Posted on

“I have not talked to Aaron”: Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst on Aaron Rodgers, Jets trade

Embed from Getty Images

Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst has admitted that he has not talked to four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers since trading the team’s former franchise QB to the New York Jets.

“I have not talked to Aaron,” Gutekunst revealed in his pre-NFL draft press conference after the trade compensation was finalised on Monday.

“I have talked to Dave Dunn (Rodgers’ agent) quite a bit, but I have not talked to Aaron.”

“I think where our team is at, obviously, Aaron’s up there in age, and although he’s got some really good football in him, I think for us, as we got through the offseason, a trade made a little better sense for us.”

Gutekunst made headlines by drafting Jordan Love, Rodgers’ replacement, in the 2020 first round, just 18 months after signing him to a four-year extension. Green Bay was then put in a difficult situation, with the 39-year-old subsequently winning two MVPs.

Embed from Getty Images

One contract extension later, a decision was finally made to move on this offseason. By trading Rodgers to New York, the Packers have moved up two spots in Thursday night’s 2023 first round, where they’ll look to surround their new quarterback with more talent.

Also in the package was a 2023 second-round pick, and a future second-rounder that can become a first-round pick, should Rodgers play in 65% of games for the Jets in 2023.

Love has made one start since joining the Packers after Rodgers missed a trip to Arrowhead due to testing positive for COVID-19, but there was enough optimism in the organisation for them to move on from their long-time QB.

“I think as we move forward we’re really excited for where Jordan could go, he needs to play, and having him sit another year would’ve really delayed where we’re going and what we’re trying to build.”

“I have so much respect for Aaron, and not only the person, but also the player that he is, and I have so much gratitude for what he’s done for this organisation.

“He’ll always be a Packer, he’ll be one of the best to have ever done it around here, and he will be missed there’s no doubt about it, players like that do not come around very often.

“At the same time, we are really excited about where we are headed and wish him nothing but the best”: Gutekunst said.

Gutekunst also responded to qualms about whether his young quarterback was ready: “We’ve seen steady growth through his first three years here, especially with the challenges of having no pre-season in his rookie year.

“The biggest thing was last year in practice a number of times, because of Aaron’s injuries, he took over a lot of time with the 1’s, and I just think we saw him grow and grow.

“He didn’t get nearly as many opportunities as we’d have liked last season during games, but when he did he was ready to answer the bell.”

Gutekunst then added: “I think it’s natural maturation as a person too.”

“What’s put on the plate of a starting quarterback in the NFL is significant, and there’s a lot to that, with challenges on and off the field, I think we started to see him grow into that role and feel more confident.”

Rodgers isn’t the first superstar player to be traded in Gutekunst’s tenure as GM, All-Pro Wide Receiver Davantae Adams became a Las Vegas Raider last offseason.

On whether trading away two potential future hall of famers was a risk, he responded: “There’s certainly an element of risk, but that’s part of the job right?

“Aaron was coming into the time of his career where it was ending and we had to prepare for the future and to move forward.

“It’s always risky, I mean we were 8-9 last year, we’re always trying to be better.”

Embed from Getty Images

With the draft on the horizon, Gutekunst was quizzed on his strategy: “You’d love to say that every pick is the best player available because you truly don’t know what your needs will be until you get to the season.

“At the same time, it’s hard not to let those subconscious thoughts into your mind about what your roster looks like.

“We evaluate for our football team, rather than for the league, so subconsciously if you have a need it’s going to factor in.

“If we can, the best practice is the best player available because by the time we get to September, October, November what our needs are could be everything.”

He prefixed that by saying: “It’s a good draft overall, it’s one that we’re certainly excited about and one that we really believe that we’re going to be able to add to our football team and help us for 2023 and beyond.

“I think it is a good edge class this year, there’s a lot deeper of a class than there has been in recent years, tight end is another one that I think I’ve mentioned earlier.” Green Bay lost tight end Robert Tonyan to Chicago in free agency.

Gutekunst was then asked whether TE was a more premium position than 15 years ago, to which he replied: “I don’t think so.

“There was already so much demand on the tight ends, with not only the entire passing trees but also the run and pass blocking.

“It’s a very demanding position, obviously with the way Matt (La Fleur) uses multiple TE’s they’re very important to our offense, sometimes it can be scheme related, but for us, it’s a very important position.”

You can watch the 2023 NFL Draft on Sky Sports, with coverage of the first round beginning at 9 PM on Thursday night.

It will begin when the Carolina Panthers are put on the clock just after 1 AM. To stay up to date with all seven rounds, stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Posted on

2023 NFL Draft: Which Tight End is the best fit for the Miami Dolphins?

Embed from Getty Images

Tight End is one of the Miami Dolphins’ biggest needs ahead of the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft after the team moved on from Mike Gesicki in the offseason.

Miami does have Durham Smythe, who recently signed a two-year extension worth up to $8.75 million, who’s a valuable inline player, but so far in his career has been too ineffective to be the sole threat in the passing game.

2023’s TE class is one of, if not the strongest position groups in the entire draft, with plenty of prospects likely to be taken in the first three rounds.

Whilst the Dolphins are without a first-round pick, they do have the 51st and 84th overall selections, where there should be a few players who can make an impact in Mike McDaniel’s offense.

Who are the best Tight End prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Embed from Getty Images

1. Dalton Kincaid – Utah – 6ft 4in 246lbs – Round 1 prospect

Kincaid is mostly regarded as the best tight end this year and is expected to go in the first round, therefore likely being out of the Dolphins’ reach.

In 2022, the man who is the best-receiving prospect in this group put up 890 yards and nine touchdowns on the year, and whilst not the best blocker, he has enough to get by in the pros.

Kincaid has a nice get-off, and accelerates quickly, almost like a receiver which is one of his best traits. He’s also difficult to bring down, with 397 yards after catch in 2022, the most in the class.

2. Michael Mayer – Notre Dame – 6ft 4in 265lbs – Round 1-2 prospect

Embed from Getty Images

Mayer is an all-around tight end, who is the best option to come in and succeed right away. He’s an accomplished blocker who’s also a terrific receiving weapon.

In 2022 Mayer amassed 809 yards, and nine touchdowns, and lead his fellow draftees in catches in traffic, putting up 17, six more than anyone else.

He’s more of a big-body traditional TE, which has prompted many, including myself, to have him as the best prospect in this class. If Mayer falls to the second round Chris Grier should be working the phones trying to move up to the front.

3. Darnell Washington – Georgia – 6ft 6in 264lbs – Early Round 2 prospect

Embed from Getty Images

Washington is huge! He’s one of the tallest in the class at almost 6ft 7in, whilst also possessing a huge wingspan. He’s an absolute beast in the run game and has the potential to be the best TE in this draft.

Whilst he’s not the receiver that Kincaid or Mayer are, he’s got a tonne of potential and has the ability to go up over the top and win in the pros. 4.65 was an insane 40 yard dash time at the combine.

Although Washington is a project, he has so much upside that it’s unlikely he’ll be there at 51 for the Dolphins. After an impressive combine, he’s rising up draft boards. 

Who’s the best fit for the Miami Dolphins on Day 2?

Embed from Getty Images

1. Sam LaPorta – Iowa – 6ft 4in 249lbs – Round 2 prospect

LaPorta is another great receiving tight end and one who stretches the field. He’ll be hard to bring down with his 4.59 40 time and 20 missed tackles, which was enough for the 2nd most in CFB in 2022.

He’s more of a Mark Andrews-style player, rather than the traditional Iowa product that we see in the likes of George Kittle and TJ Hockenson, but like Kincaid, he has enough in the run game to be a starting TE in the league.

LaPorta had the fourth most snaps in a zone run-blocking scheme last year, making him a great fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense, as Kittle was in San Francisco. If he can be half the guy in the run game, they’re onto a winner.

2. Tucker Kraft – South Dakota State – 6ft 5in 255lbs – Round 2-3 prospect

Embed from Getty Images

Much like Mayer, Kraft is more of a common NFL tight end than Kincaid and to an extent LaPorta. His tape at South Dakota State shows an impressive understanding in the run game.

Whilst he’s not got the speed to take the top off a defense that some other prospects have, Kraft is another tight end who comes alive when the ball is in his hands.

2021 was a very good season for Kraft, but he was unfortunately injured for part of 2022, which paired with his production being at a small school has resulted in him being considered a late second to early third-round prospect.

3. Davis Allen – Clemson 6ft 6 in 250lbs – Round 3 prospect

Embed from Getty Images

Allen is another who’s trending upwards as we move closer to the draft. He was a great red zone target at Clemson and another all-purpose tight end who can help out in the run game. 

Like LaPorta, Allen has more experience at zonal blocking than most of the top prospects, with PFF giving him a desirable grade in both zone and gap-schemed runs.

Allen went for 443 yards and five touchdowns from 39 receptions in 2022, whilst catching 11 of 12 balls in traffic, which was second to only Michael Mayer, showing he has reliable hands.

Posted on Leave a comment

Free Agency Day 2 Recap

Embed from Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers made headlines on the second day of free agency, before his seemingly impending move to the New York Jets has even happened.

The four-time MVP is set to be traded to New York, per Trey Wingo, and has given GM Joe Douglas a shopping list of free-agent weapons for the quarterback, should he end up at MetLife Stadium

Former Packers WR Allen Lazard was the first to sign over the dotted line with the AFC East outfit, whilst Odell Beckham Jr, Marcedes Lewis, and Randall Cobb are also on Rodgers’ list.

Nothing is done yet though, could Rodgers confirm the move himself when he appears on Pat McAfee at 6 PM GMT? Or will he shock the world by retiring?

Top 10 free agents: Who signed?

10. James Bradberry – CB – Philadelphia Eagles, 3 years $38 million

Embed from Getty Images

Despite temptation from their division rival Dallas Cowboys, James Bradberry remained in Philadelphia yesterday, signing a deal worth just over $12.5 million a year.

It looks like Bradberry may have a home, having been chucked about in recent years. With a few departures in the Philadelphia secondary this free agency, he’ll be a leader in the city of brotherly love.  

Who’s still left to sign?

1. Lamar Jackson – QB

Today is the day we could start to see some movement with Lamar Jackson. Due to not having an agent, the end of the legal tampering period means he can start to negotiate with teams that are willing to give up two first-round picks.

3. Bobby Wagner – LB

Only one of my top three linebackers has been signed so far, but for Wagner I’m sure it’s more about destination than a paycheck. A second ring is very high on the agenda.

5. Lavonte David – LB

As with Wagner, David is another I’d expect to take his time and pick a destination. Miami is a shout for both of them, less so after signing David Long on Monday, but the linebacker position is valued in Vic Fangio’s defense. 

7. Orlando Brown – T 

Whilst Brown is without a contract so far in free agency, one thing we do know is that he will not be returning to Kansas City.  New FA signing Jawaan Taylor is expected to take his role, moving to left tackle. 


Embed from Getty Images

Stephon Gilmore – Indianapolis to Dallas

2018’s defensive player of the year ended up in Dallas on Tuesday night, moving for a 2023 fifth-round pick, in the aftermath of James Bradberry remaining in Philadelphia.

After a poor final couple of years in New England, Gilmore has bounced back in his previous two destinations of Carolina and Indy, will he be the next dominant Cowboys corner?

Darren Waller – Las Vegas to New York Giants

Embed from Getty Images

Fresh from committing to Daniel Jones, Giants GM Joe Schoen went out and got one of the league’s top tight-ends for his $ 40 million a-year quarterback.

Waller, who signed a three-year $51 million extension in September only cost the G-Men a third-round pick, the one acquired from Kansas City in the Kadarius Toney trade.

Other big Free Agent Signings

Dalvin Tomlinson – IDL – Minnesota to Cleveland, signed for four years, $57 million

Allen Lazard – WR – Green Bay to New York Jets, signed for four years, $44 million

Jason Kelce – C – remaining in Philadelphia, signed a one-year $14 million extension

Kaleb McGary – T – remaining in Atlanta, signed a three year $34.5 million extension

Jakobi Meyers – WR – New England to Las Vegas, signed for three years, $33 million

Bobby Okereke – LB – Indianapolis to New York Giants, signed for four years, $40 million

Charles Omenihu – EDGE – San Francisco to Kansas City, signed for two years, $20 million

Larry Ogunjobi – IDL – remaining in Pittsburgh, signed a three year $28 million extension

Samson Ebukam – EDGE – San Francisco to Indianapolis, signed for three years, $24 million

Eric Kendricks – LB – Minnesota to Los Angeles Chargers signed for two years, $13.25 million

Follow us at Full10Yards to keep up to date with all the latest moves this week, as well as the upcoming NFL draft. Be sure to get in touch on both Facebook and Twitter.

Posted on Leave a comment

Free Agency Day 1 Recap

Embed from Getty Images

The Chicago Bears made headlines on the first day of the legal tampering period, revamping their linebacking core.

Tremaine Edmunds, my number four free agent, signed a four-year, $72 million deal, whilst former Eagle TJ Edwards signed for three years and $19.5 million.

As for quarterbacks, Jimmy Garoppolo will reunite with Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels, whilst Mike White will act as Tua Tagovailoa’s backup in Miami. 

Elsewhere there were big deals for three offensive linemen, and Javon Hargrave joined an already stacked 49ers defensive line.

Top 10 free agents: Who signed?

2. Javon Hargrave – IDL – San Fransisco 49ers, 4 years $80 million

Hargrave loves a winning organisation. His last two landing spots of Philadelphia, and San Francisco, on top starting his career in Pittsburgh, have been playoff regulars in recent years. With the talent on that defense, I can’t see anything changing.

The 30-year-old, one of the league’s best defensive linemen in 2022 joins Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead in one of the now scariest positions groups in the entire league.

4. Tremaine Edmunds – LB – Chicago Bears, 4 years $72 million

Embed from Getty Images

Coming into March the Bears had the number one overall pick, a quarterback in Justin Fields, and the most cap room in the league. Ryan Poles got a haul, and a new receiver for Fields by trading down. Now he can splash the cash on defense.

If this past year is anything to go by, Edmunds could join the long line of elite linebackers to have played for Chicago. He’s still young too, only 24!

6. Jessie Bates – S – Atlanta Falcons, 4 years $64 million

Embed from Getty Images

Bates was one of two Cincinnati Bengals safeties to leave on Monday, decimating the back end of Lou Anarumo’s defense.

On his day, there’s no doubt that he is one of the best safeties game. Bates, who played under the franchise tag in 2022, will play a big part in revamping a poor Atlanta defense.

8. Marcus Davenport –  EDGE – Minnesota Vikings, 1 year $13 million 

Embed from Getty Images

My top edge in the free agency class found his destination late on Tuesday night, landing in Brian Flores’ scheme, where I’m sure he’ll have a similar role to what Emmanuel Ogbah had in Miami.

2022 wasn’t the best year in terms of sacks for Davenport, but he was still effective off the edge. His work in the run game should be favoured in this scheme too. 

9. Mike McGlinchey – T – Denver Broncos, 5 years $87 million

Embed from Getty Images

The first offensive tackle drafted in 2018 joins Denver, who are hoping to be a lot better on offense in 2023 with Sean Payton at the helm. Keeping Russell Wilson upright is this team’s key to success.

Wilson showed improvement in the final weeks of the season which I’m sure gave the organisation some optimism, McGlinchey was one of two lineman brought in by the Broncos yesterday.

Top 10 Free Agents: Who’s still left to sign?

1. Lamar Jackson – QB

While nothing is expected to happen with Lamar, especially not until Wednesday, thanks to the non-exclusive tag he is still there for negotiation should a team want to part with two first-round picks.

3. Bobby Wagner – LB

Only one of my top three linebackers were signed on the first day, but for Wagner I’m sure it’s more about destination than a paycheck. A second ring is very high on the agenda.

5. Lavonte David – LB

As with Wagner, David is another I’d expect to take his time and pick a top destination. Miami is a shout for both of them, less so after signing David Long yesterday, but the linebacker position is valued highly in Vic Fangio’s defense. 

7. Orlando Brown – T 

Whilst Brown is without a contract so far in free agency, one thing we do know is that he will not be returning to Kansas City.  New FA signing Jawaan Taylor is expected to take his role, moving to left tackle.

10. James Bradberry – CB

As the top corner in this free agency class, Bradberry is smart to wait for the offers and pick another contender, as he did with Philadelphia last offseason. Dallas continues to be linked.

Other big Free Agent Signings

Chris Lindstrom –  G – remaining in Atlanta, signed a five year $105 million extension

Jimmy Garoppolo – QB – San Francisco to Las Vegas, signed for three years, $67.5 million

Mike White – QB – New York to Miami, signed for two years, $16 million

Jawaan Taylor – T – Jacksonville to Kansas City, signed for four years, $80 million

Jamal Dean – CB – remains in Tampa Bay, signed a four year $52 million extension

TJ Edwards – LB – Philadelphia to Chicago, signed for three years, $19.5 million

Cam Sutton – CB – Pittsburgh to Detroit, signed for three years, $33 million

Andre Dillard – T – Philadelphia to Tennessee, signed for three years $29 million

Zach Allen – EDGE – Arizona to Denver, signed for three years $47 million

Dre’Mont Jones – IDL – Denver to Seattle, signed for three years $51 million

Follow us at Full10Yards to keep up to date with all the latest moves this week, as well as the upcoming NFL draft. Be sure to get in touch on both Facebook and Twitter.

Posted on Leave a comment

Free Agency Preview: Top 10 Players

Embed from Getty Images

It’s that time of year, again, free agency! Star players such as  Lamar Jackson, Bobby Wagner, and Javon Hargrave, among others, all might be on the move in the coming days. Who else is available?

Whilst the new league new year doesn’t actually start until Wednesday, from 5 PM GMT today, teams will be able to contact players regarding contracts, triggering the start of free agency, and movement in the hours afterwards.

Who are the Top 10 players in the 2023 Free Agency Class?

1. Lamar Jackson – QB

Baltimore strangely decided to use the non-exclusive franchise tag on their former MVP quarterback, meaning he is now available for the price of two first-round picks, technically keeping him a free agent.

While a move is unlikely at this point due to Jackson wanting a fully guaranteed contract, if any team wanted to put a contract on the table, Baltimore would then have five days to match the offer.

If no one wants Lamar what does he do? Hold out? Play on the tag? Or agree to an improvised contract?

2. Javon Hargrave – IDL

Embed from Getty Images

At the age of 30, Hargrave looks set to be on his third contract for his third team. Due to the interior defensive line class being one of the weaker position groups, he looks set to be in for a big payday.

Hargrave is one of many Eagles defensive players set to test free agency after making the Super Bowl in February. He had a career-high 11 sacks, putting up an 80.1 PFF grade, tied for 11th highest at IDL in the league.

3. Bobby Wagner – LB

Embed from Getty Images

On top of Jackson, another man who will be the talk of the next week is Bobby Wagner. The nine-time All-Pro linebacker, eight-time pro bowler, and 2013 Super Bowl champion is coming off a strong season and chasing another ring.

Even at the age of 32, Wagner is still one of the top free agents and the league’s best at his position, putting up only a 2.9% missed tackle percentage and NFL best 90.7 PFF grade in 2022.

4. Tremaine Edmunds – LB

Embed from Getty Images

At the young age of 24, Edmunds has already played five seasons and is on to his second contract. He’s one of the most sought-after players in this free agency class, but will he re-sign with Buffalo?

In 2022 he put up a career-high PFF grade of 81.9, the 5th best among all linebackers. Six pass breakups was also the best in his young career, as was a 6.5% missed tackle percentage. 

5. Lavonte David – LB

Embed from Getty Images

Another player going strong in his 30’s is Lavonte David. Whilst he won’t make as much as the other two big linebackers testing free agency, he is an excellent pick-up for a contender.

In a down year for the Buccaneers’ defense, David still managed an 85.1 grade, the fourth-highest of his career, and the third-best number of all linebackers in 2022.

6. Orlando Brown Jr – OT

Embed from Getty Images

With offensive tackle being a premium position in free agency, another big money maker will be Orlando Brown Jr. After being unable to agree to a long-term deal with Kansas City a top tackle is set to test the market.

2022 was a pro bowl season for Brown, who was the 19th-best offensive tackle according to PFF. He only allowed four sacks and seven quarterback hits on the year. 

7. Jessie Bates III – S

Embed from Getty Images

Bates is the first of two Cincinnati Bengals safeties to test free agency this week. He’s definitely earned his big contract over the years, but will he choose to stay and help a real contender?

He would be a huge loss for Zac Taylor’s team, and may well be a bit cheaper than he was last offseason after a down year in coverage. That being said, Bates was as great in the box, posting the fifth-best run defense grade of all safeties. 

8. Marcus Davenport – EDGE

Embed from Getty Images

Davenport is a bit of a strange one, because he only put up one sack last year, but is still a top player at his position. Whilst he still had seven quarterback hits, the one sack was a career low.

Had he been a free agent after a strong 2021 season, he may well be a whole lot richer. Whilst the end product wasn’t their Davenport still had a good year in many categories. Will he make a similar jump to Trey Hendrickson, should he leave New Orleans?

9. Mike McGlinchey – OT

Embed from Getty Images

Mike McGlinchey is another top tackle who is expected to make a buck or two this week. He’s a solid player who’s always played at the calibre of the top half of the players at his position in his five years in San Francisco.

2022 saw the 49ers reach the NFC Championship game, and McGlinchey allowed the lowest amount of pressures in a full season in his career. Could a reunion with Mike McDaniel in Miami be a fit?

10. James Bradberry – CB 

Embed from Getty Images

In his one and only year in Philadelphia, James Bradberry earned himself another big contract. The 29 year old made it all the way to the Super Bowl having only joined the team in May.

Bradberry was as excellent as ever in coverage, allowing a 54.2 passer rating, the 3rd lowest number among all cornerbacks, and intercepting the ball three times on top of the 12 pass breakups.  

Follow us at Full10Yards to keep up to date with all the latest moves this week, as well as the upcoming NFL draft. Be sure to get in touch on both Facebook and Twitter.

Posted on Leave a comment

“The guys were the most pumped up I’ve ever seen them going into a game” – Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes on ‘underdog’ AFC Championship victory

After winning the AFC Championship game and securing a spot in his third Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes discussed going into the game as an ‘underdog’, just eight days after suffering a high ankle sprain.

“I think the guys were probably the most pumped up I’ve seen them going into a game, a lot of trash talk was coming from a lot of different places, even the mayor came at me.

“Whenever you feel like the underdog playing at Arrowhead Stadium it gets our guys ready to go.”

Embed from Getty Images

Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs reached their third Super Bowl in his fifth year as a starter, after a 23-20 victory over Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, the reigning AFC Champions.

Many saw the Chiefs as underdogs heading into the game, not only due to questions over their QB’s ankle, but also because Burrow was 3-0 vs Mahomes in his young career.

“I didn’t expect to be able to run very much just with the way it felt, but the training staff did a great job to get me enough mobility to protect myself, Mahomes expressed, before pointing out;

“At the end of the game, I had a run to get the first down, and it got us into field goal range.

“I thought the stomping was going to be the hardest part, especially planting the right leg to throw across the body, that definitely didn’t feel good. The worst tweak was when I fumbled and I tried to pick it up.”

The Arrowhead regulars were in control for most of the game, but a late Mahomes fumble gave them a scare.

Embed from Getty Images

“It was going to Marquez (Valdes-Scantling), who was wide open, they blitzed and it just slipped out of my hand.

“Luckily it didn’t cost us the game and our defense stepped up and got some stops for us in the end, because it was a big moment.”

“Now, the job is not finished for us, we’ve got the chance to go up against a great football team in the Philadelphia Eagles.

Embed from Getty Images

When asked about returning to yet another Super Bowl, Mahomes revealed that he’s approaching this one with a different mindset.

“When I first got into the league it all happened so fast, winning MVP, winning the Super Bowl, I thought that was just how it went.

“Now I’ve dealt with failure, losing the AFC Championship, losing the Super Bowl. I know how much hard work and daily grit it takes.”

You can watch Mahomes and the Chiefs suit up in Super Bowl 57 on Sunday 11th February. Both Sky Sports and ITV are showing the game here in the UK, with kick-off set for 11:30 PM GMT.

Posted on Leave a comment

5 things we learned in the 2023 Divisional Round

Embed from Getty Images

With the two Conference Championship games now set, the Divisional round left many teams with more questions than answers

1. Could Cincinnati be the AFC favourites?

The odds were stacked against Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals heading into Sunday’s early game, but those in the tiger-striped helmets prevailed as a postseason underdog once again.

Much was made about the loss of three key starters on the offensive line for Cinci, but that makeshift unit performed admirably on Sunday. The Bengals controlled the line of scrimmage and kept their quarterback upright.

Lou Anarumo delivered yet another outstanding playoff gameplan, holding Josh Allen and the Bills to ten points. Even the home-field advantage (of snow) couldn’t get them going in a game that seemed so one-sided from the start.

2. Buffalo’s Super Bowl window is closing

Embed from Getty Images

Was this the Buffalo Bills’ year? After another heartbreaking loss in the divisional round, it appears that Sean McDermott’s Bills’ Super Bowl window is closing.

We know Josh Allen is locked in after his recent contract extension, but some key pieces are impeding free agents, with little cap room to manoeuvre. As with all teams who are good enough to enter themselves into a Super Bowl window, you can’t afford to pay everyone.

Tremaine Edmonds and Jordan Poyer look set to test the market, with the likes of Von Miller, Matt Milano, Tre’davious White and Micah Hyde all on decent money on defense.

3. The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to pounce

Embed from Getty Images

Despite losing to the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes on one ankle, the future is certainly bright in Jacksonville. A young Jags team hung in there with the conference’s number-one seed, despite having far inferior talent.

Trevor Lawrence was without the early playoff nerves displayed in the Chargers game but sadly doesn’t possess the supporting cast required to compete against a team that will play in a fifth straight AFC championship game.

Coach Doug Pederson and general manager Trent Baalke will be encouraged by what they’ve seen from their young quarterback this season. Lawrence’s development will enable them to build around him in the coming off-season.

4. Serious eyes are on Dak Prescott

Embed from Getty Images

Are the Dallas Cowboys sure that Prescott is the guy? After the league’s turnover leader threw three more interceptions in a game he should have won on Sunday night, serious questions are being raised about the man they are paying $40 million per year.

Being a game manager can get you wins in the NFC, but it will never win you a Super Bowl against the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow.

On that kind of money, you’d think Prescott would be a top-five quarterback, but he’d barely crack the top half of the league’s best quarterbacks.

5. San Fransisco can be slowed down

Embed from Getty Images

In their loss at Levi’s Stadium, Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn laid out a blueprint for slowing down the San Francisco 49ers offense.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense has been on fire lately, especially since the Christian McCaffrey trade, winning 12 straight games and scoring less than 30 points only four times in that span.

McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell combined for 3.55 yards per carry on Sunday night, a significant decrease from their season average of 5.4. The Philadelphia Eagles, their opponent on Sunday, have the second-best defense in terms of yards per game during the regular season.

Posted on Leave a comment

5 things we learned on Super Wild Card Weekend

Embed from Getty Images

The NFL’s second Super Wild Card Weekend was even better than the first, here are five things we learned in the first round of the playoffs.

1. The Los Angeles Chargers are poorly coached

Saturday night saw the Chargers blow a 27-point lead in spectacular fashion. Their opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled the score back to 27-7 to close out the first half, before going on to win 31-30.

Awful clock management from the Chargers’ coaching staff after halftime contributed to the loss, only choosing to run a baffling eight times. That allowed the Jags to come back and steal a game that looked so one-sided.

Brandon Staley has since fired his offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and QB coach Shane Day.  Perhaps these moves are intended to divert attention away from a head coach who has made a number of questionable decisions over the last two years.

2. Josh Allen’s turnovers are a big problem

Embed from Getty Images

Allen’s Buffalo Bills were fortunate not to lose to the Miami Dolphins and their third-string quarterback, Skylar Thompson, in the early game on Sunday. Allen’s three turnover-worthy plays brought the Fins back into a game that had previously been out of reach. 

Interceptions by Dolphins defensive backs Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland resulted in scoring drives, while defensive tackle Zach Sieler recovered a fumble for a touchdown. 

There’s no denying he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the game, but his risk-or-reward treatment of the football almost proved costly on Sunday. During the regular season, Allen not only had the most big-time throws (44), but he also tied for the most TWPs with Geno Smith (29).

3. Brian Daboll is the Coach of the Year

Embed from Getty Images

The NFL Coach of the Year for the 2022 season has to be Brian Daboll. His Giants team has showed so much fight this season, winning multiple games they shouldn’t have been talented enough to do so.

Daniel Jones has been very impressive this season, looking like a top-15 quarterback whilst having a set of practice squad receivers. Not bad for a man whose fifth-year option was declined in the offseason. By all accounts, he’s earned a new deal. That’s down to Daboll.

Wink Martindale was an excellent hire this off-season. He put out an excellent defensive plan to stop Justin Jefferson and the rest of the Vikings’ high-powered offense.

4. Cincinnati has real offensive line problems

Embed from Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals are right back to where they were at the start of this season, just a big hit away from their franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow, getting hurt again.

Injuries have decimated the unit after Jonah Williams (knee) added to the growing injury list of La’el Collins (ACL) and Alex Cappa (ankle) on Sunday night.

Ted Karras is the only offensive lineman with a PFF grade of over 60, and one of only two lineman with enough snaps to be ranked by the stats company this season. Look for the Bills defensive line to have a field day on Sunday, similar to what Pittsburgh did in Week One.

5. Tom Brady is done in Tampa Bay

Embed from Getty Images

After his team’s 31-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Brady thanked reporters for their hard work over the season, almost as if he was signalling it was time for a change. He is a free agent this coming offseason.

With how the last 12 months have played out for TB12 and the Buccaneers, it makes sense to move on. Whether or not the greatest player in history retries is a different question; prior to the loss, the general consensus was that he’d return for one more year. 

Over the past 24 hours that looks slightly less likely, especially with the signs of decline he showed on Monday night, making multiple odd decisions in the first half. Whatever happens, I believe it is safe to say Tom Brady will not be in Tampa Bay next season.

Posted on Leave a comment

5 things to look out for in Week 18

Embed from Getty Images

Week 18 is here! As the season draws to a close, there are five games with playoff spots riding on them

1. This one’s for Damar

After an emotional week, the Buffalo Bills will be out to play for their hero, Damar Hamlin. After the contest was abandoned, the NFL has chosen not to replay the game to avoid scuppering the traditional schedule.

Because both teams have played one fewer game than the rest of the league, some rules have been put in place to ensure a ‘fair’ playoff seeding. It’s safe to say that the Bengals are displeased.

Due to those rules, and Kansas City beating Las Vegas last night, Buffalo cannot be the number-one seed, but are playing for the opportunity to have the AFC Championship game at a neutral site, should they face the Chiefs.

2. A big opportunity for Skylar Thompson

Embed from Getty Images

Miami’s playoff hopes are riding on Skylar Thompson, the team’s third-string rookie quarterback. After Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his pinky finger in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, Thompson will make his second start of the season.

The collapse of this team has been rather spectacular, losing five straight after being in the mix for the one seed just a few weeks ago. It’s fair to say they’ve been rather unlucky, but the Chargers and 49ers games were inexcusable. A win and a New England loss will send them to Buffalo or Cincinnati next week.

The New York Jets were eliminated after a loss to Seattle last weekend. They will start Joe Flacco in place of Mike White, who is out with a rib injury. If the Jets win, they would have swept the Dolphins this season.

3. Mike Tomlin, the winner

Embed from Getty Images

Mike Tomlin has done it again! His Pittsburgh Steelers would have yet another winning season with a victory over Cleveland today. No-one would have been expecting that two months ago.

If both Miami and New England lose, which could very much happen, the Steelers would even make the postseason. This all comes after winning seven of their last nine games.

They’ve won those games in typical Pittsburgh fashion, by an elite defense. Tomlin and Teryl Austin’s unit have only allowed more than 17 points once in that nine-game stretch.

4. Could the Seattle Seahawks sneak in?

Embed from Getty Images

Seattle are still alive, just. They looked to be out of the playoff picture before pulling off a win over the Jets seven days ago. A victory would put pressure on the Green Bay Packers later this evening.

Pete Carroll’s team had lost three straight before that victory. The Seahawks would make the postseason with a win over the Rams on Sunday and a Detroit Lions win over the Packers.

Baker Mayfield will start what could be Sean McVay’s final game as an NFL coach. The reigning Super Bowl champion head coach looks set to go into broadcasting, whilst Baker will try to impress in his final audition for a starting job somewhere next season.

5. Packers, Lions close out the regular season

Embed from Getty Images

After an against-all-odds run of wins, the Green Bay Packers look destined for the playoffs. And rightly so too, the postseason would be better with Aaron Rodgers in it.

As for their opponent the Detroit Lions, if the Seahawks lose to the Rams, they will take the last spot in the wildcard round with a win over their division rival tonight.

With the most riding on this game, it was sensible to pick it as the regular season closing Sunday Night Football matchup.

Posted on Leave a comment

5 things to look out for in Week 17

Embed from Getty Images

As the playoff picture gets clearer by the day, some teams are hanging on threads. Here are five things to look out for in Week 17

1. Can Teddy Bridgewater secure the Miami Dolphins’ playoff berth?

Mike McDaniel’s Dolphins are in big trouble after losing four straight and dropping from the second seed to just having a 59% chance of making the playoffs. They’ll face New England without their starting quarterback.

Tua Tagovailoa threw three consecutive drive-ending interceptions after an impressive first half against Green Bay at home on Christmas Day. What seemed unusual at the time was later confirmed to be a concussion earlier this week.

Teddy Bridgewater will get the start against the Patriots, who look in disarray after two straight un-Belichickian losses from Rhamondre Stevenson’s mistakes. Could the worst New England team in over two decades make the playoffs?

2. Mike White is back for the New York Jets

Embed from Getty Images

Robert Saleh, one of McDaniel’s colleagues in San Francisco, would relish a loss, as a New England win followed by a Jets victory over Seattle puts everything on the line in Week 18.

That win will be crucial, as a loss will eliminate them from the playoffs. Luckily there was good news in New York this week as Mike White looks set to start after missing two games due to the painful rib injury he suffered against Buffalo.

Last Thursday night in Jacksonville provided many with the confirmation that New York is moving on at the quarterback position. Zach Wilson has likely played the team out of the playoffs.

3. Can the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South?

Embed from Getty Images

Carolina travels to Tampa Bay on Sunday knowing that a win puts them in control of the NFC South. In doing so, they could become the first team since Washington in 2020 to make the playoffs with a losing record.

They’ve found new life under interim head coach Steve Wilks, particularly on offense. Sam Darnold has led them to two wins in their last three games, aided by a strong defense and a difficult-to-stop run game.

As for the current division leaders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they should win the division if the Panthers do not score 17 points. The opponent has not scored more than 16 points in any of the Bucs’ seven victories this season.

4. Will the Green Bay Packers win again?

Embed from Getty Images

Green Bay could actually make the playoffs! We discussed this scenario a few weeks ago, but we never imagined it would become a reality. A win over Minnesota on Sunday will put them on path, heading into a big game at home to Detroit.

Matt La Fleur and Aaron Rodgers’ offense is really starting to flow now that the new guys are getting a feel of the scheme. It’s helped them win three in a row, averaging 25.6 points in their past five games.

Last week against the Giants, the Vikings won their 11th one-score game of the season, demonstrating their incredible ability to win close games. That will be very useful in January.

5. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen on MNF!

Embed from Getty Images

A win on Monday night would make it likely that the Buffalo Bills would secure the number one seed in the AFC. With a win and a Baltimore loss to Pittsburgh, their opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, would clinch the AFC North.

Due to ESPN’s inability to flex games until the 2023 season, MNF has been rather dull in recent weeks. Fortunately, they have the best game of the week.

The matchup between Joe Burrow and Josh Allen on Monday is the first ESPN game featuring two teams without a losing record since Week 10, and only the fourth all season. I’ve been starting to think Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are being wasted.