3 darkhorse Super Bowl contenders in the NFC

Never doubt Kyle Shanahan

By: Jake Rajala

The main glory and spotlight in the NFC undoubtedly rest with the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Los Angeles Rams. Well, there may be a few more Prometheus-like ball clubs. After all, the NFC conference is reputed for holding “all of the cream of the crop NFL teams” in the National Football League.

Truly, the NFC holds many juggernaut teams and the playoff gauntlet in the National Football Conference will surely be a joy to witness this new year. Nonetheless, there are a few unheralded squads that compose an upset victory and even make some serious noise in each playoff dance. Furthermore, there have and always will be a few sleeper teams that unveil an enormous victory in February and come out with the prized Lombardi trophy. With that being said, I’m going to untwine a few teams that pose a real chance to go through the valley of death and come out with the ark.

  • San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers currently hold a playoff seed, a fruitful record, and have one of the Top 3 play-callers in all of the NFL in Kyle Shanahan. SF may carry a brutal upcoming schedule, but they have a significantly more healthy roster than New Orleans. The 49ers play at a motivated Russell Wilson-led Seattle team, at Cincinnati, home against an improved Falcons team, and then they play at Tennesee. It would seem very likely that they can at least carry a .500 record coming out of that four stretch.

The All-Pro TE George Kittle has had two touchdowns in the past three weeks, but he hasn’t quite been the prospect that was once “Pro Football Focus’s top overall player”. They will desperately need to get Kittle ignited, especially with Deebo Samuel, Dee Ford, and Fred Warner not on the field in this upcoming week. Kyle Shanahan, aka Shanny, will need to unleash every chess move against a divisional opponent that is 2-7 against him all time.

  • New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints were slept on with Jameis Winston and now they have been officially buried by countless analysts and fans. Still, I hold hope for the Saints team that just lost with Taysom Hill to the Dallas Cowboys.

Here is a powerful stat for your Friday morning:

Sean Payton is 13-8 without Drew Brees over the past four seasons and “four of the losses were with Trevor Siemian”. So, the offensive whiz is actually 13-4 excluding Siemian at QB.

Saints really have a modest and talented profile with Taysom Hill at QB (even with the thumb injury). If Payton was more conservative with Hill by using his rushing ability in the opponent’s territory, there would have been a few fewer turnovers. Hill’s experience as QB1 and talent is evident with his 4-2 record as the Saints starting QB. Most importantly, the Saints hold a DEFENSE that carries elite players across the board. It’s a coin toss if Marcus Davenport will be healthy and on the field late in the season. Still, the Saints have arguably the top linebacker in the NFL in Demario Davis and an elite WR1 eraser in Marshon Lattimore. The Saints CB1 from Ohio State was the star for the Saints when they won a playoff dogfight against the Nick Foles-led Eagles in 2019. The revamped, potentially Alvin Kamara-led Saints team could absolutely give any team (especially the Bucs) a tough duel late in this season.

The Saints were missing their starting QB, RB, WR, LT, RT, TE, and they gave a very talented Dallas team a tough fight throughout most of the game. Try to navigate through the memes of Taysom Hill and know Hill, a more sync team, an easier schedule, and likely a healthy Alvin Kamara can be in reach of a .500 record and a playoff seed.

  • Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons undeniably have the most talented signal-caller among this three-piece of NFC darkhorse Super Bowl contenders. Matt Ryan’s hungry Falcon team standing at 5-6 also carries a slightly favorable upcoming schedule. The once 4-4 team got embarrassed in back-to-back matchups against the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots, before showing signs of life with a victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Looking ahead, the Falcons have a truly tough test against the Bucs (who will be missing Mike Evans and Antonio Brown), a date with the Panthers, 49ers, Lions, Bills, and the Saints (who they beat once already).

I would expect the Falcons to get a victory against the Panthers (split games on the season), knock off the Lions, upset the 49ers, then take Ls against the Bucs and hot Bills. The Week 17 showdown between the Falcons and the Saints could be a “win and in” game for either NFC hopeful. I expect the “Taysom Hill led” Saints squad to get revenge from their previous loss against Matt Ryan, win the second showdown, and Hill to win his third straight matchup against ATL.

The 49ers just can’t fall off a cliff and let NO, ATL, CAR, or MN creep back in.

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles may have lost a tough divisional game against Big Blue, but don’t forget about their two blowout victories against the stingy Denver Broncos and sneaky competitive New Orleans Saints. A healthy Miles Sanders can create waves of momentum for Jalen Hurts and rookie DeVonta Smith. I don’t foresee talent or creative minds in their organization that can go the distance in January, but they can certainly get in if Jalen Hurts stays off the roller coaster.

The Washington Football team has been trending in the opposite direction of the likes of the Saints, but I don’t foresee their 18th ranked defense complemented by Kyle Allen squeezing by Arizona, Green Bay, and Los Angeles. They are incredibly well-coached, sound, but I don’t believe they have the same stability as SF or the same ceiling as NO. I trust Matt Ryan in indefinite big moments versus a shaky QB situation in Washington.

Deep Fantasy Football Stashes for Week 13

Keep an eye out for Gardner Minshew

By: Malcolm McMillan

This week the three players are more likely to be relevant. In fact, one player is a potential FLEX option rest-of-season, who is still available in nearly 60% of all Sleeper dynasty fantasy football leagues. That an NFL team’s starting running back is still so widely available is an unexpected surprise this late in the season, but it is also the truth. Read below to see who it is.

Gardner Minshew II: QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts’ status for Week 13 is currently up in the air, but if the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback is out, then Gardner Minshew is the next man up. If Minshew gets the start, he immediately becomes a streaming quarterback option in 1 QB leagues, and a FLEX in Super Flex leagues. Why? Well, because he gets to play the New York Jets, who are awful. So in 1 QB leagues fantasy football managers would be wise to stash him now, and then cut him on Sunday morning if Hurts gets the start. Same with those in redraft Super Flex leagues. Minshew is not worth stashing in those situations due to the Eagles Week 14 bye.

In dynasty Super Flex leagues though, it may be worth it to hold Minshew until next season. The former Jaguars starter was pretty good last year before the Week 8 bye. Through seven weeks in 2020, Minshew was QB12 overall and QB16 in points per game (PPG). In 1 QB dynasty leagues that may not be worth using a roster spot for, but in Super Flex leagues those 19.34 PPG in a FLEX spot matter. The 2022 NFL draft class is not the deepest at quarterback, and an NFL team may want to start Minshew for a year rather than reach for a rookie quarterback if they miss on a big free agent/trade target like Aaron Rodgers. Stash Minshew until the free agency carrousel wraps up in the offseason, and then cut him if he is still a backup.

Kene Nwangwu: RB, Minnesota Vikings

Picking up Kene Nwangwu could ultimately be a total bust for fantasy football managers. However, if he sees time with Dalvin Cook out, the Minnesota Vikings rookie backup running back could return a nice return on investment. Of course, the main hurdle will be getting around Alexander Mattison, who is ahead of Nwangwu on the Vikings depth chart.

The argument for Mattison: Mattison is ahead of Nwangwu on the depth chart (as previously mentioned). He has filled in for Cook on several occasions, mostly doing well with the opportunity. He also has one more year on his contract, so Minnesota may want to see what they have with him in case they need to rely on him in 2022 (due to injuries for Cook or Cook’s potential legal trouble), or even want Mattison to replace Cook in 2023 (the Vikings have a potential out in Cook’s contract in 2023).

The argument for Nwangwu: Mattison’s athletic measurables are nowhere near Nwangwu’s athletic measurables. They are both 23, both former middle round picks (Mattison in the third and Nwangwu in the fourth) but Nwangwu is under contract for two years more than Mattison. Finally, when Nwangwu has touched the ball he has been explosive. He is currently averaging eight rushing yards per attempt, 41.25 yards per kick return and a touchdown every four kick returns. Are those numbers sustainable? Of course not, but they highlight an explosive ability that Minnesota may shift to if Mattison struggles as the fill-in starter these next two weeks. All it would take is one big game from Nwangwu for dynasty fantasy football managers to trade a waiver pickup for draft capital.

Rex Burkhead: RB, Houston Texans

Remember in the introduction when it was mentioned that an NFL starting running back was still available in free agent pools? Well, wait no longer, because that running back is Rex Burkhead, who may shockingly be the Houston Texans starting running back for the rest of the 2021 season. Yes, Burkhead is 31, which is ancient for a running back, let alone in dynasty fantasy football. However, sometimes fantasy football managers need a win now rental, and Burkhead is an excellent candidate for that. The past two weeks he has seen over 15 opportunities per game, and his snap count went from 42% of offensive snaps and 24% of special teams snaps in Week 11 to 61% and 0% respectively in Week 12. Typically, that trend indicates the team needs the player more on offense and does not want them out there to get hurt on special teams.

Again, it is understandable for fantasy football managers not to want Burkhead on their rosters, especially in dynasty leagues. But with his work increasing and an excellent Week 14 matchup coming up, Burkhead is worth stashing on a roster.

Patriots vs Bills Preview: Is This The Start Of A New Rivalry?

Why the Patriots vs Bills contest has an exciting tease

By: Andy Davies

The Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football in one of the most hotly anticipated games of the season. 

With a combined 15-8 record and one win between them and still two games to play against each other, there is a lot at stake in this game. 

In a battle for the AFC East crown and the number one seed, is this the start of a new rivalry in the NFL? 

Head Coaching Excellence

Both these teams are helped by excellent head coaches. Bill Belichick is widely seen as the greatest head coach of all time and Sean McDermott is one of the best young head coaches around. 

One thing a team needs to succeed is strong and reliable head coaching. This will ensure both teams will be competitive for years to come. 

Since arriving in 2017, Sean McDermott guided the Bills to their first playoff appearance since the 1999 campaign and also their first playoff wins since the 1995 season when they went all the way to the AFC Championship game earlier this year.

Belichick is proving, with their 8-4 record so far, that he can more than cope without Tom Brady. Their defense looks far better than it did last season, without the injuries and opt-outs suffered in 2020. Running back Damien Harris has 643 yards and 8 touchdowns to his name. They also have a new rookie QB that has massively impressed during his first-ever NFL season.

QB Battle 

Mac Jones was drafted fifteenth overall by the Patriots in this year’s draft. He was expected to be the backup to Cam Newton, but the former MVP was cut before the start of the season, leading the way for Mac to be the starter in New England. So far, he has 2,850 yards, 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in the 12 games so far this campaign. This has him projected to end the season with 4,038 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Not bad for a rookie. 

He looks composed in the pocket, with a tremendous amount of confidence on the field for someone so new to the league. 

His rookie season has gone a lot better than Josh Allen’s did. The Bills QB had a troublesome first two seasons that led to many questions from outsiders looking in as well as the NFL media. He proved himself last season, with a brilliant campaign as the Bills went the furthest, they have been in the playoffs since the 1993 season. He threw for 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This season, he has thrown for 3,071 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 picks

He also knows how to use his feet, with 8 rushing touchdowns and 421 rushing yards in 2020. He is also the team’s second leading rusher so far in the 2021 season, with 383 yards and 3 touchdowns

This is going to be a very exciting QB battle, between two young quarterbacks that are going to be great for a number of years. Whilst Allen is the more experienced and completed player, Mac Jones has that swagger that not a lot of young players have in the position. It is harsh for Mac more than anyone else to make the comparison to Brady, but he does look like a young version of TB12. 

A Wide Open AFC

The AFC is wide open this year. The NFC has five teams that everyone knows is good whereas no one knows who is good in the AFC. Everyone is beating each other, and suffering shock defeats in the process.

New England have hit form at the right time, with a current six game winning streak that has seen them go from 2-4 to 8-4. Meanwhile, the Bills’ inconsistent past few weeks has allowed their division rivals to creep up the table. The run game has been poor, and teams have been much more able to stop Stefon Diggs, despite the stats telling you otherwise. The defense has made a step up, which will help Bills if they are to make the postseason. 

There is just two wins separating the number one seed Baltimore Ravens and the seventh seed Los Angeles Chargers. Both the Pats and Bills will be optimistic that they can still secure both the AFC East and the top seed in the AFC. This adds more importance onto the game on Monday Night Football as well as their week 16 matchup. 

Game Prediction

This game is going to be tight and tense. Defensively wise, the Bills have allowed the least yards per game, with the Patriots in fourth. Buffalo are also top of the league in passing yards allowed (1,964) whereas the Pats are in seventh (2,411). Buffalo are also fifth in total rushing yards allowed (1,063), with New England in the lowly position of 25th (1,389). This has to be where the Bills capitalise. Whether this be lead rusher Devin Singletary or Josh Allen, this will be the way to beat New England. 

No team has allowed fewer total points in the league this season than Buffalo (1st) and New England (2nd). Despite the Patriots’ poor run defense this season, they have managed to stop teams getting many points, which is a credit to their redzone defense. New England’s 48.39% is only topped by the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints, with the Bills in seventh (51.61%)

If New England can keep this up against the Bills on Monday, then this is how they can beat the Bills, stopping them on crucial plays and in crucial areas on the field . 

In terms of the game, form is going to be a massive factor and New England have it. They may be on the road, but I am backing the Patriots to secure a vital win and gain a two-win advantage over Buffalo.

Score prediction: Patriots 27-24 Bills 

The new starting Saints QB Taysom Hill will really revive the Saints season

Saints QB Taysom Hill is a talented profile

By: Jake Rajala

The New Orleans Saints have desperately needed Rx to Medicate their offense as of late. Since Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending leg injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8, the Peyton Manning look-alike in Siemian has been a tale of two tales at the starting QB position. In the 4th quarter of each Saints contest he’s started, Trevor Siemian has looked like Peyton Manning on the field and he’s been a Top 5 signal-caller across the league. The glorious ailment of the scrappy QB from Northwestern has been his performance through 75% of each game’s sequence. Per PFF, Siemian has been graded as the worst starting QB from 1-3 quarters during his starting tenure.

After Sean Payton’s once 5-2 squad got obliterated by the Buffalo Bills in a 31-6 defeat on Thanksgiving night, the aggressive Bill Parcells disciple knew a QB change was needed. The Saints backup QB (?) and swiss army knife Taysom Hill has been standing on the sideline with a clipboard over the past couple of matchups watching his team get embarrassed in must-win games. Well, Hill may have been on the sideline hearing his crowd chant his name after his offense could get nothing starting on offense. Yet, Hill wasn’t getting involved and more so looking like a mysterious, potential, savior because he was battling a nagging (yet, utterly painful) plantar fascia injury.


The injury timeclock on the QB that has been compared to Steve Young has seen his health improve greatly. Hill went on to say Monday afternoon that he could play if the game were taking place that night. In fact, Hill’s status has impressed Payton so much that the Saints offensive whiz stated that Hill would be the Saints starting QB against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football! Atlas, the tides are turning, and the Saints offense might just get a massive boost — then the Superdome inhibiting Who Dat nation can get back to one giant party for four hours. Well, Will Taysom Hill actually be a significant upgrade over Trevor Siemian, and can Hill lead the Saints back to the promised land of playoff royalty? I truly believe that Hill is a dynamic playmaker and Hill can bring hope to Saints nation.

After all, Saints fans are built on hope…

Taysom Hill was a profile that went toe to toe with Jameis Winston during training camp and preseason, but Winston (combined with Marquez Callaway) was largely impressive against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 of the pre-season. Hill is truly close to the same caliber of QB as Jameis Winston — if not better, when he puts it all together. Hill’s talent was evident in his first three games as a starting QB in 2020. In Hill’s first career start, the dual-threat QB recorded 284 total yards and two touchdowns. One of Hill’s touchdowns came on a rushing touchdown where none of his WRs managed to get open and the play broke down. Yet, leave it to Hill to make magic with his legs — where Hill broke the pocket, bolted to the corner of the endzone, and jumped in for the unplanned score.

Hill’s ability to run the ball via his 4.4 40 yard dash time truly creates an extra threat against NFL defenses. In the absence of Alvin Kamara, Hill’s ability to pick up extra yards with his legs will prove vital for the Saints offense. The Saints might have an offensive creative genius in Sean Payton as head coach. Although, Payton isn’t at his best when his offense is dropping four passing touchdowns on opposing defenses. Rather, Payton pulls out all of his tricks when his team is running the ball, winning the time of possession, and having his well-rested, scary defense beat down opposing offenses.

The new Saints starting QB will absolutely be efficient with his legs, keep his offense from an infinite “amount of third and long situations”, and he will be able to get the ball in his playmakers hands on screens and play-action passes. Expect Hill, the very underrated Deonte Harris, and returning Saints legend Mark Ingram to impose their will on defenses down the stretch. The team that spanked Tom Brady and the 8-3 Buccaneers on Halloween may not be that far away.

Philadelphia Eagles 7 round mock draft in December

A very early mock draft for the city of brotherly love

By: Jacob Keppen

The draft landscape has changed a bit for the Philadelphia Eagles over the past month. Once thought to possibly have three top ten picks in their possession, the Eagles draft picks are slowly starting to move down the board and space out. With Miami starting to win games, Indianapolis being competitive, and the Eagles being a massive question mark week to week, the Eagles still have three top 15 selections. With 11 total picks, here is the Eagles mock draft heading into December.

8th Overall (Round 1): Kyle Hamilton, S Notre Dame

Safety might be the sneakiest need for Philadelphia moving forward. Anthony Harris is only here on a one year deal and is 30, while Rodney McLeod will be 32 next year and is coming off a major injury this year. There isn’t really a replacement plan in place at the position, and Kyle Hamilton is one of the best players in the draft regardless of position. A 6’4 athletic unicorn, Hamilton has the range and tackling of a potential All Pro safety in the NFL.

9th Overall (Round 1): Andrew Booth Jr, CB Clemson

The Eagles are not done at cornerback yet, not by a long shot. While Darius Slay is playing some of the best football of his career, he is 30. Hopefully the Eagles get a few more productive years out of their star corner, but eventually his replacement must be found. With Steve Nelson on a one year deal the bandaid over the 2nd corner position will almost surely be ripped off come next season. Andrew Booth is an extremely talented and athletic corner who can be the second in command across from Darius Slay, eventually taking over Slay’s role as the team’s lockdown corner. 

14th Overall (Round 1): Garrett Wilson, WR Ohio State

Yes, it disgusts me as well to select a receiver this high once again for Philadelphia. Since 2019 the Eagles have taken three receivers in the top two rounds, twice in the first round the past two years. The Eagles also took a receiving threat in Dallas Goedert early in the second in 2018. If last game against the Giants made anything clear, it’s that the Eagles weapons simply are not good enough. Bringing in one veteran receiver in the offseason won’t fix that either, teams needing multiple weapons to really get an edge in today’s NFL. Garrett Wilson can really do it all, his technique winning him most reps at the line of scrimmage and his ability with the ball in his hands making him a dynamic threat next to Devonta Smith.

42nd Overall (Round 2): Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE Penn State

This edge rusher class is really good, like really good. Even in the second round teams will have a bevy of fine pass rushers to choose from, and Arnold Ebiketie is one of the best. Since transferring to Penn State this year, Ebiketie has been on an absolute tear making the 2021 All Big Ten First Team Defense. Ebiketie has great bend and athleticism, combined with some very educated hands. With a big week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, he might not even be available at 42.

73rd Overall (Round 3): Brandon Smith, LB Penn State

Double dipping once again in the vast pool of defensive talent at Happy Valley, Brandon Smith could be the finishing piece to an Eagles linebacker corps that is starting to figure it out. Once the biggest hole on the team, the additions of T.J. Edwards and Davion Taylor to the starting lineup have been very solid this season. In Smith the eagles take another swing on an extremely athletic linebacker.

110th Overall (Round 4): Isaiah Likely, TE Coastal Carolina

That’s right, another receiving weapon. If the Eagles truly want to see if Jalen Hurts is the guy they can’t give him bargain bin weapons. No more excuses, get him help and see what happens. The backup tight end spot is one I think the Eagles should look at. While Tyree Jackson has shown a ton of potential, Isaiah Likely has been a force for Coastal Carolina the past two years. An athletic threat up the seam Likely can be a good complementary threat next to Dallas Goedert.

151st Overall (Round 5): Jalen Pitre, LB/S Baylor

Jalen Pitre is one of my favorite later-round guys in the draft, and he fits a mold of players that Philadelphia tends to like. It’s almost a running joke at this point how the Eagles don’t take linebackers, they just take safeties and put them at linebacker. Pitre plays that hybrid linebacker/safety role, utilized best blowing up plays around the line of scrimmage. Opposing teams rarely can barely get screens off cleanly when playing against Baylor.

160th Overall (Round 5): Max Mitchell, OT Louisiana

It is never a bad idea to take backup linemen with upside later in the draft. Philadelphia has been doing this routinely during Roseman’s reign as GM, and it usually has worked out. Multiple times we’ve seen later round linemen thrust into starting roles due to an injury in Philadelphia. For the Eagles Lane Johnson has been the man at right tackle for the past decade, but it’s time to start thinking about some reassurance behind him. He’s getting older and has dealt with some injuries. Max Mitchell is an aggressive lineman who flashes on film and could make for a good option behind Lane.

173rd Overall (Round 5): Tyler Allgeier, RB BYU

The Eagles running back situation is a very interesting one. It seems as though the team really isn’t sold on Miles Sanders being the guy, the former second-round pick never really receiving a heavy workload. Jordan Howard has at times been featured as the power back this year, and it’s worked pretty well. Of course, you do still have Kenny Gainwell, last year’s 5th round selection, who adds as a receiving threat. I don’t think Miles Sanders is going to be the guy in Philadelphia after his contracts up, and Tyler Allgeier’s an interesting option to add to the mix in Philly. Possibly the most underrated back in college football over the past two years, Allgeier is a speedy back who slashes through defenses.

193rd Overall (Round 6): Dylan Parham, IOL Memphis

It is never a bad idea to take backup linemen with upside later in the draft. Philadelphia has been doing this routinely during Roseman’s reign as GM, and it usually has worked out (Hey, where have I seen that intro before?) Dylan Parham has impressed this year at guard and there have been talks of trying him out at center at the Senior Bowl. A superb athlete for the position, Parham could be a sneaky good player if he bulks up a bit more.

206th Overall (Round 6): Brad Hawkins, S Michigan

Why not end the mock by sending a local player back home! Playing high school football at Camden High (You want the High, you got the High!) right across the bridge from Philadelphia, it would be a full circle for the Eagles to draft him. A fifth-year player with tons of Big 10 experience, Hawkins can fill a variety of roles as a backup including special teams.

Looking at the Browns Inconsistent 2021 Season

What should the Dog Pound expect?

By: Andy Davies

Last season, the Cleveland Browns earned their first playoff appearance since the 2002 campaign and their first postseason win since New Year’s Day in 1995

As a result, they went into the 2021 season with plenty of hype. However, it hasn’t worked out like this. The team’s current record is 5-5 and they are in a division where every team has at least 5 wins. 

So, what has gone wrong for a team that many had down as AFC North division winners? Is there still a chance to win it?

Inconsistent Division

The short answer is yes, they can. The AFC North is fast becoming one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, but no team has managed to get some sort of consistency. Baltimore Ravens fans will certainly tell you that. 

They had a 5-1 start, which included a 46-35 win over the reigning AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs. The week after beating the Los Angeles Chargers 34-6, a team that many have as a Super Bowl dark horse, they lost 41-17 to division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals. On Thursday night, they lost 22-10 to the Miami Dolphins, who were 2-6 before the game. More worryingly for the Ravens, the Dolphins appeared to show the entire league the blueprint as to how to beat them. 

The Cincinnati Bengals were briefly top of the division just a matter of weeks ago but now sits in 3rd place. We have seen the excitement of the Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase partnership but have equally seen the defense allow at least 34 points their last two games as they suffered defeats to the Browns and New York Jets.

There was a difficult start made by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the surprise 23-16 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week One, they lost their next three games to go 1-3. However, they have not lost a game since and now sit 5-3-1. Head coach Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season, but they still have to face the Chargers, Ravens twice, the current AFC number one seed in the Tennessee Titans as well as Cleveland.

Cleveland themselves have to also play the Packers on Christmas Day and the rest of their AFC North rivals, but also get to play a 0-8-1 Detroit Lions and an inconsistent Las Vegas Raiders. Their schedule is fairly favourable, but they have to cut out their own erratic performances if they are to succeed.

Sorting Out Their Own Inconsistencies

The Browns have really struggled for consistency this season. They won three straight games after their opening day loss to the Chiefs but have failed to win consecutive games since. 

If a team is to win championships, then they have to win games consistently. Whilst is it more important how you play in January than how you play in October or November, but you have to make sure you play in January past the regular season.

What have the great New England Patriots sides done in the past? Gotten a consistent run of good form down the stretch. This is exactly what the Browns need to do as runs like this help build momentum and confidence in the crucial postseason games.

The Baker Conundrum

Quarterback Baker Mayfield is easily one of the more polarising players in his position. There are some that feel he is the guy. There are others that view him as nothing more than a ‘game manager’. 

So far in 2021, he has 1,990 yards, 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. This has him projected to finish the campaign with just under 3,980 yards but crucially just under 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. This would have him at around his career best in terms of yardage but his worst season when it comes to touchdown passes.

His career so far has defined patchy. He had amazing seasons in both the 2018 and 2020 campaigns but has been poor in 2019 and 2021. He will be expecting a good season in 2022 judging by how his time as a pro has gone, but there is no guarantee he will earn his new contract. This ends after the conclusion of the 2022 season, which may see him raise his game. He has to be careful that he doesn’t suffer a further dip in form. 

Quarterbacks such as Jimmy Garoppolo and Tua Tagovailoa may be available that would fit into the game manager role and allow the excellent run game to flourish. He will have plenty of suitors due to being the number one overall pick in 2018 and the two excellent seasons he has had but he will want to succeed in Cleveland. This is clear to see. One thing that hasn’t helped is the broken-down relationship with wide receiver OBJ.

The OBJ Dilemma

Say what you want about Odell Beckham Jr, the dynamic around him and Baker’s relationship cannot have helped things in Cleveland. Throughout Beckham’s time in Ohio, the talk of a lack of chemistry between the pair has been a constant talking point.

There is substance to this, with the fact that the Browns made the playoffs last season with Odell injured. 

The loss of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to injury hasn’t helped, despite the best efforts of D’Ernest Johnson. The one-two punch of both backs reduced the need for Baker to throw to ball to. Instead, these injuries have meant Baker has had to throw to ball to. This can be seen by his stats, with Baker projected to throw for career highs in completed passes and his second highest total in attempted passes. 

OBJ’s dad has posted videos on social media of the amount of times Beckham has been open and not received the ball. There is clear frustration from the Odell camp. Now that he has gone, along with the return of Chubb and Hunt, will help ease the tension at the franchise. Should the struggles ease, with such a good plethora of offensive and defensive talent, this should see head coach Kevin Stefanski guide them to another playoff appearance (or two). Should things further unravel, then Baker will be vastly looking over his shoulder at Free Agency and the 2023 draft quarterback prospects.

Watch out for Donovan Peoples-Jones

The Browns need the WR underdog to appear

By: Chinmay Kulkarni

The Browns are built to run the ball down opponents’ throats. Having a running back by committee approach – a format teams are embracing around the NFL – Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb form one of the scariest running duo in the league behind one of the most dominant offensive lines in the league. The leader of the offense, Baker Mayfield, has therefore been the target of criticism of the blamestream boomer media that believe that the quarterback should be always at the helm of the team. Though Baker may not have the stats as some of the S-tier quarterbacks in the league, he is still serviceable enough with a good receiving core to throw the ball to.

The Odell saga with the Cleveland Browns has come to an unsurprising, screeching halt. The All-pro wide receiver has been a common sighting on injury reports since last year, a time when other wide receivers and pass-catching backs were able to thrive in Cleveland. With OBJ leaving for the Los Angeles Rams to form a top-3 WR trio with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, the Rams seem to be trending in the positive direction, while the Browns may have taken a step back towards making a playoff push in a tough AFC.

Donovan Peoples-Jones seems to be the most likely breakout star resulting from the OBJ trade. The Michigan star WR was always overshadowed by the duo of OBJ and Jarvis Landry but now looks to be the WR2 in the Browns scheme. The chemistry behind the Landry-Mayfield connection is without a doubt, garnering 29 targets throughout the season, only ranking below OBJ and Austin Hooper. The problem with the WR connections as a whole, however, always seems to stem from Baker. Expectations on the Browns to make a deep playoff push always start a comparison between playoff lock QBs, and Mayfield, ranks middle of the pack in QBR, lower than the Bradys and the Staffords of the world.

Mayfield however absolutely LOVES to take shots down the field, ranking in the top-10 for QBs that take shots 50+ yards downfield. DPJ, with his apparent speed, fits excellently into this mold and should project to get more targets and catches as the Browns face COVID problems at RB. Baker also has a 158 passer rating when targeting DPJ, but we all know that may have come from the hail mary against the Arizona Cardinals. OBJ also has garnered the most number of targets on the Browns, and some of those future targets will definitely be going to DPJ.

The news for DPJ and the entire Browns WR core should get even better in the coming weeks. The Browns play the Patriots in Week 10, a middle-of-the-pack defense against WRs, and the Lions in Week 11, which has been the floormat of the NFL under Dan Campbell. Nick Chubb contracting COVID will likely promote throwing the ball downfield as well, something that bodes well soon.

So, while Donovan Peoples-Jones will likely be looking at a large step up in production, he is likely a decent flex play for week 10. And though the Browns TE group may look a piece of the action as well, we should likely be seeing more shots down field as the Browns struggle to make a playoff push, and may be playing from behind against a tough upcoming AFC North slate.

Who is to Blame for the Minnesota Vikings?

The Minnesota Vikings need an answer

By: Grant Schwieger

The Minnesota Vikings have been in a treacherous cycle of disappointment since being blown out by Philadelphia just one game from a Super Bowl in their own stadium in January of 2018. Kirk Cousins was brought in to lead a team that went 13-3 with a backup QB the year prior, so a Super Bowl was in the minds of everyone involved. The result? Missing the playoffs completely that year, and one playoff win in the three seasons since, soon to be four.

2021 was supposed to be a big bounce-back for the Vikings, and instead, it has been as disheartening as one could imagine. It all came to a head in Week 8, as Minnesota, fresh off a bye, lost at home, on primetime, to a Dallas Cowboys team led not by their MVP candidate QB Dak Prescott, but by Cooper Rush and all of his three career pass attempts. Rush spent most of the game being unable to hit a moving target, yet with his back to the wall, led a game-winning drive in front of the entire country. It was the perfect storm of embarrassment for Minnesota and appears to be the tipping point for many fans. Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and Kirk Cousins are all in the crosshairs of fans’ anger, and rightfully so. But who really is to blame for the Vikings’ perpetual letdown year after year? The answer is everyone.

Kirk Cousins

We start with what is Kirk Cousins’ fault. In the eyes of many fans, everything is his fault. He is paid too much money, checks down too much, the whole nine yards. Many other fans do not fault Cousins at all. The reality is somewhere in the middle. Kirk Cousins did not pay himself $84 million to play in Minnesota. In fact, he has been a much better QB in Minnesota than in his time in Washington. That being said, he certainly is at fault for some of the Vikings’ woes. Let’s look at how that is the case.

The first issue with Cousins is his general obliviousness to many things around him. That goes for situations both on and off the field. His “If I die, I die.” quote about coronavirus is one example, as is his suggestion that he surrounds himself with plexiglass wherever he goes in the Vikings’ facility to prevent contracted COVID-19.

Cousins also appears to be oblivious of what is expected of him when he is paid like a franchise quarterback. He is only the 8th-highest paid QB now per overthecap.com, but one would expect such a handsomely-paid QB to have control over timeouts during two-minute drills. And yet, he let the clock run out in the final seconds of the first half last Sunday because he thought it was best to leave that decision to Mike Zimmer.

Cousins was asked after the game about his performance and the offense overall not being very aggressive. This was his response:

Blaming a conservative offense on a “combination of coverage and pressure” might be one of the most tone-deaf quotes of all time. There is coverage and pressure on literally every snap where a pass is attempted. That is the point of defense in football. Any time a defense has a good pass-rush and coverage, to just throw your hands up and say “well shoot! They got us!” is frustrating for fans to hear, to say the least. Defenses play well sometimes. It is up to the special players at the QB position to overcome that.

Kirk Cousins has long been considered to lack that “it” factor that a lot of professional athletes possess, including most, if not all, franchise QBs. His impressive start to 2021 almost tricked a lot of football savants, including myself, into thinking he had turned the corner in that aspect. The scary excuse of an offense he led on Halloween was a reminder to all that he is the same old Kirk Cousins.

Ignoring the blatant cluelessness, there are other faults to Kirk Cousins’ game that hinder the Vikings. In his first year in Minnesota, Cousins was often criticized for checking the ball down far too often. His average depth of target (aDot) in 2018 was 7.9 yards downfield. After bumping his aDot above 8.0 yards in 2019 and 2020, Cousins is back down to 7.0 this year, ahead of only Jared Goff.

There can be many reasons for this. Play callers can call plays where there are no deep options, a lot of quick game, and screens to lower a QBs aDot. While it can be difficult to parse out who is truly at fault for a lack of passes downfield, the availability of All-22 film from the NFL allows many to rewatch games and see the whole field. Luke Braun of Zone Coverage and Locked on Vikings charted 11 times in the Dallas game alone where Cousins threw the ball short when he had a window to throw the ball farther downfield.

Cousins did not throw the ball past the first down marker ONCE on Minnesota’s 13 3rd downs in that game. This is not some anomaly either, as time and time again Kirk Cousins has failed to make a big difference on 3rd down.

Per Arjun Menon of PFF, Cousins has the 20th best EPA/play on 3rd downs in the NFL. Minnesota also on average has the farthest to go on both second and third downs this year. Cousins might not be to blame for that (more on that later), but he does not do much to help his case, either.

The chart above looks at the difficulty of NFL QBs’ throws and if their situations are harder or easier on average. Cousins is in the “hard situations, easy passes” group, which means he typically is faced with difficult situations, yet makes the easy pass, such as a check down. No matter how you draw it up, it is never good to be grouped with Davis Mills, Jared Goff, and Jacoby Brissett.

Now, earlier I mentioned that Cousins is not really to blame for Minnesota often being well behind the sticks on second and third downs. That leads us to the next culprit who is to blame for the Vikings’ struggles…

Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer took over a Minnesota Vikings team in 2014 that was fresh off 3.5 mostly uninspiring seasons under Leslie Frazier. Frazier was well-respected, a genuinely nice guy who took over for Brad Childress halfway through 2010 after being Minnesota’s defensive coordinator since 2007. His defenses while head coach were never good, however, leading to Mike Zimmer taking over as another defensive-minded coach.

The Zimmer tenure has generally been pretty successful. His teams have never had a record worse than 7-9, always at least fighting for playoff contention. The pre-Zimmer era had some hideous teams, so a constantly competitive team was a breath of fresh air for Minnesota fans. Unfortunately, Mike Zimmer appears to have reached the end of his leash in Minnesota.

The first issue many will point to when it comes to Zimmer’s shortcomings is his general lack of accepting that the NFL is a passing league now. The only thing worse than thinking a running game is the key to success in the modern-day NFL is having that belief while possessing one of the highest-paid QBs in the league. Zimmer is an old-school football head in the biggest way. He would prefer to win every game 16-10 by playing hard-nosed defense and running the ball down his opponent’s throats.

John DeFilippo was ran out of town as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2018 because he did not run the ball as much as Zimmer wanted. Every coordinator the team has had since has been Zimmer’s puppet, doing as he says and making sure that Dalvin Cook is run into the ground whenever possible. The one coordinator who managed to be extremely successful in the face of these guidelines, Kevin Stefanski, was the NFL Coach of the Year last year in Cleveland. Before the Vikings’ seemingly improbable playoff victory in New Orleans after the 2019 season, there was a lot of talk coming out of TCO Performance Center in Eagan about the team wanting to promote Stefanski to head coach and potentially even trade Mike Zimmer to Dallas. Instead, Minnesota shocked the world, won on the road in the playoffs, and earned Zimmer, Rick Spielman, and Kirk Cousins extensions, even though the team laid an egg in San Francisco the very next week.

Speaking of laying eggs when the season is on the line, that has been a common theme recently under Zimmer. Needing one victory over a backup QB to get to the Super Bowl in 2017, Zimmer’s team looked like they had not practiced all week and embarrassed Minnesota fans everywhere. Then in 2018, the Vikings needed a Week 17 victory at home over Chicago to make the playoffs and proceeded to once again not show up, culminating in a shouting match between Cousins and Adam Thielen on the sideline. Then the 2019 season ended in lackluster fashion in San Francisco. 2020 was a disappointing season no matter how you look at it, and yet a home victory over Mitch Trubisky and the Bears could have put Minnesota in good shape to make the playoffs. Instead, they gave Trubisky his second-to-last career win as a starter and shrunk into the shadows.

The excuse of a football game that Zimmer’s team put forth against Dallas in Week 8 was the final straw of fiascos under Zimmer. As Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic noted, Zimmer is responsible for how the team played even if he was not the one telling Klint Kubiak what to call. Cousins blamed his head coach when it came to why the team did not call a timeout on their final first-half possession. Even if it is comical that a team’s QB does not have authority to call timeout if it really is up to Zimmer, then why did he let his team run out the entire clock?

Not only was that a malicious form of clock mismanagement, even worse was the delay of game penalty he received from calling back-to-back timeouts on Dallas’s game-winning drive. That gave the Cowboys 5 extra yards that led to them winning the game as opposed to kicking a field goal and going into overtime. Almost weekly, Mike Zimmer botches a two-minute drill in some capacity. Whether it is putting his below-average CBs on an island against elite WRs, or not even trying to score when given 30+ seconds and multiple timeouts.

Mike Zimmer is incredulously afraid of letting Kirk Cousins loose. Whether right or wrong, his team is paying Cousins enough money where he should be expected to be a difference-maker on the team. Instead, he coaches games against backup QBs where HIS QB looks like the one who is a backup and cannot be trusted. Let’s face it, Stefon Diggs was right. He was always right. Zimmer would make a great defensive coordinator, but at this point in time, he is unfit to lead an NFL locker room. He is too stubborn to accept the hand he has been dealt, instead wishing every night before he goes to sleep that Teddy Bridgewater was still his QB. Besides, did Zimmer even want Kirk Cousins in the first place…?

Rick Spielman

General Manager Rick Spielman is the hardest one to assign a level of blame to when it comes to Minnesota’s woes. Mike Zimmer clearly has a lot of power over the Vikings, and no one outside the building will ever know who was really more in charge. However, Spielman has made his fair share of mistakes in his time in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

His biggest mistake will have to be the signing of Kirk Cousins. The Vikings were at a very important crossroads in March of 2018, fresh off an NFC Championship Game with a backup QB. The decision of who should be the QB in 2018 was a difficult one. The team made the right decision in letting Case Keenum go, as incredible as his 2017 was. However, bringing in Kirk Cousins obviously divided many inside the team’s front office. In Everson Griffen’s string of tweets last year, he called Cousins “booty” for lack of a better term and said, “ask ZIMMER if he ever wanted Kirk?” This infers that Zimmer was never a Cousins fan, meaning Spielman must have been the one lobbying hard for him.

Now, Kirk Cousins was the best available QB in free agency, so based on talent alone he was the right choice. That signing aside, Spielman has lost his magic touch as of late. After a solid stretch of drafting starting in 2012 and ending with the all-time draft class that was 2015, the Vikings’ drafts since 2016 are a sore sight. I will save my readers the pain of listing off their choices, but if Justin Jefferson had not been selected in 2020, Spielman might already be gone.

The NFL Draft is largely a crapshoot, though, and no team has shown that they are better at drafting than their peers over an extended period. This recent stretch might just be Spielman and Minnesota’s luck evening out. Spielman has not made up for that in other areas, though. While showing loyalty to your players is not a bad thing, sometimes a GM needs to know when to take a stand. Minnesota seemingly always pays their players, often too much. The latest being an unnecessary extension of Harrison Smith for three additional years. When guaranteeing your QB as much money as Minnesota is, you need to be smart with how you manage the cap surrounding him.

There is also the issue with Spielman’s panic trades he has made these last few years. First, there was the trade of a second-round pick for Yannick Ngakoue, only to turn around and trade him away after six games. Sure, Minnesota had a hole to fill with Danielle Hunter’s absence in 2020, but Spielman and Zimmer should have been wise enough to notice they were not one player away from being competitive. This year brought the trade for Chris Herndon and a sixth-round pick for a fourth-round pick in the wake of Irv Smith Jr’s injury. At least Ngakoue was a good player. Herndon has been a net negative for the team thus far.

Spielman’s toxic trait of panicking in the wake of an injury of a player and overpaying via trade will only harm the Vikings in the long run. Does Spielman largely manage draft-day trades well? Yes, but those will only take the team so far. In fact, the team’s two biggest weaknesses, the offensive line and the secondary, are two of the most heavily invested in positions in the draft lately.

No one is absolved of blame when it comes to how Minnesota got to this point. All three of these men are somewhat responsible and likely need to be employed elsewhere in 2022 if the Vikings are going to get the state of their franchise turned around.

Bonus: The Wilf’s

The Wilf family, led by Zygi and his brother Mark and cousin Leonard, have been in ownership of the team since 2005. They inherited the team at a tough time after Minnesota had made nothing out of Randy Moss’s tenure. It has mostly been an upward trajectory since, but the team has gotten complacent in their ownership. Brad Childress was fired mid-season but only once he had a power surge and thought he could dismiss players from the team on his own. Besides that, the only coaches that have been let go came after the season ended.

The Minnesota Vikings are the only NFL team in the top-15 in all-time win percentage that does not own a Super Bowl trophy. While that dates back well before the Wilf’s tenure, it is a perfect summary of their time as owners. They are happy that the team is competitive each season and are content even though the team is rarely true Super Bowl contenders. They lack the true desire to bring a championship to Minnesota. Here is to hoping the latest Minnesota Meltdown changes their mindset on that.

2021 trade deadline: Under the radar storylines

By: Jason Willis

As the annual NFL trade deadline has finally passed, we are reminded of its perpetual disappointment. Starting with the C.J. Henderson-to-Carolina trade, the NFL had eleven total trades transpire before its 4pm deadline. Many of these trades, were relatively minor deals. So while fans dreamed of their teams acquiring players like Deshaun Watson, Brandin Cooks and Fletcher Cox, all of those players stayed with their respective teams. With rosters now mostly set going forward, here are three things we learned.

The Rams are the most well run organization in the NFL

From a fans perspective, you always want to see your team make a run at a championship. For fans of the Los Angeles Rams, this has been a reality in recent years. Even since the recent Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, the Rams have made trades to acquire Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, and, now, Von Miller. To acquire Von Miller, the Rams gave up a second and third round pick in next years NFL Draft. A hefty price? Certainly, but the Rams have now added a future Hall of Fame pass rusher to a group that already includes Leonard Floyd and Aaron Donald. Combined with the consistently elite play of Jalen Ramsey and the Rams will again feature one of the leagues most feared defenses.

While many have expressed doubt over the Rams ability to rebuild without ample draft picks, the team has shown little worry in this regard. This is how all fans expect their teams to be run. The Rams and general manager Les Snead know that they have a team capable of winning the Super Bowl this year an are going all in. Who cares about the draft when there’s a ring on the line?

The Chiefs are still all in

Sitting at 4-4, the Kansas City Chiefs have been routinely criticized for sub-par play. Despite the “Super Bowl hangover” the Chiefs still believe in their ability to win a championship in the 2021 season. The most recent assertion of this was the trade for Melvin Ingram. With one of the worst defensive units in the NFL, Kansas City was in desperate need of pass rushers and Ingram certainly gives them that. Alas, will it matter? Ingram alone won’t improve that defense and they have the NFL’s hardest schedule the rest of the way. Of course, the Chiefs are one of the most talented teams in the league. They have Hall of Fame caliber players in Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Their head coach is one of the best play callers in the league. While it may seem far fetched right now, the Chiefs are right to go all in with this core.

Deshaun Watson stays in Houston

The strangest story of the entire NFL season, and that’s saying something, has been the on-going Deshaun Watson saga. What once started as a trade request from one of the best quarterbacks in the league now includes over 20 claims of sexual assault. In a negligible move, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has refused to place him on the exempt list until the legal issues get sorted out. On the field, Watson is one of the best passers in the league. As such, he is still a highly coveted player. At the forefront of this chase was the Miami Dolphins. The only problem? Miami wanted Watson’s legal issues resolved before they pulled the trigger. Of course, this was never going to happen by Tuesdays deadline. So, Deshaun Watson remains on the Houston Texans where he has not played a single snap this season. This situation is awkward for all involved. The Texans are done with Watson, he is done with them, and Watson could be facing serious legal trouble. While it’s doubtful to happen, Roger Goodell needs to do the right thing and place him on the exempt list. Simply, this saga has been an embarrassment for all involved for far too long.

The state of the Cleveland Browns and where to go from here

Are the Browns going to be okay?

By: Michael Welsh

The 2021 season has not gone as expected for the Cleveland Browns. The expectations coming into the season were division winners and Super Bowl Contenders. Despite the week one loss to the Chiefs, the Browns still appeared to be a team that would be reckoned with this season. That hasn’t been the case. They sit at 4-4 with a lot of questions moving forward. All hope isn’t lost, but adjustments must be made quickly. But before we dive into that, how did we get here?

From injuries to questionable play calling to not being able to close out games, there are multiple issues with the Browns at this point. It all began in week two against the Texans when Baker Mayfield made a tackle on defender Justin Reid after an interception. What appeared to be a dislocated shoulder turned into something much worse in the coming weeks. It was revealed that Mayfield has a completely torn labrum and an additional fracture in his non-throwing shoulder.

This isn’t an injury that will heal over time, Surgery is needed. Baker can play through the pain with a brace on, but as explained by analysts on several networks, it will affect how he plays this season because it is overall uncomfortable. Plus it clearly has messed with Baker’s mental state. There have been several injuries to the offensive line and it has made Baker appear jittery and bail out of clean pockets for fear of potentially taking a big hit. Because of this it is leading to even more issues, such as Baker not going through progressions, seeing the field, and missing open receivers. It is without a doubt costing the team points at times and possibly even wins. Despite all of this, Baker has done enough in certain games to come out with wins. But football is a team sport, and several key players are failing to do their jobs at critical moments. Plus the officiating has been atrocious, but that’s another story.

Both sides of the ball have lacked consistency this year. Joe Woods has been very puzzling on the defensive side of the ball, often failing to make any in game adjustments or dialing up any pressure. There is way too much talent on defense to be as inconsistent as they are. Reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski hasn’t been bad by any means, but he’s had several struggles that we didn’t see in 2020. He is far too conservative at times, far too aggressive at going for it on fourth down, and some believe the play calling has become stale and predictable. The Browns are a run heavy team, but in 2020 we saw a lot of play action bootleg plays where Mayfield through the ball down the field. This year that is all but gone and instead we get countless screen passes a game and overall a boring offense. So what changed? The obvious assumption is that Stefanski is protecting Baker and his injury by drawing up simple plays that take no time to develop. Be that as it may, eventually you have to take some shots down the field. Baker used to be a gunslinger, taking risks and pushing the ball down the field. For better or worse, it seems that this coaching staff has killed that part of him because he seems terrified to make any mistakes. Of course you wanna be mistake free, but it is okay to let the ball rip from time to time. Opposing defenses aren’t respecting Cleveland’s passing game at all and they won’t anytime soon if nothing the changes. The truth is, wide receivers have never flourished in a Stefanski offense. Catches per game drop substantially for them and number one receivers are often decoys so other players can get open. A Stefanski team can be good overall, but top wide receivers aren’t game changers in his system. You just have to wonder if he makes some changes in his thought process as the season goes on.

Speaking of receivers not being a huge factor in a Stefanski offense, things have become tense with superstar Odell Beckham Jr and the Browns. The narrative that Baker and OBJ do not have chemistry has been well documented since 2019. Fans and analysts alike were optimistic that they would finally figure it out this season, but that hasn’t been the case. Beckham leads the team in targets at 34, but only has 17 receptions for 232 yards and no touchdowns. He is coming off the worst game in his career against the Steelers where he only had 1 catch for 6 yards. There is no one person to blame for OBJ not putting up numbers. Some of it comes back on him with slipping on routes, running the wrong routes, and dropping key passes. Some of it comes back on Baker Mayfield for not throwing him the ball when he’s open and being inaccurate with it half the time when he does pull the trigger. There have been multiple times this year where OBJ is open down the field, but Baker doesn’t see him and instead throws underneath or bails out of the pocket. Lastly, some of it falls on Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt for not drawing up plays for Beckham and not getting him involved early in the game. They all need to be better, period.

OBJ’s dad took to YouTube Tuesday morning with an 11 minute video showing that Beckham is open very often, but Baker fails to get him the ball, and then proceeded to bash the quarterback in the comment section. It got even more hectic when LeBron James tweeted out #FreeOBJ with his thoughts on the situation, and other athletes followed. It is a terrible look for your dad to take to social media to complain about the quarterback, even if he does have a point. It only divide the locker room and causes a distraction that will be dissected on every talk show for the coming days. Nonetheless. the trade deadline came and went and OBJ is still a member of the Browns, so this will be something they will have to deal with for the remainder of the season.

So where do the Browns go from here? Is this all fixable? The good news is that most of it is. At 4-4, the season is far from over and they could easily turn it around to make a playoff push. But it will not be easy. Stefanski and the coaching staff need to sit down and hash out the problems and start fixing them ASAP. There is way too much talent on this roster to be underperforming this bad. Baker needs to see the field and start making better decisions, including getting OBJ more involved early in the game. Execution is crucial in the NFL and that is something this team has struggled with. The players have to do their jobs and the rest will fall into place.

No one is sure what it is, but this team has an anti-clutch gene and they cannot close out games or come back to win one. Stefanski needs to keep the foot on the gas and bury teams, instead of letting up. There have been a few games this year, most notably the Chargers game in week 5, where Stefanski coached scared, even saying in the press conference that he made decisions at the end of the game because he was nervous to make a mistake. Coaching scared will never get you far in a season. Trust the players and talent you have. If you want to be a Super Bowl contender, you have to beat good teams. Unfortunately, the Browns cannot do that right now. It will be interesting to see how Stefanski pulls together the locker room with the drama that unfolded on Tuesday. In the coming weeks, we will learn a lot about this team and see what they’re made of. Hopefully they can come together instead of fall apart.

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