Lay Betting Systems, Calculators, Odds and How it All

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 04/06/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 14/03/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 13/03/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 09/03/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 07/03/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 22/02/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 21/02/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 12/02/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 05/02/20 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – 06/11/19 - Lay Betting Systems

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Laying the Favourite In a Horse Race - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – Horse Racing – 16/02/18 - Lay Betting Systems

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Free Lay Betting Tips – Horse Racing – 13/02/18 - Lay Betting Systems

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Putting an asterisk on every VFL/AFL premiership ever

Recently there's been a bit of a debate around the traps concerning this 2020 season and whether or not the eventual premiership should have an asterisk next to it. And that's a silly debate, because of course every VFL/AFL premiership ever can have an asterisk next to it. Just pick and choose the asterisks that you personally believe should exist:
Year Premier Reason this premiership gets an asterisk
1897 Essendon didn't even have a Grand Final
1898 Fitzroy general clusterfuck
1899 Fitzroy too much rain
1900 Melbourne Melbourne winning the flag from 6th so bullshit they changed the final system in response
1901 Essendon umpiring error gives Essendon the semi-final 'win' - should have been Fitzroy in the GF
1902 Collingwood season tainted by Essendon's 'Goodthur' controversy
1903 Collingwood Collingwood's captain was called "Lardie" that's not even a real name
1904 Fitzroy Crapp umpiring
1905 Fitzroy MCG too wet and soft
1906 Carlton fake Grand Final, was just the prelim in disguise
1907 Carlton fake Grand Final, was just the prelim in disguise again - also illicit Geelong pre-season affair with the VFA's Richmond clearly taints the whole season
1908 Carlton Essendon clearly psychologically scarred by vicious Fitzroy riots
1909 South Melbourne Argus system 'challenge match' is kinda bullshit
1910 Collingwood season tainted by Carlton bribery scandal
1911 Essendon season tainted by player expenses shenanigans
1912 Essendon rules tinkering: players have to be branded with numbers on their backs so that fascist 'Stewards' can report them - I mean what is this, the Napoleonic occupation of Iberia???
1913 Fitzroy silly finals system allows Fitzroy to play St Kilda again in the GF after losing to them in the prelim
1914 Carlton Jamieson illegally in the back of Bollard, South robbed, #justice4bollard
1915 Carlton comp too imba after University pulls out
1916 Fitzroy wrong for spooners to also be premiers
1917 Collingwood season compromised by WW1
1918 South Melbourne Carlton too distracted by the Allies thumping the Kaiser to perform well
1919 Collingwood season clearly unbalanced by the winless Melbourne having their first professional season (ie. with paid players) eight years after the rest of the comp
1920 Richmond a player debuts in the Grand Final for Richmond and plays a key part in the result? that's too implausible to be true
1921 Richmond Richmond's season tainted by ball-stabbing incident in R7
1922 Fitzroy season tainted by Richmond fans death-threating an umpire into retirement
1923 Essendon Grand Final played on Caulfield Cup day? that's not even close to September
1924 Essendon nonsense round-robin finals system that was immediately scrapped
1925 Geelong compromised draw with the three expansion teams
1926 Melbourne Collingwood into the GF without winning any finals - a contrived win for Melbourne
1927 Collingwood GF the lowest-scoring match in 20th or 21st centuries, not good enough to count as a real GF
1928 Collingwood Pies players under a bribery cloud
1929 Collingwood Pies hoarding all the goals and premiership points actually the cause of the Great Depression? #wakeupsheeple
1930 Collingwood Geelong defeats Collingwood in the Preliminary Final but the Pies get to go again because the Argus system is a joke
1931 Geelong R6 was played in two halves, either side of R7 and R8? you can't count 1931! how do we know who even really won?
1932 Richmond uh... Melbourne playing three games for premiership points at the Motordrome and losing all three clearly tainted the season in ways we can't fully appreciate
1933 South Melbourne Bloods deviously importing so many players from WA they should be called the "Swans"
1934 Richmond I mean technically Richmond kicked more goals on the day but that's no match for Bob Pratt's 150 goals in the season
1935 Collingwood Bob Pratt taken out by a brick truck the Thursday before the GF and you can't prove it wasn't a Collingwood player driving the truck
1936 Collingwood Gordon Coventry rubbed out for 8 weeks and missed finals but clearly he was just a fall guy and they should have suspended the whole team
1937 Geelong Sellwood? Hawking? Abbott? if the Cats were going to time travel modern champions back to take the cup at least they should have come up with better fake names
1938 Carlton MCG 12,000 over capacity? some people actually watched the game from on the grass inside the fence? well that's just unsafe
1939 Melbourne rules tinkering: VFL trying to get holding the ball called more often - now you can't just drop the ball when tackled!
1940 Melbourne if you don't think St Kilda winning the Patriotic Premiership was the real premiership that year then you might as well go kiss A-dolf Hitler's boot
1941 Melbourne season compromised by WW2
1942 Essendon season compromised by WW2
1943 Richmond season compromised by WW2
edit: Methuen's suggestion - Jack Broadstock shouldn't have been on the field: went AWOL in order to play and was arrested by military police before Jack Dyer intervened
1944 Fitzroy season still compromised by WW2 (no MCG)
1945 Carlton Bloodbath
1946 Essendon some of the Bombers' record 11 third-quarter goals have to be fake, it's statistics
1947 Carlton season clearly should have been called off in shame after the Big V went down to WA in Tasmania of all places
1948 Melbourne clearly the season should have ended on the drawn Grand Final, 69 to 69
1949 Essendon Coleman kicks his 100th goal for the season in the concluding minutes of the GF - a story stolen directly from Jack Titus in 1940, you have to ask what else was faked about Essendon allegedly 'winning' this premiership #fakenewsflag
1950 Essendon Essendon's captain was the biggest Dick ever to play Aussie rules
1951 Geelong Coleman set up by Caspar
1952 Geelong season tainted by weather so wet and muddy they had to introduce white balls mid-season
1953 Collingwood Cats' full-forward caught having an affair and forced out of the team, they then lose the GF and you can't prove it wasn't a Collingwood player in disguise sent to seduce him
1954 Footscray season tainted by Fitzroy betting scandal
1955 Melbourne Melbourne's kamikaze tactics
1956 Melbourne season compromised by accommodations for the Olympics
1957 Melbourne allowing everyone to compete for the night series clearly tainted the real finals somehow
1958 Collingwood MCG bias
1959 Melbourne uh-oh, Essendon implementing a special high performance training regime, sounds suss
1960 Melbourne Melbourne shouldn't have been able to play a Grand Final with no opponent, that's clearly unfair
1961 Hawthorn just the expansion teams playing, doesn't really count
1962 Essendon medical shenanigans
1963 Geelong whole of round 11 postponed due to weather, season obviously invalid after that
1964 Melbourne Fitzroy clearly should have won the premiership: their lay down misère (zero wins, #1 worst offence and #1 worst defence) was clearly the highest bid
1965 Essendon crowd support drove the Dons to the prelim win and a GF berth after a brutal attack off the ball on one of their players but was it a false flag operation?????
1966 St Kilda timekeeper was a big St Kilda fan you say? oh sure, we can toootally trust that the siren was correctly sounded in this close fought St Kilda game
edit: showmanic also suggests St Kilda kicking the ball out of bounds deliberately (legal until 1969) to use up time at the end of the match
1967 Richmond competition clearly unbalanced by players wanting to play for the Galahs rather than compete for the premiership
1968 Carlton too windy
1969 Richmond VFL tinkering with the dang rulebook again to try to boost scoring: now you get a free kick if the opposition kicks it out of bounds on the full??
1970 Carlton Syd Jackson probably should have missed the game through suspension
1971 Hawthorn R21 Fitzroy v Carlton played in zero-visibility fog clearly a sign of interference by ghosts, season should have been abandoned
1972 Carlton too many goals
1973 Richmond take your pick of option 1, cheap hits and punches take out three Carlton players or option 2, Francis Bourke and Royce Hart not supposed to be playing but played anyway
1974 Richmond Tiges tainted by R7 brawl at Windy Hill
1975 North Melbourne season ruined by pointless rules tinkering: bizarre, wacky centre 'square' introduced to replace sturdy, traditional centre diamond
1976 Hawthorn pre-equalisation era resource disparity: Hawthorn had a complete monopoly on former captains tragically about to die from cancer at too young of an age as a source of motivation, North Melbourne forced to rely on just wanting to win the premiership
1977 North Melbourne rare second-ever drawn GF clearly contrived for the advantage of the first TV broadcast
1978 Hawthorn political interference: North Melbourne supporters clearly too exhausted from booing Malcolm Fraser in R20 to effectively encourage the team to victory
1979 Carlton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6orWbfMkWDI&t=8s
1980 Richmond bottom of the ladder Fitzroy had more points for than top of the ladder Geelong? clearly a fake season
1981 Carlton Garry Sidebottom misses the bus
1982 Carlton Carlton illicitly obtains special powers from Helen D'Amico
1983 Hawthorn Morwood/Foschini transfer clusterfuck making a mockery of VFL transfer rules - plus the Big V goes down to both SA and WA, just call off the season already
1984 Essendon season destabilised by breakaway competition rumours
1985 Essendon season tainted by biff: Lethal breaks Neville Bruns' jaw, John Bourke for the Pies reserves gets suspended for 10 years and 16 matches
1986 Hawthorn illegal Tasmanian bank account
1987 Carlton compromised draw with the new expansion teams
1988 Hawthorn compromised draw with the new expansion teams
1989 Hawthorn illegal Tasmanian bank account
1990 Collingwood replay of drawn Pies v Eagles QF pushes back whole finals schedule, disadvantging Essendon
1991 Hawthorn take your pick of option 1, you can't play a legitimate GF at Waverley or option 2, match tainted by Bound for Glory
1992 West Coast Vic teams get their zones taken away and a foreigner team wins as a result #AntiVicBias
1993 Essendon Baby Bombers bust their way through the salary cap
1994 West Coast rules tinkering: arbitrarily changing the length of quarters from 25 to 20 minutes
1995 Carlton Diesel Williams the recipient of not only payments outside the salary cap but also one of the first ever racial vilification charges
1996 North Melbourne West Coast forced to play 'home' semi final at the MCG
1997 Adelaide psychological warfare: Port Adelaide entering the comp and blasting innocent ears with their terrible club song - Crows unfairly advantaged by being already partly immune to Port bullshit - alternatively steroids in the AFL
1998 Adelaide Crows somehow allowed to win flag from 5th on the ladder edit: and while losing their first final, just like Carlton the next year
1999 North Melbourne finals system is so shit that Carlton finishes 6th, loses first final, yet progresses to semi-finals where they play West Coast who are once again forced to 'host' a semi at the MCG - Blues make it to the GF where they're rolled by Norf
2000 Essendon season compromised by accommodations for the Olympics (and retrospectively, Lions' intravenous saline scandal and Carlton's salary cap breaches)
2001 Brisbane Lions Lions' intravenous saline scandal (and retrospectively, Carlton's salary cap breaches)
2002 Brisbane Lions six games not involving Carlton forcibly moved to Princes Park after Carlton moves games to Docklands - meanwhile Carlton wins the spoon and then has their salary cap cheating exposed, fuck 2002 Carlton basically - also Adelaide forced to 'host' a semi-final at the MCG
2003 Brisbane Lions all the non-Vic teams made finals #AntiVicBias
2004 Port Adelaide Brisbane forced to 'host' home prelim at the MCG - also because Port's win triggers insufferable debates about whether to count SANFL Port's flags
edit: lbguitarist's suggestion - St Kilda's PF momentum ruined by ground invasion after the G Train's 100th
2005 Sydney Barry Hall escaping suspension after the prelim
2006 West Coast druuuuugs
2007 Geelong 1) Cats commit murder in broad daylight and get away with it, 2) disgraceful Melbourne v Carlton spoonbowl with priority draft pick at stake, 3) 'Guttergate'
2008 Hawthorn morally bankrupt Hawthorn triple team Fev to stop him also getting to 100 goals
2009 Geelong take your pick of option 1, season tainted by Melbourne's tanking or option 2, Hawkins hitting the post
2010 Collingwood St Kilda robbed in broad daylight and the police did nothing about it
edit: NitroXYZ's suggestion - St Kilda robbed of momentum by replaying the GF the following week rather than playing extra time, replay replaced with extra time from 2016 season onwards
2011 Geelong tainted by Meatloaf and the lavish Gold Coast concessions
2012 Sydney season tainted by Essendon doping regime and the lavish GWS concessions
2013 Hawthorn season tainted by revelation of Essendon doping regime
2014 Hawthorn Brendon Bolton coaches Hawks to five wins from five games while Clarko out with Guillain–Barré syndrome yet nobody tests Bolton to see if he's some kind of cyborg or superman (though clearly swapped back for the real human version to go coach Carlton)
2015 Hawthorn treatment of Adam Goodes puts a stain on the whole comp
2016 Western Bulldogs umpiring so biased the AFL had to apologise for it
2017 Richmond THEY'RE WEARING THE WRONG JUMPER
edit: NitroXYZ's suggestion - Cats forced to play 'home' QF at their opponent's home ground; veryparticularskills' suggestion - Cotch dodges suspension after PF
2018 West Coast Sheed played on
edit: PyrrhicNicholas' suggestion - Maynard was blocked
2019 Richmond Gilstapo intimidation
2020 ? pandemic-affected season
submitted by spannr to AFL [link] [comments]

A large vocabulary makes you a hit with the ladies...

A large vocabulary makes you a hit with the ladies... submitted by UnableBet to iamverysmart [link] [comments]

What do you mean it goes boom?

Captain Thraxos perused the ship manifest one more time. There was a late entry to join the convoy to Cycria. Cycria was a remote world and had been having a pirate problem with merchant traffic attacked several times over the past two years. As the pirates had got more bold the situation had become untenable and the Galactic Federation had to finally do something about it.
Thraxos was the captain of the light cruiser GFN Duhrel and he had been tasked to escort a merchant convoy from Dilolla to Cycria as deterrence to the pirates. He did not relish the assignment to babysit a motley fleet of civilians, but as GalFed captain he went where he was ordered to.
The final ship to join the convoy was the IMS Antelope. A Human merchanter that had been berthing here at Dilolla even before Thraxos had arrived. Apparently they had had some difficulty in securing new cargo to take on board and looking at the ship’s specs Thraxos could not blame anyone for not wanting to put their valuables on board this old rustbucket. But Cycria was not exactly a prime destination and apparently someone had been desperate enough to contract the Antelope to ferry their cargo to Cycria at the last minute.
IMS Antelope was an Independent Merchant Ship, owned and operated by her captain Robert Nele. Even her designation was thoroughly Human. The Humans had some of the most stringent licensing requirements to own and operate starship class drives which basically put them out of reach of civilian individuals. So, in turn, the independent merchanters had banded together and founded the Independent Merchant Ship company which held the licenses for the starship drives operated by their members with minimal interference from the company itself.
Thraxos scoffed, but the Humans were an upstart species. Perhaps it was for the best that not just anyone could get their hands on potentially volatile technology. That showed more responsibility of them than Thraxos had heard based on their reputation.
The Antelope herself was almost 60 years old and looking through her log she had mostly been operating within or near Human space. This was as far as she had ever been from home. Still, for all the tarnish on her hull, she had passed her latest spaceworthiness inspection only six months prior.
She was one of the weirdest looking ships Thraxos had ever seen. She was basically a lattice spine on which standard cargo containers were mounted like grapes on a vine. Front end had habitation and docking, the back end had its large engine, ending on a flat plate mounted on what looked like pillars. Curious.
Thraxos studied her engine specifications. Her main engine was of type Thraxos had never even heard of before, something the Humans called ‘orion’ type nuclear pulse thruster and with her mass, impulse and thrust she would be by far the slowest ship in the convoy, only barely scraping over the acceptable lower limit. Her jump engine likewise was an antiquated Type-I, only barely able to do the jumps required for this route. But she was over the bar so Thraxos had to grudgingly accept her to the convoy.
Slightly annoyed, Thraxos sent the engine specifications to his astrogator to have their course and time estimates recomputed to match the Antelope’s slow speed. Then he fired off a message to all ten ships in his convoy to prepare to unberth and meet at the system’s jump point in twelve hours.
At the start of next morning’s shift Thraxos entered the bridge to relieve the nightshift watch officer. It would be two hours until their scheduled jump off time, plenty of time to undock and make their way the 50 000 kilometers over to the jump point.
Captain Thraxos turned to the operations officer of the previous watch. “Anything interesting going on?”
Lieutenant Commander Tarkran shrugged. “Just the Humans, sir. The Antelope cast off six hours ago and has been slowly making their way to the jump point using manoeuvring thrusters only.”
Thraxos was taken aback. “What? Why?”
Tarkran shrugged again. “No idea, sir, but they’ll be arriving at the jump just before the scheduled time.”
Captain Thraxos just shook his head. “Alright, thanks. I have the bridge.”
Tarkran nodded and announced, “Captain has the bridge.” Tarkran turned and left as Thraxos sat down on the command chair.
Captain Thraxos waited for the other stations to complete their watch handover and then turned to communications. “Lieutenant Coccols, request undocking.”
“Aye, sir.” the comm officer responded.
Thraxos then turned to the astrogation officer. “Lieutenant Ulan, please prepare a course plan to take us to the jump point after we’ve moved past the station’s safety perimeter and execute once we have undocking permission.”
Next Thraxos glanced over his executive officer sitting at the operations station. “While we’re en-route, prepare a convoy placement assignment for each ship according to the exclusion zones of their engines. I want us to be in the middle. Hopefully the pirates will think we’re just another fat merchantman until it’s too late.”
Commander Nivek nodded. “Aye sir. I think I can nestle us between GMS Aelat and IXS Naholl. I’ll have to see what we can do with the human ship.”
“Very good.”
Lieutenant Coccols turned around. “Sir. Undocking clearance granted, we have 1 minute window.”
Captain Thraxos nodded. “Lieutenant Ulan, undock and execute.”
“Aye, sir.”
There was an almost imperceptible shift as the GFN Duhrel unlatched from the station and then pushed itself away from station’s bulk using its manoeuvring thrusters. After thirty seconds they had cleared the station perimeter and they were able to engage their fusion drive. Even at the minimal power that was allowed to be used near stations, it would only take them about 30 minutes to reach their designated staging point.
“Ummm… Captain?” Commander Nivek interrupted after a few minutes. “Have you looked at the exclusion chart for the Human ship?”
Thraxos furrowed his brow. “No, why?”
Commander Nivek hesitated for a moment. “I think you should.”
Captain Thraxos called up the schematic of the Human ship on his terminal. It was still one of the ugliest ships he had ever seen, but he wasn’t here to judge a beauty contest. He switched the overlay layers to the engine exclusion zone.
“What the fuck?” he exclaimed.
For most ships the exclusion zone was a cone behind them a few degrees wide. For IMS Antelope it was a whole half sphere and then some, covering just under 200 degrees of arc and extending all the way to 5000 kilometers, with an advisory zone all the way to 20 000 kilometers.
“I think I know why they’re limping out there with their manoeuvring thrusters only.” Commander Nivek posited. “There’s no way they could have fired up that drive anywhere near the station.” After a moment he continued. “I think the only place we can put them is as the last ship in the convoy with nobody behind them.”
Captain Thraxos shook his head in disbelief. “Do they have a completely unshielded reactor back there or something?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this, but it must be by design and approved, since they’ve passed their inspections.”
Thraxos sighed. “Well, transmit the assigned relative positions to all ships and manoeuvre us into position to wait for them.”
The convoy of all ten merchant ships had taken up their positions around the cruiser GFN Duhrel with the IXS Ikol at the front and IMS Antelope at the rear. All the ships slaved their jump engines to the control of GFN Duhrel and in concert they tore a hole in reality that whisked them to another starsystem a dozen light years away.
The system the convoy appeared in was uninhabited, a puny red dwarf with only a catalogue number as its name. They would then have to traverse the system to the next jump point that would allow them to jump to the next star in the chain to Cycria.
Most of the time in traversing the galaxy was spent moving from jump point to jump point within each starsystem. Some systems were lucky and their jump points were close-by, others had them far apart and it took a long time and a lot of Δv to traverse. The locations of the jump points and where you could jump from them depended on the background arrangement of the dark matter permeating the galaxy which warped the extra dimensions of spacetime.
The convoy would have almost a week ahead of them to traverse to the next jump point in this system, and just over two months to reach Cycria.
Captain Thraxos looked over the monitors and concluded that everything was in order. “Lieutenant Ulan, plot a course to the next jump point.”
The astrogator glanced over. “Already laid in, Captain. Ready to execute on your command.”
“Very good Lieutenant.” Thraxos acknowledged with pleasure. “Signal the convoy to get underway and execute.”
Ten of the ships in the convoy each fired up their fusion torches of various sorts and the convoy started moving, but then behind the eleventh ship, the IMS Antelope, something exploded with nuclear fury.
“CAPTAIN!” Sensor officer Birrai shouted. “The engine of the Antelope just exploded!”
“What?” The captain looked up. Just his luck that the Human rustbucket would have a catastrophic engine failure immediately upon firing up that lethal engine of theirs. “Signal all stop!”
Just as soon as the fleet had started moving the torches died down as each ship ceased accelerating.
Thraxos hit transmit button on his terminal. “This is captain Thraxos of GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope, do you require assistance?”
Thraxos looked at the sensor scan on his screen as he waited for their reply. At least there didn’t seem to be much debris. Hopefully the Humans didn’t have many casualties.
A calm, if slightly confused, voice came on the speakers. “This is IMS Antelope. Uh, negative on assistance. Why, what is the problem?”
Captain Thraxos looked at his sensor officer, who just spread his arms. Then back to the sensor display, until he finally hit transmit again. “Duhrel to Antelope, did you not just have a catastrophic engine failure?”
“Um. Oh!” There was a sudden realization in the voice on the radio. “Negative Duhrel. That was the detonation of our 50 kiloton nuclear propulsion charge.”
“50 kiloton propulsion?! YOUR SHIP SHITS OUT NUCLEAR BOMBS!?” Captain Thraxos immediately regretted his lapse in decorum, but the sheer insanity of the idea had caught him completely off guard.
“Affirmative Duhrel. Apologies for the confusion. The shaped nuclear charges are used to push against the driveplate at the back of the ship which transfers the momentum imparted to the ship through a staged shock absorber assembly.”
After the convoy had gotten over the shock of the Humans’ propulsion system the rest of the voyage to the jump point had passed quietly. Or as quietly as a fleet trailing a stream of nuclear explosions can go. As had the second and third jumps.
When the convoy appeared in the fourth system on the route, another nondescript nameless star, things rapidly went south. Before the convoy had a chance to start moving a warhead detonated half a million kilometers away from the jump point.
Three pirate cruisers brought up their EM suites and aimed their targeting radars at the merchant convoy. The pirates were well poised about to catch any merchants that chose to try to flee, with each pirate able to cover a large part of the possible trajectories.
An ultimatum was transmitted on all the universal emergency channels. “This is captain Qauk’ats of The Blood Raiders. Stand down your ships and prepare to be boarded. Any resistance will be met with lethal force.”
Captain Thraxos considered his options. The Federation Fleet Command had not anticipated this heavy pirate presence. The previous raids had been performed by single ships each. His light cruiser might be able to take on two of the pirates, depending on how well they were equipped and trained, but all three would be too much. Especially when they were spread out like this, so he would not be able to concentrate his point defences in any single particular direction.
On the other hand he had not yet betrayed that GFN Duhrel was a warship. His ship had been chosen for this because it was roughly the correct size to pass as a medium merchantman. Could he use this to his advantage somehow…
“Lieutenant Coccols, signal the convoy to stand by. Comm laser only, let’s not tip our hands yet.”
Captain Thraxos prayed that none of the merchanters would panic and start running, he was only one ship, he couldn’t be in two places at once to protect everyone.
“Lieutenant Commander Birrai, use passive scanners only. Limit actives to equipment a merchantman could realistically have. Go loud on sensors only if our cover is blown.”
Thraxos was stalling for time and he knew it. He needed something to give him an extra edge somehow. Something, anything. Just one way to neutralize one of the pirate cruisers to even the odds.
On the screen vectors appeared showing the pirate ships starting to accelerate carefully towards the convoy since the convoy seemed to be capitulating. Whatever he comes up with he would have to come up with quickly.
Then the comm officer piped up. “Captain, we have a laser message from IMS Antelope. Captain Nele wants to talk with you.”
Thraxos sighed. Great, he didn’t have time to babysit a panicking merchanter right now. “Signal them to just stand by.”
Few moments later lieutenant Coccols replied. “He’s being very insistent, sir.”
“Fine.” Thraxos grumbled. “Put him on my monitor.”
Captain Thraxos waited until on his screen appeared the image of a middle aged human wearing a black collared suit with a white shirt underneath and a tie around his neck. On his head he had a white hat with a black visor. On the hat was a golden patch with a stylized antelope rimmed with golden stylized ropes.
“Captain Nele, what do you want?” Thraxos tried to hide the annoyance in his voice, but it still leaked through. “We’re kind of busy right now.”
Captain Nele ignored his tone. “Captain Thraxos, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a suggestion. Am I correct to assume that three pirate ships are too many for you to handle?”
Thraxos hesitated.
Nele sighed. “Captain, this is no time for ego. Is it so?” He looked at Thraxos with stern eyes. “Because if it is, then the Antelope can take on one of them.”
Thraxos’ eyes widened. “What? No, out of the question!”
“Captain, the Antelope’s driveplate is designed to withstand repeated nuclear explosions with minimal ablation. It is tougher than battleship hull. And I bet the pirates don’t know that our ship ‘shits out nuclear bombs’ either as you so eloquently put it.” Nele glared at Thraxos. “I’m not planning to die today after a failed last stand, so one more time: do you need help or not?”
Thraxos glanced to the side. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he did need help. After an agonizingly long moment he turned back to face the other captain. “Yes. You’re right. We can probably take on two, but not all three of them.”
Nele nodded. “Alright. So here’s what I have in mind...”
The control room of the merchantman was spartan compared to the bridge of a warship. Captain Robert Nele was standing next to the sensocomm station looking at the radar plot. His heart raced and he hoped he wasn’t about to do something completely stupid. He glanced around and he knew that the rest of his crew felt the same. But they had to at least try.
He breathed deep once and then exhaled. “Alright Terri, jettison the cargo containers. Arkady, use the azipod thrusters and lets make like bat out of hell.”
The engineer, Terri Grove, hit buttons on her console and a series of thumps echoed throughout the ship. “All containers released.”
Helm officer Arkady Stachowiak used the translation joystick to pull the ship backwards out from between the containers that were now lazily floating in space. “We’re free.” Then he turned the ship to a new heading and fired the azipod manoeuvring thrusters at full. “Batting out of hell.”
The azipod thrusters could be turned to allow the ship to accelerate in almost any direction. They were meant for use near ports for both manoeuvring and mobility where the Antelope couldn’t use her main nuclear pulse engine. Because of this the azipods were unusually powerful for a ship of her size and with the Antelope shed of all her cargo they could give her pretty decent acceleration.
Niels Becker glanced up to the captain standing next to him. “Radio from Duhrel.” He pressed a button to put it on the loudspeakers.
Captain Thraxos’ voice sounded frantic as he yelled at the Antelope. “Get back here Antelope! Didn’t you hear what they said!”
Robert shook himself to get into character. Then he pressed a button on Niels’ station and shouted back in panic. “Fuck that shit! I’m getting the hell out of here! It’s every man for themselves!”
He took a second to steady himself again. “Alright Niels, let’s see which pirate takes the bait. Arkady, once we know who is chasing us, turn us so our driveplate is pointed at them. Make a good show of trying to get away, we need to lure them out far enough.”
“Will do, Bob.” Arkady acknowledged. “I’ll give them a merry chase.”
“Now we just hope they want us disabled and don’t use missiles.” Robert voiced everyone’s concern. “Terri, how are your modifications coming along?”
Without even looking up from her console, Terri replied, “I’ve got the launcher patched. I’ve voided pretty much every warranty we have, but I managed to coax it to load four charges at once. With our biggest bombs that’ll give them a two megaton surprise.”
Robert nodded. “Very good.”
Terri continued, “The bombs turned out to be trickier. I should be able to get their attitude control software overridden, but they also have hardware safeties. I had to send Jonesy to physically bypass them. But that also means he can slap a radio module on them while he’s at it, so we’ll be able to detonate these on command.”
Robert grinned. “Excellent. Great work. Let me know when Jonesy is done with the mods.”
“Aye. Just one last thing. Once we load up any bombs into the launcher, we won’t be able to unload them any more.”
“Alright. Keep the launcher on full manual then and load only on my command for now.”
Niels interjected. “Contact-3 is altering course to intercept. I’ve coloured her pink on the radar plot.”
Robert glanced over at the helm. “Arkady?”
“On it. On our new course they’ll reach weapons range in 52 minutes. By that time we’ll have spent 84% of our manoeuvring propellant.”
Terri winced.
Robert noticed it. “What’s wrong, Terri?”
“Oh, I’m just thinking of our next overhaul. The azipods weren’t meant to be used this hard for this long.”
“Good to see you’re still an optimist.” Arkady commented. As Terri glowered at him, he added, “You think we’re gonna live long enough to service them.”
Terri laughed and the rest of the command crew chuckled.
Their moment of mirth was, however, cut short when Niels announced a message from contact-3.
Antelope, this is captain Mas’ieh of raider Bathed in Blood. Stand down immediately or you will be fired upon. This is your only warning.”
After a moment of silence captain Nele said, “let them eat static.”
It had been a tense half hour as the Antelope had led the pirate raider away from the rest of the group. Once they were too far away for Bathed in Blood to turn back and help his pirate brethren the GFN Duhrel had broken off the convoy and raced to meet the other two pirates.
With all the pieces in motion it was now captain Mas’ieh’s turn to make a choice. He had three choices: continue pressing the Antelope, turn back and attack GFN Duhrel, or turn away and run.
If he turned to attack GFN Duhrel, he would arrive to the battle too late to help Red Mayhem and Dread Rising. If the two ships could not beat Duhrel, then he would face Duhrel on his own and it might go any way depending on how much damage Mayhem and Dread had inflicted on her. If on the other hand Mayhem and Dread managed to destroy Duhrel, then he had just let the Antelope escape for no reason.
If he decided to run, then his chances depended on whether Mayhem and Dread could destroy or disable Duhrel. Duhrel was faster so she would be able to catch up with Bathed in Blood before he could slip out of the system at the next jump point. But if Mayhem and Dread did manage to destroy Duhrel, his attempt to flee would not be looked upon kindly by the leader of the Raiders.
So, no matter what happens his only real option was to press on Antelope. If Mayhem and Dread won against GFN Duhrel, then capturing the Antelope was the most useful thing he could do. If Mayhem and Dread lost to GFN Duhrel, then he was in no better or worse position than if he had turned away from Antelope. He would still have to face Duhrel just the same.
He sent a message to captain Qauk’ats aboard the Red Mayhem with his plan of action to continue chasing the Antelope to make sure she couldn’t escape, and the rationale for taking this action.
What he didn’t mention was that if Mayhem and Dread lost to Duhrel, but damaged her enough for him to destroy her… well, then he would have just become the new leader of The Blood Raiders.
The atmosphere was tense in the control room of the IMS Antelope. Minutes ticked by as the raider Bathed in Blood chased them. Several hundred thousand kilometers away the GFN Duhrel and raiders Red Mayhem and Dread Rising were fast approaching each other.
“Nuclear explosion.” Niels announced suddenly. “The raiders have started firing on GFN Duhrel. I think Duhrel’s point defence got that warhead. It was too far to cause any damage.”
Robert nodded in silence. They could do nothing more to help, that battle was now up to captain Thraxos.
“Two more. This time against contact-2. Their point defence stopped them.”
Thraxos and Duhrel had an advantage. They could fire their magazines empty if they had to without consequence. For the pirates, every missile they shot was invaluable, for they couldn’t just pull in to a naval yard to resupply. But there were still two pirate ships and if their magazines were full, then Duhrel would be in serious trouble.
“No fire for a few moments. I think they were just probing each other at extreme missile range.”
Robert turned to Niels. “How long until Bathed in Blood is in missile range, assuming their range is similar?”
Niels looked at the range plot. “Two minutes.”
Suddenly there was a radiation alarm. Robert looked at Niels with the look of ‘are you sure’ all over his face.
Niels looked at his instruments. “That was ten thousand kilometers away and off to the side. I think it was a warning shot. Negligible radiation dose.”
Robert thought for a moment and weighed his options. “We’ll keep going. Hopefully they won’t waste more missiles on us.”
The uneasy silence returned as more minutes ticked by. Only occasionally broken as Niels reported events of the battle happening far away.
The exchange of fire increased as the combatants got closer. GFN Duhrel was pressing on contact-2, the Dread Rising, and closing the distance as fast as she could. Her point defences were working at near saturation as the two pirates poured missile after missile upon her. But likewise, her missiles pushed the pirate crew aboard the Dread Rising to their limit as well.
“HIT!” Niels exclaimed! “Contact-2 has left behind debris.”
Everyone cheered. A hit was nice, but it wasn’t the end of the battle. Nowhere near. Warships were compartmentalized to the maximum and even a direct warhead hit only crippled them locally.
Soon the flashes of missile warheads were joined by the invisible beams of anti-ship lasers as GFN Duhrel and Dread Rising reached energy weapon range. Both ships took hits to their hull.
Warship armour had diamond threads woven into it, which were as close as you could get to thermal superconductivity. Each time a laser flashed across a panel, the weave would try to spread out the thermal load to try to keep the plating from vaporizing locally where it was hit and hopefully the plate would be able to radiate the heat load away before another hit. But if any plate was saturated by heat, the entire plate would melt all at once.
Niels was able to see thermal spikes on his IR scopes, but his instruments weren’t powerful enough to resolve what effects those hits had. Neither were the instruments of the other merchanters who were relaying their scanner data to the Antelope as well, which let Niels see the Bathed in Blood even though it was in the shadow of their driveplate. Otherwise the plate would have been a blind spot for them, for no sensor could be mounted on it that would be able to withstand the constant bombardment of nuclear fire it was under in normal operation.
They could only guess how the battle was going. Both ships were streaming air and metal behind them. Both ships were hurt, but how badly was anyone’s guess. Then their own trouble started.
Terri frowned. “I think we’ve just been shot at by Bathed in Blood with their lasers. I’m reading an increased thermal load on the driveplate. Activating cooling system.”
Robert swallowed. This was it for them. “Here goes nothing then. Arkady, start jinking with the azipods but make sure the driveplate remains between us. Let’s make it look good and not give them too easy a target.”
“I think we just had a near miss. The driveplate heat load spiked again, but much less. I think only the halo of the laser caught us this time.”
Robert nodded. “Keep going.”
With their overpowered azipods being able to move them laterally in almost any direction the cargoless Antelope was an exceedingly difficult target for the Bathed in Blood to hit compared to a warship. But every jink burned even more of their manoeuvring propellant. They wouldn’t be able to keep this up for too much longer.
“Direct hit on our plate.” Terri announced once more.
“Vent all our airlocks, let’s make them think they hurt us.”
The Antelope shuddered a little as the airlocks blew out a cloud of air around the ship.
“Too bad we didn’t think of loading some junk in them before hand.” Niels commented.
Robert grinned. “Yeah, but this’ll have to do. Terri, load up a 10 kiloton starter charge into the launcher. Next time they score a direct hit, fire it. Arkady, when it goes boom, put us into a spin. Hopefully they’ll think they’ve hit our engines and disabled us.”
“Got it.” Arkady acknowledged.
Terri hit some buttons on her console. “Charge loaded. Arkady, when I say ‘stop’ stop thrusting. I don’t want us to drift out of the driveplate’s shadow before the charge goes off.”
Arkady nodded.
The Bathed in Blood scored a few more near misses and but then the heat on the plate spiked again. A direct hit.
“Stop!” Terri shouted, then hit the button to manually fire the drive once. A few moments later there was a brilliant flash visible to the Bathed in Blood and the Antelope felt the surge of acceleration as the shock absorbers pushed their ship with the momentum of the nuclear explosion in front of them. Arkady immediately used the azipods to give their ship a good bit of spin, making it turn end over end.
This was the moment when Robert bet them all-in. If the pirate cruiser would fire their laser even one more time, they could hull them straight through. For a merchantman had no armour plating cladding it everywhere like a warship did.
The bridge was deathly silent as everyone were holding their breaths. Seconds passed. Then seconds more passed. The recharge time of the pirate’s spinal laser came and went and there was no Earth shattering kaboom. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and the seconds turned into minutes. The pirates wanted a prize and they thought they had it.
Even as the battle lulled here, in the distance, the battle between Duhrel and the pirates raged on.
Captain Thraxos had managed to break the Dread Rising in the laser exchange. The pirate cruiser was a wreck, hulled straight through in multiple places with a large hole where her main powerplant used to be. But Duhrel had suffered greatly as well. On one side her hull had been scoured clean of her point defences. A number of missile launchers were disabled or destroyed and several compartments were open to space as well. She was streaming air as she turned towards the remaining pirate. All the while they continued exchanging as much missile fire as they could.
But the crew of the Antelope had no time to spectate for long. With them ‘disabled’ and dead in space the raider Bathed in Blood had been able to close the remaining distance much faster and they were getting ready to pull up alongside them.
Captain Nele stood at the sensocomm station and watched the plot with officer Becker. He and Niels kept glancing at each other nervously as the distance closed. Getting the final part of their plan correct was critical, for they would only get one chance. Once their element of surprise was lost, they would be sitting ducks to the missiles of the pirate raider.
“Terri, load up the launcher with four of the biggest charges we have. Arkady, once Bathed in Blood is within 10 kilometers, stabilize us and aim the driveplate at him. Terri, once we’re stabilized go to rapid fire on the launcher with as many of the 500 kiloton charges as you can.”
Robert breathed deep to calm himself. “Detonate the charges when you think is optimal, or if it seems they’ve spotted our ruse. Let’s hope this works.”
Terri nodded and worked frantically on her console to execute the instructions. She would have to program the bombs to rotate to face Bathed in Blood instead of their own driveplate. She’d replaced the normal inertial stabilizing software with her own and uploaded it to the bombs, but she still had to compute the difference based on her best guess where the Bathed in Blood would be in relation to them when the bombs would be triggered. The bombs couldn’t do it themselves, since they had no external sensors, only gyros so they knew their own orientation and nothing else.
“20 kilometers.” Niels announced.
Time seemed to crawl as every person ran on adrenaline.
“15 kilometers.”
Arkady held the stick, ready to execute. He had already turned the azipods ready to cancel their rotation, but then he would have to turn to face the pirate cruiser.
“12 kilometers. 11 kilometers. 10 kilometers.”
Arkady waited for a moment more before he pulled on the stick to make sure they would stop as close to the target attitude as possible. The ship heaved as the azipods worked to halt its turn. With the spin nulled, Arkady then rolled the ship so the azipods wouldn’t have to slew to a new direction before he could point the ship towards the pirate. He wanted to shave every second he could.
“On target!” Arkady announced.
Terri hit the button to execute the program. “Launching.”
The whole operation had took only seconds and the pirates were caught completely off guard. The pirate ship took no action as the four little elongated spheres flew toward it from the little hole in the middle of the Antelope’s massive driveplate. A few seconds later another group of spheres flew out and another.
The pirate ship finally stopped their approach with their manoeuvring thrusters and started to turn their spinal laser to point at the not-as-disabled-as-they-thought merchantman to finish them off.
Terri waited until the last moment possible before the first group of nukes would drift past the pirate and put the ship out of the cone of their shaped charges. Then she pressed the fire button. “Firing!”
A dozen 500 kt nukes exploded in unison at point blank range to the pirate cruiser. Six megatons total of nuclear fury. But these weren’t just nukes, they were shaped charges with most of the blast directed forward through a heavy layer of tungsten that was turned into vapour and shot as plasma towards the hapless pirate whose hull did not have the heavy reinforcement the Antilope’s own driveplate did.
At point blank range this barrage could have hulled a battleship.
Then a few seconds later another 2 megaton barrage exploded. Then another.
Bathed in Blood finally finished turning to bring their spinal laser on the merchantman, but it did not stop. It continued to turn, its laser remaining dark. A cloud of air and debris surrounded the hulk of the pirate ship.
Then the fourth barrage of bombs hit their main powerplant and Bathed in Blood split in two as the reactor amidships exploded.
Sound of debris rang all around the Antelope as the explosion pushed against its driveplate, pushing the ship harmlessly away from the destroyed hulk of the pirate cruiser.
“Holy. Fucking. Shit.” Niels mouthed as he looked at his sensor screen.
Captain Robert Nele walked over to his chair and collapsed into it as the tension of the adrenaline in his system disappeared. Everyone on the bridge deflated as if they had been balloons from which the air had been let out.
“Reload the drive with propulsive charges, get us the fuck out of here.” Robert breathed heavy with relief.
Terri fired the last modified charges to clear the launcher. Her hand shook as she hovered over the fire button. She couldn’t bring herself to press it, not any more. The pirate ship was already more than destroyed. She let the nukes drift away past the wreck as she adjusted the loading priority for the launcher and reset it to standard automatic operation.
In few seconds the first 10 kt charge aimed at their own plate fired and pushed them away. Terri let the computer take over and soon the Antelope picked up speed at great rate, galloping away from the broken and hulled wreck of the pirate ship like her namesake. Empty of cargo even the lightest charges accelerated her like she was an olympic sprinter. The direction didn’t matter, as long as it was away.
They’d already forgotten the battle that had been going on elsewhere.
Ten minutes later the numb silence in the control room was broken by a radio call.
GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope. Captain Nele, what is your status?”
As IMS Antelope joined back with the convoy, GFN Duhrel pulled up to alongside her. Or what was left of GFN Duhrel. The battle with the pirates had taken a tremendous toll on the light cruiser. There was nary a square meter on her hull that wasn’t scarred by battle damage. There was a large gash along one side and even a hole clear through her. The other side was scoured clean of her hull mounted weapons and sensors and several compartments were open to space. Over third of her crew were dead. It was a small miracle she was still flying at all.
But the pirate fleet had paid even more dearly. All three cruisers floated dead in space as wasted, hulled wrecks. Bathed in Blood lay in twain with her spine broken. Dread Rising was missing an entire quarter of the ship where the powerplant had used to be. And Red Mayhem lay shattered in pieces after multiple missile hits when Duhrel had finally managed to overwhelm her point defences.
There were very few survivors from the pirate fleet, and even fewer who had wanted to be a survivor. Only fifteen lifepods had been launched from the hulks, out of their total crew of a hundred and twenty. The rest had perished in the battle, or chosen to perish in the hulks. The survivors’ pods would be picked up in due time to face justice for their actions.
Captain Thraxos watched the Human ship on his screen and saluted. The Antelope may have been old and tarnished, she may have looked odd and ugly, but right now captain Thraxos was proud to have her and her crew in his fleet. She was no longer part of the convoy, she was one of its protectors. And it was thanks to her that they had triumphed today against insurmountable odds.
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NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020

We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them.
Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now.


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1. Arizona Cardinals


Why they can win the division:
Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other.

Why they could finish last again:
Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league.

Bottom line:
I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020.


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2. Detroit Lions


Why they can win the division:
Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough.

Why they could finish last again:
Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive.

Bottom line:
I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark.


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3. Miami Dolphins


Why they can win the division:
When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game.

Why they could finish last again:
As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams.

Bottom line:
As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here.


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4. Los Angeles Chargers


Why they can win the division:
First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy.

Bottom line:
In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division.


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5. Washington Redskins


Why they can win the division:
These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game.

Why they could finish last again:
Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you.

Bottom line:
These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently.


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6. Jacksonville Jaguars


Why they can win the division:
I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period.

Bottom line:
The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now.


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7. Carolina Panthers

Why they can win the division:
Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7.

Why they could finish last again:
Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season.

Bottom line:
The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center.


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8. Cincinnati Bengals


Why they can win the division:
We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates.

Why they could finish last again:
As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year.

Bottom line:
I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air.


If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/
You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
submitted by hallach_halil to nfl [link] [comments]

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