – Rams @ Seahawks

Without trying to launch straight into hyperbole, this is probably the most important game of the weekend, with the result all but determining who wins the highly competitive NFC West.

A week ago, we all would have assumed that these teams would be sitting level coming into this game. But, thanks to the historic loss to The Worst Team in Football, the 9-5 Rams unexpectedly find themselves a game behind the 10-4 Seahawks, making this a must-win contest. The Arizona Cardinals are just one game behind LA so it’s all pretty tight. So close, in fact, that a win gives Seattle the title, as well as a shot at the top seed and home-field advantage in the play-offs; a defeat would put them behind the Rams on a tiebreaker, as they lost their Week 10 match-up.

Coming off the back of two straight wins, Seattle clinched a play-off spot with a 20-15 victory in Washington, although they did have to hang on a bit at the end after building a 20-3 lead. QB Russell Wilson finished with a season-low 121 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT – not exactly up to the standards he set in the first half of the season. He’s now dropped to 7th in the league for passing yardage but he’s still second only to Aaron Rodgers for TDs thrown (37), more than a quarter of which have landed in the arms of DK Metcalf (1,223 yards, 10 TDs).

The rushing game looked solid last week too, with Wilson’s 52 rushing yards complementing the tally accrued by RB1 Chris Carson (63 yards on 15 attempts) and his backfield compadre Carlos Hyde (an impressive 55 yards and a TD on just two carries).

Brad Mills – USA TODAY Sports

While their offence (ranked 9th in the league) hasn’t been able to maintain its blistering start to the campaign, ‘Hawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been sacked a worrying 41 times so this is where the game could be won or lost. Seattle’s wobbly defence (ranked a lowly 26th) is actually playing a bit better of late, with DE Carlos Dunlap joining from Cincinnati a few weeks ago, and Jamal Adams bossing things in an improved secondary. They definitely stepped it up last week in the nation’s capital, with four sacks and seven QB hits on Dwayne Haskins, and their pass rush has delivered at least two sacks in the last eight games, including three on Jared Goff in Week 10.

Coming into this one with a totally different vibe, the Rams’ 23-20 home defeat to the winless New York Jets saw them become only the fifth team in 42 years to lose when favoured by at least 17 points by the bookies. At least they didn’t have any fans in their shiny new stadium to share their views on proceedings.

Jared Goff led the fight-back as they cut the deficit to just three points with over six minutes left on the clock. But then LA went 4-and-out on their next possession, thanks to errors and penalties, and never got the ball back. Goff finished with 209 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. Whether his inconsistencies will affect his ability to connect with wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, both hovering around 20th in the league with more than 800 receiving yards apiece, only time will tell.

Keith Birmingham – Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

The match-up on the ground will be less appealing for Los Angeles. Seattle have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game (94.6), which will pose a challenge for the league’s ninth-best rushing attack, led by rookie Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson, two men with more than 500 yards to their names.

Despite Sam Darnold finding some success on Sunday, the Rams secondary plays at an elite level and is the primary reason for the team giving up the fewest passing yards per game (192.0) in the NFL. It was particularly impressive back in Week 10, when they held DK Metcalf to just two receptions and 28 yards. In short, the main difference between these two outfits is the relative strength of their defences. Aaron Donald and co. have mustered 44 sacks and twice as many QB hits in 14 games, making the Rams D the NFL’s top unit.


Writer’s Pick – Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

The Rams are Seattle’s bogey side, having won five of the last six clashes while averaging more than 31 points per game. This current iteration of the Seahawks’ defence is not the strongest, yet they are currently the -1.5 favourites, despite only posting 16 points against the Rams six weeks ago.

Maybe that demoralising defeat to the Jets is a factor. It could suck the Rams down into a pit of despair or alternatively, it might serve as the kick up the posterior they need to bounce back in the final two regular-season games against their two closest rivals, the Seahawks and the Cardinals. If they can win out, the Rams will be crowned NFC West champions, but that’s a big if.

Those Seattle shootouts from earlier in the year – back when they scored at least 34 points in six of their first eight games – are now distant memories. Maybe Russ is done cooking now and has moved on to the washing-up? His 13 INTs put him behind only Carson Wentz, yet then again, Jared Goff has been intercepted a dozen times himself.  

With two takeaway-prone QBs not at their best on show, I’m expecting an attritional, low-scoring affair. When they met in Week 12, the Rams won 23-16 and I think we’ll be in the same ballpark again. However, I’m going to plump for Wilson to step it up and lead the Seahawks to a home win and a division title.

Rams 20-24 Seahawks

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Sunday, 1:20am, Titans @ Packers

The Tennessee Titans will look to knock off their second successive NFC North team in the space of a week when the travel to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.

The Titans had a huge day last week in every possible way when they beat the Detroit Lions into the ground 46-24, as they pursue an AFC South title of their own behind the legs of not just Derrick Henry, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill put together potentially his finest game of the season in Week 15 as threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and also put two score on the board with his feet.

A huge 75-yard touchdown to Corey Davis and a generally wide open passing game showed the signs of the Derrick Henry affect, as defences struggle to stop both the freight train of a running back and the athletic receiving corps of Davis, AJ Brown and Jonnu Smith.

There was the customary 147 yards and a touchdown for the unstoppable Henry, who went over the 100 yard mark for the 10th time this season, and included a rather brutal, highlight reel stiff-arm – again.

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The game puts him just 341 yards off of 2K as he continues his most successful season so far in his bright career – 1679 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games for this Titans team.

Defensively, there continues to be some concerns heading off to the playoffs, as the Lions scored 24 points and moved the ball freely for 430 yards of total offence, which pushed the Titans to 6th worst in yards allowed on the year and 11th worst in points allowed.

Coming up against Aaron Rodgers will further put this defence to the test, as the unit attempts to prove itself against a high powered group that it could potentially end up facing in the playoffs.

Speaking of Rodgers, the Packers will be looking to secure themselves the number one seed in the NFC this weekend in a season that has seen some of the best of their star QB in several years under Matt LeFleur.

The 37-year-old has completed a massive 69.6% of his passes and has done so for 3828 yards in just 14 games and all whilst providing an almost unbelievable 40-4 touchdown to interception ratio.

On Monday it was announced that he had been voted to the ninth Pro-Bowl of his career, which came as little surprise to anybody, as the Packers had a league-high seven players voted in.

While the scoreboard went their way last time out in a win over the Panthers, concern was high over a second-half performance where the offence produced just a single second half field goal after an electric start.

Rodgers referred to the drop off as leaving a “sour taste” in his mouth, a feeling that will only be doubled by knowing that they face far stiffer opponents this week in the Titans and their overpowered offence.

(AP Photo – Sam Craft)

The danger is clear to LeFleur however, the young head-coach describing stopping the Titans as a “tremendous challenge” on Monday, as he tries to gauge the line between slowing down the Henry train and leaving the back end open to that play-action passing game of Tannehill.

The Packers defence has been much improved this year, ranking near the middle of the pack in most categories, and have given up fewer rushing yards on the season, 1541, than Derrick Henry has managed by himself.

Most teams are not the Titans however and the D-line of Green Bay will have their work thoroughly cut out for them if they want to prevent Tennessee from running the ball against them with ease.


Writer’s Pick – Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

Overall I don’t know if I can see anything other than a Packers win this Sunday. Despite the issues that the offence had in the second half, I don’t think its too much too worry about, especially since the Panthers defence has played well above its station on several occasions this season.

Rodgers will be buoyed by the opportunity to rack up the number one seed at home, and I expect him to show it against a defence who has struggled to hold down fast paced and meticulous offensive units like the Packers.

Packers 31-21 Titans

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MNF – Tuesday, 1.15am Bills @ Patriots

The king is dead, long live the new king. After a quarter of a century wait the Buffalo Bills (11-3) can finally lay claim to the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Back then the Bills limped into the postseason with a 10-6 record. They did smash the Dolphins in the Wild Card game, but went on to lose in the Divisional round to the Steelers (who went on to lose to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl).

2020 also marks the first time the New England Patriots (6-8) have not punched a ticket into the playoffs, continuing the ‘non Brady’ streak of no postseason action. The last time the Pats failed to get into the business end of the season was 2008 when Matt Cassel led New England to an 11-5 record, pipped to the division by the Miami Dolphins who also finished 11-5 but won the points margin in the two head to head games.

Picture credit: buffalo news.com

Both teams met earlier in the season, with Buffalo escaping the clutches of Cam Newton’s oak tree legs with a later Tyler Bass (pictured above) field goal. This time, with one team already eliminated, it’s time for the Sith Lord to unwrap Jared Stidham. The 4th round pick in the 2019 draft has already seen the field four times this season, and has ever thrown a couple of touchdowns, replacing a woeful Bryan Hoyer to get a garbage time score, and then a little cameo in the Pats 45-0 steamrolling of the Chargers.

Stidham needs to be rolled out for the last two weeks of the season. With no expectations this is an ideal opportunity for Pats OC Josh McDaniels to see if he has somebody to work with in 2021.

Picture credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

New England have been wholeheartedly underwhelming all season, and at one point they were 2-5, so to still be mathematically alive before Week 15 was pretty remarkable. The Cam Newton experiment has been a failure. Yes he runs, and is a redzone td monster, but through the air #1 has been atrocious. 5 passing touchdowns in 13 games is not going to get you far. This has obviously had a huge knock-on effect regarding the WR production. No Julian Edelman for most of the season, and what has been left is the weakest unit in the league. What makes the Pats offense a laughing stock is the TE production. Ryan Izzo has managed 13 catches for under 200 yards and 0 scores.

When we turn to the Bills it is the complete opposite. The team have tied the NFL record for the most different players to catch a TD – a remarkable 13. Josh Allen has been wowing fans all season, and is full value for his 11 wins in 14 games. Allen is a Pro Bowler for the first time, albeit on the second team behind Patrick Mahomes in the AFC. The dual threat is one of a small handful of franchise studs to still be in the running for the 2020 NFL MVP award, going up against Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers to decide the winner.

Picture credit: AP Photo/Brett Carlsen

Leading the Bills in catches is Stefon Diggs (pictured above), a 2020 Pro Bowl starter, who has 111 catches already and over 1,300 yards. Team mate Cole ‘slot machine’ Beasley needs just 50 to reach 1,000, which would mark the first time he has reached 1K in his 9 year career.

The only real weakness the Bills have is a rather pedestrian running game. The combination of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss do not scare anyone, and was it not for the rushing threat posed by Josh Allen this would be one of the worst rushing units in the league.

Buffalo’s defense has been fantastic all year long. LB Tremaine Edmonds and CB Tre’Davious White are all deserving Pro Bowl selections, and even KR Andre Roberts has been recognised for his special teams qualities.

Picture credit: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Unsurprisingly the Patriots have zero offensive players on the Pro Bowl team, and only Stephon Gilmore the CB made the Defensive squad, more by reputation and name recognition than actuations game play. The Patriots do value special teams very highly and were rewarded with Pro Bowl nods to the punter Jake Bailey (pictured above – who had a lot of work experience in 2020) and evergreen gunner Matthew Slater.


Writer’s Pick – Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)

With that highly significant Steelers loss to the Bengals on MNF in Week 14, the Bills have shimmied up the playoff pole to the #2 seed with just two regular season weeks left. Having sniffed that rarified air the Bills will not take anything for granted, and will be striving to win out against AFC East division rivals the Pats and then the Miami Dolphins.

Josh Allen can hoist up an NFL MVP trophy just like his fellow 2018 first round draft class buddy Lamar Jackson, and sweeping the Patriots would make the accolade that bit sweeter.

For the Bills D there is limited game film on Jared Stidham, including 0 starts or truly meaningful snaps, so the surprise element will favour the Patriots. This does not mean they will translate this into a victory. The empire has crumbled in New England, and it’s time for Pats fans to look to the future now and not the present.

Josh Allen to have another big game, and Buffalo to put immense pressure on the Steelers who are melting faster than a snowman in a naan bread oven (inspired by watching Eddie Hall trying to eat the world’s largest naan bread!!). Look to 21 year old Bills WR Gabriel Davis to add to his impressive 6 td total in this contest.

Buffalo 36 – 16 New England

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NFL Week 13 – Full10Takeaways

Week 13 was unlucky for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they finally lose their “0”. That was just one of a whole host of storylines to come out from the weekend’s action so here are the Full10Yards crew to give you the main takeaways from the last few days in the NFL.


Let Baker cook!

Baker Mayfield put up one of the best perfomances by any QB in the NFL in a first half this season and possibly one of his best performances in a Browns uniform, looking like his rookie self.

Baker Mayfield became the first Browns player in the Super Bowl era to throw four pass TDs in the first half of the game as the Browns stuck up 38 points before the break on a Titans team that had just beaten then Colts for first place in the AFC South. He threw to 10 different receivers and we even had a big man touchdown.

Not only did he do all of that, he even threw in a bit of air photography for Rashard Higgins.

Many people will point to the final score and his second-half performance, but make no mistake, this was as comfortable as it gets for Browns fans. The Titans sold out to stop the run, which they did, but Baker still showed he still has it in him to pick apart a defence when asked.

Can Baker keep cooking? Or will he burn the Kitchen down (probably would work better if Freddy Kitchens was still around).


Big Ben is in Big Bother

Many will have pegged the Steelers losing to Washington as an upset this past Monday night, however some of us did try and tell you! Make no mistake about it, the Steelers had been the least convincing 11-0 team in NFL history over the past month and finally their luck ran out. On a night where the best start in the franchise’s 87-year history came to an end, the Steelers appeared to be in firm control. A 14-0 lead at home usually means invincibility at Heinz Field, but not this time.

Alex Smith, under heavy pressure much of the night, finally got something going late in the first half. A Hopkins field goal got the team on the board in the final seconds. A one-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber midway through the third quarter pulled Washington within 14-10, and a lob from Smith to a wide-open Logan Thomas for a 15-yard touchdown tied it.

Steelers' run is over at 11-0, and the end was predictable – The Athletic
Justin K Aller – Getty Images

Pittsburgh drove into field goal range but tried a 4th down play instead of a 45 yard field goal. Roethlisberger’s heave to rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr fell incomplete and Smith calmly drove Washington 45 yards in nine plays to set up the winning score. To cap the night, Big Ben was then picked off as Washington added an insurance field goal as the Steelers ran out of time on the ensuing final drive.

The Steelers have no running game to speak of, even when James Conner suits up. Stone-hands tight end Eric Ebron has reappeared and other receivers are dropping passes with regularity. JuJu Smith-Schuster managed just 28 yards on 7 receptions and outside of one big play, Chase Claypool was a non-factor. The defence has held up its end of the bargain throughout the season but it can not continue to prop up this offence. Fortunately for the Steelers, the wheels might be only finally dislodging in Week 13 with post-season football all but secured. They have plenty to sort out before being considered serious Super Bowl contenders however.


Patrick Graham will be a HC next season

On Sunday night, the Giants pulled off one of the shocks of the week when they rolled into CenturyLink Field and held the Seattle offence to just 10 points…

Russell Wilson had what looks like a fairly decent stat line, 27-of-43, 263 yards and a TD, but he also threw a pick and was sacked five times. The Giants defence came to play and boy did they. Ex-Jet Leonard Williams is going to the Pro Bowl. Many questioned his move across from the green to the blue of New York, but he is having a terrific season, posting another 2.5 sacks and 5 QB hits in this game. He now has 7.5 sacks on the season, already a career-high.

Patrick Graham shoulders blame for New York Giants' defensive woes
Chris Pedota

The Seattle offensive line just could not contain the dominant pass rush of the Giants and Wilson, usually so good under pressure, wasn’t able to provide the spark that he had the week before. DK Metcalf was held to 80 yards and no TDs, no explosive game that he had the week before against Philadelphia. Their only TD came from a 28-yard pass to RB Chris Carson in the final quarter.

Over the last seven games, the Giants are 5-2. They have pulled away from the thoroughly abysmal pack in the NFC East and look like they’re only going to get better. They have held teams to under 20 points for three games in a row for the first time since 2009. Patrick Graham absolutely coached circles around Pete Carroll. He’s going to be a star.


No half measures for McVay

In a crucial matchup against the Cardinals, the Rams reinstalled themselves as favourites for the tough NFC West division crown, going on to win 38-28 after a late Troy Hill pick-six sealing the victory for LA.

In that game, the Rams had a 14-7 lead.

Why is this important? Well, one stat that will continue to be banded about until it’s broken is the fact that Sean McVay is now 33-0 when his team leads at half-time.

Quite the feat. Yes he’s only been with the Rams but to have a record knowing that going into the break with the lead, you are 100% winning the game, say a lot about their ability to close out the game. Arizona have pulled off miraculous comebacks already this season, but could not quite do so here, leaving McVay’s half–time record intact.


Waller lot of yards!

Time for a bit of tight end love now. Darren Waller had himself an absolute day in the NFL and fantasy managers with him starting in their teams rejoicing in a crucial match-up week in most leagues.

Darren Waller ended up with 13 catches for 200 yards against the New York Jets and became the ONLY tight end since at least 1950 to hit all these marks in a single game.

TE Darren Waller just the fourth tight end ever to reach 200 yards
Danielle Parhizkaran – NorthJersey.com

The former sixth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens as a receiver (but they know how to pick a tight tnd!) had his troubles early on in his career, suffering suspensions after violating the substance abuse policy. These caused him to miss the first four games of the 2016 season and all of 2017.

He was waived by the Ravens and placed on their practice squad before the Raiders came calling. When the Raiders were on Hard Knocks in 2018, we got a bit more insight into Waller’s troubles with substance abuse.

“I was just like a vegetable – I was getting high like literally every day, plotting to sabotage my way out of the league so I didn’t look like a quitter.”

In 2016 training camp with the Ravens,” He says he used substances including opiates, Xanax and cocaine

Waller went on to say that “I just want to be someone that’s consistent and can be there 16 games.” He’s done just that.

We all hope Waller continues his upward trajectory and enjoys the spotlight he now has on him as one of the best TEs in the league this year.

2019 saw his breakout with 90 receptions, 1,145 yards and three touchdowns. This week’s performance takes him to 7 TDs this season and he is on pace to beat his total yardage from 2019.

John Gruden, his HC, said in June 2019 that Waller was “going to be one of the best-kept secrets in the league”. Well, the secret is well and truly out now.


Hot seats and cold shoulders

There are a couple of head coaches who are under more pressure after the dust settled on Week 13.

Anthony Lynn’s Chargers were embarrassed at SoFI stadium, with his team laying a goose egg as they were shut out against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Belichick’s record against rookie QBs is second to none and is now 25-5 against first- year signal callers.

  • Justin Herbert vs Patriots: 209 total yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
  • Justin Herbert average in 10 other games: 320 total yards/game, 26 total TD, 7 INT

While the Patriots didn’t necessarily play well on offence, it was a team effort by the Patriots with Gunner Olszewski scoring on special teams and a receiving touchdown too. Great name for a special teamer in Gunner too. Rolls right off the tongue.

Anthony Lynn on job status with L.A.: 'I expect to be coach tomorrow'
Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

However, for the Chargers and Anthony Lynn who now fall to 3-9 and the current #4 overall pick in the 2021 draft, you have to wonder whether Lynn will be there to make that pick.


Elsewhere, Doug Pederson used his ‘play your new rookie QB’ card as they fell to the Packers.

Pederson has been awkward the past couple of weeks when he has been questioned about Wentz, the offence and the best move going forward. On Sunday, with the team 20-3 down, he pulled Wentz to the bench and in came Jalen Hurts midway through the third quarter. Wentz went 6-of-15 and couldn’t even muster 100 yards but he did reach another milestone: being sacked for the 50th time by Week 13.

The former Alabama and Oklahoma Sooner QB did create a spark though when he came into the game, completing a bomb downfield to Jalen Reagor for 34 yards. That sparked life in to the Eagles team as they managed to reduce the deficit to one score before a long Aaron Jones run sealed the win for the Pack.

Hurts did have a lovely touchdown throw to Greg Ward for his first NFL touchdown pass and I wonder if Doug, to give himself a bit more time, will allow Jalen the opportunity to throw more next week against the Saints.

One person who isn’t in the know is Carson Wentz.


Finally, we head to the Windy City and Chicago, who are in absolute freefall after going 5-1 in their first six games.

Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles have been back and forth as the signal caller, and the former Number 2 pick was in for this one. They had a 10-point lead going into the break and looked comfortable, only to collapse in the fourth quarter after a 4th-and-1 stop by the Lions. Adrian Peterson eventually found the end zone and the Bears just couldn’t pull any rabbit out of the hat. This is a Lions team that has just fired their HC Matt Patricia. Maybe the owners of the other three teams mentioned are looking for a similar course of action to remedy the ills of their respective teams?


Bailed out

One of the more suprising contests this weekend saw the Vikings sneak past Mike Glennon and a continuously plucky Jaguars team.

They need two possessions in overtime but kicker Dan Bailey, who has had his struggles this year, was able to boot it through the uprights, taking the Vikings to the current #7 seed in the NFC play-off picture.

Bailey has missed three XPs and three field goals this season and it’s amazing that the former Cowboys and Pro Bowler continues to struggle with his kicking, though did have a decent year in 2019.

There are plenty of teams in among the race for the #7 seed but I think it’s fair to say that as long as the Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook powered offence stays hot, a Wild Card berth is theirs to lose.

They have upcoming games against Tampa, Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit, and they’ll probably need to win three of those. Captain Kirk Cousins will get another chance to prove his worth, and no doubt, so will Dan Bailey.


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Could ANY team win their 1st Super Bowl in 2020?

by Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

Since the Eagles broke their duck in February 2018, we’ve been left with 12 NFL franchises that have never won the Super Bowl. They include the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills, both of whom have appeared four times without tasting victory, and the Cincinnati Bengals, whose most recent appearance came more than three decades ago.

Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY Sports

Of those dozen, the Browns, Lions, Jaguars and Texans haven’t even reached the season finale. As the league’s newest expansion teams, Jacksonville and Houston have only been around since 1995 and 2002 respectively, but long-suffering Cleveland and Detroit fans surely deserve a medal by now. 

Not a power ranking as such, this is a take on how (im)probable it is for any franchise to win their first-ever title at Super Bowl LV in Tampa come February 2021. I think we need to say from the outset that none of these teams are likely to do so. However, the addition of a seventh playoff team in each conference this season at least gives them all a greater shot at the biggest prize.

So let’s dust off the crystal ball and start the countdown in reverse order, from least likely to the best shot…


NO CHANCE


12. Jacksonville Jaguars

Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

We shouldn’t really be talking about a debut Super Bowl appearance here. With ESPN’s Football Power Index making Jacksonville the most likely team (23% chance) to pick first in the 2021 draft, a better question might be “will Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence be a Jag next year?”

The team’s immediate fortunes rest on the shoulders of second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Minshew outplayed the now-departed Nick Foles, going 6-6 in his first season, and has new pass-catching options in TE Tyler Eifert and rookie receiver Laviska Shenault. If only Leonard Fournette can start finding the end zone again – he only logged three TDs in 2019 – and the offensive line can lend a hand…

On defence, there’s been a bit of a fire sale, with AJ Bouye and Calais Campbell following Jalen Ramsey through the door marked ‘exit’, but franchise-tagging DE Yannick Ngakoue and grabbing linebacker Joe Schobert from the Browns suggests there’s no #TankforTrevor at play here. Nonetheless, both first round draft picks – cornerback CJ Henderson and linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson – will need to find their feet quickly or HC Doug Marrone will be out on his ear.

At least the Jags’ schedule is on the easy side, with the Dolphins, Bengals, Lions and Chargers as the first four out-of-division opponents. Be that as it may, they may struggle to match last year’s 6-10, let alone reach their first-ever Super Bowl. They’re not bottom of every pundit’s power rankings for nothing, you know.

11. Carolina Panthers


Getty Images

Can Carolina push on from last year’s 5-11 under new HC Matt Rhule? When you have Christian McCaffery, only the third player ever to rush and catch for 1,000 yards in a season, all is not lost. But let’s not get carried away…

With Luke Kuechly now enjoying a well-earned retirement, the defence could be a worry. The organisation must have felt the same as they cashed in all seven draft picks on defensive players, boosting the front seven with DT Derrick Brown and DE Yetur Gross-Matos, and adding Jeremy Chinn and Kenny Robinson to the secondary.

These guys are gonna be busy though; 10 of their games will be against divisional rivals Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, as well as Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins. Eeek! The Panthers’ attack is going to have to go some to outscore some of these teams.

The Panthers have been to the Super Bowl twice before without bringing home the bacon, most recently in 2016 when they lost 24-10 to the Broncos. Despite their shiny new QB Teddy Bridgewater and the ever-present CMC, we can be fairly sure they won’t be heading back to the big time quite yet.

10. Cincinnati Bengals


Paul Childs / Action Images via Reuters

A 2-14 team winning the Super Bowl the following year? It’s a very long shot but in theory, the extra playoff spots mean Cincy can continue to prop up the AFC North and still reach the postseason.

By all accounts, Joe Burrow is acing all the Zoom meetings but without physical reps, it’ll take time for the #1 overall draft choice to gel with his new receiving corps. Despite his 60-touchdown season at LSU, even the future face of the franchise won’t turn the Bengals into world-beaters overnight.

That said, the only way is up for Cincinnati. There were season-long injuries to AJ Green and rookie left tackle Jonah Williams in 2019, while extended time out for John Ross and Cordy Glenn left them relying on fourth or fifth choices at times. Then there was the short-lived ‘Ryan Finley Experiment’, which sounds like a modern jazz combo but was even more painful…

To improve on defence (equal last in the league for yards allowed per play), they dabbled in free agency for a change. Acquiring Houston defensive tackle DJ Reader was a massive coup, safety Von Bell and linebacker Josh Bynes were unexpected arrivals from the Saints and Ravens respectively, and the two Vikings corners – Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander – should move that needle too.

If AJ Green stays fit, if Burrow meets expectations, if Joe Mixon has another 1,000-yard year and if the O-line isn’t as leaky (that’s a lot of ifs), Cincy could be half-decent. Statistically, they have the second-easiest schedule of our dozen, with the Redskins, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers and Dolphins in the mix. But given the strengths of their divisional rivals, the long odds aren’t going to shorten. The league’s longest wait since their last Super Bowl, a last-minute loss to the 49ers in 1989, will go on.


SLIM CHANCE


9. Detroit Lions


Tim Fuller / USA TODAY Sports

I’m hardly sticking my neck out by saying the Lions won’t be making their Super Bowl debut this season but I expect them to fare a lot better than 3-12-1 this time.

Losing Matt Stafford to a back injury mid-season was a serious setback when he was on pace for a 5,000-yard season. His stand-ins, Jeff Driskel and David Blough, just didn’t cut the mustard, and the Lions lost their last eight straight. Grabbing Chase Daniel in the offseason at least gives them a bit more QB insurance, their receivers could have a decent year and second round pick D’Andre Swift should dovetail nicely with Kerryon Johnson in the RB room.

If Stafford is back to his best, the Lions should score enough points so their fortunes in 2020 will fly or fall with their defence – one of the worst last year. Still, their consolation prize was #3 draft pick Jeff Okudah, the Ohio State CB. Two former Patriots, DT Danny Shelton and linebacker Jamie Collins, could prove useful additions, along with Reggie Ragland and Desmond Trufant, but with Darius Slay departing to Philly, the holes aren’t quite plugged yet.

The Lions are a couple of seasons away from having serious Super Bowl credentials so for now, Matt Patricia needs to improve on his 9-22-1 record. The schedulers haven’t been kind, giving Detroit the equal toughest schedule of our gang. With only two home games in the first seven weeks, hitting their stride from the get-go again seems unlikely.

If the D improves, Stafford stays healthy and they get the rub of the green for a change, the Lions could yet win a playoff game for the first time since 2009. After finishing bottom of the division for the last two years, that would be a massive step forward. It’s a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless.

8. Los Angeles Chargers


Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images

Doubts over a first return to the end game since 1995, when the Chargers lost their only SB to the Niners, are at least partly due to the question marks hanging over the QB position. With Philip Rivers in pastures new, journeyman Tyrod Taylor is the expected starter after three solid-but-not-spectacular years in Buffalo. The front office clearly concurs, or else Justin Herbert wouldn’t have been the sixth overall draft pick. The Oregon product should challenge Taylor and help the Chargers improve from last year’s disappointing 5-11.

Over the offseason, franchise-tagging TE Hunter Henry and resigning running back Austin Ekeler were solid moves, and the Bolts replaced DT Russell Okung with the Packers’ Bryan Bulaga. The other big additions were cornerback Chris Harris from Denver and linebacker Kenneth Murray, a Day 2 draft pick.

The Chargers’ schedule could see Taylor face his old Bills, while road trips to the Saints and Buccaneers should bring him (or Herbert) up against two league legends. It may take a while to bed into the SoFi Stadium so match-ups against the Panthers, Jets and Jaguars could be crucial in building some early atmosphere in their new home. In short, there are just too many things stacked against the Bolts to make a genuine charge at this year’s Super Bowl.

7. Arizona Cardinals


Christian Petersen / Getty Images North America

If we’re looking for a sleeper to give the 49ers a run for their money in the NFC West, let alone make a third trip to the Super Bowl after unsuccessful excursions in 2009 and 2017, could that be Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona?

The Cardinals reside in a competitive division, which always makes their schedule tough. This year, they’ll also have Dallas, Buffalo, New England and Philadelphia on their plate although, with the Redskins (or whatever they’re called by then), Lions, Panthers and Jets all front-loaded in the calendar, they could build some early momentum before things get tough. 

Things are definitely blooming in the desert, starting with the downright theft of All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins from Houston. He’ll help Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald to elevate Kyler Murray’s game as the QB enters year 2. OT Josh Jones was great third-round value in the draft and Kenyan Drake should continue where he left off, notching three 100-yard rushing games in his eight weeks at Arizona.

But can the D keep their end of the bargain? The additions of Bills DT Jordan Phillips and versatile first round pick, LB Isaiah Simmons, should raise the bar (2019: 28th in points allowed, 32nd in yards allowed), while another linebacker, Detroit’s Devon Kennard, boosts the pass rush.

After finishing 5-10-1 last year, there are bluer skies ahead for the Cardinals. However, unless there’s a massive plot twist, it won’t be the blue skies of Tampa in February.


OUTSIDE CHANCE


6. Houston Texans


Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Established in 2002, the Texans are the babies of our group and have yet to reach the final showdown in their short history. It’s a reach to suggest they’ll be contesting Super Bowl LV as 2020, clearly a stinker for all of us, has been especially horrible for the Texans.

The ‘fun’ started with the AFC Divisional Game, in which they threw away a more-than-promising 24-point lead against the Chiefs, getting outscored 51-7 in the last 40 minutes. And it’s not been great since, swapping top receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for, well, not a lot (sorry, David Johnson fans). ESPN’s Bill Barnwell gave the Texans an ‘F’ and he wasn’t alone in slating the trade.

The Texans did acquire a pair of experienced receivers in Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb to give Deshaun Watson options beyond Will Fuller, but if they are going to make the playoffs and beyond, their 28th-ranked defence (slumping from 12th the year before) needs to step up. Will JJ Watt, who’s missed exactly half of the last 64 games with injuries, bounce back to the Defensive Player of the Year version of himself? Can rookie Ross Blacklock hope to replace defensive tackle DJ Reader?

Houston’s schedule is one of the hardest of our SB-deprived teams; their first six fixtures include the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings and Packers, making a 1-5 start perfectly feasible. And with plenty of AFC teams likely to do well, emerging among the conference’s top seven isn’t a given by any means for the Texans.

5. Atlanta Falcons


Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

By the midway point of last season, the 1-7 Falcons were clearly not destined to go back for their third Super Bowl appearance. Then, inexplicably, Dan Quinn’s team hit their stride and won six of their final eight games to finish 7-9.

Having started 4-9 the year before (also ending 7-9 after a late rally), it’s clear that the Falcons don’t fly out of the traps but finish well. Opening with the Seahawks, Cowboys, Bears and Packers doesn’t sound conducive to a solid start in 2020 and another rip-snorting finish might be beyond them this time: five of their last seven games are against the Saints (twice), Buccs  (twice) and Chiefs.

With Matt Ryan under centre, Julio Jones (six straight seasons of 1,300+ yards) and Calvin Ridley in the wideout group, Baltimore’s Hayden Hurst plugging an Austin-Hooper-shaped hole at tight end and RB Todd Gurley joining from the Rams, 2020 could be quite something offensively (if Gurley’s gammy knee holds out). On the other side of the ball, Vic Beasley has moved on and they need more than 28 sacks so can new signings Dante Fowler Jr. and Takkarist McKinley get to Messrs Brees, Brady, Bridgewater and Mahomes?

With the personnel in place, Quinn is under pressure to take the Falcons into the postseason. However, they’d need to replicate their form from the latter half of recent campaigns for a whole season and I can’t help but feel their schedule is against them.

4. Cleveland Browns


Joe Robbins / Getty Images

In 2019, many saw the Browns as a legitimate contender for their first-ever Super Bowl or at least worthy of a side bet. On paper, the names looked good: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett. But in Freddie Kitchens, they had a first-time Head Coach who proved to be hopelessly out of his depth.

He had the ‘anti-Midas touch’: everything he touched went wrong. Baker Mayfield regressed. OBJ disappointed. Garrett went rogue. The O-line was feeble. Despite the hype, the Browns stumbled to 6-10 and stretched the league’s longest playoff drought to 18 years.

Under new HC Kevin Stefanski (their 12th since 2000), the arrow is pointing north. They signed Jack Conklin and drafted Jedrick Wills to help Mayfield to flourish, and both Landry and Beckham Jr. should be over their injury niggles. Chubb and Kareem Hunt are as good as any RB tandem in the league, and free-agency acquisition Austin Hooper is a solid tight end option. Now, if Mr Garrett can just keep his cool…

To that point, Stefanski has inherited a team loaded with potential but he needs to instil more discipline than Kitchens could muster. If he does, I can see the Browns tucking in behind the Ravens and Steelers, and riding the wave into the postseason as the AFC’s seventh seed.

The statisticians say theirs is the easiest schedule of our Super Bowl-challenged group, and with Washington, Jacksonsville, both New York teams and the Bengals (twice) on the list, it’s hard to disagree. Then, once in the playoffs at long last, it’s all up for grabs.


BEST CHANCE


3. Minnesota Vikings


Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

The Vikings have four Super Bowl appearances under their belt – most recently in 1997 – but no victories. Having reached a Divisional Game last time around, the NFC North outfit currently have the shortest odds among our unlucky 12 to return to the big finale.

Offensively, there’s much to like, even though they shipped star receiver Stefon Diggs to the Bills. They used part of their haul of draft picks on Day 1 to pick Justin Jefferson; factor in that Diggs was disgruntled with his situation and it’s probably the best outcome for all parties. Dalvin Cook will shine again, as long as he doesn’t sit out the season.

The Vikes’ defence is more of a worry. They gutted the secondary during the off-season, letting three corners – Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander – walk, and will be relying on rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler to plug the gaps. Those defensive concerns, plus the third-toughest schedule of our 12 – only the Lions, Panthers and Jaguars can contemplate sub-.500 seasons – and I see the Vikes being the least likely of our top tier to lift the Lombardi trophy for the first time.

2. Buffalo Bills


Ron Schwane

The Bills’ four Super Bowls came in consecutive years in the early 1990s but they lost the lot, and have won just one playoff game since. Now, HC Sean McDermott is looking for his third post-season in four years with the rejuvenated Bills looking like legit contenders for the AFC East title.

For the first time in ages, it’s a coin flip between them and the TB12-free Patriots, though neither has an easy ride fixture-wise. Buffalo has one of the toughest schedules among our bevvy of SB bridesmaids, with the Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers all lying in wait. The nearest the Bills get to a gimme are their four divisional games against the Jets and Dolphins.

Putting last season’s OT Wild Card loss to the Texans firmly in the rear view mirror, the Bills have much to look forward to. As well as one of the best defences in the league, Stefon Diggs’ arrival from Minnesota should be a boost to their 23rd-ranked offence. He’d better be though: the Bills handed over a bucket-load of draft spots to get him. Averaging 1,000 yards and eight TDs a year, he also has a reputation for down-the-field catches, which should suit Josh Allen nicely. Pairing running back Zack Moss with Devin Singletary could create the best RB duo in the division, even without the ageless Frank Gore in their ranks any more.

So in summary, all is set fair for Buffalo. Don’t be surprised if they edge some of their tougher contests, win their division and go on from there.

1. Tennessee Titans


Christopher Hanewinckel / USA TODAY Sports

Of our teams that have never won a Super Bowl, Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee seem the best bet at putting that right in 2020.

Making it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, the Titans exceeded most people’s expectations last year. The decision to replace ineffective QB Marcus Mariota with the Comeback Kid himself, Ryan Tannehill, rescued the team’s season. In their unforeseen push for glory, Tennessee won seven of their last 10 games, and beat the first and third seeds on the road in the process.

So how likely are the Titans to go one better than their only appearance in 2000, when they lost Super Bowl XXXIV to the St Louis Rams? (That was the last time it featured two teams that had never won the title before.) Well, probably more likely than any other team on this list.

With Derrick Henry, who ran the ball 386 times in 2019, on a franchise tag, they can still dominate with their running game. Jack Conklin will be a miss on the O-line, but Isaiah Wilson looks a solid first-round draft pick. Defensively, trading perennial Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey to the Broncos means Jeffery Simmons needs to step up a notch in year 2, while Vic Beasley joining from Atlanta should beef up the pass rush.

With an easier than average schedule, with only the Ravens as a genuine favourite on the fixture list, the Titans seem well-placed to beat Indianapolis and Houston to the AFC South title. Just a win or two more than usual (they’ve finished 9-7 for the last four years) would hold them in good stead going into the playoffs and who knows how far beyond.

How did I do? Do you agree? Let us know @Full10Yards if you’d rank anyone higher than the Titans or want to big up the Jags’ chances

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Five teams that nailed the 2020 NFL Draft

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

From the record-breaking television ratings to the lack of technical issues, the NFL’s first virtual draft was an undoubted success (unless you’re a Green Bay fan). Like a bizarre episode of Through The Keyhole, we also saw inside the homes of the star players, and the makeshift war rooms of the general managers and coaches: Kliff Kingsbury’s huge villa, Dave Gettleman’s basement and Mike Vrabel’s total madhouse. As I alluded to earlier this week, some teams left us with more questions than answers but here’s a quick round-up on who ‘won’ the 2020 NFL draft.


BALTIMORE RAVENS


Most analysts concur that Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh knocked this draft out of the ballpark, with A and A+ grades being handed out like candy. They made their 10 picks count with good value on both sides of the ball and didn’t seem to reach. Instead, they waited for the likes of LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (#28) to fall into their laps, as well as Ohio State running back JK Dobbins and speedster WR Devin Duvernay on Day 2.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Queen should make an impact in the heart of the defence with his sideline-to-sideline speed, especially after Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes left in free agency. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike also had many a pundit purring, with the defensive tackle getting snaffled at pick #71 despite being widely predicted to go in the 30s.

Alongside Mark Ingram, Dobbins should give yet more oomph to their league-leading rushing offense, while linebacker Malik Harrison and guard Ben Bredeson add depth across the board. Baltimore also picked up a couple of late steals, with receiver James Proche, who logged almost 4,000 receiving yards and 39 receiving touchdowns over four seasons at SMU, and Iowa safety Geno Stone, rated by both Move the Sticks’ Daniel Jeremiah and PFF’s Mike Renner as the best value pick of the final round.

Baltimore were exceptional last season and didn’t have many needs. But even so, they improved even more over the weekend, staying neck and neck with the Chiefs as the team to beat in the AFC Conference.

In short: they smashed it.


DALLAS COWBOYS


When drafting, the big question that faces every team now and again is whether you go for the best player available or fill your biggest need. The Cowboys entered the 2020 draft with the league’s top offense and obvious needs in defence, yet opted to spend their first-round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Bullseye.

Alonzo Adams/AP

Lounging around on his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar super-yacht, team owner/president Jerry Jones must have been laughing into his champagne cocktail when he picked Lamb at #17. Arguably the best receiver in this loaded class, there was no way he should have been the third off the board. With the ‘Boys having signed Amari Cooper to a $100 million extension, Lamb probably wasn’t on the radar but taking him was a no-brainer: Christmas came early in Texas. Preventing their receiver-needy rivals in Philadelphia from securing his run-after-catch abilities was just the icing on the cake.

Only then did Dallas move on to address their two main areas of need, cornerback and defensive tackle, and they did so with great value picks. Stefon’s lil’ brother Trevon Diggs, mocked by many to go (to Dallas, as it happens) on Day 1, landed in the second round to help fill the void left by CB Byron Jones. Oklahoma’s huge defensive lineman Neville Gallimore also came a day later than many expected. Steals? All three picks border on daylight robbery.

Rewriting the draft textbook, the Cowboys also picked up Utah edge rusher Bradlee Anae with pick #179 (90 picks later than predicted by Mel Kiper of EPSN). I saw a comparison with Maxx Crosby recently, which means he should be a viable replacement for the departed Robert Quinn. They also snatched up another corner in Reggie Robinson, adding depth in a weak spot, and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, arguably this year’s top center. If he can stay healthy, he could step straight in for the retired Travis Frederick.

After a disappointing campaign in which they didn’t seem to want to win the NFC East, despite the stuttering Eagles handing them chance after chance, Dallas are shaping up nicely to boss the division in 2020. Jones can now start to focus on getting Dak Prescott’s deal inked. With a mouth-watering trio of targets at his disposal – Lamb, Cooper and Michael Gallup – it’s time to keep the franchise QB (and his bank manager) happy.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS


Vikes GM Rick Spielman is probably still resting up after selecting a massive 15 players in the 2020 NFL Draft, the biggest haul since the seven-round format was introduced in 1994.

He did a great job addressing the team’s needs, particularly in the first three rounds. To replace wide receiver Stefon Diggs, he used the 22nd pick to take LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Jefferson can play out wide or in the slot, and should give Kirk Cousins a tasty option alongside Adam Thielen, if his 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns last year are anything to go by.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

They then moved down a few spots, giving #25 to the 49ers in return for the 31st and two later selections, but still found another would-be star in TCU corner Jeff Gladney. Minnesota then double-dipped to take Cameron Dantzler (#89) to boost a depleted cornerback room missing Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, while Ezra Cleveland should add useful depth at left tackle.

A total of 11 picks on Day 3 brought several more decent pick-ups, including James Lynch, a defensive tackle from Baylor, Oregon LB Troy Dye and defensive end Kenny Willekes.  

Boom. Job done.


CINCINNATI BENGALS


Who knows if any trade offers were received and rejected but with the first pick in the draft, the Bengals held fast to secure their quarterback of the future and their franchise poster boy.

Joe Burrow was the obvious choice, having just completed the best college football season by anyone, ever. He starts from the get-go as the incumbent QB, Andy Dalton, was finally released (while I was writing this article) after a lack of trade interest. If Burrow’s success at LSU is any guide, the 2019 Heisman winner could eventually end Cincy’s three-decade playoff win drought and have the Who Dey Nation eating out of his hands. I bet they’re already planning a statue outside Paul Brown Stadium.

Associated Press

After last season’s struggles, just picking the Ohio native makes Cincinnati a winner in this draft. Admittedly, he can’t reverse their fortunes alone, so it’s just as well de facto GM Duke Tobin and HC Zac Taylor kept their foot on the gas. Mirroring the 2011 draft when they picked AJ Green and Andy Dalton in the first two rounds, they paired Burrow with WR Tee Higgins with the first pick of Day 2. The 6’4” jump-ball specialist notched 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final season at Clemson, and has been compared to Green, his new teammate (and favourite player). Higgins may even replace the franchise-tagged wideout in time.

With the only slight gripe being a (misguided) belief that their O-line didn’t need help, three of their five remaining selections were used to beef up their underperforming linebacker corps. Cincinnati opened Round 3 with Logan Wilson, who excels in pass coverage, while Akeem Davis-Gaither is a one-man highlight reel who might see some special teams action early doors. The Bengals chose a third linebacker in Purdue’s Markus Bailey with their final pick. Touted to break the Top 100 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury last season, Bailey may yet prove to be a real find, if he can stay healthy.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS


Let’s face it. Before Cincinnati was even on the clock, Tampa had probably won the offseason, having replaced turnover merchant Jameis Winston with GOAT Tom Brady, and then enticed TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement for one last hurrah alongside his ol’ pal. But the Buccs complemented their trade prowess with a strong draft, focusing on giving their new (but old) QB some much-needed O-line help and more offensive weapons.

In Round 1, Tampa traded up one place to #13, coughing up their 14th and 117th picks to the 49ers, to ensure Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, arguably the draft’s top tackle, was theirs. He wasn’t expected to drop that far after storming the Combine, so I bet the Buccaneers did some last-minute big-board shuffling.

Getty Images

In the third round, they turned to skill positions, collaring Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (#76) to beef up their backfield before diving into the deep wide receiver class to come up with Tyler Johnson (#161). Johnson’s Minnesota teammate, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (#45), is a versatile ball hawk could yet turn out to be one of the best snares over the three days. For added spice, his dad was a Pro-Bowl defensive back who intercepted Brady in 2001 when playing for the Bills.

If Bruce Arians deploys the battle-weary Gronk sparingly, alongside his other tight ends OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, the Buccaneers could be a team to watch next season.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS GM Chris Ballard filled a lot of needs, even without a first-round pick (traded for 49ers DT DeForest Buckner, which won’t do them any harm). Second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. from USC could become a top receiver, while explosive RB Jonathan Taylor – averaging 2,000 yards a year over three years – is a hot prospect, despite some concern about the tread left on his tyres after his heavy workload in Wisconsin. A day later than many predicted, the 6’6” Washington quarterback Jacob Eason got picked up in Day 3. The big-armed gunslinger won’t play next year but, under HC Frank Reich, he’ll be groomed to take over from Philip Rivers in due course.


The MIAMI DOLPHINS had 14 darts – including three first-rounders – and most hit the target (though they did use one on a long snapper). Despite some pre-draft smoke and mirrors, GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores selected Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa first. Who knows if his injury woes are behind him but the Dolphins had to take the risk on the most naturally talented QB out there. His hip injury was bad luck but it made him available at #5, an equivalent slice of good fortune after Miami didn’t quite #TankForTua. Tua will line up behind a shiny new offensive line including another Round 1 pick, tackle Austin Jackson, and while cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was one of Day 1’s biggest reaches, they got better value in later rounds with DE Jason Strowbridge and edge rusher Curtis Weaver. Outside the draft bubble, acquiring Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Byron Jones and Matt Breida only increases the sense that Miami will be much, much better next year.

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY

Earlier this month, I suggested going best defensive player available for a few rounds might be a wise tactic for the CAROLINA PANTHERS. Well, whaddya know? Despite having a new offensively minded Head Coach in Matt Rhule, GM Marty Hurney used all seven of his picks on defence, including a big ol’ run stuffer in Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (#7) and athletic Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos (#38). Later on, they traded up to the last pick in Round 2 to get safety Jeremy Chinn, while cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was also good value in the fourth. The moves they made in free agency – replacing Cam Newton with Teddy Bridgewater and adding Jets receiver Robbie Anderson – should also reinvigorate the team’s offence, making the Panthers a contender again.


I also liked the high-risk, high-reward approach of the ARIZONA CARDINALS. Picking at #8, GM Steve Keim somehow ignored the team’s needs at offensive tackle and went for Clemson linebacker/safety hybrid Isiah Simmons. It might have been a risk (especially having shipped out their second-round pick in the DeAndre Hopkins trade) but 63 picks later, the ace in the pack came up when they snaffled Houston left tackle Josh Jones. After standing out at the Senior Bowl, there was some Day 1 hype about him but he fell… and fell… and fell. Apparently, Kliff Kingsbury even called Jones’ college coaches to ask if there was something he ought to know about. Some steals feel like pick-pocketing but getting Jones in Round 3 was a ram-raid.

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10 teams that need a good draft

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

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


Cincinnati Bengals

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

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

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

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


Washington Redskins

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

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

Rick Scuteri / Associated Press

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

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


Miami Dolphins

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

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

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


Los Angeles Chargers

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

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

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

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


Carolina Panthers

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

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

Chuck Cook

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

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


Jacksonville Jaguars

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

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

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


Las Vegas Raiders

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

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

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

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

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


Minnesota Vikings

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

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

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

Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

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


New England Patriots

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

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

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

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

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


Chicago Bears

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

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

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

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

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Season in Review – Minnesota Vikings

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Next in our series, we take a look at Captain Kirk and the Minnesota Vikings. Was this season a success? Vikings fans, let us know your thoughts – @full10yards on the Social!


Entering the Season


The Vikings have always had the end goal of reaching a Super Bowl the moment they signed Kirk Cousins to that huge fully guaranteed contract. With pretty much the same pieces on the team, the pressure was the same as last year, the expectations were the same as last year, get to the big one.

Garrett Bradbury was the new anchor at Center and they also brought in Irv Smith to deploy some 2 tight end sets to help #establishtherun.

Kirk Cousins was entering his 2nd season as a Viking with no more excuses, no more mulligans and certainly nowhere to hide. The team was built to reach a Super Bowl and Kirk Cousins was assigned the role to lead them there. Simple.


DURING THE SEASON


If you put the last 2 seasons of the Vikings back to back, it pretty much was groundhog day;

Struggled in the division, with 3 of their 6 losses coming in the division and swept by the Bears for the 2nd straight season. A top 10 defence in terms of points per game and Kirk Cousins stinking it up on Prime Time/island games when it matters. Oh and Dalvin Cook not being fully healthy for a stretch.

They kicked off their season with home wins against the Falcons and Raiders, but away losses in Lambeau and Soldier Field.

Adam Thielen, who would later go on an miss some time through injury, along with Stefon Diggs kicked up a fuss about the offence and their involvement in it led to a lot of unrest in the VIkings camp, including Diggs being fined for missing practice.

Image result for stefon diggs unhappy
Image Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

They seemingly managed to kiss and make up as Kirk Cousins then went hell for leather with the rock and a relatively easy stretch saw them improve to 8-3 with their only loss before the bye coming to the Kansas City Chiefs (the Matt Moore led one, not the Patrick Mahomes one).

Losses against Green Bay and Chicago meant that they entered the playoffs as a wildcard and a 10-3 record.

Perhaps their most dominant display of the season came in the wildcard round, where they absolutely dominated the red hot Saints andVikings fans thinking maybe, just maybe, Kirk Cousins has turned a corner.

Unfortunately, around that corner was step 1 as a dismal performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round saw them go out with a whimper amidst more rumours of unrest with Stefon Diggs, who visibly threw his helmet to the ground during that Wildcard game.

Image result for minnesota vs san francisco
Image Credit: Adam Bettcher/Getty

With no NFC title game being played, you have to grade the season as that the Vikings underachieved and Kirk Cousins really hasn’t gone to prove that he was worth that guaranteed contract or that he is the guy to take this team to the holy land.


offseason outlook


Kevin Stefanski has agreed to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Mike Zimmer is likely to be retained by the Vikings.

It’s hard to put a finger on what to do with Minnesota to help them take the next step, though many will still point to the Quarterback position, as they have done for the past several years. There are a lot of well paid players on both sides of the ball and some creativity with the salary cap will be required. It’s hard to pinpoint where they’ll bolster in the draft as one week they look complete and another they have more holes than a cheese grater (NFC North Green Bay Packers joke there). You have to feel that they’ll add something to the offensive line due to the way they want to run their offence, and they’ll probably focus on defence, Xavier Rhodes did not have a pro bowl worthy season.

Come next season, will it be Groundhog day once again for the Vikings in 2020? Probably.

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The Pressure of the Playoffs.

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

The playoffs are here and are accompanied by the usual stresses and pressures that the post-season provides.

This week’s Wild Card Weekend will feature the New England Patriots for the first time since 2009 following their disappointing slip up against the Miami Dolphins in Week 17.

They face a Tennessee Titans team that is built for some cold weather up in Foxborough with a strong rushing game and a quarterback on a hot streak with his receiving corps.

Elsewhere, the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles play host to a Seattle Seahawks team that few considered a serious challenger before the season.

The New Orleans Saints will seek out some revenge as they welcome the Minnesota Vikings in the Superdome in an attempt to heal the wounds of the Minneapolis miracle.

The other AFC match-up sees two of the NFL’s youngest quarterbacks face off against each other as Josh Allen leads his Buffalo Bills into battle with Deshaun Watsons Texans.

But who is heading into the 18th week of the season with the weight of the world on their shoulders and who will thrive in the pressure?


Titans @ Patriots

Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel

The Patriots made a costly error last week by failing to beat the lowly Dolphins.

It is the sort of situation that Brady and Co. have become infallible in, which may explain why the Dolphins went into the game as 14-point underdogs.

In a year where Tom Brady has been questioned more than ever, registering his lowest ever adjusted QBR score of 55.0 in comparison to Lamar Jacksons 81.7, the Week 17 result continues to heap pressure on the 42-year old to prove he is not done and dusted.

Bill Belichik will also face questions over Miami’s last-ditch winning drive against what was one of the best defences in the league.

The Titans enter the game feeling far less pressure on the table.

Heading into the season out of the playoff picture, with questions marks at the quarterback position and a second-year head coach, things have gone better than many envisaged.  

They have also performed well over the odds given their mid-season QB switch and have been helped a long by the thumping downhill power of Derrick Henry in the back field.

PRESSURE IS ON: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS


Bills @ Texans

Image Credit: Kevin Jairaj

Its AFC East vs AFC North part two as Buffalo head southwards to visit a Texans team still giddy with the news that talismanic edge rusher J.J Watt has returned early from a pectoral injury.

The Texans who sealed up the division a week early, concluded their season with a loss to the division rivals, Titans.

Now the fourth season of six under Bill O’Brien where they have finished top of their division, the pressure will begin to fall on the head coach to deliver some deeper runs into the post-season.

For the Bills, very few coaching staffs can consider to have done more with less.

Sean McDermott has just one pro-bowler on his roster and a quarterback that still has an uncertain ceiling, managing to look more developed to incredibly raw from week to week under centre.

For this reason, there is little pressure on the Bills who probably expected a more mediocre season than this.

Any further playoff progression is just extra credit.

PRESSURE IS ON: HOUSTON TEXANS


Vikings @ Saints

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings
Image Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

These two franchises are pretty hard to separate when it comes to who’s under more pressure to win.

Both of them have quarterbacks in need of a deep playoff run but for very different reasons.

Drew Brees is a lock for the Hall of Fame but aged 40 and 10 years removed from his Superbowl, the window for a second Lombardi Trophy is gradually closing.

The quarterback of the Vikings, Kirk Cousins, is not fighting to seal his Hall of Fame status but instead just looking to set himself up another big contract once his time in Minnesota expires after next season.

Still attempting to prove himself as one of the leagues elite quarterbacks, Cousins needs some primetime, big-time playoff performances to stack a currently empty CV.

Both teams also have a fairly young core of talented players, giving them both a bigger Superbowl window than some of the other teams in the Wild Card.

Overall the pressure will lie on the Saints though as they try to forget and forgive their acrimonious playoff exits in 2017 and 2018.

PRESSURE IS ON: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS


SEAHAWKS @ EAGLES

Image Credit: Getty

How good is Carson Wentz? That’s the real pressure here.

The 2016 second overall pick has played in spells of brilliance, including his MVP trajectory of 2017 before his injury kept him out of the Superbowl run.

The Eagles paid Wentz big in June of last year and are waiting to see some return on that investment in the form of a play-off run.

The North Dakota State alumnus has done a lot alongside an un-experienced receiving corps so far, but whether they can withstand the rigors of playoff football is a new question.

In Seattle, another impressive season for superstar QB Russell Wilson has meant that the Seahawks are in a playoff that many did not predict.

Considered to be a rebuilding year by lots of experienced pundits and commentators prior to Week 1, Pete Carroll’s teams should feel little pressure going into the Wild Card Weekend.

PRESSURE IS ON: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

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Full10Lookaheads – Week 16

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

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

Image result for dallas vs philadelphia
Image Credit: Mitchell Leff / Getty

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!

Image result for buffalo bills new england patriots
Image Credit: Mike Groll / AP

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

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Image Credit: Leon Halip / Getty

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!

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Image Credit: Lachlan Cunningham / Getty

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

Image result for Matt ryan dan quinn
Image Credit: Bob Donnan / USA Today

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?

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Image Credit: Wesley Hitt /Getty

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.