2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 8

And then there was one. With the Titans and Seahawks losing in Week 7, the Steelers are now the only team yet to suffer a loss this season. Unsurprisingly, they find themselves at the top of this week’s power rankings.

It was a wild week of action. From late-game heroics by Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford to back-breaking miscues by Russell Wilson, Stephen Gostowski and the comedy group known as the Atlanta Falcons. Week 7 was definitely not short on entertainment.

The chaos resulted in a massive shake up in these rankings. Teams like the Buccaneers and Cardinals saw big jumps following their impressive victories while teams like the Raiders and Bears dropped significantly after disappointing performances. Here is how everything shakes out heading into the league’s midway point.

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1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 27-24 at Tennessee
Unlike last week, Steelers fans had to sweat this game out. Pittsburgh almost blew a 17-point halftime lead and only won the game in regulation because Stephen Gostkowski missed the potential game-tying field goal. Ben Roethlisberger still could have won the game, but momentum was definitely swinging in Tennessee’s direction at that point. Not to mention, Big Ben threw interceptions in the game. As it stands, the Steelers are now the only perfect team left in the NFL. Pittsburgh has been battled tested up to this point, but it faces its biggest challenge yet with a trip to Baltimore up next.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-2 (Last Week: 7)
Won 45-20 at Las Vegas
So, that was not a one-time showing. The Buccaneers blew the doors off the Raiders just one week after demolishing the Packers. There is no question this team is playing the best football of any team in the NFC, if not the whole league. Tom Brady is looking like the Hall of Famer we saw for so many years in New England. Defensively, this team has playmakers at all three levels. Tampa has the stingiest run defense in the league right now, allowing just 66 yards per game. If the Bucs can keep this form up, they are going to be nearly impossible to stop.

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3. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 43-16 at Denver
Patrick Mahomes loves the snow. You would never know it was adverse weather conditions with how well the Chiefs’ offense operated on Sunday. Mahomes looked sharp, even if he didn’t have to do too much. Le’Veon Bell showed some flashes as well in his Kansas City debut. Defensively, this Chiefs’ secondary continues to impress. Daniel Sorensen came up with a pick-six and Tyrann Mathieu also intercepted Drew Lock. KC also forced four fumbles, recovering two of them. There might not be as much chatter about the Chiefs right now because the Steelers are still unbeaten, but make no mistake, this team is playing some great football. Now, Andy Reid’s squad gets a bye week … I mean plays the Jets in Week 8.

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4. Green Bay Packers: 5-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 35-20 at Houston
Green Bay did not dwell on it’s loss to Tampa Bay, instead taking care of Houston in convincing fashion. Aaron Rodgers was on fire, targeting Davante Adams early and often. Jamal Williams had a strong showing as well in place of the injured Aaron Jones. Defensively, the Packers did the one thing they have struggled to do for the past two years by stopping the Texans’ running game. Houston easily own the worst rushing attack in the league, but even then, Green Bay held it below its season average. With a loss by the Bears, the Packers are back on top in the NFC North. They now face a divisional foe in the Vikings coming off a bye week.

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5. Baltimore Ravens: 5-1 (Last Week: 5)
Bye Week
Baltimore got a well-earned bye week at a great time. No, the Ravens are not currently contending with a number of injuries at key positions, but instead they got a chance to rest up ahead of a showdown with the Steelers. Baltimore has a chance to essentially eliminate Pittsburgh’s undefeated start. A win for the Ravens would vault them atop the AFC North. It should be a great game, as it almost always is between these two teams, and one that carries major playoff implications.

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6. Seattle Seahawks: 5-1 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 37-34 at Arizona
It was an uncharacterisitcally turnover prone night from Russell Wislon. He threw three interceptions, including one that sunk Seattle’s chances in overtime and set up Arizona’s game-winning field goal. The Seahawks were definitely a little shorthanded. Jamal Adams was out and Chris Carson left during the game. Still, Seattle had every chance to close this game out. Arizona scored 10 points in the final 2:28 to force overtime. Wilson had two chances to lead a game-winning drive in overtime, both came up empty. The lack of a pass rush proved to really costly again, as the defense could not bring down Kyler Murray all night. A three-point loss to a division rival is not a major red flag, but this game highlighted Seattle’s biggest Achilles heal.

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7. Tennessee Titans: 5-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 27-24 vs. Pittsburgh
Tennessee made a valiant comeback bid, but it proved to be too little, too late. Stephen Gostkowski missed a potential game-tying field goal in the final minute of play that sealed the Titans’ fate. The defense made plays, including three interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger, but could not find a way to get off the field on third down. Mike Vrabel’s team ranks dead last in defensive third-down conversion rate. Pittsburgh dominated time of possession to take a 24-7 lead at halftime. The fact that Tennessee found a way to climb back into this game was impressive. Don’t write the Titans off for losing a close game. This team has shown it can hang with the best of the best.

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8. Arizona Cardinals: 5-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 37-34 vs. Seattle
Up to this point, it seemed like the Cardinals were mostly feasting on cupcakes or teams struggling with injuries. What Arizona managed to accomplish in the fourth quarter and overtime of this game shows it has the ability to hang with the top dogs as well. Kyler Murray continues to put up video game-like numbers. DeAndre Hopkins looks close to unguardable. The defense … looks very porous. It also made just enough plays to pull out the win. Russell Wilson had three interceptions coming into the game. He threw that many on Sunday night. Arizona is a serious playoff contender this season.

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9. New Orleans Saints: 4-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 27-24 vs. Carolina
Even without its top two receivers, Drew Brees looked sharp in an important win. Carolina challenged New Orleans’ defense consistently, but the unit did just enough to hold on. With the possibility of getting both Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas back next week, this offense could look even better going forward. Unfortunately, there are no reinforcements coming for a defense that struggled to prevent big plays again. With how good the Buccaneers have looked in recent weeks, the Saints could be in trouble if they don’t step it up.

10. Los Angeles Rams: 5-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 24-10 vs. Chicago
This defense looked incredible on Monday night. The Rams did not allow an offensive touchdown in a drubbing of the Bears. Los Angeles racked four sacks and two interceptions, proving every Chicago critic right, at least for one week. Jared Goff and the offense did more than enough to get the win, even if it was not a spectacular showing. Outside of a Robert Woods fumble, it took care of the football. It would be nice to see the Rams pick up some bigger plays and just look a bit sharper on offense, but this is a win the organization can be proud of.

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11. Buffalo Bills: 5-2 (Last Week: 11)
Won 18-10 at New York
Boy, was that ugly. Buffalo pulled a Denver, kicking six field goals without scoring a touchdown to beat an AFC East team. While the Bills’ defense looked sharp against a terrible Jets’ offense, the offense was incredibly sloppy. Josh Allen lost a fumble and the team finished 3-for-11 on third-down conversions. Zack Moss did look pretty sharp in his return from injury though, picking up 72 yards on 10 total targets. Buffalo now gets to face a reeling New England squad. A win would truly signify the end of the Patriots’ reign, seeing as the Bills have not beaten the Pats since 2016.

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12. Indianapolis Colts: 4-2 (Last Week: 14)
Bye Week
Indianapolis looked like they might just unraveling following its loss to Cleveland. Cincinnati jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It felt like that was when Philip Rivers and company finally woke up. The Colts were extremely lucky to be facing an inexperienced team like the Bengals. Otherwise, this would have been a blowout. The defense locked down and gave Rivers a chance to lead a comeback. Give him credit for successfully seeing it through, but it is a little concerning that he needed to lead a three-score comeback against a one-win team in the first place.

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13. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-3 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 45-20 vs. Tampa Bay
That win over the Chiefs is starting to look like a fluke. Las Vegas got shelled by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. He tossed four touchdown passes and racked up 369 yards. The Raiders were powerless to stop him, failing to come up with a turnover or a sack in the contest. For the offense, it was a brutal game for Josh Jacobs. He managed just 17 yards on 10 carries as Tampa shut down the running game. Derek Carr deserves some praise for his performance, but it is hard to feel good about anything that happens in a 25-point loss.

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14. Chicago Bears: 5-2 (Last Week 10)
Lost 24-10 at Los Angeles
Looks like everyone who doubted the Bears as a legitimate contender was right. Chicago’s offense was lifeless on Monday night, posting three points. The Bears’ lone touchdown came on the defensive side, well after the game had been decided. Nick Foles fell apart in the red zone all night, David Montgomery struggled and the offensive line did not do much blocking. Chicago is one of three teams with a winning record, but a negative point differential. This team might need to make some adjustments to personnel or scheme or something, because the Bears currently rank 27th in scoring.

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15. Miami Dolphins: 3-3 (Last Week: 16)
Bye Week
Brian Flores can add first shutout of the 2020 season to his resume. There should probably be an asterisk next to it indicating the shutout came against the Joe Flacco-led Jets’ offense. Myles Gaskin had another solid outing as the lead back, which is a great sign for the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick was his usual gunslinger self, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. We even got a glimpse at the future! Tua Tagovailoa saw a little bit of mop up duty at the end of the contest. Miami is suddenly one game back in the AFC East. Could this team possibly be making a playoff push a year earlier than most expected?

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16. San Francisco 49ers: 4-3 (Last Week: 17)
Won 33-6 at New England
San Francisco has firmly put that blowout loss to Miami in its rearview mirror. Back-to-back impressive wins over the Rams and Patriots got this team back on track. Kyle Shannahan’s offense ran all over the Pats’ defense, nearly finishing with 200 yards. Unfortunately, Jeff Wilson, who accounted for 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns, exited with injury and will be out for a few weeks. Defensively, this team looked like it rediscovered its 2019 form with four interceptions. New England barely managed 250 yards of offense and failed to find the end zone. There are still some red flags despite the lopsided scoreline. Jimmy Garoppolo only threw five incompletions on Sunday, but two of them were interceptions. He must take care of the football in the second half of the season.

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17. Cleveland Browns: 5-2 (Last Week: 18)
Won 37-34 at Cincinnati
This was a costly loss for the Browns. Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. It marred what was an impressive bounce back performance from Baker Mayfield. He almost carried over the same issues that plagued him in Pittsburgh when his first pass went to the wrong team. Instead, he settled down and threw for five touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 11 seconds remaining. Cleveland’s defense had mixed results. It forced two turnovers and picked up four sacks, but surrendered over 400 yards to Joe Burrow. With five wins, the Browns can certainly think about the postseason, but they still have a lot to work on.

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18. Carolina Panthers: 3-4 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-24 at New Orleans
Teddy Bridgewater played way better, but it was still another loss for Carolina. The ground game disappeared as the Panthers finished with just 37 yards rushing. At 2.6 yards per carry, this was a rough outing for the offense. DJ Moore did stretch the field for a 74-yard score though to make the numbers look a bit more respectable. The defense did not fare much better, allowing Drew Brees to have a great game. This team is incredibly young, so you expect growing pains. Carolina is close, it just isn’t playing complete games right now.

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19. New England Patriots: 2-4 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 33-6 vs. San Francisco
Ouch. The Patriots got punched in the mouth on Sunday and had absolutely no response. Cam Newton tossed three interceptions. Jarrett Stidham threw another one in relief. San Francisco also ran over the defense, racking up 197 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The team that looked like it was ready to compete for another AFC East title over the first few weeks of the season is nowhere to be found right now. A crucial matchup with Bills is up next. This team genuinely might just like the talent to compete right now.

20. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-4 (Last Week: 20)
Won 39-29 vs. Jacksonville
Justin Herbert is a beast! Ok, maybe the Jaguars defense makes every opposing quarterback look incredible, but this was a great showing from the Chargers’ rookie. He aired it out for 347 yards, led the team in rushing with 66 yards and scored four total touchdowns. His connection with Keenan Allen was on full display as well. This team is not ready to contend for the division title yet, but it certainly feels like Los Angeles is headed in the right direction.

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21. Detroit Lions: 3-3 (Last Week: 24)
Won 23-22 at Atlanta
Detroit has quietly gotten back to .500 with back-to-back wins over reeling teams. However, that win over Arizona is looking better and better. Matthew Stafford came up clutch with a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play of the contest. He got some help from poor clock management on the side of the Falcons, but it was still an impressive drive. The Lions get a chance to prove themselves in Week 8 against the Colts.

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22. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-4-1 (Last Week: 23)
Won 22-21 vs. New York
Welcome back atop the NFC East! Philadelphia picked up a scrappy win over New York on Thursday Night Football. Let’s be honest, this team is not very good right now. The Eagles are struggling to win games against the worst teams in the league. However, these wins are important right now given all the injuries. If Philly can get a couple more starters back along the offensive line, this team might be close to the middle of the pack than it has show in recent weeks.

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23. Houston Texans: 1-6 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 35-20 vs. Green Bay
Get Deshaun Watson some help! He posted a dominant 93.2 QBR and his team lost in overtime without getting the ball. If that’s not a compelling reason to revisit NFL overtime rules, I don’t know what is. Back to Watson. He played a much smarter game, avoiding the risks he took the week before, but still could not overcome the Texans’ defensive deficiencies. After watching David Johnson run the ball 19 times for just 57 yards, Houston fans probably want to fire Bill O’Brien again. It is going to be a long few seasons while the Texans work to turn the team around.

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24. Atlanta Falcons: 1-6 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 23-22 vs. Detroit
How do the Falcons keep doing this? Atlanta found yet another way to blow another game, but they deserve style points for this one. Todd Gurley attempted to keep himself out of the end zone in order to let the Falcons run the clock more, but could not stop himself from scoring. As a result, Detroit drove the length of the field and scored on the final play to stun Atlanta yet again. This team could very easily be 4-3 with some better clock management and knowing how to recover onsides kicks. The talent is there, at least on offense. This team is heading for a very interesting offseason.

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25. Denver Broncos: 2-4 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 43-16 vs. Kansas City
Denver didn’t really need a ton of offense to take down New England. Beating the defending champs requires a lot more offense. Drew Lock struggled again, tossing a pick-six. He got plenty of help from the running game with 177 yards on the ground, but Melvin Gordon coughed it up twice. Overall, this was a clear reminder that the Broncos are still building up this young core. Competing with the Chiefs just is not possible for this group right now.

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26. Minnesota Vikings: 1-5 (Last Week: 26)
Bye Week
Minnesota got a much-needed week off to refocus and hopefully fix some of the many problems it has had this year. Kirk Cousins has been a turnover machine through his first six games. The secondary is also one of the worst in the league due to injuries and inexperience. Thankfully, Dalvin Cook should be back after sitting out Week 6’s contest. The playoffs feel very far away for the Vikings, who are already cutting ties with veterans like Yannick Ngakoue, who they traded for in September.

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27. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-5-1 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 37-34 vs. Cleveland
Cincinnai opened the game defensively with an interception of Baker Mayfield. Someone clearly forgot to inform them that the game would keep going. Mayfield torched the secondary for five touchdowns, all of them coming after Odell Beckham Jr. had left with an injury. On the offensive side, Joe Burrow continued to do his best Superman impression despite his pathetic offensive line and lackluster running game. Joe Mixon’s absence was apparent as the Bengals never really got into a rhythm running the ball. With one win in seven games, the outcomes don’t really matter from here on out. Cincinnati just needs to determine who is worth keeping around Joe Burrow and if Zac Taylor really is the best person to coach him.

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28. Washington: 2-5 (Last Week: 30)
Won 25-3 vs. Dallas
Don’t look now, but Washington is a half-game back of the division lead and a playoff spot. Given that the team has played three quarterbacks so far this season and allowed the third most sacks in the league, that is truly remarkable. It helps to play in the NFC East, especially against a Cowboys team playing Ben DiNucci after Jon Bostic made a blatantly illegal hit to knock Andy Dalton out of the game. Antonio Gibson had a nice day while Kyle Allen continues to settle into the starting quarterback role. Ron Rivera is definitely reshaping this organization and has so far lead a talent-deprived roster to two divisional wins.

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29. Dallas Cowboys: 2-5 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 25-3 at Washington
Losing Andy Dalton to a horrific hit definitely shifts the blame somewhat for the three points managed in this game, but Dallas still disappointed even with Dalton on the field. The former Bengals quarterback averaged 3.9 yards per attempt and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes before he left. The banged up offensive line continues to be an issue as well. Ezekiel Elliott did not have much running room and Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked six times. Dallas is entering fire sale mode now, despite the fact it is only a half-game back of the division lead. Planning for the future is definitely the move for this franchise given where it stands right now.

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30. New York Giants: 1-6 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 22-21 at Philadelphia
This game pretty much summed up the Giants entire season up to this point. The team lost its starting running back due to injury, the offense slept walked through most of the game and the defense played better than expected to keep things competitive. To top it all off, Daniel Jones became a GIF when he tripped over absolutely nothing to rob himself of a nearly 90-yard touchdown run. Giants fans can take solace in knowing their team was close to pulling off a win that would have moved them atop the NFC East, but instead, they can keep looking at mock drafts.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-6 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 39-29 at Los Angeles
Once again, Jacksonville’s defense made the opposing quarterback look like the league MVP. The Jaguars defense is allowing the third most yards and fifth most points per game in the league. The poor defensive performance wiped out a sensational effort from James Robinson, who accounted for 137 total yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line failed to protect Gardner Minshew once again as this team continues to get dominated in the trenches. Doug Marrone and his coaching staff are definitely on thin ice.

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32. New York Jets: 0-7 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 18-10 vs. Buffalo
Even when the Jets do things well, they still mess it up. New York held Buffalo without a touchdown but still managed to lose by eight thanks to a pitiful offensive performance. Sam Darnold struggled in his return from injury, throwing for a meager 120 yards and tossing a pair of interceptions. Adam Gase even passed off the play-calling duties, which clearly had almost no effect on the offense. There is some silver lining here. For the second straight week, the defense stepped up well on third down. The Bills and Dolphins combined to go 4-for-22 on third down over the past two weeks. This team is still headed for Trevor Lawrence, but it is nice to find a positive for how it is playing right now.

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2020 NFL Draft: First-Round Surprises and Best Players Available

That was exactly what everyone in the sports world needed. A nice dose of excitement, chaos and entertainment. Cincinnati, Washington and Detroit kicked the draft off with some predictable picks. After that, nothing was guaranteed. Trades started coming fast and furious in the 20s. Miami and Los Angeles stayed put and took franchise quarterbacks. Tons of wide receivers and corners came off the board, maybe not in the order most expected.

I think it is way too early to start handing out grades for the first round. We can do that a few years from now. (I should really go back and regrade the 2015 draft class.) Instead, let’s discuss the biggest surprises of the first round. There are plenty to discuss, but I think the first one is pretty obvious.

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Rodgers turned 36 in December. (Wikimedia Commons)

Packers trade up for Aaron Rodgers’ successor
Of all the teams to take a chance on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, I did not have Green Bay anywhere in the conversation. Thinking about it though, this is exactly what the franchise did with Brett Favre towards the end of his career. They saw a talented quarterback sliding and pounced to find their next franchise passer. What makes this so shocking is that Aaron Rodgers has shown no signs of slowing down. This offense is in desperate need of more playmakers. In a draft stocked with them, it felt like a great chance for the Packers to find Rodgers more weapons. Instead, they found the man who will potentially replace him. After being just a game away from the Super Bowl last year, this feels like an odd move. Credit the Green Bay for being forward thinking, but I definitely did not expect this.

Josh Jones’ slide
I had Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones pegged to go at 18 to the Dolphins. He was my 21st overall prospect and my highest remaining offensive lineman. Miami decided to take USC product Austin Jackson. When the Chargers traded back into the first round, I assumed it was for Jones. They opted for Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. Tennessee had a chance to take Jones as well, but chose a different tackle in Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson. I was just about convinced the Jones would find a home in the first round. He is a bit older at 23, but he is a physical player with solid technique. It would not be a shock to see the Bengals take Jones at 33, but it is unclear when his slide might end at this point.

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Okudah was the highest drafted corner since 1997. (Wikimedia Commons)

Corner craze in round one
I did not think we were going to see six cornerbacks go in the first round. A.J. Terrell at 16 to the Falcons felt like a bit of a reach to me, but I had seen some first-round buzz around him. Damon Arnette to the Raiders 19th overall was truly a stunner. Then, Noah Igbinoghene went to Miami at pick 30. Teams felt like they were reaching a bit at the position, especially given some of the other players available. K’Lavon Chaisson felt like a great fit for Atlanta. Las Vegas passed on a lot of talented corners to take Arnette, who I had 11th at the position. Miami has spent tons of money locking up Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Igbinoghene is definitely a luxury pick for the Dolphins, who have a ton of draft picks. Pass rusher felt like a bigger need though with some solid players available. I thought there was depth at the position in this draft, but the league went all in much early than expected. Three felt like a safe number to peg with Jeff Okudah, CJ Henderson and Jeff Gladney in the mix. I didn’t expect that number to double. I think there are some really good options still available too with Bryce Hall, Kristian Fulton and Jaylon Johnson still on the board, so this trend might continue.

Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson
I think TCU receiver Jalen Reagor will end up having a solid NFL career, but I think the Eagles missed big time on LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who went a pick later to the Vikings. Reagor plays a bit like former Philadelphia standout DeSean Jackson. He had an uneven 2019 season, but his game speed is impressive. Reagor is definitely a bit undersized, but he posted an outrageous 42-inch vertical at the combine. However, Jefferson is coming off a monster year and is a much better prospect in my opinion. He is really just a bigger, more physical version of Reagor. Jefferson ran a better 40 time, posted better stats and played against much better competition. I think Jefferson would have fit Philly’s system as well. This one left me scratching my head.

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Edwards-Helaire had over 1,800 total yards and 17 TD in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Clyde Edwards-Helaire as RB1
Between D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor, I thought Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be at least the second back drafted. I had him as my third running back behind Dobbins and Swift. CEH is a physical runner with the ability to be a receiver out of the backfield as well, even if he doesn’t have blazing speed. He reminds me a lot of Maurice Jones-Drew and feels like a good fit for the Kansas City offense, but I don’t think many people expected him to be the first running back off the board. There is also something to be said for Andy Reid drafting a running back for the first time in his 21-year career as a head coach. Very happy for him after he turned in a great season, but I definitely did not see this coming.

Not really enough to warrant it’s own subhead, but I was very confused by Seattle’s pick of Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks. He is a solid player, but I thought he would go middle of day two and that was definitely not the biggest need for this Seahawks defense.

Best Players Available

Those were the biggest talking points of the night for me. As teams turn their attention to rounds two and three tomorrow, here are my top remaining prospects:

18. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
20. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
21. Josh Jones, OT, Houston
23. A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
24. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
26. Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
28. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
29. Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
30. Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
31. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
33. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
35. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
38. Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
41. Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
42. Matt Hennessy, OL, Temple
43. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
45. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
46. Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
47. Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU
48. Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
49. Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir Rhyne
50. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

NFL Draft Podcast – NFC Free Agency Primer and Draft Implications

In this week’s episode, Chris breaks down the key free agents for every NFC team and discusses how these crucial decisions will impact the draft strategy for each franchise. Dallas dominates the NFC East conversation with its trio of high-impact free agents, but New York, Washington and Philadelphia have a couple of notable players no longer under contract. Pretty much every team other than the Falcons has questions at quarterback in the NFC South. The Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers all could have new starters in 2020. Most of the NFC West teams have a few important players that could hit the open market. Chicago has very few notable free agents, but will likely be aggressive anyway. Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit have several players they will be focused on bringing back. Catch up on all the major pending free agents ahead of the scouting combine! Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
https://anchor.fm/theaftermath

10 Trades that should happen at the NFL Trade Deadline

Well NFL trade season is off and running with Marcus Peters headed to Baltimore from Los Angeles and Jalen Ramsey taking his place in Los Angeles coming from Jacksonville. Those weren’t even the only trades the Rams were involved in on Tuesday, as they acquired Austin Corbett from the Browns. With all the wheeling and dealing already underway, I’ve got to jump in on the action. As I noted in Week 7’s NFL Power Rankings, there is no question this week of NFL action will be the deciding factor for a lot of teams on the fringe. Let’s start talking about some moves that should happen in the next week before the October 29th trade deadline.

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Newton has missed four games this season with a foot injury. (Wikimedia Commons)

Carolina Panthers trade QB Cam Newton
Tennessee Titans trade 2020 2nd round pick, 2021 2nd round pick, CB Adoree’ Jackson

Let’s start with a bang. Cam Newton is a former MVP in this league and has played in a Super Bowl. Still, it might be time for the Panthers to think about moving on from the 30-year-old signal caller. For one, Newton has not been able to stay on the field the past two seasons. Even when he has been available, he has struggled mightily. Carolina has some capable options in Kyle Allen and 2019 third-round selection Will Grier. So far this year, the Panthers are undefeated with Allen under center (4-0) and winless (0-2) with Newton. I will admit that Allen has a very small sample size, but he has shown flashes of real potential. Some fans might be miffed at not getting a first rounder for Newton, but his injury history could make that tricky. Getting more draft capital is nice, but so is adding Adoree’ Jackson. The third-year corner has been losing favor in Tennessee, playing just 52 percent of his team’s defensive snaps on Sunday. At 24, Jackson still has plenty of time to develop. Carolina could use some depth at corner back to help them right away, so this is not just simply a long-term move.

On the Tennessee side of this, I know this team seems content to just win with a grinding defense and a couple of playmakers, but this team needs a better short-term solution at quarterback than Ryan Tannehill. Marcus Mariota is done and while Tannehill is fine as a replacement starter, he is not good enough to lead this team to the playoffs. He takes care of the football for the most part, but the Titans need more playmaking ability from the quarterback position. Getting Newton would be a huge development for the offense. He is a more dynamic player, with the ability to change the game as a passer or a runner. Honestly, he is exactly what the Titans thought they were getting when they drafted Mariota. Assuming Newton can get healthy, he should be well-positioned to lead an offense that boasts a good group of running backs and a bunch of young pass catchers. If Newton does go down for a game, Tannehill can step in as well. Tennessee has the cap space to absorb Newton’s contract and could move on from him as early as this offseason if it doesn’t work out. It would not prohibit the Titans from drafting a quarterback in the first round this year either, but given that they do not seem positioned to grab one of the top passers, getting Newton gives them some other options.

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Green has yet to play this season due to injury. (Wikimedia Commons)

Cincinnati Bengals trade WR A.J. Green
Buffalo Bills trade 2020 2nd round pick, 2020 5th round pick

Don’t look now but the Buffalo Bills are 5-1 and seem headed for the postseason. It hasn’t been pretty most of the way and part of that is the offense’s inability to get into a rhythm. Buffalo’s defense is championship caliber, arguably the best in the NFL, but the offense has been pedestrian at best. To help remedy that, the Bills acquire the 31-year-old A.J. Green. With John Brown and Cole Beasley, Buffalo has a couple of good complements to a top-tier receiver. Green would immediately take over as the top option for Josh Allen to target. It would give this offense a legitimate big-play threat and also a reliable outlet when Allen is under pressure. Given how close the Bills were to knocking off the Patriots earlier this year, this move could be what pushes them into the realm of winning a division title. Green projects as a one-year rental for now with his contract expiring after the season, but that is a risk worth taking.

For Cincinnati, it is time to move on from your franchise receiver. This team is about to begin a major overhaul with Andy Dalton clearly on the way out and possibly the worst offensive line in the league. Flipping Green, who is likely going to leave in the offseason anyway, for a pair of picks seems like the best move to set up the Bengals for long-term success. His return to action this year is not going to make up for the awful start to the year this group has had. Green carries a lot of value right now for a contender, and at 0-7, Cincy is very far from being in that conversation.

Trent Williams
Williams has yet to play this season for Washington. (Wikimedia Commons)

Washington trades OT Trent Williams, 2021 conditional 7th round pick
Cleveland Browns trade 2020 2nd round pick, 2021 5th round pick

Washington is being about as stubborn and ridiculous as I’ve seen an NFL franchise act. Rather than trading Trent Williams at the deadline, they are saying they want to trade him after the season is over. Just a reminder, Williams is holding out and Washington has way more leverage trading to a team in need of immediate help midseason than during the offseason. I’m focusing on what should happen, not what will happen. Bruce Allen should absolutely cash in on his disgruntled left tackle before the deadline. At 31, there is not going to be a much larger trade market for him in the offseason. Getting a second round pick and a late pick next year is a decent haul for a player who has no interest in being on your roster and carries a large cap hit. Saying you plan to trade him in the offseason feels like showing your hand as well. There is no chance Washington lands a Jalen Ramsey-type haul either. Regardless, Washington would be smart to capitalize on the pressing need a team will have at tackle.

One such team in this case would definitely be Cleveland. After re-signing Cam Robinson this offseason, it is clear the Browns need a bit more help protecting Baker Mayfield. After trading away former Pro Bowl guard Kevin Zietler for Olivier Vernon, nothing was ever done to replace him. The former former overall pick from Oklahoma has suffered 16 sacks in just six games this season. He has been hit way more than last year and has spent chunks of games running for his life. Robinson could bump inside as well in an effort to revitalize the offensive line. Williams would be a significant upgrade. Even though he projects as a shorter term solution rather than a long one, he probably still has a few good years left in him. After all, Jason Peters is still going at 37. Eventually, Cleveland will have to pay Baker Mayfield. In the meantime, load up on talent around him to give yourself a championship window with a quarterback on a rookie contract.

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Sanders is second on Broncos in receptions and receiving yards this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

Denver Broncos trade WR Emmanuel Sanders
San Francisco 49ers trade DL Solomon Thomas, 2020 4th round pick, 2021 6th round pick

Emmanuel Sanders might be one of, if not Denver’s best offensive player, but at 32 years old with a team beginning to turn things over to a younger group, it is time to move on. Sanders is in a contract year, so this would be a one-year rental for the 49ers, but given that there are a few other teams that could use some help at receiver, specifically the Bears and Patriots, they will have to give up at least a fourth-round selection to ensure he arrives in the Bay Area. With Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton already on the roster as second-year pros, the Broncos won’t be stranding their offense completely for the future. Given that this is a loaded wide receiver class coming up as well, the front office could easily find some additional help in the 2020 draft. They also add Solomon Thomas. The 2017 third overall pick has not panned out in San Francisco and has yet to play 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in a given game. He would provide the Broncos with a situational rusher that also provides some defensive line depth. In his limited time on the field, Thomas does have a pair of sacks this year. He won’t make a huge difference, but he could prove to be a useful piece.

For the 49ers, this fills a clear need. Through their first six games, Jimmy Garoppolo has been throwing to the collection of Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis and 2019 second round pick Deebo Samuel on the outside. George Kittle is one of the top tight ends in the league, but adding a proven receiver like Sanders could help open up the offense a bit more. After all, Kittle is the only receiver to eclipse 200 yards so far this season. Given the investment in both Samuel and Jalen Hurd, who is on injured reserve, San Francisco should have no problem making a short-term addition before turning it over to the young draft picks. This defense looks ready for a championship run, now it is time for the 49ers to bring their offense closer to that level.

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Harris has a $12.5 million cap hit for 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Denver Broncos trade CB Chris Harris Jr.
Philadelphia Eagles trade 2020 3rd round pick

Wow this secondary needs loads of help. The backend of the defense was not supposed to be a strength, but it also wasn’t supposed to be this big of a weakness. Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills have both really struggled. Avonte Maddox is still out and while Ronald Darby is finally back from injury, this group needs a boost. Enter Chris Harris Jr., who would not only raise the level of play, but also bring some swagger to this secondary. Rumors have been swirling for a while now about the 30-year-old corner leaving Denver. Philly has more than enough space to absorb his cap hit and parting with a third-round pick seems like a no-brainer for a team that has its eyes set on returning to the postseason.

For Denver, the fire sale continues. Harris has been a good player for the Broncos, but he is nearing the end of his career and on an expiring contract. Netting a third round pick in the 2020 draft is nice compensation for a player they likely would’ve let walk in free agency. It essentially just means Denver receives it’s compensatory pick a year earlier. After an embarrassing showing on Thursday night, it’s time for John Elway to start looking to build for next year and amass draft capital to find some future contributors on this roster.

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Williams was the 6th overall pick in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

New York Jets trade DL Leonard Williams
Baltimore Ravens trade 2020 3rd round pick, 2021 5th round pick

The Baltimore Ravens find themselves in an interesting place six weeks into the 2019 NFL season. After watching the Browns faceplant out of the gates, coupled with quarterback injuries in Pittsburgh, the Ravens comfortably hold the division lead. Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is a lot of season left, but this feels like a team that could try to take advantage of a struggling division and start planning for the postseason. One major area of need is at pass rusher. I don’t think the front office is in swing for the fences mode, but they could try to add a quality contributor in the final year of his contract. Leonard Williams fits that bill nicely. Williams is not a pure edge rusher, but he might fit well into Baltimore’s defense scheme. He has enough speed to play outside and enough power to kick inside as well. He is far from a prolific pass rusher, just 17 sacks in his previous four years, without one yet in 2019. I have a feeling though that a change of scenery could see Williams turn into a player who generate six to eight sacks per year and contributes to building a strong culture. That’s something this Ravens team could use, with just 12 sacks so far this season.

Over in New York, this is a team under new management with Joe Douglas taking over for Mike McCagnan late in the offseason. Williams was not a player he drafted and general managers have a tendency to want “their guys” on the roster. Additionally, this is the final year of Williams’ deal. The Jets would likely land a compensatory pick if he walked in free agency, which they can recoup here and add an additional late-round pick to make trading him worth it. New York is desperately in need of pass rushers, but given the signings and draft picks it has made along the defensive line in recent years and Williams’ general lack of production in this scheme, it seems safe to say its time to move on. This will give Douglas some immediately draft capital to start reshaping the roster.

Terrell Suggs
Suggs moved into tie for 9th on all-time sack list on Sunday. (Wikimedia Commons)

Arizona Cardinals trade EDGE Terrell Suggs
Kansas City Chiefs trade conditional 2020 6th round draft pick

Terrell Suggs is one of the most dominant pass rushers of the past 15 seasons. He had 132.5 sacks in 16 seasons for Baltimore. He is up to five already this season with the Cardinals. While Arizona seems like it is heading in the right direction, there is no question that Suggs is a luxury they don’t really need right now. He is 37 and on a one-year deal in the desert. With a number of contenders in need of some pass rushing help, Arizona should look to turn the still productive veteran into a late pick.

Kansas City needs all kinds of help right now defensively. It finally put together a great showing on Thursday night against Denver, but that feels more like an aberration than a sign of things to come. Adding a rotational pass rusher who has lots of big game experience could be transformative for the Chiefs. Suggs has played in and won the games that Kansas City wants to win this year as a part of the Ravens 2012 Super Bowl team. Even though he slowing down, Suggs posted seven sacks last year and seems on pace to at least match that this season. This seems like a logical one-year rental for the Chiefs.

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Beasley was the 8th overall pick in 2015. (Wikimedia Commons)

Atlanta Falcons trade EDGE Vic Beasley
Seattle Seahawks trade conditional 2020 5th round pick

There have been few careers as wonky as Vic Beasley’s in Atlanta. After an uninspiring rookie season, the former Clemson edge rusher led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, earning himself a 1st-team All-Pro nod. Beasley hasn’t been able to get over the five sack mark in the two seasons since. With the Falcons spiraling, they have already voiced hopes of trading away their former first round pick. Moving on from Beasley, who is a free agent after the season, makes a ton of sense for the front office.

If there is a team that has shown they are willing to take fliers on players who have flashed talent, but struggled with consistency, it would be Seattle. The Seahawks also desperately need pass rushing help entering the weekend averaging just two sacks per game. Beasley has not been very productive this year, with just 1.5 sacks so far. At just 27 years old though, he is worth it, especially for a conditional late-round pick. There are a lot of similarities between the Atlanta defense and the Seattle one because that is where coach Dan Quinn came from when taking the top job for the Falcons. Few other teams are going to be willing to part with potential pass rushers, especially with Terrell Suggs playing for a division rival, so the Seahawks will make do with what they’ve got here.

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Trubisky has the second-lowest yards per attempt this season, ahead of Josh Rosen. (Wikimedia Commons)

Miami Dolphins trade WR Albert Wilson
Chicago Bears trade 2020 6th round pick

Chicago needs a major boost on offense. This offense already has plenty of speed with Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen, but the Bears could desperately use another explosive playmaker. Mitch Trubisky threw the ball 54 times for just 251 yards on Sunday, which is a microcosm of this unit in 2019. Trubisky on the season is averaging a woeful 5.5 yards per attempt. With Chicago likely to get outbid for the top receivers on the market, Albert Wilson seems like a solid option to help this offense’s efficiency. He seems like the type of player Matt Nagy would be able to integrate into his system quickly to maximize his skill set. His is withering away on a Dolphins team determined to land a top-three pick. He will not solve all of Chicago’s issues on that side of the ball, but he would provide another veteran pass catcher at an affordable price. If he doesn’t work out, the Bears can cut the 27-year-old with just $1.3 million in dead money.

On the Miami end of things, moving on from a player who has been hurt a lot for another late pick always seems logical when you are 0-6. Wilson is not going to make a difference for this team in the long-term and is barely doing enough right now as it is. Part of that is because he is trapped in a floundering offense. The Dolphins might not acknowledge they are tanking, but it really doesn’t look much like they are trying to win. At this point, the more draft capital, the better for this front office.

Vernon Davis
Davis has over 7,000 career receiving yards and 63 career touchdowns. (Wikimedia Commons)

Washington trades TE Vernon Davis
Seattle Seahawks trade 2020 7th round pick

Russell Wilson could use a short term upgrade at tight end. With Will Dissley done for the season after the best start to a year in his short career, Seattle has a big need at the position. Luke Wilson is valuable, but he is not a reliable pass catcher. Nabbing Vernon Davis for a 7th round pick would be a great move to aid the offense. Davis might turn 36 in January, but he has shown flashes that he still has something left in the tank on a terrible Washington team. He would immediately offer the Seahawks another pass catcher capable of picking up some third downs and making plays in the red zone. It is the type of move you make to bolster a team capable of making a deep playoff run.

For Washington, this is just another player that has more value elsewhere. Davis still clearly has a role to play in the nation’s capital, but he is far from the only option the offense has at tight end with Jeremey Sprinkle and Jordan Reed, if the latter ever gets healthy. Picking up another draft pick for this year doesn’t hurt the rebuilding process that is undoubtedly needed. Put it this way, Vernon Davis probably won’t be in the NFL anymore by the time Washington is ready to compete for a division title again, so send him elsewhere and get something in return.

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.