Week 2 delivers some underrated matchups: here is what’s happening

Bengals QB Joe Burrow will shine this season

By: Thomas Cunningham

Alrighty, football fans, after an exciting Week 1 showing of the 2021 season is officially in the books, we all need to start looking forward to Week 2. Some obvious over-hyped teams were coming in and out of the first week of the NFL season, but some teams flew underneath the radar.

Of course, most of the major teams viewed as contenders going into the start of the season remained in the same light (except for the Green Bay Packers), but some teams definitely had their stock risen to post their performance.

However, through the major players, big plays, and blowout wins, some team’s victories fell to the wayside of consideration of being competitive for the remainder of the season. The next few teams were not necessarily considered bottom feeders but have been looked down on or overlooked by more prominent rosters in the league. Who are they, you’re asking yourself? Well, let’s dive in. 

1.       Joe Burrow is back in action.

After an exciting start to the 2020 season, Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback, Joe Burrow, left the field and ended his season with a knee injury. The thought surrounding Burrow was that it was pretty much the end of the line, and the Bengals will be who they have always been.

Fast forward to Week 1 of the 2021 season, and Mr. Burrow had himself a day against the Minnesota Vikings. He threw for 261 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 74.1% completion rate in his sophomore debut. Say what you want about the Vikings offense, but their defense has added a lot of firepower this offseason and was a true test of what Burrow could do.

Let’s also not forget to mention running back Joe Mixon rushing for over 100 yards and wide receiver Jamar Chase having 5 catches for over 100 yards. The only real concern for the Bengals is their defense; if they can work on buttoning that aspect of their game up, they’re going to upset many teams.

2.       The other Los Angeles team should be the one you are watching.

That’s right, football fans, I am not talking about the L.A Rams, It is the Chargers that should be a team to look out for. As a first-year quarterback, Justin Herbert threw for over 4000 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his rookie year. He was imposing in his ability to show his immediate command of the offense. The downfall of the Chargers last season had to do with protecting their new quarterback.

During this past offseason, the Chargers addressed this issue and bolstered their offensive line with free-agent signings and drafts. So far, it seems to have paid off. L.A was able to go up moderately and down the field on a Washington Football Team’s defense that is extremely stout.

Surviving against a defensive line like the Football Team’s is an impressive first start, let alone moving the ball efficiently. Obviously, the Chargers have high division competition, but I will not bet against them being in the hunt for a wild card spot if you are a betting person.

3.       Another AFC West challenger emerges

Last but not least, on this list of teams in the Denver Broncos. The Broncos, over the course of the past few seasons, have been, well, mostly a mess. Since their Super Bowl win back in 2015, Denver has only had one winning season. It seemed for a while that they were starting to vastly slip down the power rankings further and further each season.

There was some debut on the Broncos not selecting a quarterback in this year’s draft, but I am here to tell all Broncos’ fans, Partick Surtain will be just fine. In fact, adding a player like Surtain to your secondary has really increased the fact that Denver’s defense will be one of the better ones in this league, if not at least in the top 10.

They walked into Met-Life stadium and beat up the Giants for 4 quarters. It was a shaky start, but once they got rolling, with the help of a Daniel Jones fumble, they never looked back until the clock struck triple zeroes. They may not be as high power on offense, but their Von Miller-led defense will for sure keep them in the game.

Predicting the Top 5 defenses this season

Is the Rams defense the best in the NFL?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The 2021 NFL season is now less than a week away. The preseason has been completed and rosters are being finalized as teams prepare for week 1 of the regular season. Now is as good a time as any to start projecting how each team will perform this year. In particular for this article, let’s predict who the top five defenses in the NFL can be this season, counting down from 5th place and continuing all the way to the number one spot.

5. Buffalo Bills

The Bills were an average defense last year, ranking 14th in yards allowed per game with 352.5 and 16th in scoring with 23.4 points per game allowed. What’s encouraging is that they played much better defensively late in the season than they did earlier. For example, in their final six regular-season games following their bye week, they held four of their six opponents to under 20 points and then also held the Ravens to just three points in a playoff game. That gives reason for optimism heading into the 2021 NFL season, especially because head coach Sean McDermott is defensively focused. In addition, they addressed their lack of “true pass rushers” in the NFL Draft this year with first round pick Greg Rousseau and second round pick Boogie Basham. With the improved pass rush and renewed focus on defense, the Bills can get back to playing like they did in 2019 when they ranked 2nd in scoring defense at 16.2 points per game and 3rd in total defense at 298.3 yards per game.

4. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers suffered an extreme amount of injuries in the 2020 NFL season, including their top two pass rushers in Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Despite the fact that neither of them played much at all, in addition to all of the other injuries as well, they still managed to finish ranked 5th in total defense at 314.4 yards allowed per game. They only recorded 30 team sacks in 2020 but that number should greatly improve with their overall health, as demonstrated by their 48 team sacks in the 2019 NFL season. Lead by superstar linebacker Fred Warner, the 49ers should have another great year defensively, even without Robert Saleh as the defensive coordinator anymore after he accepted the New York Jets head coaching job.

3. Washington Football Team

Last season WFT ranked 2nd in yards allowed per game with 304.6 and 4th in scoring defense with 20.6 points allowed per game. There is good reason to believe that they could be even better this season than they were last season because of the development and progress of their young and dominant front seven. Chase Young and Montez Sweat are already one of the very best EDGE duos in the NFL and should continue to improve as they mature a bit more. The team ranked 6th in sacks last year with 47 and that number will likely go up this season. The front seven was the biggest strength of the team last season but that didn’t stop them from using their first round draft pick on linebacker Jamin Davis out of Kentucky. As long as they can keep this unit together, WFT will have one of the top defenses for many years to come.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

The center piece to their defense, linebacker Devin Bush, only played in five games last season due to injury but the Steelers still ranked 3rd in both scoring and total defense with 19.5 and 305.8 respectively. They did lose pass rusher Bud Dupree to free agency but replaced him with a very capable veteran in Melvin Ingram. He was plagued by injuries last season, but from 2015 to 2019 he recorded 43 total sacks with the Chargers. He will pair with one of the best EDGE players in the NFL in TJ Watt, whose 15 sacks helped the Steelers lead the league in team sacks last year with a massive 56 total. In just four seasons, Watt has already accumulated 49.5 sacks and 17 forced fumbles. The Steelers have an absolute stud at all three levels of their defense, with Minkah Fitzpatrick on the back end to go with Watt on the EDGE and Bush in the middle.

1. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams were the most dominant defense in the NFL last season. Their 281.9 yards per game allowed was best in the league by a very wide margin of more than 22 yards per game. In addition, they lead the NFL in scoring defense at 18.5 points allowed per game and were second in team sacks with 53 total. They have, arguably, the best cornerback in the entire NFL in Jalen Ramsey and he’s not even their best defensive player. That is, of course, Aaron Donald. He is not only the best defensive player in the NFL but he very well may be the best overall player period. In seven season with Rams he has only missed two games total while accumulating 85.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, and 6 recovered fumbles despite being double or triple teamed on every single play. He is the “favorite” to once again win the Defensive Player of the Year award this season, as he should be favored every year. Based on their dominance last season, as long as they have Donald and Ramsey then there is no real reason to believe that they will regress as a defensive unit.

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

Expect the Lions, Eagles, and Texans to have the worst records in 2021

The worst NFL teams in 2021 will be…

By: Andy Davies

Plenty of uncertainty surrounds the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, and Houston Texans going into the 2021 season. Their quarterback situations are far from clear and their overall rosters are mediocre at best.

The same goes for their head coaches, with all three going into their first seasons at the franchise. Neither of Dan Campbell, Nick Sirianni, or David Culley has been a full-time head coach in the NFL. Campbell is the only one to have some experience, with his spell as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015.

Here is why you should be expecting the Lions, Eagles, and Texans to have the three worst records in the league in 2021.

Saying Goodbye To A Franchise Legend In Detroit. Struggles For The Replacement

Matthew Stafford was the number one overall pick in 2009, with the entire city of Detroit hoping he would be the man to turn around the fortunes of the franchise. Despite three seasons of making the playoffs, the Lions and Stafford never won a single postseason game as the wait continues. The Lions remain the team with the second-longest period without a playoff win, their last taking place on January 5th, 1992.

Stafford had some great individual moments as a Lion, most notably his Mic’d up moment during his 2009 rookie season. In a week eleven game against the Cleveland Browns, he overcame injury to produce a moment of pure heroism. He played with a separated shoulder despite the efforts of the medical staff to keep him off the field, leading the Lions to a touchdown-winning drive.

Jim Caldwell guided the Lions to these playoff appearances but was not seen as good enough to take them to the next step. New England Patriots assistant head coach Matt Patricia was brought in but never took to life as head coach. The Lions had three consecutive losing seasons under the coaching of Patricia. They will hope that they have found their guy in Dan Campbell. His press conference was certainly not dull, with Campbell referring to “biting kneecaps”. As a former Lions player, he knows what it takes to play in the league. He also knows about the city of Detroit and his intentions are both positive and clear. If he is given time, he has the desire to bring the good times back to Detroit. However, he is inexperienced as a head coach and the roster is below average.

New quarterback Jared Goff has the potential to struggle. This is despite the drafting of offensive lineman Penei Sewell at seventh overall, a selection that had Campbell and new General Manager Brad Holmes very excited.

Despite his brilliant 2018 season that saw the Rams reach Super Bowl 53, Goff had a poor game and struggled in 2020 as he and head coach Sean McVay’s relationship deteriorated.

Goff struggled despite a plethora of offensive talent around him. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp form one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. He is going to a franchise that let go of their two best wide receivers and failed to replace them.

The Lions have a schedule that features the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and Cleveland Browns. There are also two games against their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears. The Lions do not have it easy.

Prediction: 3-14

Trouble In Philadelphia; Reason For Hope?

The Eagles have seen three years of gradual decline after winning Super Bowl 52. The 2017 season saw the Eagles lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time after two previous attempts.

Doug Pederson was the head coach to guide the Eagles to a Super Bowl but was fired after the conclusion of the 2020 season. His decision to bench rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts in order to lose and gain a higher draft pick appeared to be the final nail in the coffin.

Carson Wentz had an MVP caliber season before an injury derailed hopes of winning the award. Backup Nick Foles stepped in and guided the Eagles to the Super Bowl 52 win. He also stepped in a year later and guided the Eagles to a shock Wildcard Round win against the Chicago Bears, with thanks also going to a Cody Parkey missed field goal.

Both Foles and Wentz are no longer Eagles players. Out of the starters in that Super Bowl 52 win, only seven remain with the franchise. Their decision to draft Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson continues to be mocked by rival fans and nobody knows how new head coach Nick Sirianni will do in the role.

The schedule is mixed for Philadelphia. Whilst they face the New York Jets, Lions, and twice play the New York Giants, they also have to face the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs.. This is as well as facing a rising Washington Football Team twice as well as playing the Dallas Cowboys both home and away.

Reports have surfaced in recent days of the Philadelphia Eagles being the favourites for Deshaun, with talks said to be “heating up”.

This could be a move that transforms the franchise. However, Deshaun Watson had his best statistical season yet the Texans only managed four wins all year. This proves that whilst it is very important to have a good quarterback, you need more around to be successful.

Unless the Eagles do something in what remains of the offseason, they will continue to be mediocre if their roster continues to be this poor. If they get offensive or defensive talent in the next one or two offseasons, then they are a team that will compete for years to come. Otherwise, the Eagles will fail to be a threat to both the NFC and NFC East.

This is why Deshaun should avoid the Eagles at this present time. He will be going into a situation no different to what he experienced in Houston.

Prediction: 4-13

What A Difference A Year Makes

Where do we start with the Houston Texans? The 2019 season saw them take a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round. However, they allowed 41 unanswered points as they lost 51-31. What has unfolded since in the following nineteen months has been reminiscent of a Greek tragedy.

Head coach Bill O’Brien, who also was general manager, made the unusual decision to trade star wide receiver, Deandre Hopkins. In exchange, the Texans received a running back past his sell-by date in David Johnson, one second-rounder and one fourth-round pick. O’Brien only lasted four games in the 2020 season as they finished the campaign with just four wins.

Since the conclusion of the 2020 season, franchise legend J.J Watt has left and there continues to be an uncertain future surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston’s quarterback requested a trade in January before allegations of sexual assault arose. These have lingered throughout the remainder of the offseason. It is unclear if Watson will play in the NFL at all in 2021 but even if he does, it is unlikely that he will be wearing a Texans jersey.

Houston has said they would listen to trade offers for Watson, with the franchise said to be wanting three first-round picks. They have also acquired Tyrod Taylor via Free Agency and used their first pick in the draft on Davis Mills in the third round. Even if the Eagles stick with Hurts, there will be plenty of other suitors.

Even with Watson, the Texans are light on the ground when it comes to elite talent. Linebacker Zach Cunningham and Laremy Tunsil are talents and despite adding Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram to the running back room, the roster is one of the league’s worst.

David Culley has developed somewhat of a worrying reputation after his time with the Eagles, Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens. During his fourteen-season spell with the Eagles, his four seasons with the Chiefs, and two years with the Ravens, he had 0 wide receivers earn a PFF grade of 80 or above.

The Chiefs wideouts went an entire season without a touchdown under Culley. With a wide receiver room featuring Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Anthony Miller, this is not exactly a position of strength for the Texans. Culley is unlikely to see any of these receivers score high PFF grades.

Whilst the Texans might be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars twice and the Jets, they have a tough schedule. They will face the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks. Houston will also play the Los Angeles Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers as well as the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans twice.

They are unlikely to win many of these games. Fans should be expecting a difficult season.

Prediction: 2-15

Why the QB situation may prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West

The 49ers QB spot is a question mark

By: Andy Davies

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6) have more Super Bowl wins than the 49ers (5). The 49ers’ five Super Bowls all came between the years of 1981 and 1994. They have lost two since, in the 2012 and 2019 seasons. The quarterbacks that led the 49ers to the Lombardi Trophy were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Three of those five wins saw Montana as the starter and Young as the backup.

Young is seen by many as the best backup quarterback in history, considering the gold jacket that he earned despite many years as the backup to Montana. He would win a Super Bowl as the starter after the franchise moved on from Montana. Ever since Young decided to hang up his cleats, the 49ers have struggled to find his replacement. Have they found the guy in Trey Lance?

Perhaps, but here is why the quarterback situation involving Lance and current starter Jimmy Garoppolo could prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West during the 2021 season.

Struggles Since Young

Jeff Garcia was the man to come in for Young. During his five seasons in the Bay, he threw for 113 touchdowns and 56 interceptions as well as 16,408 passing yards. He had a 35-36 record as a starter for the 49ers in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the postseason, meaning he never hit the heights of his predecessor.

Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in 2005, shattering Aaron Rodgers’ dreams. However, he was a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. Colin Kaepernick replaced Smith and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a game often called the ‘Blackout Bowl’. Kaepernick failed to live up to the standards he set that season.

He would be kicked out of the league for taking the knee in a protest against police brutality in 2016. He has not played a snap in the NFL since. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He gave hope to the organization after winning all five of the games he started in 2017. The fanbase had hope going into the 2018 season.

Many non-49ers fans had San Francisco down as their dark horse for the season. A season-ending injury to Garoppolo in Week 3 saw the starting role shared between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. However, the 49ers finished 4-12 as they went into 2019 with the second overall pick. Nick Bosa was selected and transformed the defense of San Francisco and Jimmy G had the best season of his career. He threw for 3,978 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite these stats, Garoppolo saw his production limited in the NFC Championship game as the coaching staff decided to use more of their running game. This led to many questions leading to the Super Bowl. The 49ers threw away a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter as they would end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

Garoppolo was criticized heavily for an overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that would have given San Francisco back the lead. His 2020 season saw a mixture of poor form and injury. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to gain the number three overall pick. They took Lance with the pick, showcasing their intentions to eventually move off from Garoppolo. There is now talk of whether San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan will start Lance in week one. The other scenarios discussed are either Lance coming in mid-season or sitting out the whole campaign as the backup to Garoppolo. The uncertainty will have a significant impact on the 49ers’ season.

The Strength of the NFC West

This is a problem that will affect all four teams in the best division in the NFL. There is a chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Los Angeles has an exciting new quarterback in 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray that they would never dream of trading away. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is largely unpopular by fans, due to a mixture of the overthrown pass in the Super Bowl, his poor 2020 campaign and his injury record.

San Francisco has the least trusted quarterback in the division. With the position being one of the most crucial in all sports, it does not bode well for a team when there is uncertainty in the position. Garoppolo may be benched at some point during the season for Lance. However, the 49ers would be putting a rookie that will still be learning the system into the toughest division in the NFL.

Learning From Mahomes, Jackson, Tua and Burrow

If San Francisco are to help Lance succeed, they will need to take some lessons from recent draft classes. Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the best quarterback in the league, spent all but one game of his 2017 rookie season as a backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs then traded Smith the following offseason and Mahomes has never looked back. In his first three full seasons as a starter in the NFL, he has reached two Super Bowls, winning one. He has also been crowned MVP and Super Bowl MVP and reached three successive AFC Championship games. All three have been at home. On the flip side, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow started in week one of his rookie year. He wouldn’t last the season, only playing ten games before injury curtailed his first NFL campaign. He was impressive before his injury but there are no guarantees he will be the same player when he returns.

Lamar Jackson was a backup to Joe Flacco during his 2018 rookie year but won the starting role midseason. He has since gone on to win an MVP award and is the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins brought Tua Tagovailoa in mid-season but he struggled in his rookie season. He is seen to already be on the hot seat, with many feeling the Dolphins rushed him in. These examples all show there are reasons for the 49ers to be hasty when it comes to choosing when to bring Lance into the starting role.

Lance Or Garoppolo In 2021?

The 49ers will have to decide soon who their starter will be in 2021. Considering Lance has only played one full season (2019), he is likely to start the season as the backup. He only threw for a combined total of 31 passing attempts, two touchdowns and 1 interception across the 2018 and 2020 seasons, albeit the latter campaign being disrupted by the pandemic. He is likely to be a work in progress but his 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in 2019 mean that he is one for the future.

Garoppolo will likely start in week one but it was clear from the NFC Championship game that Shanahan doesn’t completely trust him.

Jimmy G is a capable quarterback but his health is a concern. Expect Garoppolo to remain as the starter provided the 49ers are winning games but for Lance to come in should Garoppolo either be injured or start the season poorly.

Should this happen, this will be the end of Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco. Depending on timing, he will then be traded either before the deadline or in the 2022 offseason.

Can The 49ers Returning Players Avoid A Repeat Of 2020?

This is key if the 49ers are to challenge for both the NFC West and the NFC. After earning the number one seed and reaching Super Bowl 54 during the 2019 campaign, San Francisco finished 6-10 in 2020 and bottom of the division. A ‘Super Bowl Hangover’ played its part but the main cause of such a decline was down to a colossal amount of injuries the team suffered. Along with the aforementioned Garoppolo, the 49ers also saw Bosa, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas miss large chunks of the 2020 season due to injury.

San Francisco had 33 players reported questionable and there were 186 occasions when the 49ers reported a player on injured reserve. They had the second-most injuries of any team in the NFL over the past twenty years. Should all these players come back, then this 49ers roster will be one of the best in the league. This will make life much easier for whoever the San Francisco starting quarterback is.

However, from the strength of the division to the uncertainty at quarterback, San Francisco will find it tough to win the NFC West.

Three biggest obstacles for the Los Angeles Rams next season

What could stop the Los Angeles Rams team?

By: Jeremy Trottier

The Los Angeles Rams are widely being considered a playoff contender at the very least, if not a contender for the Super Bowl.  With the addition of Matthew Stafford this offseason among other weapons such as DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell, they seem to be in a good place in terms of their offense.  With Aaron Donald on the defense and Jalen Ramsey, they have assets on the defensive side of the ball as well.  However, they also have some glaring hurdles to overcome in the 2021-2022 season if they want to make a title push.  In this article, I will go over the main three of these challenges, and why they change the Rams odds at a title run.

New Defensive Scheming

One of the biggest changes this offseason for the Los Angeles Rams came in the form of coaching.  Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who spent the 2020 season as the Rams defensive coordinator, will be moving on to be the head coach of the other Los Angeles team in the Chargers.  This move left the Rams in somewhat of a scramble to find a new DC, which ended up being Raheem Morris, who spent his last seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons as a DC, interim head coach, and assistant coach of many positions at times. 

This scheme change could be a huge one, as Raheem comes from the Jon Gruden coaching tree, focusing on hard-nosed football on both sides of the ball and pure power.  Morris also worked under Mike Shanahan, Jay Gruden, and Dan Quinn during his career, which somewhat factors in the unknown of what defensive scheme he will utilize with his new team.

Division Strength

The only word to come even remotely close to describing the NFC West is Elite.  All four teams in this division are truly high-powered on both sides of the ball, and we could see some huge competition from these teams fighting for the top seed.  The Seattle Seahawks still have Russell Wilson, which basically lands them a playoff spot regardless of what happens.  However, with DK Metcalf only improving for the last two seasons, Tyler Lockett locked into an extension, Gerald Everett to improve the TE room, and D’Wayne Eskridge potentially for the slot.  

The Arizona Cardinals have made improvements as well, the most notable being the addition of JJ Watt to the defense, as well as Zaven Collins to bulk up the linebacker core, and Isaiah Simmons getting a true shot at starting at LB as well.  Finally, the 49ers, who have returned to a fully healthy form that was in the Super Bowl only a season ago in 2019-2020, and now Brandon Aiyuk, Trey Sermon, and Trey Lance added on top of that previous roster, as well as the return of 2019-2020 DROY Nick Bosa along the defensive line.

Matthew Stafford Conforming to Scheme

Now, this is in no way ragging on Matthew Stafford, as he is an absolutely phenomenal QB, and really has done well with a team that gave him not much to work with lately.  With that said, Stafford is going from a relatively base level offense with not a lot of flashy plays and trick plays, to the team with the highest rate of Play Action from 2017-2021.  

This wildly different type of offense could be very good for Stafford, there is no doubt about that, and he will have some amazing weapons around him in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell, and Tyler Higbee.  With that said, subtracting Cam Akers from the mix due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, this offense is going to rely very heavily on the passing game and play action/redirections, which could definitely take time for Stafford to get used to. 

Top Fantasy TEs to Buy/Sell

Buy Broncos TE Noah Fant

By: Sukhwant Singh

Intro

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!

Top preview for each NFC West team in minicamp

NFC West preview for each squad heading into the 2021 regular season

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

As the NFL offseason continues to roll on and the regular season quickly approaches, teams will head to training camp and begin their real practice and preparation. Camp for each team will include new faces in both the roster and coaching staff as well as new strategies and philosophies to implement with hopes of a successful campaign in the upcoming season. All of the changes and other storylines from the offseason now become a reality as players begin to report to the team facilities.

The NFC West is a division with four very solid teams heading into this season. All of them have expectations this year to at least making the playoffs and high hopes of a deep run with aspirations of a Super Bowl. There were plenty of headlines surrounding all four of these teams throughout the offseason. Let’s take a look at each team and the key storylines as they head to training camp.

Seattle Seahawks

After an excellent season including twelve wins and a playoff appearance, one would think that the Seahawks would be positive and optimistic heading into the offseason. Unfortunately for them, this was not the case for their superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. He was reportedly very unhappy with the organization and its decision-making processes. In particular, he felt that he was not being included enough in major decisions such as game strategy and personnel changes. He was upset by this, and so much so that there were heavy rumors going around that he wanted to be traded away from Seattle.

Luckily for the Seahawks, they were able to get together with Wilson and hash out their issues. It appears that he is satisfied with whatever conclusion was reached behind closed doors and is now ready to get to work. Wilson is easily a top-five quarterback in the entire NFL and with the weapons available to him on their offensive roster, the Seahawks are a very dangerous team and a true contender in the NFC Conference.

This offense is absolutely loaded and one of the best in the league on paper. The real question is going to be their defense. They were poor last year and didn’t do much to improve on that side of the ball. In the 2020 season, they ranked 11th worst in total yards allowed per game with 380.6 and 2nd worst in passing yards allowed per game with 285. They will need to be better than that but as long as Russell Wilson is playing quarterback with the offensive weapons he has at his disposal, the Seahawks have a shot to win any game.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams made the biggest move in the entire NFL offseason when they traded away Jared Goff and draft picks in exchange for Matthew Stafford. It is uncommon for a team as successful as the Rams have been over the last few seasons to make such a sudden change at quarterback but that’s exactly what they did. Goff was not bad for the Rams last season but he definitely wasn’t great either. His 3952 passing yards ranked 14th and his 20 touchdown passes ranked 19th, which are both acceptable but not exactly impressive. The bigger problem was his 13 interceptions which was the second-highest total in the NFL.

Goff played to a total QBR of 58.5 which ranked an uninspiring 23rd in the league. The Rams are a very good team at every other position group besides quarterback and even had the number one ranked defense last season. They believe that with an upgrade at quarterback they would become a real Super Bowl contender. This is why they traded for Stafford, a quarterback who is seven years older than Goff. They are fully committed to being a win-now team and sold off their future to prove it.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Stafford does with his new team. He has spent his entire career with the Detroit Lions so far but now has the luxury of a better roster and coaching staff than he’s ever had before. His talent has never been a question and he has a bunch of excellent seasons to demonstrate that. The only thing missing from his career has been sustained winning and postseason success. The Rams are taking a gamble that his shortcomings were simply a product of being a stud on a bad team and that he will shine bright in a more favorable situation.

Arizona Cardinals

After finishing the 2020 season at an even 8-8 record and just barely missing out on the playoffs, the Cardinals are approaching this upcoming season with a ton of optimism. They appear to have found their quarterback with young star Kyler Murray, who is one of the best dual threats in the entire NFL. He has developed nicely so far and there is good reason to believe that with another year of experience he will be an even better player this upcoming year. The organization is fully committed to his growth and has made sure to surround him with as many weapons as possible.

The biggest thing they did for Murray was trade for DeAndre Hopkins last season, who is a top-three wide receiver in the league. They continued to improve the offensive weapons this offseason by acquiring wide receiver AJ Green and running back James Conner. The Cardinals were already the 6th ranked offense last year averaging 384.6 yards per game and with these new additions to compliment the growth of Murray, they can climb even higher than that.

Another huge addition to this team for the upcoming season is veteran pass rusher JJ Watt. He will definitely help them on the defensive side, which they do need, but it’s his leadership that may be his most valuable asset. Everything is trending in the right direction for Arizona and they should be feeling very excited heading to camp this year. Watch out for the Cardinals because they could be the biggest sleeper in the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the 49ers are just one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance. In fact, if not for one missed throw by Jimmy Garoppolo they probably would have won that game. Unfortunately, he missed almost all of last year due to injury, playing in just six games. This has been an ongoing problem for Garoppolo. He just can’t seem to stay healthy and even when he is, his statistics are not at all jaw-dropping anyway. It seems like the 49ers have seen enough because they decided to trade all the way up to the third pick in the NFL Draft to select quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance is an incredible athlete with a ton of potential. He is a very exciting prospect but he just doesn’t have much experience even at the college level. Most scouts believe that he will blossom into a star but there’s no telling how long that process could take. That makes the quarterback situation in San Francisco a very interesting one. It’s likely that they will start the season with Garoppolo but at any time they could make the switch to Lance. This is one of the most intriguing storylines in the league, especially considering the potential of the 49ers team as a whole.

When they won the NFC Conference just two seasons ago, they had arguably the best defense in the entire NFL. The large majority of that unit will be back and healthy for the 2021 season. They also have one of the best rushing attacks in the league under the Kyle Shanahan system and solid offensive weapons across the board as well. All of these factors combined to make the 49ers a fascinating team with a wide spectrum of expectations. Mostly depending on how the quarterback scenario plays out, they may not be better than their 6 wins last year but could potentially be a Super Bowl team like they were two years ago.

Reflecting on the Jalen Ramsey trade: who won?

Who won the Jalen Ramsey trade?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

It has now been two seasons since the Jacksonville Jaguars traded away their superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a package of draft picks. Now that those draft picks have all turned into selected players, it’s time to reflect back on the trade. There is a ton of value in draft picks, especially ones in the first round, for a rebuilding team like the Jags, while the Rams were a team built to win now and were seeking a finishing piece to help them make a potential Super Bowl run. The Rams could only make this move by sacrificing some of their future, so did they win the trade, or did the Jags make the better investment?

The Case for the Rams

The Rams decided to make a bold move when they acquired Ramsey by trading away their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks as well as one fourth-rounder. They believed it was worth it because they felt he would bring their defense to the next level and make them more of a championship-caliber team. They weren’t wrong about what they were getting with Ramsey as he has been outstanding since arriving on the team and has greatly improved their defense as a whole. Individually, Ramsey has been one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, as demonstrated by his two Pro Bowl selections as well as one All-Pro.

More importantly than the individual honors, Ramsey has contributed to making the Rams defense one of the top units in the NFL. In his first season with the team in 2019, the Rams were ranked in the top half of the league in most defensive categories including total yards allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game. In 2020 they made a big leap to being the best defense in the NFL, leading the entire league in yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and points allowed per game. The Rams goal was to significantly improve their defense, and acquiring Ramsey helped them to achieve that and more.

The Case for the Jags

Committing to a full rebuild, the Jags were looking for ways to acquire more draft picks. They were willing to sacrifice what they had in the short term for potential long-term benefits, as they should. At the time of the trade, Ramsey was still only 24 years old so he was definitely young enough to be a part of their future. On the other hand, he was clearly their most valuable asset who would bring the highest return in the trade market. So they decided to deal him to the Rams and received a solid package of two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder in return.

Picks are crucial to a rebuild, but the real value is what players those picks turn into. For the Jags, the three players that they selected with the draft picks they received from the Rams were K’Lavon Chaisson, Travis Etienne, and Jordan Smith. Chaisson was relatively unimpressive in his first season with the Jags but he still has plenty of time to prove his worth. Etienne is an electric prospect while Smith was a mid-round value pick, but they are both rookies so it’s still unknown how they will perform at the pro level.

The Verdict

While it’s impossible to determine exactly what the Jags got from this trade, it’s extremely clear that the Rams accomplished what they set out to do when they acquired Ramsey. They wanted to improve their defense, and they did so in a huge way by being ranked the top defense in the NFL last season. Ramsey has been one of the key reasons for their success, and he is on the very short list of best cornerbacks in the league. It is possible for the verdict to change in the future, depending on what the three Jags players turn into, but at this current time, it’s safe to say that the Rams clearly won this trade.

How the Arizona Cardinals will win the NFC West

Arizona will win the NFC West in 2021

By: Gladys Louise Tyler

The 8-8 Arizona Cardinals were in the playoff hunt for part of the 2020 season. This is true even though head coach Kliff Kingsbury was 3-9 against the NFC West, including a 0-4 record against Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams. 

The Cardinals started 2-0 in the West, only to end on a four-game losing streak in the division. 

They were 5-2 before ending the season on a 3-6 bender.

There were a few reasons for the losing streak:

  1. Wide receiver Christian Kirk looked the part of the number two wide receiver until the final eight games. In the last eight, he managed a paltry 22 receptions, 234 yards, and zero touchdowns.
  2. Quarterback Kyler Murray got injured in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks. After that, the offense scores 30 plus points only once the rest of the season.
  3. Linebacker Chandler Jones incurred a bicep injury in Week 5.  He ended his season with 11 total tackles and one sack. Without Jones, the Cardinals’ defense gave up close to 28 points a game on the road.

There is also the possibility that Kingsbury’s offensive prowess is over-rated, but that could be an overstatement as the offense worked for the first half of the season.

But this year the Cardinals will not only reverse their fortunes within their division, but win the NFC West outright.

At first glance, it seems like an improbable statement. The NFC West is the most competitive division in the NFL. But it is possible, and here is why:

QUARTERBACK KYLER MURRAY

Murray showed improvement until his Week 11 injury. He finished the season with a completion percentage that was 2.8% better than the previous year.  He threw for six more touchdowns and had 40 more rushing attempts.  The rushing attempts elevated his rushing touchdowns by seven compared to last year. 

WIDE RECEIVER DEANDRE HOPKINS

There is no doubt the addition of Hopkins boosted the offense. Hopkins finished the season with a career-high 71.9% catch rate.  He was targeted 160 times and had six touchdowns.

This being his second year with Murray should make the pairing that much more formidable and the duo should put up huge numbers in 2021. 

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

This might be the most important reason the Cardinals are set to win the division this year.  Their free agency acquisitions are more of a “win-now” mentality than let’s rebuild for the future.

Although they lost both Patrick Peterson and Kenyan Drake in free agency, they gained players (who, if they remain healthy) will help them win now.

  • Running back James Conner
  • Wide receiver AJ Green
  • Defensive end JJ Watt
  • Cornerback Malcolm Butler
  • Kicker Matt Prater

And yes, the NFC West did make some splash acquisitions. The Los Angeles Rams acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford for the win-now mentality.  The San Francisco 49ers obtained Trey Lance for the future, and well, the Seattle Seahawks attempted to upgrade their defense, with cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desire and defensive end Aldon Smith. 

THE SCHEDULE

Depending on your “go-to” source, the Cardinals either have the fourth most difficult schedule or the 13th.  If you go by the Cbssports.com strength of schedule, the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks will face a harder schedule than the Cardinals. 

CARDINALS 2021 SCHEDULE

WEEK 1 @ TENNESSEE TITANS

WEEK 2 v MINNESOTA VIKINGS

WEEK 3 @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

WEEK 4 @ LOS ANGELES RAMS

WEEK 5 v SAN FRANCISCO NINERS

WEEK 6 @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

WEEK 7 v HOUSTON TEXANS

WEEK 8 v GREEN BAY PACKERS

WEEK 9 @ SAN FRANCISCO NINERS

WEEK 10 v CAROLINA PANTHERS

WEEK 11 @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

WEEK 12—NOV 28 BYE WEEK

WEEK 13 @ CHICAGO  BEARS

WEEK 14 v LOS ANGELES RAMS

WEEK 15 @ DETROIT LIONS

WEEK 16 v INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

WEEK 17 @ DALLAS COWBOYS

WEEK 18 v SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

WINNING THE NFC WEST

This is Kingsbury show me year.  His team has to improve against the West foes, including the zero wins against the Rams.  The Niners will have the slew of players that were injured back; the question remains it Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo under center this season.  The Seahawks are, well, the Seahawks, doing little to appease quarterback Russell Wilson’s concerns; they remain who we thought they were until proven otherwise.

The path through the NFC West appears to go through California.  If the Cardinals can break even with their NFC West rivals, there is no reason they cannot overtake the NFC West championship belt (and if there isn’t one, there should be).

 

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