FOUR QUARTERS: NFL PLAYOFF PUSH WITH VERGE

The NFL season is approaching a fever pitch. Teams battling for a playoff spot, the top of the league jostling for a bye or even home-field advantage. Then, of course, there’s the Bengals, as well as the rest of the bottom of the barrel in full-on tank mode.

Week 11 is on the horizon and the postseason not far behind. This is Four Quarters with Verge Magazine, playoff push addition.

The last team that remains winless in the NFL is Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie head coach has had a quietly tumultuous first season, including the benching of Andy Dalton, being without AJ Green and dealing with terrible defensive play and an injury-riddled offensive line.

At this point, all you can do is stay the course and continue tanking. The prize of Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrows will do wonders to jump-start a new era for Cincinnati.

 

Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins last year, so the assumption is that he still is the QB of the future. They’ve doubled down on this, for now, and named Haskins the starter for the remainder of the season.

Now is the time to evaluate what the Redskins are working with at quarterback. It’s a must to take this opportunity during a rebuilding year in DC.

Defence, the O-line and a true number one receiver will be at the top Giants priorities when the 2019 NFL draft rolls around. Until then, the rest of the year could be a struggle for Daniel Jones and New York.

There have been murmurs regarding the stability of Pat Shurmur’s job. Odds are he’ll be retained for now, but 2020 is a year in need of progress.

The Falcons were expected to compete this year, and after the emotional victory over the Eagles in week 2, things were looking up. At 2-7, Dan Quinn has gone from hot seat to be ready to be shown the door.

That being said, Atlanta looked ferocious on defence in their win over the Saints. Time will only tell whether Quinn will stay on in 2020.

Miami was embarrassed at home in week 1 when the Ravens came to town. The expectation was that the Dolphins would easily obtain the number 1 pick after Lamar Jackson’s remarkable performance.

In the past few weeks, not only have the Dolphins not been terrible, they’ve been a competent football team under Brian Flores. If the goal was to get Tua or Burrows in the draft, they should be cautious of anymore winning.

Sam Darnold has been the textbook definition of inconsistent this season, but he does have a few marquees wins on his resume in 2019. When Darnold isn’t seeing ghosts, he looks a lot more like the Jets franchise QB.

It’s unclear whether New York is headed in any sort of positive direction. What seems a bit more clear is the faith the Jets front office has in head coach Adam Gase despite the lack of success this season.

The Broncos are a stunningly average football team. They still retain a lot of good pieces on both sides of the ball but don’t seem to be going anywhere fast without the right QB steering the ship.

Joe Flacco most likely will not see the field again this season. GM John Elway said he believes Flacco is only now entering his prime, but no one will be able to know that until 2020.

At 3-6, the disappointing Cleveland Browns are disappointing. And yet, at 3-6, the disappointing Cleveland Browns still are in the playoff hunt.

It’s really simple, Baker Mayfield needs to play better. Simply seems unlikely.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bruce Arians was gifted the Jameis Winston project. It has not gone well.

The Bucs are 3-6, and even with some solid wins under their belt, the optimism is limited in Tampa. The Winston era is likely over after this season.

Teams like the Bucs, Browns and Falcons had expectations this season, at the very least to compete for a playoff spot. The Cardinals did not have those type of expectations.

A rookie QB, a rookie head coach and Arizona has been a competitive and exciting team all year. The future is bright in the desert.

Matt Stafford’s recent injury likely puts a nail in the coffin in Detroit’s season. The Lions hot start will likely be wasted.

Matt Patricia has shown progress in these past two seasons. A playoff appearance in 2020 would do a lot for Patricia’s stability in a sports town with so much turnover.

The Chargers won a playoff game last year, convincingly. Even though they remain in the hunt for a postseason appearance, LA has looked nothing like last years team.

On top of all of this, there are talks of the Chargers moving to London. Yes, you read the right, the once San Diego now LA Chargers in London, imagine that?

The Bears, like the Browns, needed their young QB to take a step in the right direction in 2019. As bad as Mayfield has been, even he hasn’t been as awful as Mitchell Trubisky.

In 2018, Trubisky was a pro-bowler, and in 2020, he might not even be Chicago’s starting quarterback. NFL really does stand for “not for long.”

The race for the AFC South is airtight, and luckily for the Jags, they’re getting QB1 back. Hats off to Gardner Minshew who played so well in his time filling in for Nick Foles, he might even get rookie of the year votes.

This is Foles’ team make no mistake of it. Can he make another improbable playoff run as he did in Philly the past two seasons?

The Titans play solid defence and run the ball well, but it might not be enough without a true number one option at quarterback. It’s unclear whether they’ll address it in the 2020 draft.

When Andrew Luck retired, no one gave the Colts a chance. Now they’re 5-4 with Jacoby Brissett under centre.

Indy has been one of the most injury-riddled teams in the league and it’s now gotten to Brissett. With Andrew Luck last year, the Colts ran the table and even won a playoff game in 2019 but is it possible for them to do that if they don’t even have Brissett?

Credit where credit is due, Mike Tomlin has kept the Steelers playoff hopes alive without Antonio Brown, Lev’eon Bell or even Ben Rothlisberger. Mason Rudolph has played well and the Steelers continue to win games.

If the season ended right now, Pittsburgh would find themselves with a wildcard birth. The legacy of coach Tomlin continues to grow stronger and stronger.

Speaking of legacy, Jon Gruden is doing quite a lot for his legacy in his second year in Oakland and second stint as an NFL head coach. At 5-4, the Raiders not only find themselves in the playoff hunt but have a shot at the division as well.

There may not be another NFL franchise in Oakland. Winning the AFC West would be quite the send-off for Raider Nation before their move to Las Vegas

Similar to their LA counterpart, the Rams just don’t look like the same team as they did last year. Arthritis in Gurley’s knee, the inconsistencies of Goff, the brutal defence and o-line play, it doesn’t appear LA will find themselves defending their NFC title.

The Rams success has always been reliant on the contributions of Gurley. Yes, a healthy Cooper Kupp and the addition of Jaylen Ramsey helps but it’s Gurley who needs to be more present.

The NFC East was expected to contain two different teams competing not only for the division but even an NFC or NFL title. At 5-4, the Cowboys can at least say that they find themselves holding a tiebreaker for the division.

There win over the Eagles in Dallas could be the difference. The season resets when the postseason begins and the Cowboys are hoping to be there to hit their own reset button.

Like their NFC East rivals, the Eagles would like to hit a reset button of their own. They’ll have to do a bit more than the Cowboys though.

Philadelphia will need to fix their offensive identity crisis against some stiff competition. It starts with back to back home games against some of the leagues toughest opponents in New England and Seattle.

The Panthers have hitched their wagon to Kyle Allen, for at least the 2019 season. If Carolina wants to make it into the postseason, they will need Christian McCafferty to continue to play like an MVP candidate.

Cam Newton was expected to have a huge bounce-back season following a disappointing 2018. Not only will he watch the Panthers from the sidelines for the rest of 2019, but he may also faceoff against Carolina in 2020.

On the bright side, Kansas City has gotten Pat Mahomes back under centre for the most important stretch of their season. On the other hand, they’ve seen their division evaporate in an instant.

The Chiefs were in the AFC Championship game last season and if they want to find themselves back there, there’s much work to do. Getting Mahomes back was step one.

Deshaun Watson may single-handedly drive the Texans playoff push. Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller are great weapons, the offensive line is improved but Houston is simply average or worse in every other way.

The defence wasn’t fantastic to begin the season either. After the season-ending injury to JJ Watt, the absence of Jadaveon Clowney must hurt more than ever.

The Bills have the defence to make a run, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the offence that needs to improve as the Bills fight for a playoff birth.

Buffalo hasn’t won a playoff a game in more than two decades. Will a young Josh Allen be the guy to get the job done?

Following a very impressive victory in Dallas, is it time to take Vikings seriously? Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook appear to have a say in the matter.

Cousins has been lights out for the past five weeks or so, and Cook deserves to throw his name in the MVP conversation. A healthy Adam Thielen would go a long way though, especially for Cousins who is yet to win a playoff game in his career,

Lamer Jackson for MVP? Maybe.

The 2nd year QB would love to be the league MVP, but his first career playoff victory would be even sweeter. After their huge win over New England a few weeks ago, postseason success doesn’t seem all that far fetched.

Drew Brees is back. Teddy Bridgewater did have the hot hand, was it the right move to replace him?

The Saints were embarrassed by the Atlanta Falcons last week. It’s easy to chalk up the loss as a fluke, but with the postseason on the horizon, a loss like that is at least a little telling about the team’s shortcomings.

This is the most complete Packers team in many years. It might not be the most talented, but the combination of Aaron Rodgers and balance on both sides of the ball bode well for Green Bays postseason success.

A rookie head coach is never ideal for the playoffs. Then again, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers.

Russell Wilson solidified himself as not only a candidate but maybe a front runner for the MVP. His win against the previously undefeated 49ers comes at a perfect time for the Seahawks.

At 8-2, they are no merely one game behind San Francisco. Seattle could find themselves as the one seed in the NFC.

Don’t let the loss to the Seahawks fool you, the 49ers are still the most complete team in the NFC. No one in their right mind would’ve thought the Niners would have been a 8-1, considering they drafted 2nd in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Jimmy Garoppolo still has a ways to go as the offensive leader for San Francisco. Seattle got their upgrade in receiver with Josh Gordon and the Niners have there’s in Emmanual Sanders, could we see a rematch from 2013 with these two teams in the NFC Championship game?

Until proven otherwise, the Patriots remain the favourites in the AFC East, AFC and league-wide as a whole. The Belichek and Brady combination heading into the postseason for yet another run only seems fitting.

It’s a simple thing. Until proven otherwise, the New England Patriots are kings of the NFL.