After breaking down the NFC last week, it is time to discuss which AFC free agents will impact the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots await Tom Brady’s free agent decision while the rest of the division hopes to close the game and patch up their offensive lines. Tennessee’s incredible run came courtesy of a number of players that are not under contract for 2020. Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all enter free agency with at least one major player it needs to bring back. The reigning Super Bowl champs have to figure out what they will do with Chris Jones. Meanwhile, Los Angeles might need to rebuild its whole offense. In the North, the Ravens have some difficult decisions to make regarding Matt Judon and Michael Pierce. The Browns, Bengals and Steelers all need reinforcements in the trenches. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2013 NFL draft was one of the worst in memory. It has been five years since that fateful first round, and of the 32 players selected, just nine of them are still on the team that drafted them. There was some hidden talent later in the draft. Not a single quarterback appears in this redraft, which is pretty much unheard of. Overall, it was a solid draft class, the first round just really did not pan out as expected.
Kansas City Chiefs
Original Selection: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
New Selection: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Fisher has put together a solid career in Kansas City, but not quite deserving of the top overall pick. He will still go later in this redraft, but instead, the Chiefs nab potentially the best right tackle in the whole league at this point.
Original Selection: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
New Selection: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
It was assumed there was three elite tackle prospects in this draft. Joeckel proved that wrong. He is currently out of the league and never really managed to solidify a spot in Jacksonville. The Jags take potentially the best player in the draft who fills a need and makes the Blaine Gabbert years a little more bearable.
Original Selection: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
New Selection: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
In 2013, the Raiders traded down with Miami and took the speedy Hayden. Instead, they keep their third overall selection and take a game changing receiver in Hopkins. Even with Terrelle Pyror as his quarterback, Hopkins would still emerge as a top flight receiver.
Original Selection: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
New Selection: David Bakhtari, T, Colorado
I debated this back and forth for a while, because Bakhtari might be one of the three best left tackles in the league. I basically would have switched Bakhtari with Johnson, but ultimately decided that Bakhtari needed a little more development right out of school. He still fills a need very nicely for the Eagles.
Original Selection: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
New Selection: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
One of the few selections, that goes to the same team, Ansah was an athletic freak who panned out really well for the Lions. No reason to change the pick with him still on the board.
Original Selection: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
New Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
This was a tough choice between Rhodes and A.J. Bouye for Cleveland, who desperately needed another corner to start alongside Joe Hayden in his prime. Rhodes was just a bit more pro ready, which is exactly what the Browns needed.
Original Selection: Johnathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
New Selection: Travis Fredrick, C, Wisconsin
Arguably the best player in the draft, he just doesn’t play a position that teams value as highly. Still, Fredrick warrants a top 10 selection and looks like a future Hall of Famer at center in Dallas. Arizona would prefer that to the uneven play of Cooper.
Original Selection: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
New Selection: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Buffalo actually traded back with the Rams and took the first of many quarterback busts. This time around, they nail this pick by taking the dynamic Allen. He may have some injury concerns, but his upside is still massive.
New York Jets
Original Selection: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
New Selection: A.J. Bouye, CB, UCF
Needless to say the Jets were hoping for a game-changing corner when they drafted Milliner. Here, New York selects Bouye and steals a player who might now be the best corner in football. He took a year or two to truly take hold in Houston, but makes the massive jump from undrafted to top 10 pick.
Original Selection: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
New Selection: Kyle Long, G, Oregon
Right position, wrong player for Tennessee as Chance Warmack never lived up to the hype. Kyle Long has been a stud in Chicago since day one. He might even keep Jack Locker healthy for a few more years.
San Diego Chargers
Original Selection: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
New Selection: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU
With many of the top linemen gone in the past few picks, San Diego finds themselves taking the best player available, which at this point is undoubtedly Mathieu. The Honey Badger is a versatile playmaker. His injury issues are still a concern, but his talent alone makes him worth the selection.
Original Selection: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
New Selection: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Out of all of the bad moves mad in this draft, Miami might own the worst one. Dion Jordan registered two sacks as a rookie, then served three different suspensions, including one that lasted 15 months. Trufant on the other hand was an integral part of a Falcons defense that made it to the Super Bowl in 2017.
New York Jets
Original Selection: Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri
New Selection: Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
While Richardson was no doubt productive in New York, this was not the right team for him as his off the field issues and lack of a true scheme fit caused him to flame out. The Jets haven’t had a good tight end since maybe Chris Baker. Kelce no doubt solves that problem.
Original Selection: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
New Selection: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
The Panthers actually landed Short in the second round of this draft. He has developed into one of the best pass rushing tackles in the league. It would be foolish to let him hang around.
New Orleans Saints
Original Selection: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
New Selection: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
Slay is often over looked after spending years on bad Lions’ defenses, but his play has been one of the lone bright spots. New Orleans desperately needed improved secondary play for several years without finding much until recently.
St. Louis Rams
Original Selection: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
New Selection: Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota State
I’m not buying for a second that Tavon Austin is worth a first round pick, much less trading up into the top 10. I would rather take Thielen, who took a few years to develop. Over the past two seasons, Thielen racked up 160 receptions for 2,243 yards and nine touchdowns. Austin has 71 catches for 556 yards and three scores.
Original Selection: Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
New Selection: Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss
Jones never panned out so Pittsburgh takes Collins, which helps them and hurts the rival Patriots. Collins did a lot well in New England and even more recently in Cleveland to deserve this pick.
Original Selection: Travis Fredrick, C, Wisconsin
New Selection: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
With Fredricks long gone, Dallas opts for another big body in the middle of the line. Warford started all 16 games as a rookie and made a Pro Bowl in 2017. He might have extended Tony Romo’s career a little bit.
New York Giants
Original Selection: Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse
New Selection: Sheldon Richardson, DE, Missouri
The other New York team gambles on the talent that Richardson brings to the table. The Giants had an aging defensive core including Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. Richardson bridges the gap.
Original Selection: Kyle Long, G, Oregon
New Selection: Micah Hyde, DB, Iowa
Long is off the board, so the Bears tab Hyde, who has proven his versatility over the years in Green Bay and now Buffalo. Chicago’s defense fell apart over the past few seasons and could have used a productive player like Hyde.
Original Selection: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
New Selection: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Another example of right position, wrong player. Eifert had his moments, but fell off over the past few seasons. Ertz on the other hand has developed into one of the best all around tight ends in the NFL. He would do wonders for Andy Dalton.
St. Louis Rams
Original Selection: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
New Selection: Eric Reid, S, LSU
Ogletree just left the Rams via a trade, so instead St. Louis grabs Reid. A hard hitter and solid cover man, Reid would make an immediate impact for a team that needed some new blood at safety. The team selected T.J. McDonald in the third round.
Original Selection: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
New Selection: Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
Floyd never made the impact expected of him at the pro level. Williams has turned into a monster in the middle of Baltimore’s defense, eating up blocks and stuffing run plays. Minnesota could use a bit of that down the line.
Original Selection: Bjorn Werner, DE, Florida State
New Selection: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The first overall pick drops 23 spots, but eventually lands in Indy, where keeping Andrew Luck upright must be the priority. Fisher gives the Colts a right tackle opposite Anthony Castonzo, but more importantly a building block to reshape the line.
Original Selection: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
New Selection: Robert Woods, WR, USC
Rhodes has been off the board for while now. Instead, the Vikings opt for a speedy playmaker who has proven to be a great chess piece when used correctly. Woods’ speed alone makes him valuable and might even make Christain Ponder watchable.
Green Bay Packers
Original Selection: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
New Selection: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
Jones became the latest Packer to fail at providing a pass rush. Ogletree has some baggage, but if anyone could iron it out, it would be Green Bay. He would give the Packers another roaming linebacker to pair with Clay Matthews.
Original Selection: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
New Selection: Kenny Vaccarro, S, Texas
Obviously, it is wishful thinking for Hopkins to still be here. The Texans go with Kenny Vaccaro, who has been solid if unspectacular in New Orleans. He showed flashes of potential that Wade Phillips and Vance Joseph (both on the Houston staff at the time) could have pulled out of him.
Original Selection: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
New Selection: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Williams was not the big man Denver thought it was getting. Lotulelei drops a bit but still finds a home as a pass rusher on one of the best offensive teams ever built.
New England Patroits
Original Selection: Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Miss
New Selection: Kiko Alonso, LB, Oregon
If there was anyone who was going to turn Kiko Alonso into a star, it was Bill Belichick. Odds are the Patriots would still trade down from here, but Alonso offered a lot of potential despite the injury risk the New England is almost always willing to take.
Original Selection: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
New Selection: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
Trufant is off the board way before the Falcons can think about trading up for him. Instead, Atlanta takes a pass catching stud to pair with Julio Jones and aid Matt Ryan. Tony Gonzales was in his final year. Reed fills that void about as well as anyone could hope to.
San Francisco 49ers
Original Selection: Eric Reid, S, LSU
New Selection: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
Reid is gone, so the 49ers take another roaming safety in Jefferson. He has developed into a better than average corner who can press at the line and tackle. He would be a nice consolation prize for San Francisco with Reid already gone.
Original Selection: Matt Elam, S, Florida
New Selection: J.C. Tretter, G, Cornell
Fast forward five years and Tretter is the starting center for the Browns. He is one of the better ones in the league and would help keep newly paid Joe Flacco clean after his stunning Super Bowl performance.
I wish I had a rooting interest in this year’s playoffs, but all the same, this is going to be a year to remember. There are tons of great storylines and some incredible games to be played and that starts today with Wildcard Weekend. Let’s start predicting some matchups.
Kansas City vs. Houston Far from the sexiest matchup of the wildcard round. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is the least exciting. Still well worth watching though, which lets you know how great these playoffs will be. This projects to be more of a defensive struggle. Duane Brown’s injury is already a big blow to the Texans offense. Houston overall was lucky to make the playoffs. I think Alex Smith will show everyone his ability to handle the pressure of a playoff game. Charcandrick West and Stephen Ware should also help wear down a stout Texans defensive front. Mixing a mediocre Houston offense and the league’s third best scoring defense sounds like a recipe for disaster. I think the Chiefs will win this comfortably, 24-10.
Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati Nothing beats a divisional battle in the playoffs. If it couldn’t be Steelers-Ravens, (one of the best rivalries in NFL history) then I’m happy it could at least be Steelers-Bengals. These two split the season series, with the road team winning each matchup. I don’t think we are going to see that trend continue. I know Cincy is still without Andy Dalton but an even bigger blow comes on the other side. Pittsburgh will be without DeAngelo Williams, meaning that Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman will be carrying the load for the Steelers. For as much as this team relies on Ben Roethlisberger, I think they are going to be too one-dimensional. Throwing the ball constantly doesn’t allow you to control the game offensively and I don’t think the Steelers will be able to close it out late. A.J. McCarron has had a few weeks to learn the offense. Hue Jackson is one of the best offensive coordinators in the league and I think he will have a plan to upend the rival Steelers. Final score, Bengals 31 – Steelers 27
Seattle vs. Minnesota Many are pointing at the midseason meeting between these two teams as the reason for why Seattle will win again. I don’t think it means anything how these two previously played. The Seahawks rode Thomas Rawls for a good portion of that victory. Rawls will not be playing on Sunday and neither will Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson is truly going to have no running game to support him in this one. Christine Michael will be the starting running back for the Hawks. Going up against a defense like Minnesota’s, that doesn’t bode well. That being said, this defense knows how to bottle up Adrian Peterson and will force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them with his arm. Bridgewater does not have a ton of weapons of his own in the passing game that will likely win one-on-matchups with this Seattle secondary. If this is a duel between Bridgewater and Wilson, I am taking Wilson every time. Seattle wins this blizzard bowl 21-10.
Green Bay vs. Washington This is not a game many would have predicted at the beginning of the year. I for one though Washington would not come anywhere near the playoffs. I doubt many would have guessed that Green Bay would be on the road either. As much as I like Aaron Rodgers, especially in the playoffs, I don’t think he will be leaving the nation’s capital with a win. The Packers have failed to find any consistency on offense, whether it be running or passing. On the flip side, Kirk Cousins has been on fire for Washington. He’s been yelling, “You like that!” a lot, which is good news for this DC team. I think Washington’s passing attack will prove too much for an underwhelming Packers’ secondary to handle. Momentum has a lot to do with this one. Washington has won four straight while Green Bay has dropped its last two. It will be close but I think Washington will win its first playoff game in 10 years, 27-24.
So following the Super Bowl and now starting the long four-month lull until another championship game is played, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city makes the list.
The cities just missing the cut are Houston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Houston has two titles, both coming from their MLS club the Dynamo. The Astros made a World Series run in 2005 but got swept. The Texans haven’t helped. Philly has four appearances in the big game but only one victory. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 but then lost the next year. The Eagles lost in 2005 as did the Flyers in 2010. Baltimore has two titles but both came from the Ravens. The Orioles did not do enough to really pad Baltimore’s resume.
#10 Kansas City 2 total titles in 4 total appearances
Not exactly a massive market but Kansas City has been a pretty solid sports city since 2000 when it comes to success. The forgotten team here will be the MLS club. The Kansas City Wizards, who is now Sporting KC, won the MLS Cup in 2000 and later made it to the 2004 final. 13 years later, Sporting KC left its mark with a MLS Cup victory. Then just this past year, the Royals made a shocking run to the World Series, eventually losing to San Francisco. The Kansas City NFL team, the Chiefs, could have boosted this city up the list some but they have had very little playoff success since 2000, not coming anywhere near the Super Bowl.
#9 St. Louis: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The St. Louis Rams were actually the first team to win a sports championship in the new millennium, taking home the 2000 Lombardi Trophy (which I ranked as my most exciting Super Bowl game of all time). The baseball team in St. Louis has done most of the heavy lifting though as the Cardinals have been among baseball’s best in the past 15 years. The Cards have two World Series titles from the 2006 and 2011 campaigns. This MLB team also came up just short in both 2004 and 2013, at the hands of the Boston Red Sox on each occasion. A little help from the Blues in the NHL could’ve pushed St. Louis above the next few cities on this list.
#8 San Francisco: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
The San Francisco Giants have been baseball royalty over the past five years. In that time span, they have nailed down three World Series titles. San Francisco also made a trip to the Series in 2002, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Anaheim Angeles. The football team in San Francisco is pretty good as well. The 49ers came close for years to making it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. They finally accomplished that goal in 2013, but came up short against the Baltimore Ravens. Close, but no cigar. That Super Bowl victory could have vaulted San Francisco past the number seven city on the list.
#7 Pittsburgh: 3 total titles in 5 total appearances
If this were an all-time list, Pittsburgh would have to be higher up on it. As it is only since the year of 2000, the city takes a drop. This has still been a successful city though when it comes to sports titles. The Steelers have earned two of them, in 2006 and 2009. They also came up a touchdown short in 2011 of winning another one against the Packers. On the ice, the Penguins have been one of the top teams in the NHL for some time now. They are perennial contenders and managed to make a Stanley Cup run in 2008, losing to the Detroit Red Wings, before returning the following year to beat those same Red Wings. Unfortunately, the Pirates haven’t been much help to the Pittsburgh cause in a while. Pittsburgh has been good, just not as good as…
#6 San Antonio: 4 total titles in 5 appearances
Amazing that a city with only one professional sports team can make the list. Well that’s what happens when the San Antonio Spurs are that one team. After a win in the NBA Finals in 1999, the Spurs watched as the Lakers won three consecutive titles to open the 21st century. The Spurs retaliated by winning three out of the next five. After an eight-year finals drought, San Antonio got another shot at a ring in 2013, eventually losing in Game 7 to the Heat. The rematch the following year though fell the other way giving the Spurs their fourth title since 2000.
That is the bottom half of the list. Check back in tomorrow for the top half of the countdown.