Why Kayvon Thibodeaux could be the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft

Oregon’s Kavyon Thiodeaux has elite potential

By: Chris Thomas

Even though the 2022 NFL Draft is months away it is never too early to speculate about who could go first overall. Two weeks into the college football season it appears that a non-quarterback may go first overall since Myles Garrett was drafted in 2017. Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is the consensus #1 non-quarterback prospect. He is also thought of by many as the potential number one prospect of this entire draft. Here is why Thibodeaux could be the first overall pick in the draft in late April. 

Lack of premier quarterback talent

An NFL Draft class is defined by its quarterbacks. Over the last couple of seasons, it feels like there has been a premier quarterback prospect that has been on top of the class and went first overall. After the first two weeks of the college football season, none of the speculated upon top quarterback prospects have been over impressive. Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler had a brutal debut where he threw only one touchdown and two interceptions against Tulane. Oklahoma barely won that game. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell had an even worse season debut against Virginia Tech. Howell threw for only 208 yards and one touchdown. He finished the game with three interceptions as well. Both quarterbacks bounced back in their second games of the season, but at this rate, none have looked like a first overall pick quarterback. The standard a quarterback must reach to be taken first overall for it to be worth it is Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, and Trevor Lawerence.

Recently there have been a couple of quarterbacks that have gone first overall that was not worth the selection. Some of these quarterbacks aren’t considered busts but during their respective predraft processes other non-quarterbacks were considered better prospects and turned out to be much better than the quarterbacks taken first overall. Those quarterbacks are Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff. Both are solid starters but both the Browns and Rams had better options available. Cleveland could have drafted Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, or Bradley Chubb with the first pick in 2018. All three of which are considered more talented than Mayfield, when healthy. Then the Rams showed they regretted trading up for Goff in 2016 when they packaged him with two first-round picks to Detriot for Matthew Stafford. Los Angeles could have drafted Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, Ronnie Stanley, DeForest Buckner, or Laremy Tunsil with the first overall pick. 

This draft class is shaping up to be similar to the latter where there may be multiple non-quarterback prospects who could end up being better than the quarterbacks in this class. Whoever lands the first overall pick may want to learn from the previous mistakes of those teams and take the best player available which is Thibodeaux.

Production

Kayvon Thibodeaux is the number one edge rusher in a loaded edge rusher class. He isn’t just the number one edge rusher prospect in the draft class like Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, or Dante Fowler Jr. Right now he is spoken about above the likes of Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, and Chase Young who were elite pass rusher prospects in their respective drafts. Thibodeaux has been placed in the same tier as Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett who were no doubt first overall picks in their respective draft class. He has been placed in that tier of player for good reason. 

During his first season at Oregon, Thibodeaux had 9 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. PFF gave him a 79.9 grade that season which was the best in the Pac-12 and ten points higher than any other freshman edge rusher in the Power Five. In seven games last season Thibodeaux had 3 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. Already this season Thibodeaux has a sack and forced fumble in one game played. He earned an 87.2 PFF grade for his sophomore season.

This is a player who has dominated college football over the last three seasons. Scouts have anticipated this season because Thibodeaux is now eligible for the draft. From what he has shown on the field, he is the type of player that scouts love the opportunity to analyze and potentially add to their roster. 

Multiple #1 pick contenders have a young quarterback

In a decent amount of cases when a team drafts a quarterback that team usually doesn’t improve dramatically from where they finished the season before. These are teams who selected quarterbacks early in recent drafts could be picking near the top of the draft and be in the range of this year’s top quarterbacks. These teams include the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Cincinnati Bengals. They are a few teams who could be in range to select a quarterback in this upcoming draft but should be content enough with their quarterback play to not consider selecting another one early this year, especially in a potentially weak quarterback class. 

Other teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Detriot Lions, and Las Vegas Raiders have a great enough quarterback in house to pass on a quarterback. Also, the Houston Texans have shown in recent history that they are willing to take a pass rusher first overall went they have to choose between an elite one and a quarterback from a weak class (Mario Williams 2006 & Jadeveon Clowney 2014). Since they took Davis Mills in the third round it is likely they want to give him a shot to be the team’s potential QB1 before taking one in the first round. 

All of the teams listed could potentially land the first overall pick. If they land it they would likely have to choose between trading down to a quarterback-needy team or taking the draft’s best prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux.

3 under the radar teams to watch in Week 2

Bengals QB Joe Burrow will shine this season

By: Thomas Cunningham

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

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

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

1.       Joe Burrow is back in action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.       Another AFC West challenger emerges

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

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

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

3 Reasons To Believe The Vikings Can Return To Form

Danielle Hunter will make a major impact

By: Conner Wickland

  1. The Return of Danielle Hunter

Yes, Danielle Hunter stormed to the quarterback with an impressive sack on third down midway into the 4th quarter, giving the ball back to a Minnesota offense that was trailing by three points. But before that point, the Vikings’ defensive superstar was largely unseen. In fact, apart from this play resulting from a blown protection call, Hunter did not register a single QB pressure during the entire game. Despite playing 87% of the snaps on Sunday, Hunter’s former teammate Riley Reiff was able to take him out of the game. 

While it’s unclear if Reiff was extra motivated to win in his revenge game against the team that released him, it was a rough start for Hunter. However, you can expect him to shake off the rust soon. This was Hunter’s first game back since missing the entire 2020 season with a neck injury. Still, the Minnesota Vikings were confident enough in his ability to give him a reworked deal this offseason, paying the defensive end a $5.6m signing bonus and the ability to make $20m next year to ward off a potential hold-out.

One game won’t tell the story of the Minnesota Vikings, and it definitely isn’t the end of Danielle Hunter’s career.

  1. Newfound Special Teams’ Dominance

One of the surprise storylines coming out of week one was the Vikings dominance on special teams. Surely, this would’ve been the main talking point had NFL officials overturned a Dalvin Cook fumble and allowed third-year kicker Greg Joseph to hit a game-winning field goal. Joseph came into the season with questions after not finding a long-term home with either the Cleveland Browns in 2018 or the Tennessee Titans in 2019. He put that all to rest after nailing a career-long 53 yarder at the end of regulation and then hitting it again after being iced by Cincinnati Bengal Head Coach Zac Taylor.

But Greg Joseph wasn’t the only success story to positively shock Vikings fans on special teams. The newly signed punter Jordan Berry impressed with long, arching punts – six of them going for 45 yards or more – often pinning the Bengals offense back out of scoring range. This included an overtime launch of 63 yards that stuck the Bengals at their own 10 yard-line. Despite only being signed nine days before kickoff, the 30-year old Jordan Berry is already solidifying his spot as the long-term punting option for the Vikings.

  1. The Emergence of K.J. Osborn

For years, the Minnesota Vikings have struggled to fill the wide receiver positing past their front two stars. In 2018, The Vikings leading wide receiver behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs was Laquon Treadwell, with 302 yards. In 2019, it was Olabisi Johnson with 294 yards. Last year, they swapped out Stefon Diggs for Justin Jefferson, but their third wide receiver Chad Beebe only fit into the mix with 201 yards.

The Vikings have used their tight ends to pick up the pace in years past, but they were dealt a huge blow when Irv Smith Jr was sidelined with a huge preseason injury that ended his breakout season before it began. The team responded with a high-priced trade for Jet’s Tight End Chris Herdon, but entered Sunday looking like the same old offense that would rely on Thielen and Jefferson to handle the load.

Instead, we watched K.J. Osborn make the most of his opportunities in this offense. He made a great drive-saving play on 3rd and 24 that set up the Vikings for an early Touchdown in the second quarter, and ended the day with 76. While it’s way too early to extrapolate from one game, Osborn would be on pace to end the year with 1,292 yards, a far cry from the sub-400 yard performances of Minnesota Wide Receivers in the past.

Why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary is a concern

The Bucs secondary is a weakness

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs have one of the better defenses in the entire NFL. They ranked 6th last season with 327.1 yards allowed per game and 8th in scoring with 22.2 points allowed per game. Much of this can be credited to their stout run defense, which was the best in the league by allowing just 80.6 rushing yards per game. Their front seven is extremely strong and talented, also contributing the 5th most sacks with 48 total last season.

On the other hand, their pass defense was not nearly as impressive. They ranked a disappointing 21st with 246.6 passing yards allowed per game and were middle of the road at 18th with a 94.3 passer rating against. They did rank 10th in interceptions forced with 15 total last year, but that may be more because of their solid pass rush as opposed to tight coverage. In fact, they were terrible in opponent completion percentage, ranking 29th in the NFL by allowing 69 percent of pass attempts to be completed against them in the 2020 season.

New Year, Same Results

In week one of this year, the Bucs hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football to kick off the 2021 NFL season. The Bucs secondary picked up right where they left off last season, getting torched by Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing attack. They allowed the Cowboys offense to march up and down the field through the air, with Prescott completing 72.4 percent of his passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns while posting an impressive 101.4 passer rating. In fact, if not for two missed field goals and a missed extra point by Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein, the Bucs may very well have lost this opening game of the season. Prescott put up a performance that would win most games but ultimately could not finish the job in this one.

Probably most concerning for the Bucs secondary is that the Cowboys found success through the air on every level. It was not just a matter of the Bucs having one weak spot but an inability to stop any aspect of the Cowboys passing game. Amari Cooper was unstoppable on the perimeter with 13 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns while CeeDee Lamb did all of his damage from the slot with seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. The Dallas tight ends combined for 65 yards on 9 receptions and even the running backs contributed six receptions for 35 yards. Clearly, the Bucs pass coverage could not stop anything in the Cowboys passing scheme.

Making Matters Worse

Unfortunately, the Bucs lost Sean Murphy-Bunting due to an elbow injuring during the game with the Cowboys. His timetable for return is unclear at this point but he could be out anywhere from the minimum three weeks on IR to a full season. This is a big loss for the Bucs considering he is one of their very best in man coverage. He works on the outside of their base defense while sliding into the slot for nickel and dime coverage schemes. In his absence, Jamel Dean, among others, will have to step up and play a much larger role.

Recap of the Saints Week 1 showdown: what exactly happened?

What was behind Jameis Winston’s big victory?

By: Courtney Burrows

Week 1 is in the books and what a wild one it was to start off the 2021-22 NFL season.  There have been many off-season stories that have left us scratching our heads and others that have us jumping in anticipation.  (Or wait, is it only me jumping!)  All I can say is Week 1 delivered highs and lows for me and others in the fantasy community, and I am very happy that football is back. There were crazy games and players who shined and crashed, but the best game in my opinion of the week was New Orleans Saints versus Green Bay where the Saints came marching in and roasted the Packers 38-3.

                The Packers came to Jacksonville to play the Saints who were displaced by Hurricane Ida. The Saints were led by QB Jameis Winston who won the starting job from Taysom Hill in the pre-season. This was the first game the team played without their leader Drew Brees under center. No one knew what to expect or what to feel, but this die-hard Saints fan knew Winston would be our guy and have been rooting for him. 

In Winston’s last season with the Bucs, he threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions. He was released by the team, and no one wanted to give the once 1st round draft pick a starting chance. So, he became the 3rd string behind Brees and under Coach Payton’s regime and began to study quietly with his head down, determined, and focused. This is a new Winston under center, a leader in the locker room determined to prove he is the right QB to once again lead a team, and prove he did in Jacksonville Saturday afternoon.

                The Saints defensive attack led by Zack Baun who had five tackles made Rodgers scramble and throw erratically which is not the steady hand we are used to seeing.  Rodgers ended with two interceptions, 15 completions on 28 attempts, and a passer rating of 36.8%.  He could not get anything done in the red zone with his star wideout Adams and star RB Jones was unable to go anywhere on the ground.  The Saints defense came to play, and with them making stop upon the stop, the offensive had ample opportunity to carve up plays. The time of possession was almost a full 10 minutes over the Pack.  Kamara led the rushing attack with 83 out of 171 total yards. Winston only had 148 yards in the air, but they were calculated and precise with zero interceptions, five total touchdowns to four different receivers, and a passer rating of 130.8%. The most surprising was 2nd year TE Juwan Johnson he hauled in two touchdowns and will be another hot wavier wire this week. Though fellow TE Trautman led the team in targets, Johnson is only owned in 1.8% of ESPN leagues. 

The one injury of note is star pass-rusher Marcus Davenport, who ended Sunday with three tackles and one sack, underwent an MRI to see the extent of an apparent pectoral muscle injury which was deemed a strain not a tear.  This is fantastic news for the defensive as he should return sooner than later.  In the meantime, Carl Granderson and rookie Payton Turner will have to step up in a big way. 

For a guy that no one had much faith in besides the WHODAT nation, Winston did well and proved many doubters wrong.  He and the Saints decimated and embarrassed the Packers in the Sunshine State.  It won’t be a walk in the park in every contest for the Saints, but this is a confidence builder. All the parts fit together to make one cohesive, strong unified team under one of the best coaches in the game today. I am proud of Winston and his character today. I look forward to this season, and can’t wait for Sunday Funday.

#WHODAT

Find me on twitter at luvtractor3 for any questions and just for everyday football fun. 

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 2   

It is waiver wire time!

By: Rishi Patel

Welcome to this new NFL column where I will be preaching my advice about which fantasy players you should pluck off your waiver wire each week during this NFL season. My name is Rishi Patel, I’m a sportswriter who’s dabbled across many sites and hopes to be the king of fantasy football advice one day.

During each NFL season, there are usually sleepers that emerge who you should pick up off the waiver wire due to various reasons, such as better performances than expected, injuries, etc. It’s important to make good use of the waiver wire as players from here could sometimes be good depth and even a starter for your team in critical stretches. Let’s look at some players you should consider for this week:

Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills

Veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders is no longer a fantasy stud, but he could certainly remain in the flex conversation going forward after putting up four receptions for 52 yards on eight targets in Week 1 with his new team, the Buffalo Bills. The veteran should be in contention for the WR2 role behind Stefon Diggs as the season progresses. He’s worth adding for now and potentially starting down the road if he shows out. 

Mark Ingram II, Houston Texans

The Texans have quite a jumbled backfield with a few backs fighting for touches, but Mark Ingram stood out in Week 1. Is he a starting play going forward? That’s probably something that doesn’t have an answer as we will have to wait and see if he takes the majority of touches in the coming weeks.

But he did well in Week 1 as he had 26 carries for 85 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Phillip Lindsay had only eight carries and David Johnson had three. Ingram’s a great player to stash on your bench for now. 

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

Mitchell will be one of the most popular pickups this week given that 49ers starting RB Raheem Mostert will be out for the season with a knee injury. When Mostert went down in Week 1, the rookie out of Louisiana stepped up big and took 19 carries for 104 yards and a score. 

Mitchell is a good candidate for the RB1 role going forward after this performance. He’s worth picking up in fantasy and could eventually become a good starting play if he shows consistency. For now, it’s best to add him only. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

Look, the calls for Trey Lance may keep picking up as the season progresses, but Jimmy G had a thing or two to show during Week 1’s close win over the Lions. The embattled QB put up 314 yards and a score on 68% completion. As long as the QB plays efficiently and turnover-free, it would be hard for coach Kyle Shanahan to bench him. Jimmy G. could certainly warrant streaming consideration if he plays like this in the upcoming games. 

Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions

Former Packer Jamaal Williams, though expected to be the RB2 in Detroit behind D’Andre Swift, played like a RB1 in Week 1. Williams took nine carries for 54 yards and a score (compared to Swift’s 11 carries for 39 yards) and also chipped in in the passing game to the tune of eight receptions for 56 yards on nine targets. While Swift did have 65 yards receiving as well, the numbers for the two backs were more similar than many may have thought.

If Williams can keep up these types of numbers in the passing and rushing game, he would be a decent flex play each week. For now, he’s worth adding to your bench. 

Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals

While it’s evident QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins are studs for Arizona, the team will need another WR to step up and play at an elite level. While Christian Kirk shined in Week 1, he hasn’t really stood out during his brief NFL career, but rookie Rondale Moore could start off his career with a bang.

Moore finished Week 1 with four receptions for 68 yards on five targets and looked fantastic in his NFL debut. While it remains to be seen if he can keep up these numbers, he’s certainly worth adding as depth. 

Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler, Denver Broncos

The Broncos suffered a huge blow when Jerry Jeudy went down with a high ankle sprain in Week 1’s win over the Giants. Now, Jeudy will be out for roughly four to six weeks and Denver needs another WR to step up alongside Courtland Sutton.

The likely candidates to do that are Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler. While none of these guys had a standout performance (Patrick: 4/39/1 and Hamler: 3/41/0) in Week 1, it’s expected both of these guys will see more targets now that things will be opened up a bit. Both are worth stashing right now. 

Three very overhyped NFL teams after Week 1

The Las Vegas Raiders are not real

By: Thomas Cunningham

Okay, football fans, as week one of the 2021 NFL season has officially closed, it is time to reflect on those teams that were let down this past weekend. As teams do every year, there were many big-name signings, even bigger contract extensions made, and some future pillars of rosters drafted.

However, let’s first just all be thankful that football is officially back, regardless of the outcome of your team’s game. It is the time of year where you are wearing your favorite jersey, on the edge of your seat, just waiting for that next big play to be made. Speaking of big plays, as the title of this article suggests, we will break down some well-overhyped teams leading into week one that did not live up to expectations.

Now, some may find this list subjective or unfair due to it being the only week one, but the next few teams listed not only had fan base hype but national media hype and did not come close to living up to either expectation. So let’s get into shall we?

“America’s Team” could not pull out the win.

That’s right, folks; the Dallas Cowboys were on out in full scale during their Thursday night matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys have had a lot of hype coming out of training camp about their condition, how well wide receiver Ceedee Lamb and running back Ezekiel Elliot looked, and how improved their defense will be coming into this season.

Well, to say the least, “Dem Boys” will always be just “Dem Boyz.” Last year, putting points on the board was not the Cowboys’ problem; it was keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard that was ultimately Dallas’ downfall. Fast forward to this season, and that trend seems to have continued along with multiple stalled red zone drives after having multiple takeaways from an otherwise unprepared and injured Buccaneers team.

The good news for Cowboys fans is that quarterback Dak Prescott did have an impressive first outing, with over 400 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. However, just like the past few seasons, it looks like Prescott is once again left out on an island to defend himself. It truly seems that Dallas has picked up right where they left off last year.

Did “Who Dat” actually put the league on notice?

This past Sunday, the New Orleans Saints absolutely embarrassed the Green Bay Packers, winning handily 38-3. With such a dominant win, the thought would be that the Saints mean business this season; however, you have to place this game into context. Though Jamis Winston threw five touchdowns, he only threw for 148 yards. This game actually belongs to the Saints’ defense, which helped put their offense in great field position. It also has to be put into the minds of everyone; the Packers absolutely gave up in that game, especially on offense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is regarded as one of the best QB’s of all time, looked as sloppy and uncaring as one player could.

This only made the Saints’ life easier as the game went on, especially after the Packers’ defense was completely gassed. The Saints will make some noise this season, but ultimately this “high powered” offense will lose steam, especially when they start facing top defenses.

We have all seen this from the Las Vegas Raiders before

Okay, sports fans, if this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Raiders had a lot of hype surrounding them last season because they were able to beat teams like the Kansas City Cheifs and New Orleans Saints, but did all of this to only go 8 and 8 on the season and also lose to teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots

The hype begins again after their victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Now the victory was earned, even if the Ravens fell flat on their face. However, it has to be said that as the season continues, the Raiders will seemingly fall into a similar pattern as last year, especially with their faith in Derek Carr possibly wavering.

Why the Saints defense is really an elite unit

Marshon Lattimore leads a scary Saints defense

By: Jake Rajala

Every individual that has heard of the sport called American Football predicted the Green Bay Packers to win their Week 1 matchup against the “rebuilding” New Orleans Saints. Many analysts even suggested that Packers would win and it wouldn’t even be a close matchup.  Well, what exactly happened? 

The Saints, who were without Michael Thomas, Bradley Roby, and Will Lutz, went into the matchup and absolutely mopped the floor against the loaded NFC favorite in the Green Bay Packers. The Saints wounded up unveiling 38 points and allowing a mere three points against the 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers

So, does that mean that the Saints team was very underlooked heading into the matchup and it’s time to give them a boatload of credit? The answer to that is apparently not. Instead of handing the Saints its true due, countless national sports outlets just state the Saints “played well” or the “Saints were the more prepared team”. They will go on to state the narrative that Rodgers was sluggish and just happened to have the “worst game of his career” because he didn’t show up until training camp. At the same time, many of these analysts believe/admit A-Rod will quickly turn things around in Week 2. 

I don’t see the national crystal ball reasoning behind Rodgers’s absence as a major factor in his horrid performance. It’s fun and easy to poke at Rodgers’s new mantra and the fact that he was reluctant to be a Packer for much of the offseason. However, it wasn’t like Rodgers took a plane from Hawaii to Jacksonville in early September. The former MVP has been in sync with the Packers for many weeks already. Also, this new idea of “not showing up until training camp” correlated with a disastrous Week 1 performance didn’t become a thought until Aaron Rodgers came along. I believe many people are taking the combination of taking the opportunity to jab at the polarizing QB and not admitting they were wrong about the Saints. It also could be said that the Saints couldn’t have played any better against Aaron Rodgers to garner the large praise they deserve, simply because they couldn’t have played any better.

I actually believe that Rodgers isn’t a large portion of the blame and that the Saints defense will go down as the top unit that Rodgers will have faced this season (barring a second matchup). Here is why the Saints defense deserves a significant approval rating and why the unpopular Rodgers truly faced a wall in Week 1. 

  • Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore

Remember the Saints historically great draft class in 2017? Well, profiles like Marshon Lattimore, Alvin Kamara, Marcus Williams, and Trey Hendrickson were all taken by the great organization. Well, I believe some of these players that actually found great success early on in their careers, are just evolving into their prime selves in year five. Most notably, the Saints CB Marshon Lattimore and Saints FS Marcus Williams seemed to have transformed into more talented studs. 

Marcus Williams had one of the best plays of his career in Week 1 against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers future Hall of Fame QB actually got Williams to play towards Adams’s side of the field on a deep passing route, which led to Rodgers quickly turning and unleashing a bomb to Marquez Valdes – Scantling. Williams managed to allow Rodgers to believe he had him falling for a pass intended to Adams, but managed to see Scantling go deep down the field and trace back to make a great play on the field. In live-action, it seems like Rodgers just threw a prayer, but it was a route combination that GB practiced and Williams truly made an outstanding play on the football field. This is the same Willams that Payton has called a very smart football player and safety that showed his athletic ability at the NFL combine (top vertical jump, third in broad jump). 

We know Williams had a great Week 1 showcase, but Marshon Lattimore was also very stout in a day that would also turn to be a huge payday. On a 4th downplay, Lattimore beautifully broke up a pass against one of the top WRs in Davante Adams. Lattimore routinely shut down Adams and when he missed a drive, his value to the defense showed, as GB marched up and down the field. Thankfully, Lattimore returned and his value resurfaced in the game. Saints will also have the prominent CB Bradley Roby in the fold moving forward.

  • Saints LB tandem 

The Saints found one of the all-time FA (free agent) gems in Demario Davis a few years back and he continues to make the case as one of the game’s best LBs. Davis has been ranked as the top LB by PFF in the past and he’s arguably the best LB against the run in the league. He’s a huge reason why the Saints can play two safeties on the back end against elite passing offenses and hold up against the run. He now also introduces the pre-game speeches with Brees out of the locker room. 

We know Davis is a Top 100 football player in the NFL, but re-signing Kwon Alexander to pair with him was a very underrated move. If the Saints didn’t acquire one of the fastest LBs in the league, there may have been a few more first downs picked up last week by the Packers offense. Then who knows what the Packers could have done with a stronger rhythm. Alexander was able to chase down not only Jones from a few yards away and hold him from picking up a first, but he was making great plays on WRs in the open space. When Alexander is healthy, the Saints have one of the best 1-2 punches at the LB position. 

  • DL Depth

The Saints didn’t have David Onymeta and no longer have Sheldon Rankins (despite Rankins usually being MIA), but the DL had a strong performance against Rodgers. Sure, the Packers were missing interior OL and didn’t really attack the Saints DTs. Yet, when the Saints DL was tested at various spots and on occasion, the Saints held up in defensive trenches. As mentioned, the Saints are reaping the benefits of already solid young players taking that next step. It was easy to witness 2018 first-round draft pick Saints DE Marcus Davenport growing into full form, as he had a sack and TFL against GB. Davenport will miss a few weeks with an injury, but he will be back for the majority of the season, and for the crucial game matchups against Tom Brady. 

Outside of Davenport taking the next step, the Saints have numerous playmakers on the DL. The veteran Cam Jordan showed he still has a lot of gas left in the tank as he essentially quickly pressured and forced Aaron Rodgers into throwing his first INT of the game. The Saints also reaped benefits from first-year Saint Tanoh Kpassagnon, who managed to get home on a pass rush when the Saints just sent three down linemen at the QB. Then there is even one other pass rusher that is left to attack QBs: Saints 2021 first-round draft pick Payton Turner. The Saints will undoubtedly have the best edge-rushing rotation when Turner sees the field moving forward and when Davenport returns from his minor injury for the large chunk of the season. The Saints ferocious pass rush will truly continue to prove to complement the back end quite well in all of 2021.

Latest NFC West Preview

Who will win the NFC West?

By: Andy Davies

The NFC West is the NFL’s best division. All four teams are seen as playoff contenders, with some media personalities having all four teams in the postseason according to their predictions.

Here is a preview of the most stacked NFL division.

Arizona Cardinals (2020 Record: 8-8. Missed out on playoffs)

The Cardinals struggled for consistency, going 6-3 before a 2-5 run down the stretch. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is under some pressure this season after failing to make the playoffs in his first two seasons.

Kyler Murray is also under some pressure, albeit not a tremendous amount. He is a walking highlight reel when it comes to the ground game. However, his arm talent still needs work. With wide receiver Deandre Hopkins and Christian Kirk to throw to as well as 2021 second-round selection Rondale Moore, he is not short of options. The Cardinals acquired long-time Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, but is the aging wideout enough to transform this offense? Franchise icon Larry Fitzgerald departed in Free Agency, with a 38-year old still without a team. He has spoken of how he “doesn’t have the urge to play right now”, which is almost announcing your retirement without actually doing so. He may still join a team late into the season and the playoffs, which may give him the best chance he’s had since losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl 43.

Murray excels in the run game, but he can’t do it all by himself. Kenyan Drake departed in Free Agency, giving Chase Edmunds the chance to become the number one back. James Conner has arrived as a free agent this summer to provide depth to this running back room.

Their biggest headline offseason addition came on the defensive side of the ball, with Houston Texans great J.J. Watt arriving in Arizona. This came to the surprise of most who saw the defensive end suiting up for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers or Cleveland Browns. Linebacker Haason Reddick has left during the offseason after a brilliant 2020 season. Linebacker Zaven Collins was drafted sixteenth overall in 2021 as his replacement. Fellow linebacker Isaiah Simmons will want to improve on his anti-climatic rookie season after being seen by many as the steal of the 2020 draft. Their defensive x-factor is safety Budda Baker, who is one of the best in the entire league.

A tough opening six games sees them face the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Rams, 49ers, and Browns. This could easily be a 2-4 or 1-5 start. They then face the Houston Texans, Packers,49ers, Carolina Panthers, and Seahawks, which will only give Arizona 2 more wins. This will leave them either 3-8 or 4-7 before a final 5 games versus the Chicago Bears, Rams, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, and Seahawks. I can only see two wins here, leaving the Cardinals finishing the 2021 season either 5-12 or 6-11.

When the two biggest headline offseason acquisitions for a team who finished 8-8 last season are two players at the end of their careers, this is never a good thing. With a head coach on the hot seat and with a tough schedule, expect Arizona to really disappoint this season.

Prediction: 4th in NFC West.

Los Angeles Rams (2020 Record: 10-6. Lost in Divisional Round)

The Rams go into this season as the NFC West team with the most hype after the trade for Matthew Stafford. This saw their first overall pick from 2016 in Jared Goff go the other way as part of the trade. Head coach Sean McVay has a new QB to work with and will be excited to work with another former first overall pick.

Stafford was drafted in 2009 and has thrown for 45,109 yards, 282 touchdowns and interceptions in the 165 games he has played. This includes eight 4,000 yard seasons, one even stretching to 5,038 along with 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This amounts to 273.4 yards per game and with 3,898 completed passes, he has a career average of 11.6 yards per completed pass and a touchdown per every 13.8 completed passes.

Stafford has an immediate upgrade when it comes to receivers. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp represent an immediate upgrade at the receiver position. The running back room is the one area of the Rams’ offense that could let them down. Cam Akers was expected to be the lead back, before injury put a stop to his season before it even started. Darrell Henderson and offseason signing Sony Michel will be the two running backs to take Akers’ place.

The Rams will also be aided by the number one defense from last season. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers and could be a big miss. Under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, they will still be a force, thanks to Aaron Donald who is one of the best players in the entire NFL, with 85.5 career sacks in the regular season. Using a 3-4 scheme, the defensive end is the undisputed star of the defensive line. Behind him is linebacker Leonard Floyd, who recorded 10.5 sacks in 2020. Their secondary is one of the best in the league, with shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey the best cornerback in the league. Alongside Darius Williams, this represents arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league. Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp are both young and exciting players. John Johnson will be a big miss in the safety position.

It remains to be seen if Matt Stafford is the difference between the Rams winning a Super Bowl or not. It also remains to be seen if the Rams can be a great defensive unit without Staley. Either way, we will soon find out.

Their schedule sees five almost guaranteed wins, as they face the Bears, Lions, Giants, Texans and Jaguars. Matchups against the Vikings and Colts as well as two games against the Cardinals sees the Rams are favorites whereas their divisional home and away games against the 49ers and Seahawks represent four tough games that are very much 50/50. The Ravens, Buccaneers and Packers games are also very even affairs for the Rams. Winning those “easy games” plus winning half of the 50/50 games would have the Rams finishing 12-5. This could be enough to take them to the division title.

Prediction: 1st in NFC West.

San Francisco 49ers (2020 Record: 6-10. Missed out on playoffs)

There have been no real significant incomings or outgoings this offseason in San Francisco but they will be buoyed by the return of many starters. The 49ers reached Super Bowl 54 in the 2019 season but only managed six wins in 2020. George Kittle, Nick Bosa and Raheem Mostert were just three of the big-name players to spend last season on the sidelines.

Running back Trey Sermon was drafted in the second round, with quarterback Trey Lance taken third overall. The 49ers traded up for him, giving multiple draft picks to the Miami Dolphins in the process. This sends immediate pressure on Lance’s way. Nobody knows who will start out of Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. There is talk of head coach Kyle Shanahan using a two-quarterback system, something that has a lot of NFL fans really intrigued. With the amount of draft picks the 49ers used to trade up, Lance will eventually start. It is wise for the 49ers to slowly bring him in, especially considering the strength of the division.

With all their big names back, this will put the 49ers at full strength on both sides of the ball despite the loss of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. They will make a return to the playoffs but the quarterback situation may just prevent them from reclaiming the division title.

Prediction: 2nd in NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks (2020 Record: 12-4. Missed out on playoffs)

The Seahawks are in that group alongside the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in that they are the perfect example of consistency. Head coach Pete Carroll always has this team in contention but can they once again make the postseason despite no major additions and just three draft picks.

Safety Jamal Adams signed a new deal and quarterback Russell Wilson decided to stay after some offseason unrest. With receivers such as D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at his disposal, he won’t be short of options. He will hope for better protection in 2021, being one of the most sacked quarterbacks in recent years.

With defensive studs such as Adams and linebacker Bobby Wagner, they have two legitimate game changers in a defensive unit that improved throughout the 2020 season.

The Seahawks should expect another appearance in the postseason but their lack of activity this offseason might hinder their chances of going far in the postseason.

Prediction: 3rd in NFC West.

What should we expect from Marquez Callaway in the Saints week 1 game?

Marquez Callaway will explode in the Saints Week 1 game

By: Jeremy Trottier

The New Orleans Saints have had a pretty intriguing offseason, primarily in the wide receiver room, as many moves have happened.  WR1 Michael Thomas is expected to miss time with an ankle surgery recovery, previous WR2 Emmanuel Sanders has left, WR3 Tre’Quan Smith is battling a hamstring injury still, Deonte Harris is facing suspension still, despite gameday nearing, etc.  The one bright spot at the top of the new depth chart is 2020 UDFA Marquez Callaway from Tennessee University.  Callaway has solidified at the very least a starting role in the Saints offense as of now, if not the top receiver spot prior to a Thomas return.  In this article, I will be going over what to expect from Marquez Callaway in week 1.

Large Score in PPR Leagues

I personally believe that Callaway will have a high volume of offensive passing touches, which will lead to some high PPR numbers if anything.  He should most definitely have double-digit receptions at the very least, as with the Tre’Quan Smith injury putting him back out of practice today and not many outside options otherwise, he is the primary target for the Saints.  Even with having to go up against Jaire Alexander this weekend, he should be able to get open a few times with his route tree or make some contested catches when available.

Quick, Short, Shifty Route Tree

I fully expect this game to be a battle of how the Saints can play the short pass and then throw one or two deep passes and catch the Packers defense off guard if possible.  Callaway should be running a tree primarily consisting of curls, flats, slants, and short-out routes to be able to get underneath the defense and open up some capability for Deonte Harris to get behind the defense.  Letting Callaway play the short passing game and letting Jameis Winston get the ball out quickly and effectively should help this offense move the chains.

Tone Setting Deep Catch or Two

As we saw in the preseason, Callaway was able to keep up with the likes of Marlon Humphrey for a few downs before he was taken off to prevent injury, and against Shaq Griffin for a longer period of time where he had his two amazing touchdown catches, even regardless of coverage, the catches were spectacular.  We should expect to see one or two catches of this nature again, not necessarily touchdowns, but large gains of 25+ where they can keep the defense honest by opening it up in the safety level.

This deep placement should allow for Alvin Kamara to get some more touches and rushes if used at the correct time, as the defense will be forced to put men further back in coverage to prevent the deep pass, which opens up screens and zone rushes for Kamara.  Callaway overall should have a solid game, I am not sure to expect him to be having the showing of a lifetime yet where he absolutely torches the opposing defense, but it should be a respectable statline nonetheless.

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