NEW YORK, N.Y.- When a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself, would you want your team to pass it up? That opportunity could arise this offseason as Houston Texans franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson is furious at his organization for their handling of the offseason process so far. If this gets to the point of contention to where the only solution is for Watson to play elsewhere next season, how many teams could justify not trading for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback? The answer is just one.
Outside of the Chiefs, every other NFL team should be on the horn with the Texans trying to facilitate a trade to bring in the stud quarterback. Whether it’s because of age, production, or consistency, Watson is an upgrade for every other team outside of Kansas City.
Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Watson. I’m not going to tell you different. Rodgers will most likely win his third MVP award in just a few weeks, so while he gives the Packers a better opportunity to win the Super Bowl this season, the long-term view favors Watson. The former Clemson standout is entering the prime of his career, as he’ll be just 26 years old next season.
If you are Green Bay, would you rather have a Super Bowl window of another year or two with the 37-year-old Rodgers, or would you rather have a decade long window to win a championship with Watson? Don’t forget, the Packers are going to trade the former Cal quarterback within the next two years anyway because they moved up to draft Jordan Love in the first round this past offseason. If you are going to move on sooner rather than later, I’d rather pivot to Watson than an unknown commodity in Love.
Other teams with aging quarterbacks even have less of an argument to hold onto their current starter than the Packers do. Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger, Tampa Bay with Tom Brady, New Orleans with Drew Brees (although I’d be shocked if he does decide to return in 2021) and even Seattle with Russell Wilson all would be better off ditching their guy to bring the current Texan on board. The NFL is about sustained success. Winning a title in the short-term is great, but consistently contending year in and year out is just as important. Watson provides both of those options.
Despite organizational chaos, Watson’s play has stayed consistent throughout his short career, and it’s been consistently good. In the three years he’s been healthy for a full season, Watson has made the Pro Bowl all three times. The former first round pick has been able to keep the ship afloat despite seeing three general managers come and go. Rick Smith, the man who drafted him, stepped away to tend to his ill wife. Brian Gaine took over before he was relieved of his duties after one season. Bill O’Brien was able to wrestle power away and become both the head coach & general manager before he was canned during this past season.
Despite all of the turbulence and turmoil going on in the front office, Watson was still able to stay focused and play at his best. When looking across the league, consistent quarterback play is far from a given. Guys like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo all have had up and down careers. Some have reached highs greater than what Watson has achieved so far, but all have reached lower lows that have led to bad play and questions about their future in some cases. Watson has been more consistent than all of these guys above, another reason why he would be an upgrade for all of those teams.
Finally, we reach the production side of Watson’s game. Not only has he been one of the most dynamic players we’ve seen the past few years, no single caller has done more with less. Heading into the 2020 season, O’Brien thought it would be a savvy business decision to trade away one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and Watson’s security blanket in DeAndre Hopkins for an injury prone running back and a second-round pick. Not only did Watson have one of the best receivers taken away from him, he also had to deal with a Houston rushing attack that was the second worst in the entire league while also getting sacked the second most times of any quarterback in the NFL.
Despite that, Watson had himself a career year. He led the league in passing yards (4,823) and finished second in passer rating behind only Rodgers. Watson threw 33 touchdown passes, a career high, while only tossing seven interceptions, a career low. He also set a career high in completion percentage (70.2%), which was good for third in the league.
How many quarterbacks are having career years after their top weapon was taken away, their run game was nonexistent and their offensive line doubled as a turnstile? From the production perspective, Watson would be an upgrade over Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and even eventual No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence.
Whether it’s the age of Deshaun Watson, his consistent play or his production, 30 out of the 31 teams should be begging the Texans to trade the franchise quarterback to their team. It’s unprecedented to have such a dynamic player at the most important position in sports become available, so when the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself, there’s no excuse to not pull the trigger.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- Can’t. It’s been the operative word used by all of us in 2020 more than we could have ever wanted. “Sorry we can’t come visit this weekend.” “We can’t be inside for too long.” “We can’t do this, and we can’t do that.” The word can’t has long been associated with negativity. But how about we use “can’t” in a positive way? As in when looking at the landscape of the NFC, which team can’t make a run to the Super Bowl?
Through the 12-week mark in the NFL, we have a pretty good idea of who the contenders and pretenders are. In the AFC, the Chiefs and Steelers have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack, while in the NFC, it feels as if each team is only closing the gap on the other. Excluding the winner of the NFC East (for obvious reasons), the other six current playoff teams have a reason why I think they can represent the conference in the Super Bowl and also have a reason why I have pause in hitching my wagons to their postseason success. So let’s dive into each team and layout one reason why they can head to the Super Bowl and one reason why could be watching the big game on their couch.
No. 1 Seed: New Orleans Saints (9-2)
Reason To Believe: Balance.Few teams in the NFL, let alone in the NFC, are this strong on both sides of the ball. While Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara get most of the headlines on offense, this defensive unit can make the case that they are the strength in New Orleans. Through 11 games, the Saints are first in total defense, fifth in pass defense, second in rush defense and are allowing just 20.5 points per game, good enough for fifth in the league. This defense is good enough to slow any offense in the NFC down, which is key when looking at teams like the Seahawks, Packers and Cardinals, who can score on anyone.
Reason(s) To Be Concerned: Drew Brees. This concern is actually two-pronged. Let’s start with his health. Brees suffered 11 rib fractures and a punctured lung stemming from first a hit he sustained back in Week 9 against the Buccaneers before getting crushed again in Week 10 against the 49ers that forced the 20-year veteran to go on injured reserve. He’s eligible to return in Week 14, but there’s been zero updates suggesting that he will indeed play then. At 41-years-old, it’s a waiting game to see when Brees can return and how effective he’ll be.
Assuming he’s healthy and can return in midseason form by the playoffs, there is also some real concern whether the Super Bowl champion can be the reason why the Saints win in the playoffs. The last two postseason runs especially have me concerned that Brees can’t elevate this team in order to get them to the Super Bowl. In the last two years the Saints made the playoffs (three games), Brees has averaged 252.6 passing yards per game, a 93.9 quarterback rating and a 1.6 touchdown/interception ratio. Comparing those recent postseason numbers to his regular season stats in those two seasons, Brees averaged 268 yards per game, a 113.1 quarterback rating and a 6.5 touchdown/interception ratio. The 13-time Pro Bowler has had his own postseason struggles the past few seasons when he’s been healthy. What happens when he’s not 100 percent?
No. 2 Seed: Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
Reason To Believe: The Potential League MVP. The Seahawks will go as far as Russell Wilson will take them, and for most of this season, that’s pretty far. The one-time Super Bowl champion is top 10 in every important statistical category, from touchdown passes (2nd), total passing yards (3rd), QBR (7th) and completion percentage (2nd). The only issue with Wilson’s play has been his sudden propensity to turning the ball over, which peaked in a four-game midseason stretch in which Russ committed 10 total turnovers as Seattle lost three of those games. The good news is that Wilson has been turnover free the last two games, both of which resulted in wins. The connection Wilson has developed with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett has been deadly. The case can be made that Seattle is in the driver’s seat in the NFC with Wilson leading the way.
Reason To Be Concerned: Secondary. The biggest weakness on this team is pass defense. Heading into Week 13, Seattle has allowed the most passing yards per game in the league, surrendering 328.8 passing yards per game. The good news is that the tide is turning since the addition of Carlos Dunlap. The pass rusher from Cincinnati has given this unit a much-needed lift in rushing the passer, which in turn has helped out the secondary.
Since Dunlap’s acquisition, Seattle has allowed only 276.5 passing yards per game. In that same time, the NFC West leaders have recorded 20 sacks compared to just nine in the first six games of the season. Dunlap has given some energy to this defense, which in turn has aided the beleaguered secondary. While it’s trending in the right direction, the offensive firepower that the Saints, Packers, Cardinals and Buccaneers possess can rip this improving unit to shreds.
No. 3 Seed: Green Bay Packers (8-3)
Reason To Believe: The Other Potential League MVP. It’s been well documented how little the Packers did this past offseason to address their biggest need on offense: wide receiver depth. They signed Devin Funchess only for him to opt out of this season while not using any of their nine draft picks to nab a pass catcher. But despite the lack of additions, this Green Bay offense is more explosive and dangerous than the 2019 version that went to the NFC Championship Game. Why? Because Aaron Rodgers is playing his best football in years. After throwing just 26 touchdown passes last season while the team sat at 18th in total offense, Rodgers this season is leading the league with 33 touchdown passes and Green Bay is fourth in total offense. The 16-year veteran signal caller has single-handedly made this team extremely dangerous in the postseason. There is much more potency to this offense in 2020, something defenses will find out the hard way in the playoffs.
Reason To Be Concerned: Same Issue As Last Season. After getting chewed up by the San Francisco 49ers to the like of 285 rushing yards in the NFC Championship game last year, the run defense has still been the Achilles Heel for this team. In their three losses this season, Green Bay has allowed an average of 157 rushing yards per game. While the Packers are average in run defense (14th in rushing yards allowed per game), it’s their inability in key moments to slow down the likes of Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor that have come back to bite them. While most of the contenders in the NFC rely on their passing game, the Cheesehead faithful can’t be too thrilled that their weakness last year, while improved this season, has still cost them games.
No. 5 Seed: Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Reason To Believe: Elite Defense. This side of the ball for Los Angeles has been flat out dominant. Stopping the run? Check. Slowing down the aerial attack? Check. Holding teams out of the end zone? Check. They are second in total defense, third in pass defense, fourth in rush defense and have allowed the fourth fewest points per game. Only once in 11 games has a team scored more than 30 points. This defense can limit any team they face in the playoffs.
Reason To Be Concerned: Inconsistency. Through 12 weeks, the Rams have been consistently inconsistent. The last three weeks perfectly encapsulate this claim. Los Angeles slowed down the Seahawks, holding them to 16 points in a 23-16 win. They followed that up with an impressive 27-24 win on Monday Night Football over the Buccaneers. Then this past week, the Rams lost to a Nick Mullens-led 49ers team at home. Every time this team takes two steps forward, they take one step back. Can Jared Goff and this team play well enough in three consecutive games to be the NFC representative? So far, we haven’t seen anything to believe that answer is yes.
No. 6 Seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
Reason To Believe: Potential. Despite the offensive struggles, this team has the talent to go all the way. Pairing Tom Brady with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski is too much skill to not have success. While the offense is a work in progress, this defense is good enough to keep them in any game. They are the best run defense in the league and while they struggle in pass defense, they were able to hold the high-flying Chiefs offense to just 27 points. If the offense can figure it out, this team will be the hardest out in the playoffs.
Reason To Be Concerned: Continuity. All year long I’ve compared the Buccaneers to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bucs, similar to the Clippers, are using the regular season as a testing ground to see what works with the ultimate goal of playing their best football in January. With just four games remaining until then, Tampa Bay hasn’t provided much to feel confident about. As we saw with the Clippers, having the most talent doesn’t ensure victory. If Bruce Arians and Brady don’t figure out how to get on the same page, the Bucs will be watching someone else enter their house and play for the Lombardi Trophy.
No. 7 Seed: Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
Reason To Believe: Murray Magic. Kyler Murray is one of the most exciting players in 2020 and has taken this offense to a new dimension with the addition of All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. When things are cooking in the desert, Murray is slicing and dicing defenses with both his arm and legs. Murray has thrown for 19 touchdowns while rushing for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. This team at their peak can score on any defense and can do so in a variety of ways.
Reason To Be Concerned: Inexperience. When looking at the landscape of the NFC, what do you notice? Playoff experience. From players like Rodgers, Brady and Wilson to head coaches like Pete Carroll, Sean Payton and Sean McVay, there is loads of experienced professionals who know what it takes to win in the playoffs. The postseason is a different game, where every weakness is magnified, and every tendency is realized. With this being both Kliff Kingsbury and Murray’s first trip to the dance, I worry that their lack of big game seasoning will be the difference as to why they are home like us watching another NFC team battle for the coveted Super Bowl crown.
The final quarter of the season will be as exciting as ever as teams jockey for positioning in a wide-open conference. While my pick is still the Seahawks to represent the NFC in Tampa, there’s a case to be made as to why any of these other five teams can make their own run at history.
The NFL trade deadline has come and gone. While the entire nation sits and waits while election results continue to count, we present the final look at Week eight.
Five Interesting Stats – NFL Week Eight
Jets Tie Worst Start in Franchise History Culminating with the Jets 35-9 loss at Kansas City, Gang Green tied the franchise record for most losses to start the season. Overall, the Jets are 21-51 since the start of the 2016 season. Another ringing indictment is how poorly Adam Gase adjusts his game plan. In the first half, the Jets moved the ball well in each of the last two games. The numbers drop drastically in the second half.
New York Jets Offensive Drives
Last 2 Games
Total Net Yards (Includes Penalty Yards)
Chargers Continue to Invent Ways to Lose The Los Angeles Chargers are certainly putting their fans through excruciating losses in 2020. Sunday marked the fourth time the Chargers blew a double-digit lead. Drew Lock’s GW TD pass to KJ Hamler with no time remaining, marked the third time Los Angeles allowed a game-winning or game-tying score in the final minute in 2020.
Chargers Blown Leads
vs Kansas City
Lost, 23-20 (OT)
at Tampa Bay
at New Orleans
Lost, 30-27 (OT)
>>allowed score in final minute
Steelers Tie Best Start in Franchise History The Steelers 28-24 victory at Baltimore helped them remain the only undefeated team in the NFL. Their 7-0 start matches the 1978 Super Bowl Champions for the best in franchise history, who finished 14-2.
Team Comparison, 1st 7 Games
Total Point Diff.
Yards PG Diff.
>>Best Start in Franchise History
Steelers Part 2 – Winning Ugly The Steelers victory on Sunday came despite registering a season-low 221 total offensive yards and 50 offensive plays. Since the merger, the Steelers are 4-17 when their offense produces such numbers.
Steelers Offensive Production, Regular Season
Fewer than 221 yards and 50 plays
Previous Win (Prior to Sunday)
11/06/05 at GB, 23-10
>>Regular Season Games, Since Merger
Rams Can’t Explain This Loss
Against the Miami Dolphins, the Los Angeles Rams defense allowed 145 yards and eight first downs. Since the merger, the Rams entered Sunday 9-1 when holding opponents to those totals. The Rams point differential in those ten previous games was +236.
The Rams 28-17 loss at Miami marked the second time since the merger they lost a game when holding opponents to such totals. Their other loss came on October 28, 2013, 14-9 hosting Seattle.
Rams Defense, Regular Season
Allow 145 yds & 8 1st Downs or Fewer
Prior to Sunday
Total Points Allowed
>>Included Seven Shutouts (Since Merger)
The Rams also outgained Miami 471-145, a difference of 326. Since the merger, the Rams were 5-0 prior to Sunday when such a drastic difference occured. Three of those wins came by shutout, while their point differential in those contests was +177.
As the days turn darker, so make the minds of many NFL fans. Week Six in the NFL saw further separation from the phonies to phenomenal as the season nears the halfway point.
Saying goodbye to Week Six and hello to Week Seven brings us another entry into Five Interesting Stats. (*courtesy of NFL.com research).
Big Ben Owns Browns – Ben Roethlisberger improved to 13-0 at home in his career against Cleveland. Roethlisberger’s 22 TD in those 13 games featured winning 11 of them by double-digits.
Career at home vs Cleveland
Steelers Double-Digit Wins
Jimmy Doesn’t Lose Twice in a Row – After a poor performance against the Dolphins in Week Five, Jimmy Garappolo and San Francisco rebounded against the Rams. Garappolo threw for 268 yards and three TD passes in the Niners 24-16 victory. In his career, Garappolo improved to 6-0 with a 72 percent completion percentage and 16 TD in the ensuing game following a loss.
Career following a loss
The Lock of the Broncos – *In Denver’s 18-12 victory over Bill Belichick’s Patriots in New England, QB Drew Lock threw two INTs. Lock joined Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner (11/18/01) as the only QB to throw multiple INT and win a road game against Belichick’s Patriots.
Opposing QB with multiple INT
Won at NE in Belichick Era
Drew Lock, DEN
Kurt Warner, STL
Seahawks Undefeated – Russell Wilson and Seattle did not play in Week Six, as they place their perfect record on the line against Arizona this Sunday. Despite starting 5-0, the Seahawks allow the most yards ( and own the smallest point differential of any previous team to start 5-0.
Most Yards Allowed
Teams to Start 5-0 Since Merger
2020 Seattle Seahawks
2018 Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Denver Broncos
2011 Green Bay Packers
Oh, Henry! – Titans RB Derrick Henry continued his exceptional season, running for 212 yards and two TD in the Titans 42-36 OT win against Houston. In his last eight games (postseason included), Henry has 1,176 yards rushing and ten rushing TD. Sunday’s game marked the second straight game Henry rushed for over 200 yards against Houston over that span.
Saying goodbye to each NFL week with our latest edition of “Five Interesting Stats” during COVID is one thing that emotes positive feelings in a difficult year.
Here are five interesting notes to close out Week Four in the NFL.
Dak Prescott makes history again, but the Cowboys lose again.
Prescott’s thrown for 450 or more yards in three straight games (NFL record).
1,424 passing yards is the most for any three-game span in NFL history.
Cowboys Defense Suffering Through a Historical Implosion.
Set the team record for most points allowed over a three-game span with 126.
Allowed 38 points in three straight games for the first time since 1960.
Last Three Games
Cowboys 1-2 in those games
Tom Brady sets another NFL record
Brady threw for five TD in the Buccaneers win over the Chargers on Sunday. Brady (43 years, 62 days) passed Warren Moon (40 years, 342 days) as the oldest QB in NFL history to do so. All five of Brady’s TD’s went to different receivers.
Most Times Throwing 5 TD
SIngle Game, NFL History
W-L in Games
Those Little Town Blues
The New York Jets and Giants are both 0-4 in the same season for the second time since the merger. In 1976 both teams started 0-4 and finished their seasons 3-11.
Atlanta Defense is Historically Bad (Just like Dallas).
The Falcons are off to their first 0-4 start since 1999 (the year after they advanced to the Super Bowl). Their defense is the main culprit, as their 1,793 yards allowed in their first four games is a franchise record for most allowed in the first four games of the season.
The NFL begins Week Four of the 2020 season in New York, as the Jets host the Broncos.
Both teams off to 0-3 starts
The Jets started 0-3 for the ninth time in 2020, while Denver did so for just the fourth time (since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970). Both teams started 0-4 in 2019.
Not many. Both teams possess pitiful offenses. The Jets rank 32, and 30 in points scored and yards, while the Broncos rank 30th in points and 29th in yards.
The Jets -325 yard differential is the worst in the NFL, as is their -7 TD differential. Sam Darnold and Jeff Driskel both rank 31st among QB in Pro Football Focus with a 54.4 rating.
The Broncos failure to protect Driskel could cost them if the Jets can generate a consistent pass rush. Driskel’s 78 dropbacks generated 11 sacks for the opposition, while the Broncos rank fifth-worst in the NFL in QB pressure (31 percent of dropbacks).
Judging both teams through three games, look for this game to be decided on a turnover. I predict the Jets will force Driskel into a mistake, providing the deciding score.
Jets 17 Broncos 13
The only previous time the Jets and Broncos played on Thursday night, Tim Tebow ran for the game-winning score with 58 seconds remaining. Denver started on their five-yard line and went 95 yards in 12 plays culminating in Tebow’s 20-yard TD run.
Overall, Denver holds a 20-16-1 lead in the series. The Jets won the last meeting 34-16 at the Meadowlands in 2018. Sam Darnold threw for 3 TD in the victory.