Can the Bills Reach Super Bowl LVI?

 

The Buffalo Bills were just a game away from the Super Bowl last season. In fact, they were just 45 minutes away. Buffalo jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s AFC Championship Game before getting steamrolled by the defending champs, who’d go on to lose to the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl.

Entering the postseason, many Bills fans had title dreams and thought this may be the beginning of years and years of domination in the AFC. By the end, though, there was this lingering cloud of doubt about whether or not the Bills would even get back to the Super Bowl in such a tough conference, let alone win it.

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What to Expect From DeSean Jackson Next Season

DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs after a catch for a touchdown.  Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP

DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs after a catch for a touchdown. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP

 

It’s been several years since DeSean Jackson has showcased the 4.3-40 speed that wowed us early in his career, yet at age 34 he’s still managed to provide production at wide receiver and garner plenty of interest around the league. Jackson managed to ink a deal with the Los Angeles Rams this offseason in what could be the final contract of his 14-year career, but he told reporters just last week that he had plenty of options.

“There were other options out there. I could have went to other teams, other places. But my focus was really reuniting with Sean McVay,” he said.

That’s right — plenty of teams for vying for a chance to get this savvy veteran on their roster. That’s because, as McVay also said, Jackson isn’t just a one-trick pony.” He’d know better than anyone, coaching Jackson from 2014-16 in Washington as his offensive coordinator. In those years, he averaged 900.7 yards, hauling in 14 touchdowns.

In Los Angeles, it’s reasonable to expect Jackson to be a very solid addition. That’s not just because he’s got a familiar face coaching him, who should utilize him to his fullest, it’s also because he’s going to be playing with a great quarterback, and step into a great role.

Matthew Stafford can still get it done at age 33. He’s coming off yet another 4,000-yard season, one where he threw for 26 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. Looking at DeSean Jackson’s last seven seasons, since he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2013, you could argue he’s never had a quarterback at the level of Stafford, or one that could even be considered good. Robert Griffin, III started just seven games in 2014 and was largely ineffective, going 2-5 and throwing six picks against just four touchdowns. That was followed by two seasons of Kirk Cousins, then two seasons of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay.

With all that, Jackson still managed to post two 1,000-yard seasons in Washington and go for 1,442 yards in just 26 games with the Bucs, good for over 55 per game. Those really aren’t bad numbers at all considering his age, and they’re especially impressive when you consider the quality of quarterback throwing him the ball.

After that, he’d return to Philly where he played just three games in 2019, and played through a QB controversy in 2020 and managed suit up for five contests. It’s safe to say those two seasons are a wash.

So, it’s difficult to know exactly where Jackson’s at at this point in his career, though the last time we saw him at age 32 he was pretty damn good. It’s also safe to say he’ll have a good quarterback throwing him the ball for the first time in almost 10 years.

Jackson’s not the only one excited to see a good quarterback for once, the Rams have finally rid themselves of Jared Goff and are ready for contention. In less-exciting news, they lost Josh Reynolds in free agency, though that’s where Jackson should prove to be handy. He’s not going to be one of the top two targets with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods on the roster, but he should slot right in as the third receiver, just where Reynolds was.

In 16 games (and 13 starts) Reynolds managed 52 catches on 81 targets, totaling over 600 yards. Should he replicate that role exactly, 81 targets would mark the most Jackson’s most since 2017.

It’s not always that exact, and I’d actually be inclined to believe with Stafford at the helm not only will the Rams pass more, they’ll be willing to take more chances downfield. That’s where Jackson should come in, and he should have a pretty large role in this offense should he remain healthy.

That’s been the key word through the last couple of years, though, and there’s certainly no guarantee of that with Jackson. But when he puts on a Rams uniform, I think it’s fair to expect big things. With Reynolds gone, Jackson should have an opening for plenty of targets in an exciting passing offense, and given what he’s been able to do with some bad quarterbacks, he should have plenty in store for us with Matt Stafford.

How Far Can the Washington Football Team Go Next Season?

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The Washington Football Team was one of the stories of the 2021 season. Led by a spectacular defense that opened the season among the three best in the NFL, this scrappy NFC East team fought and clawed its way to the top of the division after the Cowboys, then Giants, then late-charging Eagles appeared poised to take the crown.

 

Instead, it was these hard-workers led by Ron Rivera who managed to push to the playoffs. Despite the fact that the Football Team had no offense to speak of, leaning on Dwayne Haskins for a good bulk of the season as Alex Smith worked his way back, it still managed to instill fear in its opponents. Rookie Chase Young and Montez Sweat came around the edges to form perhaps the best pass rushing duo in the league last season, and key pieces in the secondary like Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby helped capitalize on the pressure those two applied on the line.

 

So, after a 7-9 finish led Washington to the playoffs, and nearly a miracle upset win over the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, can they do it again? Just how far can this team make it? Well, the answer to me is pretty simple. The Football Team will go as far as new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can take them.

 

Fitzpatrick has been in this situation before, with the New York Jets. He joined a team on the cusp of the playoffs with a defensive-minded coach, a great defensive unit, and some talented pass-catchers. He proceeded to have a career year in 2015, winning a career-high 10 games and throwing for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns, against just 15 interceptions. The problem? Three of those picks came in Week 17, when the Jets needed to win just one game over the 7-8 Buffalo Bills, to make the postseason.

 

Fitzpatrick was a disaster, turning the ball over an aforementioned three times and throwing for just 181 yards, never giving New York a chance. Buffalo would score just 22 points on this strong defense, but it was useless, as the offense could never get going.

 

The fear for the Football Team, of course, should be something similar happening again. Many times in his career Fitzpatrick has found greatness on teams with low expectations, which is no surprise considering he’s somewhat of a gunslinger and takes bold chances. He can afford to do that in Washington, where no one expects much after a seven-win season. But, what happens if the Football Team begins to win some games? I’d fear that Fitzpatrick reverts back to that Week 17 in 2015, playing too carefully and skittishly. That’s not his game; Fitzpatrick needs to be playing freely.

 

The defense, to its credit, should be able to drive this team to the doorstep of the playoffs almost all by themselves. Washington ranked fifth in points per game allowed last year, giving up just 21.2 on average, ranked fourth in yards per play (5.0), and second in red-zone scoring rate (50%). It put on nothing short of a masterclass in 2020.

 

The Football Team added to that defense with corners William Jackson III and Darryl Roberts, who will replace Ronald Darby and Fabian Moreau. More impressively on offense, though, the Football Team not only went out and got Fitzpatrick, it also signed speedy wideouts Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries.

 

Considering most of the defense will be returning for Washington, maybe aside from Ryan Kerrigan who is still a free agent, I see no reason to believe that it can’t repeat its performance from 2020. The pair of free-agent signings at quarterback should more than make up for the loss of Darby. On offense, too, the Football Team may now have some reason for optimism. Fitzpatrick has proven to be a competent quarterback, and his new weapons in addition to Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas should give this unit a good chance of winning football games. And, if Fitzpatrick doesn’t work out, Taylor Heinicke as a failsafe isn’t a bad look, either.

 

So, how far will they go? As I mentioned, that’s all dependent on Fitzpatrick. If he can atone for his sins from 2015, I don’t see why this team can’t win at least 10 games and contend for the division and lock up a playoff spot of some kind. Chase Young and Montez Sweat are that good, and we saw last year with the Buccaneers, all you really need is a stellar defense, and it will take the pressure off the offense and set them up for greatness. If the defense can gift-wrap Fitzpatrick and the boys some great field position all season long, he won’t fumble it away like Haskins did in 2020. Things could work out.

What to Expect From Cam Newton Next Season?

 

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP

Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP

 

The biggest question entering the 2020 season was just how good the Patriots were going to be with the installation of Cam Newton as their starting quarterback to replace Tom Brady. The question heading into 2021 is whether or not the Patriots will be good at all with Cam.

 

In fact, the re-signing of Newton came as a huge shock to the football world. After a down season, the former MVP re-upped on a new one-year deal with New England, quickly ending the discussion surrounding the Pats’ quarterback position. Considering how much of a disappointment Newton was in year one, and how many options are out there via the draft, trade and free agency, no one expected New England to bring him back.

 

Still, it’s going to be Newton — barring Bill Belichick drafting a quarterback and immediately elevating him into the starting role, which he’s never done — to lead the Pats forward in year two without Tom Brady. So, the question must be asked: What can we realistically expect from Cam Newton?

 

The longtime Panthers signalcaller and former No. 1 pick led New England to a 27th-place finish in the NFL in total yards, and a passing offense which ranked 30th. Newton completed just 242 of 368 pass attempts for 2,657 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

 

While the numbers on the whole were bad, there were plenty of bright spots. Before he contracted COVID-19, managed to throw for 714 yards and two touchdowns, against two picks, in three games — two of which were wins. And, if you’ll recall, the one loss came down the very last play of the game against the Seahawks, where Newton was stuffed at the goal line. Speaking of the ground, he also ran for 149 yards and four touchdowns.

 

What we saw the rest of the season could have been the result of the virus itself taking something out of Newton, or perhaps the time away threw off his building chemistry with the team. Regardless, he had just one great game — a 365-yard outing against one of the worst defenses in the league in the Texans — and threw for six touchdowns and an ugly eight interceptions.

 

The question of how good Newton will be lies all in his arm. The rushing was never an issue in 2020, seeing as he went on to punch eight in on the ground across his last 12 games and average 4.3 yards per rush. The Patriots also installed several power rush packages last year designed around Newton running the ball, which turned out to be a real weapon around the goal line.

 

His passing ability, however, was a concern. He spiked many passes into the ground, a sight that led Belichick to bench him in favor of Jarrett Stidham, of all people. Though his passes weren’t always on the money, he also wasn’t helped by one of the worst receiving corps in football. His top target was draft bust N’Keal Harry, and his second-best option was journeyman speedster Demiere Byrd.

 

In 2021, we can expect a bit more of Newton for the lone reason that he has better players to throw to. Belichick is reverting back to a tried-and-true two-tight end system which won him several Super Bowls, inking big names Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to deals. The Patriots also went out and got proven veterans at receiver like Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to help out Newton.

 

So, Cam can count on his receivers to actually run the right routes in 2021 and use some improvisation to get free for big plays. Considering Newton has always been a confidence-dependent player over his career — playing well on good teams like in his MVP season and wilting in the face of adversity, like last season — I think we’ll see the best form of him, whatever that is at this point in his journey. The signing of the two tight ends also signals Belichick is going to be looking to run some more power sets for Newton, which should help him run more and keep defenses honest, opening up the short pass for him. If the Patriots can just grow Cam’s confidence early in the season by making life easy on him, he will blossom into the quarterback we all know he can be, and prove to be a bargain on his current deal.

Early 2021 NFL Draft Predictions

 

Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

The NFL Draft is just over a month away, and with every passing day the excitement builds just a little bit more.

There are so many questions that will be answered on draft night. Aside from Trevor Lawrence going No. 1 to the Jaguars, pretty much everything else is up in the air. Adding to the intrigue is the possibility that one or two big-name quarterbacks get dealt on Thursday, April 29, along with some other less-attractive yet still-appealing names at the position.

With a world of possibilities, let’s get into some early predictions for the NFL Draft.

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