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. https://preview.redd.it/rs90lt6ckf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3ddfc8945862472b52b5ef8c69076acde904c44c
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. https://preview.redd.it/anrr9erfkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=5655b4452baff2691a0e060e8d70918d58801a4c
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. https://preview.redd.it/7ivo914ikf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=d029ddd274b78e78f5bc932d00086b8c697a466e
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. https://preview.redd.it/nme3explkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3998c6026125c1b9b48438e3fc9afaf9601b116e
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. https://preview.redd.it/rywropjokf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed77a7303af810b862abb2100c4f0b86841a2d38
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. https://preview.redd.it/szpawv9rkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=62ca5fe882d8155d83eb3328e9bf1f1681a17384
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. https://preview.redd.it/5myv276vkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=7fb25f47d0759e9b5a07876ea01787898c6cc817
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. https://preview.redd.it/y7agj2n2lf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=221af0a1f689d3b19d5e250fac0b58a35877edad
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
12/07/20 - Premier League - Bournemouth vs Leicester City - Pre-Match Thread
Round: 35 of 38 Referee: Stuart Attwell
Average Reds: TBD
Average Yellows: TBD
Location: Vitality Stadium Time: 1900BST/UTC+1, 12/07/20 Channels (UK): Sky Main Event / Sky Sports Premier League (no crowd noises), Pick TV (Freeview)
(Out / Unlikely / Suspended ) Leicester:
Accurate as of 1814BST 11/07/20 (Decimal, lower is more likely): Leicester Win: 1.70 Draw: 3.90 Bournemouth Win: 4.75
In our last four league matches against the Cherries, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in the last four matches, in which we've won two matches (P4 W2 D1 L1)
We have not beaten Bournemouth away in the Premier League having only last done so in the Championship back in 2014 with Kevin Phillips getting the late winner.
The Cherries have only picked up a point since their 0-0 tie with Spurs this past round. Since the restart, they have lost all matches bar the one by an aggregate of 3-12 with three goals only coming in the last three matches.
When we met in the reverse fixture at home, we beat Bournemouth 3-1 with Vardy involved in all three goals (2G 1A)
Hello! I hope you're all doing well and that you and your family are healthy during these incredibly tough times. I missed you all very much, I apologise if this prediction seems very controversial, there have been many coin toss fights this time around and it was very hard to decide who I'll predict is going to win for some fights. Overall, I hope you enjoy this post, I'll be here all week because well, there are 3 events this week and you guys all know that's my busy time. (c) - Champ (D) - Debut NS - No Streak FLS - Fight Lose Streak FWS - Fight Win Streak (#x) - Rank in Division Lets go! Prelims Bantamweight Martin Day (9-3-0, NS) v Davey Grant (9-4-0, NS) - Day has a very floaty style of striking, he doesn’t necessarily have a great defence other than movement and he’s never staying in the same spot, he’s almost always on the move, sliding out of the way from counters, movement is very important in his style because it allows him to catch his opponents off guard when they’re chasing him down. Now, Day has one big issue that I could see from his bout against Liu Pingyuan, and that’s his defence, whenever he kicks, his hands go low, very low, so it’ll be easy for Grant, if he spots it, to catch the kick and counter with a strong punch. It’s very hard to read Day though because he doesn’t start with the same combos or set of punches the same every time he chooses to strike, so it’ll be hard to predict what he’s going to do next. Grant is a switch stance striker, he loves to switch his stance and throw a beautiful kick as soon as he does so. Grant is also a movement based fighter, a whole lot of lateral movement and explosive kicks which go hand in hand and play to Grants’ advantages. Now, Grant is only 2-3 in the UFC which isn’t a great look, and his last win was a questionable result (should have been unanimous, not a split). Grant has one advantage that Day doesn’t and that’s his ground game, he landed 6 takedowns in his fight against Popov, and whilst he didn’t do anything huge with them, he did land them and in MMA that can be the difference between a win or a loss of the round. I’m pretty mixed on this prediction. I like what Day does on his feet, it’s a beautiful style, but Grant is going to use his takedowns, if he doesn’t then I'd be very surprised. It’s ultimately a coin toss, but i’m leaning on Grant here. Grant via UD Women’s Bantamweight Vanessa Melo (10-7-0, 2 FLS) v Karol Rosa (12-3-0, 3 FWS) - Melo Is a fairly well rounded and experienced fighter who is having a rough time in the UFC, losing both of her bouts in the UFC so far, Melo is no doubt pretty close to being cut from the UFC. Melo in both of those fights, have been outstruck significantly, she didn’t really show any sense of urgency, she became too complacent and didn’t fire off anything decent to get a win, I don’t see her doing a whole lot this fight as well, she just does not seem UFC ready, and she got signed on with a 10-5 record, which isn’t great. Rosa only has one fight in the UFC but holy hell what a debut. She showed excellent and relentless strikes, never backing down from any retaliation from her opponent, both women went to war within those 3 rounds and both have shown that they’re not here to mess around. Rosa is a very fast and snappy striker who will no doubt give Melo trouble. I can’t go that deep into this fight because really there’s not a lot to talk about, but i’m liking Rosa in this fight. Rosa via UD Flyweight Zhalgas Zhumagulov (D) (13-3-0, 4 FWS) v Raulian Paiva (#14) (19-3-0, NS) - A fairly interesting debuting fighter. Zhumagulov is currently on a fairly strong 4 fight winning streak, and despite him not being an exceptionally active fighter, it’s always good to see more talent in a long forgotten division. Zhumagulov is at a slight height disadvantage coming into this fight which might be troublesome, because he seems like a quite good kickboxer. I’m not too sure if he’s decent on the ground but from the limited clips ive seen of him striking, he seems to be pretty good at pushing his opponent back whilst hitting him with combos, so that’s one thing to look forward to. Paiva is coming off a dominant knockout over Mark De La Rosa, but whilst it’s not a huge win, it did highlight that Paiva has worked on his hands over time, and we finally saw a product of his training, it may have even saved his ass from being kicked off the UFC because he lost both of his fights in the UFC up until that point. In terms of experience I feel like Paiva might get the upper hand on this one, he might not have a high amount of finishes but he does have high level fights under his belt, especially when he fought Kai Kara France, that alone would have been one hell of a lesson in high calibre fights. I’m thinking that Paiva has this, despite Zhumagulov being on a fairly strong streak, Paiva might have what it takes, but how is he gonna win? That, i’m not too sure about. Paiva via UD Heavyweight Marcin Tybura (#15) (18-6-0, NS) v Maxim Grishin (D) (30-7-2, NS) - A slugfest is about to begin and it’s gonna be loud! Tybura has no doubt had his ups and downs, but this guy can certainly throw leather. Everything he throws, he throws with insane power. He’s not a volume striker by any means, so his fights might be a bit slow, but just know that one punch can make a big difference, especially in this fight where these guys are no doubt going to trade each other shot for shot. Grishin is a PFL fighter making his debut, and as most of us know, PFL isn’t an easy league like Bellator, it’s got some serious competitors, one of the best fighters are in PFL. Grishin has serious punching power and he has the 15 knockouts to back it up. The only minor red flag is his age, he’s 36 years old, which isn’t a huge issue, but it does make me wonder how he will handle the younger generation of heavyweights that the UFC has. The differential in age between these two fighters are 2 years, so maybe it’s nothing. Anyway, it’s gonna be a very heavy fight, but i’m leaning on Tybura for this fight, he has pretty great wrestling and I feel like he’s going to rely on that a lot during this fight, it might be grindy but a win is a win and that win bonus could mean the difference between coming home with nothing, or coming home with something. Tybura via UD Lightweight Leonardo Santos (17-3-1, 5 FWS) v Roman Bogatov (D) (10-0-0, 10 FWS) - Pretty awesome matchup. Santos, despite being fairly old, is still an absolute assassin, he’s got a 4th degree black belt in BJJ and hands that will put you to sleep. His knockout over Steven Ray still surprises me, the beautiful right hand counter which put him to sleep. He’s a 40 year old fighting like a 35 year old with the experience of a 45 year old, especially on the ground. The most interesting thing about Santos during that fight is he lead the fight with strong body kicks, and there were only two things Ray could have done to stop that, catch the leg, or block it and leave his hands low, Ray did neither because he know if he caught the kick, it would lead to the ground and rolling with Santos is essentially admitting defeat because he’s a very good submission artist, an absolute animal on the ground and that’s the most dangerous thing about him. Bogatov is someone who i’ve heard of before, but only because he was a dominant force in M-1 Challenge, the dude submitted 5 people in the span of 3 years. If you want a great grappling fight, this is it, you’re about to see how technical BJJ can truly get. Then again I probably said that about Burns v Maia and look at how that ended. So either way, this fight will be very competitive. It’s tough to say who is going to win, Santos certainly has the experience and the physical advantages, but Bogatov is so much younger and perhaps can out-cardio Santos. So, this is an odd prediction, but if Santos wins, it’s via a submission in the first two rounds, with perhaps a noticeable change in pace in the third, but if Bogatov wins, it’s in the third, where that change in pace probably happens. As I said last time, don’t bet based off this prediction. Santos via Sub R2 Featherweight Makwan Amirkhani (15-4-0, NS) v Danny Henry (12-3-0, NS) - If there’s one thing Amirkhani can rely on, its his wrestling, he is an outstanding wrestler and almost always effortlessly takes down his opponents with great efficiency. He works very fast on the ground, maintaining control and landing some heavy ground and pound that comes with it. Always expect the fight to go to the ground when it comes to Amirkhani. His stand up is alright, it’s nothing too exceptional, some snappy strikes but ultimately it’s a takedown that’s coming from that. Henry is a fairly well rounded fighter who fought very tough dudes from the get go when he first debuted back in 2017, defeating both Teymur and Dawodu, he seemed like a very decent prospect. He still very much does, that Ige loss was a minor setback and he’s got one hell of a challenge in front of him. At the moment though, i’m leaning on Amirkhani, he’s just such a dominating fighter, and he sets an incredible pace that not many can keep up with. He’s gonna score a takedown, and maybe get a submission whilst he’s there. Amirkhani via Sub R2 Welterweight Elizeu Zalecki (22-6-0, NS) v Muslim Salikhov (16-2-0, 3 FWS) - You guys have no idea how fucking excited I am for this fight. Both fighters here are stylistically pleasing to watch. Zalecki is a highlight reel, a dangerous one at that, he’s a straight assassin! Alright i’m sounding like Joe Rogan right now and I sincerely apologise. But holy shit can this dude go from 0-100 real quick. His constant pressure and ability to gauge his opponents movements before attacking is pretty great. He is also a black belt in BJJ so he has the ground as a backup plan if Salikhov manages to outstrike him. Speaking of which. Salikhov is a dangerous, dangerous kickboxer. He’s got speed, power, and aggression. He destroyed my boy Nordine Taleb, and dominated Staropoli with incredible ease. He is also a multiple time Sando champion and that experience will show in this fight. I am fully on board with the Salikhov hype, first class ticket. This is going to be a very competitive, explosive fight and it could easily be a fight of the night contender. I got Salikhov on this one, but holy hell it could easily go either way. Salikhov via KO R! Light Heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir (17-4-0, 2 FWS) v Jiri Prochazka (Rizin Champ) (D) (26-3-1, 10 FWS) - Woo boy, this is gonna be one hell of a collision. Oezdemir has had so many tough fights in his career, starting from his debut, until now, here are the top level fighters he has faced. OSP, Cirkunov, Manuwa, Cormier, Smith, Reyes, Latifi and Rakic. All killers and high level fighters, and he has only lost to Cormier, Smith and Reyes. That’s incredibly impressive and his journey throughout the UFC has not been easy. Oezdemir has this forward moving striking style that can overwhelm and catch his opponents off guard. Oezdemir had very, very fast hands, especially when he crashes forward, He is very unpredictable with his strikes, he throws jabs, then works the body, then he might throw a knee, anything and everything to throw his opponent off guard really. Prochazka has been a dominating force in Rizin for many years now, with a large variety of knockouts and straight domination against tough opponents like C.B. Dollaway, Fabio Maldonado, and Muhammad Lawal to name the most recent ones, he’s coming in with a fairly large amount of experience and hype. Prochazka is a very large and dangerous striker, standing at 6 foot 4 inches tall, you can probably mistake him for a heavyweight at that height, and he carries the power of a heavyweight too. What i’m not too sure about is his cardio, since Oezdemir is a very durable fighter, will Prochazka struggle in the later rounds? That i’m not too sure about. I am very conflicted with this prediction, it could easily go either way, but honestly, I feel like Prochazka can handle this, he needs to counter Oezdemirs flurries or he’s gonna get hurt. Prochazka via KO R2 Main Card Women’s Flyweight Paige Vanzant (8-4-0, NS) v Amanda Ribas (9-1-0, 4 FWS) - I would say this fight is interesting but that’d be a lie. The highlight fighter in this bout is obviously Ribas, and for very good reasons too. Vanzant is a long afterthought when most people think about top contenders for the belt, I could go on for days on end about how her looks and connections get her places, but honestly this is MMA so i’m gonna stick to the fight. Vanzant is a fairly fast and snappy striker who, despite her looks, is incredibly tough, she fought with a broken arm for I believe two rounds, but she’s overall not an exceptional fighter, she only looks “good” because her opponents are rather shit. RIbas on the other hand excels as a fighter, whilst looking great doing so. Since joining the UFC she has defeated fairly experienced fighters in Dern, Markos and Whitmire, and I feel like she’s going to go far, but she’s not gonna be a champion any time soon. She’s fast, athletic and is incredibly good on the ground, and the groundwork is where she’s going to most likely dominate Vanzant. I got Ribas on this one hundred percent. Ribas via Sub R2 Women’s Strawweight Rose Namajunas (#2) (8-4-0, NS) v Jessica Andrade (#3) (20-7-0, NS) - A rematch we all wanted to see. Namajunas made one fatal mistake which cost her the title, and that was she didn’t let go of the kimura lock when Andrade picked her up. Everything else she did in that first bout, was perfection, her punches were exceptionally fast, those jabs especially were the fastest i’ve seen in a while. Her hand speed, and her constant feints and movements kept Andrade guessing, ultimately leading to Andrade to get punched in the face countless times. I feel like Rose most likely has addressed that and has either worked on her grappling defence a whole lot, or she has a whole new gameplan coming into this, but I honestly think she should just repeat what she did the first time, piece her up and slow her down. Maybe even work the legs a bit, either way, she was winning the first fight effortlessly until she didn’t. Now, this is where Andrade gets dangerous. Andrade knows why she was losing that first and second round, she wasn’t active enough, she was waiting to get hit before hitting back and that’s a big no no when you fight Namajunas. She needs to take the initiative and be one hundred percent aggressive. You can’t win a chess match when your opponent is a grandmaster in chess. Namajunas is a cunning and wise fighter who knows what to do on the feet in almost any situation. What Andrade lacks in speed, she more than makes up for it in brute strength and power, and she needs to use that power, wrestle, ground and pound, anything to sway the movement and feints of Namajunas. This is a great fight guys, but I honestly feel like Andrade is gonna win this, I know I know, controversial, so please, don’t bet based on this prediction. It’s one hell of a risky prediction but I feel confident enough about it. But i’m probably gonna get it wrong. Andrade via KO R1 Bantamweight Championship Bout Petr Yan (#3) (14-1-0l, 9 FWS) v Jose Aldo (#10) (28-6-0, 2 FLS) - Its kinda odd how Aldo is a champ despite losing to Moraes, it was an excellent and very close fight and the results could have gone either way, but you’d think the UFC would wait until Sterling and Garbrandt fought their fights before making an announcement, in any case. Yan is someone who I have been hyping up for months now, He is a russian assassin who bangs like Bochniak and has the ferocity like Poirier, He will be in your face the whole time, grinning that evil, cunning grin, just before launching a right hand that puts you to sleep faster than the worlds strongest anesthetic. The only issue I see, is the same thing so many other pundits see, his record, it’s great, but his opponents have been less than great, I’m gonna compare the last 5 opponents Yan and Aldo has had and you can see for yourself the difference in competition. Yan has faced Jin Soo Son, Douglas Andrade, John Dodson, Jimmie Rivera and Urijah Faber, neither of those fighters, at this moment in time, are top level contenders. Aldo has faced Marlon Moraes, Alex Volkanovski, Renato Moicano, Jeremy Stephens and Max Holloway. There’s a vast difference in competition between the two and that will be key for this fight. Yan is a dangerous, dangerous kickboxer, he’s aggressive and patient, a rare mix, he waits for the right time to strike, and goes at it like a uncaged animal, and Aldo needs to be aware never to settle and always be ready to move or counter. Aldo is as veteran as you can get, a long time Featherweight champ, who kept his championship hunger even after being dethroned. Aldo is an excellent boxer, his head movement and ability to fire off combos whilst moving is excellent. I am a bit conflicted though, he was average size in Featherweight, and smaller in Bantamweight, but he’s got a bigger reach than Yan, so he could have an advantage with his jabs and counters against Yan. One weapon that Aldo will certainly use against Yan will be his leg kicks, they’re fast and crack like a whip, and those leg kicks will slow down the forward momentum coming from Yan. This is a highly competitive fight and I honestly can’t wait. I’m leaning on Yan for this fight, i’m on that hype train! Yan via KO R3 Featherweight Championship Bout Alexander Volkanovski (c) (21-1-0, 18 FWS) v Max “Blessed” Holloway (#2) (21-5-0, NS) - This is one hell of a rematch, and it makes sense. Volkanovski is a dense motherfucker. Dude was huge back in the day, and even now he’s practically pure muscle. Volkanovski is exceptionally well rounded but he excels at range finding and target hunting, he can easily work his way into someone's space, and fire off with hard shots to the body or head. This was evident against Holloway. Whatever they’re doing in City Kickboxing is working because its evident that each of their fighters adjust incredibly well in between fights, and it’s clear that they’re going to stick around for a very long time. Holloway is coming back hungry for the belt, and after him relaxing a whole lot during the lockdowns, I’m not fully sure if he’s ready. Now, I love Holloway, the dude made my own quarantine easier because of his streams, dudes an insanely good person, but is he too relaxed for this fight? My thoughts on this are pretty simple, he has the championship mindset, without the burden of holding the title, he’s more relaxed now, but hungry. A champion must always work on themselves to get better for future competition, this is a rematch so there really shouldn’t be too much adjustment. Max most likely knew where he failed, and that’s his distance management and his leg checks, he didn’t check those leg kicks properly, and have you seen the size of Volkanovski’s legs? Thick like a ham. Imagine that slamming into your shin/thigh multiple times throughout a fight. Holloway needs to do something to address that, he needs to go first, or he needs to implement some form of wrestling, I haven’t seen him wrestle a whole lot, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can do that. Anyway, This is a rematch where most likely the same thing will happen as it did in the first fight. I don’t know what Holloway will change during his camp, so I can’t address this fight fully. I got Volkanovski on this one. Volkanovski via KO R2 Main Event Welterweight Championship Bout Kamaru Usman (c) (16-1-0, 17 FWS) v Jorge Masvidal (#3) (35-13-0, 3 FWS) - This is a fight that makes more sense than Usman v Burns, debate me. Anyway. Usman is a genetic freak, he is one of the best athletes in the UFC, but not necessarily the best fighter. Lemme rant and explain. Usman has never been a phenomenal striker, with no huge knockouts, he’s a grinder and he’s a product of years of wrestling, cardio and strength training. Usman specializes in draining his opponents, mentally and physically, he is the bigger, scarier Khabib, his wrestling is high level and his cardio is never ending, he will go, and go, and go, like a diabetic needing to piss. There is no stopping the Nightmare and I am on board with this hype train one hundred percent! Ahem. Usman suffers in one huge area, and that’s striking, a rather large portion of MMA and most definitely Masvidals main strength coming into this. The fight against Covington, they never wrestled, all they did was exchange jabs and crosses. Usmans’ head was incredibly still, and that shit will not fly against Masvidal, Masvidal will aim for that head and fire on all cylinders. Masvidal is on a very quick rise right now, we haven’t seen anything like this since the Conor days, but it’s unfortunate for me to say that he has not faced top level competition recently. His win against Till was probably his last competitive bout, and it ended spectacularly. Askren went to sleep within 5 seconds of the first round, and Diaz had no business being in the octagon against Masvidal in the first place. Masvidal is a wild card, plain and simple, he is very explosive, and his not-give-a-fuck attitude in his fights will be an issue for himself, and for Usman. I’d love to back Masvidal on this one because it’s entirely possible that he can knock Usman out very quickly, but Usman is not easy to put away. I don’t wanna dig deep into this fight simply because as a fan, I can’t ask for anything more than watching these two fighters in their prime, battling it out in the octagon, we live in unique times and this is a gift from the MMA gods. Lets Go Usman! Usman via UD That was longer than I expected. I apologise if it's too long, there will be a TL;DR version (basically a tapology copy pasta) on my twitter a few minutes after i post this. Looking forward to the discussions down below! If you would like to follow me on twitter, you can find me @Slayer_Tip or if you want, add me on discord and we can have a super friendly chat about all things MMA: Slayertip#7013 That's it! I hope you all have an excellent weekend, Love you all heaps, take care, stay healthy, and stay awesome!
Will the Tennessee Titans win OVER/UNDER 8.5 games? By University Stats Prof!
Tennessee’s season completely turned around once they benched quarterback Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill. After a 2-4 start, the Titans won seven of their final 10 games to sneak into the playoffs as the 6th seed in the AFC. Fun fact: it was the fourth straight season that the Titans finished with a 9-7 record! In the playoffs, they knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots, as well as the top seed in the conference, the Baltimore Ravens. Derrick Henry ran like a mad man in those games, becoming the first player in NFL history to rack up at least 175 rushing yards in two games in the same postseason. In the AFC Conference Championship Game, Tennessee grabbed a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, but couldn’t hold off the Chiefs any longer in a 35-to-24 defeat.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) Ryan Tannehill was clearly one of the best Cinderella stories in 2019. After taking over as the starting QB over Marcus Mariota, he led the league in QB rating. He crushed his previous career-high in completion percentage with as astounding 70.3%; his personal best was 66.4% in 2014. During his first six years in Miami, he posted a 123:75 TD:INT mark. That equates to a 1.64 ratio. In 2019, he threw 22 TD passes versus 6 interceptions, which amounts to a 3.7 ratio. As you can see, once again he obliterated his past numbers. The team thinks he can keep playing at that level after handing him a hefty contract. I do believe he’ll do a good job in 2020, but not at the 2019 levels, obviously. As of now, the backup QB is Logan Woodside since Mariota signed with the Raiders. Woodside was drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 draft out of Toledo. During preseason games, he completed 46-of-76 passes (a 60.5% completion rate) for 539 yards with 4 TDs and no interception. It’s hard to tell what he can bring to the table. 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) Derrick Henry was a true beast last year. He won the rushing title with 1,540 rushing yards and 16 TDs on the ground (he added two more as a receiver). His 5.1 yards-per-carry average is mind-boggling considering the high volume. He didn’t slow down in the playoffs. After rushing for 182 yards in New England, he single-handedly destroyed the Ravens with 195 rushing yards. He was quieter in K.C. by accumulating 69 yards on the ground. Few people remember how he finished the previous year on a high note as well. In the final four meetings of the 2018 season, he averaged 146 rushing yards and 1.75 rushing TDs per contest. Obviously, he followed up with a season to remember. Henry’s numbers have steadily increased every single year since he joined the league in 2016. Now 26 years old, defensive coordinators must be getting up at night to game plan against him. Dion Lewis was a nice change-of-pace back, even though he didn’t have a great year. At least he had NFL experience, which is not the case of the remaining potential backup backs. Both Dalyn Dawkins and David Fluellen are undrafted guys who have combined for 19 rushing attempts in the league. Tennessee filled a need by drafting Darrynton Evans in last April’s draft. The third-rounder complements Henry’s skillset well, as Evans can spell him on passing third-down situations (a role that used to be played by Dion Lewis). Also, he isn’t great running inside the tackles due to his small size, but he is more of a change-of-pace runner who has home-run hitting capacities. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) Rookie A.J. Brown was hyped as a big-play guy, and he did not disappoint. He didn’t catch that many balls, but when he did he made the most of it. The Mississippi product led all receivers that caught at least 50 passes with a jaw-dropping 20.2 yards-per-catch average. He scored 8 TDs, while also topping the 1,000 receiving-yard mark (he had 1,051). Will former #5 overall pick Corey Davis live up to his draft status? It seems unlikely after watching his first three years as a pro. He raised hopes by posting a 65-891-4 receiving line in 2018, but he regressed to 43-601-2 last year. Talent and youth play on his side, though. He may not be a true No. 1 wideout, but he can clearly do the job as a number two or three receiver. Adam Humphries is an efficient, yet not explosive player. He is good to pick up key first downs. He caught more than 70% of his targets in his final two years in Tampa, and he reached that goal once again in his first season in Tennessee. Was he worth a four-year deal worth $36 million? Probably not, but having him as your slot receiver is a bonus. His numbers were down last year, but he will be a useful tool as a 27-year old this year. Tajae Sharpe also made a nice contribution last year with 25 receptions, 329 yards and 4 TDs. He was a nice luxury to have on your roster, but he signed with the Vikings during the offseason. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker received the most playing time at tight end. Walker did a decent job, but father time seems to have caught up to him. After being very durable for 11 years, he stayed healthy for just one game in 2018 and seven games last year. Accordingly, the team cut ties with him as he was going to enter his age-36 campaign. Walker’s absence gave more room for Jonnu Smith to shine. The 2017 third-rounder has seen his numbers increase every year. His 35-439-3 receiving line is nothing to write home about. He could make a jump in 2020, but don’t expect huge steps. Anthony Firkser will be back with the squad. He doesn’t have the size and speed to become a great TE, but he does a fine job for a guy that was never drafted. MyCole Pruitt will be the #3 TE. He has never caught more than 10 passes in any of his five years in the NFL. Enough said. 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) Ben Jones has done a great job at the pivot throughout his entire eight-year career. He raised his game to a higher level last year by finishing at the second-best center in the NFL according to PFF grades. He’s been an awesome pickup when acquired from the Texas a few years ago. Right tackle Jack Conklin broke the bank in Cleveland, which left a glaring hole in Tennessee. He was a very solid player, and Dennis Kelly or Isaiah Wilson will try to fill his shoes. Kelly has received his two best PFF grades of his seven-year career in 2018 and 2019, which is a good sign. However, he doesn’t play at the same level as Conklin. The organization figures to have a better chance at replacing Conklin adequately with Isaiah Wilson, who was taken late in the first round of this year’s draft. This guy weighted close to 400 pounds coming out of high school! He is a mauler. The rookie needs work for both his footwork and technique, which led to uneven play in college. He has exceptional physical traits and high potential, but may not be great right from the start. At left tackle, Taylor Lewan is a cornerstone of this offensive line. He’s been good his whole career, never receiving a PFF mark below 76.4, which is remarkable! Rodger Saffold is the starting left guard for the Titans. He ranked as the sixth-best guard in the NFL last year; needless to say he’s been a valuable piece of the puzzle for this franchise. The weakest link is Nate Davis at right guard. The third-round rookie struggled big-time last year. 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE The Titans did not make a single free agent acquisition on offense. They lost some depth with the departures of RB Dion Lewis and WR Tajae Sharpe. The team hopes 3rd round pick Darrynton Evans can spell Henry appropriately. The backup QB will also be weaker due to Mariota leaving for Vegas. And despite his advanced age, Delanie Walker was a decent TE, although he only appeared in seven games last year. The biggest loss occurred on the offensive line. Seeing Jack Conklin go to the Jets hurts the team. Rookie Isaiah Wilson will do his best to hold the fort, but he is unlikely to play at the same level as Conklin in his first year as a pro. Finally, how could we expect better production out of Ryan Tannehill in 2020 as opposed to his 2019 heroics? In conclusion, I am tagging the Titans offense with a moderate downgrade in comparison to 2019. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Moderate downgrade
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) Jurrell Casey is a strong run stuffer, while also averaging 5.7 sacks per year over a nine-year period. He was traded to Denver for cap reasons, which will hurt Tennessee’s interior of the line a lot. With Casey gone, the team will hand a much heavier workload to Jeffery Simmons. After missing the first seven games due to a knee injury, he showed fairly good promise as a #19 overall pick from the 2019 draft. His sophomore year will be critical. The team will also rely on DaQuan Jones to step up his game. He is an above-average DL, whose main strength is defending the run. He only has seven sacks in six years. The Titans lost some depth as Austin Johnson went to the Giants. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) Harold Landry played twice as many snaps in his sophomore year as his rookie season, and he doubled his sack total (going from 4.5 to 9 to lead the team in that category). He graded as the 62nd-best edge defender in the league out of 107 players. He has the potential to take a leap. The team hopes to improve its pass rush by adding Vic Beasley, formerly of the Falcons. His numbers are a bit puzzling. He led the league with 15.5 sacks in his second season back in 2016. Since then, he has posted 5, 5 and 8 sacks. Those are not bad numbers, but they are clearly below expectations coming from a fellow that was the 8th overall selection in the 2015 draft. Also, he is a liability in run defense. In other words, he’s been more name than game recently. Kamalei Correa racked up five sacks despite playing 39% of the snaps. He had just 3.5 sacks over his first three years as a pro. He’s not a game breaker. Reggie Gilbert is a role player. The undrafted guy has 4.5 sacks in three years is no more than depth. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans are the leaders of this group. Based on draft status, Evans is supposed to be the superior player, but that wasn’t the case at all last year. Evans received poor marks from PFF with a 47.6 grade; he obtained spot #74 out of 89 LBs. He struggled a lot in coverage and wasn’t that great rushing the passer. He does a fine job defending the run though. As for Brown, his 68.8 PFF grade allowed him to finish as the 20th-best linebacker in the league. His sack total went from 6 in 2018 down to just one a year ago. The former fifth-rounder will try to bring that number back up this season. Wesley Woodyard’s career is clearly on the decline. He lost his starting job, his PFF grades are falling, he’s 34 years old and he is now a free agent after the Titans failed to re-sign him. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Adoree’ Jackson is the team’s number 1 CB. He was the 18th overall pick from the 2017 draft. Even though he has only two career interceptions, he is still a fairly solid coverage guy. He constantly ranks among the upper tier. Logan Ryan played almost all defensive snaps last year and he filled the scoresheet more than ever in his seven-year career. He had career-highs in tackles (113), sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (4). He also picked off four passes, his second-best performance. Yet, he graded as an average corner by taking the 62nd rank out of 112 CBs because of ordinary run defense and coverage skills. The Titans couldn’t meet his salary demands, so he left via free agency. Malcolm Butler finished once again in the middle of the pack among all NFL cornerbacks last year. The Super Bowl XLIX hero has seen his PFF grades decrease in each of the past three seasons, but he still manages to intercept 2-4 passes every year. He missed seven games last year with a broken wrist. LeShaun Sims played 30% of the snaps, while producing poor play on the field. He’s never been a good corner, but he still found a new home in Cincinnati when the Bengals signed him in March. The Titans took Kristian Fulton late in the 2nd round this year. Many reports suggest he’ll be an average NFL starter. He is best in man coverage due to his physicality. He lost the entire 2017 season when he was caught trying to tamper with a PED test sample, where he submitted a friend’s urine. 3.5 Safeties (S) Kevin Byard is one of the league’s highest paid safety and he deserves it. He has 17 interceptions over the last three years. In those seasons, his PFF rankings were 4th, 3rd and 10th among close to 90 qualifiers. Byard turned out to be a huge bargain as a former third-round pick out of Middle Tennessee State. Now 27 years old, there is no reason to believe his play will deteriorate in 2020. Kenny Vaccaro is well known among fans, even though his play is not great. He probably gets recognition due to his former first-round status, but his best PFF grade was 66.7 back in 2013. Just to give you an idea, such a mark would have yielded him the #48 spot out of 87 safeties last year. And that was his best season. Amani Hooker played 30% of the snaps last year as a rookie. The Titans had actually traded up to secure his rights during the 2019 draft. He did a decent job, but the jury is still out about the fourth-rounder’s future. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE The Titans allowed the 12th-fewest points in the league last year. Should be expect better or worse play in 2020? Jurrell Casey’s presence will be missed in a big way on the interior of the line. Also, not getting CB Logan Ryan back is hardly good news. Overall, he was an above-average corner who was constantly on the field and has been very durable in his career. The only good addition is Vic Beasley. I feel like he’s overrated since his sack numbers are lower than what most people think and due to poor run defense, but he still has valuable pass rushing abilities. Based on this information, I anticipate a small downgrade from this unit. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small downgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Titans are expected to win 8.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Titans won more or less than 8.5 games.
Here are the results:
OVER 8.5 WINS
UNDER 8.5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 8.5 wins Return On Investment (ROI): +12.4% Rank: 22nd-highest ROI out of 32 teams Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): +104 Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Titans’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -2 vs BUF, -3 vs CHI, -4 vs CLE, -6 vs DET, -4.5 vs HOU, -2.5 vs IND, -11 vs JAX, -2 vs PIT.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020. I hope you found this article informative, I've got every NFL team covered so check out my other posts! Have a nice day! Professor MJ
With the season (hopefully) on the way I thought I'd put together some lists for top 5 players at each position in Indianapolis (not Baltimore) Colts history. I'll start with QB, and work my way through. This list is purely my opinion as a die hard fan since the early Manning days, and if you think I have no clue what I'm talking about, please feel free to let me know. Fun fact, out of the 26 QBs to start a game for the Indy Colts there are only 7 players that have a winning record. Three of them are Colts legends Josh Freeman, Gary Hogeboom, and Craig Erickson.
After the complete disaster that was attempting to draft John Elway #1 in 1983, the then Baltimore Colts stuck with Mike Pagel at QB, who had just led them to a winless season in 1982. Team owner Robert Irsay decided to move the team to Indianapolis before the 1984 season the team stuck with Pagel as their main QB despite him clearly not being their future at the position. This led to 2 season with losing records and last place finishes in the AFC East. Entering the 1986 draft, the Colts were clearly looking for a franchise player at QB. The obvious choice was Jim Everett out of Purdue, but unfortunately he was selected #3 to the Houston Oilers when the Colts had the #4 pick. Instead of drafting the only other franchise QB in the draft, Mark Rypien, the Colts decided to select promising Illinois QB Jack Trudeau in the 2nd round. Trudeau had shown a lot of promise in his career, leading Illinois to a Rose Bowl in 1984 and finishing 2nd in the Davey O'Brien Award (Best College QB) to Doug Flutie. Unfortunately for him and the Colts, this talent would not translate well to the NFL
After trading Mike Pagel to the Browns the starting job was set for Trudeau entering the 1986 season. Unfortunately the Colts were still a very bad team overall and Trudeau was not set to overcome that. In 11 starts he had 8 TDs, 18 INTs, and a 48.9% completion rate for an 0-11 record. It was immediately clear he was not the savior the Colts needed to bring legitimate football to Indy. Fortunately, a contract dispute between Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson allowed the Colts to trade for Dickerson midway through the 1987 season. Dickerson was an immediate breath of life to the fledgling Indianapolis Colts franchise and helped lead them to their first playoff berth. Trudeau shared starting duties with Gary Hogeboom, and both were successful in not screwing things up too bad, giving the ball to Dickerson, and staying out of the damn way. Trudeau started in his only playoff game and actually played decently well: 251 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT, but it wasn't enough as the Colts lost 38-21 to the Bernie Kosar led Cleveland Browns who would eventually lose in via "The Drive" in the AFC Championship. It was clear the Colts would need a better QB to compliment their new superstar in Dickerson, and thus they drafted future Pro Bowler Chris Chandler in the 3rd round in 1988. However, Chris Chandler was most definitely not a Pro Bowler for the Colts. Chandler didn't impress despite an 9-7 overall record, and was replaced by Trudeau following a bad start to the 1989 season. Trudeau had his best year as a pro in 1989: 2,317 yards, 15 TDs, 13 INTs, but the Colts still finished 8-8 and outside of the playoffs. Trudeau was improving, but was still clearly not the QB of the future, which they hoped to get by trading All-Pro Tackle Chris Hinton, Future All-Pro WR Andre Rison, and the #3 Pick in 1991 for the #1 Pick in 1990 which they used to draft QB Jeff George (Wow). Trudeau was kept as the backup and was a spot starter for the Colts from 1990-93. Despite the horrific play of George, Trudeau couldn't muster much better in his limited playing time and was released in 1994.
Jack Trudeau was at best a mediocre QB you could somewhat rely on to manage the game and allow more talented players to make plays. Unfortunately the late 80s, early 90s Colts didn't have too many of those so his play suffered as well. His numbers aren't great and he wasn't much beloved by Colts fans, but he did help lead the Colts to their first playoff appearance which helped me put him on the list over Matt Hasselbeck and others. Trudeau has actually hung around Indy doing various radio and TV appearances talking about the Colts and even has a couple of DUIs as well.
The Colts had their franchise QB in Andrew Luck, but leading up to the 2017 season it was revealed during the preseason Luck had a shoulder injury which would eventually lead to him missing the entire 2017 season. This left the Colts scrambling as they knew QB Scott Tolzien was not the answer at QB, so 8 days before the start of the season the new GM Chris Ballard traded 1st round bust Phillip Dorsett for 3rd string QB for the Patriots Jacoby Brissett. Brissett had looked at least competent spot starting for the suspended Tom Brady and hurt Jimmy Garoppolo in 2016, so he was the best option the Colts had available so close to the beginning of the season.
Bringing in a new QB for a team 8 days before the start of the season and asking him to play is like asking a train engineer to launch a rocket to the moon, so Tolzien started week 1 for Colts. He continued to not impress going into week 2, and was replaced for Brissett. Brissett was an improvement, but it was clear he was overwhelmed by the change of scenery and the rest of the Colts roster and staff was not talented enough to make up for it. He finished with competent numbers: 3,098 yards, 13 TDs, 7 INTs, 58.8% completion rate, 6.6 Y/A, but was merely a game manager for a bad team as the Colts finished 4-12. Andrew Luck was ready to return in 2018 and the Colts were willing to give Brissett the benefit of the doubt and kept him on as the backup. The Colts saw a major resurgence with Luck and an incredible draft and free agent class by Chris Ballard, leading to their first playoff appearance since 2015, eventually losing to the Patrick Mahomes led Chiefs. The Colts were looking to improve going into 2019, but a now too familiar announcement led up to the season when it was revealed a calf injury was going to cause Andrew Luck to retire 2 weeks before the start of the regular season. The spotlight was once again shown on Jacoby Brissett, who was asked to take over Luck's team. Fortunately this time Brissett was able to get all the first team reps in the preseason leading up to week 1 and was much more familiar with the system. That familiarity paid off as Brissett led the Colts to a 5-2 start, including wins over playoff teams like the Texans and Titans along with the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Brissett was not putting up All-Pro numbers, but had clearly improved from 2017 and was still not making game losing mistakes. Through week 9 he had 190 YPG, 11 TDs, and 6 INTs, and and the eye test had shown he was a good leader and could occasionally make big plays when needed. However, after a knee sprain in week 10 he was clearly not the same player. His injury either hampered his physical abilities or his confidence but his poor play for the rest of the season allowed the Colts to fall to 7-9, including an embarrassing 34-7 loss to the Saints that I made the trip over to New Orleans for and watched as Brissett sailed the ball over every receiver's head. Brissett will likely be the backup for the 2020 season behind free agent Phillip Rivers, but he's shown enough flashes of ability that his career is long from over, whether that ends up being on the Colts or somewhere else in the league.
I believe I'm with the majority of Colts fans in that when I see Jacoby Brissett I see somewhat of a tragic figure. He got thrown to the wolves in 2017 and did the best he could, but was basically set up to fail. It's honestly not too much of a stretch to say his play through week 9 of 2019 was the best QB play by an Indy Colts QB not named Manning, Luck, or Harbaugh. You could tell he was well-liked by both fans and teammates, especially through the first half of 2019, but his limitations as a player were clear. Colts fans have been spoiled in the 21st century by 2 all-time great QBs, so any deviation from that, especially when it's not by a QB we drafted #1 overall, will be seen as a major failure. I think people came down a little too hard on Jacoby by the end of 2019, and that he's still a solid pro capable of being the QB on a winning team in the right situation. However, he showed in the 2nd half of 2019 that situation is probably not in Indy going forward.
The Colts had come out of the Eric Dickerson/Jeff George era looking like an absolute dumpster fire. The Colts had been in Indy for 10 years and Indy was still very much a basketball town. The only signature player the Indy Colts had was Eric Dickerson, and he had a very sour exit in 1992 after 2 bad years. The Indianapolis Colts were still in the woods, searching for the player that could give their franchise hope that they would be treated as a legitimate threat in the NFL and generate significant interest from the fanbase. That hope came from an unlikely source in Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh had led the Chicago Bears to 2 playoff appearances in the late Mike Ditka-era, but his play had fallen off and by 1994 he looked somewhat washed. The desperate Colts made a surprisingly wise decision in not drafting QBs Heath Schuler or Trent Dilfer. Instead they drafted future Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk to replace Eric Dickerson (this is the "Who the hell is Mel Kiper?" draft) and signing Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh didn't come out guns blazing in 1994 as he traded starting duties with Green Bay castoff Don Majkowski. Harbaugh put up decent numbers but the Colts finished 4-5 in games Harbaugh started, 8-8 overall. Harbaugh entered the 1995 season as no sure thing, the Colts actually traded their 1996 first round pick for young Tampa QB Craig Erickson in another baffling trade for an unproven QB. Erickson and Harbaugh competed for the starting position in training camp and Erickson was selected as the starter by head coach Ted Marchibroda. Erickson played poorly the first 2 weeks, being replaced and outplayed by Harbaugh in both games. By week 3 Harbaugh was the full time starter and didn't look back. Harbaugh was showing that he meshed well with new Offensive Coordinator Lindy Infante as Harbaugh put up some of the most efficient passing numbers of any QB in the NFL in 1995: 2,575 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 63.7% completion rate, and a league leading passer rating of 100.7 (ahead of guys like Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and Dan Marino). Even more importantly he was a becoming the tough effective leader to energize the entire team, leading the Colts to 4 game winning drives that season, including one over the 1994 Super Bowl champion 49ers. The Colts were just outside of the playoffs going into week 17, but Harbaugh led the Colts to a win over the Drew Bledsoe led Patriots in the RCA Dome to sneak the Colts into the playoffs at 9-7. Harbaugh earned his first Pro Bowl appearance along with NFL Comeback Player of the Year. The Colts were going into the playoffs as 5.5 point underdogs against the San Diego Chargers, a team they had just lost to in week 16. However, thanks to 3 TDs from Harbaugh and an out-of-nowhere 147 yard, 2 TD performance from rookie FB Zach Crockett, the Colts overcame the odds. They were heading into a gauntlet of Arrowhead stadium against the best defense in the league and a Marcus Allen led 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs. In an ugly game where the wind chill was -15oF, luck worked in the Colts favor. Harbaugh didn't throw well, but picked up several key 1st down with his legs. He had 1 INT and 3 fumbles, but fortunately lost 0. Chiefs QB Steve Bono had 3 INTs and K Lin Elliot went 0/3 on field goals in a season where he made 80%. Colts K Cary Blanchard made 1/3, and that was enough to upset the heavily-favored Chiefs 10-7. Harbaugh's most defining moment as the Colts QB would come in the AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harbaugh's cinderella story continued on against Bill Cowher and Neil O'Donnell's Steelers. The Colts and Steelers traded scores throughout the game. With 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Harbaugh threw a dime to WR Floyd Turner for a 47 yard touchdown to put the Colts up 16-13. Unfortunately the Colts couldn't run out enough clock on their next drive and the Steelers rushed down the field for the go-ahead score to put them up 20-16. Harbaugh wasn't done yet. With 88 seconds needing 84 yards, Harbaugh willed the Colts down the field to the Steelers' 29-yard line for a hail mary shot with 5 seconds left. Harbaugh tossed up a prayer that was very nearly caught by Colts WR Aaron Bailey, but he couldn't come up with it. The Cinderella story was over, but it was a defining moment for the Colts franchise. The 1995 Colts were within a hair of making the Super Bowl, and that 1995 playoff run led by Harbaugh created a real fanbase for them. Harbaugh's stats regressed some in 1996, but he still led the Colts to a 9-7 record and the playoffs, this time getting whooped by the Steelers in the wild card. In 1997 his stats improved some but the wheels fell off of the team as they started off 0-10, eventually falling to 3-13. Fortunately their record would net them the #1 pick in the 1998 draft. After it was clear the Colts were using the pick on QB they traded Harbaugh to the Ravens.
“A lot of people use (the word) ‘culture,’ but the attitude, everybody was team-first, from the front office, together with the coaches, together with the ownership, together with the players, the equipment staff, the training staff, I mean it felt like we were family.” - Jim Harbaugh on 1995 I don't think enough can be said about the effect of Harbaugh and that 1995 team had on the Colts. He gave us our first source of pride in the Colts and set the tone for the franchise to not be the laughingstock of the league. He paved the way for the decades of excellence that came after. Harbaugh will never be a HoF QB, but his effect on the Colts is severely underrated. For more details on the 1995 Cinderella season, read this IndyStar article: https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nfl/colts/2016/01/21/1995-indianapolis-colts-jim-harbaugh-aaron-bailey-afc-championship-game-ted-marchibroda/78291676/
After a serious neck injury to franchise stalwart Peyton Manning, the Colts went from perennial playoff contender to nearly winless in 2011. It was unknown if Manning would ever be the same QB again, so the Colts opted to release their most valuable player and use their #1 pick in 2012 on a QB. There was some debate on possibly drafting the Heisman winner out of Baylor, Robert Griffin III, but new GM Ryan Grigson made no doubt in the fact that he was drafting Andrew Luck. Son of former Oilers QB Oliver Luck, Andrew Luck blossomed under head coach Jim Harbaugh to revitalize the Stanford football program while also graduating with a bachelor's degree in architectural design. Luck was hailed by nearly every scout as a can't miss prospect, having nearly every physical tool you want from a QB along with a clear handle on the mental and intangible aspects of the game.
Expectations for Luck were high going into 2012, but not so for the team overall. Many experts put the Colts at or near the bottom of all power rankings. Not only had the team lost Peyton Manning that year, but also many key pieces from the Manning era such as Pierre Garçon, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, and Gary Brackett. To make matters worse, new head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and missed weeks 5-16. However, despite all odds, Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 record. Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians proved to be a diamond in the rough by helping Luck turn a 2-14 team that lost multiple starters into a playoff team. Luck's stats weren't always pretty: 23 TDs, 18 INTs, 54.1% completion rate, and a 76.5 rating, but he could clearly make plays happen with an absurd 7 game winning drives. The miracles came to an end with a shellacking by the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs, but this season proved Luck would be no bust, he was a force to be reckoned with. Luck continued to grow in 2013 and 2014, improving in every category to crescendo in 2014 with a league-leading 40 TDs, 16 INTs, 61.7% completion rate, and a 96.5 rating. In 2013 he led the Colts to his first playoff victory in spectacular fashion. After being down 38-10 early in the 3rd quarter to the Alex Smith led Chiefs, Luck led a furious and unbelievable comeback 45-44 victory. Any Colts fan could tell you after seeing all the comeback victories Luck had led to never count him out, and he cemented that in this game. In 2014 Luck led the Colts past their old god of Peyton Manning in Denver in the divisional round, but were given a thorough ass-whooping in the AFC Championship by the soon-to-be Super Bowl champions New England Patriots in what is now infamously known as the "Deflategate Game." Andrew Luck was a very physical player and was known to take many hits, sometimes making spectacular plays through those hits. However, that punishment started to pile up and wasn't helped by GM Ryan Grigson's poor draft classes and inability to build a competent offensive line to block for Luck. This culminated in the injury plagued 2015 and 2016 seasons. Luck only played 7 games in 2015 and severely regressed in every statistical category, clearly hampered by various injuries such as a lacerated kidney. Luck's stats improved in 2016, but the team did not as they finished 8-8, partially due to an astounding 7% sack of Luck. Either some of Luck's good fortune had finally run out or the team and culture built by GM Grigson had completely failed to support their superstar QB. Owner Jim Irsay bet on Luck and fired Grigson after 2016. Hopes were high heading into 2017, but unfortunately an unknown snowboarding accident aggravated a previous shoulder injury for Luck. News was very slow to come out, but fans were shocked to find out he would likely miss the entire season 8 days before week 1. New GM Chris Ballard made a quick trade for Jacoby Brissett, but fans were worried after 3 years of being hampered by injuries Luck may never be the same player. In 2018 we believed those doubts were proven wrong. Luck had an incredibly resurgent season, leading the new look Colts back into the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with a 10-6 record. Luck's numbers were back to form: 39 TDs, 15 INTs, and career bests of 67.3% completion rate and 98.7 rating. Fans were pleased to finally see Luck playing behind a solid offensive line that prevented which prevented him from being sacked for 5 weeks and giving him a career low 2.7% sack rate. Luck led the Colts to a Wild Card win over the Deshaun Watson's Texans, but were stopped in the cold in Arrowhead against Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs. However, hopes were high leading into 2019 that the structure given by GM Chris Ballard would protect Luck and allow him to lead us to our Super Bowl. Sadly that did not work out as Luck appeared to have a calf injury leading up to the 2019 season. Fans held out hope he would be ready to go for the start of the season, but after the years of rehabbing Luck had finally had enough. 2 weeks before the season opener during a preseason game against the Chicago Bears it was leaked that Luck planned to retire. Fortunately his backup Jacoby Brissett was put in a better position to take his place as opposed to 2017, but the sudden and unexplained retirement of their franchise QB right before the season led to some fans to boo Luck as he left the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for the last time.
Andrew Luck will forever be one of the greatest "what if?" stories in American sports history. Unlike many "what if?" stories, we got to see what we could have had with Luck. What the Colts had in Luck from 2012-14 along with 2018 was nothing short of incredible and it was clear he was improving to potentially become one of the greatest QBs in NFL history. Instead he's a tragic story where fans will forever be left to wonder what could have been with Andrew Luck. Would Luck have brought the Colts back to the Super Bowl if he he didn't play the majority of his career under the poor management of GM Ryan Grigson and HC Chuck Pagano? All we do know is that his sack rate under Grigson was 5.5%, and in one year on GM Chris Ballard's team it was 2.7%, coincidentally also one of his best statistical seasons. Peyton Manning's sack rate for his career? Tied for the NFL record with Dan Marino at 3.13%. Maybe if Luck had been better protected and coached better to avoid hits he could have made it up there with Manning, but as fans he'll forever be a "what if?" Luck seems like a smart and content man who's just starting a family, so I doubt he will ever return for any team. Even if he did we'll forever be robbed of what the best version of Andrew Luck could have been. However, in his short time here, he delivered enough incredible moments to give us hope and make us love the team. I, along with hopefully many other fans, will forever love Andrew Luck for his time with the Colts and am grateful for a helluva run.
The Indianapolis Colts under Jim Harbaugh had finally established themselves as a legitimate team, but the Colts knew Harbaugh wasn't the long-term answer at QB. He was 35 going into the 1998 season and had just led the Colts to a 3-13 season, bad enough for the #1 overall pick. There was some debate about drafting Heisman finalist out of Washington, Ryan Leaf, but new GM Bill Polian made no doubt in the fact that he was drafting Peyton Manning. Leaf had some incredible athletic abilities, but there were some doubts raised about his ability to handle the mental aspects of the game. He also basically made the decision for the Colts when he skipped their draft interview, a passive-aggressive declaration he wouldn't play for the Colts. Peyton Manning, son of former Saints QB Archie Manning, was also a Heisman finalist out of Tennessee. No scout doubted Manning's ability to become a franchise QB in the NFL, but some wondered about his potential ceiling due to a complete lack of running ability and some arm strength concerns. However, he was clearly one of the most mature and mentally ready players to ever come out of college for any position. "I'll leave you with this thought. If you take me, I promise you we will win a championship. If you don't, I promise I'll come back and kick your ass" -Peyton Manning to Colts GM Bill Polian on the day before the 1998 draft
The 1998 Colts were still a pretty bad team overall, and the rookie Manning was not enough to overcome that. He had one of the best statistical rookie seasons ever: 3,739 yards, 26 TDs, 28 INTs, 6.5 Y/A, and a 56.7% completion rate, setting records for yards, TDs, and INTs (yards and TDs are currently held by Andrew Luck and Baker Mayfield respectively). However, the deficiencies of the team and Manning's record number of interceptions helped give the Colts a 3-13 record, including a week 5 win over Ryan Leaf's San Diego Chargers. Fortunately Manning helped lead one of the biggest turnarounds in NFL history in 1999, turning the 3-13 Colts in 1998 into the 13-3 Colts in 1999. People weren't exactly ready to give up on Manning after 1998, but 1999 was critical for showing Manning could improve and be at the helm of a winning team. Partially this was helped by sending Hall of Fame RB Marshall Faulk to St. Louis in exchange for the draft pick to select Hall of Fame RB Edgerrin James, who had a phenomenal rookie year. The Colts ended up losing to the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, who had just completed the Music City Miracle the week before and would come within an ass hair of winning the Super Bowl against the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams. Manning was up and down from 2000 to 2002, still posting good stats but missing the playoffs in 2001 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oSFYxDGKy8 ) and having first round exits in 2000 and 2002. Whispers started turning into legitimate arguments about how Peyton Manning was a good stats, dome team, regular season QB that just didn't have it in the playoffs. In 2003 Manning started his absurd streak of 12+ win seasons (7 years) and picked up his first MVP award, the first (and still only) Indy Colt to win it. He also got his first playoff wins in 2003, but was quickly put to shame in a 4 INT performance in the AFC Championship against the Patriots, now known by Colts fans as "The Ty Law Game." The 2004 season is well known by Colts fans for cementing Manning among the all time greats. Manning was white hot all year, throwing for 4,557 yards 49 TDs, 10 INTs, and a 121.1 rating while only getting sacked 13 times. The 49 TDs was a record, which has since been broken by Tom Brady and Manning again while a member of the Broncos. Manning won MVP for the 2nd year in a row, but once again disappointed in the playoffs with a 0 TD, 1 INT performance against the Patriots in the divisional round, losing 20-3. Those arguments of Manning's postseason jitters were starting to feel more and more like reality for Colts fans. They knew they had their franchise QB, but his inability to perform in the playoffs continued to be baffling. 2005 was supposed to be the season that changed all that. Manning's numbers came back to earth somewhat, but he still posted a very efficient performance (104.1 rating) for a much improved overall team. GM Bill Polian had proved his days building the "Four Falls over Buffalo" Bills dynasty was no fluke, he now had a team with the #2 scoring offense and the #2 scoring defense. This was the year to break the Manning postseason curse. Unfortunately in one of the most upsetting games of my life, the Colts could not break that curse against the Steelers in the divisional round. Manning played relatively well: 58% completion rate, 290 yards, and 1 TD with no INTs, but watching the game the Colts struggled to maintain momentum and get stops against the rookie Ben Roethlisberger. Despite the inconsistent play, the Colts still had a shot. Steelers HoF RB Jerome Bettis attempted to ice the game with a goal line carry, but fumbled for the first time all year. With the entire Steelers offense stuffing the line, Colts CB Nick Harper was free to pick up the ball with a nearly open field ahead of him. Normally Nick Harper is one of the faster players on the field, however, as every Colts fan knows, Harper had been stabbed in the leg by his wife in a "supposedly accidental" altercation the night before. This possibly allowed the falling down Ben Roethlisberger to catch Harper by his shoe strings, preventing the nearly sure thing TD by Harper to put the Colts ahead. Instead Manning led the Colts into basically chip shot field goal position for one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history (Mike "Idiot Kicker" Vanderjagt) to tie the game. We all know what happened next. It was a shocking loss to say the least, and it was hard to blame it all on Manning, but it still felt like there was some sort of mystical VooDoo curse hanging over Manning and our franchise. If the Colts couldn't win it all in 2005 it felt like they never would. 2006 wasn't looking like anything special compared to the past few seasons, especially considering the defense regressed from #2 in scoring in 2005 to #23 in 2006. Manning was still putting up great numbers, but those were starting to feel like an exercise in futility. Fortunately the Colts caught fire at the right time, with oft-injured All-Pro Safety Bob Sanders getting healthy towards the end of the season and the trade deadline addition of Buccaneers DT "Booger" McFarland. That momentum pushed them to an AFC Championship, where Manning would match up against the source of his ultimate playoff failures, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Fortunately, this time it was in the RCA Dome, not Foxborogh, MA. Manning and the Colts started off cold, being down 21-3 at one point after a Manning pick-6, but the Colts rallied behind some incredibly orchestrated drives by Manning to finally get the monkey off his back. On a last second drive, Manning drove the Colts down the field to put them ahead 38-34 with 1 minute to go. A Marlin Jackson interception of Tom Brady sealed it, Manning and the Colts were going to the Super Bowl for the first time in Indy history. Manning played well in the Super Bowl, winning the MVP against the league-best Chicago Bears defense. Manning continued his solid play in 2007 and 2008, including his 3rd MVP in 2008. Both seasons ended with heartbreaking first round playoff exits to the San Diego Chargers, 2008's being the "Sproles and Scifres Game." 2008 also showed the first signs of physical weakness from Manning, having a knee surgery before the season that led to a slow start for the Colts. That was not the case in 2009, as Manning led the Colts to start the season 14-0. In a decision that's still derided today, new head coach Jim Caldwell decided to effectively bench Manning along with many other starters rather than go for the perfect season to prevent any injuries. Many had seen the Patriots in 2007 nearly complete the perfect season, but fall in heartbreaking fashion in the Super Bowl against a less talented Giants team. Caldwell, like many others, decided that any rust from not playing for nearly a month was worth the decreased risk of injury to his stars. That decision nearly backfired in spectacular fashion as the Colts were behind the New York Jets (a team they effectively let into the playoffs by letting them win in week 16) in the AFC Championship game until Manning led a furious comeback. It all ended poorly in the Super Bowl however as Manning threw a pick-6 to Tracy Porter that still haunts my dreams to Tracy Porter, allowing the Colts to lose to Drew Brees and his stupid baby and the New Orleans Saints. 2010 was one of the first signs of weakness from Manning. He had apparently injured his neck on this play in 2006 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gjdmww3vgM ) on a hit that would now be extremely illegal. Manning apparently aggravated that injury in the lead up to the 2010 season, and it showed in the stats as he had how lowest rating since 2002 (91.9). For most other QBs a rating of 91.9 is a pretty solid season but for Manning it was a massive fall. This led to a quick playoff exit to the Jets in the first round. In the lead up to the 2011 season, Manning had several surgeries to relieve the pain in his neck which led to him missing the entire season. It was unknown if he would ever be the same QB again, or even play again. Manning's absence showed how incredibly important he was to the franchise, the only major difference between the rosters in 2010 and 2011 is Manning, yet the Colts went 10-6 in 2010 and 2-14 in 2011. This poor record led to the Colts earning the #1 pick in the 2012 draft, which fueled their decision to release Manning and draft a QB in 2012 (Chandler Harnish...and Andrew Luck).
"Fellas, if 18 goes down, we're fucked, and we don't practice fucked." -Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore on why the backup QBs don't get more reps Nothing to me cements Peyton Manning's role in Indy as much as this quote. Even his first 5 years before he became an all-time great, that was still the best sustained stretch of QB play in Indy Colts history. Once he ascended to another level in 2003, it was clear we needed to put every egg we could find into his basket. Manning was the perfect franchise QB: a steady presence on and off the field, consistent delivery of either incredible numbers or game winning performances (usually both), and he made nearly everyone else on the team a better player. His drive and commitment to team victory made him the guy every franchise needs if they want to field a consistently great team. Peyton had somewhat of an authoritarian leadership style, my way or the highway, but you can do that when you show that you're willing and able to give every ounce of yourself to the team and deliver the kind of results that he can. I think some people are disappointed in the Manning Era considering how historically great his stats are but he was 1-1 in Super Bowls in 12 years here. Honestly I think that's not too far off for any all-time QB. Drew Brees is 1-0, Brett Favre is 1-1, Aaron Rodgers is 1-0, Fran Tarkenton is 0-3, Jim Kelly is 0-4, Dan Marino is 0-1, all of these guys are all-time great franchise QBs but it's not abnormal for them to only win 1 or lose several. There are some exceptions: Tom Brady (6-3), Joe Montana (4-0), Terry Bradshaw (4-0), and Troy Aikman (3-0), but honestly you could trade any of the former QBs for Terry Bradshaw and they would also probably be 4-0. There's lots of luck in every playing career, and some get luckier than others. The only season I'd say the Colts were "robbed" of a Super Bowl is 2005, otherwise I think Manning's Colts career went about as good as it could have. Honorable Mentions: Matt Hasselbeck (5-3 record, probably our best backup ever) and Dan Orlovsky (just for saving us from a completely defeated season). Dishonorable Mentions: Jeff George and Kerry Collins (being very bad at QB isn't very uncommon for Indy Colts QBs, but these guys were so bad and toxic they dragged down the abilities of everyone on the team and are actively hated by most fans)
Story Time You Degenerate Fucks--Top 5 Novels of the 21st Century
A while back, one of the faithful, u/fuzzyblankeet, tried to start a book club, in which you fucks were somehow supposed to generate literary suggestions. The project was akin to asking a gaggle of sociopaths to share their feelings. There were some decent suggestions, but most of you held the understanding that literature started with Harry Potter and ended with Ready Player One. It was fucking embarrassing. Time to get a little lesson in modern literature so you fucks can begin to understand why you make the poor decisions you do, and maybe get in touch with one or two of the synapses that try to muster some action potential whenever you try to suppress the time Daddy touched your no-no-zone. It might just help you understand why you're buying high and selling low like the rabble of idiots that you are. We're just over twenty basis points into this god-forsaken century. Now is as good and arbitrary a time as ever to list my top five books of the 1/5 mark. A lot of people make the distinction between favorite and best. I'm ambivalent on the matter, as you should be too, because finding objectivity within any rendering of our essentially conscious experience is the child of folly--though I'd expect nothing more from you bumbling lot of bairns. It's not that I much care anyway; my bias is what makes my taste, and my tastes inherently signal to my brain that I think more people should think like me. This is the kind of thinking that churns the democratic engine. God bless America. So on with it then:
A Naked Singularity, by Sergio De La Pava: The best self-published book of all time, period. As the story goes, De La Pava had tried over 100 agents before shelving the masterpiece, as it was too 'difficult' for us Americans, who need more time and brain-space to money-grub. It's particularly telling when a child of Colombian immigrants gives up. But his wife, Susanna, didn't. She published and promoted the thing herself. After selling tens of thousands of copies, it was picked up by the University of Chicago Press, which is obviously an odd placement for a mammoth Joycean effort. Anyhow, the novel follows a young Manhattan defense attorney, Casi--as Sergio was himself at the time of writing. In preparing a defense for an appointed client, our protagonist overhears the specifics of a drop for a drug deal. In an unlikely twist, Casi teams up with a pseudo-rival--a colleague with reproachable morals--to steal the money from the drug deal. To say the book is about this heist is like saying Ulysses is about Leopold's horniness or something. ANS is simply indescribable. The prose is purely revolutionary, hilarious, poetic, and infinitely cutting, all in the same breath. A paradoxically oblique yet accurate picture of the novel and its author can be gleaned from a piece by Garth Risk Hallberg (author of City on Fire, which was the bloated and underwhelming sophomore effort of a genius), about how he came to love this book as well: https://themillions.com/2012/06/outside-the-ring-a-profile-of-sergio-de-la-pava.html
In the Distance, by Hernan Diaz: We're now 40% of the way through the list of my five favorite novels for 20% through the 21st century, and we haven't run into a single straight white male yet. I am become the radical left. How about this for an endorsement: In the Distance was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Enough said. But you should still keep reading, for the sake of seeding your barren cognitive landscape. Seriously, you people are fucking idiots. But for those of you who still peruse snail mail catalogs and participate in book clubs in which major points of discussion include whether a book boasts an 'exciting plot'--i.e. those of you who should seriously consider alternative methods of living your lives--don't worry: Carys Davies of The Guardian--an editorial ranging between worthless and adding negative value to society--as a "thrilling narrative, full of twists and turns." Thanks, Carys. Set in the time of Manifest Destiny (for you illiterate pieces of shit, that's when the pioneers went west, my sons), In the Distance follows Haukan, an incredibly large and hulking Swedish immigrant. Haukan loses--as in literarlly, he can no longer locate--his brother on the way to America. In spending the rest of his life in search of his lost brother, his legend waxes and wanes, he loves and loses, he fights and he makes peace--the whole gamut of contretemps and vicissitudes that go with any good epic. Only, with this one, the language is perfectly colloquial to the time period, while sacrificing none of its potential given the modern technology of English literature. Meanwhile, you ragged curs can't even find the bone hidden in your own yard. Seriously, you disgust me.
The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner: We're 60% of the way through listing my five favorite novels through 20% of the 21st century, and we haven't encountered a single straight white male. Look at the strides we've made. It's probably just me. This one you might have heard of, if you've ever red a bok 1nce. Represented by Jonathan Franzen's agent, Susan Golomb, it's no wonder Rachel slipped this one into the list of fat contracts handed out by Scribner that year. It certainly was deserving. A good friend of Sergio De La Pava's, Kushner is no stranger to baroque prose. Whether pulling us into the Italy of yore or the New York of 1976, Kusher's obsession with actualizing time and culture is impeccable. Speaking of Garth Hallberg (remember, the writer I mentioned twenty minutes ago--adjusting for the reading pace of you homunculi?), City on Fire was lionized for, if anything other than its bloated narrative, its verisimilitude of 1970s New York. However, I think Kushner did a far better job, and didn't limit herself as Garth did for the sake of a commercially viable project. Meanwhile, you all would sell your filthy prostates to the first horny codger handing out a fiver. From certain writers, I've heard of Rachel Kushner's faith to story and craft, likened to the old masters' obsession with art, which you don't find today among the tripe that's plastered with a generic vertical title and assortment of colors that passes for cover art (you can bet your bottom bitch that I do in fact judge by its cover). Prior to an earlier novel of hers that's set in Cuba, Kushner disappeared for for years, allegedly there, for research. This dedication shows in her work, contrary to what you see around this sub.
Emerald City, by Brian Birnbaum: This is probably the most flawed book of the bunch, even more so than ANS. Still, Emerald City is an incredibly dynamic novel about a college basketball player whose father is defrauding the government through subsidies for deaf teleconferencing technology--with the catch being that his parents are deaf as well. The story pulls in two other 'protagonists'--a Romeo and Juliet sort of deal in that there are warring crime families behind the fraud scheme. The novel exhibits the best blend of plot and prose. There are more than 150 named characters and a ton of action, and yet every line is pyrotechnic, lyrical, hilarious, or all three. It also offers as much a blend of genre, from crime novel to campus drama to family saga. You got your Raymond Chandler, Chad Harbach, and Jonathan Franzen all in one novel. Not that any of you would know the first thing about any of them... Also a good friend of De La Pava (who blurbed Emerald City), Birnbaum's path to publication was somewhat similar. He actually did get signed at a big agency before his agent left the business. EC is the first novel of a small press that's putting out their second this September, so it's got a similar feel to A Naked Singularity in its upstartishness. It's also challenging, if not quite as much as ANS. This one might help you dimwits forge a few electrical connections before graduating to the big leagues.
Stephen Florida, by Gabe Habash: Speaking of writers that blurbed Emerald City, Gabe Habash rounds out the list, safely keeping straight white males in the minority. Good job, me. To call this book unique is like saying it was unlikely that the Golden State Warriors would lose two of their top three stars to injury in the playoffs last year. The obvious stated, but you're still out of the loop. Allow me to fill you in. Whereas Emerald City boasted one antihero-cum-protagonist (it's latin, you fucking pigs), Stephen Florida's first person perspective comes from the antihero of all antiheroes--the eponymous Stephen Florida. Weirdly, that's actually not how his name is spelled, but Florida allowed a clerical error made by the school he wrestles at and attends to ride uncorrected. Florida's goal is simple: win the NCAA D-III wrestling title. As a senior, he's got a shot. The only problem is himself: he's batshit fucking crazy, the type who pisses into water fountains and gets into fights with people because it's a day that ends in 'y'. He makes for a novel that's as hilarious as it is intense. This one is perfect for you fucks. Maybe it's because he grew up with his grandmother after losing his parents as a child. Maybe it's because he's his own worst enemy. Maybe it's simply the fact that he cares as much as he does. Somehow, you find yourself rooting for the kid. But the purpose for reading this book hinges on far more than the outcome of his championship run--it hinges on what drives us to accomplish our goals, what makes the sort of people that are as driven as Florida is, and what happens when people like him are deprived of their ambition.
I expect all of you to read all of these novels within the year. If not, you'll continue to lose money. That's all I have to say. Wasting any more breath on this digital cesspool would only begin to incur on my spirit. Do yourselves a favor and fucking educate yourselves.
I live in California and want to bet on English Championship matches... what service should I use?
I checked out Bovada, and they do have SOME options for Championship bets. However, they only offer end-of-season options (promotion/relegation, top scorer, etc). I'm more interested in betting on individual matches. Anyone have any recommendations for someone living in the US? Cheers!
Wednesdays are back on the menu, did I forget to mention how glad I am things are slowing going back to normal? And what better way to start off the week than a perfectly balanced Group.
Living Legends and clear favorites with 4 Code S Championships between them: Rogue, INnoVation
Dark Horse, the Zerg Queen lurking in the shadows: Scarlett
Enemy Unknown i.e. the former Code S finalist back from the dead: TOP/kiwian
Saying that the expectation for this Group was utter domination by the Champions would be an understatement - Rogue, the defending Code S Champion and reigning IEM Katowice Champion, hasn't played a GSL Season in recent memory where he wasn't favored to make at minimum Playoffs; ditto for the man-turned-machine INnoVation, who on his worst day could still beat anyone in the world including the aforementioned Zerg monster. Still, underestimating Scarlett is a fool's game, though it has admittedly gotten easier to do over the years and speaking of someone potentially past their prime there isn't really much you could say in favor of a player returning after almost a decade of absence i.e. if you thought betting on TOP to get out of this Group was a smart idea let me know because I have a bridge to sell you. Warning: Spoilers Ahead, Obviously The fated clash in the winners' match was predictable, however the utterly one-sided destruction there certainly wasn't as INnoVation held absolutely nothing back tearing through the defending Code S Champion in what felt like record time to secure 1st in the Group. The day however was nowhere near done in terms of surprises and by far the biggest one was Scarlett coming out 2nd by using some dastardly tailor-made rushes to finish what the Terran had started, knocking out the Jin Air Juggernaut.
Ever Dream | From proxying against the guy who's teammates with the man that invented placing buildings outside your base to a halfhearted slow Hellbat BC followup, the writing was on the wall for this series as Rogue effortlessly deflected all of kiwian's attempts to make a dent in this game, plus it certainly didn't help when the Jin Air Zerg built a flock of Mutas and killed a billion workers to make his lead insurmountable and the outcome of the map inevitable.
Nightshade | After the rushdown let him down, kiwi thought it was a good idea to slow down slightly so he went for a 2-1-1 instead and to be fair his setup was pretty awesome, it's just a shame Rogue was so ready it looked unreal when all the Terran forces were mercilessly wiped out of existence at which point the Zerg Champion just kept making units and sending them across the map until his opponent gave up on life, insane mechanical difference in this match.
Nightshade | The game felt quiet enough with Banshee Hellion and Zerg creep spread doing their things, respectively, however when INnoVation's first push arrived and the Terran sensed weakness all hell broke loose not long after. The positioning, timing, relentless aggression and rallies kept Scarlett on the back foot for the rest of the game with her Ling Hydra never able to reach critical mass, eventually getting her back broken by the macro monster as INnoVation showcased some stellar mechanics to close the map out in classic fashion pretty much off Marine Tank alone.
Simulacrum | Surprisingly enough, after winning a pretty standard game the Terran decided it was proxy Barracks time which funnily enough did a good amount of damage, allowing him to transition. From there INnoVation borrowed the idea to go into Hellbats and BCs and although it was also held as comfortably as possible the transition into Mech was exceptionally clean. Making it look literally as mobile and deadly as Bio, the Terran used a seemingly endless supply of Cyclones and Hellions to roam the map and systematically shut down any attempt from the Zerg to grow on it so as soon as the Liberators showed up Scarlett pretty much immediately tapped out, absolutely unable to keep up with the incredible pace set by INnoVation.
Zen | You would think blindly holding proxy Barracks virtually on top of your Hatch first would be enough to win the game, but you would be wrong. INnoVation's rush may have initially failed but he remembered that this strategy never loses, so he fought hard to keep that statement true by loading up and sneaking in a Medivac full of Hellions, which got a few too many worker kills along with a double Cloak Banshee followup that did pretty well too. As you would expect, the Terran's macro from there soared accordingly, culminating in his first real push hitting and killing the Zerg's 4th base, at which point INnoVation was up over 40 supply making the game effectively over.
Nightshade | You would think scouting the proxy Barracks just outside your expansion would give you enough time to hold perfectly, but you would be wrong. Betting on the strategy that never loses, INnoVation kept his cool doing his Marine Bunker thing regardless and due to Rogue's tilt or misscontrol or both the Terran did end up getting 7 workers too many. The best part about his BC Hellion rush after that wasn't that it got him another 9 worker kills, it was the fact Rogue blindly assumed his opponent would go Mech again, causing him to tech into Roaches and Spire, so when INnoVation's first Bio push came out to play it was truly a parade in every Terran's home, seeing as their Champion roflstomped the Zerg army accordingly for the win.
Eternal Empire | The players made a verbal agreement on the opening map not to rush each other and went onto their respective business. Although the macro looked close for a while and both of them did max out pretty much at the same time, it was the upgrade lead coupled with a deadly two pronged attack while the Terran was attempting to take his 5th base that allowed Scarlett to basically crush the entire map all at once, earning herself a massive 100+ supply difference which ended the game accordingly, considering she had successfully backdoored her opponent's production with the at times risky rush to Ultras transported there via an uncontested Nydus.
Ever Dream | The slight early Ling flood from the Zerg was handled fine enough, however the Roach Ravager followup not really getting scouted or even respected by kiwi was the proverbial nail in the coffin. The aggression from Scarlett resulted in 30+ worker kills and a cancelled third CC, meaning the game was literally over despite the Terran doing his best FanTaSy impression for a while after that.
M5 | Rogue [ 0 : 2 ] Scarlett | ★★☆☆☆ | Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me
Simulacrum | Prepare to get your ladder games ruined, the 14/13/12 by Scarlett slash NoRegreT vs Hatch first was the dirtiest and best thing the two could have concocted to take down the Code S Champion with. Everything looked normal from Rogue's perspective, up until around 2:40 when he spotted the Ling flood, which he could do absolutely nothing to stop (really reminded me of an old NesTea build used to take down DRG a lifetime ago).
Ever Dream | Betting it all on Red, once again Scarlett put everything on the line immediately, this time with an even earlier Pool and a Drone pull. There was quite a lot of finesse in the execution itself, however as soon as we saw how perfectly the Zerg placed her Spines inside Rogue's main base it felt all but over, even if the Jin Air Champion fought valiantly until the end.
Ignoring the winrate of 2rax in tournaments getting pushed even further over the top - I never see this strategy lose, it's absolutely insane - there were definitely a few too many rushes today for my taste.
Match of the Night - INnoVation's destruction overshadowed the rest of the day for me (regardless of the huge upset in the only mirror) and the better match in terms of how competitive it was definitely had to be the one the Terran played against Scarlett, the Mech play in particular was amazing to watch, macro & mechanical genius.
Finally, here are some of my closing thoughts on each player:
INnoVation played completely out of his mind in this Group, is it Season 3 already? All jokes aside, monstrous performance from the Terran Legend here and terrifying prospect going into the next Round, the macro and build order selection from Inno was impeccable and his execution was nothing short of flawless.
Scarlett did what every underdog should i.e. find a way to win despite the overwhelming odds since contrary to popular belief it doesn't matter if you are "more skilled" or "play the game how it's supposed to be played", the only thing that counts at the end of the day is getting that W. Taking the deserved praise aside, I do expect it's going to be a rough next Round for her but honestly who knows - with the right Group and more importantly preparation like today, truly anything is possible.
Rogue got a huge compliment today from his competition - everyone seemingly agreed he was the best player here, so they did what they had to do and adjusted accordingly. If anything, it was almost a bit weird he was seemingly caught off-guard by people wanting nothing to do with him in a "real" game. Definitely a bitter disappointment we're not going to see another Jin Air Champion in the next rounds, however it certainly isn't the first time a Code S Champion has been knocked out in the Ro32 and I somehow doubt it will be the last.
kiwian never stood a chance in hindsight, although I do admit the premise of him coming back after such a long time was more than a little enticing. I don't really know where he's supposed to go from here, the level difference was so painfully obvious that you couldn't help feeling bad for the guy, hopefully he gets a slightly more favorable set of circumstances next Season to show us something better than he could today.
As always, if you think differently let everyone know why in the comments below. Catch you on Saturday for Group C, where Zest will do his best to keep Protoss from getting buffed as he strolls through to 1st place, provided he avoids long time nemesis Impact and doesn't get upset by a revitalised Cure or even more redicilously a renewed DRG. Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (: -M
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