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

Why Wentz’s Colts are really Super Bowl contenders

Carson Wentz will return to being a star QB as an Indianapolis Colt

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The Indianapolis Colts are one of the teams with Super Bowl hopes heading into the 2021 NFL season. According to the Draft Kings Sports Book, they have the ninth best odds to win the Super Bowl this season and the fifth best odds to win the AFC Conference. After the Tampa Bay Bucs, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, who are clearly the top three most likely teams to win it all this year, the Colts are one of the teams in that second tier who can be real contenders this season. Here are some reasons why they are right in the mix.

Favorable Schedule

According to the strength of schedule rankings based on team records from last season, the Colts have the ninth easiest schedule in the NFL heading into this upcoming year. They also play in an AFC South division that appears to be a two team race right now between the Colts and the Tennessee Titans. The Houston Texans are a mess right now while rebuilding and might not even have star quarterback Deshaun Watson this season, or at least for part of it, because of the off the field issues he is currently dealing with. The Jacksonville Jaguars are an improving team in the middle of their own rebuild but probably are not ready to really compete yet. All of these factors combined give the Colts a very favorable schedule situation this season with a relatively easier path to the NFL postseason as either a division winner or even a wild card.

Solid Roster

The Colts are a well balanced team that do not have any real weaknesses. Last season, their offense ranked 10th in total yards, 9th in points scored, 11th in passing yards, and 11th in rushing yards. Their defense ranked 8th in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed, 5th in turnovers forced, and 12th in sacks. This shows that they were firmly in the top half of the league for almost all measures on both sides of the ball. They win in a wide variety of ways and have no real weak spot for an opposing team to expose.

They have a very solid roster that is talented at all of the position groups. They have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL lead by the best overall blocker in guard Quentin Nelson. Their stable of multiple running backs is lead by a young emerging star in Jonathan Taylor and they have many contributing wide receivers and tight ends that can spread the field. They are solid at all three levels on defense and even have a good special teams unit as well. Position for position on paper, they match up with any team in the league.

The Quarterback Situation

In theory, the Colts believe they made a major upgrade at quarterback this season by acquiring Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles to replace the now retired Philip Rivers. The Colts were already a playoff team last season, and came very close to upsetting the Bills, so if they did in fact improve at quarterback then they definitely increase their chances of a Super Bowl run greatly. Wentz has struggled in his last couple of years but he was playing at an MVP caliber level before his major injury.

The best version of Wentz was back in 2017 where he was a favorite to win MVP before going down with an injury. Through 11 games that season he threw for 3296 yards with 33 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions and a strong 78.5 QBR. That’s a big difference from his 2020 campaign where he eventually lost his starting job to Jalen Hurts. Last year across 12 games played he threw 2620 yards with just 16 touchdowns against an alarming 15 interceptions and a very disappointing 49.6 QBR.

In comparison, Rivers last season for the Colts played all 16 games while throwing for 4196 yards with 24 touchdowns against 11 interceptions and a 62.5 QBR. That’s definitely better than what Wentz was able to do for the Eagles last year but nowhere near as good as the 2017 Wentz. In Fact, Rivers has never in his very solid career had a season as good as Wentz was having in 2017. It’s that version of Wentz that the Colts believe they can revive this upcoming season and why they believe it is a huge upgrade at the quarterback position.

Interestingly, when Wentz was playing his best football it was under the offensive scheme of Frank Reich, who is now the head coach of the Colts. The belief of the organization, and the reason why they went out and got Wentz, is that pairing him back up with Reich will get him back on track. It is surely a gamble considering how far he has fallen off, but if they are right then the Colts instantly become a serious Super Bowl contender. After all, the Eagles team that won the Super Bowl was not as talented as this Colts team is now. The fate of the Colts this season is directly linked to what version of Wentz is playing quarterback.

Top position battles to watch in Indy this off-season

The Colts LT position is full of mystery

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

As the 2021 NFL offseason winds on, we get closer and closer to training camps and our first true looks at rookies, new faces in new places, and most of all, the camp battles for spots on the team. Veterans taking on rookies, free agents dueling with incumbents, and even the fringe players fighting for their lives just to make the roster in week one.

Indianapolis is no different from the rest of the league, as the Colts have numerous battles set to play out in camp at a number of positions on both sides of the ball. Be it a starting position, a spot in the rotation, or even a kicker battle (yes, there will be a kicker battle again in 2021), there is a lot to watch for and look forward to in late July.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at a few of the key positions that will see players vying for the role when training camp rolls around.

Left Tackle

When Colts long-time left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired at the conclusion of the 2020 season, the team was left with a major hole on that side of the offensive line. While there was initially chatter that the team could consider transitioning All-Pro superstar left guard Quenton Nelson out to the edge, the free agency signings of the team effectively quashed that theory, at least for the time being.

In the early portions of the free agency period, the team signed both former Charger tackle Sam Tevi and former Dolphins bookend Julién Davenport each to one-year contracts. Just when it seemed for a while that these two would be in for a camp battle to see who the starter for the season would be, the Colts brought in former Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher following the draft to be the starter.

However, that signing came with a catch: Fisher wouldn’t be available to start the season, as an ACL injury suffered in the playoffs will likely keep him out for at least the first month of the season. Therefore, although he will be the starter when healthy, there is still a major battle to watch at the position in camp. Not for who will start for the season, but rather who will take over until Fisher is healthy and likely become the top backup.

With newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz in desperate need of competent play from the left tackle spot, it is of paramount importance to the team to figure out the pecking order quickly. Be it Tevi, Davenport, or even practice squad signee Will Holden, the blindside needs to be figured out until Fisher can return, as well as for the long term outlook of the backup role.

Cornerback

The Colts defense in 2020 was a major surprise, and a lot of that success came from their pass defense. Long known as a team that stuffs the run well, the unit stepped up in a big way, leading the league in interceptions returned for scores with four while tying for seventh in overall picks at 15.

Much of this success came from the addition of Xavier Rhodes through free agency and the emergence of Kenny Moore II as one of the best, if not the best, slot corners in football. Both of the two contributed two of the four touchdowns and accounting for six of the team’s overall interceptions. The pair go into 2021 as locks at their respective spots, but the other outside corner role is yet to be filled definitively.

Early 2020 starter Rock Ya-Sin, who was coming off of a rough rookie season the year before, stumbled out of the gate and was thrust quickly into a timeshare outside with T.J. Carrie, who performed well in the role despite showing a definite ceiling. With fellow 2019 draftee Marvell Tell returning after taking the 2020 season off due to Covid-19, it is now a three-way race to see who will slot in opposite Rhodes in 2021. Don’t be surprised if it’s the guy who took a break that comes into the starting role, as Tell’s 2019 season showed a lot to like.

For now, though, all eyes are on who will help shut down teams second options on the outside.

Wide Receiver

The wide receiver position comes with a bit of a caveat. As of now, we have effectively five of the likely six receiver spots locked in, with T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, and key special teamer Ashton Dulin all most likely to make the opening roster for week one.

However, despite a seemingly set position, there are still a few questions remaining. As mentioned above, only five of the six likely spots have names penciled in, with the final slot likely going to be won through a breakout camp showing. 

Rookies Mike Strachan, Tyler Vaughns, and Tarik Black figure to make their respective cases in camp, while 2020 rollovers Dezmon Patmon and De’Michael Harris will also have a shot. Don’t overlook free agents Gary Jennings, JJ Nelson, or Quartney Davis either, as each has a skillset that could push them to the top of the pile.

However, it isn’t just the WR6 spot that has questions surrounding it. While a lot of the chatter will be looking at who will fit that bill, there will be another underlying receiver duel going on: who will be Wentz’s top target?

Since being drafted in 2012, T.Y. Hilton has long been the top option in the team’s passing attack, with his deep speed and knowledge of the game giving him an edge on defenders and even allowing him to lead the league in yards in 2016. However, age is a cruel mistress, and she is quickly starting to catch up with the 31-year-old speedster. Thus, Wentz might look at another, slightly taller young target to be his top guy.

Michael Pittman Jr. came in as a rookie and performed very well. While the overall statistics aren’t jaw-dropping, his play on the field more than spoke for itself. Dominating in all three facets of the passing game as a deep threat, red-zone target, and yards-after-catch killer, Pittman showed major potential, and is seen by many as a potential major sophomore breakout candidate in 2021. With Wentz being well known for his vertical passing proficiency and his risk-taking nature, Pittman could quickly become the teams WR1, and the passing of the torch could even happen as soon as the start of camp.

All in all, this is a position to keep an eye on despite not having a “normal” camp battle taking place this season.

Closing Thoughts:

With Colts fans looking for the team to take the next step in the playoffs in 2021 under Carson Wentz, that run is still a while away. Thus, many are waiting just to get to the team’s training camp, if just to catch a glimpse of what may be to come in 2021. The storylines that come out of this period may well give a clear picture early as to the likely outcome of the entire season that lies ahead.

The Colts are the Super Bowl Darkhorse in the AFC

The Indianapolis Colts are a real Super Bowl contender in the AFC

By: Noah Nichols

The Indianapolis Colts finished the 2020 NFL regular season in disappointing fashion. It started with a 21-0 lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second-to-last game of the regular season. The Steelers would rally, and the Colts would falter, ultimately losing to the Steelers 28-24. The Colts would then wallop the Jacksonville Jaguars the following week, but then lose the week after in the playoffs to the Buffalo Bills. The loss against the Bills showed that the Colts had mostly everything they needed to win playoff games. And perhaps even win a Super Bowl. But Phillip Rivers retired in the off-season, which led to Carson Wentz being brought in to be the starting quarterback.

This leads to a few questions. First of all, can Carson Wentz play to the same level as Phillip Rivers did in 2020? Can the Colts improve on being good everywhere, and ascend to great? There are a few reasons to believe that the answer to those questions might be yes. And if the Colts can improve in those areas, then the Super Bowl is certainly not out of the question. And the fact that almost no one is talking about the Colts should provide a little fuel to the fire. The Colts have been pushed aside, left aside by the media in favor of flashy teams like the Bills, or Tennessee Titans.

That might be a mistake.

“You move teams. You go through what Carson has gone through, and an opportunity like this presents itself you use it for what it is. It’s time to hit the reset button. If you know Carson the way I know him, he’s embracing that.” Frank Reich knows that Carson Wentz struggled in 2020. Reich was not going to ignore it, probably because there was no way he could deny how awful Wentz was in 2020. But that does not mean that Reich no longer believes in Wentz. If that was the case, Wentz would not be a Colt.

Wentz could be, scratch that, is the x-factor for the Colts in 2021. His job is to replace Phillip Rivers’ level of play with something similar, and hopefully, better. A new situation is good for Wentz. He needed out of Philadelphia. Especially after these stats which he posted last year. Wentz led the NFL in interceptions (15) and sacks (50) while posting career-lows in completion percentage (.574), touchdown-to-interception ratio (16-to-15), and yards per attempt (6.0). Not looking so good.

But the Eagles had drafted a quarterback in the second round, and faced injuries on offense that, at times, seemed insurmountable. But that begs the question, can Reich fix Wentz? Possibly. But Reich doesn’t need to fix Wentz. He just needs Wentz to produce like Rivers did in 2020. Rivers threw for roughly 4,200 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. His completion percentage was 68 percent, a career high by four points.

Wentz does not have to play that much better to reach those stat lines. He wont be running for his life in 2021. Instead of playing behind the worst offensive line in the NFL last year, he will be playing behind one of the best. To make this clear, the Eagles gave up 65 sacks in 2020. The Colts gave up 21. With the statue at quarterback that is Phillip Rivers. The pressure wont be all on Wentz. He not only will be able to have more than 0.3 seconds to throw the football, but have a capable running back to hand the ball off to. Jonathan Taylor will lead a Colts rushing attack that is growing to be one of the best in the league. Taylor will most certainly improve in 2021, and he had the 3rd most rushing yards in the NFL in 2020.

To switch gears momentarily, that rushing attack will certainly propel the Colts into the dark-horse-Super-Bowl- contender category. With one of the best offensive lines and running backs, in the NFL, the Colts could be a lot to handle on the ground. Taking even more pressure off Carson Wentz and allowing him to succeed. Admittedly, there is no way to prove that Wentz will be better in 2021 and near the level of Rivers. However, with the way 2020 went, there seems no place for Wentz to go than up, because he definitely hit rock-bottom in 2020. Hopefully.

Sarcasm aside, the pieces surrounding Wentz in Indianapolis are much better then in Philadelphia. There is little real pressure on Wentz, because expectations are so low. And he has been reunited with his old quarterbacks coach. Wentz should perform better in 2021, and there is little reason to expect that he will be as bad in 2021 as he was in 2020.

But Wentz playing at an average level, or even above average, might not be enough to take the Colts to the Super Bowl. The Colts are searching for players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball that can be star players. Not pretty good, or really good players. They need stars. And they have some.

To begin with, Jonathan Taylor looks like he might be one of the best running backs in the NFL in 2021. He was third in the NFL with roughly 1,200 yards rushing and had 11 touchdowns. He also caught the ball 36 times- something he never did at Wisconsin, for 299 yards. He averaged exactly five yards running the ball, and eight catching it. Heading into 2021 Taylor looks to be ready to explode onto the scene. He will have a year under him to learn the nuances of being a running back, and there is almost no reason for the Colts to limit his touches. Most likely, the Colts will increase his touch total from 268 to over 300.

The Colts also are expecting, and rightly so, that their passing game improves. At least, they are right to expect their receivers to improve. T.Y. Hilton is still a good receiver, but he has never been a true number one. However, the Colts have high expectations for second-year player Michael Pittman entering into 2021.

“There was a conscious effort to get the ball to him in the way that we did,” Reich said of Pittman. “We saw this in his college days. I remember Chris (Ballard) and I talking a lot about this, but this guy is fearless, now. He’s fearless in every way, but when the ball is in his hands, he wants to hurt somebody. ” Reich continued to heap the praise on Pittman. “That wasn’t possession-type stuff, that was big-play receiver stuff,” Reich said. “And we need to see more of that.”

The 6″4 223-pound wide receivers certainly should improve from his 40 receptions, 503 yards, and one touchdown. Pittman looks to blossom into a star on offense. And that’s all the Colts really seem to need. Darius Leonard leads a solid defense. The Colts are looking for first-round draft pick Kwitty Paye to add to their pass rush. If Paye can compliment Leonard, the Colts could suddenly have a darn good pash rush tandem. Their secondary is deep, but with no real star player.

But the Colts cannot have everything, like every team in the NFL. And the Colts don’t need everything to win the Super Bowl. If Carson Wentz can play like an average NFL quarterback, then the Colts passing game will not really lose its luster. Pittman should take a big jump in year two, and become the clear number one wideout that T.Y. Hilton never was. And Jonathan Taylor should become one of the best running backs in the NFL.

What more does it take? Not much. The Colts nearly beat the Bills in the playoffs last year, and the Colts have certainly improved at almost every position since that point. The biggest question is really Carson Wentz. The Colts Super Bowl hopes ride on his shoulders. His expectations are low and perhaps he will use that to his advantage.

The Colts certainly are being forgotten in the Super Bowl discussion. Probably because of Wentz. But all the Colts need is for Wentz to be OK. Throw the ball up to Pittman on crucial downs, and hand the ball off to Jonathan Taylor every-other snap. The rest will take care of itself. The media has forgotten the Colts. Don’t make the same mistake. They are too strong of an organization, head coach, and team, to fall off a cliff. If Anything, they will improve from 2020 and could potentially win the Super Bowl in 2021. They wont be the most flashy team in the NFL. But they have the playmakers, potential and determination to do it. And that’s all it takes.

Top QB sleepers in redraft

Wentz is a top QB sleeper in fantasy

Intro

We are speeding into fantasy draft season come August. Every year there are players that intrigue us based on their role/situation with their current teams. I’d take a look at the quarterback position and dive into three sleepers at QB that should be looked into for redraft leagues.

Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold and Ryan Fitzpatrick are my QB sleepers heading into the 2021 NFL fantasy redraft drafts. Each one of these guys are now on teams and hoping a fresh start can start can get them into the upper tier of QB fantasy rankings.

Carson Wentz

Season 2020 stats: 12 games started, 2620 passing yards, 16 TDs and 15 Ints. Wentz went 3-8-1 in the 12 games started for the Eagles. Wentz scored 213.40 fantasy points in 2020 which was good for 22nd among all QBs. After having an MVP caliber season back in 2017, he has never been quite the same. For whatever the reasons might be, Wentz lost that magic touch.

Wentz was traded in the off-season to Colts is now re-united with his old offensive coordinator Frank Reich. The 2017 season was a breakout one for Wentz, he threw 33 TDs, 7 INTs, and 3296 passing yards before he tore his left ACL in week 14. Wentz was fifth-best fantasy QB that season with a total of 283 fantasy points.

I’m fully on board with the Wentz fantasy train this season. The reunion of Wentz with his old offensive coordinator will do wonders for his career especially this season. He also playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Do not sleep on Wentz as a top 15 fantasy QB play for the 2021 season.

Sam Darnold

Season 2020 stats: 12 games started, 2208 passing yards, 9 TDs and 11 Ints. Yes, you guys read that correctly just nine passing touchdowns all season by Darnold! He was the 30th QB in terms of fantasy points with just 145.02. Just for context Dak Prescott had 138 fantasy points in just 5 games before his injury.

Darnold is an enigma of sorts. He has shown flashes of brilliance, making off-balance throws and escapability out of the pocket. The issue is that he’s just shown flashes. There have been way too many mind-numbing turnovers, head-scratching decisions, and just downright awful QB play. Now, Darnold was also playing with the worst offensive line unit in the NFL for the past three seasons. He had no standout play-makers who would scare the opposing defenses and the worst head coach the last two seasons.

However, that is all in the past. I am a believer in Darnold’s ability. After being traded in the off-season to the Carolina Panthers, he has a clean slate. With head coach Matt Rhule at the helm, Darnold is set to prove his doubters wrong. He has the best running back in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey, with a plethora of other offensive weapons including rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr.

Darnold has the best supporting cast and coaching staff he has ever been around. There is no question that Darnold has the talent, it was always when he can put it all together and be consistent. Darnold in terms of fantasy relevance will be late round steal. Yes, let others in your draft snag the highly touted QBs while you build roster depth. A serviceable QB in the late rounds of fantasy drafts is a gold mine. Darnold will be a late round hidden gem.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Season 2020 stats: 7 games started, 2091 passing yards, 13 TDs and 8 Ints. Ah, the ageless wonder himself, old man winter etc. the names can go on and on for Fitzpatrick but he just keeps on. Fitzpatrick was the 28th fantasy QB last season with 160.74 fantasy points.

Leaving the Miami Dolphins in the off-season for the Washington Football team is the best win-now scenario for Fitzpatrick. That defense is absolutely loaded and going to wreak havoc this upcoming season. As far as offensively, Fitzpatrick has arguably the best talent that he’s been around, maybe ever. Antonio Gibson is a rock star and Terry McLaurin is an absolute stud. The team signed all-purpose wide receiver Curtis Samuel and drafted rookie, Dyami Brown.

Under coach Ron Rivera, Fitzpatrick can flourish in that system with those play-makers on offense. The best part is that he knows that defense will back him up no matter what, so you could essentially see a looser Fitzpatrick not having to carry the entire team on his back. Look for Fitzpatrick to be another late round grab in fantasy drafts.

Sukhwant Singh

SinghisKing908

3 GMs that lost this NFL offseason

Did the Packers GM lose this offseason?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The NFL offseason is now more than halfway complete. Between free agency, trades, and the draft it has been eventful as always. Teams have opened camps and players are coming together to start preparing for the upcoming season. The goal of every offseason for a GM is to make roster moves that will improve the team moving forward. Most of the GMs were able to accomplish that this year, but there are some that definitely did not. There are teams that will head into the 2021 season in a worse situation than 2020 because of decisions made by the GM of the team. Here are three that were the biggest losers this offseason.

Green Bay Packers: Brian Gutekunst

The Packers find themselves in a very messy situation right now, and that is mostly because Aaron Rodgers is unhappy with the direction of the team. He feels so strongly that he has not yet reported to the team for camp and rumor has it that he will refuse to play for them this year. He wants out of Green Bay and at least for now is apparently insisting that he would rather sit out this season than play for the Packers if he is not traded to another team. If Rodgers is this unhappy, it is an epic fail by the front office lead by Gutekunst.

Like it or not, when an organization is lucky enough to have a quarterback like Rodgers, they must do everything in their power to keep him happy. He is a once-in-a-lifetime type of player and widely considered a top-five quarterback in NFL history. He is a three-time NFL MVP, a Super Bowl champion, and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. For as long as he is there, the organization needs to cater to him. He gives the team a real chance to win every game each season no matter what the rest of the roster looks like. He is an absolute luxury and they should be grateful to have him. If organizational decisions have made Rodgers so unhappy that he refuses to play for them anymore, then Gutekunst failed massively at his job.

In addition to the Rodgers disaster, the Packers made some questionable roster moves this offseason as well. First, they gave running back Aaron Jones a big contract extension. This is a bit of an odd decision because they just used a second-round pick on AJ Dillon, who has looked good. The money used on Jones could have better been used to keep center Corey Linsley while transitioning the starting running back job to Dillon. The Packers also gave cornerback Kevin King an extension but still used a first-round draft pick on another corner, which is a questionable strategy as well. All things considered, Gutekunst had the worst offseason of any GM this year and if Rodgers really does not come back, it was historically terrible.

Indianapolis Colts: Chris Ballard

The Colts made an enormous gamble this offseason by trading for quarterback Carson Wentz, who struggled so much with the Eagles last season that he lost his starting job to rookie Jalen Hurts. A strong case can be made that Wentz was the worst starting quarterback in the entire NFL last season after throwing 15 interceptions in just 12 games and recording an abysmal 57 completion percentage. This didn’t stop Ballard from acquiring him in hopes that head coach Frank Reich could get Wentz back to his old form before the injuries and extreme drop-off in production. After all, Reich was with Wentz in Philadelphia when he was playing by far his football.

The idea that Wentz is going to magically return to an MVP candidate after how bad he has been, is a serious long shot. The move may have been worth the risk for Ballard if the price was cheap enough, but that is far from the case. Besides the huge financial burden that Wentz brings with him, which is over 20 million in 2021 and 27 million in 2022, the Colts had to surrender valuable draft picks as well. They sent to the Eagles a third-round pick in 2021 as well as a 2022 conditional pick that will be either a first or second-rounder. The condition is that if Wentz plays at least 75 percent of the snaps for the Colts this season, the pick becomes a first-rounder.

The condition set on the pick is a losing one for Ballard unless Wentz becomes a superstar immediately, which is highly unlikely right now. The Colts can only retain their first-round pick if Wentz does not play over 75 percent of the snaps. There are only two ways that can happen and neither of them is good. It would mean either Wentz once again got injured or he continues to play so terribly as he did with the Eagles that he loses his job in Indianapolis as well. If he does play enough snaps, he would have to have a spectacular season to justify the price tag of a first and third-round pick to go with a nearly 50 million dollar salary hit over the next two years. When weighing risk versus reward, this was a terrible trade by Ballard and is the reason why he was one of the biggest losers this offseason.

Las Vegas Raiders: Mike Mayock

What Mayock did to the Raiders offensive line this offseason was baffling. He turned one of the best units in the entire NFL into one of the worst and didn’t get any real value for it in return. Tackle Trent Brown and center Rodney Hudson are elite at their positions and two of the better offensive lineman in the entire league while guard Gabe Jackson is a very solid player as well. All three of them were traded away this offseason, in addition to two seventh-round draft picks, and in return, the Raiders received just one third-round pick and two fifth-round picks. Rebuilding and retooling is sometimes a good idea and maybe Mayock felt it was time to do that to the offensive line. The problem is not necessarily what he gave away but there is no denying that he did a terrible job at getting back proper value.

Since taking over as the GM of the Raiders, Mayock has been questionable at best when it comes to the NFL Draft. He has often reached on players by over-drafting them when they would likely be available for him to select at a later time. A good draft strategy should be about getting the best value for your selection and Mayock has not done a great job at that. This year was no different when he selected offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood with the 17th overall pick. He may very well be a great tackle in the NFL but if that was the guy they wanted, they could have traded down to get him while receiving additional draft capital at the same time. Mayock did an awful job at maximizing the value of his transactions and that is why he had one of the worst offseasons.

Three reasons why Carson Wentz could struggle with the Colts

By: Reese Nasser

Quarterback Carson Wentz will be entering his sixth year in the NFL come the beginning of the 2021 season. The former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has found a new home for himself: The Indianapolis Colts. 

Carson Wentz has had an NFL career that has been full of highs and lows. Over the course of his five-year career, he has played in 16 games just twice. Injuries have plagued his career and have kept him from being the QB that many people thought that he could be when he entered the NFL as the second overall pick in the 2016 draft. 

When healthy, Wentz has proven to be a capable starter. He has made big plays and is considered a true leader in the NFL world. During the Eagles super bowl run in 2017, Wentz had the best season of his career. He was an MVP front runner and his play spoke for itself.

The second-year quarterback led the Eagles to a record of 11-2. He threw for 33 touchdowns and looked to be on pace to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. This was until a torn ACL in week 14 ended his season. 

While the Eagles still went onto win the super bowl, led by quarterback Nick Foles, Wentz still played an integral part in putting them into that position. His leadership and elite play through 13 games helped the Eagles secure their spot in the playoffs.

The injuries began with the torn ACL in week 14 of the 2017 season for Wentz. Since then he has dealt with  injuries nearly every year of his career. 

In 2018, even after coming off of the torn ACL, Wentz was ready to go by week three. He led the Eagles through 11 games and had a record of 5-6. He lasted until week 14 when the Eagles decided to end his season early. This early shutdown was due to a back injury that Wentz fought throughout the majority of the season. Yet again, the Eagles turned to Foles and he once again pulled off a playoff miracle. Their season came to an end in the NFC Divisional round. 

As the 2019 season was under way, Wentz began to look like his old self again. He played in all 16 games and his stat line was impressive. He threw 27 touchdowns and added another on the ground. Wentz played well but injuries came for him yet again. In the Eagles first playoff game, Wentz suffered a concussion just nine snaps into the game. There was no Nick Foles to save the day this time and the Eagles season came to an end in a game that saw the Eagles not score a single offensive touchdown. 

The 2020 season was no better for Wentz. The only difference this time being that injuries did not derail Wentz season, but instead, he derailed it himself. 

Statistically, 2020 was the worst season of Wentz’s career. He finished with a starting record of 3-8-1. He was responsible for 21 touchdowns but also threw 15 interceptions and had 10 fumbles. He was eventually replaced by rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts. 

Both the Colts and Wentz will look to bounce back in 2021. In recent years, both sides have underperformed. 

The Colts went all in last season and brought in longtime Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. Rivers led the Colts ro an 11-5 record but didn’t make it past the AFC Wild card round. Not long after the season ended, Rivers retired and brought in Carson Wentz. 

Wentz and the Colts will both have high expectations heading into 2021, but things may not necessarily go to plan. Here are three reasons why Carson Wentz may struggle in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts. 

Injury History

As previously noted, Carson Wentz has had a difficult time staying healthy. It is difficult to make a legitimate impact if you can’t stay on the field.

Now this is no knock against Wentz. Injuries are never planned and they are impossible to avoid. But, it is difficult to discuss Wentz career up to this point without taking note of his extensive injury history. He has finished a season playing all 16 games just twice.

The injuries that have knocked Wentz out have all been significant. His injuries have varied heavily. He has dealt with hairline fractures in his ribs, concussions, a stress fracture in his back, and a torn ACL and LCL. 

None of these injuries have been easy to recover from, and while it is amazing that Wentz has continued to be resilient and work back from each injury, it can’t be ignored that he is hurt somewhat often. 

2020 proved to be an outlier for Wentz. He was able to stay healthy but his play on the field proved to be his downfall. 

Turnover Issues

Turnovers have been a mainstay throughout Wentz’s career. While he has shown that he is willing to do whatever must be done to make a play, whether that be staying in the pocket for too long, forcing a ball into a tight window, or attempting to make the play with his legs, this has also led to a high amount of turnovers. 

Wentz has been responsible for 121 touchdowns over his career: 113 passing and 8 rushing. But, he has also produced some of the highest turnover amounts while missing significant time over his five seasons in the NFL. He has thrown 50 interceptions and has fumbled 58 times. That is 108 turnovers to 121 touchdowns. The number is much closer than you would like it to be for your QB1. 

It is possible for Wentz to cut down on his turnovers. He has had three seasons where he has thrown only seven interceptions. 

The fumbling issue is more of the concern when it comes to his turnover concerns. He has never had less than nine fumbles in a season and has recorded as many as 16 in a season. 

The positive of joining the Colts is that Wentz will be protected. The Colts have one of the top rated offensive lines in the NFL and should give Wentz all the time that he needs to make a play. This protection will give Wentz an opportunity to not need to force the ball or have to make some outlandish play. 

A clean pocket has not been a consistent part of Wentz’s career up to this point. The Eagles line that Wentz was behind dealt with injuries and experienced highs and lows, much like Wentz. 

Average Wide Reciever Room

The Colts wide receiver core has depth but is still widely unproven. This could prove to impact Wentz more than some may think. 

Every great quarterback in the NFL has a reliable main target. Josh Allen has Stefon Diggs. Patrick Mahomes has Tyreek Hill. Tom Brady has Mike Evans. But who does Wentz have? Let’s look at the wide receiver options in Indianapolis. 

T.Y. Hilton is the longest tenured receiver out of the core, so we will start with him. He is a proven receiver and has spent his entire nine year career with the Colts

During his time in Indianapolis, he has produced great nu,hers and has been a catalyst on the offense. While he has never been a high touchdown producing machine, with just 50 career touchdowns, he is a reliable receiver. He has hauled in 608 receptions and is on pace to potentially reach 10,000 career receiving yards this season.

While age has not necessarily caught up with Hilton, his production has slowly begun to decrease. Even after playing in 15 games, the most of any core Colts receiver, Hilton still only had 56 receptions on 93 targets. These 56 catches led to just five touchdown receptions and 762 yards. This upcoming season, Hilton will still be available but may potentially take on more of a leadership role where the younger receivers can learn from him. Even with being a main target in Indianapolis, he is not to the caliber of an elite WR1 anymore. 

The next man up will be second year receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman showed promise in his first year with the Colts. The 34th overall pick caught 40 receptions and had just over 500 receiving yards. 

Pittman dealt with lingering issues and played in 13 games last season. The Colts have high hopes for Pittman and will look for him to be Wentz’s main target this upcoming season. But can Pittman be a WR1? That is not yet something he has proven. 

The core after Hilton and Pittman is somewhat interesting. Zach Pascal has been an anchor for this group. He will be entering his fourth season and his production has been eerily similar over his first few years in the NFL. 

His 2019 and 2020 numbers are nearly identical across the board. He has 623 and 629 yards from scrimmage in each respective season. He also had 43 and 44 touches and also had five touchdowns in each season. 

Third year receiver Parris Campbell is the most unproven of the four. Over the course of his two seasons in the NFL, Campbell has appeared in just nine career games. He has 24 career receptions, 198 yards, and one touchdown. 

Injuries have been Campbells downfall up to this point. He was a talented playmaker during his time at Ohio State and will look to return to form this season. 

When looking at the combined stats of these four receivers, they are seemingly all on par with each other. There is no alpha in the room and that may prove to hurt Wentz. While it is nice to have reliable players at the position, a clear number one target would be even more beneficial. A star receiver in this group, whether it be one of these guys taking a leap towards stardom, or going out and getting one for Wentz, could be what he needs to not struggle. 

Wentz could potentially reach back into his bag and play like he did during his 2018 run, or he could pick up where he left off last season. There is no guarantee how he will look coming into this 2021 season. While he is easy to root for, the road back to MVP level play will not be easy to reach. 

3 underrated offseason moves by the Colts

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2021 offseason as a team on the verge of contention. All of the early talk was on the team’s trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire quarterback Carson Wentz to replace the retired Phillip Rivers in leading the offense. A bit further down the road, the team again made a splash by drafting Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye with the 21st pick in the 2021 NFL draft, which I consider a steal as he should have gone in the first half of the opening round. 

However, while the team didn’t garner many other headlines aside from those two moments, they look to have improved quite a bit during this period, with many under-the-radar type moves pushing the Colts right to where they want to be. Let’s break down a few!

1) Signing veteran guard Chris Reed from the Carolina Panthers

When you think of overlooked Colts moves, your first thought should be Chris Reed.

After missing the first two weeks on the Covid-19 list in 2020, Reed played every single offensive snap from week three on for the Panthers. He was a big help in taking one of the league’s worst pass-protecting offensive lines in 2019 and pushing them towards the league average in that regard. According to PFF, in those 14 games, Reed allowed just one sack and was penalized just three times while holding down the left guard position.

After signing a one-year, $1.1 million dollar deal in April with the Colts, Reed comes to the team as the primary backup on the interior of the offensive line. With the teams 2020 fifth round pick Danny Pinter likely to take over the right guard position in 2022 should the team move on from Mark Glowinski, Reed is a perfect mentor for the time being, and should perform very well when put on the spot in times of need.

2) Re-signing running back Marlon Mack

Alright, this one might be more personal preference, but hear me out!

After drafting Jonathan Taylor with the 41st pick of the 2020 NFL draft, I was almost ready to see Mack out the door to open up room for Taylor to be a workhorse. When Mack went down in week one, I wasn’t as excited anymore. Why?

Because GM Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich sold me on the “dynamic duo” potential.

During the 2020 offseason, now Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to the media about how the team viewed Taylor and Mack as a “1-1 punch”. Many teams around the league have a good 1-2 punch, but the Colts saw what they had differently. They saw two dynamic backs as co-stars for the Colts backfield, with Taylor wearing down teams by pounding the rock and Mack wearing them out with his cuts and speed.

After Mack was lost for the season, Nyheim Hines stepped up as the primary backup to Jonathan Taylor. After totalling 862 yards and seven touchdowns on 152 touches (89 rushes, 63 catches), Hines returns as a dynamic chess piece for the offense.

Now, in 2021, we will finally get to witness the “1-1 punch” that had fans so excited, and we now know what we have in Nyheim Hines as an amazing third option. By the end of the season, don’t be surprised if the Colts are talked about as having the best running back stable in the league!

3) Letting defensive end Justin Houston walk

In his two seasons in Indy, Justin Houston quickly became a fan favorite for his pass-rushing qualities and leadership of the young defense. It came as a surprise to some, then, when the team didn’t re-sign the end to another short contract to return that player to Indy. (With Houston still available at the time of writing this, he might still return, though it’s unlikely).

However, it was time to move on. At 32 years old, the future Canton-hopeful Houston doesn’t have a lot left in the tank to offer. Despite getting 19.0 sacks in his two seasons with Indy, it was clear he was regressing, as he only tallied his 8.0 sacks on 12 QB Hits in 2020. By all means, that isn’t horrible, but it goes to show how he was becoming more of a clean-up pass rusher than the dominant force he once was.

With the team drafting the aforementioned Paye and Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo to man the end spots for the future in Indy, and with All-Pro defensive tackle Deforest Buckner breaking out with 26 QB hits in 2020, Houston was no longer a necessity up front for the team. While the fans will look back thankfully on his time in Indy, it was time for the two sides to move on, as Indy builds for its future and Houston looks for a ring for his mantle.

Closing:

Despite a quiet offseason in Indy (as has become commonplace under Ballard), the Colts made many underrated moves to improve the roster. From depth on the offensive line, to attempt number two of having a dynamic rushing attack, and finally to letting an aging vet chase a championship, the team made moves for the future in 2021.

While we still have a few months before we can see how those moves paid off, the team looks better on paper now, and fans should be excited for what is to come in Indy!

Why the Indianapolis Colts are AFC South favorites

Indianapolis Colts are AFC South favorites

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2021 offseason as a team in flux. After losing their starting quarterback and left tackle to retirement following the season, the team needed to fill some holes, and fast. Fast forward a few months, and the team is situated well to win the division, and should the cards fall right, they’re a young team with championship potential.

So, what happened? What makes the Colts the early favorites to hoist the AFC South Championship banner this season? Let’s dive into three reasons why Indy is poised to potentially make waves in 2021.

Which Wentz Will Arrive in Indy?

After an early offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles which netted Indianapolis former second overall pick Carson Wentz in exchange for a third and a future second/first, Indy solved the problem of who would be under center for the team for 2021.

The question that remains, however, is if the Colts will get pre-2020 Wentz, or the Wentz that played last season as arguably the worst quarterback in the league.

Prior to his fall in 2020, Wentz was a rising quarterback, having played at an MVP level during the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl season and overcoming injuries and poor offensive help to perform well in 2018 and 2019. The wheels suddenly fell off in 2020, however, as Wentz struggled horribly, throwing 15 interceptions in just 12 games and getting benched for 2020 second rounder Jalen Hurts halfway through their Week 13 matchup with Green Bay.

If the Colts can get an earlier version of Carson Wentz, they have the offensive line and weapons to field a top 5 offense. If he struggles again, the team could fall apart entirely.

Defensive Dominance

The 2020 Colts defense was a pleasant surprise, going from a subpar/bad unit to one of the league’s best. With the acquisition of DeForest Buckner playing a pivotal role in the improvements of the front 7, the team finally was able to field its first top-10 defense since 2007.

In the 2021 draft, Ballard improved the unit further, adding Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo in the first and second rounds, respectively. While Dayo might not see the field until the latter half of the season, Paye should come in as an impact player right away, pairing with Buckner to overcome the loss of Justin Houston in the offseason.

While the defense did perform extremely well in 2020, there is even more room for improvements in 2021. If the newcomers can make an impact early, the defense could be championship-caliber.

A New Left Tackle

After the draft had come and gone, Colts fans were upset that the team had failed to fill the massive hole left on the left side of the line by Anthony Castonzo. Free agents Sam Tevi and Julien Davenport were nothing more than backup-level players, and the team failed to draft an offensive lineman until the final round of the draft.

On Monday, May 10th, the Colts finally filled the position.

Long-time Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, a former first-overall pick, hit free agency with one big issue holding him back: an Achilles injury suffered during the Chiefs victory over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game.

With most projections expecting the tackle to be out for the start to the season, fans of the Colts shouldn’t immediately expect the left tackle position to be set. Instead, it will likely be one of Tevi or Davenport holding the position down for a few weeks until Fisher is ready to go.

Once he does check out as healthy, though, the team shouldn’t have any issues from a left side of the line comprised of Fisher, All-Pro Quenton Nelson, and Pro-Bowler Ryan Kelly.

Closing Thoughts

With so many questions surrounding the AFC South in 2021, the Colts seem like the team best situated to take advantage of the issues surrounding their divisional rivals. The Jaguars seem to be a year away from competing, with first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence and rookie head coach Urban Meyers likely to need time to acclimate. The Texans seem to be having issue after issue, headlined by the allegations surrounding their franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Titans, likely to be the one team with a chance to challenge the Colts, got worse in the offseason, losing many key defenders.

With the door wide open in the AFC South, the Colts are the best bet right now to lead the way in 2021.

5 Draft Trades that Could Occur Before April 29

NFL Free Agency is well underway, and as the pieces begin to fall into place, the NFL Draft outlook becomes more and more clear. Rosters have many holes heading into the offseason, but those needs start getting crossed off the list during the free agency period.

There is a third avenue though, trades. We have already seen a few trades this offseason. The first blockbuster involved a quarterback swap and multiple drafts picks, when the Los Angeles Rams acquired Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions for Jared Goff. Then Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was sent to the Indianapolis Colts. We’ve also seen left tackle Trent Brown head back to the New England Patriots, as well as a Benardrick McKinney/Shaq Lawson exchange between the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins.

Some of these deals have involved 2021 draft capital, others have not. One thing’s for certain, more trades will occur before April 29th and the NFL Draft. Here are five that may be upcoming in the near future.

5. N’Keal Harry to the Chargers

Supposedly, three teams are currently in on New England’s 2019 first round pick N’Keal Harry. We’ve already seen a 2020 first rounder get dealt, after tackle Isaiah Wilson was traded from the Tennessee Titans to Miami, so don’t assume Harry is safe based on his draft status. The Pats have already all-but replaced the former Arizona State wide receiver, signing a duo of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency (keep in mind Julian Edelman and Jakobi Meyers are also ahead of Harry on the depth chart). At this point, Bill Belichick’s best course of action is to salvage some sort of mid-to-late round draft pick in return for the bust.

Where he’ll end up is a bit trickier. I’ve heard the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals names mentioned, and the Lions and Titans also stand out as franchises looking to add wide receiving ability (both cores have been decimated by free agent losses). The Los Angeles Chargers just seem like the ideal fit though, being that Harry’s best days were out West and Justin Herbert needs weapons besides Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. He just lost one in Hunter Henry, but New England could send Harry back as retribution.

4. Zach Ertz to Indianapolis

This one has been heavily speculated already, similar to the Wentz trade before it happened. The Eagles are desperately shedding cap under a new coaching staff, and they have a built-in relationship with Frank Reich already (former Eagles offensive coordinator). Zach Ertz was Wentz’s favorite target for a long time in Philadelphia, and the Colts have identified the tight end position as an area that they would like to add to. It just makes perfect sense.

Ertz is 31 years old, and has a $12.471 million cap hit in 2021. If the Eagles were forced to release him, it would yield a dead cap hit of $7.769 million. The veteran tight end started 11 games in 2020, but had a career-low catch percentage of 50.0, with only 335 receiving yards and one touchdown. He probably wouldn’t cost more than a sixth or seventh round pick.

3. Brandon Brooks to the Jets

Since we just talked about Ertz, let’s discuss the other Eagles veteran that’s on the block. Brandon Brooks is a three-time Pro Bowler and 2018 Super Bowl Champion guard. He had a 92.8 grade on Pro Football Focus in 2019, but missed the entire 2020 season with a torn Achilles. Approaching his age 32 season, Philly needs to get his contract off the books, which increases to an $18 million-plus cap hit from 2022-24. His cap hit would be a little over $7 million this season, and there is a potential out in 2022 with a $16.438 dead cap penalty.

There aren’t too many teams that would take on this type of contract coming off a torn Achilles, but the New York Jets might. They were reportedly in the market for interior offensive linemen this offseason, but already missed out on guards Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney, as well as center Corey Linsley. The drop-off in free agent talent after those three is drastic, so if the Jets are still looking to add experience at guard, Brooks might be the best possible solution. It would likely cost them a late-round pick, as the Eagles are desperate to unload his contract.

2. Sam Darnold to Chicago

Based on the way the offseason has gone, it appears that the Jets are trending towards trading Sam Darnold. They are supposedly rebuilding through the draft, or making a blockbuster deal for a Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson type (less likely). Either way, neither path involves keeping Sam as their starter. The most recent bidders on Darnold are the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Football Team (according to reports), but the Seahawks would only make an offer if they were forced to trade Wilson. So far there’s more smoke than fire in Seattle. Washington on the other hand just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, and already stated that they would only trade for Darnold if his price tag came down (not happening).

That leaves the San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans (more on that below), Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. Aside from his contract and hometown, a Darnold to San Fran trade doesn’t really make all that much sense. What will become of Jimmy Garoppolo? Is Sam really an improvement on Jimmy G? Denver and Carolina sound plausible, but they are less desperate to get a deal done with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater under contract. The Bears are the only franchise that NEEDS a quarterback (Andy Dalton addition aside), and they don’t really have enough trade capital or cap space to acquire Wilson if we’re being honest. Darnold is the cheapest, high-ceiling option for Chicago, and that’s why it could end up happening.

1. Deshaun Watson to Miami

To me, the Miami Dolphins still feel like the franchise most likely to trade for Deshaun Watson. Of course, the Jets, Broncos, Panthers, 49ers, Bears and a half-dozen other teams still remain in the mix for the generational talent. The Dolphins must keep pace with the likes of the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots (who have been gearing up in free agency), and Tua Tagovailoa didn’t exactly inspire much confidence his rookie season. The former Alabama star threw for only 181.4 yards per game (6.3 yards per attempt), with a 64.1 completion percentage and an 87.1 quarterback rating. Not terrible, but compared to Herbert and Joe Burrow, not very enticing either.

Miami also has the draft capital and cap space (about $32 million) to make the Houston Texans a legitimate offer. They could send Tagovailoa back in return, along with the third and 18th picks in the 2021 draft, as well as numerous future firsts and seconds. The only team that could match an offer like this is the Jets, but NYJ general manager Joe Douglas seems more intent on building through the draft. Even if this is a smokescreen tactic by Douglas, some might argue the Dolphins have the more appealing offer with Tua rather than Darnold (more years of team control left) headed to Houston. The Broncos or Panthers probably have the third best chance, with more cap and draft capital than the Niners and Bears, but none of them can truly match up against the Fins and Jets.

Watson would make any franchise an immediate contender, but GM Nick Caserio and the Texans have yet to even admit that they have any intention of dealing him. The writing’s on the wall though, and at this point I would expect Deshaun to be wearing a new jersey by the time Roger Goodell reads out Trevor Lawrence’s name.

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