Week 3 Roundup

Superbowl Team’s Achilles Heel

Currently, I am quite happy with my Superbowl picks (Chiefs and Seahawks). Both are sitting at 3-0, led by superstar QBs and top tier coaches. Both seem to be the class of their divisions and one (Seahawks) is home to the current MVP (Russell Wilson – also my MVP prediction). However, now I’ve stopped complementing myself, just 3 weeks into the season, both teams have got issues.

The Chiefs don’t have a dominant O-Line. This is in part down to the opt-out of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (who is currently one of the many doctors fighting Covid 19). Their O-Line has had some issues in the run game, sitting in the middle of the pack (16th) as per Football Outsiders. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, however, is a beast and well worth the 32nd overall pick in the draft and is able to rise above any subpar blocks with his natural shiftiness and elusiveness. His small frame 5ft 7In (yet 208lbs) allows him to duck through holes, but have the power to break multiple tackles, hence why he has been able to rush for 240yds at over 4yds/carry (4.4). Any other issues are dealt with by Mahomes or the Andy Reid play-designs. The only way to keep the Chiefs low on scoring is going to be pass rush to take advantage of the O-Line to force Mahomes to get rid of the ball. Jackson Kreuger Sports has also pointed out that a pass rush coupled with cover 3 can cause some issues for the Chiefs. It isn’t much but it is a single crack, teams need to find a way to make it fully break if they don’t want to see the first back to back Superbowl Champions since the Patriots in 04 and 05.

The Seahawks (whilst I believe are the slightly better team) have a much larger gaping whole. This is that they don’t really have a secondary. By the end of the Cowboys game, the Seahawks had only 5 players available to play in the secondary positions due to injuries. The largest of that was Jamal Adams. While he has accumulated 2 sacks through 3 games (for a safety!), his main ability is his versatility. He can play basically every position on defence barring DT and therefore the QB is uncertain what he is doing on each play. Uncertainty is the natural enemy of a QB; for those unconvinced, see the 2018 Chiefs@Patriots week 6 matchup. There, Belichick repeatedly used hybrid defensive fronts, on one play, Hightower originally rushed before dropping into coverage. Mahomes was uncertain of what was happening, and Hightower got an INT. This is what Adams can create for the formally lacklustre secondary. Luckily his injury should only keep him out of the week 4 match in Miami (very winnable).

However, the secondary difficulties don’t stop there. Marquise Blair unfortunately became caught up in the ACL and hamstring apocalypse in week 2. Blair was a converted safety to nickel back and therefore had rare size for the position. Now, 5ft 8in Ugo Amadi is tasked with shutting down the tight ends. Whilst he was able to lock up Dalton Schultz against the Cowboys, Mike Gesicki, this week against the Dolphins is a large rise in level … good luck.

The last parts to mention with this Seahawks defence is that Shaq Griffen needs to play tighter on 3rd down. It was much but twice on a single drive, Griffen seemed to lose his awareness as to where the first down market was allowing conversions by a single yard, if he pushes up; it’s 4th down, not 1st. The other is that the pass rush needs to improve which is difficult without Bruce Irvin. However, Pete Carroll has repeatedly shown an ability to get a defence in good-enough order for the playoffs and this year, “good-enough” is all the defence needs to be with the QB being Russell Wilson.

Bears @ Falcons – What Happened?

So, the Falcons have lost two games in a row that they had a 99% chance of winning. Losing from 39-24 in week 2 (@ Cowboys) and now losing from 26-10 in week 3 (vs Bears). The probability of losing a 99.9%-win percentage game, then a 99.1% game is 990,000/1. That is how ridiculous the Falcons are. People hear of a Superbowl hangover – well the Falcons are well beyond that right now. Ever since Hightower forced that fumble in Superbowl 51, something has gone wrong in Atlanta. Their defence is lethargic in pressure situations, Grady Jarrett is doing everything by himself – and, sadly, it’s not possible. Dan Quinn is a very smart coach, he’s probably the only coach that I want to get fired for his own good. Quinn is head coach material and has proved that as a top DC in Seattle throughout the Legion of Boom years. Then leading the Falcons to Superbowl 51 and keeping an injury riddled team afloat thereafter. However, now, he needs a new start. Looking at the defensive talent in Jacksonville, it would be a perfect fit for Quinn for if/when Doug Marrone is fired.

Chicago is the worst 3-0 team in a long time. They scraped past the Lions, before almost tripping on the dreadful Giants. Then this game happened. I hope for Bears fans that they have finally given up on the Trubisky experiment. Overthrowing targets and a seemingly lack of ability to through back shoulder fades without Allen Robinson bailing him out. As a result, halfway through the match, Mr Foles entered and summoned all of his backup QB magic to take the Bears to 3-0 and look almost as good as he did on his Superbowl run. However, Foles’ magic is only good for a few games before he returns to a slightly below average QB. But, while his is at his peak, the Bears need to go BIG on the deep ball. Foles throws a beautiful and accurate deep ball (unlike the former starter) and that is the way forward. To add to this, it will move the LBs back and create room for Montgomery to start running hard again.

Rodgers is Back

Aaron Rodgers has returned to MVP contender. On the Pat McAfee he expressed that he has fallen back in love with life. That is showing on the field, even without the monster that is Davante Adams, Rodgers was dropping dimes everywhere. Without Adams this week, Rodgers registered 283yds and 3 TDs against a decent Saints secondary. There was a time that the Green Bay Packers were guaranteed Superbowl contenders but over the 2017-28 seasons they went a combined 13-18-1 due to injuries (notably to Rodgers) and inner team conflict. However, they crawled to a surprising 13-3 last year to win the division, but this year their aim should be Superbowl. They can take it to the Seahawks, Chiefs, Ravens and Bills (it’s very weird putting the Bills in that class) and I look forward to seeing it play out over the season; welcome back Aaron Rodgers.

What We’ve Learned From Week 1 & 2

The first two weeks are essentially acting as preseason. Teams are trying to integrate all their new, shiny pieces into their team whilst trying to retain an identity. This year we have seen rookies make unexpected, impressive starts as well as unfortunate injuries, a LOT of unfortunate injuries. With that, lets dive into what we have learned from week 1 and 2.

Everyone Owes Russell Wilson an Apology

I am not a Seahawks fan, yet I have been behind Wilson as the best QB in the league, and indeed the best player, for the last few years now. Ever since Brady started to regress, the crown has always belonged to Wilson. This is no way an indictment of Mahomes or Jackson but rather simply realising that sometimes the new, shiny toy of the NFL isn’t the best, whilst the experience veteran … is. So far, in only 2 games, the Wilson is undoubtedly MVP: 610yds, 9TDs:1INT and most importantly, 2 wins. It’s worth noting that the INT was first deflected by Greg Olsen (the intended target) and that the second of the two wins came against the Patriots. That is the Patriots with the best secondary (and best coach) in the NFL. On Sunday, 3 of his TD passes where nothing less than perfect. He fit it into pockets that very few QBs can, but Wilson completed the task on 3 separate occasions. This included a perfect throw on the seam-fly to Metcalf, lofted over the shoulder perfectly of no-one else but DPOY Stephon Gilmore. Brian Shottenheimer is finally allowing Wilson to show the world he is the true QB, a second Superbowl is not far away.

There Needed to be a Preseason

Yes, many of the injuries so far are likely down to the turf of Metlife stadium but there have still been too many. The Injured Reserve list is currently filled of 237 players. Whilst not all of these are players injured on the field and out for the year, this is a ridiculous increase over last years total at this time. Current stars that are already out for the year include: Nick Bosa (SF-DE), Solomon Thomas (SF-DE), Saquon Barkly (NYG-RB), Courtland Sutton (DEN-WR) and Malik Hooker (IND-FS). This is in addition to those who’s season ended before they began (basically the entire Eagles O-Line). To add to this, players such as McCafferey, Drew Lock and Raheem Mostert are likely to miss the next few weeks. The common injury currently is soft tissue – these would be hamstrings, ACLs and MCLs. All injuries that would have been helped by having a preseason – a warm up. I, as I would assume everyone else, hope to see an end to this increase in injuries but I do doubt it. Certainly, over the next two weeks I expect to see more before it then starts to level off.

Rookie RBs

So much for the predictions that JK Dobbins (BAL), Cam Akers (LAR) and Antonio Gibson (WAS) would only be making an impact in the second half of the season. Dobbins has already run in 2 TDs, Gibson accumulating 96 all-purpose yds and Akers carrying the ball 17 times for the Rams. This has the potential to be one of the best RB classes in history, just as the value of RB has been dipping. However, the most impressive so far has been Jonathan Taylor (IND). When facing the Vikings he amassed 101yds and 1 TD. Taylor is punishing. A north-south runner with a kick for good measure. He fits perfectly in the Colts system. Rivers is still a quality passer (till the 4th quarter when he throws more INTs than can be imagined). Using Rivers and the speed of Marlon Mack (achilleas injury and out for the year) and Nyheim Hynes earl in the game. Screens and mid-range passes to TY Hilton to build a lead, allowing a new and improved defense with Deforest Buckner to hold the defense. Then bring in the punishing Taylor to overpower what’s left of the opposition front 7. The Colts could be going places, I feel they are only going to get better. The Colts get an effective bye week against the Jets next, with their next true test against the Ravens on the 8th November.

Minshew Mania

So much for tanking. Someone needs to tell Mr Minshew that his front office wants to lose, not win. After playing the Colts and the Titans, Minshew has thrown for 512yds with a 75% completion rate. Remember that he is currently throwing to DJ Chark, Keelan Cole and rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. All are good NO2-3 receivers but none are a true NO.1. Minshew still does make mistakes but his big play ability supersedes it. His improvement has been helped by the most surprising rookie in the league at the moment, James Robinson. Robinson became the first undrafted free agent RB to start week 1 (and amass over 50yds) for over 10 years. Last week he carried 16 times for 102yds. That’s 6.4yds/carry which if he continues would gain him many awards (OROY and OPOY at the very least). He currently sits 8th in rushing yards alongside the likes of Ezekiel Elliot (DAL), Josh Jacobs (LVR) and fellow rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC). The difference between him and the Kansas City rusher? 223 picks and $2 million a year. It finally looks like the Jags have got the ball rolling on their rebuild.

The Jets are Getting Trevor Lawrence Adam Gase will be fired by December (right now would be smart) and Sam Darnold will have to be seeing ghosts in another part of America. Darnold simply throws too many interceptions. I loved the Jets draft, I really like their free agency class, but Darnold and Gase, I do not. I was much more behind Josh Allen in the class then Darnold (I admit that I whiffed on Jackson) and now that class difference is for all to see. Darnold has no confidence and he knows it. As a result, he tells himself “screw it, I need to make a play” and throws into triple coverage or while a 300lbs D-lineman is using him as some tackling pads. As a result of his poor play and the lack of drive for the players to play for a coach as disliked as Adam Gase, the Jets are bad, really bad. They are the worst team in football. Gardner Minshew’s moustache is playing better by itself then the New York Jets football team. They were easily beaten by the Bills, even after Allen fumbled twice, and then were thrashed by the San Francisco hospital that is the 49ers. Only scoring 30 points in two games is not good. 24PPG is around average, the Jets are at 15. They don’t have the excuse of losing Le’Veon Bell because he never made a difference even when he was actually on the pitch. The Jets are a mess and the future isn’t looking bright. Lets put it this way; right now their New York Cousins (Giants) are thinking “at least we aren’t the Jets”.

Award Predictions

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Joe Burrow QB-Bengals

QBs have a stranglehold on almost all awards and this is no different. He is the only rookie QB that will see enough playing time. He has enough pieces around him to make an instant impact.

Runner Up: Antonio Gibson RB-Football Team.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Isaiah Simmons LB-Cardinals

An absolute beast. Will not have to deal with double teams on pass rushes due to Chandler Jones. Will be the centre of the defence and will see a boost in play from Haason Reddick moving outside.

Runner Up: Josh Uche LB-Patriots.

Offensive Player of the Year

Christian McCaffery RB-Panthers

Will be carrying this team to every win it gets. Will see even more work in the pass game with Bridgewater at QB. This is the easiest pick of the lot.

Runner Up: De’Andre Hopkins WR-Cardinals

Defensive Player of the Year

Chandler Jones OLB-Cardinals

One of the best pass rushers in the game, he now has a defence around him that can support him. He will be able to rush the passer more this year, on a defence that is more suited to Vance Joseph’s scheme than last years.

Runner Up: TJ Watt OLB-Steelers

Coach of the Year

Kliff Kingsbury-Cardinals

He turns the team into playoff contention and Superbowl threat after 3-13 (2018) and 5-10-1 (2019) seasons. Kyler Murray is the best second year QB.

Runner Up: Bill Belichick-Patriots

MVP

Russell Wilson QB-Seahawks

The best QB in the game wins MVP and a Superbowl, just beating Mahomes in each of those accomplishments. He is helped by his RBs staying healthy and a slowly improving O-Line. Also, DK Metcalf becomes a legitimate NO.1 WR.

Playoff Predictions

AFC Wild Card

Bills (7) @ Ravens (2)Ravens

Broncos (6) @ Patriots (3)Patriots

Steelers (5) @ Texans (4)Steelers

NFC Wild Card

49ers (7) @ Buccaneers (2)Buccaneers

Cardinals (6) @ Cowboys (3)Cardinals

Saints (5) @ Vikings (4)Saints

AFC Divisional

Patriots (3) @ Ravens (2)Ravens

Steelers (5) @ Chiefs (1)Chiefs

NFC Divisional

Saints (5) @ Buccaneers (2)Saints

Cardinals (6) @ Seahawks (1)Seahawks

AFC Championship

Ravens (2) @ Chiefs (1)Chiefs

NFC Championship

Saints (5) @ Seahawks (1)Seahawks

Superbowl

Chiefs 27 vs Seahawks 31

Final Record Predictions For All 32 Teams

These are my final record predictions for the NFL. To do this, I went through and predicted every regular season game. If I were to predict the record through how good I think each team is, then 28/32 teams would finish with a record of between 6-10 and 10-6, however, the NFL doesn’t finish like that. Therefore, the records may seem more extreme than other predictions. Playoff predictions will follow tomorrow and award predictions the day after. Enjoy.

AFC EAST

Bills: 10-6 (7 Seed)

Yet again they fall just short of dislodging the Patriots who look like division winners with Cam Newton at the helm. They scrape into the playoffs via the brand new 7 seed.

Dolphins: 5-11

Fitzmagic provides some wins after a slow start and hands over to Tua to gain experience ready for next year – the real target.

Jets: 2-14

Darnold continues to see ghosts and the Jets head directly towards a top 4 pick and into the QB-needy team group. Gase joins Doug Marrone as the two coaches fired by week 8. Their talented draft class takes until next year to make a splash.

Patriots: 11-5 (3 Seed)

Belichick creates an offense that works for Newton and the defence, after struggling early, will come together for a late run with rookies Uche and Dugger stealing the show (Uche will be ridiculously good).

AFC West

Broncos: 12-4 (6 Seed)

They are a team to watch. They steel a win from the Chiefs at Mile High and Miller and Chubb become more consistent and more dangerous. (Miller is now out for the season).

Chargers: 2-14

Not a great division to be in and they have a massive whole at safety with Derwin James’ injury (can’t that guy get a break?). They bench Tyrod, though it won’t be his fault, and Herbert disappoints.

Chiefs: 14-2 (1 Seed)

After losing to the Ravens and at a visit to Mile High Stadium (what it will always be called in my mind) they sprint towards the one seed without breaking a sweat. Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks like a top5 pick instead of NO 32, where he actually went.

Raiders: 5-11

Inconsistent team that will lose many close games, they are on the up even if the win column doesn’t show this.

AFC South

Colts: 10-6

Only miss the playoffs through strength of schedule and division record. Rivers signs on for one final year after showing enough talent to keep the Colts interested.

Jags: 1-15

Not even Minshew can save them, the last winless team surprise the Browns in week 12 to gain their only victory.

Texans: 10-6 (4 Seed)

Essentially only reach the playoffs due to getting the better of the Titans. Watson deserves his extension, but he isn’t enough to overcome GM Bill O’Brian.

Titans: 8-8

Tannehill regresses slightly and whilst Henry has a good year, it doesn’t reach the hights of last. A slight regression means 1 more loss in the column from last year.

AFC North

Bengals: 3-13

A week 1 win over the Chargers gives promise, but this team just isn’t ready to compete at a high level, also has a tough division that essentially takes out 6 games of the season. Burrow still looks good for the future, however.

Browns: 10-6

One win from the playoffs, improvement along the O-Line and GM Andrew Berry in hailed as a genius for making the Browns truly competitive, one year away?

Ravens: 13-3 (2 Seed)

Beat the Chiefs early season but can’t hold onto the 1 seed throughout the season. JK Dobbins explodes in time for the playoffs.

Steelers: 12-4 (5 Seed)

The defence powers them to the playoffs, they grab a win against the Ravens. Big Ben is good but not great. Minkah Fitzpatrick enters DPOY conversation.

NFC East

Cowboys: 11-5 (3 Seed)

The Cowboys are very, very good but not a Superbowl team. However, weak division means they coast into the playoffs.

Eagles: 9-7

Wentz can only lift the injury-riddles (ALREADY!) Eagles so high. Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard out for the year, he’ll be running for his life!

Giants: 1-15

I’m sorry but I have no faith in the Giants this year. I’m still not sold on Daniel Jones and I believe that Saquon will be hounded by all 11 defensive players.

Team: 3-13

The defence is ridiculously good, but the offense is still a year away from being good. Gibson is a breakout candidate at RB. Watch for an upset win over the Ravens after the Ravens dispatch the Chiefs a week prior.

AFC North

Bears: 4-12

Maybe the most lacklustre offense of the entire NFL. This won’t be a good year and Foles doesn’t improve the offense that much when he replaces Trubisky.

Lions: 3-13

No amount of former Patriots will save this team, it’s not that they’re awful, I just don’t trust them in each game. There isn’t two many easy games on the schedule to gain wins, a difficult year for the Lions.

Packers: 10-6

Losses to the Vikings and Bears keep them out the playoffs, maybe if they had a first round pick which helps immediately, they could make the playoffs.

Vikings: 10-6 (4 Seed)

This team gets over the line due to help from newly acquired Ngakoue and the young rookies, Jefferson, Gladney and Dantzler. Helps they only have one Monday Night game this year.

NFC South

Buccaneers: 13-3 (2 Seed)

Old man Brady guides his “Super team” to the playoffs, but once they enter the elimination games, they can’t find the top gear to progress far.

Falcons: 6-10

Defence lets them down again and the lack of a consistently good run game. I apologise to Julio Jones that he is yet again being wasted. They’re still not over 28-3.

Panthers: 5-11

The defence is young, really young. All their rookies are on defence (except for one special teamer). Bridgewater can’t keep up with the other team. At least they’ll be the reason you win a fantasy league with McCaffery.

Saints: 12-4 (5 Seed)

The last unbeaten team, their first loss in week 9 against the Bucs. This is based on them keeping Kamara however.

NFC West

49ers: 11-5 (7 Seed)

They lose early due to injuries they are currently enduring. Once they are healthy they rack up wins, George Kittle continues to be a beast.

Cardinals: 12-4 (6 Seed)

The new team to enter battle with the top teams. Hopkins doesn’t skip a beat and Murray significantly improves. However, it will be their defence that makes this possible, climbing from last to a top 10 result this year.

Rams: 4-12

Goff has been exposed; the defence will be good but nothing special. The Rams are a team of great players, not a great overall team. Too many weak spots, especially at QB. Akers is the glimmer of hope for the future.

Seahawks: 14-2 (1 Seed) The running backs finally stay healthy for a season, the best QB in football proves that fact as well. Adams adds a monster onto that defense, exactly what it needed.

All Things RB

One position which has decreased in value over the length of the NFL is that of running back. Whilst teams have proven that a heavy rushing attack can still work in the NFL (49ers, Patriots, Ravens and Saints) but for all 3 of those teams, the individual running back is replaceable after a few seasons, or they use a committee throughout the season. Therefore, the value of each running back has decreased as we move towards an ever more pass heavy league.

Joe Mixon, gets paid:

The general rule with running backs is its fine to draft them high, just don’t give them a second contract. However, in some cases this is not the right choice and I am relieved that the Bengals have given Mixon this contract, especially as it’s a 4-year $48 million contract. This puts Mixon only 6th on the list of highest paid RBs which for one of the best RBs in the game is ridiculous. Mixon is being held back by the rest of the Bengals team, but with rookie NO.1 overall pick Joe Burrow occupying the QB spot, this team is only on the up. With Burrow’s 4-year rookie contract, this signing for Mixon won’t impact Burrow resigning. Mixon already has over 2 seasons with over 1100yds and has receiving potential, something which is essential for a modern-day RB (unless you’re Derrick Henry). The only RBs that I would sign for a second contract would be McCaffery, Barkley, Ekeler and Mixon. I’d add in Derrick Henry because the deal is essentially two years. This is because all of these (excluding Henry) are as good receivers as they are at rushing. Players like Dalvin Cook have the talent but I wouldn’t trust him to stay healthy; I also believe that Elliot’s trade value would exceed hi production on the field. Therefore, Mixon is part of an elite group on a bottom-feeder team, but they are only on the up. One name I left out that I would pay is Alvin Kamara.

Alvin Kamara, cap issues:

The main issue for the Saints with Kamara is that pesky lack of cap space. They are expected to be over $30 million over the cap (before cap cuts/restructuring). Kamara splashed onto the scene his rookie year, the 3rd round rookie took off totalling over 1500 all-purpose yards. He was lethal on the field, but he would be at least $12 million a year and that’s something the Saints surely can’t afford. This is made even worse by the priority of resigning right tackle Ryan Ramczyk who is completely irreplaceable. I would resign Kamara, and I believe the Saints would and will (and reports sound like they are) try everything to do so, I just don’t think they can without hurting the team more in the future.

Leonard Fournette, another piece for the Bucs:

BLOW IT UP! That seems to be the motto of the 2020 Jags. After getting rid of Tom Coughlin and his ridiculous use of fines to just annoy and irritate the Jags players, the Jags had to also offload players who didn’t trust the organisation anymore. With that, Ngakoue is now in Minnesota and the Jags netted two draft picks for it (2nd and 5th). After also offloading team leader Calais Campbell it was clear that this team is going for the NO.1 pick in the next draft. They have just 3 players remaining from the 2017 AFC Championship team. They tried to offload Fournette for something, even just a 5th or a 6th, but no one would bite so they had to cut him. Now, Fournette has ended up on a roster that is the opposite of the Jags, a BUILD IT UP! Roster of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are building a super team for the two years they have Brady and the former 4th overall pick is another brick in the wall. He is a power runner that can complement the speed of Jones. I don’t think he will make an impact in the fist 4 weeks but come the end of the season and the playoffs, the Bucs will use his punishing play to take advantage of the fatigue-filled defences late in the season.

Adrian Peterson, the veteran:

The possible end or one of the greatest careers? I doubt it. Peterson will carve out a Frank Gore like role for the next 2 or 3 seasons. What this shows is confidence in rookie Antoine Gibson. The rookie out of Memphis will have to fill the void left by Peterson because Peyton Barber won’t and if Bryce Love could, I doubt the coaches would have faith injury-wise. Washington now have Haskins, Gibson, McLaurin and Sims. This is going to be a young and exciting team under Riverboat Ron, also don’t forget that defence with Chase Young.

Cam Akers, the young gun:

Akers is very underrated. He was the top high school running back but made what can be considered a mistake by committing to Florida State. He was consistently hit behind the line of scrimmage and had to carry a dyer passing attack. He will be the top running back on the roster, he’ll beat out Henderson is he hasn’t already. Akers is a special running back, the issue is he is on a team with a subpar QB and an average at best O-Line. But with McVay at that helm of play calling, he will find a way to get the ball to Akers, he will have a breakout rookie year and be great running back for the next few years.

Hyping the Right Teams (Hopefully)

Hyping the right team is always difficult. A person can be drawn in by flashy moves and forget about the unsexy parts of football that make the difference; see last years Browns for an example. Originally, I had 3 teams that I seemed to have a higher opinion of than others based on potential win totals. However, since this years Browns have hit hard by injuries on defence (the side of the football that they improved on) that list has been decreased to two teams.

Arizona Cardinals:

Last year, I was highly sceptical on the ability of Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense to adapt to the NFL. After an underwhelming record as Texas Tech head coach (35-40), I believed that his scheme would be figured out and then thrown out of the NFL by defensive coordinators. However, it appears that I was wrong. Whilst the record of 5-10-1 doesn’t inspire confidence, that is not the full story. Arizona improved immensely late in the season on both sides of the ball, culminating in a win over the Seahawks in week 16. Firstly, play calling improved, they were able to firstly set up a pounding run game before targeting the middle of the field when the linebackers moved up to stop said rushing attack and finally target deep on the outside once the safeties come down to stop the middle of the field attack. They were also more content to move up the field rather than rely on a single 40-yard-deep shot. This was set up by the trade for Kenyan Drake. Drake was taken from the Dolphins for 5th round pick which was later traded by the Dolphins. As soon as this RB stepped foot in Arizona, he exploded to accomplish 5.2yds/carry after only 3.7yds/carry with the Dolphins. His ability opened the offense up, increasing the Cardinals points per game from 21.25 to 23.875. That includes facing the 49ers defence twice and a matchup with a playoff bound Seahawks team. This all leads to why the Cardinals had the most improved offense from 2018 to 2019 as according to Football outsiders, its offensive DVOA increased 44.9%, the largest in the league.

Add this to the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins and the Cardinals are getting ready for a special season. They have an O-line capable of keeping tacklers off Drake till after the line of scrimmage at which point he can use his speed. Drake’s one-cut ability is ridiculous and he is no slouch in the passing game, get Drake into open space on a screen and he is gone for 30+ yards. Once the Cardinals can get Drake going, they can target Maxx Williams, Peter Schrager’s favorite Dan Arnold, and the legend that is Larry Fitzgerald in the center of the field. Kirk can attack deep on the outside with Isabella forcing safeties back running seems from the slot with the ability to turn a 5-yard slant into a 20+ yard gain. Then add the best receiver in the NFL, running comebacks posts and corners, using his large body and catch radius to muscle out opposing corners. Kyler Murray’s running ability will also require defensive ends to play more conservatively than against non-mobile QBs. This offensive is going to explode.

However, it’s not just the offense. The defence will also improve immensely. After being the worst ranked defence by yards given up (6432). Vance Joseph finally started to get this defence to a good level. Bubba Baker got paid this offseason (4 year, $59 million) and will continue his insane closing speeds from sideline to sideline, Chandler Jones will be able to rush the pass rusher more, which is only a good thing for the Cardinals, now Isaiah Simmons patrols the field at inside linebacker instead of Haason Reddick. Include Jordan Hicks returning and De’Vondre Campbell addition, and this defense is stacked. Don’t forget Leki Fotu, 4th round rookie, who will be able to make an impact in the latter part of the season. The inly issue for the Cardinals is they are in a division with the 49ers and Seahawks, but an early game against the 49ers, who have hit the injury bug, can kickstart their season. I believe they are still a season from challenging for a Superbowl, but this team is definitely playoff bound.

Minnesota Vikings:

The Vikings had one of the best drafts in the NFL. Yes, they had the most picks (by far) but they got talent with those picks. Justin Jefferson will by the top Vikings receiver by the end of the season and Jeff Gladney is severely underrated. Gladney’s tenacity will be highly valued by Zimmer and the Vikings coaching staff. Their O-Line has improved every year and if Dalvin Cook can stay healthy, their rushing attack will be devastating, especially with a very capable backup in Alexander Mattison. Irv Smith will only improve this year and Cousins won’t get any worse (even if he won’t improve either).

Harrison Smith is still one of the best safeties in the league and we’ve already touch on the corners with Jeff Gladney. The opt-out of Michael Pierce will not help the centre of this defence but Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are capable of covering losses at the second level and this will be helped by the exterior pass rush. Danielle Hunter will reportedly be ready for week 1, his quality is shown by him being the fastest player to 50 sacks in league history. Now, at the price of only a 2nd and 5th, the Vkings have acquired disgruntled rusher Yannick Ngakoue who’s averaging over 4 sacks a season. This creates one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. Add this to the fact the Vikings are in a very weak division and suddenly they are in contention for the 3 seed (maybe, just maybe the 2 seed?). Their steady offense that will be consistently good, if not spectacular, and a great defence will propel the Vikings back to the playoffs and this time they can go deep.

The Latest Extensions and Signings

A flurry of recent contract extensions (and a signing) has swept the NFL. These are likely to be the last big moves before roster cut downs and then the season. Let us dig into each one.

George Kittle TE-SF (5 year-$75 million)

Kittle did reset the TE market in the NFL albeit not to the extent that most thought. This signing is benefiting the 49ers more than Kittle. Kittle would have reached high teens or even $20 million a season if he hit the open market when one team gets desperate. Instead the 49ers have locked up the best TE in football for 5 more years. Kittle is as good of a blocking TE as Gronkowski in his prime, while having the speed of Evan Engram and the intelligence of Kelce. The 49ers just need to find a QB capable of winning the Superbowl, Garoppolo may grow into this QB but he is not there at the moment.

Travis Kelce TE-KC (4 year-$57.25 million)

Kelce is looking to have the long career of Tony Gonzalez. He is now signed till he is 35 years old. Kelce seems to have always been the second best TE in the league, being Gronkowski and now Kittle, but he is still a beast. Kelce is practically uncoverable. He can physically beat out any safety and on plays the safety slows him down, Kelce has been in the league long enough to know how to shake him loose. Crosses and hitches are bread and butter for him. Signing to keep him under contract for 6 years to partner the speed of Hill, Hardman and Watkins will give defences nightmares for seasons to come. 2015 was the last time Kelce had under 1000yds receiving. That’s just plain ridiculous for a TE.

Kenny Clark NT-GB (4 year-$70 million)

Clark is now the highest paid NT in the league. Clark is underrated, seemingly never talked about outside of Green Bay. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t play a sexy position, but the big guys help make the big plays. Averaging 5.5 sacks over the last 3 seasons and 57 tackles. That’s more than Damon Harrison or Eddie Goldman or Dontari Poe over the same period of time. To add to this, Clark creates so much disruption un the centre of that D-Line, that he helps boost teammate’s stat lines (it’s basically the NT’s job to boost other’s stats). Blake Martinez got 155 tackles last year and the Smiths (Za’Darius and Preston, not related) got 13.5 and 12 sacks respectively, that isn’t happening without the 313lbs Clark dominating opposing centres and guards.

Dion Dawkins OT-BUF (4 years-$60 million)

The one thing that a young, erratic QB needs is a good O-Line. Josh Allen can start thanking Brandon Beane for keeping 1/5th of his O-Line intact. Dawkins is easily on a better deal than Laremy Tunsil on $22 million a year. He allowed only the 9th fewest pressures in the league last year and that’s with the highly talented but problematic Josh Allen. Allen is great but he can hold onto the ball for too long and he won’t ever be picking up blitzes like a Tom Brady, all make the O-Line job more difficult. Dawkins is an absolute steal; Buffalo is being run really well.

Everson Griffen DE-DAL (1 year-$6 million)

Griffen has finally found a home for the coming season. He had the 11th most pressures last year and the idea that his play dropped by the end of the season can be explained by Griffen having to rush the passer more than he ever has in his career. If anyone doubts his ability, watch him destroy Tyron Smith last year. He won’t have to rush the passer as much with a strong rotation that the Cowboys have, with Tyrone Crawford, Bradley Anae and Aldon Smith. Griffen’s deal increases the Cowboys defence by more than his own talent. He will help keep others fresh and therefore more terrorizing for young QBs Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins. A great signing.

The Implications of Covid 19 In The NFL

The opt-out deadline has come and gone in the NFL for players. 69 players opted out of the season (according to Fox) and therefore get a season salary of between $150,000 and $350,000. The $350,000 is for high risk players and the $150,000 are for “voluntary opt-outs” and is effectively an advancement on a future salary. Hopefully, all decisions are respected, the reasons range from high risk medical reasons to new-born children joining families. All decisions need to be respected how ever much their absence may hurt the team. Big names are not devoid from this list either.

Eddie Goldman (Bears), Ja’Wuan James (Broncos), Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Chiefs), Damien Williams (Chiefs), Nate Solder (Giants), CJ Mosley (Jets), Michael Pierce (Vikings) and a whole lot of Patriots (Bolden, Cannon, Chung and Hightower) being the players who looked to have starting roles in their teams locked up. However, no QBs are on that list which is important. It will hopefully mean that no team has an “excuse” (if QBs can still stay healthy) and therefore whoever wins Superbowl 55 won’t have a large Asterix next to their victory. It’s a shame that 69 players will miss this year and it’s sadly likely that that number will increase throughout the season, but it is something that the sport can navigate.

To help navigate this, practise squads have proposed changes as to how the practise squads work. Firstly, the size will increase from 12 to 16 players and 6 of those players can have unlimited accrued seasons. This is to cover for Covid affected players but can (and will) be used by teams to get detailed looks at players they are interested in for future rosters. To add to this, a team can protect 4 players a week from being signed by other rosters. Allowing the most valuable practise squad players to stay with the team. Therefore, I expect next years rosters to be full of talent with the amount of players the teams will get to rate this year due to the practise squads. Other changes include being able to promote a practise squad member to the active roster 90 minutes before a game and that unlimited number of players can return from IR after 3 weeks. This allows for more player changes throughout the year, however, will it be used for matchup purposes rather than health reasons?

All of this is why I expect the teams with the most experience staff to have a mid-season surge as they are able to work out loopholes in the rules to benefit their team from more than a health perspective. . Belichick, Roseman and Schneider will all get their teams (Patriots, Seahawks and Eagles respectively) into the playoffs by winning a few games they shouldn’t because they use the new rules to help their teams in ways others don’t. This is going to be a year where coaching comes to the fore.

The one worry for the NFL that can is in the immediate future is the deadline for officials to opt out. This deadline is Thursday the 13th of August. Players opting out (even 69 of them) won’t kill a season, but a few of the right officials opting out could lead to major trouble. Weather that is replacement referees (not again…please) or gaps in communication between teams and the league leading to more chaos, this may be the more important deadline for opt outs. Hopefully, the number is low.

The Jets and Seahawks Make A Splash

Seahawks Receive: Jamal Adams (S), 2022 4th Round Pick

Jets Receive: 2021 and 2022 1st Round Picks, 2021 3rd Round pick, Bradley McDougald (S)

This “splash” trade of the late offseason is a rare trade that seems to be at least not detrimental to either team. A 2022 4th round pick is around the value that McDougald is worth. A 29-year-old improving safety who’s started 39 games over the last 3 seasons for the Seahawks. He has learned from an organisation who created the “Legion of Boom” and has had the chance to play alongside both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. This has rewarded McDougald with ever improving play, as he has got 5 of his 10 career interceptions over the last 2 seasons. He is not one of the best in the game, unlike Adams, but he is a good player who will be capable of holding the Jets defence together for the next few seasons before they hope to find a less outspoken version of Adams.

Therefore, the Seahawks essentially gave up two firsts and a 2021 3rd round pick for Adams services. THIS IS A LOT! Especially for a non-QB who has displayed that he will not hold back in criticizing his own team. However, some would argue that Adams’ opinions on the Jets organisation, especially Adam Gase, are not wrong and a competent organisation like the Seahawks will be one Adams will be more comfortable in. Here, Adams will play alongside ex-Lion Quandre Diggs and the last of the Legion of Boom in Bobby Wagner. This is added to with a great corner in Shaquill Griffin. Adams won’t have many complaints about the coaching staff either, head coach Pete Carroll is far superior to Adam Gase and has a Superbowl ring to prove it. To further the argument for Seattle, Adams’ 6.5 sacks would have led the Seahawks last year by 2.5 sacks. That’s pretty incredible for a safety (and incredible that Rasheem Green’s 4 sacks led the Seahawks). Adams also has the ability to cover tight ends and with George Kittle being on the fixture list twice a year, that ability is coveted by the Seahawks.

For a team that is already playoff bound, having a true game changer added on defence is likely what can put them over the top and make them Superbowl bound. This is also important in terms of the draft capital they have given up. A team this good (especially with Adams) is likely to be drafted at best in the mid-to-late 20s. A first round pick of the Seahawks isn’t as valuable as one from the Jaguars for example. To add to this, the Seahawks 1st round picks of late have been underwhelming unlike their late round picks. As Schneider seems to draft in reverse to the other 31 teams (only the Patriots have the same kind of results) a 1st round pick may not be viewed as valuably as from other organisations.  Even though the Seahawks gave up a lot, there is a large possibility that it’s a good trade for them.

The Jets get two first rounders to use in their rebuilding. Adams wanted a massive extension and there is no way he would have received this with the Jets. Therefore, they would have had one year of Adams before he hit free agency and a disgruntled Adams at that. Therefore, trading him now was the only option, especially as the Jets are still a few years from truly challenging whilst they wait for Darnold to develop. However, it will be difficult for the Jets to find even one player of Adams’ calibre with picks in the late 20s but it is possible. The trade can work out for both teams, the Seahawks immediately whilst the Jets could see a large return in the future. It will be a while before we can judge “a winner” but right now it seems both teams will benefit, even if the price was a little high for the Seahawks.