I'm not sure how it happened, but we are officially just two weeks away from the start of the NFL season, which is good news for most teams, but maybe not the Titans. Based on how things are going so far, I'm starting to think there's roughly a 30% chance that the Titans aren't going to have enough players to field a team in Week 1.
Just like last year, there's a chance that COVID-19 could wreak havoc on the season and we're already seeing that in Tennessee. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been placed on the COVID list, making him one of SIX Titans players on that list, along with coach Mike Vrabel. If all of this had happened two weeks from today, there's a good chance the Titans would have had to play their opener without their head coach, their starting quarterback and several other players.
Basically, when it comes to COVID, this season could be even crazier than last season. Speaking of crazy, let's get to today's rundown, where we'll be unveiling our All-AFC South team (we might need a new quarterback since our current one is on the COVID list) and talking about the three teams that Matthew Stafford wanted to play for.
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1. Today's show: Best running backs for fantasy plus breaking down the Sony Michel trade
It's officially "Fantasy Week" on the Pick Six podcast, which is our way of telling you that if you want to win your fantasy league this year, then you better listen to every podcast we put out over the next few days. For today's show, Will Brinson was joined by CBS Sports fantasy guru Jamey Eisenberg and the two spent a lot of time today talking about how running backs can help you win a fantasy title.
Although running back value is going way down in the NFL, the position has high value in fantasy. According to Eisenberg, the top five running backs in fantasy this year are obvious and those five running backs are (in alphabetical order):
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings
- Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
- Derrick Henry, Titans
- Alvin Kamara, Saints
- Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
After that, things get a little dicey and that's because almost every player in the next tier of running backs has at least one red flag. Eisenberg believes that Saquon Barkley is probably the sixth best option at running back in fantasy this year. After that, he also likes Austin Ekeler, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones and Jonathan Taylor.
During the podcast, Eisenberg explains when you should look to draft a running back: For instance, if you have the sixth overall pick, should you take the sixth-best running back in Barkley or should you wait and hope he slides to the second round?
If you're in a fantasy league this year, there's a good chance that your draft is just around the corner, which makes this the perfect episode to listen to, especially if you need some help preparing for your draft.
To listen to today's episode -- and to subscribe to the best daily NFL podcast out there -- be sure to click here.
2. Mac Jones doing his best to steal Cam Newton's job
With Cam Newton out of practice for most of this week due to a violation of COVID protocols, that's giving Mac Jones a chance to steal the Patriots QB job and the crazy thing is that the rookie might actually pull it off.
As recently as Monday, Bill Belichick said Newton was the starter, but it wouldn't be surprising at all if he changes his mind after how well Jones played in practice against the Giants on Wednesday. According to ESPN.com, Jones went 35 of 40 against the Giants' defense during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. He also led an impressive two-minute drill that ended with a Patriots touchdown.
Jones was so good that Belichick didn't sound so sure about making the Newton the starter when he was asked about the situation on Thursday morning.
"Yeah, I'm not sure exactly how that will go," Belichick said.
At the beginning of the week, this felt like it was Newton's job, but after Jones' performance against the Giants, it sounds like the Patriots are giving some serious consideration to starting Jones and I won't be surprised at all if the rookie is under center in Week 1.
In other QB news:
- Jaguars name Trevor Lawrence the starter. We all knew this was coming, so I'm not even sure this qualifies as news.
- Teddy Bridgewater beats out Drew Lock for Broncos' QB job. This is the same decision I would have made. Bridgewater is a consistent quarterback who doesn't turn the ball over, which is exactly what the Broncos' need right now. If this team is going to be good this year, it's going to be because of their defense, but one thing they can't have is their quarterback losing games for them with dumb turnovers and Bridgewater likely won't do that.
- Kyle Shanahan has a 'good idea' who the 49ers starting QB will be. Although the 49ers coach says he has a "good idea" of who the starting QB is going to be, he is still refusing to share that information. I still think Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be the starter although I do think we'll see packages for Trey Lance (Garoppolo actually hinted at this in a recent interview when he said he had a conversation with Drew Brees about what it was like to be replaced by Taysom Hill every so often )
- Joe Burrow to play in Bengals preseason finale. The second-year quarterback hasn't played in an actual game since tearing his ACL in November. At the beginning of training camp, the team said Burrow likely wouldn't play in the preseason, but Burrow made it clear that he wanted to see some action and it appears he was able to convince the coaching staff to play him on Sunday against the Dolphins.
- Ryan Tannehill placed on COVID list. The Titans could be on the verge of another COVID outbreak. Tannehill is now among six players who have been placed on the COVID list, along with coach Mike Vrabel. To return to practice, the vaccinated Tannehill needs to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart to return, but if that doesn't happen, he could be out up to 10 days. A 10-day absence would keep him out until Sept. 5, which is just one week before Tennessee's season-opener against the Cardinals.
During the 2020 season, the Titans were the first team to be hit with a major COVID outbreak.
3. 2021 All-AFC South team: Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones headline Titans heavy roster
The Texans and the Jaguars are expected to be two of the worst teams in the NFL this year and if you need proof of how bad each team's roster is, just wait until you check out our All-AFC South team.
Jared Dubin went through all four rosters in the division to create one Super Team that consisted of 27 players (12 on offense, 12 on defense plus three special teams). Of the 27 players on the All-AFC South team, the Texans and Jaguars only combined to put a total of eight players on the team. The ugliest part for the Jags is that they have exactly ZERO offensive representatives.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the offense for the AFC South's all-division team:
QB: Ryan Tannehill, Titans
RB: Derrick Henry, Titans
WR: A.J. Brown, Titans
WR: Julio Jones, Titans
WR: Michael Pittman, Colts
TE: Anthony Firkser, Titans
FLEX: Jonathan Taylor, Colts
OT: Laremy Tunsil, Texans
OT: Braden Smith, Colts
OG: Quenton Nelson, Colts
OG: Nate Davis, Titans
C: Ryan Kelly, Colts
Overall, there were 11 Titans players on the team with six coming on offense, four on defense and one on special teams. The Colts produced eight players while the Jaguars had four players on the team (but two of those players came on special teams). As for the Texans, they had just three representatives.
If you want to see the defensive side of the AFC South's All-Division team, plus the special teams representatives, then be sure to click here.
4. Matthew Stafford reveals list of three teams he wanted to play for
One of the most surprising moves of the offseason came back in January when the Lions decided to ship Matthew Stafford off to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and multiple draft picks, including two first-rounders.
The deal happened because Stafford went to the Lions to request a trade with the main reason being that he didn't want to be a part of another rebuild. Since the quarterback was on good terms with team, the Lions obliged Stafford and got a trade done.
In the cover story for the latest issue of ESPN the Magazine, Seth Wickersham did a profile on Stafford, which included taking an in-depth look at the quarterback's offseason, including his final few days in Detroit. In the story, Stafford revealed he was hoping to get traded to one of three teams and those three teams are:
- Colts: The Colts actually made a decent offer for Stafford, but they couldn't the top the Rams offer, which included multiple first-round picks. A trade to Indy would have been fascinating, because if Stafford was with the Colts, then they wouldn't have traded for Carson Wentz. The entire landscape of the 2021 season would be way different if Stafford had gone to Indy.
- 49ers: Kyle Shanahan admitted the 49ers were interested in Stafford, but they never formally made an offer. However, the 49ers coach definitely wasn't happy to see Stafford end up with a division rival, "That was frustrating," Shanahan said back in July.
- Rams: Los Angeles is where Stafford ended up and based on the ESPN story, he sounds completely invigorated, which means I'm probably going to talk myself back into making the Rams my Super Bowl pick.
The entire ESPN story is definitely worth a read and you can check it out by clicking here.
5. Five NFL trades that need to go down before the start of the 2021 season
One thing that always seems to happen before the start of the season in the NFL is that teams seem to get trade-happy before the final round of cuts. We saw it go down on Wednesday when the Raiders decided to make a trade for Panthers linebacker Denzel Perryman.
Over the next week, there's a good chance we'll see a few more trades, so with that in mind, our Patrik Walker decided to make a list of five trades that he'd like to see before the start of the 2021 season.
- Cowboys trade Jaylon Smith to Raiders for OT Brandon Parker and a late-round pick
- Patriots trade Stephon Gilmore to Packers for a second-round pick
- Saints trade Michael Thomas to the Jaguars for C.J. Henderson
- Cardinals trade Chandler Jones to the Jets for Marcus Maye
- Rams trade an interior offensive lineman to the Giants for kicker Ryan Santoso
If you want to know why these trades would make sense, then you're going to want to make sure to check out Walker's entire story, which you can do by clicking here.
6. Rapid-fire roundup
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- Raiders make trade for Denzel Perryman. The Panthers linebacker is headed to Las Vegas after the Raiders acquired him a trade. In exchange for Perryman, Carolina will be getting a 2022 sixth-round pick.
- Bills receivers hit with major fines over COVID violations. Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie were both fined more than $14,000 for violation of the NFL's COVID protocols. The embarrassing part for McKenzie is that his violation came while NFL employees were visiting the Bills' practice facility, which you think would be the one time you'd want to make sure you're not violating COVID protocols. Also, according to NFL.com, both players "are now subject to increased discipline for a repeat violation -- including for conduct detrimental with a maximum fine of one week's salary and/or 4-game unpaid suspension."
- Packers place Devin Funchess on injured reserve. The receiver's season is over before it started thanks to a hamstring injury. Funchess has only played in one game since the start of the 2019 season. He injured his collarbone in 2019, which caused him to miss 15 games. In 2020, he didn't play a single game because he opted out for the year. The only way Funchess can play this season is if the Packers release him from IR and then he signs with another team.
- Seahawks tight end announces retirement. Luke Willson has surprisingly decided to call it quits. The Seahawks tight end, who just signed a new contract this week, decided to retire due to a heart condition that he's been dealing with. Willson had been with the Seahawks since being selected by the team during the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
- Andrew Luck spotted throwing passes at a high school football practice in Colorado. This doesn't mean Luck is planning on coming out of retirement, but it's definitely interesting that he's going out of his way to try to get some football practice in.
- Colts mascot pulls off milk crate challenge. I'd break both of my legs if I tried to complete the milk crate challenge, but the Colts mascot didn't. Old Blue nailed the challenge and you can check out a video of his feat by clicking here.