Predicting the winner of each QB competition

By: Jeremy Trottier

Around the NFL currently, there are quite a significant amount of preseason and starting battles that have yet to take place.  It happens at every position, from quarterback to punter, almost every year throughout the NFL, as rookies look to take veterans spots, or veterans look to rejuvenate their career and prove themselves against younger competition.  As the 2021 preseason looms closer and closer by the day, we see more and more of these battles shaping up through signings, and these will only continue to become more common as the remaining free agents get signed.

In this article, I will be focusing on some of the QB battles around the league, attempting to project who will be the day one starter, as well as if the starting role may change mid-season as rookies and younger players develop more.

Jameis Winston Vs. Taysom Hill

One of the most prominent quarterback battles almost everyone saw coming after Jameis was signed last offseason, we have the New Orleans Saints battle.  Attempting to replace the production of Drew Brees is hard enough for the coaching staff, having to decide between two quarterbacks vying for that spot is even harder.  Each of these quarterbacks has their own perks, and as a Saints fan myself, this is not as easy of a decision as some fans may see it being.  

On one hand, Jameis has the deep ball potential, is much more of a pure passer, and has been purely a passer since day one.  Taysom on the other hand brings the dual threat capabilities and is relatively accurate from short to medium range passing, as well as being in the Saints system longer.  I believe Jameis should be the day one starter all things considered for now, as he has been a passer this whole time and only is used there, which allows Taysom to continue in his role of playing all the skill positions essentially.  If Jameis struggles after the first quarter of the season or so, then Taysom should get another stint of being the starter like last season.

Teddy Bridgewater Vs. Drew Lock

Another quarterback battle that has formed due to moves made this offseason is the one in Denver with the Broncos.  After trading a 6th round pick to the Carolina Panthers for Teddy Bridgewater, the Broncos have created an ideal scenario where a veteran can teach a younger player, however, it also has created a pretty interesting battle.  

The differences between the two QBs here is noticeable but frankly is not extremely prominent, Teddy is much more of a game manager who lets the receivers and backs do the work, while focusing on placing accurate passes against defenses and not taking many risks.  Lock on the other hand is a little more risk-taking at times, throwing the ball deep and attempting to make bigger plays, but is less of a game manager and is a little less safe in the turnover department.  

With that, Teddy Bridgewater should probably be the starter, at least early on in the season, as he will be less turnover prone, and will likely game manage the team better considering they have a ton of receiving weapons and backs.  If Lock can take this time to develop and learn from Bridgewater on ball security and not turning it over as much, then a mid-season transition could be made to start Lock, provided Bridgewater is not having an exceptional year.

Andy Dalton Vs. Justin Fields

In the next quarterback battle coming from Chicago, we have another case of a young QB against a veteran QB, in which the younger is much more explosive and the older is much more ball security-oriented.  This instance is relatively different, however, as Justin Fields has a lot more potential as of now compared to Lock, and is a dual-threat QB, and had significantly more draft capital invested into him.  While Andy Dalton was paid a pretty good amount and pushing him into a backup role for that much cap space seems relatively ill-advised.

The best scenario would be Andy Dalton takes a restructure to pay most of his cap hit up front in a signing bonus of sorts as we have seen many times in the NFL.  Starting Justin Fields is probably the most logical scenario right now, as giving him some time to start at the NFL level and get adjusted to it through playing time seems like the way to go.  Since he performed exceptionally well in college and has proven his ability to avoid pressure at the CFB level, he should be able get away from most of the heavy contact at the line with his feet.  

Cam Newton Vs. Mac Jones

To wrap up the list, we have probably the most interesting of the four battles, which takes place in New England with the Patriots.  This one has intrigued me, even prior to the Patriots taking Mac as it was so heavily rumored.  Cam Newton had a tough year last year, throwing ten interceptions to only eight touchdowns while starting 15 games during the season.  Obviously, we have come to expect more of a rushing focus from the former MVP, but if you start that large of a portion of the season you should at least get a significantly higher TD number.

Mac Jones on the other hand is a relative unknown, he produced at Alabama without a doubt, but did so with an enormous amount of high end weapons surrounding him.  However he does have a lot of traits that are seeming viable at the NFL level, and his accuracy is absolutely phenomenal from what we have seen so far.  Right now the verdict is 50/50 between who should start, some think Cam should start immediately due to being in the system a year longer and in the league for much longer, allowing Mac to sit and develop some.  Some think Mac should start immediately due to the sort of “win now” mentality of the Patriots after a huge offseason filled with signings, and believe Mac has the higher ceiling as a passer.

Right now, I believe Cam Newton should start in the short term, however Mac will likely take over a few weeks into the season.  Giving Mac a few weeks to develop and learn the Patriots playbook, as well as conforming to the NFL style of play, seems like the best option right now for New England. 

Top training camp rumors surrounding the Buffalo Bills

What are people saying about the Bills?

By: Caleb Holfoth (@cmhfilm)

The Buffalo Bills begin their 2021 training camp in about a month and a half. For the second year in a row, the Bills will complete their camp at home in Buffalo as opposed to traveling to St. John Fisher College in Rochester. Due to Covid-19 and the potential protocols that will be in place through August the Bills management decided it was best to stay at home. Now that Buffalo knows where they will be practicing all of August there are still certain rumors that are floating around about the Bills roster. Post Free Agency and NFL Draft is a very interesting time for teams especially when there are quality free agents available just like there is this season. Buffalo heads into training camp with the best roster they have had in the entire 21st century. In all three facets of the game, Buffalo has elite talent. Not only is that talent elite but it is also young. A majority of the cornerstone players on the Bills roster have not even touched age 28 yet. With a really good and young roster, Buffalo hopes to make a jump to the Super Bowl season. However, before all of that even begins the Bills are still circulating in the news due to several rumors. Here are three major Bills rumors before training camp.

Rumor: Buffalo Trades for Philadelphia Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz

This is a rumor that has been attached to Buffalo for some time now. For a good portion of the early offseason, many people thought that the Buffalo Bills would trade a late-round draft pick to the Eagles in exchange for the former Pro-Bowl tight end. Ertz voiced his frustration with the franchise last season and both sides have been in a rift since. The only option for the Eagles seems to be to part ways with the disgruntled veteran. However, the Eagles have stood pat that they do not want to release Ertz but instead trade him. The Bills have been connected because they do have a weakness at the tight end position.

As this rumor has come and gone throughout the offseason it varies how much the Bills seem interested in trading for Ertz. While Ertz certainly would be worth a 5th round pick or later and easily become the best tight end in Buffalo there are reasons Beane could be hesitant. First, Ertz had a very rough injury-riddled 2020. Although just 30 years old this is something to certainly keep in mind. Ertz does not have an extensive injury history, but players are rarely traded for after injury-riddled seasons. Second, it is no secret that Ertz wants no part of Philadelphia. Brandon Beane could be in wait-and-see mode to see if the Eagles eventually give up and release Ertz. Lastly, Ertz does carry a large cap hit of 12.7 million in 2021 with a dead cap hit of 3.5 million in 2022 (UFA after 2021). Even though the Bills just cleared up some cap space by converting Stefon Diggs salary to a signing bonus, likely, Beane will not want to take on such a huge hit for an older tight end.

What makes this rumor, so intriguing is that Beane has commented on the state of the Bills tight end room several times this offseason. Beane has emphasized that Buffalo needs more from the tight end position. At the same time, Beane has circled back to that comment saying he does have faith in Dawson Knox and the rest of the tight end group to be able to step up. While Knox has always had potential and a high ceiling, he has not come close to that ceiling or being consistent. The addition of Ertz would certainly push Buffalo from a mediocre tight end group to potentially a top ten group. Ertz adds a different dynamic as a pass-catcher from both the hand in the dirt and the slot.

This rumor has no straight yes or no answer of will it happen or not. With all the previous rumors of both parties being tied to each other it likely is something, the Bills have explored at one point this offseason. I think it is fair to say that a trade is unlikely. However, I believe that Zach Ertz will be on the Bills roster at some point during the 2021 season.

Rumor: Buffalo will sign a veteran cornerback before camp

This is a rumor that has swirled of late because of the salary cap that Buffalo just opened up by converting Stefon Diggs’s base salary into a signing bonus. The Bills now have about $9 Million in cap space ready to use. The reason that cornerback has been the main position a part of the conversation is because it is one of the weak spots on the roster outside of star cornerback Tre’Davious White. Opposite of White Buffalo has a very young group led by Levi Wallace. Each of the past three seasons the Bills have brought in a veteran cornerback to compete for the number two spot across from White. That was at least the case until this offseason. Buffalo neglected to add a cornerback in free agency and early in the draft instead opting to rely on young unproven talent and Levi Wallace the starter the previous two seasons.

What puts the Bills in the market for a corner is not only the money they now have but also the fact that there are several starting-caliber veteran cornerbacks on the market. Buffalo has options with Richard Sherman, Steven Nelson, Brian Poole, and a couple of other veteran corners. While Buffalo may be confident in the young group, they have now there is some very good value this late in free agency. For example, Richard Sherman who happens to fit Buffalo’s defensive scheme very well has declared that he wants to play for a contender. Buffalo is one of the few contenders who will not only be able to sign Sherman but compensate him at a pretty solid rate. The same goes for Steven Nelson who has been a very good corner the past couple of years in the league.

This rumor is interesting because if you go off of Brandon Beane’s habits he will bring in one of these players. However, I think that Beane will wait as long as possible to add a player to determine what Buffalo has at the position already and the confidence in that group. I think that Beane would be comfortable with some corners coming off the market and is in no hurry to make a move. While I think Sherman and Nelson would both benefit Buffalo significantly Beane seems to have high expectations and praise for Dane Jackson who is currently competing with Levi Wallace. I do think that Beane is exploring this option but will opt to not sign a veteran cornerback to bring in for the 2021 season.

Rumor: The Bills are having trouble getting players vaccinated

While not specifically football related it has been a topic of conversation around Buffalo for a couple of weeks now. Brandon Beane found himself in hot water after he said he would cut an unvaccinated player if it meant Buffalo would then meet the threshold of enough vaccinated players for looser protocols. Beane’s comments caused quite the uproar from the NFLPA, and Buffalo has been under vaccine watch since. Combine Beane’s slightly insensitive comments with the fact that all the Bills players who have been in press conferences have declined to comment on their vaccination status. Add on the public disapproval of the COVID-19 vaccine from both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley and Buffalo could be on the wrong side of the news when it comes to the vaccine.

This bodes well for the Bills who have found themselves in hot water with the vaccine talk recently. It looks like Beane, and Sean McDermott has been able to right the ship for Buffalo. While Buffalo is likely not one of the 16 teams that have at least 50% of their players with one shot the discourse about vaccines over the past couple of weeks has turned from a negative conversation to a positive one. Buffalo likely has a way to go to meet the threshold of vaccinated players to have minimal protocols to follow. However, McDermott and Beane have turned the team in the right direction and seem to have all the so-called vaccine drama in the past.

3 reasons why Derek Carr won’t be traded anytime soon

By: Jake Rajala

Derek Carr, the pocket passer that holds the most late-game comebacks in a quarterback’s first several seasons (20), has been in controversial trade rumors over the past couple of seasons. It’s unclear if Carr will follow in the footsteps of past former elite QBs like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, likely Aaron Rodgers, in switching uniforms in a high level of his career. 

As of right now, Carr is dedicating all of his energy to obtaining a Lombardi trophy in Las Vegas. Carr is so fixated in marriage to the Raiders that when asked about getting traded, this is how he responded, “I’d probably quit football if I had to play football for someone else”.

Carr’s allegiance to Las Vegas is unquestionable. The real inquiry is, “do the Raiders want Carr to be the face of their franchise forever?”. My response to that question: I believe so. 

I will outline the three reasons why Carr will remain the Raiders QB until the death star (Raiders stadium) is inhabitable.

  1. Carr will be the best “long term option” available 

The Raiders signal-caller isn’t only an elite caliber of talent, but he is only 30 years old. Carr is the same age as Taysom Hill, two years younger than Russell Wilson, and two years younger than Kirk Cousins. Carr has at least a decade of quality football left in him. 

As long as Carr is the franchise QB, the Raiders will have an excellent floor each season. The Raiders have improved from four wins to seven victories, to eight wins, under Jon Gruden’s reign. Even if the Raiders miss the playoffs or have an early postseason exit, they should be in a tough spot to acquire a decade-like talent at QB in the draft each year.

There have been talented QBs on the trade block, but the available QB options are no longer available, or the steam has left the QB’s camps. Deshaun Watson doesn’t appear tradeable at this point, Russell Wilson is staying in Seattle, Aaron Rodgers appears to be in a Denver uniform or staying in a Packer jersey, and Tua Tagovailoa will be a franchise QB in Miami if he improves, or below dealing for if he sinks.

To sum it up, Carr will always be the best long-term offseason option to start for the team moving forward. 

  1. The Raiders need to seriously focus on improving the defense

Gruden knows that improving a defensive unit that ranked 25th in 2020 is the highest priority on the horizon. The Raiders had issues against the pass (26th ranked) and opened the floodgates against the run (24th). The Raiders have made this defensive emphasis clear with four defenders getting drafted in the first four rounds of the 2020 NFL draft. 

LV acquired pass rusher Yannick Ngakouye and cornerback Casey Hayward in free agency this offseason. Holes still lie in the secondary for the Raiders defense. CB Damon Arnette hasn’t proven his worth as a first-rounder, while the safety position was an Achilles heel in 2020. Corey Littleton was a sneaky good signing last offseason at LB, but the team desperately needs more consistent production in the LB unit. 

In an AFC West division featuring MVP Patrick Mahomes, OROY Justin Herbert, and potentially Aaron Rodgers, the Raiders have to be featuring a competitive defense (at the very least) in the divisional gauntlet. A lackluster defense with a young, different face at QB could also put the Raiders in a massive hole in their very own division.

  1. Jon Gruden is a Derek Carr supporter

There have been false claims of Gruden wanting “his own guy” or in search of a different QB. This common, false report, can be put to the grave. Gruden AND Mayock firmly stand strong behind their QB held on a high pedestal. 

They’ve expressed their gratitude and defense for their QB after putting on a fantastic showcase in the 2020 season. Carr displayed a career high passer rating (101.4) last season. His personality of grittiness is also very similar to Gruden’s style in the locker room. 

Carr told Vinny Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review Journal that his relationship with Gruden is often misunderstood. He elaborated by saying “what people don’t understand is how close we are. Not just football, but off the field. Whether it’s him texting videos of his dog and what they’re doing, and I’m sending videos of my kids hitting baseballs in their first game. People don’t understand that.”


The young Carr had an amazing season of production in 2020. If Carr ousts another year of mastering the offense and capping elite numbers, the connection should only continue to grow in the upcoming years.

Why Cam Newton could master the Patriots offense

By: Tayyib Abu

Cam Newton enjoyed an inconsistent debut season as the Patriots quarterback. Understandably, there was always going to be some growing pains. Newton is an entirely different quarterback to Tom Brady; add a truncated offseason program and a lack of weapons;

Newton was climbing a steep mountain. Nevertheless, the former MVP played well, even recapturing some of that MVP form at times. Conversely, some erratic performances blighted his season. Newton returns in 2021 in Foxboro.

This year, rookie quarterback Mac Jones will share the quarterback room in Massachusetts. The pressure is on Newton to master the offense and be QB1 come opening day. It’s time to break down why the former first overall pick and MVP could master the attack in 2021.

Reason One – Familiarity

Familiarity is often said to breed contempt. However, familiarity can be a quarterback’s best friend, even more so in New England. The Patriots run an adapted version of the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system. It got installed by Charlie Weis nearly 20 years ago, and the Pats have stuck with it since.

One of the more complex elements to learn about this playbook is the verbiage. It is very different from the standard NFL playbooks that the rest of the league utilizes. We saw Tom Brady struggle to adapt in the early phases in Tampa Bay, and the same can get said for Newton.

Now with an entire season’s worth of experience as well as a full offseason, Newton should be able to wrap his head around the playbook at a higher level. The first building block of success for quarterbacks is understanding every tiny detail of the offence. Newton should get that checked off this offseason.

Reason Two – New Weapons

The whole NFL world knew the severe lack of talent and depth hurt the Patriots last year. With Julian Edelman retiring this offseason, the final piece of the Brady Bunch finally departed 1 Patriot Place. Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft knew the offense required a significant overhaul. Therefore, it surprised no one that New England spent big as soon as free agency started.

Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor all made their way to New England. In addition, new England added experienced players that Newton could form relationships with immediately. The two tight ends could be an inspired decision from New England. Jonnu Smith is an excellent red-zone target, while Hunter Henry is a gritty, talented pass-catching target between the numbers.

Newton excelled in 2015 when he had Greg Olsen at his best; he could recapture some of that magic with these two players. Finally, the Patriots understand the potency of two-tight end sets and 21 personnel. With a big, physical runner at quarterback, it could unleash Newton’s ability as a runner.

Reason Three – Full Health

Cam Newton has not played an entire 16 game season since 2017. A myriad of different injuries and concussions have plagued him since his MVP campaign. Fortunately, Newton looked in good physical shape last year, and in the early phases of minicamp, no injury concerns have appeared.

Newton is a player that must play at full throttle to be at his best. Sadly, he hasn’t been at 100% so much of his career, and it’s affected his confidence and on-field play. If Newton can enter training camp healthy, he can start the season in the best condition since 2015.

Reason Four – The Running Game

The Patriots are committed to running the ball. The ground game is something that Bill Belichick wishes to establish. With their bevy of complementary backs, the Patriots will lean on the run a lot in 2021. Their offensive line ranked 10th in ESPN’s run block success rate metric, and they should be strong again. With an established running game, the playbook should open up for Newton.

His play-action game is still strong; New England could even use play-action, bootlegs or designed rollouts for Newton out of heavy personnel. Newton can thrive when throwing into good windows; a successful running game could do that for him. Finally, a running game can add Newton’s threat of running to the backfield, especially in the red zone.

Early MVP favorites from each skill position

By: Eli Grabanski

The MVP race is one of the most fun to watch in sports, as it leads to a lot of great debates throughout the season. In the 2018 NFL season, it was Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In 2019, it was Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Last year, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took home the crown. This article will look at the most likely player to win MVP at each of the key offensive skill positions – QB, RB, WR, and TE. Let’s dive in.

QB: Patrick Mahomes

The MVP of the NFL is almost always a quarterback. It makes sense since they are the leaders of the team and have the largest impact on each game. To be in the MVP conversation, a quarterback needs to put up efficient passing numbers and be on a winning team.

This is by far the toughest choice to pick a favorite of the skill positions since there are quite a few great options, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll go with the safest pick and say Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has had an incredible start to his career, completing 66% of his passes for 14152 passing yards (307.7 per game) and 114 touchdown passes (2.48 per game) in his first 46 starts. In addition, his team has consistently won since he’s been the starter, with the team going 38-8 in the regular season with him as their quarterback. He’s got a great supporting cast and coaching staff that make it easier for him to put up impressive numbers, and he’s also far enough removed from his previous MVP award (2018) for any semblance of ‘MVP voter fatigue’ to fade away. For all of these reasons, Mahomes should be the favorite to win the MVP award in 2021.

Other Notable Candidates: Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Ryan Tannehill

RB: Nick Chubb

Besides the quarterback position, the running back position has the next best shot at winning the prestigious NFL MVP award. To be the MVP as a running back, you usually have to put up 2000+ yards from scrimmage, play for a winning team, and have a strong narrative as to why you should win.

Based on these criteria, Nick Chubb seems like a phenomenal candidate to win the award. The Browns are slated to be one of the top contenders in the AFC after finishing 11-5 a year ago. The Browns are also a run-heavy team, with the team running the ball 495 times in 2020. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt are committed to running the ball, and running backs coach Stump Mitchell and offensive line coach Bill Callahan are among the best position coaches in the league. The Browns also have the #1 ranked offensive line according to PFF which should help open up running lanes for Nick Chubb to put up insane rushing numbers. All these situational factors, plus Nick Chubb’s elite ability to generate yards after contact and you have all the makings for a monster numbers year. Add in the narrative of the lowly Browns finally becoming a contender and you have the makings of a potential MVP season for Nick Chubb.

Other Notable Candidates: Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, Ezekiel Elliott, David Montgomery, Najee Harris, and Dalvin Cook

WR: Michael Thomas

For a wide receiver to win MVP, they need to be capable of putting up big numbers, play with multiple different quarterbacks (so the QB doesn’t take the award instead), and play on a winning team.

Of all the major wide receiver candidates for the MVP award, Michael Thomas probably has the best shot at this combination. The New Orleans Saints have a QB controversy going into the 2021 season, with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill fighting for the starting job. There’s a good chance that both make some starts at some point during the 2021 season. The Saints have been one of the best teams in the NFL in recent years and should be in the playoff mix once again. Lastly, Michael Thomas has shown the capability to put up massive receiving numbers in the past, including an insane 2019 season where he had 149 receptions on 185 targets for 1725 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He is absolutely capable of doing it again now that he’s healthy.

Other Notable Candidates: Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Calvin Ridley, Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Allen Robinson, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.K. Metcalf

TE: George Kittle

Realistically, a tight end doesn’t really have a shot for the MVP award. But just for fun, if a tight end were to win MVP in 2021, which would it be? Travis Kelce? Darren Waller? Kyle Pitts?

The tight end with the best shot to semi-realistically win MVP in 2021 would be George Kittle. Travis Kelce is capable of putting up huge numbers, but in any season where he’s an MVP candidate his quarterback, Patrick Mahomes likely is as well. Darren Waller is also capable of putting up big numbers, but there are concerns about his team winning enough games to be MVP.

Now look at George Kittle. Kittle is capable of putting up huge numbers like Kelce and Waller. His team is projected to make the playoffs. There’s a good chance that the 49ers play two different quarterbacks during the 2021 season considering they drafted Trey Lance 3rd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and they still have Jimmy Garoppolo on the roster – which means that the quarterback likely wouldn’t have the numbers to steal the award away from Kittle.

Other Notable Candidates: Darren Waller and Travis Kelce

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.

Three quarterbacks who could be surprise Week 1 starters

By: Chris Thomas

Now that the NFL is in the midst of their mandatory minicamps, quarterbacks competitions around the league have officially begun. Every year a couple of teams will have two (or three in rare cases) quarterbacks compete for the starting job. Quarterback competitions could be between two veterans, a veteran & a younger player, or an incumbent starter & a rookie. Every once in a while, a quarterback who many believe will lose the quarterback competition has a great camp and can be awarded the starting job.

There are a couple quarterbacks who may seem like long shots to win the starting quarterback job, but may end up being the Week One starter. Here are three quarterbacks who can surprise the league and be the Week One starter for their team.

Washington Football Team: Taylor Heinicke

The quarterback situation for the Washington Football team is not as open-and-shut as many believe it is. According to ESPN staff writer John Keim, Washington will still have a quarterback competition after signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year $10 million deal. The competition will be between Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, and Steven Montez.

After Fitzpatrick, the favorite to land the starting job is Taylor Heinicke. The former Old Dominion quarterback was back at school prepping for finals when Washington signed him to their practice squad. He was eventually promoted to the active roster and saw game action Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. He completed 12 of his 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in relief of Dwayne Haskins. Then when Alex Smith was ruled out for their playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Heinicke was named the team’s starting quarterback. During that game, he completed 26 of his 44 passing attempts for 306 yards and one passing touchdown. On top of that, he had six rushing attempts for 46 yards and a rushing touchdown. The most impressive part of that game was the fact that the Heinicke-led Washington team was within eight points of taking down the eventual Super Bowl champions in the first round.

After coming into the year as the team’s fourth quarterback last season he is the favorite to be the team’s backup behind Fitzpatrick. However, it wouldn’t be shocking if Heinicke was named the Week 1 starter. After his performance in the playoffs, the team has rallied around Heinicke. He also showed that he is capable of taking control of an NFL offense and will lay it all on the line for his team. If Heinicke outshines Fitzpatrick in training camp, he could be Washington’s starter Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Houston Texans: Davis Mills

The first draft selection of the Nick Caserio/David Culley era was former Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. Houston took Mills with the 67th overall pick in the third round. The selection was not a popular one because many thought Houston would have been better off taking a potential starter for another position of need with this selection over a project quarterback. But by selecting Mills in the first round the Texans administration feels that he could be their long-term starter and could even be their starter at this point this year. The Texans’ current quarterback room is made up of Mills, Tyrod Taylor, and Jeff Driskel. The belief is that former Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson will not play for the Houston Texans this season or ever again after his trade demands and his off-the-field concerns.

In a deep 2021 quarterback class Mills was considered a candidate to be the sixth quarterback drafted and the first one selected out of the first round. He ended up being the eighth quarterback drafted behind now-former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask who was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 64th overall and former Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the 66th overall pick. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Texans were prepared for select Mond with the 67th selection before Minnesota took him with the selection before.

Mills was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and the top quarterback coming out that year. However, Mills only had 11 career starts at Stanford. Mill redshirted his freshman year and only had two passing attempts his sophomore season. During his junior year, he completed 65.6% of his passes throwing for 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions in eight games. He took a slight leap forward during his senior year completing 66.2% of his passes throwing for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. Mills also had three rushing touchdowns during his senior year.

It isn’t certain that Mills will become the Texans quarterback of the future. It is very possible that the team takes a quarterback in the first round next year and Mills becomes a high-end backup. However, after taking Mills with a high selection the Texans must give him starting reps at some point this season. He was taken as high as he was because of his upside. If Mills shows why he was such a highly regarded high school recruit and has flashes of the upside Houston saw in his tape during training camp, he could easily supplant Tyrod Taylor as the team’s starting quarterback next season as early as Week 1.

Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Flacco

After the 2020-21 NFL season it was believed that the Philadelphia Eagles would have a quarterback competition between Carson Wentz and 2020 Second Round pick Jalen Hurts to determine the team’s starter for this upcoming season. But instead, Philadelphia decided to trade Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a package of draft picks. Even with Wentz off of the roster new head coach Nick Sirianni still wants to have a quarterback competition to determine the starter for this upcoming season. The veterans that Hurts will have to compete with for the starting job are recently signed former 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

It has felt like a long time since Joe Flacco was considered a borderline Pro Bowl quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Eight years has passed since Flacco won the Super Bowl MVP winning Super Bowl XLVII against the San Fransisco 49ers. Since that point Flacco had been very average and then was replaced by Lamar Jackson late in the 2018-19 season after a neck injury.

He was traded to the Denver Broncos the following season for a fourth-round pick. He went 2-6 in eight games for the Broncos completing 65.3% of his passes and throwing for 1,822 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. After injuring his neck Brandon Allen and 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock started the rest of the Broncos games that season.

Flacco was then released by Denver the next offseason and picked up by the New York Jets to be the backup to Sam Darnold. When Darnold missed four games due to a shoulder injury, Flacco played decently well as the starter. He completed 55.2% of his passes and throwing for 864 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions during that time.

After how Hurts played during his four starts last season it would be shocking if he was not the teams starting quarterback in year one. But if he has a rough camp and doesn’t show improvement in a new system with a healthy offense around him, Nick Sirianni may feel that the 13-year veteran may give them a better chance to win early on. It is important to note that Nick Sirianni has done a lot of more work with veteran pocket passers versus younger mobile quarterbacks like Hurts.

More backup QBs who can become starters later in the year

Minnesota Vikings: Kellen Mond

One of the biggest surprises of the 2021 NFL Draft was the Minnesota Vikings selecting Kellen Mond with the 66th selection in the third round. According to Mike Florio of ProFootball Talk, the Vikings were prepared to move up to the eighth overall selection to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to eventually replace Kirk Cousins as the team’s starting quarterback. That didn’t work out and Fields ended up with division rival Chicago Bears. So their plan B was the take Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the third round to potentially fill that void. Similar to Fields, Mond is a mobile quarterback that may be rawer than Fields but has the upside to become an NFL starting quarterback.

In 2016 the Dallas Cowboys did not land Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round and settled for Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round. It is fair to say that their plan B worked out for them extremely well. That is what Minnesota could hope for in Mond. If the Minnesota Vikings struggle early in the 2021-22 season, they could turn to Mond and see if he could potentially be the team’s long-term future at quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mason Rudolph/Dwayne Haskins

After the Pittsburgh Steelers crushing playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns the biggest question surrounding the team was how would the team be constructed and whether Ben Roethlisberger would return for another season. Roethlisberger decided to return for his 17th season after taking a pay cut. He is expected to be the team’s starter in Week 1, but at this point of his career, Roethlisberger may not be capable of competing at a high level for a 17 game regular season and potential postseason play. Pittsburgh may have to evaluate their options in the house and make the tough decision of replacing Roethlisberger midseason with one of the younger quarterbacks on their roster.

Their quarterback situation this season may be similar to what the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos’ was during the 2015-16 season. 2021 Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning only played in ten games during his finals season in Denver and was relieved by Brock Osweiler midway towards the season. But Manning returned as the team’s starter right before the playoffs and had enough in the tank to win the Super Bowl. That should be the blueprint for the Pittsburgh hopes to achieve this season with their aging quarterback and the younger quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart.

The battle for the backup job in Pittsburgh is between Mason Rudolph and 2019 first round pick Dwayne Haskins. Both have underachieved throughout their careers, but feel that they could be the Steelers long term option at quarterback if Roethlisberger decides to retire after this season. In 2019 Rudolph went 5-3 as a starter, but only threw for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Last season Rudolph threw for 324 yards two touchdowns, and an interception in five games (only one start).

Haskins spent his first two seasons in the league in Washington and was thrown in as the starter about midway through the season when he clearly wasn’t ready yet. In his first season, he went 2-5 as a starter, threw for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The following season new head coach Ron Rivera made it clear early on that Haskins would have to earn the starting job and showed signs of not believing in him long term. Due to the lack of depth in the quarterback room, Haskins was named the starter and started six games for Washington last season. He went 1-5 as a starter, threw for 1,439 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. After a photo leaked of Haskins breaking COVID-19 protocol and attending a party with strippers, he was stripped of captain and later released after a brutal start against Rivera’s former team the Carolina Panthers. This offseason he signed a futures contract with the Steelers.

An interesting transaction that occurred this offseason is that the Steelers did give Rudolph a one year extension after this season worth $5 million. That is a sign that they view him as the potential replacement for Roethlisberger long-term or is comfortable with him competing for the job with Haskins or a rookie next season. It would be hard to imagine one if not both of these quarterbacks getting a shot at being the teams starting quarterback for a couple games this season to preview what their quarterback situation could look like next season and beyond.

3 underrated offseason moves by the New York Giants

By: Daniel Racz

Introduction 

The New York Giants are entering a make-or-break year for many within the organization. Quarterback Daniel Jones is entering the vaunted third year leading the franchise, and many are doubting whether he will earn a second contract. This offseason general manager Dave Gettleman, who himself is on the hot seat, gave Jones a supporting cast through the offseason and draft. Big Blue broke the bank to add ex-Lion wideout Kenny Golladay and spent the 20th pick in the draft, acquired from Chicago in Dave’s first trade-down, on Florida playmaker Kadarius Toney. During free agency, the Giants also added tight end, Kyle Rudolph, on a two-year contract. The Giants decided to not add to their offensive line, instead choosing to rely on past investments.

On the defensive side of the football, the Giants did not make any super splashy moves. The team re-signed defensive lineman Leonard Williams while letting interior presence Dalvin Tomlinson sign with the Vikings. The Giants added a collection of bodies to their front seven with the hope to remain an above-average defense. In regards to their secondary, the Giants drafted UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson in round three and gave a three-year, 39-million-dollar contract to Adoree’ Jackson. The Giants made waves when they signed Jackson, Golladay, and Rudolph, but other moves deserve recognition. 

Gaining future capital

Before the draft, media personalities were saying “There will be right turns in NASCAR before Dave Gettleman trades back.” In his first seven drafts for the Giants and Panthers, Gettleman had never traded back. However, within the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, Gettleman moved back twice. Some even started calling him “Trader Dave” given his newfound affinity for defraying risk through moving down the draft board and acquiring 2022 draft picks. The Giants were rumored to be in love with Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith. However, when the Eagles traded up ahead of the Giants for Smith, the Giants pivoted.

The Giants moved down from pick 11 to pick 20, acquiring a 2021 5th round pick and 2022 1st & 4th round picks in the process. 

During the second round of the draft, the Giants were on the clock at 42. First-round caliber pass rusher Azeez Ojulari was on the board, yet the Giants moved down to 50, taking Miami’s 2022 3rd round pick to do so. At 50, Ojulari was still on the board, so the Giants rushed their card in to make him a Giant. 

The Giants exited the draft with extra first, third, and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft. Gettleman managed to add players that can help the Giants compete for a 2021 playoff spot while also having sustained success. If the Giants do not have a winning record in 2021, Gettleman (and possibly Daniel Jones) will be out of a job, but the team will have plenty of assets to move up the board in 2022. Quarterbacks like Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, Carson Strong, and Malik Willis will be in play for the Giants if Jones does not pan out, and that extra first-round pick will come in handy. 

Trusting their in-house offensive lineman

The New York Giants offensive line has been putrid for the better half of a decade. When Dave Gettleman took over, he promised that he would fix the offensive line. The results have not been promising. Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round pick, is in the final year of his rookie contract. Nate Solder is a free agent after the 2021 season following a re-working of his contract. New York brings back another lineman Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, and Shane Lemieux. Their group did not play well in 2020, but there are plenty of excuses that can be made. The team came off a limited offseason and had to learn offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s new scheme. During the year, Joe Judge fired their offensive line coach. Once Judge relieved Marc Colombo of his role with the franchise, the group played better.

The Giants hired former Louisiana offensive coordinator and line coach Rob Sale to mentor their hog mollies. Sale has gotten rave reviews from the Giants camp so far this offseason, giving fans a reason to expect improvement. The Giants have reiterated that they have confidence in their young unit. While the group has not come together yet, this will be their first complete offseason together in the Judge regime. If the young, affordable unit plays at a close to league average level, it could catapult the team into the playoffs.

Adding front seven depth

The New York Giants’ 2020 defense was a revelation. The success came from new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his innovative multiple schemes. Graham’s scheme relies on moving defensive lineman, disguising blitzes, and man defense. Last season Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence were the top two pass rushers on Big Blue’s defense. While both return and likely retain their roles as the key disruptors, there are now a plethora of players around them. 

Edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines both return from injuries that cost them the majority of their 2020 seasons. The Giants also added Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari and Northern Iowa edge player Ellerson Smith during rounds two and four of the draft, respectively. In free agency, the Giants signed depth rushers Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson to round out the group.  On the interior, the Giants brought back Austin Johnson and added nose tackle, Danny Shelton. To stabilize their linebacker group, the Giants signed Reggie Ragland. None of these individual moves likely move the needle, but the collection will make an impact. The Giants’ edge presence was lacking last year, mainly due to the absence of Carter and Ximines.

The Giants defense was a top ten unit last season, and to improve the unit the Giants quietly added a handful of players that will see meaningful snaps during the season. The edge rush presence will allow Pat Graham to drop more players into coverage when necessary and still feel confident that his group will pressure the quarterback enough. The Giants’ defense does not have to be a top three-unit, but if they want to sniff the playoffs they must have an above-average group.

Does Ryan Tannehill have a real shot at winning MVP?

By: Will Baptist

The Tennessee Titans are much-improved heading into Ryan Tannehill’s third season under center. They had a successful offseason, making multiple splashes via free agency and through a blockbuster trade. They now have the pieces in place to make a deep run in the postseason, and Tannehill has a legitimate chance to win the MVP award in 2021.

The Titans have a three-headed monster on offense after their trade for Julio Jones. A.J. Brown paired with Jones will be one of the best WR duos in the NFL, along with arguably the best RB in the NFL, Derrick Henry. This could be the most physically imposing offense in the NFL, and Tannehill should be able to torch opposing defenses with the weapons he has in place.

The Titans will also get back their star LT Taylor Lewan, who suffered a torn ACL in week 5 last season. The stars are aligning for Tannehill to have a dominant season in Tennessee, and with how effective and efficient he has been through his first two years, he should be able to make another leap in 2021.

Tannehill’s career thus far

Tannehill’s career has been rejuvenated in Tennessee, after six disappointing seasons with the Miami Dolphins. After being selected eighth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, Tannehill was the starter from day one in Miami. He never had much success with the Dolphins, partly because he had a poor coaching staff from the day he arrived, and because they never surrounded him with the type of talent that he has with the Titans.

The best season he had during his tenure in Miami was 2014. The Dolphins went 8-8, but Tannehill showed real improvement, completing 66.4% of his passes for 4,045 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His improvement earned him a new contract after the 2014 season, signing a six-year $96 million extension. It looked like Tannehill was on his way to being their franchise quarterback for years to come.

He went on to have three up-and-down seasons after his extension, and the Dolphins could never surround him with the right talent. After Adam Gase became the Dolphins head coach in 2016, Tannehill and Gase were never on the same page, and the blame was put on Tannehill.

In 2018, Tannehill struggled with a shoulder injury, and only played 11 games. He finished the season completing 64.2% of his passes for 1,979 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It became clear that Tannehill needed a fresh start after never coming into his own and struggling with injuries for his last two seasons in Miami.

Tannehill’s career as a starting QB was in jeopardy, even though he was still relatively young. Along came the Tennessee Titans who traded a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick for Tannehill and a sixth-round pick. After the trade was completed, he agreed to a one-year deal worth $7 million, with up to $12 million in incentives.

He was the backup for Marcus Mariota when he arrived, but in week 6 of the 2019 season, Tannehill replaced a struggling Mariota at halftime and took over as the starting QB. The Titans lost 16-0 against the Broncos, but Tannehill showed promise. He went 13-16 for 144 passing yards and an interception.

After being named the starting QB moving forward, Tannehill never looked back. He propelled the Titans to a 7-3 record to finish the regular season, and was one of the most efficient QBs in the NFL. His strong finish led the Titans to the playoffs, where they beat the Patriots and the Ravens, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship.

He completed 70.3% of his passes for 2,742 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2019. He led the NFL in passer rating, earned his first Pro Bowl selection, and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

It became clear Tannehill was part of the future after the 2019 season. He inked a new contract extension in the offseason for four years’ worth up to $118 million, with $62 million guaranteed. Tannehill had another stellar season in 2020, completing 65.5% of his passes for 3,819 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Tannehill has redefined himself, becoming an extremely accurate and decisive QB. He is extremely mobile, and is the perfect QB to pair with Henry in the backfield. He will look to build off his last two seasons and become even more lethal in the passing game in 2021.

Titans new Offensive Coordinator

The Titans had to find a new offensive coordinator after Arthur Smith departed and became the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. This happened in 2018 as well, when OC Matt LaFleur left the Titans and became the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

The Titans believe in promoting within, and they did just that when they named Todd Downing their new OC. Downing was hired as the tight ends coach in 2019, and worked with Smith and already has an understanding of the personnel in place. Head coach Mike Vrabel praised Downing throughout the offseason, and he seems like a perfect fit to run this offense.

In Tannehill’s third season with the Titans, he will be on his second offensive coordinator. The offense will not change drastically and Tannehill will not have to learn new vernacular. This should not be an issue for a veteran such as Tannehill, especially under Vrabel’s leadership.

Smith did an excellent job in Tennessee, and Atlanta was one of the many teams attempting to hire him as a head coach. It will not be an easy task to replace such a talented play-caller, but Downing will not make any massive changes to their run heavy offense, and he can now put his twist on the offense.

Downing was the OC with the Oakland Raiders in 2017, which bodes well for him moving forward considering he has prior experience holding that position. With the plethora of talent that Downing has at his disposal, it should be an exciting season for the Tennessee Titans offense.

Breakdown of adding Julio Jones

After the Titans lost their WR2 Corey Davis in free agency, they had a massive hole. They did bring in Josh Reynolds from the Rams through free agency, who is a talented WR, but not a huge threat. It seemed they were satisfied with Reynolds becoming the second option to Brown, until the breaking news was announced on June 6.

Jones and a sixth-round pick was sent to the Titans for a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Saying that this trade fills the need at WR for the Titans is an understatement. Jones is one of the most dynamic and electric WRs in the NFL, and has been since 2011.

Jones has 848 career catches, 12,896 receiving yards and 81 touchdowns. His versatility will prove to be just want the Titans need to take their offense to the next level. He can line up all over the field and take any catch to the end zone.

Jones is going to walk into the Hall of Fame whenever he retires, but he seems determined to show that will not be retiring any time soon. The 7x Pro Bowler battled injuries throughout the 2020 season, and only appeared in nine games. Prior to that season, Jones only suffered minor injuries, and only missed more than two games twice, back in 2013 and 2011 (his rookie season).

He is 32 years old, which by NFL standards is fairly old, but Jones is one of the most athletically gifted talents that the NFL has ever seen. Jones and Brown will be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to game plan around, and they are two of the most physical WRs in the league.

Tannehill has never had a weapon like Jones, and even though the offense is run through Henry, the Titans now have the firepower to score with anyone. When opposing teams stuff the box in order to stop Henry, Tannehill can fire it overtop to Jones or Brown with ease.

2021 season outlook

Tannehill has all the pieces in place to terrorize opposing defenses and win the MVP award. This offense has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL if Tannehill can continue to improve. He already has the efficiency, and if the Titans look to throw the ball down the field more due to the addition of Jones, then Tannehill could put up monster numbers.

The Titans division is weak outside of the Indianapolis Colts, which puts them in a perfect position to win lots of games. The Houston Texans are in disarray and the Jacksonville Jaguars have a rookie QB and rookie head coach. They both have awful defenses, which is four games on the schedule for Tannehill to light it up.

The Titans are much improved on defense as well, and if they can win 12 or 13 games this season, then Tannehill should be in the discussion for MVP without question, assuming he improves his numbers from last season.

Dynasty Power: a guide on how to win in Dynasty Fantasy Football

A List of Tricks for Both New and Experienced Dynasty Fantasy Football Players

By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)

Fantasy football has been a major part of the NFL fan base for years. In 1962, a then part-owner of the Oakland Raiders, Bill Winkenbach, and a group of his friends gathered to create the first documented fantasy football league: The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League (or GOPPPL, for short). Then there was the idea of selecting players in a fantasy “draft” and using their weekly performances and statistics to compete against one another.

While many rules and ideas have changed since then, the general idea remains the same. A group of players will draft their own rosters and use the weekly statistics compiled by each player to compete against others for bragging rights or, in some cases, even money. It entices so many people to play through its combination of a player’s skill, such as knowing who’s in a good spot to give the team good numbers, and some luck, as can be seen by the rates of booms and busts in any given week.

Today, there are many different styles of fantasy football. Of course, there is still the basic redraft format, in which a team is drafted yearly and competes in either a standard or PPR (Points-Per-Reception) league (or any other weird scoring rules the league comes up with) and competing weekly for a chance to make the playoffs and win said league.

However, there are also many other types of leagues that might pique a player’s interest. For example, some players enjoy what is known as Best-Ball, in which a team drafts a full roster and only the top weekly scorers count, putting an emphasis on drafting more boom-bust players. Others enjoy IDP leagues, in which, instead of taking offensive players, the owners take defensive players and gain points through defensive statistics such as sacks, tackles, and interceptions. Another popular style is the Auction league, in which a team is drafted on a set budget rather than through a snake-style draft.

However, one of the biggest non-redraft league types today is Dynasty fantasy football. This type of league is more focused on the most devoted fantasy footballers, as rather than bringing in a new team every year, the player is tasked with drafting their initial roster in year one and keeping that team for the rest of the duration of the league, only drafting rookies in the following off-seasons rather than a new team. While a popular branch of fantasy football, Dynasty requires the attention of the owner almost year-round, rather than just during the season, meaning it takes a lot more dedication than any other type of league.

While it is a difficult style of the league to learn, focusing more on youth, long-term outlooks, and college scouting over yearly upside, it isn’t impossible to win. After playing dynasty fantasy football for five years now, I’ve found many tips and tricks that have helped me on my way to winning a total of 12 championship trophies in that time! By no means am I the best out there, but I am willing to share many of the secrets and tricks I have learned through the years on how to be a successful dynasty fantasy football owner! Let’s check them out!

Getting Started

Finding a League

The first and most important step of getting into dynasty fantasy football is figuring out where to start. What does that mean? Well, for starters, you need to find a group to play with. Sometimes, this part is already finished, as you and a group of your friends have decided to get a league going together. Other times, you won’t have anybody you know, but still want to play. When that happens, I suggest finding a forum somewhere to look for potential matches. You can find these groups anywhere, but one of the best places to look is through Facebook groups related to fantasy football. Another popular source to find a league is Twitter, though it might take more digging.

Once you’ve found your league and have your league-mates ready, the next step is figuring out how/where you will be playing. By this, I mean where you will be hosting your league. One of the most popular places for hosting dynasty leagues currently is Sleeper.com, and I would suggest that being a good place to start as they cover these leagues in more depth and allow a chatroom among league-mates that can be easily accessed. If you aren’t a fan, however, there are many other places online where you can find the tools necessary to begin your league. Once you have all of this figured out, you can move on to how you want to run everything.

Setup

Once you have a group together and are ready to begin your league, it’s important to discuss the league’s make-up. Start by figuring out a draft time, as you need to know when the league will be available to make a selection. You should also figure out selection time limits, such as if you want a quick draft (under 5 minutes per pick) or a long draft (over an hour to pick). For new players, I suggest a longer draft, as it allows more freedom and more time overall to research what you should do. However, it is important to not get frustrated at the amount of time between picks, as it can take days or even weeks to finish everything, depending on the sizes of the bench.

Speaking of the bench, one of the bigger differences between a dynasty league and a redraft league, aside from keeping a team for more than one season, is the size of the bench. In many leagues, benches consist of anywhere from 10-20 players, meaning the overall draft could be as much as 30 rounds long in the first year. This means that a player should put more research into “sleepers” who can potentially have major breakout seasons, as these could mean the difference between missing and making the playoffs in a given season.

Aside from that, it’s also important to nail down the leagues scoring settings and starting slots. Will you have a PPR or Standard league? Will you award four or six points per passing touchdown? How about bonus points for receptions by a tight end? How many flex spots will be available in the starting lineup? Will there be a super-flex* slot?

(*=Super-flex is similar to a normal flex spot, except it can also hold a second quarterback in the starting lineup)

After you’ve figured all of the league’s settings out, it’s time to move ahead to the draft, where I will begin giving some tips and pointers for success!

The Draft

The initial draft of your dynasty league is the most important time of them all. Why? Because if you mess up here, you’ll be feeling the effects of that spoof years later. Unlike in a redraft setting, you can’t just start from scratch and try again next season. You must find a way to overcome the mistake and improve your roster later, and that can take time and effort and, in a league with money involved, could cause you to lose out on some cash.

However, there is no perfect way to draft in order to avoid this. Every drafting system has its flaws, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore these systems altogether. What are the systems, though? Occasionally, you might hear mention of a draft strategy known as “Zero Running Back”, or “Zero-RB” for short. This strategy, which is also used in redraft leagues, focuses on the selection of receivers, quarterbacks, and tight ends early in the draft, while avoiding taking a running back until at least the fifth or sixth rounds. This strategy, along with others such as its polar opposite in Heavy-RB, Zero-WR, and just the basic BPA (Best Player Available) strategy, are all decent ways to fill out a team.

Which strategy should you choose? Well, there is no wrong answer here. Each of these styles of drafting works well to an extent, so it’s entirely up to your personal preference to figure out what you want to do. If I were to choose one strategy for beginners, which is the one I use, I would go with the Heavy-RB strategy, where you draft 3-4 running backs early, as the position is largely top-heavy compared to the receiver position. That means that getting a couple young star running backs could set you up for years at a position where the numbers drop off significantly after the top handful of players.

However, while these strategies are good to get you through your first few rounds and fill out your starting lineup, it isn’t until the later rounds that the champions are “crowned”. You might not find out right away, but a player you might draft in the 15th round could be the one who blows up in the final few weeks of the regular season and propels you through your playoffs. That is why you will hear everywhere that, after the initial ten rounds of the draft, it’s important to start drafting for upside rather than safety. It may seem nice to have a player you trust to get you a definite number of points per week on the bench, but that player will be unlikely to ever see the starting rotation regardless, considering that you might find a better option on the waivers in a given week or draft a player that breaks out in the late rounds. That is why it is important to push for the upside plays, as that is what takes good teams to the next level.

Another fun part of the draft comes in the form of trading. Now, there might be a few redraft leagues out there where draft picks can be traded, but the majority of these instances come in dynasty leagues. As a beginner, I would suggest avoiding trading during the draft for your first time, as the difference between dynasty leagues and other leagues is significant, so being able to keep your draft similar to how you would in an everyday redraft league where you take players at each of your slots helps to simplify the draft in general and leave you room to focus on your first season.

Overall, to give some suggestions for the draft, the best advice I can offer is to ask for help from experienced players. The vast majority of the dynasty community are very helpful and are always willing to teach a new player the ropes. Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of them to ask for advice on who to draft and what to do, as the advice of an experienced player goes a long way when it comes to early success.

Decide upon a Strategy

Picking a strategy for your team early on is instrumental to figuring out where you want your team to go. For example, not every team can be a contender from the get-go. If you can decide early in your season that you won’t be contending, it might be in your best interest to blow it up early. Keep in mind, teams are kept together year after year, so keeping in the middle of the pack isn’t where you want to be.

If you can’t trade for a few top talents that you think can push you to the top, then your best bet might just be to start from scratch. What I mean by that is to trade away some of your top assets in order to acquire new assets that are improving in value, such as rookie picks. Say you’re in week five of your first season and already know you will be missing the playoffs. You might want to trade for some rookie draft picks while they are relatively cheap early in the season, as the values of these picks skyrocket come the off-season, when everyone is looking at the NFL draft and hoping for great players.

Now whether you use those picks to take rookies of your own to improve your roster or package them together to make deals for top tier talents is up to you. It’s just important at this stage that you aren’t stuck. With picks and assets available, you have a path to a successful future, rather than being stuck in “purgatory” for the next few seasons until you have enough time to reset your roster and try to push again. Being on the bottom of the league isn’t as bad of a place to be as it seems.

However, if you are like me and want to be a yearly competitor, rather than trading your older assets for young improving ones, you might look to acquire cheaper veterans that can help you contend instantly. For example, a 29-year-old Robert Woods is currently being drafted as the WR32 in dynasty leagues on Sleeper.com, despite finishing in the top-15 in PPR leagues in each of the past three seasons and the team improving at the quarterback position this off-season. While Woods might not be the best long-term investment, he’s certainly a player capable of helping your team win a championship for the next couple of years.

The biggest thing you should take from this section, however, is to just find a direction and stick with it. Each season, you should be in one of two categories: Contending or rebuilding. If you can’t definitively say that you are in one of these two categories, it might be time to start from scratch!

How to Handle Rookies

I’m dedicating an entire section to rookies in dynasty fantasy football, as they are a crucial part of your yearly success. Drafting a good rookie who blows up could take your team to the next level, giving you stability for the long term at a position of need. Youth in general has a major emphasis placed on it in dynasty fantasy football, but there are things you must be aware of.

First and foremost, you should not overvalue rookies and rookie picks. In general, in a 12-man league, only around half of your top-12 rookie picks will end up panning out as you expect them to. That means that half of the time, you’re likely to have a pick bust and end up regretting the selection. Now, with time, it is possible to improve on this number, but early on, the best suggestion I can give is to try to compete with veterans and non-rookie talents as you learn how the league works. Another helpful suggestion, which is more time consuming, is to get into watching college film on players and get into the NFL draft more, as learning more about the players here helps to better project players in the long term.

While I’m not saying to stay away from rookies entirely, you need to understand that many dynasty players have an extremely high emphasis on them, and you can get great value at times for players who might not pan out. Will you regret some trades? Certainly. But everyone in the dynasty community has made a bad trade they can tell you about, so don’t let that scare you off from doing more in the future.

Thoughts from Twitter:

This week, I asked the dynasty twitter community for some of their best tips for dynasty beginners, and here’s what they came up with (Paraphrasing some)!

Rookies:

“Find someone you trust (Podcaster/Content Creator) who can help analyze upcoming rookie classes.” (@DynastyMad)

“Don’t assume rookie picks will be early or late. Anything can happen.” (@W3stron)

“Homework never stops between trade values and prospects.” (@holykodiak)

Trading:

“Consider your team’s needs not just for now, but for the future.” (@AmIJasonAscher)

“Never buy a player after a “hype piece” of news drops.” (@BaskinFF)

“Establishing good trade relationships is more important than “winning” every trade.” (@trashsandwiches)

“Buy-low on injured talents right after the injury for a discount.” (@dynoNFL)

“Learn the trade market for players and draft picks.” (@Toddzilla1337)

Drafting:

“Draft for the best value at a slot. Don’t reach.” (@LobosFFDen)

“After the fifth round, draft all for upside.” (@ElvinRyan_FF)

Other ideas:

“Hold onto players you believe in.” (@OnlyFantasyFB)

“Get to know your league-mates. Leagues that communicate last longer.” (@ff_johnj)

“Keep up to date with interactions (trades, draft) so you can find trends.” (@Markradwan)

“Understand your leagues settings and how it affects player rankings.” (@vandygrad92)

“You are going to make mistakes in the beginning and that’s ok.” (@TheHQNerd)

“Always keep TNF players out of the Flex!!” (@JasonWVanBuren)

“Don’t hesitate to ask for help.” (@barret_zackery)

Closing Thoughts

Dynasty fantasy football is one of the most entertaining forms of fantasy football out there. From keeping track of the league year-round to drafting rookies and making moves, to rebuilding a roster from scratch, nothing quite meets the level of intensity and fun of a good dynasty league. I really hope these suggestions above can help you move forward, and that you can enjoy a successful dynasty career ahead of you!

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