2020-2021 NFL Regular Season

For most of the offseason, I’ve been psychologically and emotionally detached from the NFL, primarily because I thought the prospects for an NFL season was incredibly low. But since very few of the players or staff haven’t gotten the virus, once practices started, I have become way more optimistic. In any event, because of that initial detachment, I’m even less confident in my ability to gauge the quality of the teams, but I’m going to take a stab at thoughts about which teams have the best chance to have success and win the Super Bowl.

Off the top of my head, here are the tiers. To categorize the teams, here are some questions I ask: a) Are there any teams with a dominant defense; b) Which defenses have a really good defense, run game and QB? c) Which teams have the best balance?

Teams with potentially great defenses: 49ers, Bills, Steelers, Ravens. Maybe the Buccaneers, Titans, Broncos, Colts.

The Steelers defense seemed to be moving into a great territory last year, but if they move back to a more pass-first offense, I wonder if that will remain true.

Teams with good defense/run game/QB: Ravens, 49ers, Titans, Bills, Vikings Maybe Seahawks

The QBs for the first four are kinda skahy–especially with regard to making the handful of key plays in big games (usually from the pocket). With the Vikings and Seahawks, I’m uncertain about their defense, especially the Seahawks.

Teams with the best balance: Saints, Ravens, 49ers, Buccaneers Maybe the Chiefs.

With the Chiefs I don’t known how good their defense will be.

First tier

Saints, Ravens

Chiefs, 49ers, Buccaneers

Saints: I’m not sure about what they gained and lost in their rosters, but if it’s similar to last year, I think I might choose them as the favorites.

Ravens: I’m uncertain about Jackson.

Chiefs: uncertain about their defense

49ers: uncertain about their QB (and WRs)

Buccaneers: Uncertain how Brady will perform at his age in a new system. If he performs well, they should be Super Bowl contenders>

Second Tier

Bills, Steelers

Patriots, Titans, Cowboys, Seahawks, Colts, Texans, Rams, Packers

I think there’s even more uncertainty with these teams.

Bills: If Allen can improve (less boneheaded moves, better accuracy), they should be a strong team. They remind of the Panthers.

Steelers: If Roethlisberger plays well, they could be like the Chiefs (with less explosive offense but better defense). But will he?

Titans: uncertain about QB

Patriots: Lots of changes, but can’t count out Belichick

Cowboys: Offense should be good, but I’m guessing they’ll continue to move away from run-first. Really uncertain about their defense.

Seahawks: Uncertain about the trenches. They could be OK or really suck.

Colts: Uncertain how Rivers will play. Don’t know how good this D could be–but could be really good.

Texans: Don’t know how good D will be.

Rams: Don’t know about their OL. If really good, they could shoot up this list. No idea about the quality of their defense.

Packers: I’m uneasy about the conflict between Rodgers and LaFleur. Their OL has always been a strength, but they may decline, and I don’t think they have great pass-catchers. Their defense should be good. If Rodgers allows them to become run-first team, they could shoot up this list.

Third Tier

Lions, Falcons, Cardinals, Broncos, Raiders, Eagles

These are potential dark horse teams.

60 thoughts on “2020-2021 NFL Regular Season

  1. Side question: Can you guys think of any great or really good defenses, that had a mediocre/lousy pass rush? I don’t think the 2012 Seahawk pass rush was great, but I wouldn’t call them mediocre, although I think it was an area they needed to improve. Maybe last year’s Patriot defense? I’m not sure about their stats, but in terms of personnel, I don’t think they had really good pass-rushers.

  2. Dang, I want a refund.

  3. I feel like the top tier teams are pretty darn good and I feel like they could be significantly better than the rest of the league with a few exceptions. And I didn’t feel like that in the last four to five years. My first tiers are the best teams from last year: San Fran, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Kansas City. I think all of these top tier teams may have lost some pieces, but they gain some as well, so I think they “should” be as dominate as they were last year.

    I’ll put the Bills, Cowboys, and Bucs alone in tier 2. I can see all three teams competing to be with the tier 1, but they have a lot of unproven things which makes me hesitant.

    I think Indy and Seattle are just a little better than everyone else so I would put them alone in tier 3. I don’t have a good sense of the Steelers, who a lot of pundits really like.

    My dark horse team would have been the Chargers if Derwin James didn’t go down. I think they could have had the pieces to be a dominate defense. I will go Raiders, but I really question how bad they fell apart the second half of last season, and I want to put that on Carr (for no real reasons other than his stats plummeted I’m pretty sure).

  4. Don,

    My first tiers are the best teams from last year: San Fran, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Kansas City.

    At this point, how confident about Lamar Jackson, in terms of being able to win a Super Bowl? Can he make the handful of key plays and protect the football in the post-season?

    With New Orleans, their OL seemed to take a step back last year. That would be one area of concern for me. I’m curious to see if their defense improves or stays the same.

    I think Indy and Seattle are just a little better than everyone else so I would put them alone in tier 3.

    What’s your sense of the Seahawks’s lines?

    How good do you think the Colts will be? Beyond Buckner, I don’t know anything about their roster changes. To me, they didn’t have a pass rusher last year. I don’t know if Buckner is a pass rusher, but he could be a disruptive force that makes all the difference.

    With the NIners, they’re kinda beat up now, especially on offense, but I expect they’ll be in this. The key for me is Garappolo.

    I’ll put the Bills, Cowboys, and Bucs alone in tier 2. I can see all three teams competing to be with the tier 1, but they have a lot of unproven things which makes me hesitant.

    How do you feel about the Cowboys defense? Also, are they going to be a 3-4 or 4-3? Is Vander Esch OK? (I haven’t really heard anything about him.)

  5. Do you think Lamar Jackson’s last year’s playoff performance is a bad mark on him? I didn’t think so. He wasn’t great, but he was okay. You need to remember he is only a starter for one and half seasons. Not many QBs can say they led their teams in that short of a timeframe. I thought the biggest issues in last year’s playoff game was those fourth and short that they couldn’t convert and maybe the fact that they went for it.

    I don’t have a sense of Seattle’s lines, but based on what you said I’m going to guess it’s not great. It wasn’t great last year and Wilson performed well enough. Many pundits have the Vikings pretty high, if you were forced to bet would you bet on the Vikings over Seattle? I cannot see that based on what I saw last year. The Viking’s offense wasn’t as great as their talent.

    For the Cowboys, I think their offense could be better, but they will miss even a 85% Frederick. But based on what I hear of what Ceedee, he is an upgrade over Cobb (He was voted top receiver in camp by the Dallas writers.) and Blake Jarwin may be a upgrade over Witten at least as a receiver. In terms of defense, I’m hoping it was coaching that were holding them back. But even if it’s not coaching they could be slightly better even though they lost Byron Jones because they got more weapons on the d-line. But yeah if the defense plays at the same level as last year, Dallas won’t be as good as I’m anticipating. Oh I keep hearing the Dallas defense will be in a 4-3 that may actually look like a 3-4 with guys like D-law, T Crawford, and Aldon Smith standing ala a linebacker. But it doesn’t seem like Dallas will actually have four “linebackers” on the field and three down linemen. But who knows for sure.

  6. Do you think Lamar Jackson’s last year’s playoff performance is a bad mark on him?

    Yes. Do you think he played well? How many turnovers did he have? He also didn’t look good in the previous year’s playoffs. In both cases, he was put in the position where he had to throw the ball to win. Are you confident he can do that?

    Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean he has no chance of being a Super Bowl QB. But right now, there are red flags. To me, a Super Bowl QB has to have the ability to pass a lot to win. There will almost definitely be games where the team will be down by quite a bit, and they’ll have to pass a lot–and the opponent knows this. If the QB is not good in these situations they’re not a Super Bowl QB. This is one of Alex Smith’s problems. (I think Matt Schaub was like this, too.) Also, I’m iffy on Jackson’s ball security, especially in the playoffs.

    I don’t have a sense of Seattle’s lines, but based on what you said I’m going to guess it’s not great.

    They could literally have the worst DL in the NFL. To give you an idea of this: they are relying a lot on Benson Mayowa. Clowney was not a great pass-rusher but he was the most double-teamed D-lineman last year, I think. They have no one like that now. The OL has three new players–one playing C for the first time, a (promising) rookie, and a castoff from the Jets. Last year’s OL wasn’t great but they had experience and continuity. So the OL/DL, which was probably bottom third last year, could actually be worse.

    But the Vikings have a real young secondary (no one above the age of 23, I believe) and I think there are question marks on their OL, which was shaky at times last year. But they’ve got Kubiak as OC and Dalvin Cook.

    If I had to pick between the two I’d choose the ‘Hawks because of Wilson, the secondary, and Carroll.

    For the Cowboys, I think their offense could be better, but they will miss even a 85% Frederick.

    1. Lamar wasn’t great, but he was definitely improved from two years ago against San Diego. He made plays. How many QBs in their third year or less are you more confident in? Kyler? Mayfield? Darnold?

    2. If I recall correctly, Lamar did play better in his second playoff stint, but not enough to remove the red flags in my view.

      How many QBs in their third year or less are you more confident in? Kyler? Mayfield? Darnold?

      I can’t say I’m significantly more confident about any of these QBs. It’s too early for Murray. I like Mayfield, but he and Darnold have big question marks. With Darnold, the evaluation is obscured by him playing on a bad team. He could be one of those whose potential was ruined by playing on a bad team. (One comparison I think of: Jake Plummer. Bill Walsh wanted him over Drukenmiller, and I believe he said Plummer was better than Montana. But Plummer played too many years on bad Cardinal teams. He was sort of a free-wheeling QB who threw too many INTs. On a better team, with a better coaching, I think he had potential to be really good. I think the same applies to Darnold.)

      I think I’m a little more confident in Josh Allen. I’m not sure he’ll be elite, but right now, the odds seem higher for this happening than Jackson.

      I would say I was more confident about Watson at the same point in their careers. Prescott, too, although I still have some reservations about him.

  7. Amendments to the original post

    The Browns, Packers and maybe even the Cowboys have potential to be great defenses.

    The Browns might have one of the most talented rosters, but Stefansky is a complete unknown. If he’s really good, the Browns could be one of the better teams. But with the Browns, I’ll wait until I actually see it on the field.

    1. (con’t)

      The Chiefs are the type of contender that’s built on their offense–specifically a pass offense. Other teams that could be contenders that play in a similar style: Texans, Cowboys, Steelers, Rams, Colts, and Eagles. (Edit: Saints) (I’m less sure about what the Cowboys and Colts offense will look like. And I think the Steelers should go back to a run first approach, but they haven’t played that way in a long time.)

      I don’t know if I said this before, but I have a lot of uncertainty about the quality of OLs on a bunch of teams. For several of these teams, the quality of the OL can turn them into a contender or pretender. For example, Seahawks, Vikings, Lions, Falcons, Buccaneers, Packers, Cardinals; maybe the Broncos. Tell me these teams will have good OLs or even better, and I would say they are solid playoff teams. (Note: The list is not exhausted. I have questions about other teams as well–Giants, Cowboys, Raiders, etc.)

  8. You guys ever draft in a 14-team fantasy football league? It’s insane. I swear by the tenth round we were grabbing Tim Biakabatuka and Natrone Means.

    1. This tweet (the two player mentioned) seemed like something from 30 years ago.

      I’m guessing there are a lot of teams in this league?

          1. I drafted 11th, which kind of sucked.

            My last non-defense, non-kicker picks were
            9th round (123td pick): Sterling Shepard, WR NYG
            10th (130th): Duke Johnson, RB HOU
            11th (151st): Preston Williams, WR, MIA
            14th (186th): Kirk Cousins, QB, MIN
            15th (207th): Bryce Love, RB, WAS

            I couldn’t believe Duke Johnson went as early as the 10th round. That’s actually what made me wonder if Tim Biakabatuka was anywhere in the list.

            No, I never heard of Preston Williams or Bryce Love before last night.

            Jags RBs:
            Chris Thompson — 11th pick, Round 12
            James Robinson — 14th pick, Round 11

    2. Oops, I erred in two ways.

      By 14 team, for some reason, I thought you meant the number of players per team. (Shaking my head at myself.)

  9. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I listened to a lot of NFL-related podcasts during the offseason. so maybe I absorbed some stuff.


    This is the weird year when I kinda like all the AFC West teams and kinda dismiss them all as well, except KC.


    I wavered on this and then just flipped a coin. If Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers either win the division or get in as a wildcard. If everything clicks, they may not be the best team in the AFC but they have the best chance of beating the Chiefs in the playoffs. The Niners showed in the Super Bowl how it can be done.

    I’m kind of expecting every game in this division to be fun to watch.


    As usual, this will be competititve among three fair-to-decent teams. Which will be the decentest? My heart wants Deshaun Watson but my head and Mina Kimes convince me it’s the Colts.


    Hopefully Cam is healthy. Every year a team comes out of nowhere to make the playoffs, and my pick this year is the Dolphins. They look like one of those bad teams with good talent, right? The franchise has been miserable but they’ve made some good moves this past year. They look, at best, like being this year’s year-away-from-being-a-year-away team. This makes them a good choice to be the from-out-of-nowhere team.

    AFC Wildcards: Dolphins and Ravens. I’m taking the Ravens instead of the Bills here mostly based on Baltimore having the more solid organization.


    I expect the Rams to be the best last-place team in the league. I think they’re still a good team, but I see them being like last year’s Cardinals. Competitive but on the wrong end of too many games. The Rams seemed to be trending downward while the Cards seem to be trending upward. I admitted last year that the Rams made me like them. Still kind of fond.


    Still a Rodgers believer. The Lions remind me of what I just said about the Dolphins but less so.


    I’m really just guessing here. I mean more so than for the rest of the divisions.

    Football Team

    I hear you both hedging on the Cowboys but there’s so much talent here I say the division is theirs to lose. Plus, the Eagles are just this mysterious mess. Yeah, they SHOULD have won the division last year but not like THAT.

    NFC Wildcards: Saints and Seahawks.

    Super Bowl: Chiefs over Saints
    …but if I were a gambling man, I would bet Saints over Steelers because there’s better value there.

    1. I agree with a lot of this–or at least I think the picks make a lot of sense–with some notable exceptions.

      Ravens don’t win the division. If Roethlisberger returns to form and stays healthy, picking the Steelers to win their division isn’t crazy, but I would say the Ravens run game or Lamar as a passer will regress. Actually in thinking about this, this is not a far-fetched scenario.

      Bills dropping in third place is a bit of surprise. The Dolphins did pick up some good players, and maybe they’ll take the leap. I’m not prepared to say that without seeing them play, though.

      1. Yeah but if I wait until I see them play, I’m not an awesome football seer. You have to make predictions before the season begins.

  10. NFL offenses are shattering scoring records

    That’s what I’m hearing. The question is why? Here are the possible explanations, including some combinations of them:

    1. Officials calling less penalties–specifically holding calls, I believe. I think I heard that the calls were 60+% lesss than 2019, which seems like a huge number. And it matches my impression from watching games.

    2. No crowd noise. Noise can prevent the QB and OL from communicating and from hearing the snap, which gives the DL a split second.

    3. Defenses are hurt more from not having an offseason.

    4. More defensive pass interferences/holding calls.

    That’s the 4 main reasons I’ve heard. If you guys heard of any others, let me know.

    To me, everything but the last one seem like solid explanations, especially the first two. The lack of holding calls and even false starts seems noticeably less, and I must say that makes the games much more watchable. On the other hand, there are several games where moving the ball looks way too easy, and that is not enjoyable to watch.

    In any event, if the NFL wanted more offense, I always thought helping the OL would be a good way to do this–as long as it wasn’t obvious that they were getting a distinct advantage. So far, I haven’t noticed more egregious holding by O-linemen.

    But if the lack of crowd noise is the big reason for this, that would mean the blocking would likely decline, which would kinda suck. In any event, the theory that the OL is getting a lot of help also seems compelling because the Seahawks OL looks better than its ever been–in spite of three new players, including a rookie. I wondered about the Rams OL as well, but they look really good. (It could be that McVay’s coaching just is enhancing their play.) The Packers OL has looked really good too in spite of losing Bulaga.

    I prefer helping the OL, for generating more offense, rather than being stricter on the DPI calls. Remember the one or two seasons they did that? That sucked. They’re not doing that now, and the game is way better for it.

    One last thing. I do think it’s plausible that defenses are behind a bit. I see more egregious broken coverage. But if that continues to the end of the season, that weaken this explanation.

  11. The Ravens don’t seem to have given up much, depending on how many picks they had. They’re really going for it.

    Also, the Seahawks are thinking of signing AB. I really hate the idea. One of the reporters sums up part of the reason:

    I don’t know the full story, but based on my understanding now, if Carroll and Russ are all on board, my estimation of both of them will diminish. I will be really unhappy if they make this move. I’m already disappointed that they’re seriously considering it now.

    1. I’m genuinely relieved that AB’s not going to the Hawks, even if he helps an team the Hawks might have to face in the playoffs. It’s not just that I think he would be toxic to a team, but the idea that he could have all the off field issues and Russ, a guy with a squeaky-clean, Christian image would really want him to join the team makes me feel a bit ill…

      …Now, as i write that, I’m having a slightly different reaction, as what I wrote kind of makes me uncomfortable. To wit, because someone has done bad things, does that mean Christians should shun that person? No, I don’t think so–but I realize what I said makes it sound that way.

      To me, the problem here isn’t forgiving and showing compassion to someone who has done bad things–the problem is overlooking those things because it benefits one’s team. To some extent, all teams tolerate flaws in the highly talented players, and that’s not wrong per se. But I think there is a line. And I think that line involves the implicit message that a team, a player like Russ, sends when they keep a player with issues–namely, those issues aren’t beyond the pale. Did Brown do things that are beyond the pale? I actually lost track of all things he did. I believe he’s been accused of sexual assault and rape. Now, it matters a lot if he’s innocent or guilty, but unless the team is certain this didn’t occur–if this an open question–expressing a desire to have the player on the team sends a bad message. Or at least that’s what it seems like.

    2. You got your wish because Ant Brown signed with the Bucs, I read. Like the Bucs need any more receivers. Although, I heard that Mike Evans hasn’t done much when Godwin has played, so maybe he isn’t the player he once was. To be fair, Evans has been hurt most of this year too.

    3. Yeah, I got my wish, but I wish I still didn’t have a bad taste in my mouth.

      I really think the issue with Evans is his injury. He’s missed snaps because of it, too. I want to say the first injury was a hamstring, and then he might have had an ankle injury. Goodwin hasn’t been fully healthy, either. OJ Howard, too, but I don’t think he’s ever been really productive.

      I think the underrated aspect of their team is the run game–maybe RoJo in particular. Arians has a reputation for a aggressive pass guy, but the will play a ground-and-pound style. And if their run game is strong, and Brady doesn’t have to throw as much, that increases their chances of winning. I think that if Brady has to throw a lot, the Bucs will need to face relatively weaker defenses, otherwise I think there’s a good chance he’ll turn the ball over or fail to deliver.

  12. Do you think Zach Thomas deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

    Based on my recollection, I thought Thomas was very good, but I don’t recall feeling like he was HoF good while he played. I’m curious to hear the impression of others.

    Maybe my expectations are too high, or, more likely, I just don’t know enough to evaluate players properly. I didn’t think Urlacher was a shoe-in, and I might have been uncertain about Junior Seau, too. I recall feeling like Urlacher was borderline player. I didn’t feel like Sam Mills was a shoe-in, and he’s one of my favorites. Do you guys think Thomas was better than Mills?

    1. I thought Zach Thomas was excellent but not a Hall of Famer, although I wondered sometimes if playing with Jason Taylor all those years drew attention away from him.

      Man, Junior Seau was absolutely a Hall of Famer. I thought Urlacher was too, but not quite as clearly. I don’t know who Sam Mills is.

      EDIT: I’m having second thoughts after seeing this highlight reel. Man, I don’t remember him being so speedy.

    2. Sam Mills was the 5’9″ LB for the Saints–with Pat Swilling, Ricky Jackson and Vaughan Johnson. Mills played for the Panthers later on. He was a great “QB” of the defense. For a small guy, he could hit, too. I love him.

  13. If he can stay healthy for 7-10 years, I think he can be a Hall of Famer, especially if plays with some good OLs. He seems like he’s on the smaller side, though, so I don’t know if that’s going to be possible.

    I like Alec Ingold, too. One of my favorite plays in football is a block by a FB that springs open a run. The run at the 33 second mark is one example of that. (I wish the Hawks had a good FB. They never had one since Mike Robinson.)

    1. Those are some sweet runs, but did you notice none of them would make a Marcus Allen highlight reel or an Earl Campbell highlight reel? I know this is only one season’s worth of highlights, but his game doesn’t seem like he has Hall of Fame written on it yet.

      Yeah, I love fullbacks. And Ingold wears 45, which is like the best number for a fullback.

      I thought the Seahawks were known for always having a great fullback.

    2. You know I think highly of Marcus Allen, but, in terms of running, he might have the least impressive highlights. My theory is that this is why he’s not considered more highly, by more people. Indeed, if you took away that Super Bowl run, I think his reputation would be lower. Another way to look at Allen: Of the great RBs, he makes it look easy. In a way, Emmitt Smith is similar. His highlights aren’t great, too; if he didn’t win the rushing title or get into the top 3, I don’t know if people would consider him as one of the best all-time RBs. Maybe a lot of people still don’t.

      But Josh Jacobs is actually a more noticeably impressive runner than both of those guys, but it can be subtle. He’s sneaky, in terms of his slashing ability, speed, and power. His use of blocks is really good. For a guy his size he’s great at turning nothing into something. But those highlights above don’t capture what I’m saying. I even went on youtube to watch his rookie highlights and the hightlights weren’t eye-catching. But he does have a lot of them in my view. Maybe he’s not as explosive, fast and elusive as Sacquan Barkley, but he’s not that far off in my view. Most of the great backs have a combination of power, speed, and elusiveness. He’s in that category. The only question is his stature and ability to handle the punishment and stay healthy. MJD couldn’t do it long enough. If he did, he would be a Hall of Fame candidate as well.

  14. QB isn’t the biggest problem for the Patriots
    I saw a headline about the actions the Patriots should take next year, with regard to the QB position. What came to mind wasn’t the QB, but the skill positions, particularly the WR and TE. The last two seasons make me think the big issue was that they were missing two good-to-great pass catchers. In the recent past, Edelman and Gronk met that requirement. Belichick’s biggest failing, as a GM, may have been never finding a replacement for those two. Expecting to replace Gronk is not really fair, but finding one or two players of Edelman’s caliber shouldn’t have been too hard. It’s likely Belichick thought Mohammed Sanu would be that player, which was reasonable, but he never panned out. My sense is that finding good WRs/TEs are going to be a bigger priority than filling the QB position.

    2020 MVP

    I kinda like Derrick Henry for the MVP. Mahomes and Rodgers are deserving, as well, but I might favor Josh Allen over them, but I’m not sure I have good reasons for this. I also think Dalvin Cook would be worthy–if the Vikings had more success.

    Henry, Cook, and Jacobs are RBs that show the value of RBs–particularly that really good QBs can be significantly more valuable than merely good RBs.

    1. I think this is true, but the question is how difficult is it to find “really good” running backs? If the next one can be had in the fourth round of next year’s draft, it doesn’t make sense to break the bank on the guy you have once his first contract is up. Plus, only one of the three guys you name made the playoffs. If teams are still building, does it make sense to do what the Cowboys did with Elliott? Or focus those assets elsewhere and get the next really good RB who comes up in the draft?

    2. I think it’s pretty hard to find the exceptional backs, particularly in the mid to late rounds. But I think you can find a really good RB in those rounds. To me, the issue is how badly do you need a really good RB in an upcoming season. If a team really needs a really good RB, relying on a mid/late round pick is taking a big gamble in my opinion.

      To me, paying Elliott would have made sense if they were going to be a run-based offense–but they seemed to want to move away from that. But if they were going to stick with the run-based approach, then I think the move made sense, or at least could be justified.

      1. When do you think the Pats will be good again? They will have to play the Bills and Dolphins twice every year and both look like they will be good at least in the short term.

      2. They need at least one good pass-catching playmaker on offense (besides the QB). Someone equivalent to Edelman. If they can get someone like Gronk and Edelman, they could probably compete for a Super Bowl.

  15. Who knows if this is true, and if it is, maybe Wentz will change his mind. Still, if Wentz leaves, where would a good landing spot for him be? I’ve heard others mention the Colts, and that seems like a good spot. The 49ers and Steelers might be others as well. What about the Dolphins? I hate to be negative on Tua, but, to me, he has not looked good, and I agree with those who question his arm strength.

    The thing is, I’m not sure about how good Wentz will be–I wonder if these last two years ruined him. Jake Plummer is a QB that comes to mind for some reason. Maybe Plummer would never have been really good, although Bill Walsh thought he could be better than Montana, but he played on a bad team and he had to force things, which I think lead to really bad habits. Maybe it hurt his confidence as well and lead to injuries. We know Wentz suffered injuries, and I feel like he did develop bad habits, and maybe even lose confidence. Has he reached a point of reparable damage? I think that’s the question I would have.

    1. They’re saying that with Pederson fired, Wentz is likelier to stay. The next coach may have to agree to coach Wentz. Who’s the next QB whisperer out there?

    2. Staying with Wentz is probably better for the team. (By the way, if there was a fallout between Wentz and Pederson, that’s another legitimate decision to move on from him, I think.)

      As for a new coach, I would seriously think of Jim Caldwell. It’s not that I think Caldwell is a great coach (although it may sound like it), but he has proven to improve a QB and a woebegone organization, making it respectable. He would be a good guy to “fix” Wentz, assuming the latter isn’t irreparably damaged (which he could be).

      Or maybe they’ll go with a college coach–e.g., Lincoln Riley?

  16. What explains Aaron Rodgers’s great year, and the previous years of relatively lackluster performance?

    This is one of the reasons Rodgers is in Mount Rushmore of QBs, along with John Elway, Dan Marino, and Peyton Manning. (Russ might be in there for me as well.)

    But why is having a great year, and why were some of the previous years not as good? The theory I have longed favored is that the lack of pass-catching talent around him–specifically, having one great playmaker. To me, the dip in performance coincided with Jordy Nelson’s ACL tear. (And Nelson never looked the same after that.) Davante Adams looks like that playmaker this year–maybe better than Nelson in his prime.

    The question I have is, how long has Adams been this good? I think he was at a similar level last year, but I couldn’t remember 2018. When I looked at those numbers they were about the same. Was he really this good in ’18 and I just forgot? If so, was he just as good in 2017 and 2016–that’s not what I recall at all.

    But let’s suppose he was as good in ’18 and ’19–why didn’t Rodgers put up these numbers in those years? Some possible explanations:

    1. Something was wrong with Rodgers–either mentally or physically. He did suffer some serious injuries–and his accuracy has dipped a bit. I also thought his footwork got sloppier since the early 2010s, but I think it’s still sloppy this year.

    There’s also the idea that he was more focused and motivated, after the Packers drafted a QB. This is possible, I guess, but I never got the impression that lacked the desired to play, and I find it difficult to believe that he slacked off. Maybe he got too arrogant and complacent? And this year he changed that?

    2. The other pass-catchers were young and needed time to develop. This is not so far-fetched. In the last couple of seasons, I think he’s had some young, no-name WRs.

    3. Maybe things really soured with Mike McCarthy and in 2019, he was adjusting to a new offense.

    1. The prevailing hypothesis seems to be that Rodgers has a good relationship with his coach, which I think took some time to develop.

      I know you don’t think (or don’t remember) Adams was very good in 2018, but he was a fantasy near-stud. I know because I had him. I can’t speak to his skills or speed or smarts; I just know he was good for one TD every week, more or less, which in our league is GOLD because yardage counts for so little.

  17. Reid,

    What’s your take on Dann Quinn? He was great with Seattle but he had unbelievable talent and Carroll. His defense with Atlanta was horrible with the possible exception of the Super Bowl run in which Shanahan’s offense probably helped the defense a lot. And even then they were just average at best, although they were good in the Super Bowl until they were got worn down in the end.

    Dallas could have gone from bad to worse or just as bad.

    1. Don, do you know how involved the owner gets in the defense? I’m clueless, but I have this vibe that he cares about the other side of the line and therefore gets more involved there. Am I wrong?

      1. The Cowboys spent their highest draft pick on a defense player three of the last four years and probably would have done it last draft, but Lamb fell in their laps.

        I’ll also say at this point, Jones (Jerry not Stephen) seems almost to be a figure head and just a voice (lots of talking for sure). But it doesn’t seem like he makes a lot of decisions in terms of personnel. Well not as much as five years ago. That would be my guess.

    2. Don,

      I’ll put it this way: I would have been happy if the Raiders got Quinn–I definitely prefer him over Guy Bradley, but that may not be saying much.

      When Quinn first got there, the defense was bad. I actually think you could argue he turned it around–although maybe that’s too strong. He moved from them vulnerable to decent, particularly in the Super Bowl year. And I actually think the offense hurt them, as they ran a lot of hurry up.

      After that I think they were plagued with injuries to key players (e.g., Neal for one season), and then missed big on high draft picks (I can’t remember the pass rusher that they released at the end of last year). I think he got the players that were on the field to play at their level of talent–at least. The Cowboys seem to have more talent then he had at Atlanta. (The Cowboys secondary seemed solid, if not more than that, which kinda surprised me.) Players seem to respect and like him, and I think they’ll play hard for him.

      Now, I don’t know how Jerry is going to impact that, though.

      The only other downside is that they’ll have to switch back to a 4-3, but I guess Quinn’s defense should be really similar to Marinelli’s.

      (Besides the Raiders, I would have been curious to see Quinn go to the Chargers. I’m a little surprised he didn’t get a shot at a head coaching job, too.)

      1. I’m surprised that you thought the Cowboys secondary has possibly more than solid talent after this past season. I agree they seem to have some talent, but they were awful this past season. They gave up so many big plays. I do hope they stick with their two safeties in Woods and Wilson, both which seem legitimate starters. My hope is Quinn can do something with them.

        I’m also surprised that you thought Quinn would get a head coaching position. I question his ability to be a DC, but I don’t question his head coaching ability which seems really bad. Atlanta seem to underachieve a lot under Quinn, and Shanahan seem to get most of the credit for the Super Bowl run.

      2. Diggs looked good, too, in my opinion. Yeah, they got burned, but what stood out more was the bad run defense. I think Quinn’s is a former DL guy, so I would expect that problem to get cleaned up. If he can get the front seven to perform at a high level–or just commensurate with their talent–my sense is the back end should be more than fine.

        As for his HC ability, I always judge HCs in relation to their roster. Shanahan deserves credit (including helping the OL), but the team had been heavily skewed towards the offense, at the expense of the defense–ever since selling the farm for Julion. (and in Quinn’s first year, they paid at for Alex Mack the center).

        They started drafting defensive players, but they failed on Beasley (the guy I couldn’t remember), and they also had injuries. To me, it’s tough to condemn a coach if the team had a lot of key injuries, and I think the Falcons had enough on defense for me to suspend judgment.

        Finally, when the team was struggling, Quinn could have lost the team, but it didn’t seem that way. The team still played hard for him. That was impressive to me. I’d like to see him with a really good defensive roster (that stays healthy). As an HC, I think he needs a good OC–but that’s true of many defensive-oriented HCs. (Similarly, good offensive-oriented HCs often need really good DCs–e.g., Payton, Reid, Shanahan, etc.)

    3. In terms of drafting, my sense is that Jerry hasn’t refrained from meddling. Stephen Jones and their scouts seem to be really good at finding talent. Maybe 10+ years ago, the roster and cap management wasn’t good, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Cowboys have had a really good roster for the past 10 years.

      But the meddling I have in mind has to do with coaching and Jerry’s relationship with the players–e.g., being so friendly with players that it undermines the authority of the HC. Also, remember when Garrett lost his play calling ability and I also Jerry or someone else chose the OC and move positional coaches around. That’s what I mean. My sense is that Jerry’s been wanting the credit for their success, and that’s the thing that’s messing them up.

      1. I was replying more to Mitchell’s question in terms of Jerry Jones and his involvement in the defense.

        Jerry does talk favorably of his players, but because he seem to give his power all to Stephen, it seems, at least to me at this point, it’s just talk. Part of my reasoning is comparing Jerry five years ago and now. I hear that Jerry on his local radio show still talks a lot, but if this season happen five years ago, there would be more national attention on Jerry and what he says or does. You hardly heard anything nationally from Jerry or what he did this season or last couple seasons. Jerry never goes on the field and rarely talks to the national media anymore. I believe Dallas insider reporters rarely talk to Jerry about players now. It’s always Stephen. I don’t know for sure of course, but something just seems different when you follow the insiders in terms of Jerry’s involvement.

        Will McClay gets almost all the credit in terms of drafting talent. At once I thought Dallas’ drafting was amazing as well, but I’m starting to have doubts. Jalon Smith was awful for two years already. He has physical talent, but he can be overly aggressive (but that could be coaching). Vander Esch’s draft knock was injury and he has been injured a lot. Dallas defensive line hasn’t been great and their draft picks hasn’t helped recently with Trystan Hill and Taco Charlton. They keep saying they need safeties and they haven’t gotten a starter for years now. I think Dallas is smart in the draft by not trading a lot and picking with the picks they got, but I’m sort of questioning how much real talent they are getting. I wouldn’t say they are bad by any means, but how “great” are they compared to others. Is their hit and miss rate better than other teams in the last four years, I doubt it.

      2. I think the issue isn’t just Jerry’s public pronouncements, but his influence behind the scenes. I don’t get the sense that he lets the coach, coach and then mostly stays out the way.

        Re: Jaylon Smith
        I feel like not having Vander Esch hurt him. When they were on the field they both looked really good. This year they were switching to a 3-4 and Nolan didn’t seem very good, too.

        I think what stands out to me is that they have so players without big names that seem to contribute. I could be wrong about that, though; I don’t follow their roster building closely.

  18. Seahawks fire Brian Schottenheimer

    I feel some relief with this move. If the Hawks shifted back to a more run-based approach, sticking with Schotty could be justified–but barely. Russ’s second half performances was one of the worst drop-offs I’ve seen in any of the great QBs–at least that couldn’t be explained by a weak supporting cast. I still don’t understand how it could have happened.

    Schottenheimer may not be the totally to blame; it’s possible Carroll or Russ are to blame. But the bottom line is that I don’t think Schotty is a good OC. (Watching the other playoff offenses, the playcalling just seemed way, way better.)

    But now the issue is if Carroll can find someone good to replace him.

    Marriage between the running and passing game

    I heard a pundit use and expand on this metaphor. (He was saying the marriage between the Seahawks run and pass game wasn’t good. “The passing game wasn’t even asking the run game out on dates.”)

    But I wanted to use this metaphor to talk about Gruden’s offense. The passing and run games in his offense, can be effective, but it’s as if they’re estranged, sleeping in separate beds. And this actually goes back to when he was first coaching with the Raiders. It’s annoying.

    What makes a good marriage? I think the play action is a vital part of this–and derivations of the play action (e.g., draw, flea flicker, etc.). The second thing is using formations and players that allow good running and passing. I think the Rams have a great marriag–maybe the best in the league.

    You know who also has a pretty good marriage between run and pass? The Cardinals. I think they marry the both fairly well, better than I expected.

    1. Most teams now “marry” the run and passing game out of passing formations, which might be running from shot gun for example. Why is that such a negative, in your view, versus passing out of running formations.

    2. Marrying the run and pass from the shot-gun is fine–although I prefer the more running from under center, as I think this is more effective way of running when you really need to run it (e.g., short yardage or 4 minute situations). Also, how many really good rushing attacks are based in a shotgun formation?

      But again, this has little to do with the “marriage.” Belichick has consistently been great at this in my opinion, even when he used a lot of shot-gun. The Chargers, under Mike McCoy (Reich/Wisenhunt)–they were really good at marrying the two. (They were great at the draw in my opinion–Danny Woodhead.) Marrying run and pass has to do with linking the two in a mutually beneficial way. (This is what Gruden doesn’t really do well in my opinion.) To me, at it’s best, both the running and passing games should be a significant threat to the defense, and inflict a lot of damage–and this should be done in an unpredictable. And they should be linked well. These are signs of a great marriage. This can be done from a shot-gun based offense as well. (Another example: Chip Kelly, in his second or third year, did this really well–and it was primarily from the shot-gun. The Ravens are also doing a decent job of this from the shot-gun as well.)

      1. I tend to agree with you, that running from the shot gun or spread isn’t as good. That being said though, when the Chiefs or even Seahawks this year run from the spread, it’s not like I knew that was coming. So it has a similar affect to the Ram’s running and passing from the same formation.

        Belichick would mostly do one or the other. He would either run a lot or pass a lot, but he didn’t seem to mix it up a whole lot. I still remember a game like four years ago with Dallas, Belichick kept running in the first half and was getting stuffed. In the second half, all they did was pass and killed the Cowboys. I thought that was the norm with the Pats in terms of calling games by the OC.

    3. That being said though, when the Chiefs or even Seahawks this year run from the spread, it’s not like I knew that was coming.

      It’s definitely possible to be unpredictable from the shotgun (but I wouldn’t include the Seahawks in this, ugh–thanks for reminding me, man).

      Belichick would mostly do one or the other. He would either run a lot or pass a lot, but he didn’t seem to mix it up a whole lot.

      I think there are individual games where something like this can happen, but that’s usually rare. A few years ago, I feel like they played in the spread the whole game, passing a ton, against the Lions. (This is when the Lions had a really good run defense, with Suh, Tulloch and Levy.) Shoot, I think they ran the four minute drill by passing. And then remember that year the no-name RB racked up a lot of yards against the Colts?

      Generally, they marry run and pass well in my view. They could run from the shotgun, too. My impression is that this idea of marry the two–and being unpredictable–is huge priority for Belichick’s offenses.

  19. Okie dokie. Not sure this interests anyone, but I just did the debriefing of my 2020 fantasy football season, so here’s the breakdown.

    Background: I’ve been doing pretty well in our league these last few years, mostly by reading a lot about fantasy specifically. I’ve come to rely on a couple of websites for advice and wanted to test my process and their advice with multiple leagues in one season.

    Plus it was 2020. I was spending less money on normal everyday stuff so I thought I’d put up a hundred bucks or so to play in money leagues: a few small-stakes leagues and one higher-stakes league.

    I wanted to stick to Yahoo for the simplicity of having all my stuff in one place. But you know what? Yahoo’s higher-stakes leagues don’t pay off in greater ratios.

    A $5 league pays out $25 for first, $15 for second, and $5 for third.
    A $100 league pays out $500 for first, $300 for second, and $100 for third.

    There are money leagues in between, but the ratios are all the same. My thinking: I’m more likely to finish in the money in multiple leagues than in one league (especially low-stakes leagues since other players are more likely to stop playing), so my chances of finishing even or ahead were greater playing in multiple leagues.

    So I dropped a total of $20 in four $5 leagues. Good enough to test my sources and my own savvy.

    TL:DR — I won $20, so I broke even. Second place in one league; third place in another. But also second place in my main league with my HS classmates.

    Here’s how I did in more detail.

    Fantasy Football Review 2020

    League 1: HS Classmates (auction league with keepers).

    10-4. First place regular season, but lost in final, 70 to 68. Runner-up.

    Drafted: Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson, Henry Ruggs, Josh Jacobs, Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, George Kittle, Robbie Gould, New England, Zack Moss

    League 2: Office League (14 teams).

    Spin Dryers
    6-7, last place in division, 12th place over all.

    Drafted: 11th. Joe Mixon, Julio Jones, Mark Andrews, Amari Cooper, Leonard Fournette, T.Y. Hilton, Drew Brees, Marlon Mack, Duke Johnson, Preston Williams, Kansas City, Robbie Gould, Kirk Cousins, Bryce Love.

    League 3: Yahoo money league ($5).

    Commitment 2xl Ence
    4-10, last place.

    Drafted: 4th. Ezekiel Elliott, Miles Sanders, Chris Godwin, Mark Andrews, Calvin Ridley, Josh Allen, Leonard Fournette, San Francisco, James White, Harrison Butker, Tony Polalrd, Sterling Shepherd, CeeDee Lamb, Austin Hooper, Daniel Jones.

    League 4: Yahoo money league ($5).

    Pride and Poise
    9-5, 2nd place, highest pts total. Lost in playoffs first round, won in 3rd place game. $5 prize.

    Drafted: 4th. Alvin Kamara, Tyreek Hill, Miles Sanders, Mark Andrews, Robert Woods, Deshaun Watson, Leonard Fournette, Pittsburgh, David Montgomery, Will Lutz, Julian Edelman, Aaron Rodgers, Austin Hooper, Latavius Murray, Anthony Miller.

    League 5: Yahoo money league ($5).

    The Black Hole
    4-10, 9th place.

    Drafted: 2nd. Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, DeAndrew Hopkins, DJ Moore, Zach Ertz, Josh Allen, Leonard Fournette, Buffalo, Harrison Butker, Phillip Lindsey, Brandin Cooks, Jamison Crowder, Matthew Stafford, Christian Kirk, Mike Gesicki.

    League 6: Yahoo money league ($5).

    Just Win Baby
    10-3, 1st place regular season, highest points total. Lost in final, 126.78 to 121.28. $15.

    Drafted: 1st. Christian McCaffrey, Travis Kelce, Miles Sanders, Mike Evans, Juju Smith-Schuster, Robert Woods, Kyler Murray, Antonio Gibson, Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh, James White, Christian Kirk, Matthew Stafford, Latavius Murray, Robbie Gould.


    Pretty much every online fantasy expert had the same top 4 picks: McCaffrey, Barkley, Elliott, Kamara. When the first three went out with injuries early in the season, it really threw off likely scenarios. ESPECIALLY if you had McCaffrey because there was a chance he was coming back late in the season, so you had to decide if you were going to hold onto him for the fantasy playoffs or ditch him and free up the roster space. Arrrrgh.

    I drafted a lot of the same players from league to league, because where the draft gets interesting is in the disagreements. Yahoo’s rankings had Josh Allen ranked far lower than the rankings I leaned on, so I often found myself able to draft him lower than I expected. HUUUGE draft value there. This is also why I had Miles Sanders, Robbie Gould, and Mark Andrews. Gould didn’t really matter, but Sanders paid off once he got onto the field. Andrews took forEVER to score points for me, but overall I think my sources had him properly ranked.

    I don’t have enough experience to decide, but I think in a ten-team league, I prefer to draft 8, 9, or 10 largely because of the injury thing.

    Anyway. That was a lot of work, running six fantasy teams. But it was 2020: I had nothing but time.

    1. The one thing that stood out to me: You seemed to go with your heart (read: picking Raiders) in our league, whereas the others, that didn’t seem to be as a big factor. I was going to say that might have screwed you up, but that may have helped–or at least it didn’t hurt, as you did well in our league.

      1. Well Josh Jacobs was a keeper from the year before at $5, so that was defnitely not a heart choice.

        I knew I wanted one of several rookie receivers drafted early: Henry Ruggs (12th pick), Jerry Jeudy (15th), CeeDee Lamb (17th), Jalen Reagor (21st), or Justin Jefferson (22nd), preferably one of the top 3, and I didn’t want to spend more than $1.

        Honestly, I wanted Jeudy, but Denver’s QB situation spooked me. And I kinda thought Ruggs would snag a bunch of Derek Carr 7-yarders and turn them into 50-yarders. Early in the season, it looked exactly like that’s what would happen! Boy did that feel good. For like two games.

        Jefferson scored 110 points in our league and was a Pro Bowl selection. Lamb scored 84. Jeudy scored 57. Reagor scored 29. Ruggs scored 24.

        The only reason Ruggs was still on my roster at the end of the season was his $1 salary and our being a keeper league. Okay, that and I kept hoping they would throw to him more when he was actually in games. Like Mr. Davis, I get turned on by speedy receivers. And yeah, I admit if he were on another team I wouldn’t have been attached to him. Dang it.

  20. Giants free agency

    Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph

    I’m not sure about these contracts, but I like these two pick ups, at least if they’re healthy. In terms of jump ball/difficult catches, I feel like Golladay is underrated, and when healthy, one of the best. If the Giants can shore up their OL, they could be a tough team to deal with.

    1. Golladay was the second-best receiver available (after Godwin). I don’t know if the Giants was a great spot for him to land in, but it’s probably a lot better than staying in Detroit would have been. I’m kind of excited for him.

      I was going to say Rudolph is solid but always injured. Then I looked it up and he played 12 games in 2020, but 16 every year between 2015 and 2019. Shows what I know. I must have had him on my fantasy team in the years before, when he played 8 games for like four seasons straight.

    2. If Golladay is healthy, I think I would prefer him over Godwin. If Daniel Jones takes some significant steps to improve and the Giants run game can get going, the Giants will be a good place for Golladay. In such a scenario, he’ll get the ball in one-on-one situations. His impact could be similar to Dez Bryant’s with the Cowboys.

      I have questions about their OL, Barkley’s health, and the degree to which Jones improves.

      I have the same impression of Rudolph. Last year (and maybe the year before that), Rudolph has been kinda invisible, even when playing, and that contributes to this impression that he’s always hurt. I wonder if he’s too beat up at this point. But the Giants seem like a good opportunity to have a comeback year.

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