Buying or selling Super Bowl LVI contenders

Are the LA Rams really Super Bowl contenders?

By: Chris Thomas

From the minute the Super Bowl ends speculation begins about who could make the Super Bowl the following year. The odds change throughout the offseason as hirings, signings, and the draft happens. At this point of the offseason, the Super Bowl odds seem pretty firm, barring anything crazy. 

Recently Sportsline came up with their Super Bowl odds for the 2022 NFL Season. According to CBS Sports, they simulate every NFL game 10,000 times to figure out their odds for who will win the Super Bowl. CBS Sports also reported that those who have bet $100 on their model since its inception six years ago are now up almost $7,900.

Even though there are so many talented teams around the league only two teams can make the Super Bowl and only one team can win it. There are a lot of loaded rosters across the league, but only a hand few could be considered Super Bowl contenders. Sportsline has set the odds for every team’s chance of winning the Super Bowl next season. Here is whether to buy or sell Sportsline top-10 Super Bowl contenders as teams who could win the Super Bowl. 

1. Kansas City Chiefs (+525)

Despite losing the Super Bowl last year, many believe the Kansas City Chiefs do have the best odds of winning the Super Bowl next year. It’s pretty hard to argue against it. Kansas City did not have many major losses across their roster this offseason. The Chiefs invested a lot of capital into their biggest weakness displayed during the Super Bowl which was their offensive line. They added veterans like Orlando Brown Jr. (via trade), Joe Thuney, Kyle Long, and Austin Blythe. Then drafted high upside interior offensive linemen Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Also, veteran guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff and 2020 third-round pick tackle Lucas Niang are returning to the team after opting out last season due to Covid-19. That unit is deep enough to ensure that former MVP Patrick Mahomes plays behind a top-10 offensive line all year. 

Kansas City does not have any major holes across its roster. They have done a great job retaining veterans and filling voids on their roster with high draft picks over the last couple of seasons. The combination of having an MVP caliber quarterback, consistency in the roster, and fantastic coaching is what makes the Chiefs a potential Super Bowl contender this season.

Verdict: Buying

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+650)

It would be shocking to not have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers high on this list. The reigning Super Bowl champs did the impossible this past offseason and managed to retain every single player that started during the Super Bowl for them. Tampa Bay somehow managed to retain Shaquil Barrett, Chris Godwin, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski in free agency. They also retained veterans Steve McLendon, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Succop, and signed veteran running back Giovanni Bernard to join their running back committee. During the draft, Tampa Bay took the best player available and Jason Pierre-Pauls potential replacement next offseason Joe Tryon. Adding a prospect like Tryon to a defense that was capable of holding Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to nine points during the Super Bowl was a great move. 

After last season it seems that anytime Tom Brady is a team’s starting quarterback they have a chance of winning the Super Bowl. Another season of Brady in that system with the outstanding weapons he has including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, (A healthy) O.J. Howard, a plethora of great running backs, and outstanding defensive play could result in the Buccaneers winning back-to-back Super Bowls. 

Verdict: Buying

3. Buffalo Bills (+1300)

After the two teams who played in the Super Bowl last year, there is a cluster of teams that could prevent one of them from getting to the big game. Sportsline has the Buffalo Bills as the team most likely to take down the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC and win the Super Bowl. At times last season the Bills looked like the best team in football. Quarterback Josh Allen took a massive leap and asserted himself as a top-10 quarterback and finished the season as the runner-up to the MVP. Last year they also added Stefon Diggs who was arguably the best receiver in all of football. Diggs led the league in receptions and receiving yards last year. On top of that, the Bills have an extremely solid roster with a couple of former Pro Bowl defensive players including Tre’Davious White and Tremaine Edmonds. They let go of John Brown who missed most of last season and replaced him with Emmanuel Sanders. 

The Bills are a really good team, but it is important to ask, how much better did the Bills get this offseason. Buffalo retained a lot of their starters from the year prior and brought in Sanders, but they did not bring any fresh blood who can make a major impact on this roster. During the draft, the Bills spent their first two selections on defensive linemen Gregory Rousseau and Carlos “Boogie” Basham. Both help fill the need Buffalo has for a premier pass rusher. But with all the veteran depth on this roster both in the interior and on the edge, how often are they going to be seeing the field next season? The answer is not extremely likely unless they show immediately that they are better than veterans Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Efe Obada, and 2020 second-round pick A.J. Epenesa. The sad truth is that Buffalo didn’t add enough to their roster to potentially become the sole favorite in the AFC and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Verdict: Selling

T4. Baltimore Ravens (+1400)

Since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback of the Ravens during the 2018-19 NFL season the Ravens have been one of the most dominant teams in the league. The Ravens are expected to continue that this season and may go farther this year than they have in Jackson’s previous three seasons. A couple of veteran players left Baltimore in free agency this offseason including Mark Ingram, Willie Snead IV, Matt Skura, D.J. Fluker, Matthew Judon, and Yannick Ngakoue. But the Ravens did a great job reloading their roster with more veteran and young talent this offseason to replace those players. In free agency, Baltimore added Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva, Sammy Watkins, Ja’Wuan James (expected to miss the entire 2021-22 season), and Justin Houston. In the draft, Baltimore added both wide receiver Rashod Bateman and Odafe “Jayson” Oweh in the first round after they acquired a second first-round pick in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade.

It is hard to argue against Baltimore having one of the deepest rosters in the league, even after the roster turnover. The biggest factors for how Baltimore will perform this year will be the Ravens passing game and pass rush. The Ravens have gotten below-average play from their wide receivers in recent years, Baltimore hopes the additions of Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins could boost the team’s production from that position. The pass rush may have been a concern, but after adding Odafe Owey and Justin Houston to this loaded defense the Ravens should be able to generate enough pressure from the outside to play at a high level. Since Lamar Jackson’s contract is looming over the Ravens’ future this may be Baltimore’s best opportunity to win a Super Bowl with Jackson under center on a rookie contract. 

Verdict: Buying

T4. Los Angeles Rams (+1400)

The Los Angeles Rams started the offseason making a huge trade to upgrade their quarterback position. Before the Super Bowl, the Rams agreed to trade Jared Goff, their 2022 first-round pick, and 2023 first-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. This trade signals that the Rams believe they are a quarterback upgrade away from being a Super Bowl contender. A lot of notable players left the team in free agency including Josh Reynolds, Samson Ebukam, Gerald Everett, Malcolm Brown, Austin Blythe, John Johnson III, and Troy Hill. Not to mention they traded away Michael Brockers to free up salary space. The biggest addition the Rams made to this roster is DeSean Jackson who joins a deep receiving core including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Van Jefferson. The Rams didn’t have a first-round pick due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. They did not add any players who are expected to have an immediate impact, instead, they could likely develop into contributors in year two or three with the team. 

The Rams have a few players on the roster that are considered elite at their position including Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Then they have a couple of players who are great including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Leonard Floyd, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Whitworth. But after those guys, the Rams are relying on a bunch of unproven players who at best couple be solid. This roster is extremely delicate. One injury to a Rams star and they could miss the playoffs. Already the Rams have lost 2020 second-round pick running back Cam Akers to a torn Achilles before training camp. Everything for the Rams would have to go perfectly for them to have a shot at the Super Bowl with their current roster construction.

Verdict: Selling

T4. San Fransisco 49ers (+1400)

It is easily forgotten that the San Fransisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl two years ago. After a season derailed by multiple injuries, the 49ers made the most discussed transaction of the offseason. The 49ers traded two future first-round picks to acquire the third overall pick in this past draft. They used that selection of quarterback Trey Lance. The 49ers lost Richard Sherman and few depth pieces but overall had a positive offseason adding solid pieces in Alex Mack, Samson Ebukam, Maurice Hurst, Arden Key, and Wayne Gallman. Their best signing may be the extending left tackle Trent Williams to a six-year $138 million deal. 

Looking at their roster it is clear that the 49ers can be one of the league’s best if they stay healthy. On offense, they have an elite running game and three outstanding pass catchers in George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Behind their offensive line, it may not matter if Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance is under center. Then the 49ers’ defense still can be as elite as it was two years ago with all their premier talent. If the 49ers could stay healthy and make it out of the NFC West they are as dangerous as any team in the NFL. 

Verdict: Buying

7. Green Bay Packers(+1600)

Since the NFL Draft, the most talked about team in the league has been the Green Bay Packers. The reasoning is that it became public knowledge that league MVP Aaron Rodgers wants to be traded from the team. He felt he has been mistreated by management and would rather go to a situation where he feels he will be treated as he should. Besides that, the Packers have had an okay offseason. Green Bay lost All-Pro center Corey Linsley and running back Jamaal Williams in free agency. They brought in free agents De’Vondre Campbell and Dennis Kelly to fill voids on their roster. Green Bay also retained cornerback Kevin King on a one-year deal and Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones to a four-year $48 million deal. During the first round of the draft, they added Eric Stokes to upgrade their CB2 spot that was exposed during the NFC Championship.

In all honesty, the Packers have an extremely loaded roster. But their biggest problem this season may be what happens in the locker room. After negotiating with Packers brass Aaron Rodgers agreed to come to training camp under the condition that the Packers trade him following this season. Since he has returned he has been extremely passive-aggressive about all that has happened and seems to have the Packers organization doing his bidding. That bidding included traded for veteran receiver and former Packer Randall Cobb who will now likely start over third-round pick rookie Amari Rodgers in the slot. On top of that All-Pro receiver Davante Adams has now expressed that he may leave the Packers this offseason, especially if Aaron Rodgers isn’t there. Both Rodgers and Adams are under the impression that this is the “last dance” and this is their last shot to win it all before they both split from Green Bay this offseason. It is hard to recall a time where a team with this much dysfunction in the locker room won a Super Bowl. 

Verdict: Selling

8. Cleveland Browns (+1800)

After their outstanding performance, last season the Cleveland Browns are being recognized as a potential Super Bowl contender last season. Cleveland had a fantastic offseason as well. The Browns signed John Johnson III, Troy Hill, Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley, Malik Jackson, Anthony Walker Jr., and resigned Rashad Higgins. They also had a great draft taking two first-round talents in cornerback Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first two rounds. 

It is hard to find a major hole across this roster. The biggest factor for the Browns this season is the play of Baker Mayfield. So far throughout his career, he has played well but is considered an average NFL quarterback. In year two playing for Kevin Stefanski, Mayfield hopes to make that leap. A healthy Odell Beckham Jr. should help Mayfield realize his potential as long as he doesn’t feel pressure to force plays to Beckham as he has in the past. What may hold this team back at the end of the day is the team’s inexperience in huge games. Last year the Browns managed to pick up a playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and came close to beating the Kansas City Chiefs. But it is hard to call the Browns a contender without evidence that they can defeat the teams at the top of the AFC let alone the entire league. 

Verdict: Selling

9. Denver Broncos (+2000)

The most shocking team to appear on this list is the Denver Broncos. According to Sportsline, the team that went 5-11 a season ago has the ninth-best odds of winning the Super Bowl. That sounds crazy but after acknowledging all of the Broncos offseason moves it doesn’t seem entirely impossible. They let go of a few veterans including Phillip Lindsay, Jurrell Casey, A.J. Bouye, and Ja’Wuan James. But Denver added to Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby to go with their star-studded secondary that features Bryce Callahan, Justin Simmons, and Kareem Jackson. Simmons and Jackson received extensions from the Broncos this offseason as well as Garrett Bolles and Shelby Harris. During the draft, Denver elected not to draft a quarterback and took cornerback Patrick Surtain II in the first round. 

The most impactful move the Broncos made this offseason can be the acquisition of former Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He is engaged in a quarterback competition with Drew Lock. That uncertainty at quarterback is what holds Denver out of conversations as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Denver has a very exciting young offense and premier defensive talent. But their below-average quarterback play likely caps their ceiling at around .500. If Drew Lock wins the quarterback job and breaks out then the Broncos may have a chance of making the playoffs. The only way Denver becomes Super Bowl contenders is if Lock plays at least at a Pro Bowl level or possibly an MVP level.

Verdict: Selling

T10. Indianapolis Colts (+3000)

So far the Indianapolis Colts have not had an outstanding training camp. Freak foot injuries to their new franchise quarterback Carson Wentz and All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson have tempered the expectations for the team. However, both may be able to return from their injuries around Week 1. Earlier the Colts made the trade to acquire Wentz from the Eagles to replace the recently retired Philip Rivers. They gave up a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick for Wentz. That conditional second-round pick would become a first-round pick if Wentz plays 75% of the snaps or if he plays 70% of the snaps and the Colts made the playoffs. This offseason Colts lost both of their starting edge rushers Denico Autry and Justin Houston, veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., and former first-round pick Malik Hooker. But they managed to retain Xavier Rhodes, T.Y. Hilton, and Marlon Mack. The Colts also signed former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. During the draft, the Colts took pass rusher Kwity Paye towards the end of the first round. 

The Indianapolis Colts have a nice blend of younger players and veterans throughout their roster. But they feel like they’re missing another x-factor player to make them legitimate contenders. That player could be Carson Wentz if he returns to his form during the 2017-18 season. Besides Jonathan Taylor behind the Colts’ elite offensive line, there are a lot of questions about their offense. What Carson Wentz will the Colts get, Is T.Y. Hilton still a threat on offense, and can Michael Pittman Jr. emerge as the Colts’ number one receiver. Defensively the Colts have enough to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It all comes down to the offense that would need to take a big leap forward for this team to become a Super Bowl contender. 

Verdict: Selling

T10. New Orleans Saints (+3000)

As it stands right now it appears the New Orleans Saints missed their Super Bowl window over the last four seasons. But they still have an extremely talented roster. The Saints lost some of their major contributors from a season ago including Emmanuel Sanders, Trey Hendrickson, Sheldon Rankins, Janoris Jenkins, and Jared Cook. They also brought in a couple of solid veterans in Nick Vannett, Tanoh Kpassagnon, J.R. Sweezy, Jeff Heath, and Brian Poole. Their first-round pick this past year was a puzzling one. They reached on edge rusher Payton Turner who many had a Day 2 grade on. 

The biggest storyline in New Orleans has been what the Saints do at quarterback in the post-Drew Brees era. New Orleans retained both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill who are both expected to compete for the starting quarterback job. It doesn’t help that their number one receiver Michael Thomas is expected to miss a huge amount of time due to a lingering ankle injury. The Saints are not very deep at receiver after Thomas. New Orleans still has a lot of talent across this roster but will need trustworthy play at quarterback to make the playoffs next season let alone win the Super Bowl. 

Verdict: Selling

A look into the Denver Broncos 2021 season: games 6 through 8

A unique look at the Denver Broncos schedule in 2021

By: Steven Johnson

The last article in this series looked into the first five games of the Denver Broncos season for the coming year. After looking over these games, Denver took wins against the Giants, Jaguars, Jets, and Steelers. The Broncos did lose to the Baltimore Ravens, giving them a 4-1 start to the upcoming season. This article will look into the next three games, coming against their first divisional foe, a resurgent Browns team, and a Washington team struggling with many facets, including a name.

Week 6: Home against Las Vegas Raiders

Since leaving Oakland in 2017 to migrate the team to Las Vegas, The Raiders have been in the same mediocrity the Broncos have been fighting regarding winning games. The Raiders have seen several veteran players retire this offseason. Because of this, they look to lean on young talent that they have been building the team around. Last year after finishing with an 8-8 record, the Las Vegas defense took much of the blame for the losses. The raiders sat at 10th in the NFL for points scored, but a league bottom 30th in points allowed. While the offense was holding its own, the defense told a different story.

The defensive side of Las Vegas will look different this season as the Raiders drafted three safeties, a corner, and an Edge rusher in this latest draft alone. Coming into week 6, the Raiders will have established their game plan for their new defense to be successful. By this time, the young Denver offense will be settling into their identity as well. This game represents a chance for the Denver defense to show off against a competent Las Vegas offense. Touting high draft pick WR Henry Ruggs III and free-agent acquisitions John Brown and Willie Snead, they look to make up for the lost production of their departed leading receiver Nelson Agholor.

Ultimately, I believe this contest will boil down to Denver and its young offensive playmakers putting together consistent drives against an untested defense for Las Vegas. Look for deep bombs to receivers to open up the game and test the new secondary Las Vegas has put together. If the defensive side for the Broncos is as fearsome as told, then it will be up to the offense to support them and make the most of the opportunities they receive. In the end, I believe the Broncos come into their first divisional game ready and fired up against an age-old rival, putting the rest of the AFC West on notice with a dominant victory somewhere in the range of 37-20.

Week 7: @Cleveland Browns

The Browns had a resurgence in talent this past season as Baker Mayfield found his rhythm and led Cleveland to a competent offense. Behind a strong running game in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the team flourished. Pushing to their first playoff appearance since 2002 and their first WIN since 1994, the Browns seemed to have broken their mediocrity streak of the past twenty years. The Browns were able to shock the Pittsburgh Steelers in back-to-back weeks at the very end of the season. After finishing the regular season with a win and eliminating them in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, the Browns showed the NFL they were ready to compete again.

Going into last NFL season the Browns’ offense seemed to have a deadly receiving core, including Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. before Beckham went down early on with an ACL tear that ended his season. Besides the Ravens, which are also a part of the AFC North, Cleveland’s offense presents the best opportunity at this point in the season to push the defensive side of the ball for Denver. While injury concerns may hover, a healthy Nick Chubb and Beckham Jr. throughout the season instantly turn this offense into an even more impressive lineup that should see the Browns have equal or better success in games this season.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Broncos line will be staring down a Von Miller type player on the defense in Miles Garret and will reunite with former Bronco Malik Jackson as well. The Browns secondary is formidable with the likes of Greedy Williams, Grant Delpit, and Denzel Ward as well. The Broncos’ offense might have a hard time moving the ball and will need a sound game plan for both the offense and defense. Both sides of the ball must play great if they wish to have success against a Browns team back on track. Ultimately, I believe the Broncos lose this game, not for lack of talent but simply because the Browns are moving into the higher ranks of teams in the NFL after years of struggling. The Browns seem to be a team putting all the pieces together, and the Broncos cannot pull enough together to salvage a win, losing 38-17.

Week 8: Home VS Washington Football Team

The Washington Football Team is coming off a playoff berth season from last year after winning out of a decimated NFC East division. Taking advantage of the floundering Dallas Cowboys without quarterback Dak Prescott and the Giants without star running back Saquon Barkley, Washington was able to slip into playoffs without a real quarterback at the end of last season. Cycling through Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, and new fan-favorite Taylor Heinicke, Washington was eliminated in the first round by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Coming into the 2021 season, Washington has recruited journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and hopes to use him to get the most out of their receiving core with speedster Terry McLaurin and former Titan Adam Humphries. This Washington offense is severely untested, and while there very well might be some Fitzpatrick magic to go around, one may have questions about their ability to perform.

The one bright spot on the Washington Football Team is its defense, especially along the line. Star Chase Young has settled into a force in the NFL, and Montez Sweat helped Young along the line to combine for sixteen-and-a-half sacks this past season. The secondary boasts former Giants’ star Landon Collins and a solid corner in Kendall Fuller. Washington had its defense ranked number two overall last year, giving high hopes for the franchise on one side of the ball. If the offense can settle into a safe complementary role, the defense could do more than enough to keep them competitive.

For this game, the Broncos will have to keep the quarterback clean and avoid negative plays if they want to take advantage of this Washington team. This means that passes will be quick to avoid giving Young and company time to get in the backfield, and runs will be designed away from the brunt of the line. One would expect the Broncos to take advantage of their speedy receivers in K.J Hamler and Jerry Jeudy. Also, look for mismatches with tight end Noah Fant to spread the field and make room in the box for running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. The Denver defense should take advantage of a young offense that has yet to find its quarterback, and it will be up to the offense to put up enough points to let the defense close it out. I believe this game might be closer than some would think, maybe due to doses of Fitzmagic, but ultimately the Broncos and their defensive prowess win the day, 26-20.

At this point in the season, Denver would be looking at a strong 6-2 record sitting at the halfway point of the season. a strong record bodes miles better for the team than their previous starts, no longer having to make up ground after starting at a sub .500 record. This could be crucial for the second half of the season, where games will get closer and teams more established as playoff implications become bigger and teams adapt to the typical season injuries and rotations.

Denver’s non QB Position Battles to watch this training camp

How does Kyle Fuller fit in Denver?

By: Steven Jay

With an official team training camp underway for the Broncos, many people are speculating about the state of the Broncos and how individual players will impact their positional group. With the focus on the long-awaited Quarterback battle between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, this article will highlight lesser-known competitions to be aware of that will impact the team as a whole.

The Trenches

For several years, the offensive line for Denver has been a rotation of placeholders and aging veterans that the front office has put together to try and retain some form of stability. The emergence of Garrett Bolles as a top-tier Left Tackle and several promising young prospects on the interior, such as Guard Dalton Risner, has narrowed the last glaring hole on the offensive line to Right Tackle. After overspending on the oft-injured Ja’Wuan James, who has only managed to play a total of 3 games for the Broncos since signing in 2019, Right Tackle is still a question mark for the team. James has since left the organization after suffering yet another injury earlier in the offseason, and Denver will now turn to its young talent to fill in gaps in his absence.

Heading into camp, head coach Vic Fangio stated that “a guy not to go to sleep on is Calvin Anderson.” Playing Tackle at Rice and the University of Texas, Anderson went undrafted in the 2019 NFL draft. After bouncing around between the Patriots and Jets, Anderson came to Denver in 2019 as a backup. After earning his spot, he also managed to sign a one-year contract with the Broncos earlier this year. Still only twenty-five years old, Anderson has gained praise from the Denver coaching staff and has started on a good foot this camp with first-team reps. Outside of a veteran free agent signing with the team, Anderson may very well have the best shot at the starting job. It will be up to him to take hold of the opportunity and show the coaching staff, including renowned Offensive Line coach Mike Munchak that they are correct to place their trust in the young Tackle.

Denver’s Secondary

With Denver’s offseason spending and most recent draft, all eyes are on the Denver defensive secondary. Bringing in the likes of Kyle Fuller and Alabama standout Patrick Surtain II, the Broncos are poised to have a fearsome group of Defensive Backs this season. One could argue that they have too much talent to put on the field at once. One such position to watch will be the Cornerback battle between established veterans Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan and new editions Patrick Surtain II and last year’s rookie Michael Ojemudia.

While Fuller and Callahan are poised to be the starting Corners for this Bronco’s defense, the young playmakers should also be involved. This training camp will show glimpses into how the coaching staff plans to incorporate their round one draft pick in Surtain and continue to build off Ojemudia’s eventful rookie season last year. Both Fuller and Callahan played under Coach Vic Fangio when he was the Defensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears and have a thorough understanding of the defense the Broncos currently employ. However, with Callahan and Fuller both hitting free-agency next season, one should think that the Broncos want to get both young corners as much experience as possible. The opportunities these young corners encounter this season will help the team prepare for next year if they take on a more prominent role. Be sure to watch how both young Corners are utilized throughout camp to get a better understanding of what is to come for the second unit as a whole throughout the season.

The Broncos receiving core

While one may think that the last place Denver needs to worry about is their pass-catchers, it is the sheer number of talented bodies that Denver has that makes this positional group so interesting. With the return of Courtland Sutton and the high praise of Jerry Jeudy after last season, some spots are already very well established. It is the players who will fill in behind them that make for the intriguing drama.

K.J. Hamler impressed with Denver last season despite soft-tissue injuries that hampered him throughout the 2020 season. Expect Hamler to settle into a more prominent role in the offense in his second year as a shifty playmaker. 2020 standout Receiver Tim Patrick hopes to continue to build off his solid performance in replacing Sutton last season after Sutton became sidelined with an ACL injury. The Broncos are also looking to find a replacement for Receiver Daesean Hamilton, releasing him earlier in the offseason after suffering an ACL tear. The likes of Trinity Benson, Tyrie Cleveland, and emergency Quarterback Kendall Hinton look to carve a role out themselves as an active roster Receiver this season. As training camp progresses, expect to hear young, unfamiliar names as this receiving core grows and fights for a spot in a deep positional group for the Broncos this season. Household names like Jeudy and Sutton will be highlighted as talking points daily, but the real intrigue will be who stands out among the lesser-known players. This information could give pointers into who the coaches feel deserve roster spots on the 53-man roster. On the opposite side, it may give away who needs another year developing among the practice squad.

Final Thoughts

Without bringing up the Quarterback controversy, there are still plenty of exciting positional groups to examine and talk about throughout training camp. These are not simply important to decipher but are fresh talking points compared to the constant drone of back-and-forth drama between the two quarterback fan camps. Not only are these groups just as important, I believe they will provide even more entertainment for the viewer.

A look into the Denver Broncos 2021 Season: Games 1 through 5

Denber Broncos schedule breakdown

By: Steven Johnson

NFL football is tantalizingly close to returning, and with official team practices about to start, team personnel will begin meeting to make plans. It is now officially the hype part of the offseason where every team is a contender in their fan’s eyes. With that being said, the Denver Broncos’ schedule this upcoming season will be analyzed in a series of different articles to see how things might fair if the Broncos effectively trot out a fully healthy and competitive team.
(For this article and the divisive issue of quarterback choice for the Broncos this season, the reader can decide who they envision starting for the quarterback position.)

Week 1: @NYG

Starting week one the Broncos will travel to the Big Apple to take on a sputtering young quarterback in whom the Giants franchise has put their faith. Daniel Jones, while selected in the first round, has yet to put it all together to show the Giants that they have their successor to Eli Manning. To give him the benefit of the doubt, Jones has also been missing his star running back in Saquon Barkley. This will be a make-or-break year for Jones, and obviously, the pressure is on both young offenses to start producing. Denver’s choices of bringing in Kyle Fuller and drafting Patrick Surtain this offseason has made waves, while New York has quietly been flying under the radar with their solid defensive roster as well. The likes of Adoree’ Jackson in the secondary and Leonard Williams providing pressure at the line could bring as much trouble for the Broncos’ young offense as everyone imagines the Broncos defense will create for Jones.

Week one could very well be the steppingstone that sees a young offense putting together their chemistry. Considering this, fans should also expect a healthy number of mistakes along with the electric plays we may see on both sides of the ball. Expect heavy doses of Melvin Gordon and safe, high percentage throws to the Tight Ends in Noah Fant and Albert Okuegbunam.

True to their offseason moves intended to bring in great defensive talent, the Broncos ride high on performance from their shiny new defensive toys, the re-emergence of Von Miller, and benefit from a lackluster young Giants offense to take a 20-17 week one road win to start the season off on a positive note.

Week 2: @Jacksonville

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been the media sensation this offseason in the NFL. Their first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson, has been donned the Jaguars’ savior at the quarterback position, and the inflamed media circus that has followed former Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow everywhere since his first year as a rookie in the NFL. Despite shaking things up in the offseason, the Jaguars must still put everything on paper in order to field a competitive team after winning only one game last season.

Heading into Week two, Jacksonville SHOULD be coming off of a win over the dysfunctional Houston Texans in their week one matchup. Heading into his NFL career on a 1-0 start, Lawrence will bring confidence and a mindset that 2-0 is possible against a Broncos team that has missed the playoffs every year since winning the championship in 2015 over five years ago. The Broncos will not be so quick to roll over to Jacksonville and the hype. The Jaguars will come into the game happy with their franchise quarterback and leave recognizing that while he may be the future, he is still a rookie. The Denver defense must be salivating at the idea of getting to face a rookie quarterback early in week two of the season and sending a message to the league about the state of their defensive power. Jacksonville ranked bottom three in almost every defensive category last season, and while they may have their future stud in Lawrence, this is still a young team at the core of a much-needed rebuild for their roster.

Denver handily takes this game after both defensively flustering Lawrence into rookie mistakes and the Broncos’ offense gets rolling behind a strong rushing attack. The Broncos take this one 34-14 and roll a two-game win streak into Week 3 against….

Week 3: Home VS J-E-T-S

After two back-to-back road trips to start the season and more than a year, the Broncos get their first home game in front of a stadium packed full of fans. Mile High will be rocking come week three, and the Jets will feel it.

In this week three match up, the Broncos will have the privilege of playing two first-round rookie quarterbacks in a row. With Zach Wilson as the Jets’ first-round selection and Sam Darnold shipped off to the Panthers, the Jets are entering what feels like their final reset before climbing back to competitive football. After losing the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes by winning a game late in the season against the Browns, they decided to take the next best thing in Zach Wilson at number two overall. They coupled this pick with young talent in Alijah Vera-Tucker on the O-line and another wide receiving threat in Elijah Moore in order to help Wilson build an offense, but as last year Frank Gore still lead the team in rushing yards at thirty-seven years old, there are still plenty of holes to fill.

The Broncos’ defense will again take advantage of the young offense put in front of them and give this Jets team a run for their money. By week three, the Broncos’ offense should have a good sense of who they need to be identity-wise regardless of quarterback, and there would be no better time to give rookie running back Javonte Williams the spotlight as the Broncos’ featured back. Again, much like with Jacksonville, a 2-14 record doesn’t disappear overnight, and the Jets, while on the right path, still have a mountain to climb to get back to competitive football.

Denver takes this one as well after the defense gets to flex its muscles in consecutive weeks. Von Miller breaks out the strip-sack dance to set up a short field Noah Fant touchdown, and they roll out of Mile High somewhere in the range of 32-20.

Week 4: Home vs Ravens

Back at Mile High, Week four presents the first game that will likely challenge this Broncos defense. The Ravens’ offensive ability orchestrated by Lamar Jackson will give the Broncos a true test of their defensive ability as a unit. The combination of solid running back play, a mobile quarterback, and speedy receivers will give an explosive look at just how much the Broncos can handle. On the offensive side of the ball, the Broncos line will get a reunion with former player Derek Wolfe for the first time as he comes back to Mile High since leaving for the Ravens one season ago. With the trenches being holed up by Wolfe and Calais Campbell, this game could very well turn into a passing shootout between the two teams, especially with a healthy Von Miller and Mike Purcell on the other side for the Broncos.

The return of a healthy Courtland Sutton looms large for the first time as the Broncos will need the big-body receiver to make plays alongside the likes of Jeudy’s shifty routes and K.J Hamler’s speed. Despite the Broncos’ solid young core on the offensive side of the ball, the difference in experience between the two teams will be the deciding factor.

Ultimately, this is likely the first game the Broncos lose as Jackson’s scrambling proves too much and some unlucky bounces fall the Broncos way. The Ravens take this one 31-24, but the Broncos put out a solid showing and still sit at a nice 3-1 record heading into Week 5.

Week 5: @Steelers

A week after facing Lamar and his elusive play-making ability, the Broncos travel to the Black and Gold in Pittsburgh to face Ben Roethlisberger and their new running back in Najee Harris. This game provides a night and day difference in what the Broncos have faced in week 4, since Big Ben is not necessarily known for his scrambling ability. The other big factor in play here is that the Steelers’ offensive line will be returning only one starter from last season after suffering several losses to the group this offseason. Long-time Steeler Alejandro Villanueva departed for the Ravens in the offseason, along with Matt Feiler leaving for Los Angeles to join the Chargers.

Broncos fans know what a rotating line can do to team chemistry, and the Broncos D-line can use this opportunity to feast on Big Ben. Bradley Chubb has the opportunity for his first breakout game of the season due to Von Miller getting as much attention as the Steelers can throw at him. Big Ben is sacked no less than four times and the Broncos spark an electric offensive showing behind their emerging running back duo in Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. The Steelers secondary is quietly formidable with the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Joe Haden, and Terrell Edmunds, so the Broncos should not expect to see a lot of aggressive passing opportunities, lest they give the game up.

Don’t expect fireworks but do expect the Broncos defense to not only give the offense enough opportunities, but also score themselves to put this one away 27-17.

Final Thoughts

Heading into the second part of the season, the Broncos should take advantage of a favorable early schedule and move into Week 6 against their first divisional game at 4-1. This should be the first year the Broncos get a solid record accumulated heading into the meat of the season, as in previous years a 0-4 and 1-3 start loomed large. Starting on a positive note this season will pay huge dividends heading into the last two-thirds of the season and situate the team to have more meaningful games to play later in the year.

Vic Fangio is the future for the Denver Broncos

Trust Broncos head coach Vic Fangio

By: Jordan Anders

Vic Fangio will be going into his third year as the Denver Broncos head coach this upcoming season with a record of 12-20. After being a defensive coordinator for the 35 seasons he’s been in the NFL, he just became a first-time head coach in 2019.

After building up a hefty resume, the Denver Broncos brought him in hopes of rebuilding the winning culture. The Broncos have been in a five-year playoff drought and are looking to make the playoffs this season with a healthy roster and a quarterback who is more experienced and that is third-year QB, Drew Lock. The Broncos are more than able to make the playoffs this year with Fangio’s “top defense and ascending offense” but if they don’t, rest assure that Fangio still would have a job here.

Over the last decade, the Broncos have been known for their defense and Fangio has only made that side of the ball better. The Broncos secondary this season has already been top-ranked against the other teams in the league. Lots of time and energy has been put into making his Broncos defense one of the best, some might say it would be silly to let Fangio disown his specialty. However, there is another side of the ball he is responsible for, the offense. If Fangio is the future he has to put the same time and energy into the offense side of the ball because that is where he’s been lacking.

This season is truly going to be very telling on whether or not Fangio will continue being the head coach of the Broncos next season or not. Another season under his belt would build a stronger case on whether his position should be questioned, however, he will be the one in the hot seat this season. He is a very respected coach around the league and no doubt will have a job as a defensive coordinator or another coaching position if the Broncos choose to move on after three years.

Nonetheless, I personally don’t think this would be the logical thing to do, Fangio has worked extremely well to built up our defense, he was given a young and rebuilding offense to work with when he arrived here and it’s looking up. The defense will key in stopping Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes for a decade-plus to come. Broncos management clearly feels strongly about his ability to hold down the defense and help the team push for a Lombardi if they get him a veteran, talented QB with the likes of Aaron Rodgers.

If the Broncos get an improved performance from Drew Lock to allow themselves to compete in most pivotal games, while the defense is elite, the Broncos should keep Vangio and upgrade the QB position for him in 2022. They shouldn’t let Lock’s faith be directly correlated with Fangio’s outlook. If Aaron Rodgers comes to town, Fangio should have a lot less to worry about. But, if the Broncos acquire Rodgers and proceed to struggle, then the Broncos HC should get the Mike McCarthy treatment.

According to rankings from NBC Sports, Vic Fangio came in last for returning AFC coaches and 24th overall out of the 25 returning head coaches in the league. This means one thing: the Broncos will a lot to prove this season. The coaching position is so quick to blame especially when a team like the Broncos who are known to be a winning team has not made a playoff run since their Super Bowl win in 2016. It’s too early to immediately point fingers at the coach when a team is going through a rebuild with a struggling quarterback who has only played 18 games. Needless to say, this season is going to be big not only for Vic Fangio but for the team to fall short or prove the haters and doubters wrong.

Top Fantasy TEs to Buy/Sell

Buy Broncos TE Noah Fant

By: Sukhwant Singh


Every year we as fantasy owners cringe when comes to drafting tight ends. Be it PPR or standard leagues there are just not enough premium TEs available. Once the heavy hitters, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews are off the board the rest of the crop is pretty average to below average.

In this article, we’ll focus on that next tier which can make or break your fantasy squad. I’ll be doing this article based on PPR league rankings/points. With that said let’s get started!

Top three Tight Ends to buy:

T.J. Hockenson

I’m on the hype train for T.J. Hockenson this season. I know the QB position has taken a bit of a hit with Jared Goff now at the helm instead of Matthew Stafford but this shouldn’t affect Hockenson’s value much. The team lost its top WRs in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu.

This now opens opportunities for plenty for Hockenson especially working those underneath routes. Hockenson finished last season as a TE5 with 175.3 total points in PPR formats. I fully expect him to exceed those numbers easily this season! Look for Hockenson/Goff to hit it off early and often this season. Acquiring Hockenson, given the right price is a trade worth assessing and committing to.

Noah Fant

It’s almost unfair the amount of QB uncertainty and bad QB play that Noah Fant has been dealing with. Even with that said Fant finished with 149.3 fantasy points which were good for TE9. Fant’s current ADP has him going in round 7 and later. That to me is an absolute steal!

Drew Lock/Teddy Bridgwater will bring the best in each other (at least we all hope they do) and that should have a direct result in better QB play overall. In addition, top receiving weapon Cortland Sutton will be back and fully healthy, so most of the defensive focus will shift towards him. This leaves Fant to win one on one coverage with slower linebackers and/or smaller safeties. Fant can be had for a tremendous value.

Tyler Higbee

I cant wait to see the chemistry/connection that Stafford develops with Tyler Higbee during this summer and into the season. Higbee finished as the TE8 in 2019 with 160.4 fantasy points. Although last year was a bit of a down year for him I expect him to bounce back in a big way.

Firstly, Stafford is now his QB. A big upgrade over Goff! Secondly, his target stealer (Gerald Everett) is now in Seattle. This leaves Higbee as the best TE option on the team. In 2020 Higbee out-snapped Everett by over 200 snaps! Higbee is set for a big role this season and fully expect him to break out and have a huge fantasy year.

Top three Tight Ends to sell:

Mike Gesicki

I’m just not a believer in the Dolphins QB situation. Mike Gesicki finished as a TE7 with 159.3 fantasy points in 2020. Now with the addition of Will Fuller and rookie Jaylen Waddle to an already crowded receiving core room. There are plenty of weapons on the Dolphins offense and I’m not sure that Tua Tagovailoa will be able to spread the ball around as needed.

This is where Gesicki’s fantasy outlook takes a hit. He might be the odd man out in terms of weekly sustained fantasy production on that team and this is where you as fantasy owners can get solid value for Gesicki. There will be plenty of TE-hungry fantasy managers will take the name and past fantasy production without looking at the complete picture/context. Take advantage of it and sell Gesicki high!

Evan Engram

In a similar boat as Gesicki, Evan Engram is the odd man out. The Giants added Kenny Golladay, drafted Kadarius Toney and will have Saquan Barkley back from injury. Just like with the Dolphins and Tua, I’m not sure if Jones will be able to keep all these mouths happy and fed often enough.

Engram finished as TE15 last season with 141 fantasy points. This is without the above names being on the team last season. Daniel Jones is in a make-or-break season and thus far I haven’t seen enough to convince me that he can be in that top 15 QB tier. Sell Engram as he another big name out there but little fantasy value.

Kyle Pitts

Now before everybody goes crazy as to why I’m mentioning Kyle Pitts, let me explain. This sell on Pitts is for redraft leagues ONLY! Second, I’m only saying sell because of his current ADP value of 4.04. This is insane for a player who has yet to take an NFL snap.

Pitts would have to have one of the greatest rookie TE seasons in NFL history for him to be worth that high of pick. We all have seen how rookies tend to struggle to get adjusted to the NFL level. Pitts will be no different. I’m not saying he will be a bust. What I am saying is that to draft Pitts with your third or fourth pick and say he goes 65/600/5 as his stat line, that would be good for about TE10!

Last season Hunter Henry posted a 60/613/4 line in 14 games with the Chargers good for TE12! You see it’s all about value. You can find other TEs that can give similar production that can be had in a later round. Now if Pitts falls down the ladder to you in rounds eight or later then by all means scoop him up. However, to make him one of your first top five picks isn’t worth it. Sell high and get back a huge haul!

Could the AFC West have four Playoff Teams?

Could AFC West feature four playoff teams?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

With the NFL Playoffs expanding its field of Wild Card teams to three per conference instead of two, it is now possible for an entire division to make the postseason. That is what the AFC West division will be looking to accomplish this season, as all four teams have aspirations of making the playoffs. It would be the first time NFL history for that to happen, but the question is whether or not that is a realistic scenario. Let’s first take a quick look at each of the four teams’ outlooks for the upcoming 2021 NFL season.

Kansas City Chiefs

The two-time defending AFC Conference Champion Kansas City Chiefs are pretty much a lock to make it to the playoffs as long as superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes is healthy. They were the best offense in the NFL last year by a wide margin, with their 415.8 yards per game leading the second-best offense, the Buffalo Bills, by almost 20 yards per game. As an example of how big of a gap that is, the 12th ranked New Orleans Saints offense were 20 yards behind the second-ranked Bills. The Chiefs are returning both of their key offensive weapons in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill so there is no reason at all to believe that their offense won’t once again be a dominating force. Pair their elite offense with one of the greatest offensive minds of all time in head coach Andy Reid, and even an underrated defense to go with it too, and the Chiefs are without a doubt one of the best teams in the NFL.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers are a team that has the potential to take the next step this season. The main reason being that it looks like they found a star quarterback in Justin Herbert. He put together a very impressive rookie campaign by completing 66.6 percent of his passes for 4336 yards and 31 touchdowns on his way to leading the Chargers to a solid seven-win season. If he can continue to improve in his second season, he can already be a top ten quarterback in the league, which always gives any team a chance to make a run into playoffs. They have a solid defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last year at 343.4 yards allowed per game and will get a huge boost this coming season with the return of superstar Derwin James. He is not only one of the most dynamic players in the entire NFL but also one of the absolute best all-around defenders. With the rise of Herbert and the return of James, the Chargers have a shot to make some noise this year.

Denver Broncos

On paper, the Denver Broncos are stacked on both sides of the ball. Their offense has a ton of dangerous skill position players including Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, and Javonte Williams while their defense is loaded with talented and productive players like Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Kyle Fuller, and Justin Simmons. The only real problem with their team, and it’s a huge one, is the question mark at the quarterback position. There’s an old saying that “if you have two QBs, you have no QB” and that applies to the situation in Denver with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. Neither of them are necessarily bad, but they are definitely not impressive either., If one of the two QBs can emerge as a reliable option, or if they trade for an upgrade, then they can surely be a contender because the rest of the team is fully built and ready to win now.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders, who finished in second place in the AFC West last year with eight wins, are the type of team that has a low floor but also a high ceiling heading into the 2021 NFL season. They were the 8th ranked offense last season at 383.3 yards per game, mostly due to their two stars in tight end Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs. They did add another back in Kenyan Drake, which adds another dimension to their offense because of his pass catching abilities out of the backfield. The Raiders biggest loss by far this offseason is to the offensive line, which used to be a major strength of the team. They very strangely traded away three of their starters in Trent Brown, Gabe Jackson, and Rodney Hudson to rebuild a unit that didn’t appear to need it. Regardless, they will enter this year with hopes of competing for a postseason appearance, which is something they fell just short of last year.

AFC Playoff Picture

Anything can happen in the NFL, but realistically it appears that 12 of the 16 teams in the AFC have a shot to make the playoffs, excluding the Jaguars, Texans, Jets, and Bengals. Of those 12 teams, four of them will get in automatically for winning their division, so that guarantees one team from the AFC West. Along with the remaining three teams from the AFC West competing for the three remaining wild card spots there will also be five other solid teams that were not division winners fighting for those same spots. That field of teams joining the race will likely be some combination of five of the following teams including the Bills, Patriots, Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Colts, and Titans.

All things considered, it is very likely that the AFC West will get at least two teams and there is a real shot that they will get three teams in the playoffs, but because of the competition that they are facing, it is unlikely that all four will find their way into the NFL Playoffs this year.

Top 5 dark horse wildcard playoff teams right now

New AFC and NFC teams that could make playoffs this year

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Every season in the NFL there is a new field of playoff teams. It is extremely rare for the same exact group of teams to make it two years in a row, especially when it comes to the wild card spots. There are always teams every season that plays far below their expectations while other teams end up being much better than projected. Let’s speculate who some of the dark horse candidates could be this year for the wildcard spots in the playoffs. We will define a dark horse as a team that finished below 500 last season and did not make the playoffs. Here are five teams that fit the criteria.

New England Patriots

It seems a little strange calling the Patriots a dark horse considering how long they dominated the AFC and even the NFL in general but that’s exactly what they are heading into this season. Last season was the first time since 2008 that they missed out on the playoffs. Ironically, they actually won 11 games that year and were only the second team in the modern era to win that many games and not make a postseason appearance. Before 2008, the last time they missed the playoffs was in 2002, which was the first full season for Tom Brady.

Their 7-9 record in 2020 broke their incredible streak of 19 consecutive winning seasons. The last time they had a losing season was when they went 5-11 in the year 2000, which was before the Brady era. All things considered, it’s amazing how quickly they went from annual favorites to win the AFC conference to a team that’s being considered a dark horse team. Losing the greatest quarterback of all time can have that effect.

Quarterback Cam Newton will enter his second season as the starter for the Patriots. It was a roller coaster of a 2020 season for Cam, who dealt with all sorts of adversity including injuries, Covid, and a lack of offensive talent. Despite finishing the season with a losing record, they were really just a couple of plays away from a winning season and being right in the race for a wild card last year. The two plays that really jump out are the fumble against the Bills on a game-winning drive and being stuffed at the goal line on the last play of the game against the Seahawks. That was likely the slim difference between 9-7 and 7-9.

That is still no excuse because the NFL is a game that is often determined by a play or two here and there. The Patriots did not make those plays which are why they finished as a losing team. This year could be a different story as they look to make another postseason run. They will return a bunch of key players on defense who sat out last year because of Covid and also added some offensive weapons in the offseason including Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor.

Defense is a staple in New England and it will be better this year with who they have returning. As for the offense, there is much to be optimistic about with Cam leading the way. He has a ton more talent surrounding him this year, he will finally be fully healthy, and he has had a full year to really learn the system and work with the coaching staff. Even if Cam struggles, they have a rookie in Mac Jones waiting for his opportunity to show what he can do. All things considered, don’t sleep on the Patriots this year.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are another team that is not a traditional dark horse. They finished last season with a very disappointing 6-10 record but the year before that they represented the NFC conference in the Super Bowl. Interestingly, the majority of that roster is still with the team today including most of their key contributors on both offense and defense. The biggest difference between the 2019 and 2020 seasons was the health of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. In 2019 he played a full season of 16 games for the only time in his career while in 2020 he was only able to appear in 6 games. Unfortunately, because of his extensive injury history, 6 games is actually the second-most in a season for his career.

In his full 2019 season, Garoppolo was a good quarterback but was not exactly spectacular. He was more of a “game manager” type but not necessarily a huge difference-maker. It is widely believed that the team won the NFC mostly based on elite defense and their dynamic rushing attack designed by Kyle Shanahan. The massive drop-off in results between 2019 and 2020 is not simply just because Garoppolo was hurt. They had many other injuries as well, especially on the defensive side. It’s also important to note that the backup quarterbacks were an absolute disaster.

Nevertheless, Garoppolo will enter the 2021 season as the starting quarterback again. He will of course hope to stay healthy, something he has rarely been able to do, unfortunately, but will also be looking to get the 49ers back to their dominant 2019 version. If he is unable to do so, they will turn to Trey Lance, who is a very talented rookie that they traded up to draft. It is very possible that he will eventually be a star but just needs some time to develop. If he is ahead of schedule, he may even be an instant upgrade from Garoppolo.

The quarterback situation in San Francisco is fascinating considering all of the different factors. It could really make or break the 49ers this year. As stated before, they still have many of the key players on their roster from that 2019 team including George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Fred Warner, and Nick Bosa. The 49ers are a talented enough team from top to bottom, coaches included, to not only qualify as a wildcard dark horse but a sleeper Super Bowl contender as well.

Carolina Panthers

A team that qualifies as a true dark horse candidate is the Panthers. This is a rebuilding team with the potential to be very competitive this season. They have a ton of young talent that pairs perfectly with their young up-and-coming coaching staff including Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. They finished last season at just 5-11 but the 2021 version has a real chance to far exceed that because of how different the roster will look from players returning from injury to changes in player personnel.

Maybe most important is the return of Christian McCaffrey from injury after playing just 3 games in 2020. He is the most dynamic player in the NFL when healthy and his 2392 total yards in 2019 prove it. Another key factor to their success is the fact they have switched quarterbacks this year from Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Darnold, who they acquired from the Jets. Darnold is a real wild card and it will be very interesting to see what he does in this new and much better situation that he is in. He was a very high-rated prospect but never quite worked out with the Jets, but will now have a much better roster and coaching staff with his new team.

Rhule and Brady are a major upgrade from the revolving disaster he was dealing with on the Jets. The weapons available to him on offense will be much better also, starting with McCaffrey and DJ Moore but also including Robby Anderson, with who he previously played and had some success. The Panthers also drafted three very talented rookie weapons in Chuba Hubbard, Terrance Marshall, and Tommy Tremble. Darnold has a real chance to thrive in this ideal situation.

The defense is still going to be a weakness of this team but they are trying to improve on that side of the ball as well. Adding cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jaycee Horn is a great start to getting better but the unit is still a work in progress. Taking everything into consideration, the Panthers are a true dark horse wildcard contender with a very wide spectrum of possible outcomes this season. They could make the playoffs or could finish towards the bottom of the conference but one thing is for certain, the Panthers are trending in the right direction and are a team to watch.

Denver Broncos

On paper, the Broncos are a team loaded with talent. Unfortunately for them, it did not show up in the wins and losses last season as they finished a disappointing 5-11. Part of that is due to missing some key players like Von Miller but much of it can be credited to the big question mark at quarterback. Drew Lock has yet to prove that he can be a solid starter in the NFL. He has had some flashes of really good but also some long stretches of underachieving. This is why they decided to also bring in Teddy Bridgewater, but ironically his inconsistencies are not too different than those of Lock.

If one of these two Broncos quarterbacks can find a way to blossom into a better version of themselves then the Broncos can be a legitimate playoff threat. They are loaded at the offensive skill positions including Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant. They still have a very solid defense lead by superstar Von Miller and a stingy secondary anchored by Justin Simmons. This roster is built to win now if an answer can emerge at quarterback. They have the potential to be a team with double-digit wins and that makes them a dark horse for a wildcard this year.

Los Angeles Chargers

Not enough can be said about how good Justin Herbert was last year in his rookie season. Passing for 4336 yards and 31 touchdowns highlighted one best of the best rookie seasons ever. Herbert is what makes the Chargers a dark horse for a wild card this year. If he can repeat what he did last year, or possibly be even better than the Chargers need to be taken seriously as a contender this year. They did win just seven games last season but, more importantly, they actually finished the season on a four-game winning streak which included beating all three of the other teams in their division. This gives a great reason to be optimistic about the upcoming campaign.

Besides Herbert bursting onto the scene, the Chargers have a lot of good complimentary pieces as well. They have solid weapons on offense including Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler while also using this offseason to improve their offensive line and focus on protecting their young superstar quarterback. Their defense, lead by Joey Bosa, is well above average and they will be getting a huge boost this season with the return of Derwin James. He is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the entire NFL and is an absolute game-changer when he is healthy.

In conclusion, if the rookie year of Herbert was not a fluke and he actually is the real deal then the Chargers definitely have a shot to make the playoffs this year. Those chances improve even more if Derwin looks like himself upon returning. Though not impossible, it is still unlikely that they will beat out the Chiefs in the divisional race this year but don’t count them out of the wild card race.

3 underrated moves by Denver Broncos this offseason

By: Chandler Hyler

Heading into the 2021 NFL Season, the Denver Broncos were in search of their next general manager. In efforts to be removed from the day to day activity, John Elway went out searching for his new eventual replacement.

While Elway actually was actually promoted in a way, he hired a General Manager. Still the President of Football Operations, Elway is still understood to have the ability to step in on a call. That being said, he ultimately has instilled a strong trust in the Broncos’ rookie general manager.

First-year general manager George Paton has been a warranted man across front offices in the NFL. Beginning his profound jersey, Paton took on a scouting role with the Chicago Bears. As a scout of the Bears, Paton excelled and resulted in a quick promotion to assistant director of pro personnel in the year 2000.

During his brief tenure with the Chicago Bears, Paton then met an individual who would play a major factor in his development, Rick Spielman. Once Spielman departed from the Windy City, Paton would follow. After a stint in Miami, the duo then headed to become members of the Skol community.

Where Paton developed and learned how to operate an NFL franchise, to an extent, Minnesota has been the backbone of his career. In a strong 14 seasons with the Vikings, Paton played a predominant role in a draft and development process.

Growing within the organization, Paton worked himself all the way up to eventually becoming the Assistant General Manager and vice president of personnel. Paton had been a hot commodity dating back to 2012 when his interviews had begun.

Passing up interviews, turning down offers, and even removing his name from potential General Manager opportunities, Paton was waiting for a prime opportunity. What stands out about George Paton is the fact he had enough confidence in himself and the expected desire for his abilities, that he passed that many chances up.

Not all potential hires have the moxie to roll the dice in such a consistent manner. Some potential hirees take the first opportunity they get, but Paton believed in himself so strongly that he waited 8 years before accepting his preferred destination.

With the Minnesota Vikings, Paton was a part of a team that selected 17 pro bowlers in their respective drafts or undrafted free agency periods. From building some elite defenses, drafting Dalvin Cook, acquiring Brett Favre and Kirk Cousins, Paton was involved in some impressive transactions.

It certainly isn’t a guarantee that Paton’s upward trajectory continues to rise as he begins his next chapter with the Denver Broncos. As promising as Paton may look, the future remains unknown. All of that said, I have faith not only in George Paton, but the entire Denver Broncos also.

Bringing George Paton in to become the next General Manager of the Denver Broncos has been the overwhelming favorite as the best transaction in 2021, in my opinion.

This was the best decision for one very simple, cut and dry reason, Paton will be making all of the day-to-day decisions. As stated previously, John Elway can block a potentially egregious error, I don’t forsee that being an issue. Not only does this bring relief to Elway, but it also puts the Denver Broncos in a position to succeed in the future.

George Paton has come into the 2021 season with a strategy and he stuck to it. His motto for the entity of the 2021 offseason, Paton reiterated that the Denver Broncos would be aggressive, just not reckless.

Right out the gate, one particular former Detroit Lion became available, Matthew Stafford. Paton immediately showed us what he meant by this. Talking offers with the Lions, the price of the former number one overall pick eventually exceeded what Paton was willing to pay.

After Matthew Stafford started packing his bags for Los Angeles, the DeShaun Waston saga had begun. What potentially began as Watson wanting to be traded due to conflictual reasons with the Houston Texans brass and Jack Easterby.

Before Paton and the Denver Broncos could even breach the doors of a possible Watson trade, the storm just started raining. Shortly after being accused of just one case of sexual assault, a massive amount of baggage therapists came out with similar accusations.

While the jury is still out on the Aaron Rodgers situation, the Denver Broncos did add one quarterback during this offseason. Former Minnestoa Viking himself, Teddy Bridgewater became a member of the Denver Broncos just prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.

In a move that cost the Broncos minimal damage, salary, and draft capital-wise, adding Bridgewater was an efficient move. If Aaron Rodgers becomes available, Broncos Country Tonight’s insider, Benjamin Albright, went as far as to say that if Rodgers were to be traded, it would be to the Denver Broncos.

Trading for Aaron Rodgers could make Paton a very popular man in the Mile High City. Wondering what they may have to give up, sending a package that included two first-round picks, a second-round pick, Teddy Bridgewater, and Bradley Chubb would certainly be enticing.

Maybe the Green Bay Packers would ask for more, but it would be interesting to see how much of his poker chips Paton would be willing to push in on a disgruntled quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. An elite talent and professional, Rodgers would be all the Denver Broncos need to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender

With the overall construction of this roster, the Broncos should be in attack mode. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, and Albert Okuegbunam, would light the NFL on fire with Aaron Rodgers slinging the pigskin to them.

If Paton could add Rodgers for the aforementioned package, I would be a firm believer in the Denver Broncos winning the Lombardi at least once over the next few seasons.

When most people look at how an organization “does’ in the offseason, it always seems to be matriculated around player additions. It is often you hear people say, “I love what the Denver Broncos did the offseason, hiring George Paton gives them an A for the offseason, in my book.” Everything seems to orbit around the way the roster improved, not the front office.

Hiring George Paton has already brought the Denver Broncos Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, as well as retaining key contributors in previous seasons. Von Miller and Kareem Jackson will be staying in Denver for at least one more season. Justin Simmons and Shelby Harris’ contracts were also extended to ensure some long-term retention for this defense.

Built around promise young playmakers on offense, second-round draft pick Javonte Williams, will also have his moments to shine. George Paton’s first-ever draft selection, Patrick Surtain II, looks imposing. It seems taking the misused word “safe” pick in the first round will give this Broncos defense depth and upside in a division that has Patrick Mahomes and Justin Hebert in it.

All of these are decisions that have been made by George Paton. While the Aaron Rodgers thing is just hypothetical at this point, that move would be monstrous. Even if Paton doesn’t secure Rodgers, this offseason still seems like it will be a successful one.

Out of every decision Paton has signed off for to this point, Id say retaining All-Pro safety Justin Simmons has been slightly overlooked. While the members of Broncos Country certainly value Justin Simmons, he may have not been retained if the hard-ball negations tactics of John Elway were pressed.

Looking back towards the end of 2020, there was substantial doubt that Simmons may not be returning to the Mile High. This would not have resonated well with not only the locker room but fans and locals.

Justin Simmons is not just an outstanding athlete, but he is also an outstanding human being. Representing the Denver Broncos last year, in honor of Walter Payton, Simmons continues to show his dedication to his community.

Keeping Simmons in Denver also showed a potential culture shift for this organization and how their home grown talent will be treated. After seeing the negotiating debacles with Elway, having a general manager who wants player to feel truly appreciated is a breath of fresh air.

Justin Simmons was a third round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Since then he has done nothing less than establish himself as a tremendous athlete, teammate, and person. Rewarding this sort of growth and development shines to the up and comers like Courtland Sutton and Bradley Chubb, who are due for contracts soon.

There once was a toxic feeling in the Denver Broncos locker room, that no matter how well you played, locking up a long term deal would be difficult. Even looking at a superstar like Von Miller, the negotiations got a bit frustrated with John Elway being in charge of these ordeals. It went as far as Miller cropping Elway out of photos as he would post them.

Additionally, Shelby Harris was also rewarded with a contract extension. Although Harris was not a Denver Broncos draft selection, he was not who he is now when he arrived to Dove Valley. He certainly has grown since becoming a Denver Bronco, and after two back to back contract seasons, Harris was rewarded.

Harris is known for many things including an infectious laughter and personality, but his ability to swat passes at the line of scrimmage has been noticed league wide. As Harris has reiterated, he has the best hands in the league.

Dishing out these two extensions early in his tenure will do wonders for Paton. Setting the tone that he will take care of his guys will make players want to play for this organization. This team has needed a culture shift since the retirement of new Ring of Famer Peyton Manning, and ironically enough, I think Paton can right that ship.

Outside of retaining key contributors, the other underrated but important move Paton has done was not be reckless. While the Broncos could certainly use a superstar quarterback, his ability to stick to his word on not being reckless has put the Denver Broncos in a fantastic position.

You may be wondering how not trading for Matthew Stafford, or selecting a quarterback in the draft may work out in a positive direction for Paton. Well, put it this way, Aaron Rodgers is holding out of mandatory mini camp. Paton’s willingness of sticking to his guns has put the Broncos in prime position to land the future Hall of Famer.

While Paton did trade for Teddy Bridgewater, giving up merely nothing to acquire him, he could be a potential piece in a package to acquire Rodgers. If Green Bay does eventually agree to trade Rodgers, they will be in need of a veteran quarterback, ala Teddy “Two Gloves,” to help Jordan Love in his sophomore season.

Using Bridgewater in a package for Rodgers would make Paton look even more intelligent.

This Denver Broncos roster is ready to compete now, adding another young quarterback who needs time to develop could be helpful, but it isn’t what helps the Broncos win this year. That is Aaron Rodgers.

In prime position to secure Rodgers, the feeling is actually quite mutual. It is understood by many around the league that Rodgers would not only welcome a trade to the Denver Broncos, but he may even prefer it. For many who don’t follow this team may look at the previous year’s record and ask, “why would Aaron Rodgers want to play for the Denver Broncos?”

As far as the record goes, this team’s talent is not an adequate representation of that. From top to bottom, offense to defense, this team is stacked. This roster has one issue right now, could you guess what that is?

Addressing the glaring hole at quarterback could solve with Aaron Rodgers would solve every issue this team has. By simply not reaching for a quarterback that would not guarantee a shift in the success of this franchise has set Paton up to do just that.

Paton still has all of his future draft picks available, has a quarterback who would be a piece in the trade package, and a few defenders that the Broncos could survive without. It would hurt giving up a Bradley Chubb or Dre’Mont Jones, but adding Rodgers and a potential Lombardi trophy would mend that sore.

Imagine Aaron Rodgers brining the Lombardi trophy home to the Denver Broncos, instead of the franchise the profound trophy was named after. This would put the Broncos winning the Lombardi in three out of the previous four decades, the 1990’s, 2010’s, and 2020’s.

That would be quite a feat considering there are several franchises that to this day, have not to hoist the trophy a single time. Being in this position would not have happened if Paton had become eager and reached for a middling quarterback. Instead, he stuck to his guns, and although an Aaron Rodgers isn’t guaranteed, he has put the Broncos in the a great position to make it happen.

He’s also taken a talented roster to an even higher floor with the additions in free agency, like cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. In doing so, he put this team in position to draft the best player available in the draft, which he filled this roster with ten potential impact players.

Without luring Paton in as the next Denver Broncos general manager, I am not sure this team is in the position it’s in right now. That is no doubt, the best thing this team could have done after John Elway moved into a higher position. It has been one of the most underrated moves this offseason.

After the hiring of Paton, he immediately stayed true to the backbone of this team and retained the current pillars of this franchise. Also, not reaching for Mitchell Trubisky or any of the other available quarterbacks, has been wildly underrated and its put the Broncos in the driver seat for Aaron Rodgers.

If Paton lures Rodgers in, he may also find himself in the Broncos Ring of Fame someday.

3 NFL Trades that still need to happen

This NFL offseason is far from over.

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

June 1st is a key date on the NFL offseason calendar. Players that are either cut or traded after this date require less dead cap money for their former team in the current year. This is why teams often wait until after June 1st to move on from certain players on the roster. Now that the date has passed, some of the big names on the trade market have a much better chance of actually being moved. Blockbuster deals can now transform from rumors to stories. Let’s take a look at three trades that need to happen.

Aaron Rodgers to the Broncos

There is no name bigger than Aaron Rodgers when it comes to players that could potentially be traded before the start of the upcoming 2021 season. He is the reigning NFL MVP and one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. At 37 years old, he is still in the prime of his career and would give any team a realistic shot to win a Super Bowl immediately. He has spent his entire career with the Packers, but he has grown increasingly upset with the organization and has demanded a trade.

Whether or not the Packers actually trade him is yet to be seen. They technically do not have to but if Rodgers is serious that he would rather sit out than play for them, they should maximize his value and a get huge haul in return via trade. The Broncos are one team that would almost definitely be interested and would likely give up whatever is necessary to get it done. They have been searching for an answer at quarterback since Peyton Manning retired and this would more than solve that problem.

The Broncos are a destination that makes sense not only because of their desire for an elite quarterback but also because they are a complete team everywhere else and ready to win now. QB is the only real thing that is missing so with Rodgers they would immediately become a Super Bowl contender. He would have plenty of weapons on offense including Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Melvin Ingram, and Javonte Williams. Pair that with their very solid defensive unit and they are a real threat to win it all this year if Rodgers is playing quarterback.

Julio Jones to the Titans

It appears almost certain that Julio Jones is going to be traded away from the Falcons. He is being openly shopped around for the best potential deal that would both benefit his future and what the Falcons receive in return. One team that Jones has admitted that he is very interested in joining is the Titans. This destination makes a ton of sense because the Titans lost Corey Davis to free agency and have a bit of a need at wide receiver. Few are capable of filling that hole better than Julio Jones. Pairing him with superstar AJ Brown would be a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Brown and Jones are both physically dominating wide receivers with deep threat abilities as well. They both usually require double teams or safety help at least, so it would be a major problem for opponents trying to scheme up ways to keep both of them covered. To further complicate things, they still have Derrick Henry at running back who absolutely destroys defenses that don’t load the box. All of these reasons combined would make the Titans offense an extremely difficult puzzle to solve if they do indeed trade for Julio Jones. It could realistically boost them from a playoff team to a real Super Bowl contender.

Zach Ertz to the Cardinals

There are two main reasons why the Eagles may be looking to trade their superstar tight end, Zach Ertz. First, they are a rebuilding team and Ertz is a veteran that could bring back draft capital in the trade market. Second, they already have the younger Dallas Goedert on their roster who is a very talented tight end. All things considered, it makes sense why the Eagles would deal him and the Cardinals are a team that just may be interested.

The Cardinals have fully committed to surrounding their young star quarterback Kyler Murray with as many weapons as possible to give him the best chance to succeed. They traded for Hopkins last year and followed that up this year by adding AJ Green and James Conner. Their offense is loaded but the one thing missing is a reliable tight end so that is where Ertz could come in. The Cardinals do not necessarily need another offensive weapon but they have already shown that they are willing to go above and beyond for Murray. Therefore, it would not be surprising at all if they made this move.

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