After beating the Cleveland Browns today, Mike Tomlin has his Pittsburgh Steelers sitting at 7-5. That 7-5 record is currently good enough for the Steelers to occupy the sixth spot in the AFC playoff picture.
Since becoming the head coach of the Steelers back in 2007, Tomlin has never finished a season with a losing record. Once again, Tomlin has his Steelers in position to finish with a winning record, needing just one more win this season to finish at least 8-8. If the Steelers do in fact finish this season with a winning record, it would mark the 13th straight season Tomlin’s Steelers have done so.
Although the Steelers are on track for their 13th straight winning season under Tomlin, this one has been a little different than most. To start off the season, the Steelers took a beating from the New England Patriots, losing 33-3. They then went on to lose their next two games to the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
By starting 0-3, the Pittsburgh Steelers had everyone thinking they were one of the worst teams in the NFL. It was fair to think so, as they lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season after their second game. More often than not, teams don’t do well when their starting quarterback goes down.
It certainly looked like the Steelers were doomed without their starting quarterback. With backup quarterback Mason Rudolph in, the Steelers got their first win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4, but they then went on to lose to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, putting them at 1-4 through five weeks.
To make things even worse, Rudolph got hurt against the Ravens and was set to miss the next game, meaning the Steelers would have their third string quarterback in the game. Instead of refusing to quit and call the season a loss, Tomlin put together the perfect game plan for his third string quarterback, Devlin Hodges, to go in a beat the Los Angeles Chargers. It was with that win I knew the Steelers weren’t done just yet. The Chargers aren’t a great team this season, but how often do teams win games with their third string quarterbacks? Almost never.
Over the next three weeks, Tomlin led the Steelers to three straight wins over the Dolphins, Colts and Rams with Rudolph back in the lineup. However, he lost starting running back James Conner to injury for two of those games.
Then there was the first of two games between the Steelers and Browns. The Steelers lost this game, but it wasn’t just the game they lost. They also lost starting center Maurkice Pouncey for two games because of the fight that broke out in the final minute of the game.
After losing that game to the Browns, Tomlin has led the Steelers to two straight wins over the Bengals and Browns. Over these two games, things looked even worse for the Steelers going in. Against both the Bengals and Browns, the Steelers didn’t have starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Starting running back James Conner was also out for those two games after returning for their first game against the Browns.
Then there’s the fact that Rudolph was benched against the Bengals for his horrible play. They won that game because Tomlin decided to put third string quarterback Devlin Hodges in for the second half. Hodges started the game against the Browns today, which resulted in a win.
So here’s a quick recap of what Tomlin has been working with, or more like without, to this point in the season:
10 games without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
Four games without starting running back James Conner
Two games without starting center Maurkice Pouncey
Two games without starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
Two and a half games (benching) without backup quarterback Mason Rudolph
Tomlin has only had a full strength team in two games this season. Those were the first two games. Since then, Tomlin has had to deal with some sort of injury to a significant player every week, yet he’s led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a record of 7-3.
Regardless of if the Steelers end up making the playoffs or not, you have to admit that what Tomlin has been able to with this group of players is impressive.
I find it funny that just a season ago, there were rumors going around that Tomlin had lost control of the locker room. Many people wanted Tomlin out because of it. It’s pretty clear now that Tomlin never lost control of anything, he just had to deal with dramatic players such as Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell over the last couple of seasons, who did nothing but complain and be selfish regardless of results.
Remember, Tomlin is a Super Bowl winning coach. He’s also led the Steelers to a second Super Bowl appearance. It’s not every day a team has as many injuries to overcome as the Steelers have had this season, but it’s not every day you get a coach who can win with all those injuries either. If you don’t respect Tomlin already, start now, because he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL. Not many can do what he’s doing.
Now that March Madness is officially over and a National Champion has been crowned, we can all turn our attention to the next chapter in the world of Sports. But first, congratulation is in order for Virginia, as they beat Texas Tech 84-77 in overtime and withstood all doubters to become the 2019 College Basketball National Champions.
While we continue to celebrate the accomplishment of Virginia, let’s see what Aman, Joel and I think about other accomplishments from three different sports teams/players.
As the NBA season wraps up, we look at whether or not Atlanta Hawks rookie guard, Trae Young, did enough in March to earn him the rookie of the award. We will also look at whether or not the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Raiders can accomplish making the playoffs this season.
Joel: The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs this coming season after their recent string of offseason acquisitions.
Aman: I sellthe Raiders making the playoffs this season. Even though they’ve had some good off-season acquisitions, the Raiders will need some games to work on finding a good combination, and perhaps their acquisitions haven’t been the best. Positions which they’ve needed to fill, they haven’t.
Of course, the addition of Antonio Brown is fantastic, but you need more than one good player to win a game. I see the Raiders improving from last season for sure, but there’s still more established competition the Raiders will have to deal with, like the Chargers and the Chiefs. Hopefully, the Raiders have a good draft, and the Raiders can win more games, but playoffs is still a long shot.
Rahim: I sell the Raiders making the playoffs, at least, at this point of the offseason. The trade they made to get Antonio Brown was a steal, but that’s all they have on the offensive side right now.
Though the Raiders added OT Trent Brown, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Tyrell Williams and TE Luke Willson, I don’t believe it adds up to the talent they had last year at those positions. They have yet to resign RBs Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, WR Jordy Nelson has announced his retirement, and TE Jared Cook has joined New Orleans. Those are a lot of offensive threats QB Derek Carr will miss in the 2019 season, but they have a lot of drafts picks they could use to change my mind on whether I buy or sell them in the playoffs.
Their division is wide open, despite the pure dominance the Chargers and Chiefs showed last year. Both of those teams will have a lot of pressure to make it back to the playoffs and the Broncos will as well.
Speaking of Broncos, former Denver LB Brandon Marshall has joined the Raiders as well. But like I said, they need to draft BIG if they want to change the way I think about their playoff chances. I personally like Carr and Gruden, but they’ve got to get things back in order.
For now, it’s no playoffs for Raiders, maybe we’ll see them in it again when they get to Vegas.
RahimAli: After his excellent play in March, Trae Young will win rookie of the year?
Joel: Despite Trae Young’s great play recently, I’m going to sell on him being the new favorite to win rookie of the year. For starters, Luka Doncic has led his team to a better record than Young. Luka has led the Mavericks to a record of 33-48, while Young has the Hawks with a record of 29-52. There isn’t much of a difference in terms of the team record, but Luka has a slight advantage. I feel like having a better record, regardless of how small the margin may be, gives Doncic a leg up already.
Then there are their stats. Young had a great run in March, but Luka Doncic still has better overall stats than him. Doncic averages 21.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists, while Young averages 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. I’ll take the stats of Doncic over Young’s. We can also compare their shooting stats. Trae Young is shooting 41.9% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range, while Luka Doncic is shooting 42.7% from the field and 32.6% from 3PT range. Trae Young has better assist stats. Outside of that, Doncic has better stats in every other category I mentioned.
Aman: Although he’s had a great season, it would be injustice to Luka Doncic if Trae Young won rookie of the year. Along with having a better record with the Mavericks than Young did with the Hawks, Doncic’s stats are also better. Doncic averages 3 points more than Young’s 19.1/game with eight less games. When it comes to rebounds, Doncic leads that by a much bigger margin, 4.1 ahead of Young’s 3.8. Therefore, I sell Young winning the award, but just barely. It would still make sense if Young were to win it, especially with the Hawks chances of being set up to have two top 10 picks in the NBA Draft this summer.
As Doncic and Young battled their way to the top of the rookie standings in all categories, many of us might have forgotten they were part of a trade for each other. That trade was Lukas Doncic and a 2019 first round pick for Trae Young. The pick is a top-five protected, so if the Dallas Mavericks do manage to get a top-five pick, they will keep it, but if it falls out then the Hawks could get it. Now let’s imagine the Hawks having Trae Young with two of the top 10 prospects in the draft.
Aman: After a mixed start to the season, the Cubs still are a team which will make playoffs.
Rahim: The MLB Season is back, and the Chicago Cubs are looking to reclaim their division after losing it in a tie-breaker with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. This season will be a bit harder, as the Cardinals are seeking to join the mix. You can find out what we at Fourth Quarter Sports think of the NL Central division in your playoff predictions here.
But the Cubs have a good team; they need to find themselves right now. The pitchers are struggling early in the season, and the bats are swinging in the wrong direction. In game one of the Cubs’ series against the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs put up a “0” in the runs columns, while the Braves had eight.
That zero runs by the Cubs came by surprise early in the season, as it was only the 4th game and they were averaging over nine runs in the first three games. Now we are 10 games in and the Cubs are finding themselves struggling in the same way. The Braves swept them and took one of three games from the Brewers, and because of that, I am selling the Cubs making the playoffs, especially if they remain struggling for a while.
Joel: The Cubs have had a rough start to their season, but it’s still very early in the season. I’m not going to count the Cubs out just yet because they’ve started 3-7. For the last four seasons, the Cubs have made the playoffs and won at least 92 games. I think they still have the talent to do so, and the amount of time left in the season very much allows them to win 90+ games again. I’ll buy they’ll still make the playoffs because it’s early in the season and their recent history shows they’ll end up as a playoff team.
The official start of the NFL offseason was March 11th, 2019, and what a crazy few days it has been since the start. There has been so much happening that will change the course of the upcoming season and some franchises going forward. For the purpose of making everything easier to read, I’m going to write two different articles. The grouping will consist of an article about the trades and an article about the free agency signings.
For this article I’m going to focus on the trades that have happened so far. Ten trades have gone down since the start of the offseason, so lets talk about all ten of them individually.
WR, Odell Beckham Jr.
o The Giants will receive Safety Jabrill Peppers, a 2019 1st round pick, and a 2019 3rd round pick.
o The Browns will receive Odell Beckham Jr.
This trade definitely shocked the entire league. Beckham Jr. has spent his entire career with the Giants and had a nice comeback season last year after his 2017 season was injury plagued. He was the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year and has made three Pro-Bowl appearances. Beckham Jr. will certainly make the revamped Browns offense even more dangerous going into this season.
DE, Dee Ford
o The 49ers receive Pro-Bowl Defensive End Dee Ford.
o The Chiefs receive a 2020 2nd, round pick.
Ford had a breakout season in 2018 for the Chiefs, as he forced seven fumbles and tallied 13 sacks. Ford also had 55 combo tackles, 42 solo tackles, and 29 QB hits on his way to his first pro bowl selection. Ford will bring a dangerous edge to San Francisco’s pass rushing for at least the next five years, as he also got a new contract.
WR, Antonio Brown
o The Raiders receive Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Antonio Brown.
o The Steelers receive a 2019 3rd and 5th round draft pick.
Yes, this trade did come as a shock, but only because of what Pittsburgh got back for probably the best receiver in football today. Derek Carr will now have a top receiver to throw to, while Pittsburgh is stuck with two low round picks. It makes you wonder why they were willing to give up Brown for this deal. Brown will have a tough task in front of him trying to get Oakland back to the playoffs after a rough last couple seasons.
DE, Oliver Vernon and G, Kevin Zeitler
o The Browns receive Defensive End Oliver Vernon.
o The Giants receive Guard Kevin Zeitler.
This trade came before the OBJ trade, and seemed like a questionable one because of how good Vernon was for the Giants last season. He was selected to his first Pro-Bowl after seven years in the league. These are two trades that have really confused football fans around the league. I guess only time will tell if these risky moves pay off.
WR, DeSean Jackson
o The Eagles receive Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson
o The Buccaneers receive a 2019 6th round pick
This trade just seems fitting for a feel-good story. Jackson started out in Philly back in 2008 and was with the team until 2013. All three of his Pro-Bowl appearances came with Philly (2009, 2010, 2013) before he spent time in Washington and then Tampa Bay. Now being 32-years-old, who knows how long Jackson has left as he enters his 12th year in the league. His production has certainly gone down recently, but this is just an instance where a player wants to finish where he started.
DE, Michael Bennett
o The Patriots receive Defensive End Michael Bennett and a 2020 7th round pick.
o The Eagles receive a 2020 5th round pick.
Bennett has been widely regarded as one of the top defensive ends in the league since his arrival in 2009. Bennett will undoubtedly make an immediate impact for the defending Super Bowl Champions, as he made three straight pro bowls from 2015-2017 before having an average year for Philadelphia last year.
RT, Marcus Gilbert and G, Kelechi Osemele
o The Cardinals receive Right Tackle Marcus Gilbert.
o The Steelers receive a 2019 6th round pick.
o The Jets receive Guard Kelechi Osemele and a 2019 6th round pick.
o The Raiders receive a 2019 5th round pick.
I combined these two trades because they just aren’t big trades, I just felt that they should still be mentioned.
QB’s Case Keenum and Joe Flacco
o The Redskins receive Case Keenum and a 2020 7th round pick.
o The Broncos receive a 2020 6th round pick.
o The Broncos receive Joe Flacco.
o The Ravens receive a 2019 4th round pick.
These ones were combined simply because they are both Quarterbacks and the trades kind of tie together. The Ravens and Broncos made a verbal agreement a couple months ago to trade Flacco, which ultimately meant that Keenum was going to get traded. Flacco will now get another chance to start after losing his job to Lamar Jackson last season, and it’s presumed that Keenum will start in Washington after Alex Smith’s leg injury last season.
The NFL offseason is just getting started, and there has already been so many waves made around the league. Stay tuned for our article on the free agency signings!
A little over a week removed from the Super Bowl, the NFL is proving there truly is no offseason. Though we’re well removed from match-up previews and making our picks, the NFL is still reeling from some major headlines that could have major implications on the 2019 season.
Kyler Murray all in on a career in the NFL
“I am firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback.”
That tweet took the sports world by storm yesterday. We all knew Kyler Murray had declared for the NFL draft, but questions were still looming about his dedication to football and if he would still entertain the idea of playing baseball for the Oakland Athletics.
Murray strongly got his point across on Twitter yesterday, and in turn is making NFL teams entertain the idea of Murray being an NFL quarterback a little more seriously. I’m willing to bet that any team in the market for a quarterback in 2019 is probably putting together trade packages for each of the top five teams in this year’s draft to see if they can move up and snag the Heisman Trophy winner.
Would that happen? From the looks of things, no.
As of right now, the Cardinals are on the clock. There are a lot of inside sources hinting at the possibility Arizona’s new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury might pull the plug on the Josh Rosen experiment after only one year. He’d then pull the trigger on picking Murray number one overall. He even hinted to it back in 2018 when he was still at Texas Tech.
Youtube video provided by NFL Scrimmage.
As you can tell, Kingsbury has been high on Murray for quite sometime. He probably never thought he would have the opportunity to do good on his word and draft Kyler first overall. Time to see if Kingsbury’s word is true. Arizona really has nothing to lose at all if they actually do trade Rosen away. They are in a complete rebuild and are going to be do what it takes to build around their young coach, in hopes to mimic the success the Rams have seen.
Kareem Hunt gets second chance
“If a person wants to better themselves, and be a better person, I am willing to give them a chance…after all the deep research I have done I believe he will be a better man today than he was yesterday”
That quote was from Cleveland’s General Manager John Dorsey at yesterdays press conference, held in response to the Browns’ signing of Kareem Hunt. Hunt was released by Kansas City back in November when TMZ released a video of him shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel lobby. Dorsey showed his soft side yesterday, as he stated he is a true believer in second chances. They determined that Hunt is in fact remorseful for what he had done, that he has sought out professional help and counseling and he is proving he wants to be a better man.
Though there wasn’t any rock solid proof Hunt is truly remorseful for what happened that night (that was indicated by Dorsey’s strategic dance around reporters questions), all signs are pointing to the Browns have bought in on helping Hunt. Though a place where people’s careers usually die, Cleveland has a rare opportunity to reignite the former Pro Bowl RBs career.
The next few months will be telling for Hunt. Actions always speak louder than words. Though Dorsey was yelling from the roof tops yesterday that Hunt was remorseful and will be a better man at the end of this, still responsibility lands on Hunt to show everyone that it is true.
Antonio Brown makes it official on Twitter that he wants out of Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steeler’s are starting to look more like a soap opera than a football team. Last season it was the Le’Veon Bell situation, which by the way still needs to be resolved. And now this, a tweet from Antonio Brown giving his farewell to SteelerNation when he hasn’t even left yet. Bold move by a bold person.
It has been made public by Brown that he wants out of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh though is not making any sudden moves when it comes to dealing the All-Pro Wide Receiver. Brown still has three years left on his current contract (4 year 68 million dollar extension). Trading him puts the Steelers in a conundrum financially. If they were to trade Brown before June 1st of this year, Pittsburgh’s cap savings would be very minimal. Moving Brown after June 1st would save them about 12 million dollars in cap space, but would result in nearly 10 million dollars of dead money in 2020. Pittsburgh reportedly is asking for a first round pick on top of other incentives in exchange for Brown.
We do know the Steeler’s do take their dear sweet time when it comes to these types of decisions. I do expect to see a lot more tweets from Brown like the one we saw over the course of the offseason.
Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Two of the greatest WRs to ever play in the NFL. They’re also two of the biggest diva WRs in the history of the game. WR Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers might be the next great diva WR. I’m not sure he’s on par with Owens and Moss at this point of his career, but if he’s not, he’s quickly approaching.
In Week 17 of the NFL, Antonio Brown once again created drama for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown had an argument with a teammate in practice, which caused him to willingly miss some practice time for the Steelers. After missing practice time and team meetings that week, Brown showed up expecting to play in Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Antonio Brown did not play in that game, but instead was on the sideline. That was until he left at halftime…..
Maybe this drama heading into Week 17 had something to do with WR JuJu Smith-Schuster being named the team MVP over Antonio Brown. Maybe it’s because Brown felt like he wasn’t getting the ball enough. It could be he didn’t like the attention Smith-Schuster was getting over him. There have been reports Antonio Brown wanted to prove a point the Steelers would be nothing offensively without him. We may never know exactly what happened heading into Week 17, but this isn’t the first time Antonio Brown has done something like this.
We’ve heard several reports of Brown missing team meetings in the past. If you’ve watched Steelers games, we’ve seen him get mad and frustrated when he’s not getting the ball. Sometimes we’ve even seen him blow up on the sideline. It seems like any little thing could set Brown off at any moment. Sounds just like the drama caused by Terrell Owens and Randy Moss during their careers.
Should the Steelers trade Antonio Brown?
The recent drama surrounding Antonio Brown has led to rumors of the Steelers wanting to trade their star WR. Should they trade him?
Over the past six seasons, Antonio Brown has recorded at least 101 receptions, 1,200+ yards and eight TDs. This season, Brown posted a career high 15 TDs, which led the league. His numbers say future Hall of Famer. How do you trade away his production?
Pittsburgh has a promising young receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster. He recorded 111 receptions, 1,426 yards and seven TDs in just his second year in the NFL. A case could be made the Steelers would be fine offensively without Brown because they’ll have Smith-Schuster. However, I think this situation could be similar to how the Steelers functioned without RB Le’Veon Bell.
Le’Veon Bell vs James Conner
Without Bell, RB James Conner took over. Conner posted 973 rushing yards and 12 TDs in 13 games played. In addition to his rushing yards, Conner posted 55 receptions for 497 yards and one TD. His total yardage in 13 games was 1,470 with 13 total TDs. In Le’Veon Bell’s last season played with the Steelers, he posted a total of 1,946 yards and 11 TDs in 15 games played.
Based on Conner’s average of 74.8 rushing yards and 38.2 receiving yards per game, he would have finished the season with 1,122 rushing yards, 573 receiving yards and a total of 1,695 yards had he played the same amount of games Le’Veon Bell did in his last season (15). His total yardage would have been just 251 yards less than Bell’s, while his total TDs in 13 games this season are more than Bell last had.
Although Conner produced similar numbers to Le’Veon Bell, something just felt off for the Steelers offensively all season long. I don’t know if I can put my finger on it exactly, but not having Le’Veon Bell changed this offense.
Antonio Brown vs JuJu Smith-Schuster
If the Steelers were to trade away Antonio Brown, their leading receiver would be JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster had a great second season, posting better numbers than Antonio Brown in receptions and receiving yards. While Smith-Schuster had a great season, I don’t think he’d be able to carry the load at the receiver position for the Pittsburgh Steelers at this point in his career.
Antonio Brown recorded 104 receptions, 1,297 yards and 15 TDs this season. If the Steelers traded away Antonio Brown, how would they replace 100+ receptions, 1,200+ yards and 10+ TDs? Let me tell you, it’s not so easy to do. Outside of Brown and Smith-Schuster, the Steelers’ leading receiver in 2018 had 50 receptions for 610 yards and seven TDs. That player was TE Vance McDonald.
The Steelers won’t replace Antonio Brown’s production with a TE. If he’s gone, most of the attention goes to Smith-Schuster. While I like him as a receiver, a lot of his production came because he got one-on-one situations because Antonio Brown was taking on double-coverage. Without Antonio Brown, the Steelers’ offense would only regress.
Terrell Owens and Randy Moss
Despite Brown’s production and Hall of Fame numbers, the Steelers trading him wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen an NFL team move on from a diva WR. Terrell Owens started his career with the San Francisco 49ers. From 2000-2003, Owens posted four straight seasons of at least 80 receptions, 1,100 yards and nine TDs. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles because the 49ers didn’t want to deal with their diva WR anymore.
Randy Moss started his career with the Minnesota Vikings. Starting from his first season in 1998 to 2003, Moss produced at least 69 receptions, 1,200 yards and seven TDs in six straight seasons. His production slipped a bit in 2004, but he still had 700+ yards and 13 TDs. In 2005 he was a member of the Oakland Raiders. Both Owens and Moss were dominant receivers, but their actions and attitudes were detrimental to their teams. Just like these two all-time great WRs, Antonio Brown dominates at the receiver position, but he can be a detriment to his team at times.
Should the Steelers trade Antonio Brown?
I know Antonio Brown has a bad attitude and could potentially make things a whole lot worse for the Steelers than they already are, but I don’t believe trading him is the right move. Again, how are they going to replace his production?
Then there’s the situation with his contract, which could create a whole lot of dead money if he’s moved. You can learn more about that here. It wouldn’t be smart to move Brown’s contract.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to this: We don’t know how long Ben Roethlisberger has left. If the Steelers are trying to win another Super Bowl before Roethlisberger retires, they’re going to need Antonio Brown to be there. Having him one the roster drastically improves their chances of making a Super Bowl run.
Ah, the AFC North. The “black and blue” division, as I like to call it. A division that has been dominated by two teams since 2013, features a Super Bowl champion from the 2012 season, and houses one of the NFL’s perennial basement dwellers since they re-joined the NFL in 1999. On that note, let’s take a look at how these teams will shape up for the 2018 season.
1. Baltimore Ravens
2017 OFFSEASON & REVIEW
Postseason Result: N/A
WR Michael Crabtree(Raiders)
WR John Brown(Cardinals)
WR Willie Snead(Saints)
Robert Griffin III(FA)
WR Jeremy Maclin(FA)
DB Lardarius Webb (FA)
TE Ben Watson(Saints)
WR Mike Wallace(Eagles)
2018 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION
Offense: Even though the Ravens traded up to get Lamar Jackson at number 32 in the 2017 draft, Joe Flacco’s job is not in danger. Should Flacco get hurt though, Jackson offers an intriguing skill set for the Ravens offense and he has been playing well in preseason… The running back trio of Alex Collins, Javorius Allen, and Kenneth Dixon could rival the Browns for the best backfield in the division. Collins is a legit breakout candidate this season after posting a 212-973-6 stat line last year, after being waived by Seattle less than a week before the start of the 2017 season… The top three statistical receivers are gone (Wallace, Maclin, Watson). FA signees Crabtree, Brown, and Snead provide Flacco with a new stable of younger weapons at receiver that should help improve what was a passing game ranked 29th in 2017. Rookies Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews were drafted to bolster what was a weak position after the departure of Watson. Can Marshal Yanda return to form? The success of this already weak line depends on his health.
Defense: Former linebacker coach Don Martindale takes over at defensive coordinator for the departed Dean Pees. The defense shouldn’t lose a step in the transition. The linebacker crew of Matt Judon, Patrick Onwuasor, C.J. Mosley, and the ageless Terrell Suggs is one of the better units in the division. Mosley (132 tackles) and Onwuasor (90 tackles) are a fantastic clean-up crew in the middle, while Suggs and Judon get after the quarterback (19 sacks combined). Can Suggs, who played in over 77% of defensive snaps, continue that type of production at his age? Time will tell. The secondary features veteran safeties Eric Weddle (6 INT) and Tony Jefferson (56 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Second-year pro Marlon Humphrey and rookie Anthony Averett are the future at corner, with aging veterans Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith on the roster. Humphrey played in just over 50% of snaps last season and was second on the team in PBU (11). Humphrey will break out this year. Every player on the defensive line is under age 30. They didn’t get after the quarterback much last year. DT Carl Davis and DE Chris Wormley are two younger guys I think could be players to watch this year.
Bottom Line: Flacco has weapons in the passing game and the offense will benefit. Also, how much, if at all, do we see Lamar Jackson this year? Baltimore’s offense could be very dynamic with Jackson on the field.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 OFFSEASON & REVIEW
Postseason Result: The Steelers earned a first round bye and the number two seed, but they drew another matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars defense, who had already beaten them early in the season. They couldn’t adjust the second time around and lost to the Jaguars in the divisional round.
SS Morgan Burnett (Packers)
LB Jon Bostic (Colts)
SS Nat Berhe (Giants)
OL Chris Hubbard (Browns)
S Robert Golden (Chiefs)
CB William Gay (Giants)
WR Martavis Bryant (Raiders)
2018 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION
Offense: New offensive coordinator, Randy Fichtner, was quarterback coach and stays within the system. This will help ease the transition to a new coordinator and should maintain consistency. 36-year-old Ben Roethlisberger returns for his 15th season as quarterback. Staying healthy will be critical, especially since he’s backed-up by a rookie third-rounder Mason Rudolph. The wide receiver group is young and led by veteran Antonio Brown, who will be attempting to complete his sixth consecutive 100-catch season. He will get his seventh in 2018. Gone is headache Martavis Bryant. JuJu Smith-Schuster and rookie James Washington offer solid up-and-coming second and third options. Smith-Schuster came on strong in the second half of 2017 and is poised for a breakout campaign in ’18. The Steelers will try to get everything they can out of the do-it-all Le’Veon Bell, in what is likely his last season in Pittsburgh. Bell is an elite pass-catcher and provides Roethlisberger with another weapon behind the fourth-best offensive line headed into 2018, per PFF.
Defense: The defense will look to fill the void of LB Ryan Shazier. Shazier was world class, but the signing of Jon Bostic will help. The linebacker unit remains strong, as TJ Watt, Vince Williams, and Bud Dupree each had over six sacks. The addition of safety Morgan Burnett provides a valuable veteran leader in the secondary, as he teams up with Joe Haden and talented youngster Artie Burns. Cameron Heyward leads a strong defensive line group which accounted for 23 of the team’s 56 sacks. Heyward will continue to be a dominant force for Pittsburgh, he just needs everyone else on the line to show up.
Bottom Line: Can Big Ben stay healthy? This team goes as far as Big Ben’s health. It will also be interesting to see if the offense stays the same or takes a step back with Haley gone.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
2017 Offseason & Review
Postseason Result: N/A
OT Cordy Glenn(Bills)
LB Preston Brown(Bills)
OT Andre Smith(Cardinals)
QB Matt Barkley(Cardinals)
RB Jeremy Hill(Patriots)
LB Kevin Minter(Jets)
QB AJ McCarron(Bills)
DE Chris Smith(Browns)
WR Brandon LaFell(FA)
S George Iloka(Vikings)
2018 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION
Offense: Andy Dalton is back at quarterback for his eighth season, along with new back-up Matt Barkley. Bengals fans gotta hope Dalton doesn’t get hurt. WR A.J. Green had another 1,000 yard season in 2017, and likely gets another in 2018. Second-leading receiver Brandon LaFell is gone, leaving Tyler Boyd (22 rec) as the leading returning receiver. A healthy John Ross could provide some deep threat relief for the offense in what is largely a group of unknowns at the position. The Tyler’s (Eifert and Kroft) are back at tight end. Kroft had a good season after Eifert got hurt. Kroft will again have a good season not if, but when, Eifert gets hurt again. Jeremy Hill is gone at running back, but Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon are back. Mixon should breakout, even with the crap preseason he’s had. Mixon could become a pro-bowler this year. A rebuilt O-line – Glenn and rookie first-rounder Billy Price – will hopefully lessen the 39 sacks allowed and provide Mixon/Bernard with some good running lanes.
Defense: Former Lions DC Teryl Austin in the new leader of the defense, and if the Bengals can get the Teryl Austin from a few years ago, well, things will turn around. If not, it feels like a lateral move. The front four may be the strongest unit of the defense. Starters Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Michael Johnson, as well as rotational player Carl Lawson, accounted for 30 sacks last year. Add talented rookie Sam Hubbard to the mix and this unit might be the best in the division. Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil had 148 tackles combined in 2017, just four more than FA acquisition Preston Brown had by himself (144). Vincent Rey added 85 tackles, but Brown is a nice piece to the front seven, especially with Burfict suspended for the first four games of the year. The Benagls intercpeted only 11 passes in 2017. That could go up with a strong front seven that will hopefully be putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. William Jackson had 14 passes defended in his first season (2016 injury as a rookie), and Dre Kirkpatrick also had 14. Rookie Jessie Bates is a good addition to the secondary and had good production at Wake Forest. He will look to replace the highly productive George Iloka.
Bottom Line: Marvin Lewis not only needs a playoff win, he needs a winning season in 2018. The front office did a little bit to help out, but if the Bengals are REALLY bad this year, Lewis could be gone. If they hover around .500? Sorry to say Bengals fans, Lewis comes back.
4. Cleveland Browns
2017 Offseason & Review
Postseason Result: …………………………….
QB Tyrod Taylor (Bills)
OL Chris Hubbard (Steelers)
CB T.J. Carrie (Raiders)
RB Carlos Hyde (49ers)
DL Chris Smith (Bengals)
DB Damarious Randall (Packers)
WR Jarvis Landry (Dolphins)
TE Darren Fells (Lions)
DB E.J. Gaines (Rams)
QB Drew Stanton (Cardinals)
QB DeShone Kizer (Packers)
DL Danny Shelton (Patriots)
DB Jason McCourty (Patriots)
QB Cody Kessler (Jaguars)
QB Kevin Hogan (Washington)
WR Corey Coleman (Bills)
RB Isaiah Crowell(Jets)
2018 PREVIEW/THE BIG QUESTION
Offense: Todd Haley enters as new offensive coordinator, coming from Pittsburgh. Haley has a strong background of working with Super Bowl quarterbacks (Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner) and likes using a multitude of different sets. Out are 2017 quarterbacks DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, and Cody Kessler, while in are Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton, and first-overall pick Baker Mayfield. Taylor will likely start the season, but should Taylor become ineffective, Mayfield will take over and has a chance to succeed with multiple weapons. With former first-rounder Corey Coleman gone, Jarvis Landry adds a new dynamic at receiver to pair with beast Josh Gordon (should he actually be with the team). Second-year TE David Njoku has looked good in camp and is a good candidate to break out this year. Running backs Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Jr., and rookie Nick Chubb form what should be the best trio of backs in the division. Haley loves using his running backs in the passing game (see: Le’Veon Bell). The offensive line, which has been bolstered over the past two off seasons via free agency/draft, loses Hall of Famer Joe Thomas to retirement. Five-year pro Joel Bitonio has some BIIIIG shoes to fill at left tackle.
Defense: Like the offense, the defensive personnel will look a bit different in 2018. The secondary has been rebuilt and could be a strength of the defense. Damarious Randall gets a fresh start and will switch to his more natural position of safety to pair with second-year swiss-army knife Jabrill Peppers. Add fourth-overall pick Denzel Ward and free agent signings T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines, and Cleveland’s secondary is formidable. Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey are tackling machines in the middle at linebacker. Schobert is becoming a star in the middle. Myles Garrett and Emmanual Ogbah highlight the defensive line, where Garrett should breakout this year. Garrett will reach double-digit sacks.
Bottom Line: The Browns have nowhere to go but up, and with an overhauled front office willing to make smart moves, the future is bright in Cleveland, just not bright this year. The addition of Haley at OC will mean more scoring for a talented offense.
Predicted Division Standings:
Baltimore 11-5 (Wins tiebreaker due to better division record than Pittsburgh)
I hope you’re still following along with me on this quest to draft the ultimate team in fantasy football. First, it was the quarterbacks, NFL Fantasy: Top 15 QBs + Sleepers, and then it was the running backs, NFL Fantasy: Top 20 RBs + Sleepers, but now it’s time to see which wide receivers will be impactful for you in fantasy football. Let’s keep in mind that this is for PPR format leagues, so some players may be higher than they should be.
This list isn’t anywhere close to the one of the running backs have, and the value of the position is much more than we thought. This is more dependent on the quarterbacks than the running backs are because you want to typically have the QB/WR duo to get extra points. At least that’s what I like to do. Now let me share with you the top 20 wide receivers in fantasy football to help you make the right decision.
Antonio Brown, Steelers
Julio Jones, Falcons
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Michael Thomas, Saints
Davante Adams, Packers
A.J. Green, Bengals
Keenan Allen, Chargers
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
Stefon Diggs, Vikings
Adam Thielen, Vikings
Mike Evans, Buccaneers
T.Y. Hilton, Colts
Tyreek Hill, Chiefs
Marvin Jones, Lions
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
Brandin Cook, Rams
Jarvis Laundry, Browns
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Brown, Jones, Beckham, and Hopkins are the four players you want to jump on early in the draft, if not the first round. Brown has set the standard for what a wide receiver who deserves to go No. 1 overall is like, especially in a PPR league. He has finished top three in scoring in each for the past five seasons and with the offense that is one of the most consistent in the NFL. It would be nice to have Bell and Brown on the same team, but let’s stay in reality.
Jones may not give you the touchdowns you want, but you know you’ll get the yards, and with yards comes catches. But hey, that’s what we really want right? Regardless of whether or not Jones receives the touchdowns, he is still one of the best receivers, plus we do expect to see him get more than three scores all season like, for real, come on Falcons!
Beckham Jr. is returning from an ankle injury that cost him most of 2017 and eyeing a new contract with the Giants. Regardless of the rumors, we expect Beckham to play his heart out and continue right where he left off. With the new head coach and offensive weapons around him, Beckham will have a lot of the pressure taken off him, which will allow him to come back to great plays.
Hopkins is excited to have his quarterback back and healthy. Although it never mattered who the QB was, Watson and Hopkins have built a great connection. Hopkins finished No. 1 in WR scoring last year with Watson missing half the season. We can expect the two of them to continue where they left off.
Thomas, Allen, Adams, and Green are four receivers that benefit significantly from their quarterback play. Although they aren’t the only primary pieces of the team, we can ensure that they will continue to be the top options.
Thomas had a terrific rookie season and followed it up with another great year. He and Alvin Kamara will take a lot of pressure off of quarterback Drew Brees. We should see much of the same from Thomas as we saw the first two seasons.
Allen is finally back to good health, which is an excellent sign for the Chargers and their future. Allen is the leader of the young receiving core in L.A., and he will look to continue to add another 100 + catches this season.
Adams has emerged as the new favorite target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers with the departure of Jordy Nelson. Adams has silently had double-digit touchdowns each of the past two seasons, and we should see a much larger performance from him this year in any format.
Green is a valuable receiver in any format as he is the clear top receiver. Green may have struggled in 2017, but the entire Bengals offense struggled with him. Green has also been a receptions receiver with lots of yards, which makes him a great addition to your team. especially if he and the Bengals can turn their offense around.
Baldwin and Evans will have a lot of pressure on them this season. For Baldwin, it’s about taking advantage of more targets and continuing where he left off last season. With the departures of Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson, Baldwin will have to work with Wilson and the young core of running backs to prevent themselves from losing because we know the “Legion of Boom” is no more.
Evans will have to rebound from another lousy year in fantasy football. It may be tough to want to take Evans when you know Winston will serve a three-game suspension to start the year, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is more than capable of leading the Buccaneers offense. Evans is poised for a solid year in fantasy, and we hope to see him get to the double-digit touchdowns again.
The Vikings duo of Diggs and Thielen will look to continue their ways to the top of the league. Last year it was Diggs with the yards and touchdowns, while Thielen was also there for the yards, especially on third downs. With RB Dalvin Cook returning from injury and upgrade at QB with Kirk Cousins, we should see the both of them continue to shine. They are both must-adds in any format of fantasy.
T. Y. Hilton is one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated receivers in the league. That’s probably because he’s had to deal with subpar quarterbacks and teammates. With a healthy Andrew Luck expected to return to the Colts, there is no saying what the duo can do together. Hilton has proven himself worthy without Luck, so don’t let him get passed because of who throws him the ball.
Hill is one of the smaller receivers in the NFL, and he has been able to use his size to his advantage to gain huge numbers. This year we could expect the same effort. With a new quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and the addition of Sammy Watkins, Hill may find it a bit difficult to be the top option, but don’t forget this is a PPR formatted list and Hill loves the screen passes.
Marvin Jones has quickly become one of Stafford’s favorite targets, and as Stafford looks to achieve 5,000 yards passing, we could see Jones grab 100 + catches with 1500 + yards. Of course, he isn’t the only receiver that gets the receptions, but Jones could have fewer receptions and more yards and touchdowns on any given Sunday. We do hope to see Kenny Golladay insert himself into the lineup more as he stays healthy, but don’t look for Jones to slow down his own production.
Thomas and Sanders are hoping for better performances this season then they have in years past. I mean let’s face it since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos haven’t had a quarterback who could throw the ball consistently to either one of them. Sanders is a reception for yards guy and Thomas is more of the long ball guy. Hopefully, with the minor upgrade at QB with Case Keenum, they can both be relevant again in fantasy leagues especially PPR because I really like Sanders.
Jeffrey has the luxury of having two different quarterbacks capable of throwing him the ball. He is, however, coming back from surgery on his rotator-cuff which could make him drop in most drafts. The fact that he is the top receiver on the Eagles is a plus, but the way they run their offense is from the inside out, so expect more from the younger backs, receivers, and tight ends. Although, I’d take my chances with Jeffrey and touchdowns.
Landry has gotten himself a big contract and is now a top option in Cleveland. Well at least of them, as the Browns have done a complete change to significant pieces on the offense. Landry will team with Josh Gordon (more on him later), and rookies Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield. So it’s no telling what Landry or the Browns new offense will do, but looking at what he’s done over the past seasons, he should be good to get 1000 + yards and at least eight touchdowns.
Cooks will be joining his third team in as many seasons, and it may be tough for him to fit into an offense that already has receivers quarterback Jared Goff can trust and emerge as his favorites. The Rams offense is mostly run through it’s running back, Todd Gurley, which helps open up the passing game. With Cooks speed, he could have the most yards on the team, which is a positive for those of us who can scoop him up.
Let’s not forget the importance of all receivers, and though these guys are the top 20, we still have several sleepers. Here are the five sleepers to watch for this season.
Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, Steelers
Corey Davis, Titans
Josh Gordon, Browns
Allen Robinson, Bears
Smith-Schuster showed us all what he has as a rookie playing alongside Antonio Brown. He is set to have an even more successful second year with the Steelers. In fact, the Steelers are so confident that they traded Martavis Bryant to the Raiders. Smith-Schuster has already started making a name as one of the top receivers in the NFL, and we should see him gain over 1000+ yards this season.
Davis got little to no playing time last season due to suffering from a hamstring injury, which didn’t allow him to be on the field much. As a rookie he shined bright against the super heavyweight, New England Patriots. We know that if he can stay healthy, he and Derrick Henry will be a force to be reckoned with. Don’t let Davis be passed up.
Gordon was finally able to return to the NFL after all the years of being suspended due to the substance abuse policy, but he’s back and ready to help the Browns go 16-0. Okay, not really, but maybe he could be the missing piece to our lineup that can help you be 16-0. Just imagine what Landry and Gordon are going to do together on the field.
Robinson’s issues of staying healthy has plagued him in recent seasons. In Chicago, he will be looking for a new, fresh start. The bigger question is how well he will play with Bears QB Mitch Truiskby. I am a firm believer in Robinson’s comeback with a new team, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing him get points for PPR, if not the touchdowns, but then again, that’s what Taylor Gabriel is for.
Garcon has to be excited about the situation he’s returning to after missing the final half of the season. That half was the half Jimmy G got the chance to show what he can do. Just imagine what Garcon can do alone. Okay, I might be hyping him up a bit too much, but he already knows the offensive scheme better than anyone on the team, and all the acquisitions and picks they made to the offense can only help his status.
Have you figured out what wide receiver you want to draft yet? It’s okay, me neither! At least I still have some time before I decide that. I will be giving you a list of tight ends to think about as well. I promise we are almost there and I won’t tell you to who to draft your team anymore after that. But maybe you do listen, and we can both win our leagues.
Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @fourthquartersports!
This morning I woke up to a notification saying Steelers fans are ripping on Le’Veon Bell because he announced the release of his rap EP on Twitter. I opened the notification to see how bad these comments towards Le’Veon really were. Let’s just say they weren’t good. Most of the comments had to do with Le’Veon not being focused on football, not caring about his team, and how they don’t care about his stupid rap song. One person even went as far as saying they hope he tears his ACL.
There was one comment that really sparked my interest. Someone said they’re glad Le’Veon won’t be on the Steelers anymore and the Steelers will win a Super Bowl without him because of the depth they have at running back. This got me thinking, “Can the Steelers survive without Le’Veon Bell”?
The next thing I did was go to the Steelers depth chart. Behind Le’Veon Bell right now the Steelers have six running backs. I’ll be honest, I’ve only heard of two of those running backs (James Conner and Stevan Ridley), and I’m guessing that’s the case for most NFL fans too. The other running backs on the Steelers roster are Jaylen Samuels, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jarvion Franklin, and James Summers. The reason most fans haven’t heard of Samuels, Franklin and Summers is because Samuels was drafted this year in the fifth round, while Franklin and Summers are both undrafted players. The reason why Fitzgerald Toussaint isn’t well known is because he hasn’t done much in the NFL over his four year career.
With Samuels, Tousaaint, Franklin, and Summers at running back, I wouldn’t consider the Steelers Super Bowl worthy. That leaves them with James Conner and Stevan Ridley. Ridley is the more experience NFL player so we’ll start with him. In seven NFL seasons, Ridley has a total of 3,022 rushing yards, 23 rushing TD’s, and a 4.2 yards per rush average. He’s had one season where he rushed for over 1,000 yards, but that season came back in 2012, which was his second NFL season. Ridley hasn’t played in 16 games since that season, which has led to a decrease in rushing yards almost every season since then. The only season since then where he’s increased his rushing yards, was from 2016 to last season when he went from seven yards in 2016 to 108 yards last year. Because of his lack of availability and production, especially over the last few seasons, I’ll rule out Ridley as a running back who can step in for Le’Veon Bell.
That leaves us with James Conner. Conner is going into his second NFL season. In his rookie year, Conner played in 14 games, but only got 32 carries. He did a pretty good job of making the most of those carries, gaining 144 yards with a 4.5 yards per rush average. Conner didn’t score a touchdown in his rookie year. We’ve only had a very small sample size of Conner in the NFL so far, but that sample looks fairly promising. I’m not saying Conner will replace the production of Le’Veon Bell, but if any of these running backs is going to, Conner has the best chance in my opinion.
Without Le’Veon Bell, I can see a similar running game to what the Dallas Cowboys had last year without Ezekiel Elliott. It wasn’t a bad running game, but it wasn’t great. The Cowboys running back by committee approach led to an average running game without their star player. Without Le’Veon, I can see it being that way for the Steelers, and that’s okay. The Steelers don’t need an elite running game to compete. They have arguably the best receiver in the NFL in Antonio Brown, along with a quarterback who’s still pretty good in Ben Roethlisberger. The running game needs to be at least decent for the Steelers to compete, which I think they can do with their current running backs not named Le’Veon Bell.
For Steelers fans worried about the team without Bell, I wouldn’t worry too much. While it’s true their other running backs won’t replace his production, they should still be able to produce a decent running game and help the Steelers stay competitive in the AFC.