Top 5 dark horse wildcard playoff teams right now

New teams that could make the playoffs this year

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

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

New England Patriots

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco 49ers

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

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

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

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

Carolina Panthers

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

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

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

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

Denver Broncos

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

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

Los Angeles Chargers

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

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

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

Top preview for each NFC West team in minicamp

What to watch for as the NFL season approaches

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.

3 Dolphins that could be surprise studs

Watch out for these potential stars for the Dolphins.

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The Miami Dolphins were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL last season. Before the season began they were projected to be one of the worst teams in the league but ended up being much better than that. They finished the year with an impressive 10-6 record and just barely missed out on the playoffs. Their success is mainly due to a very young talented roster that has developed ahead of schedule, which can partially be credited to their excellent coaching staff lead by head coach Brian Flores.

It’s reasonable to believe that the Dolphins will be even better this upcoming season than they were last year considering they will have another year of development and made some solid additions to the roster as well. Some of their potential stars are still under the radar while others just aren’t getting the respect from the general public that maybe they deserve. Here are 3 potential players that could be surprise studs.

QB Tua Tagovailoa

It’s amazing how quickly the public perception of Tua took a negative turn. He was such a highly graded prospect at Alabama that there were rumors that NFL teams would be tanking their season to try and get the opportunity to draft him. After a few injuries and the emergence of Joe Burrow, Tua slid in the draft just a bit but was still the second overall quarterback drafted that year. After recovering from surgery, he still ended up starting nine games his rookie season and played pretty well in them, including throwing 11 touchdowns against only 5 interceptions, which is very solid for a rookie. The Dolphins even won 6 of the 9 games that he started.

It’s a bit strange that the general perception is so low on Tua after his rookie season. For a first-year player coming off an injury, he actually had a very good season and one that should inspire optimism about his future. All of the talent potential that he had at Alabama are still with him now, and he could really blossom into something great. Expect a big jump from Tua this season and a performance that reminds everyone how bright his future is.

RB Myles Gaskin

Unlike Tua, Myles Gaskin was not a highly rated prospect coming out of college. He was a seventh-round pick but he has not looked like it in his two short seasons in the NFL. He has been a pleasant surprise for the offense of the Dolphins and it looks like he will head into the 2021 season as the featured running back. Last year he quietly lead the team in carries with 142 and rushing yards with 584. More impressively, he did so while only appearing in ten games last season. To add another dynamic to his game, he added another 388 yards as a receiver.

His combo skill set will allow him to be a three-down running back and his outlook for this upcoming season is very bright. The Dolphins did sign Malcolm Brown to join their backfield, but it appears to be Gaskin that is going to featured while Brown provides a change of pace. All things considered, Gaskin looks primed for a really big year.

DL Raekwon Davis

Raekwon Davis is already a productive defender against the run from the interior of the defensive line. He is also skilled at occupying blockers to create lanes for pass rushers. The part of his game that could develop into a real weapon is pressuring opposing quarterbacks as an interior defensive lineman. He has the build and the tools to be successful at this, as well as the right coaching staff to develop the technique.

There aren’t a ton of players in the NFL that can generate consistent pressure from the interior, but Davis is a candidate to be one of them. It is not uncommon for this skill to take longer to perfect than rushing from the outside, so just because it has not shown up yet does not mean it isn’t coming soon. This could be the year it all comes together for Davis and if it does, he is going to be a force.

Reflection on the career of Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice is the GOAT of WRs

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Jerry Rice is an absolute legend of the NFL. He is clearly the best wide receiver to ever play the game. His production paired with his longevity are unmatched and his numbers are a class above the rest. When debating who is the GOAT at each position in the NFL, it is a matter of opinion with more than one “right” answer. The exception to this is at wide receiver because it is not an opinion that Rice is the GOAT WR, it’s a straight fact. He is clearly better than anyone else to ever do it without any question when everything is factored in. Let’s take a look back at the legendary career of Jerry Rice.

Statistics

The list of impressive stats is endless for Rice. His career 1549 receptions for 22,895 receiving yards and 197 receiving touchdowns are all the most of all time by a wide margin. He is ahead of second place by 117 receptions, 5403 yards, and 41 touchdowns. He was the receiving yards and touchdowns leader in the NFL in six separate seasons and was in the top five in 11 seasons. He was also in the top five in receptions in nine seasons.

His career bests are just as impressive as the cumulative totals. His 1848 receiving yards in one season is the third-most in NFL history, and his 22 receiving touchdowns rank second-best ever. It’s also important to remember that the majority of his work came in the late 1980s and the 1990s, so it was in an era before the high-flying passing attacks took over the game. It’s crazy to think that his numbers realistically could have been even higher if he played in the modern style of football. Regardless, his numbers are still off the charts and stand high above the rest.

Awards

In his 20 seasons in the NFL, Rice made the Pro Bowl 13 times, was selected as a First-Team All-Pro 10 times, and was a member of the All-Rookie Team in his first season in 1985. He was awarded the AP Offensive Player of the Year Award twice and is listed on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade teams for both the 1980s and the 1990s. He helped the San Francisco 49ers win three Super Bowls and was selected as the MVP of the game for one of them. Rice put together one of the most decorated careers in the history of the NFL.

Longevity

One of the things that make the career of Jerry Rice so special is how long he was able to perform at such a high level. For example, in his 18th season in the league and at 40 years old he put up a quite impressive stat line of 92 receptions for 1211 yards and 7 touchdowns. For almost any other player in history, this would be considered a career year or at least one in the middle of their prime. For Rice, in comparison to his own peak, this is when he was past his prime and nearing the final days of his long career.

The total package of the career of Jerry Rice is one that is unmatched to this point and won’t be surpassed any time in the near future, if ever. His dominance of the league compared to the style of the era he played in will probably never be replicated. Add in the fact that he played at an extremely high level that spanned three different decades and it is made clear that this is a truly one-of-a-kind player. Rice is the GOAT WR by a very wide margin and that is not going to change any time soon.

Ranking the Top 3 Super Bowls of the last decade

Which 3 Super Bowls top the list?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The annual Super Bowl is the greatest game in sports. A do-or-die game to determine the champion of the NFL season. There are no second chances and one bad decision can be the difference between who wins and loses. It’s so pure in its win-or-go-home philosophy. The anticipation and excitement surrounding this game every year are unmatched and that is why it is the most viewed event, and not just for sports, pretty much every year. Even people who don’t particularly care about football still tune in for the game.

Over the years there have been many epic Super Bowls. From wild comebacks to legendary performances, it’s demonstrated the entire spectrum of possibilities. This article will look at the last decade only and rank the top 3 Super Bowls from that time frame. Competitiveness and epic moments, among many other factors, were considered when making these rankings. Let’s start at third and count down to first.

3. Super Bowl LIV

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 but the final score does not at all tell the story of this game. With less than ten minutes remaining, the 49ers were up by ten points with the ball and a chance to all but end it. After some missed opportunities, they were forced to punt and everything changed from there. Over the final six minutes plus of game time, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs would put together three quick drives that resulted in touchdowns. They not only quickly erased a double-digit deficit but would end up winning the game by double digits themselves. This victory was fitting for the spectacular postseason run put together by the Chiefs, coming from behind by double digits to win all three of their games.

2. Super Bowl XLIX

In what was a tightly contested game from start to finish, the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 28-24. This game is really defined by the epic fourth quarter that went back and forth. The Patriots entered the final quarter trailing by ten points but after two touchdown passes by Tom Brady they would take a four-point lead with just two minutes remaining. Russell Wilson would get an opportunity to put together a game-winning drive for the Seahawks and would march them all the way down the field to the goal line. It looked like Wilson was going to be the hero, but the tables turned when Malcolm Butler jumped a slant route and snagged a game-winning interception for the Patriots. It was a wild fourth quarter with a jaw-dropping ending, capped off by one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

1. Super Bowl LI

After the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime by a score of 34-28. With less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Falcons lead 28-3 and looked like they were on their way to a victory. Instead, Tom Brady lead the Patriots to score 25 straight points in regulation to force overtime, where they would score another touchdown and end the game. It was not only the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history but also the only time the game ever went to overtime to decide a winner. All things considered, this is the best Super Bowl in the last decade and one of the best individual games in the history of the NFL.

Reflection on Paul Brown: the first Cleveland Brown

The timeless impact of Paul Brown on the NFL

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Paul Brown is an extremely important figure in the history of football. He was a very successful coach, a team founder, and an executive. His innovations helped shape the standards about how to approach the sport. Several of his contributions are still present in the modern game and the NFL would not be what it is today if it weren’t for Brown. He is in the NFL Hall of Fame as well as the Ring of Honor for two different teams. Let’s take a look back at the legendary career of Paul Brown.

Founder and Owner

The Cleveland Browns are actually named after Paul Brown. That is because he was a co-founder of the team, part-owner, and also their first head coach. The Browns joined the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946 before eventually joining the National Football League (NFL) in 1950. The team was extremely successful in the four-year run in the AAFC, winning the championship all four years.

More than twenty years after helping to found the Browns, he assisted in forming the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. He coached the team from 1968 to 1975 and then was an executive until he passed away in 1991. His importance to both the Browns and the Bengals will never be forgotten. Deservedly so, he is in the Ring of Honor for both organizations.

Coaching Accomplishments

As a coach, Paul Brown was a winner. He absolutely dominated the AAFL in all four years that he coached the Browns. He won the championship in all four seasons and even went undefeated in the 1948 season. The 1972 Miami Dolphins are still the only other team to ever accomplish an undefeated season. The Browns dominated the AAFL so much so that the league folded after the 1949 season. This is when the Browns joined the NFL to see if they could continue their winning ways.

They did exactly that in their NFL debut when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, who were actually the defending champions at the time. The Browns would go on to win the NFL Championship in 1950 which was their very first year in the league. They would follow that up with two more championships a few years later in 1954 and 1955. Brown put together an excellent coaching career in the NFL and won more than 66 percent of his games.

Coaching Tree

Five assistants that coached under Brown went on to have a ton of success as head coaches. Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Weeb Ewbank, and Blanton Collier combined for a total of 13 championships as head coaches including 10 Super Bowl victories. Walsh and Shula are widely considered two of the greatest coaches of all time and some would even rank them at the very top of that list. The impact of Brown on his assistants is very clear due to their overall combined success.

Innovations

Many of the concepts that Paul Brown came up with were revolutionary at the time and are still used today in the modern NFL. He was the first-ever head coach to hire a full-time staff of assistant coaches. He started the concept of using previous game films to study upcoming opponents as well as using a practice squad. He was also the first coach to test players on the roster about their playbook memorization. He invented the draw play concept and designed the modern face masks for helmets. All of these contributions are still present in the game today. Most importantly, he played a major role in breaking the color barrier in the NFL. His impact will never be forgotten in football history.

Top 3 Landing Spots for Justin Houston

What team will Justin Houston play for next season?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

It is now the back half of the NFL offseason and there are still some big-name free agents that are without a team for the 2021 season. One of the best available remaining players is edge rusher Justin Houston. He is now 32 years old but has shown in recent years that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Over the last four years combined he has recorded 37.5 sacks, including a minimum of eight sacks in each of those seasons and a high of 11 in 2019. That’s not quite as impressive as his career-high of 22 sacks back in 2014 but it clearly demonstrates that he still has the ability to contribute in a big way.

The ideal landing spot for Houston in this upcoming season is a contending team that could use some help in the pass-rushing department. He could help a win-now team take a step to the next level. Additionally, his age would imply that his price tag should be relatively reasonable. In comparison, Ryan Kerrigan, who is the same age as Houston, just recently signed with the Eagles on a one-year contract worth 2.5 million guaranteed. Houston will likely be looking to get more than that, but he will not break the bank for interested candidates now that the market has been set. All things considered, here are his top three landing spots.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are a team that is looking to improve their pass rush. They were middle of the road last season, ranked 16th in the NFL with 38 team sacks. They did use a first-round draft pick on Gregory Rousseau and a second-round pick on Carlos Basham, which demonstrates that it was an area of focus this offseason. Houston would not only give them an established pass rusher to help them win now but would also assist in the development of the younger players in the position group.

The Bills are a real Super Bowl contender this season, but if they could improve their pass rush they would become a whole new level of competitor. Houston could help them do exactly that. After recently restructuring the contract of Stefon Diggs, they have some available cap space to play with, and this may be the best way for them to use it.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have done a great job in recent years building their offense, but this offseason they have focused on improving their defense. They know they have to be better on that side of the ball if they want to improve from a playoff team to a real contender. They were fifth-worst in the NFL last season in yards allowed per game with 398.3 and ninth-worst in points allowed per game with 27.4. Knowing they have to be better than that, they made moves this offseason in an attempt to improve defensively including adding Bud Dupree and drafting Caleb Farley.

Pass rush is a particular area that they struggled in, recording the third least team sacks in the NFL last season with just 19 total. Adding Dupree will help that number, but pairing him with Houston would provide a significant jump in that category. They would potentially go from one of the worst teams in the league at pass rushing to one of the better ones, and that would be a wise move for a team trying to contend this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are a team that did not struggle at all in rushing the passer last year. They had the most sacks in the NFL with 56 total. The problem is that they lost Bud Dupree this offseason to free agency. He was an extremely important part of their defensive scheme and they do not have a proven replacement on their roster. Having a complementary pass rusher to play opposite of superstar TJ Watt is crucial to their philosophy of pressure defense.

Houston could definitely solve this problem. He is a piece that would allow them to continue their defensive dominance, which is a staple of their organization. The Steelers believe that they are Super Bowl contenders this season, so if Houston believes that as well then this could be a perfect fit. They currently have around 8 million in available cap space so they have more than enough to sign him.

3 NFL Trades that still need to happen

This NFL offseason is far from over.

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

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

Aaron Rodgers to the Broncos

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

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

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

Julio Jones to the Titans

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

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

Zach Ertz to the Cardinals

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

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

Which QB had a better career: Joe Montana or Troy Aikman

Which legend had the better career?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Joe Montana and Troy Aikman are two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. They are both in the Hall of Fame and are widely considered to be in the top ten QBs of all time. Their list of accomplishment are both extremely impressive and they will always be remembered in NFL history. The question here is about which of these two legends should be ranked higher on the all-time list. Let’s compare their careers to make a determination.

The Case for Joe Montana

As the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers mostly in the 1980s and early 1990s, Montana put together one of the most impressive careers ever. He won four Super Bowls, which is the second-most for any quarterback in history, and won the Super Bowl MVP in three of those four victories. He won the regular season MVP twice and was selected to the All-Pro team five times, including three on the first team and two on the second team. He was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times and was clearly the best quarterback of his time.

In addition to all of the winning, he also filled up the stat sheet. He was the NFL leader in passing touchdowns twice and completion percentage five times. He finished his career with 40,551 passing yards and 273 touchdown passes. At the time of his retirement, he was considered by many to be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game because of the way he dominated the league. He was ahead of his time and revolutionized the passing game in the NFL.

The Case for Troy Aikman

Similar to Montana, the career of Aikman was also one that was defined by winning. He was the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys for the entire decade of the 1990s, and two additional years after, where he found a ton of success. He won three Super Bowls and was awarded the MVP of the game in one of them. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was among the best quarterbacks in the NFL for every season that he played.

It was a relatively short career for Aikman and one that can be considered quality over quantity. He did not compile a ton of stats but still does rank in the top 50 in just about every passing category. His leadership, which is something that can’t be measured, was one of the best of all time. The Cowboys really dominated the NFL in the 90s and Aikman was a huge reason why.

The Verdict

The Aikman Cowboys and Montana 49ers are considered two of the best teams in the history of the NFL and for good reason. They both dominated their competition in the era they played in, and the quarterback play was a major contributor. Both QBs have a long list of accomplishments, but when comparing the careers as a whole side by side, it’s safe to say that Montana deserves to be ranked higher on the all-time list. He was statistically better for his career, won more individual awards, and an extra Super Bowl.

Aikman is probably in the top ten of all time, but Montana is easily in the top five and can be ranked as high as number two. The fact that Aikman never won a regular-season MVP hurts his case, while Montana was clearly the best quarterback of his era. Though he retired a long time ago, there have still been very few quarterbacks that are even in the same conversation as Montana. This is even more impressive considering the way the game has evolved more and more towards featuring the quarterback, and it’s reasonable to believe that he would be even better in the style of game played today. Aikman is definitely a legend, but he’s just not quite on the same level as Montana.

Why Derwin James is the most indispensable defensive back in the NFL

Derwin James is finally ready to get back to work.

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

After missing almost all of the last two years due to injury, the highly anticipated return of Derwin James is finally here ahead of the 2021 NFL season. He will now be entering his fourth season in the league, but unfortunately, he has only been able to play one full season so far. On the positive side, that one season was enough to cement himself as one of the top defensive players in the league. His elite versatility and unique skill set make him the most indispensable defensive back in the entire NFL.

Rookie Season

After being selected 17th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Chargers, the 6’2 and 215-pound safety out of Florida State made an immediate impact. He quickly became not only one of the top rookies in his class, but one of the top defensive backs in the league. In fact, a strong case can be made that he is the best safety in the NFL. He filled the stat sheet for the defense of the Chargers and contributed in a wide variety of ways. He accounted for 105 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and 13 passes defended.

His efforts earned him a selection as a first-team All-Pro. Additionally, he received consideration for both Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and was on the very shortlist of candidates for both awards. This was obviously an amazing season for James and the fact that it was his rookie season made it even more exciting. Expectations of the potential player he could turn into officially went through the roof, as they should.

Next Two Years

Unfortunately, James missed the majority of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 season due to injury. He was greatly missed by the Chargers for many reasons. Just as important as his contributions statistically and his ability to allow for a ton of creativity in defensive schemes, is his presence and leadership on the field. Along with Joey Bosa, James is the heart of their defense.

James is a player that the organization not only believes in but trusts as well. They want him to be a big part of the future of the Chargers. This was demonstrated in this past NFL Draft where James actually had a big influence on their selection. He told the team that he wanted them to draft CB Asante Samuel, also a Florida State Seminole like James, and they did exactly that.

2021 Season Outlook

Derwin James is finally healthy again and ready to get back on the field. As long as he can avoid another injury, he should once again have a monster season and get back to being the superstar he was back in 2018. He is still only 24 years old so there is no reason to believe that he can’t. The oddsmakers are very optimistic about his upcoming season as well because he is a top 8 betting favorite according to Draft Kings Sportsbook for both Comeback Player of the Year as well as Defensive Player of the Year.

His rookie season demonstrated that he is capable of doing it all defensively. His big frame makes him useful in the box for run support and his athleticism allows for him to be effective on the blitz as well. His physicality makes him great at jamming receivers at the line while his quickness allows him to be successful in man coverage. He is just as good matching up with tight ends as he is receivers. He has elite range and even better intelligence, which makes him one of the best in the league as a ball-hawking center fielder as well.

His unique skillset and rare versatility make him a truly one-of-a-kind player. He is an absolute luxury for the Chargers defense. Nobody is capable of doing what he does at the level he does it on, and that makes him the most indispensable defensive back in the NFL. Watch out for Derwin James.

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