Wondering How Not to Call Plays on Offense? Let Me Introduce You to the Chargers.

It’s Monday Night Football. One of football’s grandest stages for decades. Your team is at the Superdome giving Drew Brees and Sean Payton all they can handle. And you’re doing it with a rookie quarterback making only his fourth NFL start. What could possibly go wrong? Well, if you’re the Chargers, you might want to look at the playcaller.

To listen to the full episode, click here.

This is What It Can Be Like When You Have an Adult in the Room, Cleveland.

The Cleveland Browns are 4-1. Let that sink in for a moment. Take a sip of coffee (or gin). Seriously — the Browns are 4-1. And what’s more is they look like a team and an organization that has a plan. I hope you’re paying attention Detroit…..New York…..Jacksonville. If it can happen for the Browns, there’s hope for everyone!! Here’s why Cleveland is in such a nice position right now. (Get the full STC podcast, Ep. 311, right here.)

The Washington Football Team Benches Dwayne Haskins and Turns to Kyle Allen In Hopes of Saving Their Season

Oh, the joys of playing in the NFC East. With one win on the year, the Washington Football Team finds themselves a measly half-game out of first place, behind the 1-2-1 Philadelphia Eagles. So in an attempt to save their year, head coach Ron Rivera and company are turning to back-up quarterback Kyle Allen over former first round pick Dwayne Haskins.

Here’s a clip from episode 309 of the Sports Talk Center podcast. You can listen to the full show here.

We’re All in Quarantine So Here’s an NFL Mock Draft

Here it is: my first NFL Mock draft of the year. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. But, hey, we’re all stuck inside so you can at least humor me and give it a read.

1.  Bengals

It’s simple — the Bengals need a franchise quarterback. And no QB had quite the season that Joe Burrow experienced at LSU.

The PICK: Joe Burrow, LSU, QB

2. Redskins

If Washington wanted to move on from Dwayne Haskins, I wouldn’t totally blame them. However, the old coaching staff is gone — and they may have been partly to blame why Haskins’ rookie campaign wasn’t great. Add to the D-Line, though. This should be simple, too.

The PICK: Chase Young, Ohio St., edge

3. Lions

This could be where the draft gets interesting. If a QB-hungry team wants Tua, the Lions could make out like bandits. But for Detroit, pair newly-acquired Desmond Trufant with another skilled CB.

The PICK: Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio St., CB

4. Giants

General manager Dave Gettleman loves the big guys in the trenches. You also have Daniel Jones — and you better protect him.

The PICK: Tristan Wirfs, IOWA, OT

5. Dolphins

The Fins (with their three first round selections) are certainly prime candidates to trade up to get a QB.

The PICK: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, QB

6. Chargers

L.A. made a handful of moves in free agency and started shoring up the offensive line. Now they just need a quarterback to replace Phil Rivers.

The PICK: justin Herbert, Oregon, QB

7. Panthers

Owner David Tepper is exercising patience and is trusting new head coach Matt Rhule to rebuild this team carefully. Rhule loves athletes — maybe one to replace retired Luke Kuechly is the way he’ll go.

The PICK: Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, LB

8. Cardinals

After Bill O’Brien and the Texans gave away DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals must be feeling pretty good. They add a true number 1 wideout before the draft and can now focus in on protecting last year’s number one overall pick, Kyler Murray.

The PICK: mekhi Becton, Louisville, OT

9. Jaguars

The Jags need help everywhere. What was once a very tenacious and nasty defense just a couple years ago, there is now some major replenishing to do.

The PICK: Derrick Brown, Auburn, DT

10. Browns

Cleveland sure has been busy in free agency. Will it translate on the field in 2020? Who knows. But now the Browns biggest hole is at linebacker, and they can get a real good one at 10.

The PICK: Patrick Queen, LSU, LB

11. Jets

Two ways to go here, as I see it. One — get Sam Darnold a stud of a WR who defenses will have to account for every week. Or, two, protect your young investment.

The PICK: Jedrick Wills, Alabama, OT

12. Raiders

Jon Gruden and Mike Manock teamed up in last year’s draft to select almost the entire Clemson and Alabama rosters. Let’s keep the trend goin in a major position of need.

The PICK: jerry Jeudy, Alabama, WR

13. 49ers

The 49ers need a WR to replace Emmanuel Sanders. A versatile offensive lineman is certainly in play here too, but I’m not sure one will be available. Ans CB might be too early. This is a tough spot. But tell me Henry Ruggs in Kyle Shanahan’s offense wouldn’t be fun to watch — and borderline unfair.

The PICK: Henry Ruggs, Alabama, WR

14. Bucanneers

Having Tom Brady on your team requires supporting in and keeping him upright. Can’t have that $50 million in guaranteed money go down because you can’t block for him.

The PICK: Andrew Thomas, Georgia, OT

15. Broncos

Adding some more studs on that defensive line would please head coach Vic Fangio.

The PICK: Javon Kinlaw, Florida, DT

16. Falcons

The pass defense needs help in Atlanta. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go pass rusher or corner here.

The PICK: C.J. Henderson, Florida, CB

17. Cowboys

The Coboys could use an impact player coming off the edge.

The PICK: K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU, EDGE

18. Dolphins

Lots of holes to fill in Miami. And while they did a nice job early in free agency securing some nice players, depth is critical. Pass rusher from Iowa looks to have Brian Flores written all over him.

The PICK: A.J. Epenesa, Iowa, Edge

19. Raiders

Stick with what works. Go get another Nick Saban kid.

The PICK: Trevon Diggs, Alabama, CB

20. Jaguars

Jacksonville could keep rebuilding the defense and no one could fault them. But piecing a good line back in front of Gardner Minshew should also be a priority.

The PICK: Joshua Jones, Houston, OT

21. Eagles

Now that they got Darius Slay from the Lions, the Eagles can fully turn their attention to getting Carson Wentz some true talent to throw to.

The PICK: ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma, WR

22. Vikings

Excellent haul the Vikings got for Stefon Diggs in the trade to Buffalo. Now, Minnesota can start adding much needed pieces back to that defense. (Replacing Diggs can wait.)

The PICK: Xavier McKinney, Alabama, s

23. Patriots

Yes, Tom Brady is gone, but there’s no need to go jumping blindly at the first QB that you see here. Instead, understand the Patriots lost both Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy from that linebacking corps. Bill Belichick loves having trustworthy, smart, and versatile linebackers

The PICK: Zack Baun, Wisconsin, LB

24. Saints

The Saints will want to re-invest in the defensive backfield this offseason. Getting younger and cheaper in the draft should be the way to go.

The PICK: Kristian Fulton, lsu, CB

25. Vikings

The defense needs help, but the Vikings also need to protect Kirk Cousins. They just re-upped his deal so keeping him healthy is critical to their championship window remaining open.

The PICK: Ezra Cleveland, Boise St., G/T

26. Dolphins

Miami grabbed its QB of the future at 5. Now protect him.

The PICK: Austin Jackson, USC, OT

27. Seahawks

The Seahawks seem to be letting Jadaveon Clowney walk so adding a pass rusher makes sense.

The PICK: Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn St., EDGE

28. Ravens

Smart teams make smart moves — and they also seem to have things fall right in their laps.

The PICK: Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma, LB

29. Titans

Tennessee had a great deal of free agents and had to let some walk. The defensive backfield has been a strong suit of the Titans lately — now it’s definitely an area of need.

The PICK: Damon Arnette, Ohio St., CB

30. Packers

Listen, I know – death, taxes, and the Green Bay Packers never take a wide receiver in the first round. I get it. But they also never used to be active in free agency. It’s a new day in Lambeau!

The PICK: Jalen Reagor, TCU, WR

31. 49ers

SF could use some depth at the backend of that defense.

The PICK: Grant Delpit, LSU, S

32. Chiefs

Picking here, certainly opens a team up for trading back. If they stay, Chiefs easily add depth to an already stacked team. Add big bodies to protect Patrick Mahomes is never ever a bad thing.

The PICK: Lloyd Cushonberry, LSU, C/G

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 152 (“NFL Free Agency Frenzy and KylerMurray/Draft Buzz”) right here:

The Juiciest 2020 Free Agent Quarterback Landing Spots

This offseason free agent market involves some of the bigger names at the quarterback position than we’ve seen in quite some time. So there’s quality, but there’s also quantity. Eight QBs who started NFL games last year are on this Spring’s market, and upwards of half a dozen 2019 starters are expected to either be traded or candidates for roster cuts. This sort of offseason movement is really unprecedented in the NFL, unlike basketball or baseball where player movement is a regular — and expected — occurrence during the off months. Now, it’s true, NFL players have used the power they have in the CBA to switch teams when they’re disgruntled or sit out portions of the regular season, usually when they are unhappy with their contract situation and feel the team hasn’t treated them appropriately.  But, typically, the quarterback position is not one where a terrible amount of this happens. Other than the rare Eli Manning refusing to go to the Chargers on Draft Day or John Elway making sure he never played a down for the Colts, quarterbacks don’t often get to free agency — well, good ones don’t. And great ones can only dream.

But this offseason brings about a different feeling with the position. A dozen or so QBs will either be hitting the market as free agents or they will be on the chopping block of sorts with their current teams — all for various different reasons. And what makes this fun is that many are going to move. That’s the thing — good QBs often never see free agency because their teams are smart enough to lock them up before it ever happens. Not this year, though — but this year is complicated. Tom Brady isn’t hitting the free agency market for the first time in his 20 year career because the Patriots don’t think he’s good. There are other factors — obviously. Phllip Rivers — same thing. The Chargers didn’t;t all of a sudden think Rivers was terrible and unable to lead that team, whose roster is chalk full of talent. It was just time to go in a another direction. Go on down the list of QB free agents and you’ll see nothing is cut and dry — with each one, there are a specific set of unusual circumstances that have led the player and the team to the spot we’re in today.

Let’s lay some ground rules — and it’s simple: players cannot return to their current teams. So if this is supposed to be fun, let’s make it fun. Let’s look at the tastiest, the juiciest landing spots for all the top quarterback free agents, as well as some of the QBs who’s names are being bandied about in trade talks and roster cut-downs.

Tom Brady

You talk to 5 people and they’ll give you 5 different teams where Brady ends up playing next year. But if we’re talking juicy, what’s juicier than TB12 taking the helm of the Indianapolis Colts in the House That Peyton Built? It’s a really nice team with a great offensive line, solid head coach, and a ton of cash to spend on getting Bray the weapons he so dearly covets. So this one is juicy, but also realistic. Factor in the decade-plus of Pats-Colts rivalry, Deflategate, and Josh McDaniels spurning Jim Irsay to remain in Foxboro and this couldn’t be a tastier treat.

Drew Brees

I know Brees has announced he’s not only returning for the 2020 season, but he wants to do so in New Orleans. But in the spirit of our game, imagine the Saints say, “Thanks, but we’ll go elsewhere.” How about Brees going to the team that he was a good medical evaluation away from signing with when he left San Diego oh so long ago? The Miami Dolphins. Talk about tying up some loose ends. But this could be about 15 years too late for Fins fans.

Philip Rivers

Still hard to believe Rivers won’t end he career with the Chargers. But I’m all in on a Rivers-Arians tag team in Tampa Bay. I know, I know — this may not fit as far as the offense Bruce Arians likes to run; but tell me Rivers chucking it around to those wise receivers wouldn’t be fun to see? And can Bruce and Phil just plan on tandem press conferences each week?

Dak Prescott

No one believes Dak goes anywhere, but technically he’s a free agent so he’s included here. It’s not spicy, but you know what — I’d like to see Dak head to Carolina with Matt Rhule and Joe Brady and the weapons that the Panthers have at WR. He’d also have Christian McCaffrey so that’s a not a bad duo in the backfield.

Ryan Tannehill

What a breakout season for a guy most of us had given up on. This one was tough — juicy and Ryan Tannehill don’t really go together, you know? But if any team was to fall in love with a QB who proved himself for less than a full season of work and pay him $25 to $30 million, tell me it wouldn’t be Jacksonville. It’d be Nick Foles all over again.

Jameis Winston

The most fun spot for Jameis to end up might be back in Tampa — let’s follow up that 30/30 season with an encore. But we’ve seen that show so let’s spread the Winston wealth around. Jon Gruden gushed over Jameis in his Gruden QB Camp (or whatever they called his little show on ESPN). Now, it’s time for the head coach to put his money where his mouth was. A Jameis-Gruden partnership has all the making of a complete disaster — on the field and off. And remember, the backdrop here is Vegas. Vegas!! This script writes itself.

Marcus Mariota

This is easy. Head west and get with a coach who sees the value in Mariota’s ability to be mobile. The Chargers need a new QB and head coach Anthony Lynn likes mobile quarterbacks — Tyrod Taylor’s already in L.A. on the roster and when Lynn was in Buffalo he enjoyed a QB who could move around and run the ball.

Teddy Bridgewater

I’m going to ignore the report earlier in the week that Teddy is going to command $30 million a season in his next deal. Come on. I’m as big a fan of Bridgewater’s, and what he did to keep the Saints afloat while Brees was hurt was nothing short of astonishing. But $30 mil? Anyway, I’m opening my arms (not my checkbook) to Teddy as he heads to Foxboro. Get him on the cheap, pair him with McDaniels, and Bill Belichick gets to have some fun with a guy that his friend Sean Payton got a ton out of.

The rest of the players listed below are not free agents, but their names have come up as players who could be on the move this offseason.

Andy Dalton

Assuming Joe Burrow in the pick at one and that he does in fact decide to not force a trade to land elsewhere, Dalton could certainly be on the move. And I think if Bill Belichick could win with Andy Dalton as his QB, a lot of people might start wondering if it was more Belichick-Brady than Brady-Belichick.

Cam Newton

Is there a particular city you just feel like Cam would be at home in? Any guesses? Dude’s a lover of fashion, lives the Hollywood lifestyle, enjoys the attention and the spotlight. If this isn’t L.A. with the Chargers, I should stop playing this game right now. Match made in heaven.

Derek Carr

The Gruden-Carr relationship is tenuous at best. I’d love to see Carr head to New Orleans and let Sean Payton work his magic with him. It’d be funny — goes to New Orleans and rejuvenates his career, but the great quarterback whisperer Gruden had to jettison him.

Matthew Stafford

Again, here’s another one where one report emerges that insinuates the Lions want to move on from Stafford, and it makes no sense financially — yet if they choose to take Tua at 3 in April’s draft, then maybe a trade should be considered. So, I thought Denver because John Elway loves big-armed quarterbacks and no one has any clue as to how Elway really feels about his current QB situation in Denver. But, then, I realized if Stafford’s ever leaving Detroit, he’s leaving the D for Big D. Home sweet home for Stafford in Jerry’s World.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

The STC Power Rankings Index College Football Top 10

This is about the very earliest in any college football season where you can legitimately start devising a set of rankings. Preseason polls are beyond nonsensical — they actually do more harm than good. We all read the polls in late August and we pay attention to the little number to the left of all the teams while we’re watching the games on TV. And we let that dictate in our minds who’s good, who’s better than who, and — ultimately — who can and can’t get into the playoff. But we’re five weeks into the season, so it’s fair to rank these teams based on what we’ve seen thus far. So here’s our first Sports Talk Center Power Rankings Index (STCPRI):

1. Oklahoma (4-0)

You could argue LSU has the best win (over Texas). You could say Clemson hasn’t lost and they’re the champs. You could say Tua is a machine and Alabama is at it again. To all that, I say Lincoln freaking Riley. He’s doing it again — Heisman trophy QB at OU. The Jalen Hurts story is incredible — and we have to believe it’s going to culminate with a reunion of sorts with Nick Saban and Alabama in the CFB Playoff. The Sooners are annihilating opponents by over 36 points per game on average. Moreover, they just pass the eye test — the offense flows, receivers are wide open, Hurts can throw and run, and teams can’t keep up.

2. Alabama(5-0)

While I like Oklahoma over ‘Bama right now, Tua gets my Heisman vote. After a seven touchdown effort on Saturday against Ole Miss, Tagavailoa has now accounted for 24 TDs on the season without a single turnover. The Tide will get tested in the tough SEC as the season goes on, including at Texas A&M this Saturday. Then, a battle with an LSU team that looks as strong as it has in a decade and the Iron Bowl at Auburn to round out the regular season.

3. LSU (4-0)

Don’t look now, but the LSU Tigers have a living, breathing quarterback in Joe Burrow. The Heisman candidate has the Baton Rouge faithful excited that 2019 might be different from past years, when the Tigers couldn’t count on a signal-caller to win them the big one. The Ohio State transfer has 17 TDs to 2 interceptions on the season and in the last three games, hasn’t thrown fewer than 373 yards. LSU has the win of the season with their week 2 shootout victory over Texas in Austin. LSU is scary this year — they aren’t predictable and they aren’t trying to slow games down. They want to throw and they can score with almost anyone.

4. Georgia(4-0)

The Bulldogs are just plugging along. Their early season schedule has been light to put it kindly. But they did handle a top-10 Notre Dame team in Athens a couple weeks ago. We’ll learn a lot about Georgia and quarterback Jake Fromm when the meat of their schedule arrives in November. They play Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, travel to Auburn, and host Texas A&M.

5. Clemson (5-0)

Clemson is a perfect example of a team who benefited from preseason rankings. No one would have this team 1 or 2 in the polls through the first five weeks of play. The preseason Heisman hype surrounding sophomore QB Trevor Lawrence seems to have been premature, and as far as the eye test goes, the Tigers aren’t as impressive as the teams I have currently in front of them. And to be honest, Clemson isn’t likely to be tested until the playoff rolls around (the ACC is awful).

6. Ohio State (5-0)

After their primetime beatdown in Lincoln over the Cornhuskers, it seems everyone is ready to vault the Bucks way up the rankings. Impressive win? Yes. It was a statement. But OSU has also played the likes of Cincinnati, Miami (OH), Indiana, and Florida Atlantic, so forgive me if I’d prefer to wait for them to play a team with a pulse. As an aside, I’m not in love with Justin Fields — let’s see him in a big game against a good team. However, J.K. Dobbins ought to be getting a lot more touches. He’s a game changer at 7.1 yards per carry.

7. Texas (3-1)

Truth be told, I admit that I may be a little too enamored with the Longhorns. Maybe it’s the “Matthew McConaughy Effect”, maybe it’s Sam Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign, maybe I just want Texas to be back. In any event, Tom Herman’s group is solid and will score points. The question will be, “Can they stop anyone else from scoring points?” I’m going to recuse myself from answering that at the moment. Let me just enjoy Texas being back….for the time being. The upcoming October 12th Red River Shootout should tell us more. Until then, “Hook ’em!!”

8. Auburn (5-0)

Just as I’m a touch too high on Texas, I’m probably not giving Auburn their due. A comeback win over Oregon to open the year plus a nice win at College Station should have the Tigers looking sharp. But I can’t help but think they would have trouble keeping up with any offense ranked inside my top-7. Bo Nix is a nice story, but he’s got to be better than a 57% completion QB. The defense and running game are good enough. Can Bo Nix win a few games when called upon?

9. Wisconsin (4-0)

No team is better at what we all know they are than the Badgers. They are ground and pound and need Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor to get carries and collect yards. And if he does, Wisconsin will be in a ton of positive game scripts. Their dismantling of Michigan gives Wisconsin that bump they needed to throw them into the playoff conversation.

10. Oregon (3-1)

The loss in the final minute versus Auburn to start the year was tough — but if we have learned anything about college football, it’s that early losses can be forgotten. In addition, the Ducks should be favored in all their remaining PAC-12 games (minus maybe at U-W). If they cruise through that schedule, they can knock on the door of the top 4.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 218 (“Week 4 Six-Pack with Mike: The Lions Impressed, Buffalo’s Defense is Solid, and Atlanta Continues to Disappoint”) right here:

I Do Declare!!! (5 Bold Declarations Through 3 Weeks in the NFL)

Yes, the NFL season is a measly three weeks old. And yes, there is still plenty of football to be played. But why should that stop anyone from grabbing ahold of a position, not letting go, and shouting it from the rooftops — or in this case a blog?

So far, there are various storylines that are juicy and warrant some consideration for headlining this topic — “Dak will win MVP” or “Phillip Rivers is done” or my favorite “The Bears can win the Super Bowl despite Mitchell Trubisky”. All are fun and I’d listen to each with varying degrees of rationality. But I went with five other items that actually do feel pretty strongly about — almost to the point where I don’t, necessarily, view each of them as being outlandish.

1. New head coach Zach Taylor is the answer in Cincinnati.

What a difference from the Marvin Lewis regime to what the offense looks like now. Andy Dalton has been given the freedom to sling it around in Taylor’s offense — the Bengals throw at the third highest clip through three weeks. As a result, Dalton ranks second in yards passing, averaging 326 per game, behind only Patrick Mahomes. What maybe most impressive is that Dalton’s success is happening without any semblance of a living, breathing offensive line. He’s been sacked 11 times — a pace that would put him at nearly 60 for the season if this keeps up. That’s like David Carr, Deshaun Watson air. In addition, Cincy has not gotten the early season production from Joe Mixon out of the backfield, and A.J. Green hasn’t been on the field yet for a single snap due to a foot injury that may sideline him for up to another 4 weeks. And if you still aren’t sold that Taylor is the answer for this franchise, look no further than the resurrection of John Ross’s career in this offense. The “thought-to-be-bust” first round pick from a few years back has turned into the team’s most dependable and playmaking WR with 13 catches on 26 targets, 292 yards, and 3 touchdowns against defenses like Seattle and Buffalo in two of their first three games.

2. Indianapolis will unequivocally win the AFC South.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about this. I can proudly say I was not one of those people who violently jumped off the Colts’ bandwagon when we were all blindsided by the news of Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement. I still thought they’d be a playoff team then, and now, I think they’re good enough to win that division. Why? Four simple reasons: One, Jacoby Brissett doesn’t stink. Through three weeks as the new starter, he’s top seven in completion percentage and passer rating and his touchdown to interception ratio is a solid 7 to 1. And doesn’t hurt he’s getting help from Marlon Mack out of the backfield. Second reason is that Frank Reich is a really smart head coach. In a league where coaching blunders happen by the minute on any given Sunday (ask Freddie Kitchens or Bruce Arians after week 3), Reich has moved close to the top of HCs that I’d want on my sideline. The third reason is this roster has been built the right way by GM Chris Ballard. After former general manager Ryan Grigson tried everything in his power to burn this franchise to the ground despite having a franchise QB, Ballard has put his stamp on this team by adding very good role players to the defense and re-building what was an atrocious offensive line. And lastly, look no further than the other teams in the AFC South: Tennessee’s QB options are Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill — enough said; as long as Bill O’Brien is running the Texans, I’m not a believer; and while I love Gardner Minshew and all that comes with him, I’m not sold on the Jaguars.

3. Kyle Allen can save Carolina and keep them alive in the playoff picture.

Ok, so truth be told — I picked Carolina to make the playoffs, and I even thought they had a somewhat realistic shot at making a Super Bowl run. So forgive me if I feel like I’ve been handed a new lease on life after what Kyle Allen was able to do in week 3 in his debut start of the season with Cam Newton sidelined because of a foot injury. (Message to Cam — take your time coming back, get healthy, shop for some new outfits.) The Texas A&M product was an efficient 19-26 throwing the ball with 261 yards and spread the looks around to seven different pass catchers. He tossed four TDs and gave hope to fans that in a year where Atlanta seems out of sync, Tampa Bay  can’t hold a lead at home against a rookie quarterback, and Drew Brees is hurt, the Carolina Panthers still have a shot at winning the division.

4. I know this is blasphemy, but…..Saquon will NOT be missed by the Giants.

Listen, I’m not going to make any apologies for this. I understand Saquon Barkley is seen by many as the second coming of Barry Sanders. But I can’t help that I view the running back as a very expendable position in the league. What example would you prefer I provide? How the Ravens rolled out Alex Collins a year ago to only switch over to Kenneth Dixon then to Buck Allen and then finally to Gus Edwards? All were productive while they had their respective shots. How about the 2018 Chiefs cutting Kareem Hunt and just plopping Damien Williams into the lineup, where he looked like he was an all-pro? And to continue with that example, Williams gets nicked up this year and Darrel Williams and LeSean McCoy are carrying the load. Or maybe you like 2018 second tier MVP candidate Todd Gurley basically sitting out the final few weeks in December and then disappearing in the playoffs only to have C.J. Anderson roll off the couch and rush for multiple 100-yard games in December and January. Pick one — and there are plenty more. However, I will say that the better the team, the less you miss a running back. And the G-men are not a good team so Saquon’s production, yes, will be sorely missed — the dude accounted for 2,028 yard from scrimmage in his rookie campaign a year ago, scored 15 times, and got 91 passes on 121 targets. I’m not blind — Saquon is awesome and that’s why he’s already been elevated to first name status. So to frame this more succinctly, the Giants are not making up Saquon’s production while he’s out because no running back on their roster can do what he does with that offensive line and the roster surrounding him. But long-term, as the Giants get better and turn into a respectable team again (assuming this happens), their roster will  that of a team that does not require someone of Saquon’s ability at that position. My point is the Giants aren’t dead because they are without their appointed savior — they ALREADY WERE dead!

5. The Seahawks are not good.

Let me walk through the first three games of the season for the Seahawks: hosted Cincinnati in the season opener and let Andy Dalton throw for a career-high 426 yards, defense got torched, and yet they escape 21-20; traveled to Heinz Field and sneaked out a 28-26 win over a Steelers team that looks bad and played the second half without Big Ben; and finally they hosted a Drew Brees-less Saints team outdoors and looked lifeless before making the score closer in the end than the actual game was. I’m concerned about this defense — Andy Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater, basically, had their way against that unit. And now the run game, which was expected to be their calling card, is in question because Chris Carson can’t hold onto the football and Rashaad Penny has some mysterious hamstring injury.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 216 (“Revisiting Our NFL Predictions”) right here:

NFL 2019 Season Preview Part 2: Ceilings and Floors for Last Year’s Non-playoff Teams in the AFC

Last week I got my NFC side of this story out. Now it’s time to examine the ten AFC teams that missed out on the postseason in 2018 and what they can do to make it into January this year.

Here’s my thoughts in Part 2 of the multi-part season preview piece.

Buufalo Bills

One thing I’m certain of with the Bills is that the defense will be nasty. I’m really high on rookie Ed Oliver and his ability to make an immediate in Sean McDermott’s defense. In order to take this team to the next level however, second year quarterback Josh Allen will need to improve his accuracy. Sub-60 is not going to do it.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

New York Jets

Say what you will about new head coach Adam Gase’s strange behavior over the past few months, from his opening, “eye-popping” press conference to his inhalation of smelling salts on the sideline of the first preseason game, the guy gets the most out of his quarterbacks. In 2008 in Detroit, Gase guided Jon Kitna to career highs in both yards per attempt and completion percentage. Then in San Francisco, Gase got surprising production from the likes of J.T. O’Sullivan and Shaun Hill. In 2011, Tim Tebow struggled statistically in Denver, but under Gase’s tutelage Tebow still led the Broncos to an AFC West crown and playoff win. Even Peyton Manning enjoyed some of his best seasons under Gase in Denver, leading the league in completion percentage, net adjusted yards, and QBR. Manning had only led the NFL in those categories once before — in 2003. The list goes on: Jay Cutler had the best passer rating of his career with Gase in Chicago, and in Miami, Gase’s teams still managed to be competitive despite poor play at quarterback. All that to say that we should expect Gase to have a very positive impact on second year QB Sam Darnold — and if this marriage works, the Jets could surprise people.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Miami Dolphins

I can’t give you anything tangible here. Everything on that Dolphins roster screams 2 wins — and that’s entirely possible. But call me crazy — I believe in first year head coach Brian Flores. He’s a defensive-minded coach, who learned under Bill Belichick, and he values character guys and leadership. I think the Fins will play hard, and if they buy-in to Flores and what his vision is, the Dolphins could steal a few Ws this year.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Addition by subtraction is what I keep hearing. But I still need to see how Big Ben responds this year and if Mike Tomlin’s voice still resonates with this team. If the locker room is behind these two, the Steelers might not be dead quite yet.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland’s roster is chalk full of talented playmakers. There is no question that the talent is there. I’m interested in how first year head coach Freddie Kitchens keeps the egos in check while still making sure everyone is happy. One thing is for sure — Baker Mayfield is the right QB to lead this team.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were already a team under fire before the injury bug hit them. Losses on the offensive line plus a foot injury to A.J. Green could solidify Cincy as a team in the running for the number 1 pick in the 2020 draft. If two things happen, maybe the Bengals avoid the NFL cellar this season: (1) Zach Taylor’s offense takes Andy Dalton to a whole new level; and (2) John Ross steps up big as a very good and reliable number 2 option while Green is sidelined.

Ceiling: 5 wins

Floor: 1 win

Tennessee Titans

You might have heard my thoughts on the Titans if you listened to Episode 206 of the Sports Talk Center podcast. This defense is very good, but the quarterback play must take a giant leap forward this year for Tennessee to compete for the playoffs. Sign me up as someone who has his doubts, though. Neither Ryan Tannehill nor Marcus Mariota fills me with a tremendous amount of confidence — not to mention the weapons in Tennessee aren’t striking fear into very many defenses.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 3 wins

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Andrew Luck’s retirement, the Jags may have become the team with the most to gain. This is still an awesome defense and now they upgrade the QB position with Nick Foles. My question — can Leonard Fournette stay on the field in 2019? If he can, he helps Foles, he helps ball control, he helps that defense.

Ceiling: 10 wins

Floor: 6 wins

Denver Broncos

Hiring Vic Fangio as head coach when the rest of the NFL was searching for their version of Sean McVay showed savviness on the part of John Elway. I want this to work. The problem could be that the quarterback problem might not be totally fixed. For the Broncos to be good, Joe Flacco has to take his game to a level it hasn’t been at since that remarkable playoff run that culminated in a Super Bowl title and MVP in 2012. If he plays the role of Trent Dilfer and allows the defense to be the star of the show in Fangio’s system, Denver could be the surprise team in the AFC.

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Oakland Raiders

Everything in Oakland hinges on Derek Carr. And if we’re going to boil it down to one thing, it has to be whether Antonio Brown’s presence on the field can help to elevate Carr’s overall game. Yes, the offensive line needs to hold up and yes the defense needs to be better, but AB might just hold the key to unlocking his quarterback’s potential.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 206 (“Andrew Luck’s Abrupt Retirement Plus Breaking Down the AFC and NFC South”) right here:

NFL 2019 Preview Part 1: How Can Last Season’s Non-Playoff Teams Make a Jump This Year

Twenty NFL teams missed out on postseason play last year. What can these franchises do to make a run this year? Something? Anything? More importantly, can they simply improve upon 2018 and be better in 2019 — regardless of the playoffs or not. That said, it’s always real easy to sit back and say, “Well if Team X would just fix ‘blank’, they’d be better.” In reality, these teams usually need to remedy more than just one thing. But it’s a fun exercise to think if these non-playoff teams from a year ago could be better in just one area, they’d have a shot to reach their ceiling of wins. In other words for them to reach or exceed expectations in 2019, this one thing absolutely must must happen. And if it doesn’t…..well….

Here’s my thoughts on the NFC teams in Part 1 of a multi-part piece.

Arizona Cardinals

This is simple. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s fast-paced, high-flying offense has no chance of succeeding if that offensive line can’t keep Kyler Murray upright. There is a ton of optimism in the desert that Kyler, DJ, Christian Kirk, and their new skill position rookies could be exciting and fun to watch. But all that will stall out in a major way if that line, which surrendered 52 sacks and 109 hurries in 2018, cannot block.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 2 wins

San Francisco 49ers

This defensive line looks strong, their QB is back and healthy, they have an All-Pro tight end, and the running back position is deep. What’s left to do? Kyle Shanahan’s offense needs to turn second year wideout Dante Pettis into a star. Pettis has fewer than 30 career catches, but the talent is there and the ceiling is high.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Washington Redskins

The Washington defense is really good. With the firm of Allen, Payne, and Ioannidis up front pressuring the pocket, the Redskins should be a force on that side of the ball. That triple threat led the team to 46 sacks a year ago — 4th in the NFL; and now they’ve added Landon Collins at the backend. The defense is not the question here. This team’s success — and probably Jay Gruden’s future — rests in the hands of the offensive line. How effective that unit is will directly impact whoever is under center and the run game (which has some interesting pieces if healthy).

Ceiling: 9 wins

Floor: 4 wins

New York Giants

I have very little faith in this team this season. The fastest way for this team to be anything close to good is that rookie QB Daniel Jones makes everyone, who scoffed at his selection in the draft, eat crow. And this includes his coaching staff — who need to see that he is a better option than Eli.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Detroit Lions

I’m having a hard time finding wins for the Lions. At least when the offense was playing uptempo and Matthew Stafford was slinging the rock all over the field, there was hope they’d just outscore opponents. Now, this sluggish offense with Darell Bevell calling plays lacks that fiery punch that we’ve seen with this team. A lot will depend on how well Kenny Golladay plays as the number one WR and how much Kerryon Johnson is trusted by the coaches to carry the load. So I guess it boils down to if Matt Stafford can indeed elevate the play of those around him, this team should better than they were a year ago. (A caveat would be that the coaches put players in positions to be successful — especially on offense.)

Ceiling: 8 wins

Floor: 5 wins

Minnesota Vikings

This team looks very similar to the team that entered 2018 as a Super Bowl contender. The offensive line was a constant thorn for this team a year ago, and by drafting NC State’s Garrett Bradbury in the first round of last Spring’s NFL Draft, the Vikings should be more stable up front. For me, their success hinges upon their quarterback’s ability to beat the good teams. The jokes are out there — Kirk Cousins beats the bad teams, but can’t beat t he good ones. For Minnesota to have a realistic shot at the playoffs (and beyond), Cousins must beat teams above .500. Simple, right? It is.

Ceiling: 11 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Green Bay Packers

If you’ve heard me talk on the Sports Talk Center podcast in the past couple months, you know how I feel about the Packers in 2019. New offense? New head coach? Doesn’t matter if this team’s young talent can gel together on both sides of the ball. From WRs Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison to running back Aaron Jones to second year cornerback Jaire Alexander, the talent is everywhere. If it all comes together, this is one dangerous football team that no one will want to play in January.

Ceiling: 13 wins

Floor: 9 wins

Carolina Panthers

Before Cam Newton got hurt and couldn’t throw a football straight, the Panthers were looking like a playoff team in 2018. If he’s healthy, there’s absolutely no reason to think they won’t be in the mix again this season.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Atlanta Falcons

This can’t be any simpler: the defense is good when healthy, the weapons on offense are super productive, and the quarterback is more than capable of being a top 5 QB by season’s end. The only question: can the offensive line do their job? If not, we’ve seen the Falcons go a little sideways. Two first round picks were spent in the last draft to bolster that unit.

Ceiling: 12 wins

Floor: 7 wins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Can Bruce Arians be a positive influence on Jameis Winston? Big Ben, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer all benefited under the tutelage of Arians. Can Jameis join that group? For the Bucs to be a good team, he is going to need to because 14 interceptions in 11 games last season isn’t the formula for success in what should be a very tough division.

Ceiling: 6 wins

Floor: 4 wins

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 204 (“What to Take from Preseason Week 2 in the NFL”) right here: