MIDSEASON 2019 NFL POWER RANKINGS

After 8 punishing weeks we now find ourselves at the half way mark of the 2019 NFL season. Naturally, some teams have performed better than others — perhaps due to talent, strength of schedule or by simply staying healthy at the right time(s). Conversely, others have flattered to deceive, with a number of owners and coaches seemingly ready to blow their respective rosters up in the hope of gaining an advantage in 2020. Nevertheless, despite the above and a number of exciting matchups still to come, here are our midseason power rankings. J

1. New England Patriots (8-0)

2. New Orleans Saints (7-1)

3. Green Bay Packers (7-1) +3

4. San Francisco 49ers (8-0) +7

5. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) -2

6. Seattle Seahawks (6-2) +2

7. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) +6

8. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) +6

9. Los Angeles Rams (5-3) -2

10. Minnesota Vikings (6-2) +10

11. Dallas Cowboys (4-3) -6

12. Buffalo Bills (5-2) +3

13. Houston Texans (5-3) +3

14. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) -5

15. Chicago Bears (3-4) -11

16. Carolina Panthers (4-3) +3

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) +1

18. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) -8

19. Detroit Lions (3-3-1) +2

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4) +3

21. Oakland Raiders (3-4) +5

22. Tennessee Titans (4-4) -1

23. Cleveland Browns (2-5) -11

24. Arizona Cardinals (3-5-1) +4

25. Denver Broncos (2-6) +4

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5) -1

27. New York Giants (2-6) -3

28. Atlanta Falcons (1-7) -6

29. New York Jets (1-6) -2

30. Washington Redskins (1-7) +1

31. Cincinatti Bengals (0-8) -1

32. Miami Dolphins (0-7)

Who do you have top of your power rankings? Sound off in the comments section below.

NFL 2019 – MIDSEASON TAKEAWAYS

Just how have 8 weeks of the 2019 NFL season passed so quickly?

Despite a number of earth shattering injuries to some of the biggest names in league history the quest for NFL supremacy waits for no man — including Patrick Mahomes it seems. Here are some our biggest takeaways at the half way mark of the 2019 NFL season. Roll the tape…

Zebra’s need help

Every season has bad officiating at times — blown calls, missed PI’s and so on, but this year feels different. The tone appeared to be set in week 2 when the Saints had a defensive TD against the Rams called back despite Jared Goff fumbling the ball — something every man, women and child could see. Additionally, the ability for head coaches to challenge and overturn PI calls has yielded little to no success. Rightly or wrongly, the league appears to not want to go against the officials and instead appears to have the rule in place as a fail safe — in an apparent attempt to avoid the type of controversy seen in last years NFC Championship. Oh did we forget to mention the increased protection QB’s appear to be receiving? Look we get it. QB’s are the lifeblood of the NFL and Roger Goodell wants to avoid another concussion based class action lawsuit, but ‘roughing the passer’ has taken on a whole new meaning in 2019. No wants to see players get hurt but can’t we just let the players play?

The 49ers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders

Hands up if you thought the 49ers would pose a threat to the NFC this year? Put them down and stop lying to yourself. Despite Kyle Shanahan being considered to be one of the games best offensive minds, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has turned this team into a defensive juggernaut. Just look at their defensive line — Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Soloman Thomas and Dee Ford is scary good. Then add Kwon Alexander and Richard Sherman to that. Unfortunately, because the Patriots appear to be enjoying their own defensive homecoming — destroying every single season defensive record and putting up the biggest mid season point differential since the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans in the process — the 49ers are being overlooked for having the NFL’s best defensive unit since the 2015 Denver Broncos. Much to Robert Kraft’s dismay, something tells me we might see Brady vs Garoppolo in February.

The Browns need a Head Coach

The Dawg Pound just can’t seem to catch a break. After drafting elite level talent on both sides of the ball over the last 2 years the Browns went all in (with a view of making the playoffs for the first time since 2002) when they brought in Odell Beckham Jr. during the offseason. However, a team comprising of the league’s best WR and players such as Mayfield, Landry, Chubb, Garrett and Ward (you get the picture) is currently 2-5. Granted they do have a favourable end of year schedule and a 9-7 season could very well get them into the playoffs, but this team has a number of issues. Cleveland have committed an utterly ridiculous 70 penalties thus far and with Mayfield regressing — he has been a turnover machine this year — it would be easy to place the blame squarely on Freddie Kitchens’ shoulders. But Browns GM John Dorsey should have known better than to hire a man who was a running backs coach just 18 months ago. Yes it may seem unfair to make a change so soon into Kitchens’ tenure, but with the Bengals in full rebuild mode and the Steelers having an off year the Browns need to win and win now.

The Chargers need to win or find a new home

It’s safe to say the Chargers may regret moving to Los Angeles. With the team unable to fill a 25,000 capacity ‘soccer’ stadium for the third year in a row, team owner Dean Spanos has had to revise projected annual revenues to $150m — down from the $400m they were expected to make by making the move alongside the Rams. With L.A. perceivably remaining a Rams/Raiders town and home games being regularly ambushed by away fans, the Chargers may ultimately have to move in the not too distant future. Of course all this could be avoided should they ultimately win a Lombardi trophy, or perhaps be in the position to offer L.A. natives the hottest ticket in town by acquiring someone with undeniable cache, someone like Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. for example. Stranger things have happened of course, but the likelihood of at least one of the above scenarios coming to fruition is currently slim to none whilst having a 3-5 record.

The Bears must look beyond Trubisky

With the Chicago Bears narrowly losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in last years NFC wild card round much was expected from Matt Nagy’s boys this year. However, with respective resurgent Packers, Vikings and Lions squads, they currently sit bottom of the NFC North with a 3-4 record. From a team that has one of the best head coaches in the game and a defence that is led by Khalil Mack, Bears fans have rightly identified Mitch Trubisky as the weak link in what is undeniably their best chance of winning a Super Bowl since the mid 80’s. Despite injury the third year QB has consistently struggled with both his second and third reads. To rub salt into their wounds the Bears passed up the opportunity to draft both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017 — trading UP to get him. Can the Bears still win a Super Bowl? No doubt. But it would be a damn site easier if one of those third year QB’s were running this offence.

Mahomes/Watson rivalry is here

Talking of the league’s most electric QB’s, the NFL has patiently waited for a ‘New Age’ rivalry at the QB position ever since Peyton Manning retired and now they appear to have it. What Patrick Mahomes achieved in his first year as a starting QB was nothing short of a miracle — after all, only Tom Brady and the aforementioned Peyton Manning have dropped 50 TD’s during a 16 game regular season. Couple this with the fact that Mahomes was on pace to throw for an utterly ridiculous 7,000 passing yards before dislocating his knee, one has to wonder whether this man will break the record for every statistical category once he calls it a career. Nevertheless, stats don’t win championships and Deshawn Watson has just as much of a chance to win a Super Bowl as Mahomes does. Watson has shown time and time again that you can’t count out the Texans whilst the ball is in his hands. Just ask the Chiefs, who lost to Watson in week 6. Something tells me we are going to see these QB’s square off for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for at least a decade.

Russell Wilson is the MVP frontrunner

I know many will lobby for Aaron Rodgers and others will protest the lack of defensive candidates each and every year — Stephon Gilmore and Nick Bosa come to mind, but in reality there is only one man worthy of league MVP at the half way mark and that man is Russell Wilson. Outside of Tom Brady the Seattle Seahawks QB has been the most consistent player under centre over the last decade. Perhaps influenced by THAT play that cost the Seahawks back to back championships in Super Bowl 49, Wilson has been criminally overlooked in the race for regular league honours. However, this could well be his year and with a stat line that includes 2127 pass yards, 17:1 TD/INT’s and a 77.6 QB rating, should he continue at this pace its going to be hard for those with a vote to deny what would be a career defining season for the diminutive signal caller. J

What are your top midseason takeaways? Sound off in the comments section below.

NFL LONDON GAMES 2019

On Sunday the NFL returned to London for what was the first of four regular season games to be played outside of the United States in 2019 and what was to be the first game to be played at the newly built state of the art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium — the first purpose built venue for American football outside of North America. After losing at home to the Green Bay Packers on opening night the Chicago Bears went into their game with the Raiders on a 3 game winning streak and must have believed they were going to come away from their international ‘business trip’ with an improved 4-1 record. Instead John Gruden put on a coaching clinic and redeemed his head scratching trade of Khalil Mack to Chicago in 2018 in the process, keeping the famed Bears defence on the field for most of the first half by pounding their defensive line with rookie RB Josh Jacobs time and time again. Conversely, the Raiders defence managed to do just enough to stop a later game comeback by the Bears, picking off Chase Daniels late in the fourth quarter to seal a famous win for what is an exceptionally young team.

Yet despite the game proving to be somewhat of an unexpected spectacle, it was the atmosphere that caught most seasoned NFL fans off guard. Put simply this game could have been mistaken for a Chicago Bears home game (for the record it wasn’t). In truth the games played at both Wembley and Twickenham are often attended by a variety of people; ranging from genuine fans of both teams, fans of other teams, casual fans and individuals who just want a good time. The issue with having such a mix of people would be the genuine lack of game day atmosphere, but this game felt ‘different’. I heard one fan say it was due to the sheer volume of fans making the trip over to the UK, whilst another attributed the improved atmosphere to the quality of said game. However, having experienced the game for ourselves it is almost impossible not to recognise the impact of the venue, which was co-financed by the NFL due to the sheer growth of the game over the past decade. In many ways this game felt like it was a ‘vindication’ of sorts for UK fans who long for a franchise to be based in London. Still, although they may have to wait a little longer for this to come to fruition, after witnessing the very best London has to offer, one has to believe this is now a question of when rather than if. J

Be sure to check out some of our photos from the big game below and let us know whether you attended the game, your thoughts and whether this could indeed convince the NFL to have a franchise based in London. Enjoy.

QUARTER-SEASON 2019 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Week 4 is in the books. As is often the case at the quarter-season mark a series of events have reshaped the NFL landscape for 2019. In addition to Andrew Luck retiring, a number of marquee QB’s went down with injury; Ben Roethlisberger and Nick Foles are both done for the season, Sam Darnold is out with mono (yes mono) and Drew Brees won’t return until week 8 after having his thumb surgically repaired. However, one man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune — just ask Tom Brady who went on to achieve G.OA.T. status after Drew Bledsoe was wiped out in week 2 of the 2001 season. Enter Baker Mayfield’s clone Gardner Minshew. The latter has been excellent thus far and has made the injury to Saint Nick look like a potential blessing in disguise, and the Jaguars remain a genuine threat in the AFC should ‘Minshew mania’ continue.

Then there is the rather improbable, but nevertheless continued emergence of Daniel Jones. After an impressive preseason no one could have predicted how Manning-esque Eli’s replacement would look — completing 69% of his throws for 578 yards and 3TD’s as well as 2 rushing TD’s has been seriously impressive, and all this despite Saquon Barkley being unavailable after suffering a high-ankle sprain in Jones’ debut against the Buccaneers in week 3. The Giants are well on their way to competing with the Cowboys and Eagles in 2020 and may just shock a number of teams as the season progresses.

Continuing the theme of positive early season surprises Aaron Rodgers has to be pleased with his Green Bay Packers. For the first time since his lone 2010 Super Bowl triumph it appears the future HOF’er might finally have some genuine defensive help. The Saints, who as previously mentioned lost Drew Brees to injury, have been exceptional under Sean Payton’s leadership — beating the Seahawks and the Cowboys with Teddy Bridgwater under centre. And what about those Buffalo Bills? Everyone and his dog knew they had an elite defence, but they have finally started to translate that into wins. If it was not for a defensive master class from the reigning champs in week 4 the Bills would be 4-0.

Finally, what of the teams that so much was expected? The Rams have looked fairly pedestrian without a fully fit Todd Gurley, the Chargers appear to have regressed despite Phillip Rivers operating an offence with a banged up receiver corp, the Falcons have yet to get going on either side of the ball and the Vikings have just straight up been Kirk Cousin(ed). Oh and despite all the offseason hype surrounding the Browns, Freddie Kitchens’ boys were brought back to earth by both the Titans and the Rams. With the above story lines and those I have chose to ignore (AB, Burfict et al.) here are my quarter-season 2019 NFL Power Rankings. J

1. New England Patriots (4-0)

2. New Orleans Saints (3-1)

3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) +3

4. Chicago Bears (3-1) +1

5. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) +4

6. Green Bay Packers (3-1) +7

7. Los Angeles Rams (3-1) -4

8. Seattle Seahawks (3-1) +7

9. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) -2

10. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) -6

11. San Francisco 49ers (3-0) +10

12. Cleveland Browns (2-2) +2

13. Baltimore Ravens (2-2) +4

14. Indianapolis Colts (2-2) -3

15. Buffalo Bills (3-1) +13

16. Houston Texans (2-2) +3

17. Detroit Lions (2-1-1) +9

18. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) -2

19. Carolina Panthers (2-2) +1

20. Minnesota Vikings (2-2) -8

21. Tennessee Titans (2-2) -3

22. Atlanta Falcons (1-3) -14

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3) -13

24. New York Giants (2-2) +7

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

26. Oakland Raiders (2-2) -3

27. New York Jets (0-3) -3

28. Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) +4

29. Denver Broncos (0-4) -7

30. Cincinatti Bengals (0-4)

31. Washington Redskins (0-4) -4

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) -3

WEEK 2 NFL PICKS

The NFL’s 100th season began exactly how the 2018 season finished — with an incredibly tense Thursday night game which saw the Packers defense suffocate the Bears offense to win 10-3. The tone that was set in Chicago carried over to the Lions and Cardinals on Sunday which resulted in a tie for two of the league’s perennial underachievers. Finally, Monday night saw New Orleans pip Houston in a thriller and there was a much needed moral boosting win for Jon Gruden and the Raiders against the Broncos. So what will Week 2 have in store?

Thursday Night Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers – 8:20pm ET on NFL Network, 1:20am BST on Sky Sports/NFL GamePass

Both teams started their campaigns with a defeat, but it’s the Carolina Panthers who will be feeling a lot better about their performance than the Bucs. The Panthers went toe to toe with the defending NFC champions in a close 30-27 loss. Christian McCaffrey stole the show for Carolina on Sunday, rushing for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Although Cam Newton had a disappointing game (239 yards, no TD and 1 INT), he will look to set the record straight against a poor Tampa Bay defense.

It was a messy week 1 for Tampa Bay in a 31-17 loss to the 49ers. Quarterback Jameis Winston had by far the lowest rating of all QBs in week 1 (45.4), throwing for just 194 yards and being picked off three times by San Francisco. If the offense does not perform it is hard to see Tampa winning many games this season.

Pick: Tampa Bay 20, Carolina 34

Sunday Slate

Arizona Cardinals @ Baltimore Ravens – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

The Cardinals took until the 4th quarter to show up against the Lions, but show up they did — scoring 18 unanswered points, 15 of those with under six minutes remaining — and all of this with a rookie QB. Kyler Murray became the first Cardinal in franchise history to rack up 300 pass yards in his debut game, a promising start for the first pick in the draft and for a Cardinals offense who ranked dead last in all offensive categories last season.

The Ravens looked fantastic in all areas of their systematic beatdown of the Miami Dolphins. One of the biggest questions heading into the season was whether Lamar Jackson could step back and be a pure pocket passing QB. Against Miami he showed plenty of promise — a perfect passer rating is not bad for a QB playing in just his ninth NFL game. This will be a sneaky good game on Sunday, though expect the Ravens to come out on top.

Pick: Arizona 23, Baltimore 33

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

Dallas produced a statement performance against the Giants in Week 1. Dak Prescott passed for over 400 yards and threw for four touchdowns, posting a perfect passer rating in the process. The good news for Cowboys fans is that they were able to dominate without Ezekiel Elliott making a major contribution.

Washington raced into a 17 point in Philadelphia before collapsing in the second half, but it’s not all doom and gloom for Redskins fans. Quarterback Case Keenum showed much more of his old Vikings form than he showed last season in Denver, passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Whilst the result was ultimately disappointing given the position they were in, the Redskins would have taken a lot of heart from their performance in Philadelphia. Expect a close game with the Cowboys.

Pick: Dallas 23, Washington 20

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

The Jacoby Brissett era nearly got off to the perfect start as the Colts lost a heart-breaker to the Chargers. A steady start for Brissett, but his two touchdowns on the road against a playoff caliber team will do wonders for any pre-season nerves he may have had. Brissett now has the weight of Indianapolis on his shoulders following the shock retirement of Andrew Luck, but on Week 1’s evidence he looks likely to rise to the challenge.

What a win for the Tennessee Titans against an overhyped Cleveland Browns. Tennessee has long been overlooked in the AFC despite having one of the NFL’s best defenses — which often allows them to keep even the most difficult of games close. Whilst Brissett and the Colts will pose a challenge, expect the Titans to move to 2-0.

Pick: Indianapolis 14, Tennessee 19

Seattle Seahawks @ Pittsburgh Steelers – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

This is a battle between two teams who drastically under performed in Week 1. Whilst Seattle managed to scrape a win, they were massively underwhelming against the Bengals. Although Seattle thrived in the run game a season ago, Chris Carson will have to improve on his 15 carries for 46 yards if Seattle is to be a contender this season. On a positive note Seattle’s pass rush will please Pete Carroll — getting to Andy Dalton on five occasions and constantly pressuring and harassing him throughout their season opener.

It was an ugly Sunday night in Foxborough for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers and Patriots have had many close and exciting showdowns in previous seasons, but looked worlds apart as Pittsburgh could only muster up three points on offense. The defense didn’t look much better either. There were several instances of poor tackling and coverage, particularly the play that allowed Dorsett to be wide open for a 58 yard score. I expect the Steelers’ woes to continue on Sunday.

Pick: Seattle 34, Pittsburgh 28

Buffalo Bills @ New York Giants – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

A fantastic road comeback win against the divisional rival New York Jets on Sunday will fill second year quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills with bags of confidence. In similar fashion to the Cardinals, the Bills decided to only show up late in the game, but it was effective and they looked utterly dominant in the 4th quarter. Bills fans will no doubt be excited by a second straight trip to MetLife Stadium.

Not a good day for the Giants in Dallas. Still, Saquon Barkley looked like he will carry his 2018 form into 2019, firing the Giants into a great start against the Cowboys. Sadly for the G-Men, that’s where the good news ends. Daniel Jones made his first appearance late in the game, but his ball security came into question yet again when he fumbled the ball that helped the Cowboys seal the win. Still, this game is a repeat of Super Bowl XXV and history often repeats itself. However, this time it will be the Giants who will miss a last second field goal and whilst the Buffalo Bills won’t be crowned Super Bowl champions, they will (deep breath Bills fans) move to 2-0.

Pick: Buffalo 13, New York 10

San Francisco 49ers @ Cincinnati Bengals – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

It took a while for San Francisco to get going in Tampa but get going they did. Jimmy G and the Niners put up 25 points in the second half and had three touchdowns in the first half hauled back by penalties. Although this will have to change when they play better teams — the early signs are good for Garoppollo and San Francisco.

Whilst the win-loss column doesn’t show it, the Bengals would argue that they were the better team for the most part at CenturyLink Field. Bengals fans would have been pleasantly surprised with their showing in Seattle, but Cincinnati does have a history of starting strong and Seattle starting slow. It will be interesting to see if the Bengals can perform as well against San Francisco as they did against the Seahawks. Expect another high scoring game.

Pick: San Francisco 38, Cincinnati 21

Los Angeles Chargers @ Detroit Lions – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

The injury stricken L.A Chargers begun with a hard fought victory over the Colts. Whilst the Melvin Gordon holdout certainly makes the Chargers weaker, they are strong at the RB position and shouldn’t be affected too much by his continued absence. Also expect Rivers and the Chargers to get better and better as the weeks go by — starting this weekend in Detroit.

I was a nightmare finish for the Lions in the desert on Sunday — they blew an 18 point lead in the final quarter to eventually tie with Arizona. The failure to win in Glendale makes this game vitally important for Detroit, who have games against the Eagles and the Chiefs coming up in the not so distant future. A loss here and the Lions could be heading for a winless opening quarter of the season.

Pick: Los Angeles 27, Detroit 17

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on Sky Sports

Minnesota had perhaps one of the most impressive Week 1 wins, dominating who many people expect to be a resurgent Falcons team. The defense looked good as always, restricting Matt Ryan and company to just 12 garbage time points, whilst Kirk Cousins and that running offence didn’t look so bad either. They will have to perform just as well on Sunday against the Packers to get the W.

The Packers defense was one of the biggest surprises of the opening weekend, stifling the Bears to just a single field goal. Although they were playing a vaunted defense in Chicago, Aaron Rodgers will be expected to perform better against an equally good defense in Minnesota. This is a big game for Green Bay — a win would put them 1.5 games ahead of Chicago and the Vikings in what is an ultra competitive division.

Pick: Minnesota 14, Green Bay 24

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans – 1pm ET on FOX, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

Whilst all preseason hope may have evaporated when Nick Foles’s shoulder was slammed into the ground in the opening game, rookie QB Gardner Minshew certainly showed that even despite losing their star QB, the Jaguars will be no pushovers. It is, though, now imperative that the defense steps up — they match up against another explosive offense in Houston in Week 2.

Despite the heartbreaking loss in New Orleans, Deshaun Watson showed once again why he is an elite QB, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Newly acquired WR Kenny Stills began to repay some of his late season trade value by catching the go ahead score in the last minute of Monday Night Football. Nevertheless, despite losing Jadeveon Clowney, expect the Texans to swarm Minshew and the Jags.

Pick: Jacksonville 13, Houston 34

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins – 1pm ET on CBS, 6pm BST on NFL GamePass

These are two teams that had very contrasting opening weekends. It seemed like New England barely had to get out of first gear in their crushing win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brady looked brilliant as always, but it was the defense that stood out as they suffocated Big Ben and co. Three points allowed against the Rams in the Super Bowl, three allowed on SNF — notice a trend?

If there is any consolation for Miami Dolphins fans, it can’t get much worse than last Sunday. Still, a game against the division rival, reigning Super Bowl champions is probably not what you want after a 59-10 home loss. Miami is going to need a lot of Fitzmagic to get anything close to a win against the Patriots, but if so, then who knows? Another ‘Miami Miracle’ might occur. I think not, though.

Pick: New England 38, Miami 9

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders – 4:05pm ET on CBS, 9:05pm BST on NFL GamePass

The Jags defense will be one of the best Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs play this season and they still put up 40 with both Mahomes playing on one foot for large parts and WR Tyreek Hill exiting with a shoulder/collarbone injury. Hill being out for 4-6 weeks does change the dynamic of the offense though — there will undoubtedly be more pressure on Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and rookie WR Mecole Hardman to make up for his lost production.

The Raiders begun their last season in Oakland with a nice divisional win over the Broncos. The win would have come as a welcome relief to Jon Gruden following all of the Antonio Brown drama and it does in some respects feel like a weight lifted from the shoulders of the Raiders’ organisation. Oakland nearly pulled off a win against KC last season, can they get the job done this time around? No. But they will come close once again.

Pick: Kansas City 34, Oakland 31

New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams – 4:25pm ET on FOX, 9:25pm BST on Sky Sports

By far and away the most anticipated game of Week 2 takes place at the Coliseum. It goes without saying that the Saints will be dying for revenge following the events of January’s NFC Championship game. Drew Brees completed 74% of his passes in a brilliant comeback win over the Texans on Monday night and Alvin Kamara looked good as well, racking up just under 100 yards.

The best way to summarise the Rams’ win over Carolina would be to call it the great escape. Jared Goff had a poor game and will have to be considerably better if they are to beat the Saints. It is vital for the Rams to win this game, especially with it being at home. Additionally, although it may be too early to talk about potential playoff seedings, this could ultimately decide who ends up hosting this season’s NFC title game and if there’s one thing that is absolutely guaranteed — the Rams won’t want to head back to NOLA in a hurry.

Pick: New Orleans 38, Los Angeles 28

Chicago Bears @ Denver Broncos – 4:25pm ET on FOX, 9:25pm BST on NFL GamePass

Having been the talk of the NFL throughout the offseason, what a disappointing start for the Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky was nothing short of dreadful against the Packers and will have to do better playing in a difficult environment in the Mile High City.

It does not bode particularly well for the Denver Broncos that the only substantial points they could put up against a questionable defense was in garbage time. The Bears defense is not who you want to play just a few days after a lacklustre offensive performance. On the bright side, no one will know the Bears defense better than former Bears DC, and now Broncos HC, Vic Fangio. I expect Chicago will still be too much for Denver to handle though.

Pick: Chicago 23, Denver 10

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons – 8:20pm ET on NBC, 1:20am BST on Sky Sports/NFL GamePass

These two teams have produced exciting but low scoring games in two meetings in the last couple of seasons, with Philly coming out on top in both. Philadelphia will have to ensure they play right from the start — rather than waiting for the third quarter — as they did against Washington on Sunday. The defense will need to be better as well, allowing 27 points to Case Keenum is not a good start to the season.

It was an ugly loss for the Atlanta Falcons in Minneapolis. Although the 28-12 scoreline may suggest otherwise, they were utterly dominated by the Vikings run game. A loss here and the Falcons will drop to 0-2. Too soon to panic? Perhaps, but only 11% of teams starting 0-2 make the playoffs. it goes without saying but a big home win is needed for Atlanta. However, I predict Philly will edge another narrow win over the Falcons.

Pick: Philadelphia 27, Atlanta 24

Monday Night Football

Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets – 8:15pm ET on ESPN, 1:15 am BST on Sky Sports/NFL GamePass

If they make the playoffs the Browns might look back and believe their Week 1 humbling to Tennessee to be the best thing to have happened to them. But make no mistake, it was a catastrophe for Cleveland, who now find themselves in what is now a must win game. The team simply has too much talent to fail, but there are clear teething problems — Baker Mayfield looked terrible and his receivers were largely ineffective all game. Still, I expect him and Browns to bounce back soon rather than later.

It was all going so well for the Jets before they completely lost their way in a calamitous 4th quarter against the Bills. To make matters worse they will be without QB Sam Darnold for at least two games — who was ruled out on Thursday with mononucleosis. Oh and Le’veon bell has been listed questionable for the game too. Both teams entered the NFL’s 100th season with plenty of promise but one will be 0-2 after two games and that team will be the Jets. B

Pick: Cleveland 30, New York 17

SHOCK NFL NEWS – ANDREW LUCK RETIRES

In news that sent shockwaves across the NFL and many a FF owner, Indianapolis Colts starting QB Andrew Luck announced he would retire before the start of the 2019 regular season, aged just 29. Selected with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft — a move that would see Peyton Manning released — Luck was universally recognised as the most pro ready QB to come out of college since John Elway. The projections were accurate as he would go on to enjoy great success in what will now be viewed as a criminally short career — being selected to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, leading the league in touchdowns in 2014 and being named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 after sitting out the entire 2017 season with a serious shoulder injury.

However, the injury sustained in 2017 was not an isolated event — Luck had torn his right Labrum in the same year and suffered a lacerated Kidney that ended his season in 2015. Ultimately, a calf/lower leg injury would hinder his ability to practice this offseason and it now appears to have taken a much greater toll on Luck than had previously been reported. Rumours of his retirement had circulated during the Colts preseason game against the Bears, causing mass confusion amongst fans which led to a chorus of boos as Luck exited the Lucas Oil stadium sideline at the end of the 4th quarter. Once inside the Colts locker room Luck would inform his teammates and would later confirm those earlier rumours in what was a highly emotional press conference —

“I’m in pain, I’m still in pain. It’s been four years of this pain, rehab cycle” luck said.

“It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain. Part of my journey going forward will be figuring out how to feel better”.

“Honestly it’s the hardest decision of my life, but it is the right decision for me. And it’s been unceasing and unrelenting, both in-season and in the off-season”.

Luck finished by saying “I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away, I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live”.

From the above one can clearly see that Luck was struggling with day to day life. As fans we rarely get to see the man behind the star player. Walking away from a sport that has given so much joy to Luck must be hard, especially as QB’s are now playing into their mid 40’s. Nevertheless, one thing is certain — the sport will miss Andrew Luck more than he will miss the sport. Here at Benny Given Sunday we wish you all the very best with the next chapter in your life. J

10 MUST-WATCH NFL GAMES IN 2019

There were some truly classic NFL regular season games in 2018. Right off the bat week 1 had the Bucs put 48 on the Saints. In week 3 thousands of Bud Light refrigerators around Cleveland were unlocked when the Browns finally won their first game in 635 days against the Jets. Finally, who can forget the Chiefs explosive offensive performances against both the Patriots and the Rams — where Andy Reid’s boys scored a combined 91 points — and still managed to lose BOTH games? 2019…… more of the same please.

Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes embrace after a wild week 11 clash

1. SAINTS @ RAMS – Week 2

There are some great games in week 1. But the NFL regular season truly arrives in week 2. Who can forget THAT pass interference non-call on Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman in last years NFC championship game? It ultimately cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl, and robbed everyone of a dream Brady v Brees matchup. More importantly, it led the NFL to change what coaches can now challenge — with pass interference calls/non-calls to be trialled in 2019 as a direct result of said fallout. Will it alter the flow of the sport? Quite possibly. But those from the ”Big Easy” won’t care. Prediction — the Saints dominate the Rams 34-13.

2. COLTS @ CHIEFS – Week 5

Another playoff rematch between two of the NFL’s best. The last time these teams met the Chiefs had arguably their best defensive game of the season. Andrew Luck was hurried all game, sacked 3 times, and limited to just 203 pass yards. Albeit part of Andy Reid’s game plan to run the ball and control time of possession, Patrick Mahomes was far from his explosive best too. Nevertheless, this game could very well be a dress rehearsal of this years AFC championship. Both teams are loaded on offence, and both have got better defensively this off season. More importantly how much longer can Tom Brady and the Patriots dominate the AFC? Prediction — both QB’s put on a show, but the Chiefs edge their opponents 38-34.

3. BROWNS @ PATRIOTS – Week 8

When was the last time the Cleveland had a signature win against a legitimate championship contender? Long suffering sports fans from the greater Ohio area did indeed have the great LeBron James in town for a while — he even delivered an NBA championship in 2016. But football is America’s game, and Browns fans have not witnessed a playoff appearance for a league record 16 seasons. Yet, after years of failure, and loading up on some of the best defensive talent college football has had to offer, there appeared to be a genuine shift in team culture in 2018. Signing stud WR Jarvis Landry certainly helped, but drafting elite competitors in Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, Nick Chubb, and Antonio Callaway — all young explosive skill position players — has the Dawg Pound dreaming once again. Oh and they just added Odell Beckham Jr., and Kareem Hunt too. Subsequently, what better way to announce yourselves than by beating the defending champs in Foxborough? Prediction — the Browns shock the Patriots 28-24.

4. PACKERS @ CHIEFS – Week 8

Tom Brady is the undisputed G.O.A.T, and Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most talented QB to have ever played the sport. Nevertheless, if I could choose any QB to lead my team over the next 5 years I would take Patrick ”Mahomeboy” Mahomes every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Yes he has benefited from some truly spectacular play design from Andy Reid, but name me one QB who can throw no look passes on a dime, and who can rip the ball 80+ yards in cold weather? Last year we got to see ”old man” Brady beat out both players. But this year we get to see two of the most physically talented QB’s of all time go head to head. Prediction — in what will be a game of preposterous offensive quality, Green Bay’s much improved defence will do just enough to keep Mahomes at bay. Packers win 31-28.

5. BEARS @ EAGLES – Week 9

Will Bears fans ever get over their traumatising 2018 wild card defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles? What should have been a game winning field goal proved to be the stuff of nightmares for Chicago kicker Cody Parkey. As time expired Parkey’s field goal managed to strike the goal post not once — but TWICE. Until the Saints knocked off the Eagles, ‘Saint Nick’ had me convinced that he was about to run the table for a second successive year. Alas, Parkey has since been released, and Foles will be the starting QB for Jacksonville after paying the Eagles $2 million to void their team option. Yet, despite the immediate history between both teams, each can legitimately lay claim to having the best roster in the NFL. Prediction — the Eagles hold off the Bears much improved offence 26-21.

6. PATRIOTS @ EAGLES – Week 11

Week 11 will see a rematch of one of the greatest Super Bowls in NFL history — Super Bowl LII. As a Boston sports fan I still struggle to see how the Patriots managed to lose, especially when Tom Brady managed to torch the Eagles for 505 yards. Talk of infighting did not help, and the benching of Malcolm Butler will likely remain a mystery for as long as there is the same level of Area-51 style security that is currently found at the Patriots practice facility. Nevertheless, it’s been some time since New England last played in Philly. Naturally, Brady will be greeted with a chorus of boos in what is widely considered to be the most intimidating atmosphere in the NFL. But the fans won’t beat Brady alone. As previously mentioned, the Eagles can lay claim to having the best roster in the NFL. I also expect a bounce back year from Carson Wentz — who could be in the running for league MVP when its all said and done. Prediction — this will be a relatively low scoring affair, but the Eagles win 27-23.

7. COWBOYS @ PATRIOTS – Week 12

Just who is ‘America’s Team’? The Cowboys have long held the self-proclaimed title — from 1978’s championship winning team to be precise. Yes the ‘The Boys’ did win 3 Super Bowls in the early 90’s, but has Jerry Jones truly upheld the model of accountability and leadership that was set by Tom Landry over 50 years ago? I think we all know the answer to that question. To have just two playoff wins in the Tony Romo era was criminal, but to make matters worse, the Patriots went on to build the greatest dynasty the sport has ever seen over the same period. OUCH. Nevertheless, despite the failures of yesteryear there are signs of life in Arlington —the Cowboys are one of the most balanced teams in the league heading into 2019. Not only can they lay claim to having the best defence in the league, but Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper are arguably the best offensive skill position trio in the league. However, to truly put the league on notice they will have to beat NFL royalty. But can Jason Garrett out-coach Bill Belichick? I have my doubts Prediction — the Patriots play some of their best football of the year to win 32-14.

8. CHIEFS @ PATRIOTS – Week 14

Yes there is a theme to my last three picks — watch as many Patriots games as you can. Why? Not only do they consistently bring the best out of their opponents, they can bring the worst out too. In 2018 the Patriots certainly brought out the best of Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offence. However, when they had the finish line in sight — and had the Patriots staring at the barrel of a gun in the AFC championship — the Chiefs wilted under pressure. They say to be the man you have to beat the man, and in the playoffs Tom Brady continues to be the self proclaimed ‘baddest mother f’ on the planet. The Patriots predictably marched into sub zero Kansas City and stole the dreams of multiple generations of Chiefs fans — including the family of the great Lamar Hunt who’s name dons the AFC championship trophy. Nevertheless, this was Mahomes first year as a starting QB, and Reid has previously bested the Patriots with Alex Smith under centre. Prediction — Mahomes finally exorcises his Patriot demons to help his team win 34-28.

9. COLTS @ SAINTS – Week 15

My penultimate pick for one of the must-watch games of the 2019 season comes in week 15, when we see the Colts head south to face the Saints. In what could be a vital end of season game that helps determine the playoff picture for both conferences, put money on Sean Payton calling a number of trick plays to disrupt the Colts young, yet impressive Tampa 2 defence. More importantly, we get to see two of the league’s best QB’s come face to face for just the second time. After a serious shoulder injury kept Andrew Luck out of action in 2017, he was at his irresistible best last year — coming close to surpassing his career best single season marks for both TD’s (39/40) and pass yards (4,593/4,761) respectively. Prediction — Luck puts on a clinic to shock the Saints 38-34.

10. CHIEFS @ BEARS – Week 16

Despite each team losing in gut wrenching fashion in last years playoffs, could this be a dress rehearsal of Super Bowl LIV? On paper both appear to have addressed their respective deficiencies during the off season. Yes the Chiefs await an NFL report into Tyreek Hill’s personal conduct — amid allegations of domestic abuse and child battery — but adding Tyann Mathieu, Frank Clark and Juan Thornhill will surely make their leaky defence better. The Bears got significantly better too. Taking both David Montgomery and Kerrith Whyte Jr. at RB were easy decisions to make, especially when players of their quality fall into the latter rounds. However, with the additions of Riley Ridley, and more importantly Cordarrelle Patterson at WR — the Bears have added much needed versatility to an offensive scheme that relies heavily on RPO’s and play-action bootlegs. Still, both teams are likely to revert to type, and it is this that makes this game so fascinating. Who doesn’t want to see 2018’s most electric offence come up against 2018’s best defence? Prediction — in a cold, snowy Chicago, the Bears win 23-21. J

What games are circled on your NFL calendar? Post your comments below.

TOP 5 ‘UNDER THE RADAR’ PICKS FROM 2019 NFL DRAFT

Ok. If you’re familiar with College Football then you will likely know who each of the following 5 picks are. In fact you are likely to know what position they play, who they played for, and where they were projected to come out of the draft. Advanced warning — yes some of these picks were drafted in the 2nd round, and for those players I am going to argue their draft stock(s) should have been a lot higher. However, once the regular season starts, there could be a lot of head scratching around the league, with several coaches and GM’s asking themselves ‘just how did we let this guy slip?’. Let me explain……

Andy Isabella (WR, Arizona Cardinals)

Yes the former UMass product did indeed go to the Arizona Cardinals with the 62nd overall pick, and was rated as the no. 1 wide receiver in all of college football by Pro Football Focus prior to the 2019 NFL Draft. But if we’re being honest how many ‘reputable’ reporters, former executives and players had Andy Isabella go that high? We certainly didn’t. But if you judge a player simply by his combine/pro day performance then you aren’t paying attention. Put simply this kid had a monster senior season, compiling 102 receptions, 1,698 receiving yards, and 13 TD’s (albeit playing against weakened opposition that one would expect of an independent school). Nevertheless, despite the lack of college competition, the aforementioned Cardinals are a perfect fit. If first year Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s ‘Air Raid’/RPO heavy offence is to work it will require dynamic pass catchers who have elite speed. More importantly, Kyler Murray will need a security blanket when the going gets tough — because it will. Yet with Larry Fitzgerald entering his 16th season, you can bet on Isabella being his man.

Josh Oliver (TE, Jacksonville Jaguars)

2019 proved to be one of the strongest TE draft classes in recent memory. Former Iowa Hawkeye teammates T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were taken in the first round, and both Irv Smith Jr. and Drew Sample in the second. Yet of those previously mentioned TE’s, who can impact both the run and pass games respectively? Of course Hockenson immediately springs to mind (he is widely viewed as the heir to Rob Gronkowski’s ‘unicorn’ crown), but the others are a little more difficult to judge. For example, both Fant and Smith Jr. could very well be viewed as heavier, big bodied WR’s. Others, like Sample, could be viewed as pure blocking TE’s. However, like Hockenson, Josh Oliver has shown flashes of being able to do both — and do both well. The 6’5″/250Ibs former San Jose State TE has the size, just enough speed, and catching ability to be viewed as a serious red zone option. Although his run blocking is not as strong as his pass catching ability at this point in his young career, Oliver played linebacker at high school, knows how to hit, and has demonstrated a willingness to learn. Thus, providing his skill set is utilised correctly, and he is consistently moved along the line of scrimmage, he could very well become Nick Foles go to receiver — like Zach Ertz was for him in Philly.

Jaylon Ferguson (DE, Baltimore Ravens)

Just how did Jaylon Ferguson slip to the 3rd round? Yes his weight has been a concern at times, and he lacks an inside pressure game for now, but boy can he set the edge. In his 4 year college career he amassed 45 sacks (including 17.5 as a senior), making him the all team sack leader in NCAA FBS history. Yes the level of competition could be called into question, but outside of a QB orchestrating an offence, those tasked with chasing and harassing said player position can arguably have the most impact for a franchise, and he’s going to the RAVENS. A defensive behemoth for the best part of 20 years, those in Baltimore know defence wins championships. Yet despite being ranked 1st in both pass yards allowed and total defence in 2018, the departures of veteran leaders Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley should indicate just how high the Ravens are on their rookie DE. Expect him to be used almost exclusively in several defensive packages in the first 4-6 weeks of the regular season whilst he acclimatises to pro football — before being unleashed on the league in the run up to the 2019 NFL Playoffs.

Damien Harris (RB, New England Patriots)

Confession time. Pre-draft I had 3 RB’s ahead of Damien Harris (Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders and Bryce Love). Of course, me ranking said players higher than Harris is not a reflection of a perceived lack of ability on Harris’s part, because this young man is a stud. After all, you don’t play for Nick Saban for 4 years; best your former Alabama teammate (Josh Jacobs) in almost every major rushing category in each of your 3 seasons together, and become a 2x CFP National Champion, without having immense talent. Yet with the exception of Trent Richardson being taken 3rd overall in 2012 (which in itself was a disaster), teams have rarely overpaid for RB’s. However, this all changed when Todd Gurley came along in 2015. As a direct result of his success, RB’s are now viewed as viable commodities once again — paving the way for Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley to be drafted as high as 4th and 2nd respectively. Subsequently, Harris should be viewed as a steal at 87, especially when you consider the same franchise drafted another RB with their 31st pick last season (Sony Michel). Yes Super Bowl winner Michel should progress after enjoying a stellar rookie season, but he does have a history of knee injuries dating back to college. For this reason, and because the Patriots offence has been rebuilt to protect Tom Brady, Harris will likely see plenty of action in his first year. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised to see Harris sit for the first 3-4 weeks, then announce himself by having a 120+ yard, 3 TD regular season game.

Kingsley Keke (DT/DE, Green Bay Packers)

Ok. I admit it. I didn’t know a whole lot about this former four-star recruit before the draft. Selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 150th pick, Kingsley Keke is certainly a name to watch out for in the second half of the 2019 NFL season. During his senior year at Texas A&M Kingsley would drop 20 pounds in his bid to transition from DT to DE, and the results were impressive — producing 51 stops, whilst sacking the QB 7 times in what is an ultra competitive SEC. Nevertheless, size (6’3″/288Ibs), ability, and college production are not the only reasons why I placed Keke in my list of ‘under the radar’ draft picks. Team fit is often disregarded when predicting a players level of success in the pros, and despite Green Bay traditionally having a relatively poor track record recruiting defensive talent, they do appear to be getting it together in recent years. Outside of Mike Daniels, Keke joins fellow 2019 draft pick Rashan Gary in what is now an incredibly young defensive line. Yet if adding both Keke and Gary to a team that totalled 44 sacks in 2018 sounds like overkill — it isn’t. In reality, the vast majority of these sacks came from linebacker blitzes, designed to mask the lack of a traditional pass rush. Its another reason why the secondary predominantly lined up in press-man coverage — to stop huge chunk plays. Said deficiency severely limited Mike Pettine’s play-calls throughout 2018, as he rarely got to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 in game. With Gary likely to garner a ton of attention from opposing offensive coordinators, and with the hope of Darnell Savage shoring up the middle of the field, Keke could excel at being the ‘closer’ for the green and gold. J

FANTASY 5IVE

With the 2020 NFL regular season fast approaching and with many of our readers ready to join family, friends and colleagues in Fantasy Football leagues across the country, here we begin our weekly series of FF tips designed to highlight the traps you will want to avoid, as well as the moves that you will need to make to ensure FF domination from week 1.

1. Avoid drafting from New England

I understand the temptation to draft players from New England. After all, they, more than other franchise, put their players in positions to succeed. Yet you would be best served to resist drafting players from the reigning Super Bowl Champions. No one plays the field week to week better than Bill Belichick. Those who have fallen foul in recent years will know that sinking feeling of drafting Rob Gronkowski, believing he would grab a pair of TD’s and 100+ yards when playing against the 32nd ranked pass defence in the league that week — only to find out New England ran the ball down their throats all day. Similar scenarios have appeared when drafting Julian Edelman, James White or Sony Michel (we would know). Said players can of course have impressive FF numbers at times, but guessing when that player will be utilised to do so remains almost impossible whilst BB is in charge.

2. Take a RB early

Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley (if fit), and Le’veon Bell (once game ready). Concerns notwithstanding, these are the players to target in the first 2 rounds of your draft. All have been tremendous value for Fantasy Football owners in the past and will likely continue to churn out huge numbers this season. However, if you fail to draft one of these tier 1 backs, or have to wait until your pick gets back to form or full fitness, then ensure you take one of these backs — David Johnson (due a rebound year), James Connors (who will get plenty of touches for an effective yet predictable Steelers offence), Christian McCaffrey (a back who will see even more of the ball due to his QB’s injury worries), and Nick Chubb (the motor behind the Browns resurgent offence). Sleeper hit? Josh Jacobs of the Oakland Raiders.

3. Don’t underestimate weekly NFL schedule

One mistake every FF ‘noob’ undoubtedly makes is going into his/her weekly matchup believing they are playing their opponent. No. You are playing the NFL schedule, the betting lines, and everything in between. You will need to make calculated decisions as to who your star players are playing each week, how banged up the secondary/defensive line is that your WR’s/RB’s will be going against, whether your players are carrying injuries that will likely limit their production, how bad the weather will be in Buffalo in week 14, or whether one of your QB’s gets to play inside a dome against one of the league’s worst pass rush/pass defence teams. All of the above will matter, and will be the difference between finishing in playoff contention, or having to play against your 12 year old nephew; who regularly torches you at Madden, in a meaningless end of season dead rubber matchup.

4. Wait it out for your QB

Not even the most seasoned of FF players could have anticipated Patrick Mahomes having a 50 TD/12 INT/5000+ yard season. Why? Because this type of season has only been witnessed a handful of times in NFL History, with Marino in ’84, Brady in ’07, Rodgers in ’11 and Peyton Manning in both ’04 and ’13 being the other notable QB’s to have ripped up the stat sheet. Nevertheless, try to wait until the 2nd, or even 3rd round to draft your QB, because said seasons are rare, and there are many ‘face of the franchise’ QB’s who will post incredibly similar numbers over the course of a regular season. Indeed outside of Mahomes, Luck, Rodgers and Watson, who will all likely get the keys to their respective offences in 2019, there is some real value in the next tier. Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield will all air the ball out a bunch, and players such as Carson Wentz, Cam Newton and Derek Carr are all due comeback seasons. However, if Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy, and he is able to sing from Kyle Shanahan’s hymn sheet, ensure you take him, even if you have drafted your starting QB. This leads us to………

5. Get a ‘backup’ for your star player(s)

Once again you must remember you are playing against the league, not your weekly opponent. This means you will have to contend with multiple bye weeks that could ultimately wreck your chances of winning, and winning well. Avoid taking multiple kickers, multiple defences and TE’s. Instead secure yourself a top 5 statistically ranked RB, WR and QB, if given the chance, then ensure you draft ‘backups’ that play for teams that rely heavy on that player’s particular skill set. This will do one of two things. First, it will give you options — again you play against the league, the schedule and everything in between. Second, although all starting calibre players are prone to a bad day, it reduces the risk of having a significant drop in points from one week to another. Subsequently, one or perhaps two, of your regular starters will pick up the slack that ensures yet another weekly FF win — helping get you into your end of season championship round. J

Benny Given Sunday will post weekly ‘Fantasy 5ive’ Football tips as the NFL regular season approaches. Additionally, we will also be hosting our own FF league this year and if you or anyone you know would like to be a part of it please get in touch by emailing us at bennygivensunday@outlook.com

POST 2019 NFL DRAFT POWER RANKINGS

So the NFL’s annual ‘next generation’ showcase has closed for yet another year. In the salary cap era the draft is supposed to be the great ‘eraser’ where GM’s across the league earn their money. Yet despite all the pre draft hype surrounding a number of players your uncle Jimmy had taken in his mock draft basement party, it’s easy to forget most of these rookies likely won’t contribute this year — despite an NFL record 40 draft day trades reflecting the immediate needs of a number of teams. Like every draft there were a number of surprises too; Daniel Jones going to the Giants for the 6th pick was a shocker, and several players with legitimate 1st round talent weren’t taken until day 3. Once again the draft proved one thing — no one outside of those respective war rooms knows a damn thing or what to truly expect, ourselves included. Nevertheless, due to said draft, free agency, veteran experience, strength of coaching and schedule, here are our initial power rankings for the 2019 NFL season. J

1. New England Patriots

2. New Orleans Saints

3. Los Angeles Rams

4. Los Angeles Chargers

5. Chicago Bears

6. Kansas City Chiefs

7. Philadelphia Eagles

8. Atlanta Falcons

9. Dallas Cowboys

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

11. Indianapolis Colts

12. Minnesotta Vikings

13. Green Bay Packers

14. Cleveland Browns

15. Seattle Seahawks

16. Jacksonville Jaguars

17. Baltimore Ravens

18. Tennessee Titans

19. Houston Texans

20. Carolina Panthers

21. San Francisco 49ers

22. Denver Broncos

23. Oakland Raiders

24. New York Jets

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

26. Detroit Lions

27. Washingtion Redskins

28. Buffalo Bills

29. Miami Dolphins

30. Cincinnati Bengals

31. New York Giants

32. Arizona Cardinals