Welcome back! If you missed it, check out Part 1 of this article here. For a quick summary, last time we examined the male Americans playing in lower leagues. Now we’re looking at the USMNT players who play in the Top 10 leagues in Europe, plus some of the best South American leagues.
Again some housekeeping: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season. In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are from December 28th approximately.
These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order for the bottom tiers. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. This is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.
Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)
Decent 1st Division League (Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Brazil, and Argentina)
Matt Miazga, 25 (Anderlecht; 10 app, 900 Juniper League mins)
Reggie Cannon, 22 (Boavista; 11 apps, 964 Primeira Liga)
Johnny Cardoso, 19 (Internacional; 11 apps, 477 mins across all competitions)
Alan Sonora, 22 (Independiente; 12 apps, 563 mins across all competitions)
Luca de la Torre, 22 (Heracles Almelo; 12 apps, 730 Eredivisie mins)
Chris Durkin, 20 (Sint-Truiden; 13 apps, 784 Juniper League mins)
This is a bit of a grab bag section for all of the guys who play in non-Top 5 Leagues. I would argue that all of these leagues are a step up from MLS. Miazga has played well on loan from Chelsea to Anderlecht. EPB is technically still a Manchester City player but has been on loan for 4 straight seasons, similar to Miazga with Chelsea. Gotta wonder when either of them will find a permanent home. Cannon has impressed at Boavista, grabbing the attention of Portuguese giants Benfica in just 9 games. Cardoso is one of the first Americans to ever play in Brazil. Honestly, I’ve barely seen him play but getting minutes in Brazil at 19 usually leads to good things. I don’t know much about Sonora either, but again seeing minutes in Argentina at his age is a good sign. It’s nice to see Luca de la Torre get regular-ish minutes after riding Fulham’s bench for a few years. Only one assist in over 700 minutes is disappointing though. Lastly, Chris Durkin is quietly stacking up mins in Belgium. I think he has more defensive bite now than when he played in the 2019 U20 World Cup.
Good Situation, Small Sample Size
Tim Weah, 20 (Lille; 15 apps, 111 Europa League mins, 212 Ligue 1 mins)
Richard Ledezma, 20 (PSV; 6 apps, 25 Europa League mins, 93 Eredivisie mins)
Konrad de la Fuente, 19 (Barcelona; 2 apps, 19 UCL mins).
Chris Richards, 20 (Bayern Munich; 7 apps, 129 UCL mins, 89 Bundesliga mins, 15 DFL Super Cup mins)
All of these guys have around 300 mins or less but they are on good teams who either play Champions League, Europa League, or in a Top 5 League. Horvath and Steffen are both backup keepers and will naturally be limited barring injuries to the starters. But goalkeepers hit their prime later so I’m not too concerned. And, recent rumors have Horvath on the trading block. Otasowie got his first EPL appearance and start in the closing weeks of 2020. From what I saw, he looked raw, but with a few moments of skill. Ledezma tore his ACL, which derailed a breakout year for him. Weah had a ton of cameo appearances out of precaution after he lost most of last year to injuries. Last few weeks his minutes for Lille have been trending in the right direction. Richards saw an uptick in mins for Bayern, but it seemed to be more “out of necessity due to injuries” than “he beat out other players in practice”. Konrad barely makes the cut here as he mostly still plays with Barca B. His appearances in UCL were cameos in games where Barca was leading. Hopefully he will see more meaningful minutes soon.
Sustained Success in a Top 5 League(England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)
John Brooks, 28 (Wolfsburg; 12 apps, 1008 Bundesliga mins)
These guys play in Top 5 Leagues, and they are good players, they simply haven’t made significant improvements since the summer. Pulisic has been slowed by injuries but looks great every time he plays. Notably, Pulisic started 2 games for Chelsea in the last week. Sargent is now a regular starter for Bremen but hasn’t done much in that time (3g 2a in ~1300 mins). Adams has been in the rotation for Leipzig and looks comfortable without being flashy. John Brooks is just a known quantity at this point. An overall good centerback who has the occasional error. Now, these guys are not necessarily worse than the players in the next tier. They just sustained a level of success rather than raised their game in some way. I don’t want to undermine what these guys are doing. It is not easy to continuously play at a high level.
Significant Improvement in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)
Gio Reyna, 18 (Dortmund; 22 apps, 407 UCL mins, 887 Bundesliga mins, 138 DFB Pokal mins, 19 DFL Super Cup mins).
Weston McKennie. 22 (Juventus; 15 apps, 295 UCL mins, 591 Serie A mins
Sergino Dest, 20 (Ajax –> Barcelona; 19 apps, 450 UCL mins, 77 Eredivisie mins, 743 La Liga mins)
Yunus Musah, 18 (Valencia; 15 apps, 961 La Liga mins, 35 Copa Del Rey mins).
This group is exciting to say the least. Yunus Musah broke onto the scene in this his first professional season. While technically still not committed to the US, I suspect the multi-national Musah will play for the Stars and Stripes going forward (knock on wood). Robinson may not be playing his first pro season, but it is his first EPL season and he has been up for the challenge showing well in Fulham’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool. The USMNT starting LB spot is his to lose. McKennie and Dest both moved to bigger clubs (you could argue that Dest’s move was more lateral, but I digress) and are regular starters in their respective new homes. McKennie’s goal against Barcelona in the Champions League was one for the ages. Quick reminder: Messi and Ronaldo were on the field and 22 year-old American Weston McKennie had the best goal of the game! Gio Reyna takes the cake though. His goals + assists per 90 mins are top 30 in the Bundesliga (top 25 if you don’t include penalty goals) and the kid turned 18 last month. Unreal. People are talking about him as one of the best teenage soccer players in the world, and rightly so.
Thanks for reading! Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter @BeardedJack!
Hello all! It has been a hot minute since I wrote about soccer. Graduate school will do that to you. Enough about me though. 2020 has seen the rise of many young US Men’s National Team (USMNT) players balling out for large clubs in Europe. Thus, I wanted to check in to see how all of them are doing. For the most part, I will be looking at their minutes, games played, assists, and goals (mostly all available at https://fbref.com/en/ with some help from https://www.transfermarkt.us/). Here in Part 1, we will mostly examine the Americans in lower leagues. Come back for Part 2 to read about Christian Pulisics of the world.
First some housekeeping items: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season (some Scandinavian leagues play a summer schedule so I counted their whole 2020 regular season). In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are as of December 28th, approximately.
These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. Overall this is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.
Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)
Cameron Carter-Vickers, 22 (Bournmouth)
McKinzie Gaines, 22 (Hannover 96)
Nick Taitague, 21 (Shalke)
Alex Mendez, 20 (Ajax)
Chris Gloster, 20 (PSV)
Cameron Harper, 19 (Celtic)
According to FBref, none of these players have made an appearance for their first team so far this season. There are a million other names that could be here, with the increasing number of Americans in European academies, but these are the ones who (I feel) are closer to 1st team minutes The most notable name here is Cameron Carter-Vickers who recently moved to Bournemouth and reportedly has a nagging ankle injury keeping him out of the squad.
Okay-to-Bad Situation, Small Sample Size (Various Leagues)
These are guys who would be in one of the higher tiers if they were were seeing significantly more minutes. Llanez and Kelman just arrived to their new respective teams this fall, and may still be adjusting. Both regualrly feature on the bench but have been rarely selected as substitutes so far. Might be harsh to put Hoppe here since Schalke play in the Bundesliga, but you would understand if you saw Schalke play at all this year. It’s not pretty. Amon just recovered from 13 months of injury and will likely jump into the “Good in a Not-So-Good League” tier if his regular minutes resume by the spring. With the rise of other wingers in the pool (Gio Reyna, et al.), Tyler Boyd probably isn’t relevant to the USMNT anymore.
Good in a Not-So-Good League (Scandinavian Leagues, Poland, Switzerland, and Scotland)
Haji Wright, 22 (Sonderjyske; 12 apps, 690 Danish Superliga mins)
This section kind of speaks for itself. These guys may look good on paper but you have to consider the context. The Scandinavian leagues, Polish League, Swiss League, and the Scottish Premiere League (outside of Celtic and Rangers) are arguably worse than MLS. Sabbi’s Goals + Assists per 90 is .47, Johansson’s is .80, and Wright’s is .91. My shorthand for those numbers is around .50 is “good for their league” and closer to 1.00 is “they should play in a better league”. I would love to see Wright get a chance to be on the U-23 Olympic roster next year. Harkes, Saief, Gall, Wingo, and Diskerud couldn’t cut it in MLS and that’s why their leagues make this list. Diskerud is 30 now? Woof.
2nd Division Heroes (2nd Divisions of France, England, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany)
Sebastien Soto, 20 (Telstar; 10 apps, 542 Eerste Divisie mins)
Nicolas Gioachinni, 20 (Caen; 15 apps, 1135 Ligue 2 mins)
Matt Olosunde, 22 (Rotherham; 11 apps, 614 EFL Championship mins)
Shaq Moore, 24 (Tenerife; 19 apps, 1648 Segunda Division mins)
These guys are all playing about as well as they can given that they play for a second division team. All of the young guys here should continue to prove themselves for the rest of the season and hope for a transfer upwards in the future. Notably Soto has been lighting up the Dutch 2nd division with 6g about 540 mins. Novakovich also has 5g +2a in under 700 mins. Green is arguably the best player on the best team in the 2. Bundesliga right now. If they get promoted I would love to see how Green plays against Bundesliga competition. Holmes had a small injury limiting him this fall.
Declining Veterans (Used to regularly play in Top 5 Leagues at some point)
Tim Ream, 33 (Fulham; 6 app, 450 EPL mins, 90 EFL Cup mins)
Bobby Wood, 28 (Hamburg; 10 apps, 96 2.Bundesliga mins, 13 DFB Pokal mins)
In some ways I think this is the most controversial section, especially putting it in the bottom half. Suffice it to say that if any of these guys want to stay in the USMNT picture, they need to find a new club where they can earn playing time. In my personal opinion all of Ream, Morales and Wood should consider a move to MLS. Lichaj just got to Turkey this fall, otherwise he would also be an MLS candidate. Yedlin and Chandler could probably move elsewhere in Europe and still get starting minutes but it will likely be a step down, perhaps similar to what Cameron is doing in the English second division. And to be clear Cameron is not in the USMNT picture these days, nor should he be. *Late edit*: Yedlin started the last two games for Newcastle, and he is on the young side of this group. Perhaps I was too hasty placing him here. I hope he proves me wrong and continues this run of form!
Thanks for reading! Come back for Part 2 later this week. Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter, @Beardedjack
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the final Monday of the year than with a brand new mock draft!
All the projections for the 2021 NFL draft got turned on their heads after the Jets won a game and lost control of the No. 1 pick. Jacksonville now takes over that coveted spot, leaving New York with a major decision to make: keep Sam Darnold or start over with a rookie that isn’t Trevor Lawrence.
To make the exercise a bit more fun, I made a trade that I think we could see happen if the draft order were to remain like this. Here is trade that went down in this mock draft.
49ers acquire 1.2 and 6.162 from Jets for 1.14, 2.43, 4.107, 2022 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick
San Francisco moves up to draft a franchise quarterback. The Jets continue to rebuild by adding extra picks. New York would now have eight selections in the first four rounds of this draft and three first-round picks in 2022. Talk about a chance to turn over the roster!
The draft order is according to Tankathon and updated through the Sunday Night Football game. Let’s get to drafting.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson The Jaguars are now on track to win the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Jacksonville has played three different players at quarterback this year, and none of them have been overly successful. Lawrence is an instant starter that comes in as pro-ready as we have seen since Andrew Luck. This is a slam dunk.
2. San Francisco 49ers via New York Jets (6-9) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU Let’s get wild! For the Jets, trading away Sam Darnold seemed like a no-brainer when it was Trevor Lawrence stepping in. Now, they have to weigh him against Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. For the 49ers, who sit just outside the top 10 right now, they should be aggressive in finding their quarterback of the future. The best fit is Zach Wilson. His athleticism and decision-making should mesh well with Kyle Shanahan’s system. San Francisco gives up a lot, but this team has a lot of the other pieces in place to compete for a championship.
3. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-5) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon Miami has to like the result of the Laremy Tunsil trade more and more every week. Now they can draft his replacement. Penei Sewell is clearly the top line prospect in this year’s draft. Some even have him as the top overall player. While the Dolphins need a receiver and drafted Austin Jackson in the first round last year, protecting Tua Tagovailoa is essential. This draft is fairly deep at receiver. It is not as deep at offensive tackle. Take Sewell and find Tua a new receiver later in the draft.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State With the Falcons sliding into the top four, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to take a potential franchise quarterback. Justin Fields has struggled a bit this season in big games, but he still has a big arm and plenty of athleticism to be successful at the next level. The pre-draft process will be crucial to where he falls in the pecking order among quarterbacks. Don’t rule out the possibility of him dominating in the College Football Playoffs and jumping back above Zach Wilson.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State The Bengals have won their way out of the Penei Sewell sweepstakes. I don’t think there is an offensive tackle worth taking here, so the Bengals opt to help their talent-deprived defense. Micah Parsons is not as hot of a name right now as some other top prospects because he opted out, but he is a difference maker. He is a sure tackler with pass rushing ability and good range. He would be a major upgrade to Cincinnati’s linebacking group.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) – Patrick Surtain,CB, Alabama While it is tempting to draft Ja’Marr Chase, Sunday’s debacle against the Cowboys was a good reminder that the Eagles need to rebuild their secondary. Patrick Surtain is a tall, physical corner with good ball skills. He is not perfect and certainly needs some fine tuning when it comes to his technique, but he would be a great player to line up across from Darius Slay. It is a passing league and Philly has no way to stop opposing passing attacks right now.
7. Detroit Lions (5-10) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State With Matthew Stafford failing to make it through another season and the Lions already heading for a rebuild after firing the coach and general manager, taking a young quarterback to develop is certainly in play. Trey Lance had a fantastic 2019 season, but struggled a bit in the one game we saw from him in 2020. He has a lot of work to do in the pre-draft process to prove he is worthy of a top-10 pick.
8. New York Giants (5-10) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU Giants fans will be overjoyed to see all of the top receivers still available at their pick. New York desperately needs a go-to playmaker. It is something the team has lacked since trading away Odell Beckham Jr. Ja’Marr Chase has a chance to develop into one of the best receivers in the NFL. He is a great route runner, has displayed good hands and has no problem generating separation. Give Daniel Jones one season throwing to this guy. If he still can’t get it done, then it might be time to look for his replacement.
9. Carolina Panthers (5-10) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech James Bradberry is gone. The combination of Rasul Douglas and Donte Jackson isn’t really getting the job done. Adding Caleb Farley should bolster this secondary. He is physical and long. He was arguably the ACC’s top corner in 2019. He continues a string of players selected here that opted out of 2020. His tape from a year ago was impressive. If Farley shows out at the combine, he could easily be the first corner selected in 2021.
10. Denver Broncos (5-10) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami For a team that has Bradley Chubb and Von Miller under contract, it might seem odd to see Denver target an edge rusher. Gregory Rousseau can line up as a 3-4 end though and generate pressure on the inside while Miller and Chubb crash the pocket. Miami lined up Rousseau all over last year and he actually looked the most comfortable playing on the interior. The Broncos really need an upgrade along the defensive line, so this feels like a slam dunk.
11. Dallas Cowboys (6-9) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech Injuries decimated the Cowboys offensive line this season, exposing a clear lack of depth. Beyond that, Tyron Smith turned 30 this month, so it might be time for Dallas to look to the future at the position. Christian Darrisaw is a bit raw, but he has all the physical tools you want to see from an offensive tackle. His draft stock has steadily climbed this year. Cracking the top 10 is certainly a possibility.
12. Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama You thought Justin Herbert was fun in Year 1? Imagine giving him Jaylen Waddle to work with. Waddle was off to a historic pace, drawing Heisman buzz before an injury ended his season prematurely. He is dynamic in the passing game, has great speed in the open field and brings experience as a special teams returner as well. He would be a great 1-2 punch alongside Keenan Allen.
13. Minnesota Vikings (6-9) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State Regardless of what approach the Vikings decide to take offensively, they need to control the trenches. With tons of great skill players, Wyatt Davis would give Kirk Cousins the best chance to properly utilize them. Davis is a powerful run blocker who can hold his own in pass protection. He could be an upgrade from Dakota Dozier or take over if Minnesota moves Ezra Cleveland to tackle.
14. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers (2-13) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama Well, if the Jets are going to hang onto Sam Darnold, they need to go all in on building a supporting cast for him. No one has had a less proven receiving group this year than Darnold. DeVonta Smith could instantly change that. He has game-changing speed, great hands and incredible vision to make big plays down the field. An infusion of playmaking is exactly what this offense needs.
15. New England Patriots (6-8) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama I know. I know. Every year, we mock a quarterback to the Patriots and every year they don’t take one. Well Tom Brady is gone and it seems like Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham are not the long-term answers. Mac Jones has had a stellar season with arguably less talent around him than Tua Tagovailoa. His timing and accuracy could make him an excellent fit for Josh McDaniel’s offense.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina The Raiders are in a downward spiral and while some fans might be dreaming of a quarterback change, this is a bit early for Kyle Trask. Between a lackluster pass rush and an overmatch secondary, defense is where Las Vegas should be focused right now. Jaycee Horn is one of the best man coverage corners in this class. He would give the Raiders an intriguing young defensive backfield with Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson.
17. Arizona Cardinals (8-7) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida Can you imagine how scary the Cardinals offense would be with Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and Kyle Pitts? Arizona could use an upgrade at tight end and Pitts would be a great one. His playmaking ability is like that of a wide receiver. He struggles as a run blocker, but I don’t think he will be asked to do that much in this offensive system.
18. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas While quarterback of the future is a big concern in Indianapolis, this is too early for Kyle Trask. Instead, the Colts can bolster their offensive line and explore the veteran quarterback market in the offseason. Samuel Cosmi is BIG and projects well as an NFL tackle. He has not faced the best competition playing in the Big 12, but the defenses have been better there this year. He has the physical traits any offensive line coach would want to work with.
19. Washington Football Team (6-9) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota Does Washington pull the trigger on Kyle Trask? I say no at this point. It is likely Haskins will be gone, but maybe the front office rolls dice on a young prospect like Trubisky or aims for a veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo. Either way, I think Washington would be better suited continuing to rebuild the offense around the quarterback position. Rashod Bateman is a proven playmaker from his time at Minnesota. He has a great catch radius, solid run-after-the-catch ability and reliable hands. He would pair very nicely with Terry McLaurin.
20. Chicago Bears (8-7) – Trey Smith, OT, Tennessee The Bears seemed to be dead in the water. A late-season surge might just save Mitchell Trubisky’s job. Regardless of what Chicago decides to do at quarterback, it needs to invest more in its offensive line. Trey Smith has had a fantastic year from Tennessee. He has played left guard for the Vols, but he has some experience at left tackle as well. His versatility and size will serve him well no matter what position the Bears want him to play.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (1-14) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State It is time to switch the focus to the defensive side of the ball, where the Jaguars have really struggled this year. Adding Shaun Wade would give them a versatile corner with solid coverage skills. He needs to improve his consistency, but at his best, he is one of the best nickel corners in college football. Jacksonville will hope he can grow into a reliable starter.
22. Cleveland Browns (10-5) – Jeremiah Owusu-Kamorah, LB, Notre Dame This late-season surge from the Browns has been mostly due to the offense. The defense still seems to be a work in progress. Jeremiah Owusu-Kamorah would immediately provide some speed at linebacker. He has great coverage skills as well. Cleveland could use his skill set regardless of the position, but they are also pretty thin at linebacker.
23. Miami Dolphins (10-5) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama Miami has had success with Myles Gaskin running the ball, but he has struggled with injuries. No one else in this Dolphins backfield has truly stepped up to take the lead role either. Najee Harris would solve that. He brings a unique blend of power and speed. He has solid hands as well out of the backfield. That is too good to pass up, especially with no clear option here at wide receiver. This offense would be scary heading into 2021 with all of these skill players.
24. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma Baltimore could certainly use a few more edge rushers, but with the addition of Yannick Ngakoue, that can wait until sometime on Day 2. Instead, the Ravens can upgrade at center to get this offense back on track. Matt Skura has struggled this year and the offense has had some lulls. Creed Humphrey is about as pro-ready a prospect as you can find. He has started the past three years at Oklahoma, blocking for mobile quarterbacks like Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. He fits what this Ravens team wants to do and should be a nice plug-and-play option.
25. Tennessee Titans (10-5) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh Tennessee’s defense took a major step back in 2020. It needs an infusion of talent to regain its 2019 form. Patrick Jones was last seen terrorizing opposing quarterbacks throughout the ACC. He has nine sacks this season, giving him 21 in his career. He has the build of a twitchy, 4-3 edge rusher, which should fit very well into what the Titans want to do. He would be a lot of fun to play across from Harold Landry and alongside Jeffrey Simmons.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama Tampa Bay seems to have the offense figured out for the most part. They are pretty good defensively as well, but Ndamukong Suh is 33 and a free agent after the season is over. Finding his replacement is likely towards the top of the Buccaneers’ to-do list. Christian Barmore has been very impressive over his past two seasons at Alabama. He disengages well and finds ways to be disruptive from the interior. Pairing him with Vita Vea would be a nightmare for opposing teams.
27. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (11-4) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson It is time to go all-in on surrounding Darnold with talent. Between Travis Etienne and DeVonta Smith, this offense would get a whole lot faster. New York has no clear long-term solution at running back. Lamical Perine is a rookie battling through injuries. Frank Gore will play forever, but is not a bell cow. Etienne would end the revolving door and give the Jets a much-needed playmaker at the position. Run him behind Mekhi Becton and just enjoy the results.
28. Buffalo Bills (11-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State Give Josh Allen a tight end! The third-year quarterback has taken a huge step in his development and the Bills seem set at receiver. Adding in Pat Freiermuth would really complete this group of skill position players. He can play inline and block in the running game. He has earned the nickname “Baby Gronk” in his time at Penn State. Buffalo could certainly use someone with that skill set in this offense.
29. New Orleans Saints (11-4) –Kadarious Toney, WR, Florida I think the Saints have shown they have a plan at quarterback after Drew Brees. Adding more speed to the offense is a must. New Orleans has lacked playmakers throughout the season due to lack of depth and injuries. Kadarius Toney has shown all season long that he can make plays in clutch moments. Regardless of who is playing QB in 2021, he would be a welcome addition to the offense.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama It is pretty clear that the Steelers’ offensive line is crumbling before their eyes. Alex Leatherwood cannot patch every gap, but he could patch any of them. He has played at every position other than center in his college career. He has excelled in the SEC despite facing some great defensive talent. He would provide a much-needed boost to the whole unit.
31. Green Bay Packers (12-3) – Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC Green Bay has been searching for someone to take over at middle linebacker. Chazz Surratt can do just that. He has great instincts and sifts through traffic well to make plays. He plays his gap assignments and will only get better as he learns the position more. He would provide a huge boost to a defense that struggles mightily against the run.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern The Chiefs need to protect the investment they made at quarterback. Kansas City spent $500 million to keep Patrick Mahomes. Rashawn Slater has been terrific in his career for Northwestern. His size makes him a fit at tackle, but he could even kick inside to guard. Kansas City just needs to focus on keeping Mahomes healthy.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan Yannick Ngakoue is gone. Josh Allen needs someone to work with. Kwity Paye has all the physical tools and traits you want to see in an edge rusher. He hasn’t quite put it together yet, but he projects well.
34. New York Jets (2-13) – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas New York is in desperate need of some edge rushing help. Ranking in the bottom third in sacks for what feels like the 10th year in a row has to end at some point for the Jets to turn things around.
35. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina Atlanta still needs to rebuild on the defensive side of the ball. Israel Mukuamu is huge for the position and could potentially move to safety. However, he has the skills and technique to play on the outside, especially in this Falcons defense.
36. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-5) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue Miami finally grabs the receiver fans have been waiting for. Rondale Moore’s production has fallen off significantly from his freshman season, but he still has the speed and vision to be a playmaker for the Dolphins. Line him up anywhere and he can get open.
37. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest It is no secret the Eagles need help at receiver. Sage Surratt can stretch the field and win jump balls all day. He is the type of receiver Jalen Hurts (or Carson Wentz?) can learn to trust in the red zone and in third-and-long situations.
38. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) – Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson This is a little early for Jackson Carman, but the Bengals need to find offensive line help. Carman is certainly experienced as well. He faced down Chase Young a year ago and mostly held his own. He will not shy away from the moment and Cincinnati can feel confident in him protecting Joe Burrow. Carman is used to protecting No. 1 overall pick-caliber players.
39. New York Giants (5-10) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami Defensively, the Giants have played much better in the second half of the year, but they could still use an edge rusher to complement their interior duo. Quincy Roche has not had quite the same success at Miami as he did at Temple, but he still looks like a reliable pass rusher.
40. Carolina Panthers (5-10) – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida Is Teddy Bridgewater the long-term answer at quarterback? It is unclear at this point. Matt Rhule would likely be excited to work with a polished passer like Kyle Trask. He has great accuracy and anticipation. However, he really lacks mobility and does not have the biggest arm. He could be a bit of a project behind Bridgewater.
41. Denver Broncos (5-10) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia The Broncos continue to rebuild their defensive front. Jordan Davis has loads of potential. At minimum he will serve as a two-down run stopper early in his career. If he can develop as a pass-rusher, Denver would have a steal on their hands.
42. Detroit Lions (5-10) – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU Often overshadowed by Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall was an important part of LSU’s championship season a year ago. As the go-to receiver this year, he put up solid numbers again in less playing time. Whether Detroit keeps Kenny Golladay or not, the Lions need someone else for Matt Stafford (or Trey Lance) to look for at receiver.
43. Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia The Chargers may hope to see Derwin James play again someday, but his return will not fix their secondary woes. Eric Stokes brings a lot of speed to the position and has faced some great competition at Georgia. He would be a nice addition to this defensive backfield.
44. Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings (1-14) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami Jacksonville is in desperate need of an upgrade at tight end. Brevin Jordan has not had the fanfare that Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth have, but he plays the position well. He does a lot of the little things right and would give Trevor Lawrence a strong target across the middle.
45. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers (2-13) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon New York needs secondary help. After trading away Jamal Adams this year, they could use someone like Jevon Holland to help fill that void. He can play in the slot, move up in the box and hold his own in coverage. His versatility would be invaluable to a defense that has struggled this year.
46. Dallas Cowboys (6-9) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia While Aldon Smith has been a revelation, Dallas needs someone else to get after the quarterback. Adding Azeez Ojulari would definitely improve the pass rush. He is not a perfect fit, but he could look to add to his frame while serving as a situational rusher out of the gate.
47. New England Patriots (6-8) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State New England could use an upgrade along the interior of their defensive line. Marvin Wilson was nothing shy of dominant in 2019. While his 2020 tape has not been quite as impressive, there are still plenty of positive traits here to work with.
48. Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) – Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh The Raiders continue their defensive overhaul with Jaylen Twyman. He opted out of the 2020 season on the heels of a 10.5-sack campaign in 2019. He would help generate some pressure on the interior for a Las Vegas defense with the third-fewest sacks in the league.
59. Arizona Cardinals (8-7) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford When you play in a division with Russell Wilson, it is a good thing to have some quality corners. Paulson Adebo opted out of 2020, but was generating some first-round buzz last year before he suffered an injury. He has the size and ball skills to hang in the NFL.
50. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington If Indianapolis is serious about another postseason push, it needs to improve its pass rush. Joe Tryon could step in as a situational rusher right away or take over for Justin Houston, who turns 32 in January. Tryon brings plenty of play-strength to the table and a solid motor. He could have a long career ahead of him.
51. Washington (6-9) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse Washington’s front seven is among the best in the league. However, their secondary could use some work, specifically at free safety. Andre Cisco is the best centerfield safety in this class. He is a ballhawk with good speed and technique to make plays in coverage.
52. Chicago Bears (8-7) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami Khalil Mack cannot do it all. Jaelan Phillips has the potential to develop into an every-down edge player who could play across from Mack. He has great speed and has impressed in his one year at Miami. He has the potential to wow scouts at the combine and move his way into the first round.
53. Los Angeles Rams (9-6) – Cade Mays, OT, Tennessee Andrew Whitworth cannot play forever and Jared Goff is not mobile enough to compensate for a bad offensive line. Cade Mays, like his teammate Trey Smith, has featured mostly at guard, but has the size to play at tackle. Either way, the Rams could use an upgrade and some long-term options along the offensive line.
54. Miami Dolphins (10-5) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama Dylan Moses has not been the same player since returning from a torn ACL that cost him all of 2019. He has started to come around in recent weeks, but his draft stock could continue to slide if he does not fully regain his sideline-to-sideline capabilities.
55. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn If you have watched the Ravens this year, you have seen a lack of vertical passing and a lot of receivers struggling to generate separation. Seth Williams can stretch the field and make contest catches. He has had some costly drops, but those are more concentration errors than anything else.
55. Cleveland Browns (10-5) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC Cleveland could use a boost along the interior of the defensive line. Jay Tufele racked up 7.5 sacks over his first two years at USC before opting out. He should provide some pass rushing presence early on in his career.
56. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan Tampa Bay could use some depth along the front seven and Shaquil Barrett is still not signed long-term. Aidan Hutchinson should be in the mix for that spot right away. He only featured in three games this season, but showed flashes of his potential in a complete 2019 campaign. (Editor’s note: Hutchinson announced he is returning to Michigan.)
58. Tennessee Titans (6-3) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa Flying under the radar for most of the year, Zaven Collins has been a major part of Tulsa’s rise into the rankings this year. He has a good blend of size and speed with the ability to get after the quarterback.
59. Seattle Seahawks (10-4) – Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh Seattle has looked better since Carlos Dunap arrived, but still struggles to get home consistently. Rashad Weaver has had an excellent bounce-back season after missing 2019 with a torn ACL. He has the size to play as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.
60. Buffalo Bills (11-3) – Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson The Bills need someone to line up across from Tre’Davious White. Derion Kendrick has taken on the role of Clemson’s top corner this year and done so successfully. He should be a solid No. 2 corner for years to come.
61. New Orleans Saints (10-4) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri New Orleans has been searching for linebacking help for a few years now. Nick Bolton could be the answer after leading Missouri on a furious late-season push. He is a bit undersized, but makes enough plays for scouts to overlook that.
62. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) – Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota The Steelers have a decision to make regarding James Conner this offseason. If he goes, running back will be a big need. Mohamed Ibrahim fits Pittsburgh’s hard-nosed approach. He hits the hole with authority and keeps driving for extra yardage. These Steelers could use some of that attitude right now. (Editor’s note: Ibrahim announced he is returning to Minnesota.)
63. Green Bay Packers (11-3) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC Even though Aaron Rodgers has proven that he can win with a limited supporting cast this year, it would still be wise to find some more targets for him. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a capable possession receiver, but he has the size and ball skills to make some plays downfield as well. He would be a welcome addition to this offense.
64. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1) – Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke Whether planning for the future or just adding depth, Kansas City would do well to add a young edge rusher. He built on a strong sophomore campaign with eight more sacks as a junior. He would need to add to his frame to become a three-down player in the NFL, but at 6’4”, he should be able to bulk up a bit.
The unimaginable happened in Week 15. The Jets won a football game and this time they didn’t blow it in the final seconds either. Of course, there have been tons of jokes about New York not even being able to tank right, but I am happy to see the team avoid an 0-16 finish. I will talk more about that in the Jets’ section.
In other news, the Steelers inexplicably lost a third straight game, this time to the Bengals starting Ryan Finley at quarterback. Drew Brees looked like a man that has not played football in close to a month in his return from injury as the Saints lost their second straight game. Elsewhere, the Bears climbed back into the postseason picture and the NFC East continues to get more interesting. This is where I see each team following 15 weeks of action.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 13-1 (Last Week: 1) Won32-29 at New Orleans Kansas City continues to weather the regular-season storm. New Orleans kept things close early, but Patrick Mahomes and company stepped up in the second half to close it out. Unfortunately, the Chiefs likely lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire for the rest of the regular season and possibly longer. On the bright side, winning either of their final two games will lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
2. Green Bay Packers: 11-3 (Last Week: 2) Won 24-16 vs. Carolina It wasn’t the prettiest win the Packers have ever had, but they got the job done and extended their lead over the rest of the NFC. Aaron Jones rumbled for 145 yards and a touchdown in the win. Green Bay needs to play a bit more evenly after several offensive lulls in this contest. That won’t fly in the playoffs.
3. Buffalo Bills: 11-3 (Last Week: 3) Won 48-19 at Denver Buffalo beat the doors off Denver behind another masterful performance from Josh Allen. He got plenty of help with 149 yards from the duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. The Bills defense also continued its late-season resurgence with its second defensive touchdown in as many weeks. This version of the Bills is going to be really tough to beat in the playoffs.
4. New Orleans Saints: 10-4 (Last Week: 4) Lost 32-29 vs. Kansas City Drew Brees looked very rusty in his return from injury. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and threw a costly interception in the loss. It was not a great game from the Saints defense either, save a strip sack of Patrick Mahomes. Hopes of winning the NFC have pretty much vanished. New Orleans needs to right the ship over the next two weeks to build some momentum for the postseason.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 9-5 (Last Week: 7) Won 31-27 at Atlanta It was a slow start from the Buccaneers, but Tom Brady got the best of the Falcons when it mattered once again. He aired it out for 390 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The offense certainly missed the presence of Ronald Jones. However, it is the defense that had the most concerning performance. Matt Ryan finished with over 350 yards and three touchdowns. After a strong start, the Bucs are 3-3 in their last six and could use a jolt heading into the final stretch.
6. Miami Dolphins: 9-5 (Last Week: 8) Won 22-12 vs. New England Miami officially put New England in its rearview mirror, at least for 2020. The Dolphins ended the Patriots’ 12-year postseason streak with a strong ground game and some stingy defense. It was another lackluster game from Tua Tagovailoa passing the ball, but he punched in two rushing touchdowns to earn the victory. With DeVante Parker and Myles Gaskin potentially returning soon, the offense should get a much-need jolt.
7. Seattle Seahawks: 10-4 (Last Week: 9) Won 20-15 at Washington The Seahawks ground out a crucial victory to reclaim the lead in the NFC West. Washington’s defense posed a number of issues, holding Russell Wilson to 121 yards passing and just one touchdown. Seattle’s defense pulled through with four sacks and a pair of interceptions. It was a gritty win, the type the Seahawks will likely need to pull off at least once in the postseason.
8. Baltimore Ravens: 9-5 (Last Week: 10) Won 40-14 vs. Jacksonville Lighting up the Jaguars is hardly difficult these days, but it is still promising to see this offense continuing to click. Lamar Jackson put together another big performance, this time through the air as well as on the ground. Defensively, Baltimore stuffed James Robinson. He managed just 2.2 yards per carry. Gardner Minshew might have had two touchdowns, but it was too late to matter. The Ravens were in control throughout this one.
9. Cleveland Browns: 10-4 (Last Week: 12) Won 20-6 at New York After weeks of taking a backseat, it was the Browns defense who got top billing in this one. Cleveland kept New York out of the end zone, limiting its scoring to a pair of field goals. The Browns played a lot of bend but don’t break possessions, allowing the Giants to drive into the red zone, but coming up with huge stops when Joe Judge decided to go for it on fourth down. There is still plenty of room for the defense to improve, but they deserve credit for how they handled this game.
10. Tennessee Titans: 10-4 (Last Week: 13) Won 46-25vs. Detroit Don’t look now, but the Titans are picking up steam. After getting shelled in the first half of its Week 13 game against Cleveland, Tennessee has outscored its opponents 105-41 over the past 10 quarters of play. Ryan Tannehill is spreading the ball around and Derrick Henry is tossing defenders across the field. If the Titans can rediscover their pass rush, this team could be poised for another deep postseason run.
11. Indianapolis Colts: 10-4 (Last Week: 11) Won 27-20 vs. Houston For the second time in three weeks, the Colts stymied the Texans at the goal line with a timely fumble recovery to preserve a victory. It was far from Indianapolis’ best defensive game as it gave up 373 passing yards to Deshaun Watson. However, it made the big play when it mattered and kept pace with the Titans in the AFC South.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-3 (Last Week: 5) Lost 27-17 at Cincinnati Now the sky is falling in Pittsburgh. This team has completely forgotten how to run its offense. Ben Roethlisberger is missing open receivers, players are not on the same page and these mistakes are putting the defense in impossible situations. All of Cincinnati’s first-half points came off turnovers. Mike Tomlin needs to get this team back to basics, and fast. The Steelers are in danger of blowing the division lead.
13. Los Angeles Rams: 9-5 (Last Week: 6) Lost 24-21 vs. New York I still don’t know what happened. If this was not the most embarrassing loss in franchise history, it has to be close to the top. New York was fresh off a 40-3 beatdown against Seattle. Los Angeles didn’t even have to travel! As has been the issue all season, the offense was out of rhythm and that cost the Rams a winnable game. L.A. is now facing a potential road playoff game.
14. Arizona Cardinals: 8-6 (Last Week: 14) Won 33-26 vs. Philadelphia In one of the most exciting games of the weekend, Kyler Murray outdueled the man who followed him at Oklahoma. The Cardinals’ defense made life difficult on Jalen Hurts though with six sacks, bringing their total over the past two weeks up to 14! On offense, it was one of Murray’s best games of his young NFL career. He finished with 406 passing yards and four total touchdowns. He has still not looked quite the same running the ball since he suffered that shoulder injury, but this was a big win for the Cardinals as they continue to fight for the NFC’s final wildcard spot.
15. Chicago Bears: 7-7 (Last Week 23) Won 33-27 at Minnesota After looking like they were dead in the water, the Bears have roared back into the playoff chase, sitting one game back of the Cardinals. Mitchell Trubisky continues to show signs of his 2018-level of play while David Montgomery is quietly having one of the best second halves of any running back in the league. This team seems to have found its footing at the right time.
16. Washington: 6-8 (Last Week: 15) Lost 20-15 vs. Seattle Washington holds onto its lead in the NFC East, but that cushion shrunk as the Cowboys are now just one game back in the division as well. Dwayne Haskins’ continued ball-security problems showed up again with two more interceptions. In a five-point game where the defense limits one of the best quarterbacks in the league to just 121 passing yards, those are back-breaking mistakes. Now, Haskins’ status for Week 16 is in doubt due to some off-the-field issues with Washington’s season hanging in the balance.
17. Dallas Cowboys: 5-9 (Last Week: 25) Won 41-33 vs. San Francisco Could the Cowboys really run the table? Dallas picked up another win, this time without Ezekiel Elliott. The defense is still one of the worst, if not the worst in the league, but it has been opportunistic. Two forced fumbles gave the offense a big boost. CeeDee Lamb’s return touchdown on the onsides kick sealed it. Dallas is winning the turnover battle and making plays on special teams. That is a recipe for success.
18. San Francisco 49ers: 5-9 (Last Week: 17) Lost 41-33 at Dallas Another tough loss for the short-handed 49ers eliminates them from postseason contention. No team has had to adapt more in 2020 than San Francisco, who is now playing home games in Arizona. This team is not going to need a rebuild as much as it needs a refresh and to get healthy. A new quarterback and a few extra pieces on defense could get the Niners back in Super Bowl contention.
19. Minnesota Vikings: 6-8 (Last Week: 18) Lost 33-27 vs. Chicago Minnesota’s playoff hopes took another massive blow. The defense could not slow down David Montgomery, who racked up 146 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Kirk Cousins played well enough, but once again, the Vikings came up short. They are still in contention for the final wildcard spot, but the path looks extremely unlikely at this stage.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-9-1 (Last Week: 24) Lost 33-26 at Arizona The Jalen Hurts show went on the road and nearly picked up a crucial win. Unfortunately, the offensive line fell apart and Hurts was sacked six times in the contest. Meanwhile, the Eagles stay alive in the division race with a Washington loss. Philly now needs to win out to reach the playoffs. With games against Washington and Dallas coming up, the NFC East is going to go down to the wire. Of every team in the division, the Eagles somehow seem to have the best quarterback situation all of a sudden.
21. New England Patriots: 6-8 (Last Week: 16) Lost 22-12 at Miami It is time for the Patriots to take a long look in the mirror. After years of lording over the NFL, New England has quickly sunk to mediocre. Now, the team will get reinforcements with players returning from opt outs in 2021, but this roster desperately needs to be turned over. It will start with figuring out a new direction at quarterback. Cam Newton continues to show he is not “the guy,” and it seems like the organization is not trusting Jarrett Stidham. A big offseason awaits the Pats.
22. New York Giants: 5-9 (Last Week: 19) Lost 20-6 at Cleveland Colt McCoy couldn’t work his magic to pull off another stunning upset. You have to give Joe Judge credit for playing to win and stay aggressive throughout the game. Unfortunately, this is a young Giants team struggling to compete with tons of injuries at key positions. Not to mention, the team lost a pair of coaches and their star corner this week before playing. New York’s postseason hopes look rather bleak though with a trip to Baltimore up next.
23. Carolina Panthers: 4-10 (Last Week: 22) Lost 24-16 at Green Bay Carolina did its best to slow down Aaron Rodgers. It forgot to plan for the other Aaron though. Aaron Jones gashed the Panthers defense for 145 yards and a score. This team is still rebuilding, which became even more evident on Monday when general manager Marty Hurney was fired. As the Panthers head for a top-five pick, it will be interesting to see if this team decides to take a young quarterback to take over, or will the front office build around Teddy Bridgewater. Carolina is an interesting team to watch this offseason.
24. Las Vegas Raiders: 7-7 (Last Week: 20) Lost 30-27 vs. Los Angeles Don’t let the record fool you, the Raiders are terrible right now. Las Vegas has now lost four of five, and the one game they did win in that stretch came on a Hail Mary against the Jets. It is clear that this defense is not talented enough to compete. The Raiders will need to invest some serious resources to rebuild it this offseason and potentially search for a new quarterback.
25. Los Angeles Chargers: 5-9 (Last Week: 28) Won 30-27 at Las Vegas Make that back-to-back wins for the Chargers, who continue to show grit following their 45-0 drubbing against the Patriots. Despite the improved play of late, Anthony Lynn’s job should still be under scrutiny. Los Angeles seems to have its quarterback of the future on the roster and a solid young group around him. The team’s leadership needs to be sure Lynn is who they want to head into the future with. This offseason would be the time to make the change if there are any doubts within that organization.
26. Houston Texans: 4-10 (Last Week: 26) Lost 27-20 at Indianapolis Another close divisional loss sinks the Texans lower and lower into the misery that is their future. This team has a few talented players and one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. However, it doesn’t have a permanent coach or general manager and has very little draft capital to rebuild a talent-deprived roster. It is a long road ahead for the Texans.
27. Denver Broncos: 5-9 (Last Week: 21) Lost 48-19 vs. Buffalo Drew Lock’s play of late is raising more questions than it answers. After a strong performance in Week 14, he regressed again, managing a pedestrian 4.1 yards per attempt as he finished with just 132 passing yards. That doesn’t even account for the strip sack returned for a Bills’ touchdown. Lock got very little help from his defense though, as Denver let Josh Allen do whatever he wanted to. While it might be tempting to tear it down and star over, there are a lot more holes on this roster.
28. Detroit Lions: 5-9 (Last Week: 27) Lost 46-25 at Tennessee Another week, another dismal defensive performance. Lions defenders are out here getting tossed around the field by Derrick Henry and letting Ryan Tannehill spout off for a nearly perfect day passing the ball. In yet another lost season for Detroit, this team is now officially back to square one. There are questions about Matt Stafford’s durability and the team is once again looking for a new coach. There is a reason why this franchise has not won a playoff game since 1991.
29. Atlanta Falcons: 4-10 (Last Week: 29) Lost 31-27 vs. Tampa Bay 2020 has been a really hard year for everyone for some really serious, real-world reasons. If you want to focus on sports though, no one has had it worst than fans in Atlanta. Between the Braves 3-1 collapse and the Falcons blowing at least one three-score lead per month, it has been brutal supporting the local teams. On the bright side, Matt Ryan looked much better. Unfortunately, the team is trending toward a top-five pick with more questions than it has answers.
30. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-10-1 (Last Week: 30) Won 27-17 vs. Pittsburgh Bengals fans rejoice! Your team knocked off the Steelers and kept your hold on the No. 3 pick in the draft! Cincinnati played its best defensive game of the year, frustrating Pittsburgh’s offense all night long. It was opportunistic and made some clutch plays to secure a very exciting victory. These final few games will be great for the front office to continue to evaluate the roster while planning for its future with Joe Burrow.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-13 (Last Week: 31) Lost 40-14 at Baltimore Congratulations Jaguars fans! Your team is now two losses away from landing Trevor Lawrence! With Jacksonville losing it’s 13th straight game and the Jets somehow knocking off the Rams, the Jags are in line to land the first overall pick. It hasn’t really been a fun season, but the outlook for the team under a new general manager with the best quarterback prospect to come out since Andrew Luck is incredibly exciting.
32. New York Jets: 1-13 (Last Week: 32) Won 24-21 at Los Angeles This was easily the most disappointed I’ve ever been after a Jets win in my life. I am thrilled the team will not finish 0-16. I really wanted them to avoid making that type of history. However, it is bittersweet, because I know how much of a difference Trevor Lawrence could make to this franchise. However, this could also open up a world of possibilities for the offseason. What the Jets decide to do with the No. 2 pick will be one of the biggest talking points of the offseason. For the next two weeks though, I will be rooting for the Bears and the Colts to slip up big time against the Jaguars and open the door for the Jets to reclaim the top spot in the draft.
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For the second time this year, I am going to use this space to encourage everyone reading to vote. And this time, it is for something far less important.
Voting for the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl closes on Thursday. I still do not really understand why the league closes voting with three weeks left to play in the season, but that’s a different argument to make.
We are given the power to help decide who reaches the NFL’s All-Star game! Granted, there is no football game being played this year, but a Pro Bowl appearance makes a huge difference in players’ careers. Often times when players are being considered for the Hall of Fame, voters will look at how many Pro Bowl appearances they made during their NFL career. Some players have specific bonuses and salary elevators attached to Pro Bowl appearances.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 12-1 (Last Week: 1) Won33-27 at Miami It was far from Patrick Mahomes’ best game as a pro, but the Chiefs ground out a tough victory over the Dolphins. After a rocky start, Kansas City’s defense stood strong. As a unit, it sacked Tua Tagovailoa four times and held Miami to just 3.3 yards per carry. Mahomes, despite his three interceptions, did finish with close to 400 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. If there is one concern surrounding this team right now, it is the ground game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged just two yards per carry throughout the game. As they get deeper into the season and play in some bad weather games, establishing the run is going to become important.
2. Green Bay Packers: 10-3 (Last Week: 4) Won 31-24 at Detroit If the Packers drafted Jordan Love for the purpose of firing up Aaron Rodgers, mission accomplished. Rodgers leads the league in passing touchdowns and has just four interceptions so far this season. This is supposedly without much of a supporting cast. At least that was the chatter about Green Bay all offseason. Rodgers needed another receiver other than Davante Adams to rely on. Turns out, he has plenty of other options to work with, namely Robert Tonyan and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. With the Saints losing this weekend, the Packers are now in line to earn a first-round bye. They have no margin for error right now, but hold the tiebreaker over the Saints.
3. Buffalo Bills: 10-3 (Last Week: 5) Won 26-15 vs. Pittsburgh Pittsburgh has been struggling of late, but this is a huge win for Buffalo. The Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 (good year, by the way). So yes, huge. What might be more significant though was the resurgence of Buffalo’s defense. Leslie Frazier’s unit held the Steelers under 250 yards of offense and gave up just two scoring drives all game. It also scored a touchdown of its own when Taron Johnson returned an interception 51 yards to the end zone. Ugly as it might have been at times, winning is all that really matters this time of year and the Bills did so in convincing fashion.
4. New Orleans Saints: 10-3 (Last Week: 2) Lost 24-21 at Philadelphia New Orleans was in the driver seat to take the top spot in NFC heading into the weekend. Dropping a crucial game to a rookie quarterback making his first start in the NFL is a problem. The Saints’ defense had no answer for the Eagles’ rushing attack. After 55 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, both Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders went over the century mark. This is a major red flag for the defense and an indictment of the offense. Philly’s defense has struggled all year and was missing multiple starters in the secondary. A late touchdown made the score line look more respectable, but the Saints need to step it up down the stretch.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-2 (Last Week: 3) Lost 26-15 at Buffalo The sky isn’t falling in Pittsburgh, but things are not looking good. Ben Roethlisberger and this whole offense is struggling. The Steelers were unable to crack 250 yards of offense against. I talked about it last week in these rankings as well, this Bills’ defense is not as good as it was last season. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. This loss costs Pittsburgh control of the AFC. The Steelers now need the Chiefs to drop a game to have any shot at earning the No. 1 seed in the conference and the first-round bye that comes with it. At this point though, Mike Tomlin just need to rework the approach across the board. Pittsburgh had a great start to the year, but that means nothing if the team collapses down the stretch, there are going to be some serious questions asked in the offseason.
6. Los Angeles Rams: 9-4 (Last Week: 8) Won 24-3 vs. New England Los Angeles’ defense is for real. Led by Aaron Donald, the Rams accounted for six sacks and chased Cam Newton from the game. The Patriots finished with 220 yards of offense. Los Angeles now leads the lead in yards allowed per game. The Rams also rank third in sacks and scoring defense. Another huge talking point here has to be Cam Akers’ breakout game. The rookie from Florida State accounted for 194 yards from scrimmage, most of it coming on the ground. Jared Goff didn’t really do much and had an interception, but all he needs to be is average if the Rams can run the ball like this and the defense keeps playing lights out.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 8-5 (Last Week: 6) Won 26-14 vs. Minnesota Tampa Bay got a bit of a boost from Dan Bailey missing four different kicks, but this was a complete victory. The defense racked up six sacks and while the offensive line kept Tom Brady clean. Brady, in turn, took care of the football, even if the passing game was not as potent as we have seen it this season. 13 games into the season, it still feels like this Buccaneers team is trying to get on the same page. On paper, they are one of the most talented teams in the league. They just haven’t shown it on a consistent basis.
8. Miami Dolphins: 8-5 (Last Week: 7) Lost 33-27 vs. Kansas City The door is opening for Brian Flores to steal the Coach of the Year award with Pittsburgh slipping in recent weeks. Despite the Dolphins ultimately losing, Miami pressed Kansas City and made life very difficult on Patrick Mahomes. The defense continues to excel this season, even against top-end competition. Tua Tagovailoa is slowly improving. He still makes the mistakes you would expect of an inexperienced quarterback. When you consider how well he performed without any of his top three running backs, the Dolphins can feel good about how close they were. At full strength, it seems like Miami could be very dangerous in the playoffs.
9. Seattle Seahawks: 9-4 (Last Week: 9) Won 40-3 vs. New York Looking for the cure to losing to an NFC East team at home. The Seahawks found it in the form of the team that shares a stadium with the side that handed them their worst loss of the season. Playing the Jets just makes everyone look better (except the Raiders). Russell Wilson had four touchdown passes and the Seahawks rumbled for 175 yards on the ground. Defensively, Seattle had three sacks and held the Jets to just 185 yards of offense. Geno Smith even got some playing time. It does not erase the issues that showed up the week before, but a 37-point win makes it a bit easier to swallow.
10. Baltimore Ravens: 8-5 (Last Week: 13) Won 47-42 at Cleveland While he might not totally be back in his 2019 form, Lamar Jackson is starting to show shades of the play that made him the league’s MVP. He racked up a Monday Night Football record 124 rushing yards and looked electric in the open field. It was the second straight week where the Ravens’ running game looked nearly unstoppable. Now, the defense might need to pull itself together after surrendering 42 points, but it sure seems like Baltimore is headed in the right direction again.
11. Indianapolis Colts: 9-4 (Last Week: 11) Won 44-27 at Las Vegas I think it is safe to say that Jonathan Taylor is finally healthy again. Indianapolis’ rookie running back rumbled for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scamper. T.Y. Hilton continues his revival as well. He hauled in two more scores and clearly seems to be clicking with Philip Rivers right now. The secondary struggled again, giving up 345 yards through the air, but did intercept Derek Carr twice. The Colts are tricky to figure out, but right now this simply feels like a good, but not great team.
12. Cleveland Browns: 9-4 (Last Week: 10) Lost 47-42 vs. Baltimore It was a loss, but Cleveland proved a lot to the rest of the NFL with this performance. The Browns hung 42 points and pushed the Ravens to the brink on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, their defense decided to get a head start on the holiday break. The Browns defense surrendered 231 yards on the ground and gave up some big passing plays down the stretch that ultimately cost them. That was also with Lamar Jackson missing almost an entire quarter of action. This is a huge improvement from the 38-6 drubbing they took in Week 1 though and a sign the Browns are a playoff-caliber team.
13. Tennessee Titans: 9-4 (Last Week: 12) Won 31-10 at Jacksonville Tennessee did not let their debacle in Cleveland carry over to their matchup with Jacksonville. The Titans took care of business in convincing fashion. It helps when you have Derrick Henry running over the entire defense. Henry racked up 215 yards rushing and two touchdowns. While many think of Henry as a power back, he has proven throughout his NFL career that he is an effective outside runner as well. The Titans might have another budding superstar as well. A.J. Brown made one of the best catches of the season with one-handed touchdown grab. He went over 100 yards receiving as well. Tennessee benefitted from facing some terrible quarterback play, so it is hard to truly evaluate how the defense fared. Just know that the Titans’ defense is going to need to step up against better competition as well.
14. Arizona Cardinals: 7-6 (Last Week: 16) Won 26-7 at New York Where did that pass rush come from? Arizona entered the weekend with solid production from its pass rush, ranking in the top half of the league. Sunday took that to a whole new level. The Cardinals sacked Giants’ quarterbacks eight times, including a franchise-record five takedowns from Hasson Reddick. New York clearly had its struggles and this level of dominance is unlikely to be sustainable, but it is a positive sign for the defense. Kyler Murray has not been as electric since he sustained a shoulder injury against the Patriots. The defense is going to need to step up down the stretch for Arizona to reach the postseason.
15. Washington: 6-7 (Last Week: 19) Won 23-15 at San Francisco This is exactly what we all expected, right? Washington leads the NFC East with a 6-7 record after reeling off back-to-back wins over the Steelers and 49ers. Ron Rivera’s crew also managed to win without scoring an offensive touchdown. In 2020, this is pretty much par for the course, especially for this division. Unfortunately, Alex Smith is dealing with a calf injury and could miss this week’s game against Seattle. That’s a really tough matchup at full strength, which means Washington’s outlook is rather bleak. However, Washington seems to find a way to win, even when it doesn’t make sense.
16. New England Patriots: 6-7 (Last Week: 14) Lost 24-3 at Los Angeles For the first time since 2008, the Patriots will not win the AFC East. With their dismal loss to the Rams and the Bills’ victory over the Steelers, New England now has to hope for a miracle run at a wildcard spot. Those prospects are looking pretty slim as well. While the Patriots defense has actually held up pretty well despite all the absences this year, it is clear the offense needs some major turnover. The offensive line struggled on Thursday night and the Pats clearly have a need at quarterback as well. That doesn’t even cover the clear lack of talent at receiver. This is going to be a critical offseason for the Patriots as they truly looked to begin the post-Tom Brady era.
17. San Francisco 49ers: 5-8 (Last Week: 15) Lost 23-15 vs. Washington This was a really tough loss for the 49ers. The defense managed to force Alex Smith out of the game, bringing out Dwayne Haskins. Washington managed a meager 95 yards passing and did not score an offensive touchdown. Sounds like a recipe for a San Francisco victory, but instead the 49ers lost by eight. Two defensive scores for Washington made the difference. It was a matter of the offense not being able to get out of its own way. If the 49ers had just taken care of the football, they would have won this game easily. That is much easier said than done, but this was a frustrating outcome that all but ends the 49ers’ playoff hopes.
18. Minnesota Vikings: 6-7 (Last Week: 17) Lost 26-14 at Tampa Bay This was a tall task, but still a blow to the Vikings’ playoff chances nonetheless. Minnesota should have been a little closer if Dan Bailey could have made a few more kicks, he missed four, but even if he had made all of them, the Vikings still would have lost. While Bailey will take a lot of flack, the offensive line deserves a lot of blame as well. Minnesota actually moved the ball decently well, but had too many drives stall after costly sacks. The Vikings allowed Kirk Cousins to go down six times. It was a lackluster performance from a group that is on the fringes of the playoff conversation.
19. New York Giants: 5-8 (Last Week: 18) Lost 26-7 vs. Arizona The high of knocking off the Seahawks wore off quickly. Daniel Jones played through a hamstring injury and probably wishes he spent the game on the bench instead. He was sacked six times and struggled as a passer. It was clear his lack of mobility limited him throughout the game. Colt McCoy finally came in, but it was far too late. The Giants managed just one scoring drive and fell behind Washington in the division race. The offensive line was atrocious on a day where it really could not afford to be. New York now faces a huge uphill climb.
20. Las Vegas Raiders: 7-6 (Last Week: 21) Lost 44-27 vs. Indianapolis It was another week where the Raiders looked like pretenders, getting blown out for the second time in three weeks. Derek Carr did not have his best game as the offense sputtered. Las Vegas averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and committed three turnovers. The Raiders kept it close into the second half, but went down 44-20 in the fourth quarter after Khari Willis’ pick-six of Carr. A meaningless late touchdown made it look a bit more respectable. If Vegas does somehow limp into the postseason, don’t expect a deep run. This team has some major holes to fill and might need to consider a new direction starting in 2021.
21. Denver Broncos: 5-8 (Last Week: 23) Won 32-27 at Carolina Drew Lock finally looked like the promising passer we saw at the end of last season. He tore up the Panthers for four touchdowns and 280 passing yards. He needed to be on fire as well with the defense giving up six yards per carry and three touchdowns. Strangely, the secondary held up despite missing its top three cornerbacks. It helped that the front seven came up with four sacks, but still an impressive showing under the circumstances.
22. Carolina Panthers: 4-9 (Last Week: 20) Lost 32-27 vs. Denver This is not the type of post-bye week performance you would’ve hoped for from the Panthers. Carolina came out a little flat, finally coming alive in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, 17 fourth-quarter points were not enough to overcome the deficit. Most of the issues started on the defensive side of the ball though. Drew Lock carved up the Panthers’ secondary for four touchdowns and an average of 10.4 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater did his best to carry the offense without DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey. There is not much else to play for this season, but Carolina still has chances to gain meaningful experience in these final few games. For such a young team with a new coaching staff, there are still chances to grow.
23. Chicago Bears: 6-7 (Last Week 26) Won 36-7 vs. Houston Chicago bounced back and kept its playoff hopes alive with a crucial win. Perhaps even more importantly, the Bears snapped a six-game losing streak. The pressure that comes to end a skid like that is enormous, so this should provide some immediate relief. Beyond that, Chicago dominated this game. David Montgomery’s 80-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ offensive play was a sign of things to come. Mitchell Trubisky tossed three touchdown passes and the defense wreaked havoc all game long. Seven sacks, a safety and two forced fumbles is the type of outing we have been waiting for all season from this unit. Things just got way more interesting for the Bears heading into the final three weeks.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-8-1 (Last Week: 27) Won 24-21 vs. New Orleans Talk about a spark! Jalen Hurts took the keys to the offense and ran it really well, quite literally. Hurts’ running ability opened up so much for the Eagles, including an 82-yard touchdown run by Miles Sanders. Both finished with more than 100 yards on the ground. Hurts made a few key plays through the air and the defense played one of its best games of the season. While the playoffs are now a longshot for Philly, this is a good sign and makes the team much more fun to watch. Now, what to do about Carson Wentz’s contract….
25. Dallas Cowboys: 4-9 (Last Week: 28) Won 30-7 at Cincinnati Andy Dalton had to feel pretty good about his return to Cincinnati. He tossed two touchdowns and protected the football en route to a big win. He got a ton of assistance from his defense. Dallas forced three fumbles in the contest and Aldon Smith even returned one for a touchdown. This team is still a mess, but it is nice to see the Cowboys play a complete game. Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late if this team is planning on making a run at the playoffs.
26. Houston Texans: 4-9 (Last Week: 24) Lost 36-7 at Chicago This one stings a bit. The one thing Houston could hang its hat on was that they had the right quarterback to lead it into the future. That is absolutely still the case, but it turns out having a good supporting cast can make all the difference. Mitchell Trubisky clearly outplayed Deshaun Watson in this one, turning down the heat on Bears general manager Ryan Pace just a notch for the decision he made back in 2017. Without question, Watson still would’ve been the right pick, but the Bears made life very difficult for him. Watson was sacked six times and watched his teammates cough up the football twice. Needless to say, Watson some help.
27. Detroit Lions: 5-8 (Last Week: 25) Lost 31-24 vs. Green Bay Reality set in for Darrell Bevell as his team came up short against Green Bay. Matt Stafford looked solid if unspectacular. He got very little help from his running game or defense. Aaron Rodgers had all day to pick apart the Detroit secondary. Meanwhile, the Lions finished with just 51 yards of rushing. Detroit is headed for one of the toughest offseasons of any team in the league. With a middling roster, no coach and an aging quarterback, this team could use an overhaul. On the bright side, they aren’t the Jets or Texans.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-9 (Last Week: 29) Won 20-17 vs. Atlanta Los Angeles bounced back in a big way from the drubbing it took from New England the week before. The Chargers ground out a hard-fought victory, thanks in large part to the key takeaways on defense. Austin Ekeler looked like the lead back L.A. was hoping for all season, finishing with 148 yards from scrimmage. Anthony Lynn might have saved his job for another week with this win. It is not totally safe yet, but he is still employed right now.
29. Atlanta Falcons: 4-9 (Last Week: 22) Lost 20-17 at Los Angeles Matt Ryan took another step closer to ending his tenure in Atlanta. Ryan cost the Falcons a chance to win this game on several occasions with three interceptions against the Chargers on Sunday. While it is pretty easy to just pin all the blame on Ryan for a disappointing loss, the lack of a run game is pretty significant as well. Atlanta has the third worst yards per carry average in the league after Week 14. Overall, the early magic that seemed to come from Raheem Morris taking over as the coach seems to have faded. The Falcons are still only two weeks removed from a 43-6 romp, but the 4-9 record speaks for itself. Keep in mind the Chargers were coming off a 45-0 loss the week before.
30. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-10-1 (Last Week: 30) Lost 30-7 vs. Dallas Bengals fans might just want to stop watching games on Sundays and go watch Joe Burrow highlights for the rest of the season. For one, Burrow had an exciting start to his Bengals career and is a fun player to watch. Also, the Bengals stink without him. Brandon Allen did manage a touchdown, but it was a brutal game for the Cincinnati offense. Three lost fumbles and a 23-point blow out is always tough. Just remember that things will get better.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-12 (Last Week: 31) Lost 31-10 vs. Tennessee After a few weeks of competitive losses, the Jaguars resumed the roll of AFC South doormat. Derrick Henry quite literally ran over the Jacksonville defense for 200-plus yards. Even if the defense had shown up, it would not have mattered. The offense was lifeless, failing to get any real traction going. Facing a Titans’ defense that gave up 38 points in one half just a week ago, managed 10 total points in the game. On the bright side, Gardner Minshew and his fantastic mustache are back starting at quarterback starting next week.
32. New York Jets: 0-13 (Last Week: 32) Lost 40-3 at Seattle Did you guys see that Marcus Maye interception? What a play! Oh yeah, the Jets lost by 37, but at least they had one positive highlight and didn’t get shutout! The bar is set sooooooo low for this team right now. Still waiting on that simulate to end of season button.
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