2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

Finally! We had some exciting results in the NFL for the first time in a while. The Patriots went down, the 49ers had a nail-biter and the Seahawks went to overtime. Lamar Jackson showed off his skillset once again, the Packers fell apart on the west coast and the Chiefs proved they could win without Patrick Mahomes. Overall, it was a wild week of football.

With so many important results, the rankings got a good shake up this week, including a new team at the top. Another slate of important games awaits, so there is plenty more to come in the near future. Let’s dive into all the action from this weekend.

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1. New Orleans Saints: 7-1 (Last Week: 2)
Bye Week
It is good to be on top. New Orleans took the week off and moved to the top of the power rankings. Funny how that happens. It does have a loss this year, but the Saints are capable of playing at a higher level than anyone else in the NFL right now. The defense plays lights out and with the offense finally getting healthy, we will see this team at full strength. There is a lot of season left to play, but the team to beat currently resides in NOLA.

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2. San Francisco 49ers: 8-0 (Last Week: 3)
Won 28-25 at Arizona
And then there was one. San Francisco is the only undefeated team left in the NFL after New England suffered its first loss of the year. The 49ers were tested by a plucky Cardinals team on Thursday night, but emerged with its eight win of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo tore up what has been a bad secondary, but it was still good to see him get into a groove. He had four touchdown passes in a good offensive showing. San Fran might get its best test of the year yet with a visit from Seattle on Monday Night in Week 10.

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3. Baltimore Ravens: 6-2 (Last Week: 5)
Won 37-20 vs. New England
Talk about a statement win. The Ravens certainly managed that with a convincing victory over the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. If not for a couple of untimely fumbles, this might have been a real blowout for Baltimore. Lamar Jackson showed once again why he is so difficult to gameplan for and the defense continues to make game-changing plays. For the third straight week, Marlon Humphrey returned a fumble for a touchdown. The AFC suddenly looks very interesting now that the Ravens have inserted themselves into the conversation.

Patriots Logo

4. New England Patriots: 8-1 (Last Week: 1)
Lost 37-20 at Baltimore
After playing easily the softest schedule in the league through the first eight weeks, Baltimore punched New England in the mouth. There are real concerns with this offense’s ability to protect Tom Brady and play from behind. Brady threw the ball 46 times as the Patriots could not use the run to control the clock. Defensively, the Pats had no answer for Lamar Jackson, specifically running the ball. After dominating to start the year, New England is suddenly giving up almost 100 yards per game on the ground, surrendering over 150 in back-to-back contests. Championships aren’t won in November, but this was a troubling loss.

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5. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-3 (Last Week: 6)
Won 26-23 vs. Minnesota
You got the feeling that Kansas City was capable of hanging with tough teams even without Patrick Mahomes last week against Green Bay. The Chiefs followed that up with a massive win over the Vikings. Moving to 6-3 feels much different than falling to 5-4. It was not a perfect outing, as KC struggled to run the ball outside of a 91-yard outburst from Damien Williams. Excluding that run, the Chiefs averaged 3.3 yards per carry. At the end of the day though Kansas City can just be happy it has Harrison Butker.

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6. Seattle Seahawks: 7-2 (Last Week: 7)
Won 40-34 (OT) vs. Tampa Bay
Well that was much too close for comfort. Seattle trailed for much of this contest and looked incapable of stopping Jameis Winston. The 34 points were the most the Seahawks have given up all season. Miscues played a role as well. Chris Carson fumbled yet again and Jason Myers missed three kicks in total. It is good to see Seattle can overcome these mistakes, but it also goes to show how vulnerable the defense can be against a team that can stretch the field. A Monday Night Football divisional battle with the undefeated 49ers awaits.

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7. Green Bay Packers: 7-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 26-11 at Los Angeles
That was flat out ugly. I don’t know the last time I saw the Packers offense play like that. Aaron Rodgers was seemingly always under pressure and the group as a whole showed very little cohesiveness. Much of the game just felt disjointed from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, the inability to stop the run showed up again as Green Bay gave up 159 yards to a team that entered the game averaging under 70 yards per contest. These are the type of outings the Packers are liable to have given the holes on the roster, but they cannot afford to let them become a regular habit.

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8. Los Angeles Rams: 5-3 (Last Week: 9)
Bye Week
A week off was much needed for this Rams team that has struggled through the first half of the season. I say struggled, but this group is still 5-3. The biggest thing missing from last year’s success is the rushing attack. That sets up just about everything else in this offense and keeps Los Angeles’ defense well rested. A date with the Steelers is up next and that should give us a lot of information about which direction the Rams are headed.

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9. Minnesota Vikings: 6-3 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 26-23 at Kansas City
In a week where the offense actually played fairly well, it was the defense that let Minnesota down. This has to be chalked up as a disappointing loss after scoring 23 points and facing the Matt Moore-led Chiefs. It was the big plays that killed the Vikings, allowing a 91-yard touchdown run to Damien Williams and a 41-yard touchdown catch from Tyreek Hill. This is a team that feels good enough to reach the playoffs, but at the same time has no chance of actually winning the Super Bowl. It simply does not show up in big games.

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10. Dallas Cowboys: 5-3 (Last Week: 10)
Won 37-18 at New York
It was a bit of a rocky start, but Dallas turned in a solid second-half performance. Dak Prescott played really well after throwing an interception on his pass of the night. The ground game showed up big time with 172 yards rushing and the Cowboys forced three Daniel Jones turnovers. Dallas controls the division right now, but next week features a visit from the Vikings for a big-time NFC showdown.

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11. Houston Texans: 6-3 (Last Week: 12)
Won 26-3 at Jacksonville (London)
This was the type of performance many have wanted to see from the Texans. Against a tricky Jacksonville outfit, Houston took care of business. The Texans ran the ball well, Deshaun Watson played extremely efficiently and the defense came up with a bunch of turnovers in an important divisional win. With the Colts losing, they take back over the lead in the AFC South. Houston has to feel good about where it stands.

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12. Buffalo Bills: 6-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 24-9 vs. Washington
Hey Buffalo Bill(s)! You are now 6-2 and looking like a playoff team. Beating Washington is nothing to write home about, but it was an important bounce-back win. The defense fared well against a rookie quarterback, but struggled to stop the run for the second straight week. This next stretch of games is important as Buffalo makes its postseason push. With a tough final few games, beating the Browns, Dolphins and Broncos is going to be crucial.Eagles Logo

13. Philadelphia Eagles: 5-4 (Last Week: 14)
Won 22-14 vs. Chicago
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles gutted out another win to move back above .500. The victory came at a cost as now it sounds like DeSean Jackson is done for the season with an injury. Still, there were some very positive signs here. The defense played well once again against what has been an inept Bears offense. Philly held Chicago to just nine yards of offense in the first half. However, the offense could not find a way to put this one away. The Eagles should be able to build a more commanding lead when the defense plays as well as it did. New England follows a bye week, so Doug Pederson will have to have this team firing on all cylinders.

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14. Carolina Panthers: 5-3 (Last Week: 16)
Won 30-20 vs. Tennessee
Carolina bounced back with a convincing win over Tennessee. It was far from perfect, but it was another MVP-type performance from Christian McCaffrey. The defense made its fair share of plays as well with two picks, a fumble recovery and four sacks. It is hard to know how to assess this team. The Panthers have won five of their last six, but the loss was a 38-point drubbing by the 49ers. Carolina has another huge game coming up against a reeling Green Bay side looking to rebound after a shocking loss of its own.

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15. Indianapolis Colts: 5-3 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 26-24 at Pittsburgh
Indy lost Jacoby Brissett early and that proved to be the difference in the contest. Sure, Brian Hoyer played well in relief, but he tossed a back-breaking interception that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown. No game is decided by one play, but that momentum swing was huge in what proved to be a two-point affair. Adam Vinatieri also botched the potential game-winning field goal to ice things for a hurting Colts team. Brissett’s status will determine if this team still has hope of winning a division title.

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16. Pittsburgh Steelers: 4-4 (Last Week: 20)
Won 26-24 vs. Indianapolis
Flash back to six weeks ago when Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out the rest of the year and the struggling Steelers looked destined for a top-five pick. Well it turns out that Minkah Fitzpatrick trade worked out pretty well for them and now Pittsburgh is back to .500. It hasn’t always been pretty, as the Steelers had to sweat out a missed field goal to squeak by the Colts, but they are winning. Good offensive line play and opportunistic defense has Pittsburgh back on track. This banged up team is building momentum and certainly has its eye set on a postseason run.

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17. Oakland Raiders: 4-4 (Last Week: 21)
Won 31-24 vs. Detroit
The Raiders defended the Black Hole in an impressive offensive showing. Derek Carr balled out with 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He spread the ball around and got a lot of help from Josh Jacobs, who rumbled for 120 yards and two scores. One week after challenging Houston, Oakland got an important home win to get back to .500. The upcoming Thursday night game against the Chargers is going to be huge in determining which team can challenge for a wild card spot.

Lions Logo

18. Detroit Lions: 3-4-1 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 31-24 at Oakland
After a positive start to the year, all of the issues that seem to regularly plague the Lions defense have returned. Derek Carr shredded the secondary and the front seven could not slow down Josh Jacobs. Matt Stafford threw for over 400 yards and tossed three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the porous defense. Seemingly out of the divisional race, Detroit has to hope it can right the ship and make a run at the wild card in the NFC.

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19. Tennessee Titans: 4-5 (Last Week: 18)
Won 27-23 vs. Tampa Bay
The Ryan Tannehill experiment went a little bit sideways on Sunday, but maybe it’s not fair to put all the blame on him. He has his share of it after throwing two interceptions, but the defense had no answer for Christian McCaffrey. He racked up 166 yards of offense and scored three touchdowns. I know he is really good, but you would think Tennessee might devote a bit more of its gameplan to stopping him. Regardless, the Titans playoff hopes got dented in the loss.

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20. Jacksonville Jaguars: 4-5 (Last Week: 17)
Lost 26-3 vs. Houston (London)
Jacksonville might have had its worst game of the season in London. The offense managed a meager three points and Gardner Minshew looked very much like a rookie sixth-round pick. Credit the Texans for bottling up Leonard Fournette, but the Jaguars just never got in sync. Whether it was turnovers or lack of execution, they could not find a way to stay on the field. The defense didn’t do them any favors either, giving up 216 yards on the ground. A week off is much needed to solve some of these alarming issues.

Chargers logo

21. Los Angeles Chargers: 4-5 (Last Week: 24)
Won 26-11 vs. Green Bay
Is it possible the Chargers are on a winning streak? In easily the most stunning result of the week, Los Angeles beat up Aaron Rodgers and completely grounded this high-flying offense. Rodgers will be having nightmares about Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram all week. Offensively, the Chargers really committed to the run, rushing it 38 times to keep Rodgers off the field. If this is the type of performance LA can turn in on a weekly basis, the playoffs are not out of the question just yet.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

22. Arizona Cardinals: 3-5-1 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 28-25 vs. San Francisco
Arizona certainly gave San Francisco a Halloween scare on Thursday night with a huge comeback that came up short. The secondary is still a mess, but the offense played lights out against one of the best defenses in the league. Kyler Murray looked comfortable and Kenyan Drake had a monster debut with 162 yards from scrimmage. There is still plenty of room for growth, but the Cardinals are quickly becoming one of the most entertaining teams to watch and a real threat to upset contenders.

Denver_Broncos

23. Denver Broncos: 3-6 (Last Week: 25)
Won 24-19 vs. Cleveland
The Brandon Allen era started on a high note with Denver holding off Cleveland in an ugly game. Courtland Sutton made one of the catches of the year and Noah Fant ripped off a dominating catch and run to propel the offense. The defense was disruptive and did just enough to hold off a late Browns rally. It was a much-needed win for a team struggling with injuries and identity. One easy fix would be handing the ball to Phillip Lindsay more. He had nine carries for 92 yards on Sunday. Both the new starting quarterback and my fantasy team would appreciate a heavier dose of him next week.

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24. Chicago Bears: 3-5 (Last Week 19)
Lost 22-14 at Philadelphia
This tumultuous season hit another bump in the road as the offense found a new low. Chicago gained nine yards of total offense in the first half against Philly. Nine! Matt Nagy has gone from looking like a guru to snapping at reporters about playcalling. Mitchell Trubisky is making a case for the worst quarterback in the league still starting this year. It was a better second half, but the Bears dropped another one and look nothing like the group we saw reach the postseason a year ago.

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25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2-6 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 40-34 (OT) at Seattle
It is weeks like this that make it difficult to envision the Buccaneers moving on from Jameis Winston this offseason. He threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He did fumble once, but this was a really good game from Winston. The defense was nowhere to be found, allowing Russell Wilson to toss five touchdown passes. It is very clear where Tampa’s weaknesses lie. Still, this team went on the road and pushed Seattle to overtime. There is something to be said for that.

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26. Cleveland Browns: 2-6 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 24-19 at Denver
Turns out the Browns are still the Browns. One week after falling apart against the Patriots, an acceptable thing to do, this team lost to Brandon Allen making his first career start. Baker Mayfield has broken down mechanically because he always looking for the rush. He is not getting the ball to his best playmakers in big moments either, as Odell Beckham Jr. should definitely be getting more targets. Cleveland is extremely undisciplined and looks like a trainwreck. Freddie Kitchens needs to get this team back on track or risk losing his job after just one year.

Giants Logo

27. New York Giants: 2-7 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 37-18 vs. Dallas
If you only look at the scoreline, it is easy to assuming Dallas simply blew out New York on Monday Night Football. However, the Giants were in this contest for a while. They had some early opportunities to build a lead at home, but squandered them with poor play in the red zone. A late defensive touchdown for the Cowboys made the result look even more comfortable. It is clear the Giants are close to breaking through the next tier in the NFL, but that will require them to take full advantage of their opponents’ mistakes.

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28. Atlanta Falcons: 1-7 (Last Week: 29)
Bye Week
Atlanta has had one of the most disappointing first halves of any team in the league, right up there with Cleveland and Chicago. There are a lot of the major building blocks already in place for this franchise with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and a decent offensive line. The defense has been what is holding this team back, failing to generate any sort of pass rush. Injuries have also decimated the Falcons this year, but hopefully that allows them to build some depth for years to come.

Washington made up logo

29. Washington: 1-7 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 24-9 at Buffalo
Dwayne Haskins finally got his first NFL start and it went about as well as you could’ve imagined. Washington failed to score a touchdown and did not threaten much through the air. This was facing a good Buffalo defense, so maybe all Haskins needs is a bit of patience. Adrian Peterson did turn back the clocks though with a 110-yard performance rushing. If Haskins can get into a bit of rhythm, the ground game is good enough to do most of the heavy lifting for this offense to start producing touchdowns.

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30. Miami Dolphins: 1-7 (Last Week: 32)
Won 26-18 vs. New York
It finally happened! The Dolphins won a football game in the regular season. It has been a long time coming honestly, as Miami has been building throughout the course of the year. Despite the struggles this season, the Dolphins have a few young players emerging in crucial roles. Unfortunately, Preston Williams went down with a season-ending injury. The offensive line is still getting a bit better and there are some signs of life on defense. This might not be the last game the Dolphins win this year.

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31. New York Jets: 1-7 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 26-18 at Miami
This team is once again the laughing stock of the NFL. If not for what is looking more and more like a fluky win over the Cowboys, this team would be hurdling towards the first overall pick. Sam Darnold definitely has regressed since his rookie season. The offensive line is completely out of sync and the secondary looks hopeless. Adam Gase is on thin ice already and if this team does not show any signs of improvement, he will be out of a job at the end of the year.

Bengals Logo

32. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-8 (Last Week: 31)
Bye Week
It might’ve been a week off for the Bengals, but they suddenly find themselves as the lone winless team in the NFL. Cincinnati should get a boost when A.J. Green does finally return from injury. Zac Taylor has the second half the season to start building a core for this team to lean on in the future. It is all about trying to build for the next few years and hopefully finding a way to win at least one game in the process.

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Bradford wants out of Philly

The Eagles are shocked that after trading up for the second overall pick to take a quarterback, signing Chase Daniel to a reasonably large contract for his stature and failing to pay him, Sam Bradford would like to leave Philadelphia.

Sam Bradford
Bradford threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2015.

Chip Kelly brought Bradford to the City of Brotherly love and now that Kelly is in San Francisco, the Eagles want to head in a different direction. Bradford is injury prone and did not have a great season last year. Yet for some reason they resigned him. Now he is demanding a trade.

For Bradford, this makes sense. He has no desire to be a back up or have a time clock set on how much longer he could stay with the team. He clearly doesn’t like the idea of having his replacement waiting in the wings. It doesn’t reflect very well on his personality, but you have to understand him wanting to skip town.

Let’s break down the teams that could try to negotiate a trade for Bradford.

New York Jets
Probability: High
Bradford is probably a step backwards from having Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the latter having played in the system last year and knowing the team, but Bradford would fill a need. If the Jets are unsuccessful in signing Fitzpatrick, trading for Bradford might be the next best option. Bradford would have the chance to compete with Geno Smith for the starting role. Bradford’s short contract also allows the Jets to move on from him fairly quickly. The likelihood is Bradford is no one’s long term solution at quarterback.

Chip_Kelly
The Eagles fired Kelly back in December.

San Francisco 49ers
Probability: Medium
Well, as I mentioned before, Bradford does have some ties to new San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers currently have a couple of quarterbacks on their roster, but rumor has it that Colin Kaepernick wants a change in scenery and Blaine Gabbert likely isn’t the quarterback San Francisco wants to invest its future in. Bringing in Bradford would give someone for Gabbert to compete with and allow the 49ers to move on from Kaepernick. Again, it does not solve the long term quarterback issue, but it certainly makes the present a bit better.

Denver Broncos
Probability: High

John Elway already traded for one Eagles quarterback this offseason, why not another? This trade probably won’t happen if only because Denver does not have the money or doesn’t want another Philly castoff, but from the standpoint of filling a need, it makes a lot of sense. Bradford could fit well into a run-heavy scheme and he would not be required to put up huge numbers with the defense he would have in Denver. The Broncos are a team that has a championship-caliber roster, minus the quarterback. Bradford might be just good enough to keep Denver’s hopes of repeating alive.

Drew_Brees
Brees’ cap hit for 2016 is $30 million, which is the largest of any player.

New Orleans Saints
Probability: Low
This one might sound a little bizarre, but hear me out. The Saints have Drew Brees under contract through this season and then he becomes a free agent. His cap figure is currently the highest in the NFL, so New Orleans would probably like to find a cheaper option. Enter Bradford in 2017. He spends a year on the bench, learning the system and the personnel before taking over as the starter. The Saints do have last year’s third round pick Garrett Grayson on the roster still, but if New Orleans isn’t sold on him, Bradford would be a good option. He would need to take a pay cut this year to make it work, but long term, this might be a good solution for Bradford.

Buffalo Bills
Probability: Low
These two teams already have a good relationship after working out a major deal last year to swap Kiko Alonso and LeSean McCoy. Maybe they will pull off another deal. No one is sure if Tyrod Taylor is the long term answer at quarterback. He and E.J Manuel are set to be free agents after next season. That could open the door again for a situation similar to what could happen in New Orleans. Bradford would be able to learn the system and compete with Taylor for the starting job. If he doesn’t get it, then he could take over the following season.

Quarterback Carousel Continues to Spin

What a whirl it has been already on the quarterback carousel in the NFL. We got a really early taste this year before the season even began when Geno Smith had his jaw broken by a teammate in the locker room. That thrust Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting role and the Jets have opened their season 2-0.

Drew_BreesWeek 2 dealt some serious blows to the stability of the quarterback position across the league. Drew Brees played all of Sunday’s game against the Bucs but he may miss next week with a bruised rotator cuff. That would place journeyman Luke McCown into game action for the first time since November of 2011. That isn’t exactly reassuring for the Saints but Verizon has to be thrilled. Believe it or not this actually affects Mark Ingram more than anyone else. The former Heisman winner has never had the chance to be a feature back in an offense but if Brees cannot play or is limited, the focus quickly shift to him to deliver. And he will need to deliver fast because the Saints are 0-2. Panic Level: Moderate

Jay_CutlerIn the Windy City, the Bears are already in free fall and Jimmy Clausen is set to retake the starting role, if only temporarily. Jay Cutler has a hamstring injury that Chicago has said will keep him out at least two weeks. Clausen filled in for Cutler last year after the latter got benched. He was passable, tossing two touchdowns but also throwing a pick. The more concerning thing is that he actually sustained an injury in that game last year, forcing Cutler back into the lineup. If Clausen were to go down, Chicago would really be in trouble then. The last quarterback on the roster is youngster David Fales from San Jose State. If he has to start for the Bears, this team will be in full scale crisis mode. Panic Level: Low (they can’t be much worse).

Tony_RomoDallas ended up taking the brunt of the pain from the losses this week. Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone, which will keep him out for the next eight weeks. The Cowboys have already begun handling his loss. They placed Romo on the short-term IR and traded for veteran Matt Cassell as a reserve option if now-starter Branden Weeden struggles or suffers an injury himself. Neither quarterback is much good but they are both serviceable, which is the best Dallas could hope for as they try to ride out the storm. Despite losing Romo, the Cowboys could still hold the division lead when he comes back based on how poorly the rest of the division has played. However, with Dez Bryant also out for probably a similar time frame, things in Big D are shaky. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the panic that should be surrounding this team. Panic Level: High

Johnny Manziel

I am starting to wonder if the Browns are afraid of success. After nearly reaching .500 last season, Cleveland made a number of questionable veteran acquisitions, including Josh McCown. They needed a quarterback for sure but not many pegged McCown as their savior. McCown entered the season as the starter but a nasty hit in the season opener left him with a concussion. In stepped the polarizing Johnny Manziel. He was far from perfect or even polished but he was productive. Posting to three touchdowns to just one interception in roughly seven quarters of relief work isn’t bad. The four fumbles are definitely concerning but Manziel has regularly kept plays alive and made something out of nothing. He isn’t throwing for a ton of yards but his is picking up a lot of yards when he does throw. He has been electric and exciting, something Cleveland has not had in a while, but the Browns maintain that once McCown is healthy, he will get his job back. I know I initially advocated against it, but after two weeks, I would like to see some more Johnny Football. They won too in Week 2, which is definitely a positive. A game against the Raiders could be winnable as well and would be a really good test for the young Manziel. Cleveland fans should actually start to panic if their original starter is in fact healthy, oddly enough. Panic Level: Moderate

What if Brees had landed in Miami?

If you follow football, you’ve heard of Nick Saban. You’ve probably also heard of Drew Brees. These two have been wildly successful at what they do. Saban has coached Alabama to three National Titles in four years and Brees has both a Super Bowl trophy and the record for most consecutive games with a passing touchdown. These two have been very successful in their own right, but they could have been very successful together.

Nick Saban2006. Way back before either of them had had any of their major triumphs, Nick Saban was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and Drew Brees was a young quarterback on the San Diego Chargers. Neither one had anything to do with each other. Saban was fresh from his days of coaching LSU and made the move to Miami. Brees was dealing with a career-threatening shoulder injury that had caused the Chargers to let him walk into free agency. The two nearly crossed paths, and we are going to discuss what might have happened if they had.

The Dolphins were searching for a starting quarterback during the 2006 offseason. Gus Ferrotte had been the Dolphins starter under center the year before but was not convincing by any means. Brees was a free agent and the Dolphins were in contract talks with him. Miami ended up ending negotiations when they traded for Dante Culpepper and Brees signed with New Orleans. But what if the Dolphins had signed Brees?

Brees had turned the Saints from a doormat to a playoff team in just one year. The Dolphins were already a pretty solid team and the addition of Brees would have put them over the top. Brees’ receivers would have been Chris Chambers, Marty Booker, and Randy McMichael, with Ronnie Brown in the backfield as well. Before you know it, the Phins would have had an offense that scared people. Brees would have had Andre Whitworth to protect his backside when Miami used their second round pick on him instead of trading it to the Vikings for Culpepper.

Drew_BreesInstead of faltering down the stretch, the Dolphins make a huge push toward the postseason in 2006, making it as a wildcard. As a result, Saban never jumps ship for Alabama and stays in South Beach. The Dolphins would be preparing for a stellar season in 2007.

Meanwhile, down in the Bayou, the Saints never end up with a quarterback, which means they select Vince Young in the 2006 draft. Young has a nice year for New Orleans as a rookie but fails to get much else going. After another year or two of poor play from the Saints, the team packs up and heads to Los Angeles. 

2007 comes and goes and the Patriots dominate the league going 16-0 again. Rather than suffer through a 1-15 season with Cleo Lemon at the helm, Brees guides the Phins to yet another wildcard berth. The defense is rock solid behind the play of Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder and Joey Porter. After the emergence of bench player Wes Welker with the gun slingin’ Brees at quarterback, Miami has no need for Tedd Ginn Jr. and opts to bolster their offensive line instead drafting Ben Grubbs.

In a storybook tale, Brees matches up with his former team, the Chargers and delivers a shocking win. Miami followed that up with an upset of the Peyton Manning led Colts, leading to a matchup with the rival Patriots. Miami is simply outmatched in that game, and falls in the AFC championship. The Dolphins get some satisfaction though as New England still loses in the Super Bowl as Tom Brady can’t seem to find enough offense with Welker on the field.

Instead, Welker and Brees are tearing apart the league, and in 2008 when Brady goes down for the season with a major knee injury, the Dolphins have their chance. The Dolphins rule the AFC and roll to a number one seed. Instead of Chad Pennington throwing four interceptions to end the Dolphins’ hopes in the wildcard round, Brees catches fire and the Dolphins look destined for glory.

Miami beats up the outmatched Steelers in the AFC title game and heads on to the Super Bowl played in nearby Tampa Bay. The Dolphins win a shootout with the Cardinals and Brees wins his first Super Bowl a year earlier than he would have in New Orleans.

The Dolphins go on to compete with the Patriots as the top team in the AFC, and the Brees vs. Brady matchup becomes a biannual classic. Saban goes down as a great NFL coach, instead of a quitter. Alabama never turns into a football factory and the Saints live out their days competing with the Raiders to avoid being the worst team in California.

There are some other interesting nuggets that would happen in this scenario. Brees would still go on to break the single season passing record, eclipsing Dan Marino, this time in a Dolphins uniform. However, unlike Marino, Brees would have a ring, which would probably hold weight for the conversation of greatest quarterback to don a Miami uniform.

Just think, all of this could have happened, if only the Dolphins had decided to sign Drew Brees in the summer of 2006. 

The Tale of Two Scandals

Tom_BradyThe sports world is outraged at the moment. It could be directed at a number of different people. It could be Patriots fans enraged at the two locker room assistants for deflating footballs for the AFC Championship game. It could be those same fans again furious at Roger Goodell for suspending quarterback Tom Brady for four games when the evidence does not definitively point to Brady’s involvement. It might be on the other side of that as an NFL fan because while the evidence isn’t damning, it has some logical implications, Brady probably cheated and the league is not punishing him enough. Still others are shocked that Brady received a four-game ban when Ray Rice was only dealt half of that after beating his wife.

This whole Deflategate scandal has blown even more than before, if that is possible. The Patriots are looking at losing two draft picks, one of them being a first rounder, in the next two seasons and missing their future Hall of Fame quarterback for the first quarter of the season. All of that is on top of an NFL-record fine of $1 million. Brady is set to appeal the suspension, which he will likely win, and have it reduced if not altogether wiped out. New England owner, Robert Kraft, is demanding an explanation from the league as to where the precedent for these sanctions lie. The whole fiasco seems very 2012, when the NFL had to deal with a different violation of public policy. The fallout that ensued has been all the same.

Gregg_WilliamsBack in 2009, Gregg Williams joined the New Orleans Saints as their defensive coordinator. Shortly after his arrival, Williams arranged a bounty system that rewarded players for big hits and injuries caused. This was clearly against league rules but did not really give the Saints a competitive advantage over their opponents. It did however, put both player safety and NFL integrity on the line. Coincidentally, New Orleans made a Super Bowl run, just as New England did, and walked away with a Lombardi Trophy. The whole bounty system was uncovered almost two full years later and the implications began to rain down on the Saints organization.

Williams was suspended indefinitely. Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis received long suspensions, one year and eight games respectively. The Saints also forfeited a second round draft pick and paid a $500,000 fine. Several Saints players found themselves punished as well, including Jonathan Vilma, who received a full season suspension. Like Brady, Vilma denied being an active part of the program. The difference was that it was clear he was aware of it. Vilma appealed the suspension and actually went as far as attacking Goodell by filing a defamation of character suit against the commissioner. The NFL was in utter chaos as the scandal continued to unfold. It got even uglier from there as arbitrators and suspension appeals dragged on.

The Saints were obviously frustrated with the league’s decisions to suspend coaches and management as well as stripping them of a draft pick. However, the Saints moved on and dealt with the consequences. Eventually, Peyton returned and New Orleans simply put the scandal behind them. It doesn’t seem like the Patriots are willing to do that. Despite there being a lot of the “who said what” kind of stuff going on, the league upheld its decisions on the loss of draft pick and fine. However, Goodell reduced some of the suspensions and eventually they were all voided. The precedent is there for Brady to have his suspension at the very least reduced if not completely dismissed.

The NFL certainly made a statement with these punishments that it will not tolerate violation of the rules when it compromises the integrity of the game. It was a bit of a recovery move by Goodell, after botching so many other recent scandals. The important thing is that the Patriots might have had a competitive advantage, but its effect on the game was about as important to the win as a cash incentive to hit opposing players harder. The Patriots might have broken the rules and deserve to be punished for it. However, it does not tarnish their title. If it does, then the Saints title is tainted as well. The two scandals had the same impact on the outcome of games and, overall, had similar penalties.

I will not remember this as something New England did to beat Indianapolis. I will remember this as a minor scandal that both the league and the team drastically blew out of proportion with the harsh penalty and the unprofessional reaction of both Brady’s agent and Kraft. The Pats certainly deserve the penalty, but not to be remembered as a tainted champion.