Monthly Archives: September 2018

2018-2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 1

1. Vikings (W 24-16 vs. SF)

What we learned: If not for the grand introduction of Sean McVay, Mike Zimmer would have won Coach of the Year in 2017.

Mike Zimmer is one of the best coaches in football and the defensive scheme he has made in Minnesota is still causing the best of the best problems. That should tell you something.

What we learned again: Minnesota, as advertised, has the most complete roster in the NFL, including the league’s best defense.

They’re my pick to win this year’s Lombardi. They finally got their upgrade at quarterback in Cousins, Cook returns from injury, Diggs and Thielen are one of the strongest receiving duos in the league and Minnesota’s defense, as mentioned above, is nasty.

2. Rams (W 33-13 @OAK)

What we learned: Rams-Vikings is a solid bet for the NFC Championship game.

Honestly can’t say I learned much from the Rams pummeling the ghost of Chucky. On the other hand, the Rams are a really good football team and seem to be the only thing that can get in their way.

What we learned again: The Rams won the offseason.

In case you somehow forgot, the Rams have gone all in on this season, acquiring multiple talent veterans to bolster their roster. They are stacked at every spot.

3. Eagles (W 18-12 vs. ATL)

What we learned: The Eagles are not fully reliant on their quarterback, demonstrating once again why their team is loaded.

As I stated pretty thoroughly in my quarterback breakdown piece, overpaying your quarterback will destroy a franchise and the proper usage of funds saved by a quarterback on a rookie deal can completely turn a franchise around. Exhibit A: Philly.

What we learned again: The Eagles should absolutely not rush Wentz back.

The Eagles have shown they can win playoff games and Super Bowls with Nick Foles at quarterback. Putting their franchise savior in any potential danger whatsoever for meaningless regular season games (let’s be honest, Philly’s making the playoffs regardless) would be beyond stupid. I’d rather lose a game than risk injuring The Book of Wentz.

4. Patriots (W 27-20 vs. HOU)

What we learned: The Patriots could start your neighbor at receiver and still win.

Funny joke, but is it also possibly true? Going into their game against Houston, New England had three receivers on their active roster: Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson. Didn’t matter. Another win. Just signed Browns bust Corey Coleman. If anyone can revive his career, it’s Tom Brady.

What we learned again: Tom Brady is still defying time just fine.

Looked fine on Sunday. 277 and three scores. Brady will do Brady things.

5. Jaguars (W 20-15 @NYG)

What we learned: The Jaguars defense will return to the top 10.

Not much to add to this other than they gave up only 15 to a talented group of position players and Saquon Barkley, minus one breakout run, was contained.

What we learned again: The team’s offense is heavily reliant on one Leonard Fournette.

The team has little trust in Bortles to win them a game and for good reason. Fournette will be treated like a bell cow once again this season. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, he went and got injured in week one. If he misses substantial time, I expect the Jag offense to struggle. Sorry, but T.J. Yeldon is not Leonard Fournette.

6. Chiefs (W 38-28 @LAC)

What we learned: Patrick Mahomes is better for the Kansas City offense than Alex Smith.

The Chiefs already knew and most analysts already did but if there was any doubt about whether Mahomes’ arm strength was a huge factor in the Chiefs decision to move from Smith, that doubt has been eliminated. A four-touchdown debut was impressive.

What we learned again: Tyreek Hill is fast.

Said it in my sports report this week: Hill is a certified number one receiver now. His route running has improved since his appearance. If you haven’t, suggest you just watch some of the Chiefs tape from week one. It was quite something.

7. Falcons (L 18-12 @PHI)

What we learned: Julio is back.

Julio had a down campaign in 2017. I expected him to bounce back this season. Had a nice start.

What we learned again: The Falcons still suck in the red zone after a whole offseason to find a solution.

Steve Sarkisian, ladies and gents.

8. Giants (L 20-15 vs. JAC)

What we learned: Saquon Barkley is going to struggle this year.

Perhaps I’m extrapolating something that isn’t there, but hard to look at Barkley’s stat sheet on Sunday and be impressed. One amazing run, yes, but other than that? Nothing. Guess offensive lines are important after all.

What we learned again: Ben McAdoo should never be allowed near a football team at any level again.

The Giants are far better than their 2017 record suggested and McAdoo is why that’s the case. Losing to Jacksonville by 5 is a win for New York. They’re going to contend for a wild card this year.

9. Packers (W 24-23 vs. CHI)

What we learned: Aaron Rodgers is Superman.

Don’t think I need to add anything here.

What we learned again: The Packers are massively overrated.

Remove Rodgers from this team and it goes straight to the john. This team couldn’t float last year without Aaron and they weren’t gonna float against Chicago on Sunday night if he didn’t return. I hate putting the Packers in the top ten this week. They don’t deserve it. Mr. Rodgers was just so miraculous that it feels wrong not to give him a tip of the hat.

10. Bears (L 24-23 @GB)

What we learned: The Bears have a chance to repeat as a top-ten defense.

Last year Chicago was 10th in total yardage, seventh against the pass, 11th against the run and ninth in points against. They added Khalil Mack.

What we learned again: Khalil Mack is the best outside linebacker in the league.

Yes, better than Von Miller. Bears hit the jackpot on this one.

11. Texans (L 27-20 @NE)

What we learned: Houston is healthy.

Finally. Imagine the carnage that could be created with Watt and Clowney on the edge.

What we learned again: Deshaun Watson is not a finished product yet.

A player with tremendous upside made some costly mistakes. Still, a seven-point loss in Foxborough is a win for most organizations.

12. 49ers (L 24-16 @MIN)

What we learned: Jimmy Garroppolo is not elite yet.

Quarterbacks are able to show how good they are when they play defenses like Minnesota. Under 50% completion and three picks on Sunday.

What we learned again: The 49ers have a nice foundation in place and Shanahan knows what he’s doing.

Sadly, Shanahan’s Super Bowl debacle will follow him his entire career. He’s still one of the brightest minds in the game and they are a franchise moving in the right direction, though Jimmy G’s absurd contract could put the brakes on the train.

13. Chargers (L 38-28 vs. KC)

What we learned: The Chargers defense might be a weak spot.

Is the Chargers defense that bad or is Mahomes that good? We’ll have to wait and see.

What we learned again: Despite almost no media attention, Rivers is still playing quite well at an old age.

Football experts have talked about how much longer Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Ben and Eli are going to play and seem to repeatedly overlook Rivers. In addition to being a great fantasy signal caller year in and year out, Rivers continues to keep the Chargers relevant.

14. Jets (W 48-17 @DET)

What we learned: Starting Darnold was the right move.

For the record, I am completely against starting rookie quarterbacks in most cases. We’ve seen more that a couple quarterbacks’ careers end prematurely because they weren’t ready. Darnold looked ready.

What we learned again: Todd Bowles is the most underrated coach in the NFL.

The Jets did all they could to tank their roster last year and Bowles still kept the ship afloat. He’ll do more than keep it afloat this year.

15. Broncos (W 27-24 vs. SEA)

What we learned: Keenum is serviceable, likely not a long-term starter.

The Broncos gave Keenum a solid contract, one that gives him money he never had the chance to get previously while also not putting the money chests in a strait jacket. He had three touchdowns and three picks on Sunday.

What we learned again: Von Miller will lead the way.

Von Miller had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Seattle, bad offensive line or not. He’s still good. We’ll have to see if the Broncos defense follows suit this year.

16. Buccaneers (W 48-40 @NO)

What we learned: Ryan Fitzmagic is back.

It was the best game of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career and while I sadly didn’t get to watch his performance live or in its entirety, the highlights were quite something. Whether Fitzpatrick is Fitzmagic or Fitztragic, he’s always entertaining.

What we learned again: DeSean Jackson’s not dead yet.

Jackson has never been the same player since leaving Philadelphia but has continued to be a deep threat. He’s still a playmaker.

17. Panthers (W 16-8 vs. DAL)

What we learned: Norm Turner and the offense didn’t have the greatest start.

Dallas had essentially a secondary of freshmen last year. Yes, the Carolina receivers aren’t threatening but this was a game you’d like to see Cam pour it on. Didn’t happen. I’m not going to discredit the Cowboys front seven but I expected more from Carolina.

What we learned again: Panthers still have one of the best front sevens in football.

Have been for a few years and still are. Kuechly is still the league’s best mike.

18. Ravens (W 47-3 vs. BUF)

What we learned: The Ravens gave Flacco all the weapons this offseason.

If he performs like he has the last few years, he’s gone and it’s on to the age of Lamar. Week one was against one of the worst the NFL has to offer. Let’s try to contain our excitement.

What we learned again: The Ravens defense is still strong.

Yes, some new faces have moved into the linebacker spots but a lot of these young additions are performing well. Weddle and Tony Jefferson are one of the best safety combos in the league.

19. Bengals (W 34-23 @IND)

What we learned: The offense is improved.

Who could have known that having an offensive line probably would have helped the team last year?

What we learned again: Marvin Lewis is still coaching the Bengals.

You’d think they would have fired the guy for incompetence or for even a fresh direction but no, Marvin Lewis is still there.

20. Steelers (T 21-21 @CLE)

What we learned: Ben Roethlisberger is at the end of the road.

I think we knew it last year but Ben is closer to the twilight stage of his career than football fans would care to admit. He looked plain awful on Sunday and I still don’t know how the guy didn’t get benched.

What we learned again: The Steelers window is closing.

The Steelers, at their best, are always known for their stout defense. That is not the case right now. The defense is bend don’t break and each year looks closer to breaking. Ben is nearing the end. I don’t care what he says. He doesn’t have five years left. They are talented on the offensive line and have one of the best position groups in the league but the years of Peyton, Ben and Brady owning the AFC are over.

21. Seahawks (L 27-24 @DEN)

What we learned: Russell Wilson is Seattle’s savior.

Not a lot of reasons to watch this team. The offensive line is still among the league’s worst and I still don’t know what Seattle was thinking drafting a back in the first round. Doug Baldwin has gone down with injury. Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham are gone. We’ve seen Wilson do his fair share of theatrics. He’ll have to do more than that if Seattle’s gonna make the postseason.

What we learned again: Earl Thomas needs paid.

Given the depth of the defense, unsure why Seattle is hesitating to pay this man. Sometimes, you don’t pay the man. This isn’t one of those times. You lose Thomas and this defense will morph into a turnstile.

22. Saints (L 48-40 vs. TB)

What we learned: Drew Brees can still throw footballs.

Last year was not Brees’ strongest year but I don’t think there were many people concerned about his production this year. If there were, they are likely silenced now.

What we learned again: The Saints are back to their old ways.

I talked about it in my quarterback breakdown last week. The Saints defense has never been consistently good during the Sean Payton era. I am on the record as saying Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy are the two most overrated coaches in professional football. The defense got cooked all day by Tampa Bay. Was Fitzmagic excellent? Of course, but some of those scores were simple blown coverages deep. Looks like we’re back to trying to outscore teams again.

23. Redskins (W 24-6 @ARI)

What we learned: The Redskins are not definitely going to finish at the bottom of the division.

It is the solid bet but given how bad Dallas played, they could fight for third.

What we learned again: Adrian Peterson is a Hall of Famer.

On Sunday, AP surpassed 12,000 yards and 100 career rushing touchdowns. I’ve been an AP fan his entire career. I’m hoping he has a few games left in him.

24. Browns (T 21-21 vs. PIT)

What we learned: Myles Garrett is the most valuable player in Cleveland.

Jarvis Landry may be the most talented player but Garrett is far and away its most valuable. He was blowing past tackles repeatedly on Sunday and recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles. Cleveland, a team that hasn’t given a player a long-term extension since who knows when, should definitely give this guy all the money.

What we learned again: Baker Mayfield will start this season and Hue Jackson should start packing.

Tyrod Taylor is a serviceable quarterback but looked off on Sunday. Had some simple misthrows in the flats and was mostly unimpressive. Hue is on the way out because his team had six takeaways and still couldn’t win. Unsure how much more Hue needs to fail at his job before he’s finally given the ax.

25. Cowboys (L 16-8 @CAR)

What we learned: The Cowboys will have a front row seat at the NFL Draft.

They may be just outside the top ten but it’s hard to see Dallas being that far off. The team struggled to get past midfield let alone score. The front seven for the Cowboys is strong enough to win them some games but a lack of game planning Sunday was evident.

What we learned again: Cowboys management took a huge L this offseason and wasted a year of Dak’s rookie contract.

Losing Witten to retirement was inevitable. Cutting Dez was the right move. His best days were behind him and he was no longer meeting the value of his signing price. These were the additions Cowboys management made to replace that production: Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin and third-round pick Michael Gallup. Given the immense savings they got from those former two moves, the Cowboys had to reinvest those funds into the receiving core. They did not and teams are not going to respect those players. They’re going to stack the box and Elliott is going to struggle at times because of it. Dallas will be without center Travis Frederick for likely the whole year. Rather than build around their proclaimed franchise starter, they’ve left him in the cold.

26. Dolphins (W 27-20 vs. TEN)

What we learned: Ryan Tannehill’s receivers this year are DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola.

Good luck with that.

What we learned again: The Dolphins are the epitome of treading water.

Funny pun, but really unsure what they’re going for here. Looks like a tanking to me but other times looks they’re trying. Either way, looks like the bottom of the AFC East.

27. Titans (L 27-20 @MIA)

What we learned: Derrick Henry has not been given the keys to the backfield.

Dion Lewis and Henry had about a 50-50 split on Sunday, so if you drafted either of them and expected something else, oops on you.

What we learned again: Marcus Mariota is likely not a franchise quarterback.

Year two was nice: 26/9 touchdown/interception split and nearly 3,500 yards. For a quarterback who’s not known for his arm, that’s great. Last year? 13/15 and a 79.3 rating.

28. Colts (L 34-23 vs. CIN)

What we learned: Andrew Luck is back to throwing footballs.

I’m a Luck fan myself and seeing him throwing footballs again was glorious.

What we learned again: The Colts still suck.

Turns out the return of your franchise quarterback is not enough to make your team not suck. Indy went and blew a 14-point lead on Sunday.

29. Raiders (L 33-13 vs. LAR)

What we learned: Derek Carr can be cut in 2019 for $7.5 dead cap.

After winning my MVP award for the 2016 season (28-6 TD/INT and all the fourth-quarter comebacks), Carr took a clear step back last year and did not get off to a great start this year. I wouldn’t say cutting Carr is absolutely the right move at this moment but if Carr plays like he did last year, I think you have to consider it.

What we learned again: The Raiders are the dumbest team in football right now.

You traded Khalil Mack.

30. Lions (L 48-17 vs. NYJ)

What we learned: The Lions were not prepared and that reflects on their coach.

They were apparently so unprepared that it’s been reported that Stafford, instead of using code, started yelling “screen” at his own teammates to change the play.

What we learned again: The Lions still don’t know what running is.

You’d think after all these years they’d learn something. Guess Detroit’s gonna Detroit.

31. Cardinals (L 24-6 vs. WAS)

What we learned: The Cardinals will have a front row seat for the 2019 NFL Draft.

David Johnson is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Arizona. We shouldn’t forget about Larry Fitzgerald either but often times a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. The Cardinals are gonna be bad and the only reason to watch them, aside from watching Fitz’ retirement tour and DJ’s return, is seeing if Rosen comes to play.

What we learned again: Sam Bradford is one of the most overrated players in the history of professional football.

Once again, Bradford spent most of a season on injured reserve and once again he got paid during free agency and once again he sucked in the first game of a season. I wonder how many times this carousel of madness goes around before someone finally cuts the cord.

32. Bills (L 47-3 @BAL)

What we learned: The Bills will have a front row seat for the 2019 NFL Draft.

All of those offseason moves foreshadowing a grand tanking have finally come to fruition. What Sean McDermott now has in Buffalo is bare bones. The team lost three starters from their offensive line last year which means Shady McCoy will struggle to do much of anything and that’s if he isn’t put on the exempt list before that. Buffalo was 31st in passing last year and look like a strong candidate to repeat in that category.

What we learned again: Nathan Peterman is not an NFL quarterback.

I’m unsure what the line is between having a job and not having a job in the NFL but whatever that line is, Peterman has carpet bombed it. Trading McCarron looks like a poor decision right now, though who knows how much better McCarron really is.

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Tim Sports Report for 2018 NFL Week 1

Top 5

  1. LB Khalil Mack Sack, FF, FR, INT, TD @GB in first half

Quite possibly the greatest game ever played by a defensive player putting on a new uniform for the first time. Nice going, Oakland!

2. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 21/28 for 417, 4 TDs, 156.3 passer rating, 12 carries for 36 yards, TD @NO

Fitzmagic might be back. I nearly took the Saints for eliminator before remembering the ghost of Ryan Fitzmagic and boy, did he put on a show. Fitzmagic had six career games with four touchdowns and his first with five came this past Sunday. For those keeping track, Mr. Winston has two games with four or more touchdowns, the same amount of games in which he has thrown four or more interceptions since coming into the league.

3. WR Tyreek Hill 7 receptions for 169, 2 TDs, return TD @LAC

Tyreek Hill has evolved from playmaker to certified WR1.

4. WR Michael Thomas 16 receptions for 180 yards, TD, Fmb vs. TB

Michael Thomas, at this rate, might keep Brees from retiring for another five years. Hard to leave professional football when you have this guy on your team.

5. RB James Conner 31 carries for 135, 2 TDs, Fmb, 5 receptions for 57 yards (192 scrimmage yards) @CLE

Beating cancer is but only one saga of James Conner’s story. Sunday was a heartwarming tale of not just an athlete but a person battling through adversity and excelling at the highest level. Had it not been for a costly fumble that cost his team momentum and served as the turning point in the contest, he would have been higher on this list.

Worst of the Worst

5. TEN@MIA sets record for longest-game in NFL history at seven hours, eight minutes due to delays.

Watching any portion of football that Blaine Gabbert is playing in probably already feels agonizing. Imagine how long this game must have actually felt for anyone that stuck around for the whole thing.

4. Lions give up 31 points in third quarter to Jets and first-time starter Sam Darnold.

Giving up 31 points in one quarter to any team is a rather large L. Giving that total up to an offense led by a rookie quarterback? Well, that’s….something. Matt Patricia has given up 89 points in his last two games.

3. Falcons fail to score from goal line five times against Eagles.

I’m sure Steve Sarkisian knows more about football than I do. With that said, a team with as high-powered an offense as the Falcons going 0-5 (yup, Philly gave them a free play, too) from the goal line is inexcusable if not borderline laughable. Matt Ryan also seems incapable of throwing touchdowns to Julio Jones anymore.

2. PIT@CLE

We’re only one week through the NFL season and Steelers @ Browns is already a strong contender for worst game of the 2018 season. No one likes to see a tie in the NFL but this game was rampant with such gross mismanagement and on-field incompetence that it felt like a mercy when the clock finally hit zero. Roethlisberger had three interceptions and two fumbles and Tyrod Taylor was sacked seven times and had more than a few missed throws.

  1. QB Nathan Peterman 5/18 for 24, 2 INTs, 0.0 passer rating @BAL

You will likely never see a game where a quarterback ended with a ZERO passer rating ever again. The NFL won’t do it but they should enshrine the jersey he wore for this game in the Hall of Fame.

Steelers Recap

I honestly hate to have to talk about this game at all. As I mentioned above, it’s a contender for worst game of the 2018 season. Big Ben picked up where left off at the beginning of last year: looking like he came out of a retirement home. Three interceptions and two fumbles against the Browns defense is pitiful, plain and simple. Are the Browns improved? Of course. Does that mean he has an excuse? Absolutely not. Only two players impressed me on Sunday: James Conner, who squeaked into the top five, and T.J. Watt, who had 10 tackles, three sacks and blocked what would have been a game-winning field goal for Cleveland.

Week one went about as bad as it could go for Pittsburgh. Home against Kansas City means they have every opportunity to bounce back. Starting 0-2 with their back half of the schedule upcoming might prove too big a hurdle to hop over. Still, I simply can’t bet on this team based off that performance. I’ll take Kansas City and hope I’m wrong.

Game of the Week: Patriots @ Jaguars

A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game should be a trailblazer. I’m actually leaning Jacksonville in this game but that is fully dependent on Fournette’s status. No Fournette and it’s hard to see Jacksonville winning this game. On the other hand, if New England’s defense plays like last year, maybe not. As of now, taking Jacksonville.

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Matt Ryan and the Quarterback Conundrum

“You need a great franchise quarterback to win a championship” might be the most popular fallacy in professional sports. It is paraded by media pundits, analysts, broadcasters and fans alike. The position is likely the most worshipped in the arena of athletics and not by a close margin either. Quarterbacks are automatically leaders of their team regardless of overall performance or character and all victories and defeats are brought to their doorstep. In exchange for this undeserved attention, franchises throw bank vaults at them, which is not sound financial strategy. Franchises are hamstrung by disastrous quarterback contracts regularly, a problem that they themselves are responsible for manifesting. We saw a new one occur this summer.

The Falcons signed 33-year-old Matt Ryan to a five-year deal with an annual average value (AAV) of $30 million, including $100 million guaranteed. A reminder that the current salary cap number for teams is 177. Starting in his age 35 season, Ryan will have a cap hit above $30 million for the final four seasons of the deal, meaning Ryan will take up a penny under 17% of the team’s finances.

To give that type of money to a player that isn’t even the most valuable athlete on his own offense is financially irresponsible. Matt Ryan is the Andy Dalton of the NFC but with more talent. Dalton will never win an MVP award or have the ceiling that Ryan has, but it’s also true that Ryan, like Dalton, has made a career of chucking the football to a top-five receiver. Colin Cowherd did a segment on this last year. Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton had virtually the same season in 2017, the season after Matt Ryan led an air strike on NFL defenses. Look at the stats comparison if you remove Ryan’s MVP season:

In nine seasons (minus MVP), Ryan averages 7.29 yards per attempt, 64% completion, 24.7 touchdowns,13.2 interceptions and a passer rating of 90.5.

In seven seasons, Dalton averages 7.21 yards per attempt, 62.8% completion, 23.9 touchdowns, 13.3 interceptions and a passer rating of 88.7.

Eerily similar numbers, eh?ill

I’m a Matt Ryan fan myself and follow Atlanta but this is a contract that will hamstring the franchise from reaching another chance at a championship. Investing that much into one player simply isn’t smart business.

If we take a look at 2017 cap hits, we’ll find that 13 of the top 20 highest cap hits belonged to quarterbacks. Of those 13, take a guess how many made the playoffs. 13 is nearly half the league and we’re probably talking about the best guys at their position. If quarterback is truly the most valued position, it’s probably high. At least seven, right?

Four. The answer is four.

  1. Joe Flacco tops the list at $24.5 million and threw for barely 3,000 yards, only 18 TDs to 13 INTs, and had a yards per attempt average of 5.72 (32nd).
  2. Carson Palmer. Arizona paid 37-year-old Carson Palmer $17.5 million ($24 million cap hit) to play six and a half games and produce old man numbers during them. *Vomits off stage
  3. Kirk Cousins performs at an above-average level (over 4,000 yards, 27/13 TD/INT) on yet another franchise tag ($23.9) and the Redskins go nowhere.
  4. Matt Ryan ($23.75) makes the playoffs with a rich Atlanta roster before they implode on their final play of the divisional round against the Eagles. If you’re just now reading, Ryan is rewarded with the richest contract in NFL history.
  5. Aaron Rodgers ($20.3) predictably breaks after getting slammed to the turf repeatedly with no offensive line help. Packers have no team past Rodgers and detonate.
  6. Ryan Tannehill ($20.3) considers himself a doctor and decides not to get surgery on a knee injury following the 2016 season. He promptly tears it before the 2017 preseason. Rest in peace, Miami. Hopefully you can find a better quarterba-Jay Cutler?!
  7. Cam Newton ($20.16) continues his trend of attending the playoffs every other year. He ends the regular season with a completion percentage of 59.1 and 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. Not exactly super, though he did run for 754 on a 5.4 clip.
  8. Poor Eli. ($19.7) Young Eli’s receiving core is murdered and Eli is left throwing the ball for the remainder of the year to chicklets Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Left tackle Ereck Flowers impersonates a chew toy and his coach becomes a dark hole sucking all kinds of garbage into the orifice on his face. 3-13.
  9. The Colts front office is still dealing with the repercussions of not protecting their franchise quarterback who took them from winless to 11-5 in his rookie year. Cheer up, Indy. Maybe Andrew Luck ($19.4) will throw a football again this decade. *chatter off-screen. Wait, he threw a football?! He played in a preseason game?! Indy, you might be back in business!
  10. Drew Brees ($19) throws for a little over 4,300 yards, his fewest in over a decade, and only 23 touchdowns, his fewest since 2003. Sean Payton finally figures out that putting a defense on the field might be a formula for success. And look! They found running backs, too! What an insane carriage of ideas. Too bad about the Minneapolis Miracle, huh?
  11. Big Ben ($18.2) spends the first half of the season looking like he just came out of a nursing home, completing a smidge over 61% and throwing 10 touchdowns to nine picks in his first eight games. Ben gets his act together for the second half, the Steelers go 13-3 and then go full Steelers and blow a playoff game to Jacksonville in which they give up 45 points to Blake freaking Bortles. Ben, to his credit, threw for 469 yards and five tuddies in that game.
  12. Rivers ($18) finishes second in the league in passing (4,515 yards) and throws 28 touchdowns to 10 picks. However, the Chargers can’t find anyone who can kick a field goal at the beginning of the season, losing them two games in the final seconds. They also started 0-4 to miss out on a playoff spot. It’s 2018 and Philip Rivers has twice as many kids as he does playoff wins in his 14-year career.
  13. Sam Bradford? Oh, Jesus, seriously? Yup, the china doll of the NFL had an $18 million cap hit. Say what you will about Bradford, he gets paid an enormous amount of money to spend time on injured reserve every year. Don’t worry, the Cardinals didn’t learn a damn thing from Palmer. They gave Bradford $20 million to spend a year on their IR.

If you look further, you’ll find only six of the top 20 highest cap hits for quarterbacks made the playoffs. Those other seven names?

  1. Alex Smith ($16.9) has a career year only for Kansas City to go full Kansas City in the playoffs and blow an 18-point lead in yet another home playoff game.
  2. The first year of Matt Stafford’s megadeal only brings a $16.5 cap hit, but with Detroit still not knowing what a running back is, the Lions predictably miss the playoffs again. Cheer up, Detroit. This season Stafford’s cap hit jumps to $26.5.
  3. After an MVP-caliber season, Derek Carr ($15.7) returns from injury to play average football, throwing for just under 3,500 and a touchdown-interception split of 22/13. Next season, his cap hit jumps to $25.
  4. The Cincinnati front office learns you need an offensive line to play football. Andy Dalton ($15.7) gets sandwiched all season and the Bengals look to be worse than Cleveland this upcoming campaign. The Bengals could cut Dalton and start McCarron, oh wait.
  5. Russell Wilson ($14.6) is a one-man offense behind an offensive line that’s still garbage and a defense that is losing cohesiveness. Our franchise quarterback looks far less important when his defense can’t stop DeShaun Watson from turning them into a fajita. Seattle will spend the offseason dismantling the Legion of Boom. At least they drafted a lineman…in the fifth.
  6. Mike Glennon (man, this one didn’t age well, huh?) takes his $14 million cap hit behind and sits it on the bench behind novice Mitchell Trubisky. Money well spent!
  7. Tom Brady ($14.0) does Tom Brady things, wins MVP, takes team to Super Bowl. Give that man all the money.

If you look at production, you could argue most quarterbacks weren’t even the best player on their own team this past season. The list of signal callers who were is rather short:

Rivers, Smith (this one is debatable given Hunt led league in rushing), Brady, Stafford, Wilson, Wentz, Cousins. Only three (Smith, Brady, Wentz) made the playoffs.

A team built around a quarterback is not a guaranteed victory for front offices, even if that quarterback delivers in effectiveness. Rivers has been an above average quarterback nearly his entire career and has only four playoff wins to show for it. Teams seem to forget that building around said quarterback is vital and if you devote too much of your deposit box to them, it’s difficult to do that.

Other teams simply don’t build for some reason. The idea Aaron Rodgers has made only one Super Bowl is inexcusable. Maybe if Green Bay could’ve looked at a stat sheet years ago and realized defensive coordinator Dom Capers was disastrous in big games and the running game was dwindling, they could have changed that. Instead, Cheeseheads are left watching Green Bay get ousted too early in the playoffs or seeing how incompetent their coaching staff/team really is when Rodgers is taken out of the picture. Green Bay is an example of what goes wrong when you get a franchise quarterback and then don’t do anything of substance after that. A team this fully reliant on one player is doomed for failure (See Indy, and God bless Detroit if Stafford ever misses a season.)

At this point, Green Bay and Detroit are carbon copies of each other. Green Bay has seen its death grip on the NFC North slip away to a more complete roster in Minnesota. Rodgers will get an extension and stay in Green Bay (called it) and then Matt and Aaron will try to throw their teams to victory single-handedly for the remainder of their careers while Minnesota finally discovers the formula to playoff success and makes an appearance in a Super Bowl. Giving Kirk Cousins a fully-guaranteed contract is risky but a necessary signing if the Vikings want to get over the hump. Also, the team isn’t putting its entire body weight on Cousins’ shoulders and has shown it can win with a backup quarterback and runner on the field for a majority of a campaign. Imagine the level of lethality this team can reach with a healthy Cousins and Dalvin Cook. Also, Cousins contract is only three years, so if the signing doesn’t go as planned, Minnesota can move on to another option without putting their piggy bank in a vice grip.

Football is a team sport, not a quarterback one. Complete teams win championships, not quarterbacks. That is not to say a team can’t win a championship with a great quarterback. Great quarterbacks have been winning titles for a while but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a plethora of examples where they did it by themselves. The great John Elway couldn’t win one without Terrell Davis’ help. Dan Marino went on a historic passing tear in his sophomore season, won MVP and took his team to a Super Bowl before getting pounced on by the 49ers dyansty. He never got to another one.

It’s actually far easier to find a team who carried a quarterback to a Super Bowl: 2015 Broncos, 2006 Steelers, 2003 Bucs and let’s not forget about Trent Dilfer and the 2000 Ravens.

Teams predicated on quarterback success often falter in big moments because it’s difficult for one man to do it all. Look at the Colts with Andrew Luck. Drafted first overall by a winless team, he took Indy to 11-5 and a wild-card game. The next season, he advanced them to the divisional round and the year after that to the AFC Championship game, one of the most impressive starts to a career in quite a while. He was given a massive extension, which he had earned and which was the right move for the franchise. Problem is, during all these playoff runs, Indy management had done little to build the team around Luck. In 2013, they drafted defensive end Bjoern Warner, a bust. In general, the entire class was a robust failure. In 2015, they reached for receiver Philip Dorsett, a receiver that didn’t play out his rookie deal with Indy he was so unwanted. Their second choice, cornerback D’Joun Smith, played a total of five game for the Colts. At one point, general manager Ryan Grigson blamed Andrew Luck’s extension for his inability to put together a competent defense.

This claim was complete nonsense. These were their defensive rankings, beginning during Luck’s rookie year:

Yards/Pass/Rush/PPG

2012 26th 21st 29th 21st

2013 20th 13th 26th 9th

2014 11th 12th 17th 16th

2015 26th 24th 25th 25th

2016 30th 27th 25th 22nd

 

You’ll notice the year they were passable, in 2014, is the year they made it to the AFC Championship game, once again, on the shoulder of one Andrew Luck. Without Luck, we’ve seen what the Colts are: garbage. Quarterbacks hide a team’s flaws. They don’t cure them.

Drew Brees has had a similar problem with the Saints. A player of his caliber should have made it to more than one Super Bowl by now.

Look at those defensive rankings!

Yards/Pass/Rush/PPG

’06 11th 3rd 23rd 13th<—-Nice start!

’07 26th 30th 13th 25th<–Straight to garbage, huh?

’08 23rd 23rd 17th 26th<–Not trying anymore?

’09 25th 26th 21st 20th<–We have Brees! What is defense?

’10 4th 4th 16th 7th<——Got to be a Super Bowl here, right? No? It was the ’09 season?

’11 24th 30th 12th 13th<–Nice PPG! Lose to a better defense in the 49ers.

’12 32nd 31st 32nd 31st<-Here’s where it gets a lot of fun.

’13 4th 2nd 19th 4th<—–Good defensive year lost due to running into Legion of Boom.

’14 31st 25th 29th 28th<–Back to not trying again, I see.

’15 31st 31st 31st 32nd<–Sean Payton is a great coach!

’16 27th 32nd 14th 31st<-Why run on this team when we can throw them into oblivion?

’17 17th 15th 16th 10th<-Minneapolis Miracle time!

Imagine what the Saints’ reputation would be if Drew Brees didn’t throw for 4,500 nearly every year during his time in New Orleans. Remove Brees from Louisiana and Payton doesn’t have a job in three years, maybe less, and Saints fans’ only respite is watching who they pick with their top-five slot in the draft. People aren’t kidding when they call Brees the heart of New Orleans. If he wasn’t there, New Orleans would be a corpse.

 

Sadly, Rodgers, Luck and Brees have seen their careers mostly wasted to this point. Rodgers and Brees are likely going to visit Canton and yet they both have only one Lombardi. Luck still has time to change his fortunes if he can ever get his shoulder to operate again. I’m rooting for it, even if the Colts franchise clearly doesn’t deserve him.

Stafford also belongs on this list. Not a Hall of Fame talent, but a gunslinger who has deserved better. Detroit wasted the prime years of Stafford to Calvin, including taking one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game into a winless season and so much turmoil that Megatron would rather not play football than continue to play in Motor City. The last time the Lions were tenth or better in rushing, Barry Sanders was playing football. Let’s see how the Lions have done since then.

’98 10th<—–Man, that Barry dude is so good. Hope he never retires. *Immediately retires

’99 28th<—–It will take us some time to recover from the loss of Barry.

’00 20th<—–See, improvement! We’re gonna be fine.

’01 28th<—–Oh, God. 2-14. Hope this doesn’t happen again any time soon.

’02 29th<—–We’re gonna be fine. Joey Harrington is the future!

’03 32nd<—-Man, we’ve spent four of five years in the bottom five in rushing. Starting to miss Barry, now. Receiver Charles Rogers at number two will help us though!

’04 19th<—–Roy Williams looks like an elite receiver. Kevin Jones is the savior of Detroit!

’05 26th<—–It’s just a sophomore slump for Kevin. He’ll be fine.

’06 32nd<—-Oh geez, we need some help. How about Brian Calhoun! *tears ACL, ends career

’07 31st<—–Look, we’ve gone from 3-13 to 7-9. We’re on the verge of greatness!

’08 30th<—–Oh, God. A winless season. Where did it go wrong? We better get Calvin some help. He looks pissed.

’09 24th<—–Matt Stafford is a generational talent. Stafford to Calvin is gonna be one of the greatest connections in pro football history.

’10 23rd<—–Suh is a tank and Jahvid Best is a phenom. The days of not having a running game are finally behind us.

’11 29th<—–We made the playoffs for the first time since Barry! We got Mikel Leshoure! We are bound for great-(demolished by New Orleans).

’12 23rd<—–10-6 to 4-12 was quite a fall but Ryan Broyles is the best receiver college football has ever seen. We’ll finally have another option for Matt!

’13 17th<—–Reggie Bush is gonna become the GOAT for us. This is the team to break the streak!

’14 28th<—–We haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. We’re finally gonna (Cowboys crush Motor City dreams 24-20).

’15 32nd<—-Last in rushing again? Geez, starting to think this might be the problem. Oh, no. We made Calvin quit, too?

’16 30th<—-We got Nebraska star Ameer Abdullah! The streak will finally… *placed on season-ending IR.

’17 32nd<— *flips table, exits stage left

12 times in the bottom five in the last 20 seasons and seven times in the bottom three in the last 15. Gross mismanagement, plain and simple.

 

Build around your team. There’s more to the game then quarterbacks.

Teams with quarterbacks on their rookie deals are the easiest to manage because they don’t have the money invested in their signal caller. Look at the Eagles. Wentz had a cap hit of a little over $6 million in 2017 and was my MVP for the season. In addition to the incredible value they got from his performance, they allocated their savings in the trenches and now have a top-five offensive and defensive line.

Dak Prescott’s entire rookie deal will cost the Cowboys less than $3 million, savings they’ve invested in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. Extensions for these three stalwarts wouldn’t have been possible if Dak had Jimmy Garoppolo’s 2018 cap hit of $37 million.

And let’s say, for sake of argument, that Dak ends up being average over the course of his deal. (In 2017, Dak threw for 3,324 and a 88.6 rating (16th), regressing from a rookie year that made him a candidate for offensive player of the year.) It still would be a win for the organization because they now have three regular All-Pro players locked on their roster.

Deshaun Watson has a cap hit of $6 million and if he performs like he did during his unfortunately short rookie year, the team will have a serious shot at a playoff run by the end of his rookie contract.

This is how you build a football team. You want to be the 49ers and go mad spending on an unproven commodity? Be my guest. You’re gonna have a hard time building a roster. Yes, that quarterback might bring you out of the swamps of depression but one player will have a hard time pulling you out of the quicksands of mediocrity. You want $30 million quarterbacks? Go for it. Just know history and the numbers aren’t on your side.

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One Team, One Jersey: Buffalo Bills

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

Following the sad exposition that was talking about the Oakland Raiders before the new regime, we now move to the desolate tundra of Buffalo, a franchise that has also been mired in mismanagement for decades. Before this past season, the Bills last playoff game was in 1999 when Doug Flutie was quarterback. Yes, this Doug Flutie.

To be honest, I used to have a Doug Flutie Bills jersey that I sadly outgrew and it’s one I’d like to bring back to the collection. He was a fan favorite in Buffalo and as we all know, completed one of the greatest upsets in sports history. I always felt that Flutie had been slighted because of his stature and took that to heart, that people diminish you for things that are inconsequential to your ability. I’d respect a Flutie jersey but for this series, we need to pick someone current.

Buffalo has made a habit of building their roster through free agency for years and so picking a jersey for the Bills will be no easy task. There was Drew Bledsoe, T.O., Kyle Orton, Percy Harvin, Charles Clay and Kelvin Benjamin.

While the Bills have had some blunders in the draft as well (J.P. Losman, E.J. Manuel, John McCargo, Aaron Maybin),  the ones that they did hit on they’ve repeatedly decided not to keep, such as Marshawn Lynch, Donte Whitner, Paul Posluszny, and more recently, Stephon Gilmore, Marcell Dareus, Cordy Glenn and Ronald Darby. They actually have a propensity to trade away players selected with high draft picks.

Those last moves I mentioned had to be done to help start this new rebuild, but it is a story we’ve seen before and fairly recently with Buffalo as well. Historically, teams that don’t draft well in the NFL don’t do well and teams that build their teams through free agency on a regular basis don’t do well either.

The Bills have seemingly given up on the franchise player. They shouldn’t. It got them this guy.

With few franchise players to choose from, LeSean McCoy is the obvious choice. The six-time Pro Bowler spent three of those years in Buffalo, but McCoy spent most of his career in Philly and I myself still view him as an Eagle. He has not lost a step since he was traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso during Chip Kelly’s demolition of the Philly roster. Man, that trade was a doozy for Philly, wasn’t it?

He’s been the lead man on one of the most imposing ground games in football and remains the same slippery runner that he was when he was drafted out of Pittsburgh in 2009. By the way, what an awful draft class 2009 was.

The deciding factor, for me, is that McCoy might be the best running back the Eagles ever had. He currently holds the franchise record for rushing yards. So, as of now, that takes McCoy off the table.

Perhaps no jersey embodies the Buffalo Bills as well as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Watch some lowlights and you might come to grasp a morsel of the type of torture that Bills fans have had to go through. Fitzpatrick was a serviceable quarterback in Buffalo and as I wrote years back, he was improving at the time.

Jokes aside, it really is hard to find a jersey on this team because of the insane amount of roster turnover. Linebacker Preston Brown had 281 tackles in his last two seasons but left for Cincinnati. As I said earlier, Darby and Dareus are gone and left tackle Cordy Glenn wasn’t an exceptional tackle before being traded to Cincinnati. Tyrod Taylor played most of his career in Baltimore and wouldn’t have been eligible anyway. That leaves us with only two real options.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams is the longest tenured Bill, having been with the team for his entire 12-year career. As I believe I mentioned before, I have a lot of respect for a player who stays with one franchise and does all he can for the betterment of the team. Players like these also become staples of their community and childhood idols.

Tre’Davious White was one of the strongest rookies last season, starring as a number one corner for Buffalo. Someone that looked more geared for a slot position did better than expected on the outside but whether his production is sustainable is still a question mark. White doesn’t have the same burst or speed that got Marshon Lattimore a Defensive Rookie of the Year. He didn’t demonstrate the explosiveness in college to be able to play strong off coverage, but Tre’Davious White is the future in Buffalo.

My pick: Tre’Davious White. My jersey: Home Blue.

Image result for tre'davious white jersey free use

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