2019 NFL Mock Draft

Welcome back to draft season. This is always one of the busiest times of year for The Aftermath. This year, it was so busy, we actually had to conduct our mock draft in our group chat rather than via video chat. I will acknowledge that I took the longest to make a pick, waiting nearly 24 hours to make a pick for the Broncos.

Some things that need to be said right now, this is what we would do if we were drafting for these teams, not what we think will happen. Sometimes those things overlap, but being right is not the ultimate goal. On top of that, we do not allow trades. It creates way too much chaos in these mock drafts. We will discuss places we see teams likely trading though to help you predict all the draft night madness.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)1. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Cardinals seem intent on drafting a quarterback and Kyler Murray here is the most NFL ready in this draft, plus there are rumors of him being their favorite choice. Part of me thinks the rumors are a smokescreen, but the pick makes too much sense not to make it with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury in town.

49ers Logo2. San Francisco 49ers – Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
While many might expect Nick Bosa here, I’m staking my claim in a player with more upside an no injury history. Quinnen Williams dominated during his time at Alabama and as just a redshirt sophomore, he still has not reached his full potential. San Francisco finds the new anchor for the interior of its defensive line.

Jets logo3. New York Jets – Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State
The Jets would be absolutely ecstatic to see Nick Bosa available at the third pick as arguably the best player in the draft, at arguably their biggest position of need. If he’s there, New York take him in a heartbeat. If not, don’t be shocked if they trade back with a team in search of a quarterback to recoup some picks they traded last year for Sam Darnold, when they were the ones hunting a franchise signal caller.

Raiders logo4. Oakland Raiders – Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky
The Raiders have set themselves up well for this draft with three draft picks in the first round. With their top four pick, they should be going with the best player available. Luckily, the best player available is a pass rusher that is the perfect replacement for Khalil Mack.

Buccaneers logo5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin White, LB, LSU
Devin White can cover ground and make hard tackles for a Buccaneers defensive line which was too leaky last year. He tested really well at the combine after a great career at LSU. Expect him to fill in well for a team that lost Kwon Alexander this offseason.

Giants Logo6. New York Giants – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
I’m not buying the smokescreen. The Giants desperately need a quarterback to take over for Eli Manning. Dwayne Haskins could use a season of learning under a veteran after just one season as the starter at Ohio State. He has the strong arm and pocket presence needed to succeed in New York.

Jaguars logo7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Juwuan Taylor, OT, Florida
Jacksonville could go a few directions here, but Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the Giants by having a solid front on both sides of the ball. Juwuan Taylor, alongside Jonah Williams, is arguably the best tackle in the draft. Look for the former Gator to stay in the Sunshine State to protect Nick Foles and his new contract.

Lions Logo8. Detroit Lions – Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State
There is a very good chance the Lions will lose Ezekiel Ansah, so they are in need of pass rusher. Honestly, they were in need of a pass rusher even without the potential loss of Ansah. They can get a bit a steal in Montez Sweat if you look past the possible heart condition.

Bills logo9. Buffalo Bills – Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
The Bills will likely have a couple of viable options at the No. 9 pick and their defensive line could use some help. I went with Rashan Gary because of his versatility; hopefully he can plug more than one hole for them when needed.

Denver_Broncos10. Denver Broncos – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
While there will certainly be calls to take a quarterback here. reaching for Drew Lock or Daniel Jones would be a mistake. Denver needs a new offensive weapon with Demariyus Thomas gone and Emmanuel Sanders injured. T.J. Hockenson is a complete tight end capable of opening holes for Phillip Lindsay and helping Joe Flacco acclimate to the altitude.

Bengals Logo11. Cincinnati Bengals – Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
This pick could just as easily be Devin Bush, with the Bengals desperately needing a speedy linebacker patrolling the field. But Ed Oliver has top 10 potential and could be one of the best athletes in this draft who can get after the quarterback from the inside. The Bengals have a lot of holes, so they’ll take a top talent here.

Packers logo12. Green Bay Packers – Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State
The Packers need help on their defense in multiple position areas. However, with the loss of Clay Mathews, the position with the most immediate need on defense is pass rush. Thus, drafting Brian Burns will allow Green Bay to get a piece to build around for years to come.

Dolphins logo13. Miami Dolphins – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
The Dolphins offensive line might as well be made of cardboard, just ask Ryan Tannehill, with needs at center, tackle, and guard. I assume they will go for the best available offensive lineman with this pick and in our mock it was Jonah Williams. He could start at right tackle or right guard this season.

Falcons logo14. Atlanta Falcons – Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
The Falcons have a number of needs, mostly on defense. With the number of injuries this team suffered last season, drafting a player with a major knee injury might seem like a questionable move. The consensus on Jeffrey Simmons is that, despite a video from high school of him punching a woman in a fight and a major injury, he is a top-five talent. Simmons potential impact on the field is massive. Atlanta will not tolerate anything from him off the field, nor should they.

Washington made up logo15. Washington – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
There’s a lot of uncertainty in Washington at the QB position right now. Alex Smith may never play again after that gruesome knee injury that reminded many spectators of Joe Theismann. Bringing in Case Keenum may be a short-term solution, but Drew Lock is the long-term one. He at one point was considered the top passer in this draft. Plus, he could learn a lot from a guy like Keenum, who transitioned from an Air Raid-style offense in college to a respectable pro career, something Lock may need to do in a hurry to keep Washington afloat.

Panthers logo16. Carolina Panthers – Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
For the past few years, the Panthers have not been able to field an adequate pass protection. The injuries have been piling up for Cam Newton, and is probably a correlation. That is why drafting Cody Ford will help the team’s franchise player in the best way possible. He blocked for a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray in college and should be able to do it again for Newton.

Giants Logo17. New York Giants (via Cleveland) – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Assuming the Giants draft a quarterback with their No. 6 pick, I think they will kick off the run on corners with the pick they landed in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. I like Byron Murphy’s ball hawking ability. He might be able to generate some turns for a struggling secondary now without Landon Collins.

Vikings logo18. Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradberry, C, NC State
Signing Kirk Cousins didn’t push the Vikings into Super Bowl contention like they thought. That was mainly because of the poor play of the offensive line. Garrett Bradberry will immediately improve the interior of this line. If there is someone else they like better, don’t be surprised if Minnesota moves up to get him.

Titans logo19. Tennessee Titans – DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Titans have a big decision coming up after the season on the future of Marcus Mariota, so they need to find him help in the first round either in the form of a protector or a target. There are some good linemen left in this draft, but D.K. Metcalf is an absolute athletic freak that you rarely see in football. A big, fast and strong matchup nightmare could be a great complement for a shifty, possession-style route-runner like Corey Davis, giving Mariota multiple options at multiple levels of the field.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Greedy Williams has fallen a bit in this draft, which is lucky for the Steelers. Joe Haden is not getting any younger, and they have been in need of a second corner back anyway. Signing Steven Nelson to a big contract does not exactly solve their secondary issues. If Williams can improve as a tackler, he will be an absolute steal.

Seahawks logo21. Seattle Seahawks – DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
Remember the days of the Legion of Boom? Those linebackers were able to stop the run so easily because they had a great secondary covering the passing game. Seattle has lost that coverage in recent years. Drafting a well-rounded corner like DeAndre Baker might help them return to those days.

Ravens logo22. Baltimore Ravens – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
It is pretty unlikely falls this far, but Baltimore would be ecstatic if Devin Bush is still on the board. With C.J. Mosley now in New York, the Ravens need someone to wreak havoc in the middle of their defense. Bush seems like a very good fit to do just that.

Texans logo23. Houston Texans – Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Houston had a great run last season thanks to Deshaun Watson returning from his ACL tear in the similarly spectacular form that caught the whole league’s eye during the start of his rookie season. But if the Texans are to stay on top of the AFC South, the Swiss cheese known as their offensive line won’t cut it. Bringing in Chris Lindstrom, a big body, from a school with a long pedigree of great pro-linemen in Boston College. He could immediately help keep the Texans in contention again next season.

Raiders logo24. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago) – Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
With the second of their three first round picks, the Raiders can continue to rebuild their defense. The cornerback position has been a weakness of the Raiders for almost the entire decade. By picking Justin Layne, an underrated product with tons of college production, they can end the cycle and bolster the secondary. Between Josh Allen rushing the passer and Layne helping on the back end, we should see huge improvements from Oakland’s defense.

Eagles Logo25. Philadelphia Eagles – Andre Dillard, OL, Washington State
The Eagles really need more help on defense, but at the 25th pick Andre Dillard was a steal.  Philly is an offensively minded team and their offensive line will soon be aging out, so spending a late first round pick is well worth the future investment. With Carson Wentz’s injury history, keeping him clean should be a major priority.

Colts logo26. Indianapolis Colts – AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss
His college teammate has gotten a lot of love during the pre-draft process for his performance at the combine, but AJ Brown is actually a much more pro-ready prospect. He is a savvy route runner with good hands. He would complement T.Y. Hilton well in this Colts offense and give Andrew Luck a proven playmaker. Instant impact is important for an Indy with an eye on a championship.

Raiders logo27. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas) – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With my other drafters taking the liberty of upgrading the Raiders defense with their first two picks, perhaps the Raiders can use their third to keep giving David Carr every chance to succeed. Did you know that Noah Fant, a 6’4”, 249 lbs TE, ran a 4.51 at the combine? Now, recall the Raiders recently acquired the receiving services of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. This might just be a quick turnaround for the Oakland offense.

Chargers logo28. Los Angeles Chargers – Kaleb McGary, OL, Washington
The Chargers have one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Nevertheless, Phillip Rivers is what will guide them to a Super Bowl, and keeping him upright should be Los Angeles’ number one priority. Adding Kaleb McGary can help Rivers extend his career and utilize Melvin Gordon even more effectively.

Seahawks logo29. Seattle Seahawks (via Kansas City) – Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Clemson
The Seahawks find themselves back on the clock after trading away Frank Clark. His departure creates a need for a pass rusher, and there are plenty of those in this year’s draft. Clelin Ferrell comes from a good program and should adjust to the NFL well. Pairing him with DeAndre Baker gives Seattle a solid draft haul to bolster the defense.

Packers logo30. Green Bay Packers – Marquis Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Let’s say we give the most talented passer in the league an electric, game-breaking new toy to play with. That is what would be happening here. Marquis “Hollywood” Brown is the cousin of new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown and the guy who reeled in passes from Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray the past two years. His speed is unreal. Brown has the versatility to play in the slot or outside, giving new head coach Matt LaFleur a fun chess piece to move around.

Los Angeles Rams logo31. Los Angeles Rams – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
An unsung factor that helped propel the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance this season was their strong depth at several positions. Tackle and linebacker are minor needs, but one of the best players in this draft slipped to the end of the first round in our draft. The Rams can use their depth to their advantage to take the best player available, so they can take a polished interior pass rusher in Wilkins to slot right alongside Aaron Donald, giving him plenty of one-on-ones. Rich keep getting richer.

Patriots Logo32. New England Patriots – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
If I was allowed to for this draft, I would have traded this pick like Bill Belichick probably would. Alas, trades are not allowed, so the Patriots finally land their quarterback of the future, who can replace Tom Brady whenever it is he actually decides to retire. Rumor has it Daniel Jones could go sooner, but if he sticks around, New England would be wise to grab and groom him.

Advertisements

2019 NFL Coaching Carousel

Black Monday came and went in the NFL, leaving eight head coaching vacancies throughout the league. Each team has a bit of a different approach to filling the opening and unique factors to consider, making this a fun exercise. This is who I think each team should hire as their head coach, not necessarily who they will hire. Let’s take a look at the best fits for each opening across the league.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)
Previous coach: Marvin Lewis
New hire: Vic Fangio

After 16 years, Marvin Lewis is finally out in Cincinnati. Lewis turned around the Bengals, but never managed to secure a playoff win. It is a result-driven business and the results have not been Lewis’ friend in recent years. This is a team that might be about to undergo a complete overhaul on offense. Rumors persist about the futures of both A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. There are plenty of holes on that side of the ball for the new head coach to fill. Let’s make something clear, Hue Jackson is not the answer to the offensive problems. It sounds like Cincy might go this route, which would be a massive mistake.

However, the defense has been even worse. Cincinnati allowed the most yards per game and the third most points per game. That’s where Vic Fangio comes in. Fangio has overseen the incredible transformation of the Chicago Bears defense. His defense allowed the third fewest yards per game and fewest points per game. At age 60, Fangio is far from a young option, but has 32 years of NFL coaching experience at different levels. Fangio deserves a shot to lead a team. For a team searching for an identity, the Bengals could find one with this defensive guru.

Denver Broncos (6-10)
Previous coach: Vance Joseph
New Hire: Kris Richard

John Elway made it very clear he wants a coach that is an expert on his side of the ball. The Denver Broncos should be very familiar with Kris Richard’s expertise when it comes to coaching defense. He coached the Legion of Boom in Seattle en route to a Super Bowl victory at Peyton Manning’s expense. That was the best statistical offense in NFL history and Richard stymied it.

Over the course of this season as the defensive backs coach in Dallas, he has helped develop Byron Jones into a true lockdown corner. He dealt with all kinds of personalities in that Seattle locker room and learned under Pete Carroll. Richard has a good resume for a first-time coach. The damage he could do with Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Chris Harris Jr. would be fun to watch. The team needs to figure out a long-term solution at quarterback, but finding a way to get this defense back on track is a huge step to pushing this team in the right direction.

Cleveland Browns (7-8-1)
Previous coach: Hue Jackson
New hire: Gregg Williams

It has been 15 years since Gregg Williams was a head coach in the NFL, leading the Bills during the early 2000s with no avail. His successes as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans, winning a Super Bowl in 2009, are a bit fresher in our minds. He was excellent in that role, save Bounty Gate. Now, he took over as the Browns coach midseason and led the team to a 5-3 record and much-improved overall play. There is no question Williams and offensive coordinator Perry Kitchens have been essential in that. Cleveland won more games under the duo in the second half of the season than it had in the previous three years combined.

For the sake of the development of Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett Nick Chubb and some of the other young prospects, it makes sense to keep some stability. No one is going to be better-suited to continue Mayfield’s development than Kitchens other than maybe Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, who signed a contract extension with the Sooners on Tuesday. Plus the level of turnaround this team saw was incredible. The three losses under Williams came against the Texans, Chiefs and Ravens, all playoff teams. Belief is this club could be a playoff team next year. Keeping this coaching staff in place would be a wise move.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Previous coach: Dirk Koetter
New hire: Eric Beinemy

The biggest task for whoever takes over for the Buccaneers is figuring out what to do at quarterback. Jameis Winston does not seem like a guaranteed long-term solution. The former first overall pick in the 2015 draft will be under contract for 2019, but is not guaranteed anything past that. That leaves the franchise in a very tough position with no other even potential long-term solution at quarterback on the roster.

There is no question that finding an offensive-minded coach to mentor Winston will be crucial. Enter Eric Bieniemy, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator. Every team will be looking for the next Sean McVay with their newest hire. Bieniemy might not be McVay, but he is a former NFL running back, so there is that understanding of what it is like to be a player in the league.

Concerns with Bieniemy start and end with his experience. This is his first season as offensive coordinator and he is not the one calling the plays. However, the league places a high value on Andy Reid assistants and Bieniemy was Kansas City’s running backs coach from 2013 to 2017. In that span, the Chiefs produced two different 1st-team All-Pro backs and several good role players, including Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and Damien Williams. Tampa needs a coach to revitalize the franchise and maximize the talent already existing on the roster. I trust Bieniemy to do just that after helping Patrick Mahomes become the 3rd quarterback in NFL history to toss 50 touchdowns in a season. It is time to give him a chance.

Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
Previous coach: Steve Wilks
New hire: Jim Caldwell

Arizona made the perplexing decision to fire Steve Wilks after one season, meaning it is time for a second straight offseason coaching search. This time, the Cardinals would do well to bring in a veteran coach with plenty of experience developing and fostering quarterbacks. Jim Caldwell fits the bill. Caldwell led the Colts to a Super Bowl berth in 2009, and took the Lions to the playoffs twice in four seasons. If you scrub the year where he coached the Colts without Peyton Manning, Caldwell’s record is 60-36. Needless to say, he deserves another chance in the NFL.

With Josh Rosen in need of some real guidance, Caldwell worked with one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in Manning. He also helped Matt Stafford become a much more efficient passer in Detroit. Former Colts center Jeff Saturday described Caldwell as being more laid back as well, an approach that could work well for a team that has Larry Fitzgerald on the roster. Caldwell is good at fostering the culture the players create. Fitz does it better than anyone else. Don’t overthink this and bring in a coach with real experience to oversee this rebuild.

Miami Dolphins (7-9)
Previous coach: Adam Gase
New hire: Dave Toub

There are a number of reasons why Dave Toub may be the best option for Miami. For one, he comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which has produced Matt Nagy, Sean McDermott and Doug Pederson most recently. The last Reid special teams coordinator who landed a head coaching job was John Harbaugh, who through 11 seasons is 114-77 including a 10-5 playoff record and a Super Bowl ring. I’m not saying Toub is guaranteed to be Harbaugh, but don’t sneer at the idea of a special team’s coordinator taking the top job. He did a stellar job in 2018, as the Chiefs ranked 2nd in special teams DVOA.

The other reason Toub makes sense is because this roster needs a complete overhaul. He is not a specialist, but a good teacher. That is something the Dolphins desperately need. Outside of a handful of defensive pieces, Miami lacks talent. I actually think Adam Gase deserves a ton of credit for the success the offense did have this season. He had to get creative with a middling offensive line, no true No. 1 receiver, 36-year old Frank Gore as his top running back and the combination of Brock Osweiler and a banged up Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. The bigger decision here will be building the roster. Toub will be good at teaching everyone when they get some better young talent in the locker room. He has the experience teams want in a head coaching candidate.

New York Jets (4-12)
Previous coach: Todd Bowles
New hire: Jim Harbaugh

It’s time to bring some bravado back to Broadway. This is a really young team in New York in desperate need of discipline and leadership. Todd Bowles was a players coach through and through, but the Jets were one of the most penalized teams in the league during Bowles’ final two seasons. Harbaugh also has a pretty good track record at developing quarterbacks. He led the 49ers to the Super Bowl with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Under Harbaugh, Kaepernick threw 50 touchdowns to just 21 interceptions and completed 60 percent of his passes. In college, he helped develop Andrew Luck.

Harbaugh would probably be interested in working with Sam Darnold. He is a former NFL quarterback with a great coaching record at 44-19-1 during four seasons with the 49ers. It will take a decent amount of effort to pull him away from Michigan, but the critics have been out in full force after Jim failed to beat Ohio State for the fifth straight year. (Fun fact: Michigan has beaten Ohio State just twice since 2000.) Harbaugh represents a good teacher, with previous NFL head coaching experience and the personality to thrive in the New York market. This is the closest thing the Jets are going to find to the offensive-minded version of Bill Parcells, the last time they had a great head coach. If Mike Macagnan is serious about doing things differently, this is the route to go.

Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)
Former coach: Mike McCarthy
New hire: Josh McDaniels

After what he did to the Colts last season, teams are likely wary of the Patriots offensive coordinator, but he fits well with this Packers team. He is bit more fiery than Mike McCarthy, which is something I think fans will relish. He does have some head coaching experience in Denver, which didn’t go too well, but you would have to think he learned from his mistakes. The Packers also have some good offensive weapons for McDaniels to work with in Aaron Jones, Davante Adams and a solid offensive line.

There is a bigger reason why McDaniels to the Packers rumors will persist. He would have the opportunity to work with possibly the only quarterback in the league comparable to the one he worked with in New England. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are in a league of their own in terms of talent and personality. It is no secret they both possess egos that sometimes makes headlines. McDaniels’ experience working with Brady makes him one of the best candidates to work with Rodgers. He might even be able to bring some Patriots assistants with him to help turnover the defense with some good young pieces, but in need of a better system. Overall, it is time for McDaniels to get another chance, and for him to actually take it this time.

Ranking Cities Sports Title Droughts

It has been a wild couple of years in sports in terms of ending title droughts. In 2016, Cleveland won its first championship in any sport in over half a century and the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year curse by winning the World Series. In 2017, the Houston Astros won their first ever World Series title. 2018 has already seen the Philadelphia Eagles win a long-awaited championship and the Washington Capitals finally bring home the Stanley Cup. Some of the most historic title droughts in all of sports have ended in recent years, begging the question of which cities remain the most tortured for a title. Here is my top ten.

10. Detroit
Teams: Lions (NFL), Pistons (NBA), Red Wings (NHL), Tigers (MLB),
Last title: 2008

It has only been a decade since a Detroit team has won a title, but the history of sports success in the Motor City is not a great one. The Lions have famously (or infamously) never won a Super Bowl, or even appeared in one. They also hold the NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses. Baseball is a little more promising because the Tigers have won before, three times actually, but the last World Series victory came in 1984. The Pistons have had some great teams, but have also been one of the worst run NBA franchises in the last ten years. In the NHL, the Red Wings represent the true bright spot. Detroit has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice since the turn of the century. It hasn’t been that long for Detroit, but it might be a while before one of these four teams wins another title.

9. Indianapolis
Teams: Colts (NFL), Pacers (NBA)
Last title: 2006

Only two teams reside in Indianapolis and the Colts have won a title. The Peyton Manning era is still one fans could look back on proudly, but for a long time the Colts were one of the most tortured franchises in the NFL. They have resumed that post since then. For a city as crazy about basketball as Indy, zero NBA titles is a real bummer as well. The Pacers have only reached the NBA finals once in franchise history losing to the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Both the Colts and Pacers have been competitive in recent years as well, but always end up faltering in the playoffs, leaving a bitter taste in fans’ mouths.

8. Charlotte
Teams: Hurricanes (NHL), Hornets (NBA), Panthers (NFL)
Last title: 2006

It has also been 12 years since Charlotte has won a title, but they get the edge for having three teams as opposed to Indy’s two. The Hornets have been one of the worst franchises in NBA history. It has been 30 years since the Hornets were founded and the team has never so much as won a division title. Football has treated fans a little better, as the Panthers did reach the Super Bowl back in 2003. They came agonizingly close to beating that Brady guy, but Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winner as time expired to beat Carolina. The Hurricanes are the only team in Charlotte to win a title. After losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup final, Carolina broke through in 2006 to lift the cup. Still, just one title between three teams over the past 30 years is a poor return.

7. Nashville
Teams: Predators (NHL), Titans (NFL)
Last title: N/A

If you also lump in the Memphis Grizzles, the Tennessee would likely move up a few spots on this list. Seeing as Memphis and Nashville are on opposite sides of the state though, it did not seem too fair. Both teams moved to town in 1997, but the Predators came close to bringing home a title in 2017. On the other hand, the Titans made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in nearly ten years. What holds Nashville back is how new of a sports city it is. It has only had pro teams for 20 years, so the lack of a title is not totally shocking. Only one appearance in a finals setting is more than enough to qualify for this list though.

6. Cincinnati
Teams: Bengals (NFL), Reds (MLB)
Last title: 1990

Oh, where to begin with Cincinnati. For one, the Bengals have been a punch line in the NFL for quite some time. Head coach Marvin Lewis took over in 2003 and has taken the team to the playoffs seven times in his tenure. He is also 0-7 in the postseason. It has been 27 years since Cincy has won a playoff game, the longest active streak in the league. The Bengals weren’t always this way though. In the ’80s, Cincinnati made it to two Super Bowls, both times losing by less than a touchdown to the Joe Montana led 49ers. The Reds haven’t been a whole lot better. Since winning the World Series in 1990, Cincy’s baseball team has only made the playoffs four times. With the Bengals looking like an average team and the Reds in the middle of a rebuild, it could be a while before Cincinnati celebrates another championship.

5. San Diego
Teams: Padres (MLB), Chargers (NFL)
Last title: N/A

Technically, there is only one pro team still in San Deigo, but to not include the struggles of the Chargers in evaluating the drought this city has gone through would be unfair. I actually think the fact the Chargers left makes life as a fan in this city even more torturous. Boasting one of the greatest offenses in NFL history, San Diego never managed to reach a Super Bowl. Its lone appearance was a blowout loss to the 49ers in 1994. Even during the early 2000s, it seemed like the Chargers would finally break through, but never managed to reach the Super Bowl. For the Padres, opportunities for postseason success have been few and far between. In 49 years as a franchise, the Padres have made the playoffs just five times, including two different losses in the World Series. San Diego has long awaited a title and now will have an even tougher time securing one with only the Padres left in town.

4. Phoenix
Teams: Cardinals (NFL), Coyotes (NHL), Diamondbacks (MLB), Suns (NBA)
Last title: 2001

It has been 17 years since the largest city in Arizona brought home a sports championship. The Cardinals came agonizingly close in 2009 before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild Super Bowl. The Suns haven’t been good in years, but still remember the days of Charles Barkley and Steve Nash fondly. Neither of the ever managed to bring home a title. The Coyotes have never made it to a Stanley Cup final, much less won one. That leaves the Diamondbacks, who won the cities last championship in 2001. It is the only title in the city’s history. The Cardinals won an NFL Championship in 1947, but that was actually while the team was located in Chicago. Only one title between four teams is tough for fans to swallow and it does not seem like any of them are close to a title for a least a few more years.

3. Atlanta
Teams: Hawks (NBA), Falcons (NFL), Braves (MLB),
Last title: 1995

Between the Hawks, Falcons and Braves, Atlanta has only brought home one title in the history of sports in the city. The Braves broke through in 1995, which isn’t really that long ago, but this city definitely knows what it is like to want a title. The Hawks have never made it to the NBA Finals while in Atlanta. The 2016 Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and blew the largest lead in the history of the game. It marked the second time the Falcons lost in the championship. Looking at the Braves, they lost four other World Series during the ’90s. Had it not been for that World Series in ’95, Atlanta might very well top this list.

2. Buffalo
Teams: Bills (NFL), Sabres (NHL)
Last title: N/A

Western New York is home to one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. The aptly named “Bills Mafia” provides a fun home field advantage whenever the Bills are hosting. Sabres fans have suffered through many years of woeful play on the ice, but still support the team nonetheless. Between these two franchises, Buffalo has appeared in six different championships, winning none of them. The Bills came up short in four consecutive Super Bowls! Talk about torture for fans. The Sabres made two different runs to the Stanley Cup final over the years, but fell short in both. It was the NHL team who made Buffalo’s last championship appearance in 1999. Up until last year, the Bills hadn’t even been to the playoffs since 1999. What holds Buffalo back from the top spot is the fact that the city only has two teams.

1. Minneapolis
Teams: Timberwolves (NBA), Twins (MLB), Wild (NHL), Vikings (NFL)
Last title: 1991

21 years ago was the last time a team from the Twin Cities won a title. Minneapolis is home to some of the most tortured fan bases in sports. On one hand, you have the Vikings. The Purple People Eaters lost four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976. The Vikings have never made it back to the big game since their loss in ’76. It seemed like they would in 1998, with a historically good offense, only to lose in their first playoff game that year. Then there are the Timberwolves. Minnesota finally broke the second longest playoff drought in NBA history in 2018 after 13 years of failing to qualify. In a league where more than half the teams make it to the postseason, that is quite a feat. The Wild haven’t been in town long, but like the Timberwolves, have never even reached the finals. The Twins are the only team in town with a title, but have not returned to the World Series. While Minneapolis has won a title, none of the teams in the city have even reached the championship stage in the 27 years since. This city is starved for a title and well-deserving of the top spot on our list.

NFL Playoff Preview: Championship Sunday

Welcome to the final four. The conference championships. There is nothing quite like it. The Super Bowl is always a great spectacle, but often these games are even more exciting to watch. Today we will get to witness all three MVP candidates on display, the best rivalry in football over the last 15 years and some of the most dynamic defensive playmakers the game has to offer. And all of it comes with a trip to Santa Clara on the line.

New England vs. Denver

Peyton_Manning
Manning has a career record of 12-13 in the playoffs. 

When you think of NFL MVP, it is hard not to think of Peyton Manning. The Broncos signal caller has won the award more times than anyone else in history, with five such distinctions. However, he is the only quarterback in Sunday’s games that isn’t in contention for this year’s award.

 

Tom Brady on the other hand is right in the thick of anpther MVP-caliber campaign. Even with some of his top weapons missing time this year, Brady managed to steer New England to a first round bye and has them playing some spectacular football yet again.

This game is being billed as yet another class Manning-Brady matchup but in reality, this is more a battle between Brady and the Denver defense. The last time Denver and New England met it was Week 12 at Mile High. The Denver defense did not do much to contain Brady that day, as he threw for 280 yards and three scores. However, the Broncos knocked Brady around a lot, hitting him on nine occasions, three of them being sacks. The Patriots also had no running game to speak of, as LeGarrette Blount led the way in rushing for New England with a measly 27 yards on the ground. Brady also struggled to find the mark in that game, completing only 54.7 percent of his passes.

Tom_Brady
Brady is 11-5 in his career against Manning, but is only 2-6 in career playing in Denver.

Today is guaranteed to be different though as New England has a different cast of characters in place. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are back healthy, after not competing in their previous contest with Denver. However, Blount and now middle linebacker Jerrod Mayo will not be suiting up for this one, as both are on season-ending injured reserve.

 

The most interesting wrinkle though is that Manning will be starting this game. In that Week 12 showdown, Brock Osweiler started and defeated the Pats. He had a lot of help from his running game, as Denver amassed 179 yards on the ground at a clip of 5.6 yards per carry, but Osweiler took a beating. If the Pats generate the same amount of pressure on Manning, I think he will either be forced into some mistakes or be knocked out of the contest.

In the end, I don’t think The Sheriff has enough left in the tank to outduel The Golden Boy one last time. I think it will be an extremely close game that goes down to the wire as both defenses win the day. I think even with a depleted arsenal, Brady will work enough magic to eke out a win and earn his first career playoff victory in Denver, 24-21. Sad day as this will also probably mark the end of an era.

Arizona vs. Carolina

Even with the 17th edition of Manning-Brady in store for us, I think this is the game of the weekend to watch. This game is equal parts high-flying offense, dynamic defense and attitude.

Cam_Newton
Newton suffered his last home loss on November 16, 2014. He is 12-0 in Charlotte since.

Enter Cam Newton into his first ever NFC Championship game. He is the front-runner for the MVP award this season with his ability to deceive and out-think defenses. Newton is a supreme athlete and always has been. However, this season saw SuperCam evolve into a much better quarterback. He set a career-high in touchdown passes with 35 and even slightly cut down on his turnovers. He also set new marks for Total QBR and passer rating. All of that culminated in his dominant performance against Seattle last week.

 

He has still kept his athleticism as an often-used weapon. Newton racked up 636 yards on the ground and scored 10 times when he kept it himself. Couple that with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert; suddenly, this Carolina ground game is very difficult to stop.

The Panthers will need to control the clock as much as possible in this game as well, mainly to keep Carson Palmer off the field. Palmer struggled a little against Green Bay last week, but that should not discount the MVP-like season he had.

Editor’s note: It was really difficult to think of other ways to describe Palmer and Newton as they both have a lot in common. Both are first number one overall picks and both won Heisman trophies in college. 

Carson_Palmer
This will only be Palmer’s fourth career playoff game.

Palmer was downright lethal this year, completing nearly 64 percent of his passes while throwing for a career high in yards. The 36-year old was beyond effective when throwing the ball this season as well, posting a league-high 8.7 yards per attempt average. Palmer tossed the same number of touchdowns as Newton this year too. He also piloted an Arizona offense that led the NFL in yards per game and was second in scoring only to Carolina. In short, we could be in line for a shootout.

 

And we probably would be, if it wasn’t for the defenses lining up across from these quarterbacks. Carolina has four Pro Bowlers on their defense and Arizona has three of their own. These two defenses ranked fifth and sixth in yards per game allowed and sixth and seventh in scoring.

One of the great matchups of the weekend will be Larry Fitzgerald against Josh Norman. Fitzgerald is coming of a worldly performance out in the desert while Norman developed into one of the league’s premier shutdown corners. Past Norman though, this is a Carolina secondary that could be vulnerable to the spread offense Arizona will run. Seattle exploited the Panthers’ lack of depth in the divisional round. I think the Cardinals will do the same, getting the ball to John Brown and Michael Floyd early and often.

Between that and the overall speed of this Cardinal defense, I think Arizona will be heading to Santa Clara. Cardinals upset the Panthers at home, 27-21.

NFL Wildcard madness

The Wildcard round of the 2015 playoffs kicks off tomorrow meaning postseason professional football is back. Saturday’s games include the Cardinals versus the Panthers and the Steelers hosting the Ravens. Sunday features the Cowboys taking on the Lions and the Bengals visiting the Colts. The playoffs are unpredictable and can bring out the best in players. Nothing is a sure bet in the NFL, but I will do my best to predict who will win and who will go home.

I will start in Charlotte where the Panthers snuck into the playoffs with a losing record, only the second team ever to do so. That being said, Carolina is hot at the right time as the Panthers won four straight to make the postseason, which included a 34-3 thumping of division rival Atlanta to clinch the division. Arizona on the other hand, has limped into the postseason losing its last two games. The running game has stalled since Andre Ellington landed on injury reserve. The Cards are playing Ryan Lindley at quarterback as well having lost both Drew Stanton and Carson Palmer for the season. Bruce Arians still has the Cardinals alive though between creative play calling and an attacking defense that is capable of keeping Arizona in games, even when the offense sputters. This will be a defensive battle. Carolina caused three turnovers last week and should generate more at home against a shaky Lindley. I think the Panthers have too much momentum and Cam Newton can create just enough offense for Carolina to pull out the victory. Panthers win 24-14.

To the other NFC game, the Dallas Cowboys are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and this Cowboys team is definitely better suited to make a Super Bowl run. The Cowboys have one of the most versatile offenses in the NFL between Tony Romo, Demarco Murray and Dez Bryant. Dallas can beat you through the air or on the ground. Romo is having the best season of his career, as is Murray. These two will carry the Cowboys offense when it goes into battle with Detroit. The Lions’ defense has been one of the many surprises of this 2014 season. This unit finished second in total defense, third in scoring defense and tops in rush defense. Those are some elite numbers. The Lions front four grinds on offenses and generates hits on the quarterback. Eventually those start to take a toll. This game will rest more than anything else on Romo’s ability to improvise in the pocket and exploit Detroit’s secondary, which has only been average so far this year. Offensively, Matt Stafford and the Lions have looked out of sync. I do not expect too much from them, especially going on the road Stafford completion percentage on the road is thirteen percent worse than at home and his yards per attempt drops from 8.0 to 6.3. Detroit also has only one win against a .500 or better team this year. Look for Dallas to roll through a Detroit team still a year or two away from seriously contending. Cowboys win 31-17.

Switching over to the AFC, two young quarterbacks will duel in Indianapolis on Sunday when the Colts take on the Bengals. Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton lead their respective teams into a rematch of a Week 7 game. Indy won the regular season matchup between these two teams, blowing away Cincinnati 27-0. However, the Bengals ground attack has vastly improved since then with Jeremy Hill forming an excellent one-two punch with Giovani Bernard. The Bengals can wear down opposing defenses with its running game but this team’s playoff hopes still hinge on Dalton. Luck knows how to generate points and can get the Colts out to a lead in a hurry. If this game rely too heavily on Dalton’s arm, Cincy will lose. Dalton has never performed well in the playoffs and I do not see it starting now as a solid Colts’ pass rush and Vontae Davis roaming the secondary will cause him problems. For the Colts, Chuck Pagano has to be sure he gets Luck to avoid committing early mistakes. The former Stanford signal caller accounted for 28 turnovers this season. If Luck can hold on to the ball, this is Indy’s game to lose. Neither team is perfect but I trust Luck in the playoffs a lot more than I trust Dalton. I think the Colts win 34-21.

Every year, division rivals meet twice during the regular season, unless they matchup in the playoffs. Saturday night brings us one of the best division rivalries in league history as the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh for round 3. Pittsburgh will be without star running back LeVeon Bell meaning Ben Roethlisberger will have more pressure than ever to carry his team to victory. The toughest thing for the Steelers is how much Bell’s injury limits the play calling. Not only was Bell a top rusher, he was also an asset out of the backfield. Pittsburgh could have desperately used a bye week to get ready but Big Ben has shouldered the load before and he knows what is coming his way with a familiar foe. The Ravens are getting back to playing smash mouth football though which could make life difficult for Roethlisberger and company. Justin Forsett has been a revelation at tail back for Baltimore and taken a lot of pressure off Joe Flacco. The Ravens also have a potentially dynamic passing attack if the offense is firing on all cylinders. The Ravens defense finished tied for second this season in sacks with 49. Look for Baltimore to bring the house, as it knows Pittsburgh’s ground attack is weakened. This should be a great game but in the end, the Steelers’ other one-man show, Antonio Brown, should prove to be way too much for a reeling Ravens’ secondary. Steelers win round 3 by a score of 20-13.