NFL 2018 Season - PS4


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Up is Down
by Dennis Ranahan

Two years ago I liked the Minnesota Vikings to win Super Bowl LI.

Of course, they didn’t play in Super Bowl LI, and it should be noted that the pick for them to win it was made before the 2016 season started and before Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season to an injury.

In response to the Bridgewater preseason injury, the Vikings acquired Sam Bradford from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for their first pick in the 2017 draft and a fourth round selection this year. A pick, by the way, that could have been elevated to a second or third round selection based on Bradford’s stats in Minnesota.

At the time, I thought it was a good trade for the Vikings which gave them a chance to cash their outstanding defense with a top flight quarterback. One of my most reliable confidants, my son Kevin, took the other side of the virtues of the Vikings trade.

“It is a panic overreaction,” he tagged the Vikings front office move. “They just traded away the building blocks of a great team to try and salvage a lost cause this year,” Kevin concluded.

I stayed with my opinion that it was a good trade, but now, with the clarity of two seasons of actual results, we can all see the wisdom in Kevin’s appraisal at the time.

The Vikings haven’t won with Bradford behind center since he opened his career in Minnesota with five straight wins. He had a losing record after that start, and missed another season with injuries last year.

Even without the first round pick they had surrendered in the 2017 draft, the Vikings were good enough last season to advance to the National Football Conference Championship Game, a contest they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champions in Philadelphia. Bradford had nothing to do with that success, and now that Minnesota has solidified their quarterback situation from a questionable trio that included Bridgewater, Bradford and the man no one knows that led them to their outstanding season last year, Case Keenum, we can clearly see they would have been better off if they never traded for Bradford.

How much better could the Vikings be if they would have added a first round pick to their already rock solid defense or a first round offensive weapon to bolster newly acquired quarterback Kurt Cousin’s attack?

Cousins going to the Vikings is most intriguing given if he can combine high productivity with Minnesota’s already outstanding defense, Mike Zimmer’s team might be the winner in Super Bowl LIII. Cousin’s was also a savior for his former team in softening the blow of what otherwise could have been considered the worst draft results in NFL history.

The Washington Redskins selected Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 National Football League Draft. That was the same year that Washington shipped two first round and one second round selection to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for shifting draft positions in that year’s first round. The Redskins moved up from the sixth pick to the second, and the Rams got the sixth pick in that year’s draft, first round picks in 2013 and 2014, and an additional second round pick in 2012.

With the second pick in the draft, and after ther Indianapolis Colts had made Andrew Luck the first player selected in 2012, the Redskins chose Baylor Quarterback Robert Griffin III. Michigan State's Cousins was selected 100 picks later.

While RGIII had a great rookie season, earning offensive player of the year honors and guiding the Redskins to a home playoff game after winning the NFC East Division, his career was derailed by late season injuries. His career was spent by head coach Mike Shanahan who continued to play his prized QB after an injury had visibly inhibited his performance. Left in to take multiple hits on top of an already serious injury, Griffin’s productive time as an NFL starting quarterback was spent while trying to win a Wild Card Playoff Game.

The Redskins lost both that game, to the Seattle Seahawks, and RGIII’s career. The following year the Redskins parted ways with the head coach that risked his quarterback to more serious injury and lost, and the quarterback who rode high into town a couple seasons earlier, and left as damaged goods.

Meanwhile, the team that got the better of that 2012 trade, the Rams, are now in Los Angeles and many consider a strong NFC contender this year. While the Rams relinquished the opportunity to draft RGIII in 2012, they made moves to get the first choice in the 2016 draft and chose quarterback Jared Goff a pick before the Philadelphia Eagles grabbed Carson Wentz.

The Rams explosive offense and dominating defense get an anticipated boost with the recent signing of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who played three years in Miami after beginning his career with the Detroit Lions.

In 2019, the Rams will open their new Southern California stadium, but this year they are a team that rose to prominence last season while winning the West and are considered to have an even brighter prospect in the quest for Super Bowl LIII.

The Rams have all the physical benefits gained from great trades for draft picks made with the Redskins and Vikings, and there is no reason they shouldn’t have a great year this season based on their roster.

But, what the Rams don’t have, something the Vikings and Redskins couldn’t include in their generous trade offers, is the motivational factors that dictate how skill levels will translate to the win/loss column. Based purely on a season-to-season motivational scale, no team entering the 2018 NFL campaign is in more trouble than the Los Angeles Rams.

This is a team that had suffered a losing season every year since 2006, compiling a 44 and 113 won/loss record since 2007, and had not posted a winning campaign since 2003 before last year’s breakout campaign. When a team rises from the heep and wins their division and hosts a postseason game their prospects rise like a thermometer on a hot sunny day. When expectations rise dramatically for a team coming off their first successful season in years, the motivation that pushed their success last season based on a need to overcome is suddenly replaced by hopes that good things are coming … which is terrible motivation.

The Rams have all the talent for long term success, but that rise to the top of the football world is scheduled for a sobering down year in 2018.

This knowledge can pay dividends all year long, but it begins with a preseason wager on the Rams under their 2018 win total.