Categories
Sports

The Five Biggest Takeaways From Opening Week of NFL Training Camps

Football fans celebrate this time of year as NFL training camps are in full swing after its opening week. With all 32 teams taking their last step in preparing for the upcoming 2022 campaign, this stage of the NFL’s calendar year garners a ton of attention, and so far, we’re reminded of why.

The Los Angeles Rams are rallying their troops for a repeat as Super Bowl champion. The Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders are “all in” following their massive offseasons. Tom Brady pulled a Michael Jordan once he realized retirement wasn’t for him. And lastly, some teams want to prove they can win after spending an insane amount of money, despite their critics (and fans) saying otherwise.

With the first week of NFL training camps concluded, here are our five biggest takeaways.

All Eyez On Tua and Tyreek

It’s honestly not egregious to say the quarterback and wide receiver duo of Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill is already one of the most watched and scrutinized across the league. But with every play between them comes greater chemistry, as witnessed by their huge touchdown that sparked reactions from social media up last weekend.

Deebo and DK got what they (rightfully) deserved

Even with many teams, fans, and media downplaying the contributions of skill players, the money still proves otherwise. Within five days, both NFC West star receivers signed new extensions with their teams that rewarded them with bonuses of $33.2 million (Samuel) and $30 million (Metcalf).

A slew of unproven players are already showing out!

As training camp rolls out, we begin hearing reports about which players are “standing out.” In some instances, it can be someone like Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers and in others, Chicago Bears wideout Velus Jones Jr.

Either way, this is when starting roles are earned, and roster spots are secured, so you have to expect these kinds of developments along the way.

Your daily reminder that injuries are terrible

While injuries are a grudgingly accepted part of football, it’s still unfortunate, especially during training camp. Alongside having a player on the sideline and undoing months of their hard work, it’s generally a setback to their teams– specifically those who heavily rely on them.

Look out for “insiders!”

With all due respect to the aspiring insiders who may or may not be legitimate at what they do, we have to warn NFL fans to watch out for you all. It’s extremely easy for most “insiders” to report these days, given how simple it is to make a connection between players and teams, and more times than not, their report is a Hail Mary at gaining clout online.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Bengals Climb In Final NFL Power Rankings

By this time next week, the 102nd NFL regular season will have already come to a close. Beyond the novelty of being the first Week 18 in NFL history, this final slate of regular season games will be the final chapter of what’s been the most exciting playoff race the NFL has had in a long time. Below are our latest power rankings before we enter the last week of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Another Sunday means another win for the Packers. Because of their 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, they’ve officially clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, giving them bye week during the Wild Card Round and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

In order to regain the AFC’s No. 1 seed that they lost Sunday, the Chiefs’ defense has to rediscover its previous success after consecutive shaky outings against the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals.

3. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

At this point, the Rams have proven both their toughness and their talent. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Rams are fresh off a road win against a hungry Baltimore Ravens team that’s fighting for a playoff spot.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Despite the bizarre mid-game departure of wide receiver Antonio Brown, during an unexpectedly close game against New York Jets, Tom Brady and Co. avoided all distractions by producing a last-minute game-winning drive.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

While it’s tempting to say “same old Cowboys” immediately after their 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, that response would be a mistake. The newly-crowned NFC East champion is closer to being the team we watched win their previous four games than the lackluster unit that took the field on Sunday .

6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Every year, a dark horse makes a deep playoff run and emerges as a serious Super Bowl contender. This year, the Bengals seem poised to become that team. The young AFC North upstart just won their first division title in seven years and Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase are already arguably the league’s most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver duo.

7. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

The Bills deserve a lot of credit for taking care of business during a snowstorm and defeating the pesky Atlanta Falcons. With a win this week, the Bills would clinch their second consecutive division title, which is essential for a chance at an extended postseason run.

8. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

For the first time in franchise history, the Titans have won the AFC South in consecutive seasons. Even better news: superstar running back Derrick Henry could be returning sooner rather than later.

9. New England Patriots (10-6)

Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t the most imposing opponent, but the Patriots deserve some style points for beating them so thoroughly. Over the course of their 50-10 romp, the Pats offered a reminder that they’re still a dangerous squad, especially in the cold, hostile Gillette Stadium.

10. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

The Colts may have blown their first chance to punch their ticket to the postseason, but they’re still in a good spot, having won six of their last eight games. One minor hurdles remains between them and the playoffs: a road date in Jacksonville, a place the Colts haven’t won a game since 2014.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Cowboys Are In The Top Three of Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, nearly every team’s future is now clear as day, with the only question being how will their season conclude? With several teams amid their final push towards the postseason or a high first-round pick in next year’s Draft, chaos is the only thing guaranteed at this time of the year. Below are our latest power rankings before entering Week 17 of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (12-3)

The Packers’ defense produced another stellar performance on Christmas as they forced Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield into four interceptions while also sacking him five times. Another highlight from their 24-22 victory was Aaron Rodgers finally becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (45).

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

Not only are the Chiefs maintaining their newfound success on defense, but they’re back to clicking on all cylinders on offense via with their 39 points per game average over their last three games.

3. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Fewer wins are more important and impressive than a pair of dominant wins over your most competitive divisional rival. The Cowboys had led by double-digits against the Washington Football Team in seven out of eight quarters, with that lone quarter happening in their first matchup in Week 14.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)

As expected, the reigning Super Bowl champion let the next man step up, and they continued their path towards a championship repeat by handling the Carolina Panthers, 32-6.

5. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

By winning their fourth consecutive game last Sunday, the Rams are now the leader in the NFC West and occupy the third seed in their conference. If anything, don’t rule them out of the race for the No. 1 seed!

6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The surging AFC South competitor (winners of six out of their seven past games) continues to control their postseason destiny by winning a huge primetime game on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. To punch a ticket to the playoffs, the Colts will likely have to win out and eliminate the need for help from any teams.

7. Buffalo Bills (9-6)

The Bills are back in the position many expected them to be, and that’s leading the AFC East. At this point, the Bills have to maintain their lead in their division and aim to grab the AFC’s third seed when the playoffs arrive.

8. New England Patriots (9-6)

While their recent seven-game winning streak, and being the AFC’s No. 1 seed, might feel like a distant memory, the Patriots have the same record as their divisional rival, the Bills, who are the AFC’s fourth seed. If you were to ask anyone from the Patriots what they care about most right now, it’s making the playoffs by any means necessary.

9. Tennessee Titans (10-5)

The Titans showed a lot of resilience during their 20-17 comeback victory against the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday. Despite their season-long inconsistencies and injury problems, the Titans are now in contention for the first seed in the AFC as they’re currently second.

10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

As previously mentioned in last week’s rankings, the Cardinals have to figure out how quickly they can solve their recent struggles. Even with a playoff spot officially clinched, the former NFC West leader needs to right their ship before the playoffs arrive.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Packers Regain The Top Spot In Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

It may have taken longer than expected, but a team finally clinched a playoff spot! The Green Bay Packers, the NFC’s No. 1 seed and repeating NFC North champions, punched their ticket to the postseason last Sunday and the stage is set for more teams to join them this coming weekend. Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 16 of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Although they’ve relatively flown under the radar, the Green Bay Packers have emerged as the best team in the league. In Week 15, Aaron Rodgers tied Brett Favre for most passing touchdowns in franchise history and helped his team seal up a NFC North division title.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

For the third time in the last four seasons, the Chiefs are once again the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Interestingly, the Chiefs are fueled by a stingy defense while their usually high-octane offense has sputtered at times. At this rate, if the current AFC West leader remains at No. 1, they’ll be the favorite to make a Super Bowl appearance for the third consecutive season.

3. New England Patriots (9-5)

While all NFL fans outside of New England are happy about the team’s seven-game winning stream coming to an end last Saturday, the Patriots’ second-half performance was noteworthy. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is as good as advertised, and the Patriots are still a threat in the AFC’s playoff picture.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

The Buccaneers’ stunning 9-0 home loss against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night capped off a hectic Week 15, but there’s little need for them to panic. Despite losing star receiver Chris Godwin to a torn ACL, the Buccaneers will likely find a way to readjust and be fine come playoff time.

5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Even with the looming cloud of the franchise’s recent postseason failures, the Cowboys are deservedly happy right now. They’ll clinch the NFC East with one more win and are currently the second seed in the NFC, riding an ongoing three-game win streak.

6. Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

The Rams are a living example of how fast things can change in the NFL. After going winless in November, they are back to playing winning football and could take the lead in the NFC West if they defeat the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night.

7. Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

Over the course of a long season, every team—no matter how good—endures a tough stretch, as the injury-plagued Cardinals are quickly discovering. Arizona is undeniably a talented team, but now it’s a matter of whether they can right the ship with just three weeks remaining in the season—especially with a division title and higher playoff seeding on the line.

8. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Led by MVP contender running back Jonathan Taylor, the Colts are beginning to look dangerous, as evidenced by their 27-17 win against the Patriots. Although they’re in the driver’s seat to lock up a Wild Card berth, the Colts face a difficult end to the season, with games against Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders in Weeks 16 and 17.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

While the Chargers lost a heart-breaker to the Chiefs on Thursday night, they can at least take solace in the fact that their playoff positioning didn’t change at all. The AFC West competitor still holds one of their conference’s three wild-card spots along with tiebreaker advantages over other teams in that race.

10. Tennessee Titans (9-5)

At this point of the season, the Titans are looking at a half-full glass. On the positive side, they’re still in position to win the AFC South title. On the down side, though, they’re likely to be the third or fourth seed, which likely creates a matchup against the Colts, Chargers or Bills, three teams whose records belie their respective goodness.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Rams Create Change At The Top Of NFL Week 15 Power Rankings

For the first time in seven seasons, no team has clinched a playoff berth by the end of Week 14— and it’s not a guarantee that it will happen this upcoming weekend either. Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 15 of this NFL season.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3) – As long as Tom Brady is on the field, the Buccaneers will always thrive in big moments. Sure, they let a 24-3 second-half lead disappear, but Brady salvaged the game with a walk-off 58-yard touchdown in overtime.

2. New England Patriots (9-4) – The Patriots didn’t even play last weekend, but they won in spirit by staying the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Next is a massive Saturday night matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, the newly-placed No. 6 wild-card seed in their conference.

3. Green Bay Packers (10-3) – After chasing the Cardinals for a few weeks, the Packers are finally in the driver’s seat of the NFC via the No. 1 seed. But can they stay there after traveling to Baltimore and facing a highly motivated Ravens team this Sunday?

4. Arizona Cardinals (10-3) – Even though the character of this year’s Cardinals is respected, Arizona faces a new raft of questions after dropping a crucial home game to the Rams. These next few weeks will be especially telling as they look to rebound from the loss while several key players—in particular, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins—try to shake off some rust.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) – After weeks of unusual struggles, the Chiefs’ offense re-found their stride, scoring 48 points against their divisional rival, Las Vegas Raiders. Despite only being the AFC’s third seed, the AFC West leader is very much in the race for the AFC’s top spot, boasting the same record as the Patriots and Titans.

6. Los Angeles Rams (9-4) – If you have any questions about the Rams and their legitimacy, their primetime road win over the Arizona Cardinals should have answered that for you. This team has rightfully created championship expectations and has maintained them by winning big games the way they did on Monday night.

7. Dallas Cowboys (9-4) – Although they’ve won two consecutive games, the Cowboys need a statement win to reassert themselves as true contenders before the playoffs begin.

8. Tennessee Titans (9-4) – As mentioned in last week’s rankings, the doctor’s order of a bye week followed by a home matchup against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars was what the Titans needed. It’s a crucial win for a team that’s still in the hunt for a first-round bye in the postseason.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-5) – The Chargers’ chances of making the postseason are becoming more realistic, and that’s exciting for L.A. and the entire league. On any given week, quarterback Justin Herbert has the potential to be the most electric quarterback in the NFL.

10. Baltimore Ravens (8-5) – The Ravens are now the second team to be given the “Scary Hours” treatment within these rankings, and rightfully so. Their inconsistent yet exciting style of play has buckled under the weight of injuries to star players and the red-hot Packers are coming to town this Sunday.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Patriots Chase The Cardinals For The Top of The NFL Week 14 Power Rankings

To quote Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz:”It’s December; everything feels like a playoff game.” As playoff-contending teams desperately compete for a playoff berth, additional attention gets paid to the standings and scoreboards, where heartbreak and excitement take center stage for a thrilling dance. Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 14 of this NFL season.

1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2) – Things continue to look up for the Cardinals as they became the first team in the NFL to reach the 10-win total this season. Even better: QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins returned to the starting lineup.

2. New England Patriots (9-4) – It doesn’t matter how intemperate the weather or how talented the opponent: the newly-minted No. 1 seed in the AFC knows how to win. The Pats’ win against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football might stand out as their biggest of the regular season, possibly locking up the AFC East crown.

3. Green Bay Packers (9-3) – The Packers have practically nothing to worry about in terms of competition from their division, so their focus coming off of their bye week is to continue their pursuit of the NFC’s No. 1 seed and the home-field advantage and first-round bye that come with it.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3) – When the month turns to December, quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski become the living example of winning football. Last Sunday, the four-time Super Bowl-winning duo moved into second place all-time for most regular-season touchdowns between a passer and receiver (90).

5. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) – Even though their offense continues to struggle, the Chiefs defense deserves immense credit for stepping up when it matters most. With a 22-9 divisional win over the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs’ D has held three of their last four opponents to single digits.

6. Baltimore Ravens (8-4) – As mentioned in last week’s power rankings, the Ravens desperately need to improve their performance as their narrow wins have turned into losses. And who would’ve thought the player who needs to step up the most now is quarterback Lamar Jackson?

7. Dallas Cowboys (8-4) – Sometimes it takes a win to get everything back on track, and the Cowboys managed to do that last Thursday by defeating the New Orleans Saints, 27-17. But the biggest question moving forward is whether they can fend off a red-hot Washington Football Team and maintain their lead in the NFC East.

8. Tennessee Titans (8-4) – The combination of a bye week and a home matchup against the two-win Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday could be what the doctor ordered if the Titans want to get right. It also doesn’t hurt that wide receiver Julio Jones has been cleared to practice despite his lack of production this season.

9. Los Angeles Rams (8-4) – Now that they’re back on the winning side of things, the Rams have a primetime matchup against the Cardinals next Monday night on tap. If any team needs a huge statement win, it’s the Rams, especially if they win on the road.

10. Buffalo Bills (7-5) – The inconsistency that has plagued the Bills in recent weeks was displayed on Monday Night Football in their 14-10 loss to the Patriots. Although the strong winds forced Buffalo to abandon their normal scheme, the Bills still struggled to do anything right in Week 13.

Categories
Sports Strength

There’s Chaos On Top Of The NFL Week 13 Power Rankings

As we enter the last month of 2021 tomorrow, the home stretch of the NFL season will arrive shortly. Alongside watching the AFC and NFC playoff races intensify, there will be great speculation (or anticipation) about the futures surrounding various head coaches and front offices. But like many things in life, we have to wait for these developments to play out. Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 13 of this NFL season.

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2) – The Cardinals are sitting pretty through their bye week, maintaining their perch as the NFC’s #1 seed. Their biggest win of the week, though, was that they gained extra cushion in their division as the Los Angeles Rams continued their November skid.

2. Green Bay Packers (9-3) – If there’s ever a way to bounce back from a tough divisional loss, it’s to beat a fellow playoff contender on prime-time television. The Packers certainly looked and played the part of a championship-contending team in their 36-28 victory over the Rams.

3. New England Patriots (8-4) – After a 2-4 start, the Patriots have surged to the top of the AFC. If there were any doubts of their legitimacy, the Pats put them to rest in their 36-13 shellacking of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. And a massive part of their success? Turnovers. The Patriots have had the league’s second-best turnover differential (+10) since Week Six.

4. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) – The Ravens have a good record and are the #1 seed in the AFC, but have been plagued by sloppy, mediocre play. Throughout December, the AFC North leaders must sharpen up if they want to be a true Super Bowl contender.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) – You can choose to pick apart the Bucs’ overall performance against the Colts last Sunday, but they won’t care. At this point of the season, the reigning Super Bowl champion will take any win possible, given their struggles with age, injuries, and inconsistency.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – A huge divisional matchup against the Denver Broncos is on the horizon, giving the new AFC West a chance to build on their latest wave of momentum. But in their attempt to do so, the question regains whether the Chiefs’ once-great offense can regain its rhythm. They’ve only scored 20 or more points once out of their previous five games.

7. Tennessee Titans (8-4) – Is it time to panic in Nashville? Not yet. Despite being severely outplayed by the Patriots in last Sunday’s loss, the Titans didn’t lose ground in the AFC South divisional race because their divisional rival, the Indianapolis Colts, squandered a double-digit second-half lead to the Bucs and lost in the final seconds.

8. Buffalo Bills (7-4) – On Thanksgiving, the Buffalo Bills blew out the New Orleans Saints 31-6, providing hope that they can regain the excellent form they demonstrated earlier in the year. Unfortunately, they may face an up-hill battle in their air-tight divisional race against the Patriots moving forward as the Bills will have to adjust to life without All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Thursday night.

9. Los Angeles Rams (7-4) – In the words of Drake, it’s officially “Scary Hours” for the Rams. The championship-contending hopeful went winless in November, haven’t received meaningful contributions from new trade acquisitions in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr and pass-rusher Von Miller, and are now 1-4 against teams with a winning record.

10. Dallas Cowboys (7-4) – While it was nice for the Cowboys to be effective on offense against the Las Vegas Raiders, their defense took a massive step back in their 36-33 overtime loss on Thanksgiving. And even though the NFC East isn’t the most competitive division, the Cowboys have to watch out for the surging Washington Football Team, who’ve won three consecutive games and stand at 5-6.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Cardinals Regain The Top Spot Of NFL Week 12 Power Rankings

With Thanksgiving week officially here, this is the time to take stock of the NFL season as the season nears the home-stretch. And while some are in the holiday spirit because they’re thankful for their good fortune so far (Arizona Cardinals), others desire better results (Buffalo Bills). Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 12 of this NFL season.

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2) – Despite their two-game skid, the injury-plagued Cardinals proved their championship mettle last week by racking up a 23-13 divisional victory over the Seattle Seahawks. And the good news continues for NFC’s No. 1 seed: they have a bye this week, thus giving themselves and injured star QB Kyle Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins additional time to recover.

2. Green Bay Packers (8-3) – Although there are no necessarily easy games in the NFL, contests against a divisional rival are especially difficult. As such, it’s hard to ding the Packers too much for dropping a game to the Minnesota Vikings, who are much better than their record suggests. But what matters most is that the Packers are still in charge of their division, and their conference’s top seed is still very much in play.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-3) – The only negative about the AFC South leader is their tendency to lose focus against bad teams. To lose the way they did against the now two-win Houston Texans will either serve as a huge reality check or cause a downward spiral.

4. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) – Although the term “must-win” is overused in sports, the Rams are playing a must-win game against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. On every level, the NFC West competitor has to produce their finest performance yet and get back on track.

5. Dallas Cowboys (7-3) – Following their 19-9 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Cowboys have to quickly address this trend of struggling against physical teams, as evident in their losses to the Chiefs and Denver Broncos. Moreover, in these recent losses, the Cowboys’ opponents were able to neutralize Dallas’s potent offense by controlling time of possession and the tempo of the game.

6. New England Patriots (7-4) – Just when millions of NFL fans thought the Patriots wouldn’t be in the playoff conversation for a couple of years at least, the Pats back in it and couldn’t have chosen a better time. While their schedule has a few tough matchups remaining (Twice against the Bills and a road game against the Colts), the Patriots have enough talent and coaching to continue their five-game winning streak.

7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – Three years into the Chiefs’ growing championship dynasty, they’ve finally reached that “a win is a win” stage. Regardless of who is leading the way, head coach Andy Reid and his team only care about winning, and that mentality is why they’re once again leading the AFC West.

8. Baltimore Ravens (7-3) – It’s impressive anytime you can win on the road in a tough environment without your best and most important player—on Sunday, the Ravens did just that, beating the Bears without Lamar Jackson. As witnessed in the AFC, there’s a vast difference between being 7-3 or 6-4 in a tight playoff race and for the Ravens to stay afloat? That’s big time.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) – It wasn’t pretty, and at times it was downright concerning, but the defending champs won by 20 points at the end of the night against the New York Giants. If the Buccaneers want to send a message to the rest of the league, they’ll go into Indianapolis this Sunday and manhandle an emerging and confident Colts team.

10. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) – The Colts are winners of five out of their last six games, including two impressive road wins against San Francisco and Buffalo. The league’s hottest offensive player plays for them (running back Jonathan Taylor). And lastly, the Colts’ defense is the league leader in takeaways (25). If there’s ever a team to look out for in December and possibly January, it’s this one.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Packers Lead The NFL Week 10 Power Rankings

With the weather quickly changing and our sun setting earlier, the alignment between mother nature and the NFL is once again aligned uniquely through the act of change. In a topsy-turvy season, this week didn’t provide much clarity about the prospects of several presumptive Super Bowl contenders. The buzziest team faltered (Los Angeles Rams); clutch teams collapsed down the stretch (Baltimore Ravens); chaos-addled teams won big games (Green Bay Packers). Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 11 of this chaotic NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (8-2) – Raise your hand if you ever heard of the phrase “defense wins championships.” While the Packers have an at-times explosive offense, it’s their third-ranked defense that has served as the foundation of their NFC-best start. On Sunday, they held the Seattle Seahawks scoreless, handing Russell Wilson the first shut-out of his career. 

2. Tennessee Titans (8-2) – Alongside playing better defense in recent weeks, the Titans demonstrated the crafty IQ of a veteran team during their 23-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints. But such craftiness and toughness will get tested when the Titans travel to Foxboro to face the streaking New England Patriots on Sunday.

3. Dallas Cowboys (7-2) – In the words of musician Drake, Dallas “had to go and hit reset, now we’re here.” After an ugly loss last week, the NFC East leader trounced the Atlanta Falcons in their 43-3 win last Sunday, demonstrating that they’re the most explosive offense in the league.

4. Arizona Cardinals (8-2) – Even though every team in the NFL gets impacted by injuries, it’s completely different when you’re missing arguably the league’s best quarterback and wide receiver duo in Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Still, the Cardinals’ defense needs to become stingier after surrendering 34 points to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.

5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3) – Just as even the best offenses are due for a bad game, good teams are susceptible to bad stretches too. While it’s surprising to watch the Rams struggle, a midseason slump isn’t necessarily fatal for their Super Bowl dreams. The biggest question is how fast can the Rams right the ship with seven weeks remaining.

6. Buffalo Bills (6-3) – A week after suffering their biggest loss of the season, the Bills bounced back with ease by dismantling the New York Jets, 45-17, on the road. Although the Jets are hardly stiff competition, it’s encouraging that the Bills beat them so resoundingly. Next Sunday, the Bills can continue to prove their bona fides as an elite team against a talented and physical Colts team.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) – For the second year in a row, the Buccaneers have hit a mid-season skid, losing two games in a row due to various injuries and inconsistency. While their remaining schedule is mostly against opponents below .500, the defending champs’ chance to repeat becomes less likely if their current performance continues.

8. Baltimore Ravens (6-3) – There isn’t much to say regarding the Ravens’ 22-10 upset loss against the Miami Dolphins other than the fact everybody not named Lamar Jackson has to step up immediately if the Ravens want to be taken seriously as a contdner. 

9. New England Patriots (6-4) – The Patriots have officially legitimized their run for this year’s postseason by winning four consecutive games, capped off by a 45-7 win against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Bill Belichick is showing why he’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of American sports and rookie quarterback Mac Jones has settled in and adjusted to the speed of the game.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) – Ready or not, here comes the Chiefs. The reigning AFC champion has returned to the top of their division, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ five passing touchdowns in their 41-17 divisional win over the Las Vegas Raiders. And with a primetime matchup against the 7-2 Cowboys on Sunday, the Chiefs have a perfect opportunity to remind everyone of who they are.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Rams Have Changed The Act of Team Building

As witnesses to life in the NFL, fans are more than familiar with teams living day by day and valuing their future more than their present. By speaking of their future about a “window,” the amount of time a team can achieve their goals within five, ten, or fifteen years, it has been accepted that a team will only strike when they feel it’s necessary. But over the last couple of seasons, the Los Angeles Rams didn’t just strike when it’s essential, but when they felt like it, thus drastically changing the act of team-building in the NFL.

By willingly parting ways with draft capital and salary cap space in the spirit of an NBA or MLB team to maximize their chance to win sooner than later, the Rams have bypassed the traditional ways of building a championship contender. Minus a few instances in recent years (Chiefs and Buccaneers over the last season and a half) or decades ago (The 49ers and Cowboys of the 1980s and 1990s), NFL title contenders follow a similar blueprint:

1. Drafting at a high level.

2. Resigning their own talents and

3. Spending heavily in free agency when it made sense.

Since joining the team as general manager in 2012, Les Snead has often traded away draft picks to acquire high-end talent, whether that means moving up to select Jared Goff with the first overall pick in 2016 or landing established veterans like  Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr, Andrew Whitworth and Marcus Peters, despite having a lack of a salary cap space at times.  

And while the Rams’ moves haven’t resulted in a Super Bowl title yet, it has made them one of the NFL’s consistent contenders. Since 2017, which also happens to be head coach Sean McVay’s first season with the team, the NFC West competitor has won at least ten games three times, made the playoffs in each of those seasons, and made the Super Bowl in McVay’s second season. 

When speaking about that window of opportunity, the Rams understood you don’t wait for anybody to give you a chance to win because you create it. Sure, it could be easier to stay patient and wait for their competition to regress, but the Rams chose to step in front of the pack and did so within their means.

The Rams being this aggressive is necessary for them, but it’s fun for everybody else to watch. Team building as we know it in the NFL is rapidly changing, and sooner than later, teams have to realize what can or will not happen for them. If there’s anything we know about this league, everybody copies each other, especially if their strategy is successful. So don’t be surprised if more teams channel their inner Rams and become more aggressive soon.