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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Who takes over after Brady?

I hate to break it to you Patriots fans, but Tom Brady can’t play forever. The legendary New England quarterback is in his 16th year in the league, and while he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, at age 39, you have to think he will be looking to hang up those cleats in the next 2-3 years.

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Brady surpassed Peyton Manning’s record of 200 career wins this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

With Brady being the undisputed (or as close as you can ever get to undisputed in sports) best quarterback in the league, his eventual retirement will open the door for someone else to take that crown.

Brady represents the end of a very dominant era, where he and Peyton Manning rewrote the record books practically every year. They squared off in some of the most memorable games of the last decade and consistently drew in viewers whenever the two matched up. Manning is already gone and with Brady set to follow in the near future, who exactly will step up to fill the void.

It is kind of hard to say. The iconic 2004 draft class of quarterbacks featuring Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers likely still have a few more years in them. However, Rivers turned 35 today, Roethlisberger will be 35 in March and Eli Manning turns 36 in January. That group likely won’t be around for a whole lot longer to constitute an era or start an awe-inspiring rivalry. Most of their time in the league will be remembered as part of the legendary Brady-Peyton era.

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers has an MVP award and a Super Bowl ring to his name since taking over for Brett Favre in Green Bay. (Wikimedia Commons)

You next look to Aaron Rodgers, who joined the league in 2005. Rodgers just turned 33 last week, so he might be able to hang around a little longer than the three I just mentioned. However, he might have already started showing signs of slowing down with his rocky start to 2016. I could see Rodgers having a three-year run as the unquestioned top signal-caller. He might be the best-suited to succeed Brady in the short term. Keep in mind that even though this is his 12th NFL season, Rodgers did not start his first three years in the league, so he might have a bit more left in the tank than we think.

After Rodgers, well I’m kind of stuck. Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, but approaching 38, I’m not expecting him to take over. Carson Palmer is on his way out as well. As will Alex Smith.

There is an interesting crop of three quarterbacks that offer some intrigue. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton all bring a lot to the table. All three of them are 28 years old or younger, all three are rather mobile and all three have the ability to take over a football game.

The major knocks against Newton are his ball security and his completion percentage. For his career, Newton sits at around 59 percent through almost 6 seasons. While he may be a huge asset with his legs, he is prone to fumbling and trying to do too much with the ball, often leading to mistakes. Another big red flag is that despite tossing 35 touchdowns in 2015, it is the only season he has thrown more than 25 scores. This year, he has just 14 through 12 games. Those numbers don’t exactly scream elite.

Luck was named the heir apparent to the NFL quarterback throne around his junior year of college. He started with two solid campaigns, followed by an outstanding 2014, only to fall into a weird funk for the last year and a half. 2015 was a lost season for Luck as he only played 7 games and likely played all of them hurt. The big knock against him has to be his lackluster completion percentage, which is only fractionally better than Newton’s. He also has a tendency for interceptions, with 63 picks in 66 career games. Part of that is due to the amount of pressure he faces. Luck is the most sacked quarterback in the league despite missing a game already this year. Luck is actually trending up after the last few weeks we’ve seen him play. Even though he has a poor supporting cast, Luck has failed to live up to Manning-sized expectations laid on him back in 2012.

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Wilson has already played in two Super Bowls, winning one. (Wikimedia Commons)

Then there is Wilson. He already has a Super Bowl ring. Point all you want to a great run game and defense, but that’s a good chunk of why Brady got his first three rings. Of these three, he seems the most poised to take the throne. Wilson has only 39 interceptions in 72 career games. He is closing in on his second consecutive 4,000-yard season and his career completion percentage is around 65 percent. However, when Wilson is off, he is really off. In Seattle’s three losses this year, he has thrown zero touchdowns, three picks and has a yards per attempt average under 6.5. If I had to pick someone long term when it comes to taking up the quarterback mantel, it would be Wilson. He already has that championship background and I could see him getting more.

And he might just have a West Coast rival to deal with as well. There are a number of intriguing young quaterbacks in the league right now in Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott. Long term, we might see a really fun rivalry between Prescott and Wentz, both being in the NFC East. However, there is one young quarterback that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Derek Carr
Carr was the fourth quarterback in the 2014 draft, but looks to be the best one selected that year. (Wikimedia Commons)

Derek Carr is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season. At only 25 years old, Carr has been lighting up NFL defenses all year long. He launched 32 touchdown passes a year ago, in just his second NFL season and threw for just shy of 4,000 yards. This year though, Carr is set to break that 4,000-yard mark and throw for close to 32 touchdowns again. What is more impressive though is the increased completion percentage and absence of turnovers. The young Raiders quarterback has only thrown five interceptions this year and raised his completion percentage four plus points to a healthy 65.5 percent. This is just one year for Carr, but based on the jump he has made in each of his first two seasons, I am beginning to think that this kid is for real.

I would be remiss not to mention Matt Ryan in this conversation. Ryan is in the midst of a career year at age 31. He is on pace to set career highs in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and yards per attempt as well as set a personal best for fewest interceptions thrown. If Carr is considered an MVP candidate, Ryan certainly has to be in the mix. He currently sits second in passing yards and passer rating, third in touchdowns, fourth in completion percentage and leads the league in yards per attempt. Given that he has a host of offensive weapons and a young offensive line, Ryan is set to play at a high level for the next several years. The tough thing is figuring out if 2016 is an anomaly based on his normal level of play or a sign of things to come. Also, if Brady hangs on for three more years, Ryan will already be 34 himself and running out of time to capture the league’s attention.

The world without Brady is kind of hazy and there is no telling if we will ever see the type of rivalry we saw between he and Manning. The league seems to be running out of elite quarterbacks, but we will have to wait and see who steps up to the plate in the next few years.

NFL Preseason Award Predictions

It’s that time of year again. Where we can all pretend to being doing work while actually setting our fantasy football lineups. The NFL season is about to kickoff.

This time of year also means it is time for me to (probably incorrectly) predict the 2016 NFL award winners. Prepare for a couple of dark horse candidates.

NCAA Football: National Championship-Ohio State vs Oregon
Elliott was the highest drafted running back since Trent Richardson in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)

Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Dallas
Let’s start with an easier one. Put the best running back from the 2016 draft class behind arguably the best offensive line in the league and he is bound to be successful. Tony Romo’s injury probably helps Ezekiel Elliott’s chances even more as he will likely be leaned on more than if Romo was on the field. This kid might end up with 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, as a rookie.

Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Xavien Howard, Cornerback, Miami
This might be a bit of a headscratcher for some, but Xavien Howard is in the best position to make his presence felt early and often. Starting alongside Byron Maxwell, Howard likely won’t draw the top receiver on each team, but he will be on the field to make plays. Joey Bosa would have been a likely candidate here, but well, I’m sure you know by now…

Offensive Player of the Year:
Todd Gurley, Running Back, Los Angeles
Le’Veon Bell continues to miss out on this award with his suspensions, which opens the door for the second year bruiser, Todd Gurley. He won’t be a huge asset in the passing game, but he will likely carry the Rams offense for most of the 2016 season. Case Kennum, Sean Mannion and Jared Goff probably won’t be lighting up the score board, so expect Gurley to have a monster season.

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Mack is the only player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at two different positions. (Wikimedia Commons)

Defensive Player of the Year:
Khalil Mack, Defensive End, Oakland
J.J. Watt will likely start the season for Houston, but he is not going to be at full strength coming off surgery. That means Khalil Mack gets his shot at taking the award. Mack had 15 sacks and 77 tackles in just his second year as a pro in 2015. He has become a disruptive force in the NFL and moves fluidly between the defensive line and linebacking core. Oakland has also added some other pieces around Mack in the form of Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin, which means he will have even more opportunities to make explosive plays. If Mack manages to take another step forward in his development, he could be threatening some records this year.

Comeback Player of the Year:
Jamaal Charles, Running Back, Kansas City
This is definitely a risky pick. Jamaal Charles will turn 30 in December and he is coming off his second major knee injury of his career. However, Charles has never more than 285 carries in a season and is not a volume touch player. He is very effective when he gets the ball, averaging 5.5 yards per carry in his career. Look for Charles to hit the 1,000 yard rushing mark and score at least 10 total touchdowns in 2016.

Coach of the Year:
Andy Reid, Kansas City
Another member of the Chiefs’ organization taking an award. Kansas City has been a solid team for the last few years, but this year, Andy Reid has his team set to win the division and possibly earn a buy into the divisional round of the playoffs. A strong defense and a reliable running game is how Reid has built this team, and it will carry them to a division title and another playoff appearance.

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Wilson has led Seattle to the playoffs in each of his four seasons. (Wikimedia Commons)

Most Valuable Player:
Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle
Saving the best for last. At this point, the MVP award just goes to a quarterback. Adrian Peterson is the only non-quarterback in the past 10 years to win the award and he rushed for over 2,000 yards that season. In Seattle, the ground game is as uncertain as it has maybe ever been and Russell Wilson just continues to grow as a passer. In 2015, he tossed 34 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions and threw for over 4,000 yards. That doesn’t include anything he did with his legs either. Wilson accomplished all of that with a porous offensive line that got better this offseason. Look for the former third round pick to snag his first MVP award this year.

 

2012 NFL Redraft

Colts logoIndianapolis- Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford
The top pick in the draft stays the same four years later. Luck had an injury riddled 2015 season, but the Colts would be average at best without him.

Washington made up logoWashington- Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Wisconsin
Washington still elects to take a mobile quarterback at number two, just a different one. Odds are Wilson would not have had the same amount of success as he did in Seattle, but Washington would have the quarterback position solved for the next ten years.

Browns logoCleveland- Luke Keuchley, Middle Linebacker, Boston College
Cleveland ignores all of the talk about Keuchley not being athletic enough and take him at three instead of Trent Richardson. The Browns’ defense instantly gets better and gives Head Coach Pat Schumur a great piece to pair with D’Qwell Jackson.

Vikings logoMinnesota- Matt Kalil, Offensive Tackle, USC
Like Indy, Minnesota replicates its 2012 pick. Kalil hasn’t been always consistent but he has been great at times for the Vikings and continues to start for them today.

Jaguars logoJacksonville- Alshon Jeffrey, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
Instead of wasting a top five pick on a receiver with off the field issues, Jacksonville picks a slam dunk wide out instead in Jeffrey. Blaine Gabbert looks a whole lot better throwing to this big target, but still gets replaced in 2014.

Cowboys logoDallas- Josh Norman, Cornerback, Coastal Carolina
Jerry Jones originally picked Morris Claiborne here, but after several seasons of failing to take hold, Dallas moves on. Instead, Norman comes in and develops nicely into a shutdown corner for the Cowboys.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay- Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame
Mark Barron was a decent player for the Buccaneers, but Harrison Smith would have been even better. Smith might not put up huge interception numbers, but he is one of the most reliable safeties in the league.

Dolphins logoMiami- Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback, Texas A&M
There are some who would say Miami should have made a different selection. However, Tannehill has been solid and plays better than anyone else the Dolphins had on their roster in 2012. And we know they aren’t taking RG3 in the top ten.

Panthers logoCarolina- T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver, Florida International
With Keuchley off the board, Carolina has to improvise. They take the speedy Hilton to give second-year quarterback another weapon alongside Steve Smith.

Bills logoBuffalo- Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina
With the defensive line already set, Buffalo addresses corner again. Gilmore has been a solid starter for the Bills over the last four years. No need to change that.

Chiefs LogoKansas City- Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Memphis
The run of repeat picks continues here with Kansas City plugging up the middle of their defense with Poe.

Eagles LogoPhiladelphia- Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State
He has started every game over the past three season and registered 9.5 sacks last year. The Eagles would be smart to pick Cox again.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Arizona- Bobby Wagner, Middle Linebacker, Utah State
Wagner does a little bit of everything. He is good in pass coverage, defends well against the run and even rushes the passer on occasion. Plugging him in to replace the aging Paris Lenon prepares this Cardinals defense for the future.

Rams logoSt. Louis- Michael Brockers, Defensive Tackle, LSU
He might not be fast or put up great numbers, but Brockers is a handful for offensive lineman to deal with. His ability to eat up blocks makes the Rams defense click and gives guys like Chris Long and Robert Quinn an opportunity to get to the quarterback.

Seahawks logoSeattle- Chandler Jones, Defensive End, Syracuse
Pete Carroll misses out on stealing Russell Wilson, but Jones would be a nice upgrade over Bruce Irvin. Let’s see how the Legion of Boom does with him rushing the passer.

Jets logoJets- Damon Harrison, Defensive Tackle, William Penn
Quinton Coples was a bust in New York, so the Jets take a defensive tackle instead to bolster their line. Harrison turns out to be a huge steal or the Jets after they sign him as an undrafted free agent.

Bengals LogoCincinnati- Vontaze Burfict, Middle Linebacker, Arizona State
Another undrafted rookie ends up going in the first round and to the team that later signed him. Burfict lead Cincy in tackles as a rookie and hasn’t looked back.

Chargers logoSan Diego- Whitney Mercilus, Defensive End, Illinois
The Chargers needed defenisve help and they get it here in the form of Mercilus. He has been the other half of the Houston wrecking crew, opposite J.J. Watt. San Diego could use a little bit of that.

Bears logoChicago- Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
The Bears needed to give quarterback Jay Cutler a new target and Floyd becomes exactly that. He fits in nicely opposite Brandon Marshall, giving Chicago a solid tandem at receiver.

Titans logoTennessee- David DeCastro, Offensive Guard, Stanford
DeCastro goes one pick sooner in the redraft, as Tennessee decide to pass on Kendall Wright. Instead, they bolster the offensive line while Chris Johnson and second-year quarterback Jake Locker try to jumpstart the offense.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logoPittsburgh- Kevin Zietler, Offensive Guard, Wisconsin
As a result of DeCastro going, Pittsburgh takes the next best guard available. The Steelers desperately needed line help to protect Ben Roethlisberger and Zietler has been a solid piece of the division rival Bengals’ line since he was drafted.

Patriots LogoNew England- Dont’a Hightower, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
With Chandler Jones off the board, New England settles for the guy they took later in this round. Hightower has been a rock for the Patriots defense since he entered the league.

Browns logoCleveland- Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Michigan State
I really thought about making this RG3, but Cousins has shown signs of being the better option over the last four years. He finally hit his stride in year four, throwing for over 4,000 yards.

Lions LogoDetroit- Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
He certainly hasn’t been perfect, but the Lions need someone to protect Matt Stafford’s blindside. Reiff has started since day one in Detroit. No reason to change this pick.

Patriots LogoNew England- Doug Martin, Running Back, Boise State
This time around, Martin is the first running back off the board. New England always loves drafting versatile running backs. After a year or two though, Martin would likely take over the lead role in this backfield.

Texans logoHouston- Lavonte David, Outside Linebacker, Nebraska
The Texans went defense initially in 2012, but with Mercilus off the board already, they nab the former Cornhusker David. He might not be the pass rusher Mercilus was for Houston, but he is a tackling machine.

Bengals LogoCincinnati- Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback, North Alabama
Originally, the Bengals selected Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th pick, but with Jenkins emerging as a solid number one corner, Cincinnati would much rather take him. Jenkins soon takes over the starting role for the aging Terrance Newman.

Packers logoGreen Bay- Lamar Miller, Running Back, Miami
You are probably thinking, well what about Eddie Lacy? Lacy was still in college and the Packers needed help in the backfield. Miller ends what had been a carosel of running backs starting the year before.

Vikings logoMinnesota- Tashaun Gipson, Safety, Wyoming
Harrison Smith got taken much earlier this time around, but Minnesota still needs help in the secondary. Gipson has turned into a very good safety in his time with both Cleveland and Denver.

49ers LogoSan Francisco- Olivier Vernon, Defensive End, Miami
A.J. Jenkins was a bust. Justin Smith turned 33 in 2012. The 49ers create a contingency plan for when he leaves and look to find receiver help later in the draft.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay- Alfred Morris, Running Back, Florida Atlantic
With Doug Martin off the board, Tampa takes the next best running back they can get in Alfred Morris. He completely fell off with Washington this year, but he has a couple of great seasons already under his belt.

Giants LogoGiants- Mychal Kendricks, Middle Linebacker, California
New York has needed to address the need at linebacker for years now. Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley were serviceable at best. Kendricks can come in a make a big difference in the pass coverage right away and provides a boost to the run defense.

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Seattle tried to fix what wasn’t broken

Jimmy_Graham
Graham joined the Seahawks this offseason after five years in New Orleans.

On paper, it seemed like it would boost them to another level. No one would be able to touch the Seahawks after adding Jimmy Graham.

Fast forward a few months and Seattle finds themselves on the losing end of a game with the Rams in which the defending NFC champions they allowed Russell Wilson to be sacked six times. On a critical fourth and one, the offensive line got absolutely no push and Marshawn Lynch was stopped in the backfield. In the process of trying to elevate their offense to another level, the Seahawks created a whole new issue.

Max_Unger
Unger was elected to the Pro Bowl twice in his five years with the Seahawks.

Landing Graham was a big addition but it completely gutted the offensive line. As part of the deal, Seattle had to send All-Pro center Max Unger and a first round pick to the Saints. Remember also that left guard James Carpenter left this offseason in free agency and right tackle Breno Giacomini hit the road a year earlier. Suddenly, Seattle only has two of its offensive linemen that won the Super Bowl in 2014.

These problems should not come as a surprise to the Seattle front office either. The Seahawks have been great at finding the next man up to fill the void but that can only work so often. They rolled out a very inexperienced line. Center Drew Nowak made his first career start. Right tackle Gary Gillman made his second. Justin Britt entered only his second season as the starter. Everyone has to get their first start at some point but usually you don’t throw that many inexperienced players out to play at once and expect a good result.

Now, they look like a team without an identity on offense, stuck between wanting to join the vertical passing trend and sticking to their hard-nose grind it out approach they’ve had for the last five years. It has created a difficult situation for Seattle’s offense.

Between all four preseason games and the season opener, the Seahawks’ offensive line has allowed 20 sacks. That’s an average of four sacks a game and that doesn’t even take into account how many other times Wilson gets hit. Sure, the preseason does not count but more often than not, those tendencies you see in the preseason can continue to persist come the regular season.

Graham, over the course of the season, should prove to do well over the course of the season but not enough to justify dismantling the offensive line. I also don’t think Graham will ever be as effective as he was in a Saints uniform.

In addition to trading away Unger, Seattle could have spent that pick to improve their line even further with players like Nick Morse, Donovan Smith and Jake Fischer still on the board at number 31. Even if they weren’t starters, they could end up with some good line depth. Especially with Gillman listed as questionable heading into the season. The only depth they have is the inconsistent Alvin Bailey. Had they gone that route, we would be looking at the Seahawks offensive line as a strength rather than a weakness.

Russell_Wilson
Wilson signed a four-year $87.6 million contract this offseason.

Over time, this offensive line can develop some chemistry and gain confidence. This was not the start they needed or one that should have happened. Seattle did not have a proper contingency plan in place to deal with these major losses. Instead, they brought in Graham, who does not fit the system at all. On top of that, the Seahawks just invested a ton of money in Wilson, but what good is that if he consistently finds himself on his back. Wilson is definitely mobile enough to avoid the pressure but he cannot be counted to do that on every play.

The Seahawks panicked after the Super Bowl and tried to make a major change. If you ask me, Seattle just greatly shortened their championship window. Marshawn Lynch probably won’t play more than another two years in the league and now Seattle is trying to recreate their offensive line rather than making that push to win another title.

The saying goes though, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. Clearly that wasn’t something John Schneider heard enough in Seattle.