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My Top 51 Movies of the 2010s

For the first 21-22 years of my life, I liked movies in the same way that 98% of the population likes movies. There were certain blockbusters that I’d make sure to see in theaters on opening weekend, I’d try to catch a few of the Oscars contenders in theaters too, and I’d watch The Shawshank Redemption on TNT a few times a year.

Without sounding melodramatic or self-serious or whatever, movies began to take on more importance in my life when I graduated from college in 2015. Like most fresh postgrads, I wasn’t fully prepared to live alone without any provided structure, and this was compounded with a job I didn’t like and a home with four roommates I hadn’t previously known. I wasn’t struggling – seriously, no need to retroactively check in. I was just mostly bored and feeling creatively weighed down at such a young age.

Movies – with major ups to MoviePass and AMC Stubs – became an outlet to me in so many ways, especially as someone who doesn’t read books and doesn’t understand traditional art in any meaningful way. I started going to theaters on a weekly basis. I sought out movies with small budgets and movies that I normally would not have identified as my type. I started reading and listening to criticism from different perspectives and tried my best to pay it forward with criticism of my own. Each theater experience for me became simultaneously exciting and challenging and therapeutic, and looking back on my progression as a moviegoer from 2015 to 2020 is something I am legitimately proud of.

I tell you all of this because it prefaces a blog that you can find 1,000 variations of elsewhere on the Internet, yet it’s a blog that I am pumped to share. All 51 of these films, and the 21 Honorable Mentions, received an A or A+ grade by The PJ Scale ™. (This list started at 50 and then I saw a movie that cracked the list as I was writing, and I didn’t feel like deleting something I already wrote.)

A+       9.8-10

A         9.3-9.7

A-        8.8-9.2

B+       8.3-8.7

B         7.8-8.2

B-        7.3-7.7

C+       6.8-7.2

C         6.3-6.7

C-        5.8-6.2

D+       5.2-5.7

D         4.7-5.2

D-        4.1-4.6

F          0.0-4.0

Important caveats are that I missed a lot of movies that you might find on other similar lists, and my list is also skewed towards the latter half of the decade since I probably saw 5x as many movies during that time. So here it is, with a quick blurb for each selection and some favorite scenes along the way. (Probably goes without saying, but MAJOR spoiler potential.)

I SUCK FOR MISSING (2010-2018): 12 Years a Slave, 50/50, Black Swan, Contagion, Easy A, End of Watch, Frances Ha, Good Time, The Hate U Give, Her, How To Train Your Dragon Franchise, Inside Llewyn Davis, It, It Follows, Kick-Ass, John Wick Franchise, The Lobster, Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL, The Master, Molly’s Game, Rush, Selma, Skyfall, The Town, The Tree of Life, Under the Skin, Warrior

SOON TO SEE (2019): Booksmart, Dark Waters, High Life, Jojo Rabbit, The Lighthouse, Little Women, Rocketman

 

 

51. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER (2014)

Directed by The Russo Brothers

A Soviet-era spy movie that comes out of NOWHERE, The Winter Soldier changed how we thought about Cap and the Marvel Cinematic Universe altogether. Keep in mind; this movie was released immediately following Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World in the MCU. It had no business being this cool.

50. KNIVES OUT (2019)

Directed by Rian Johnson

Nothing about this whodunit fits the typical structure of the genre. You find out who committed the murder and how it happened in the first act. The A-listers are all in supporting roles around newcomer Ana de Armas. And yet, it totally works. It has more to say than you might expect – or care to hear depending on your Rian Johnson thoughts – but its calling card is being one of the most flat-out fun movies of the decade.

49. FRUITVALE STATION (2013)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

The absolutely GUTWRENCHING true story of the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant, Ryan Coogler’s feature debut gets a performance out of Michael B. Jordan that he still hasn’t touched since. This was the first collaboration between Coogler and Jordan – and all three are included in this blog in some capacity – and it remains the most emotionally affecting of the bunch.

48. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (2011)

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

There isn’t another movie on this list that has more working against it. Robbie is one of the worst characters of this decade in film, the storyline with the babysitter was immediately problematic, and the movie asks you to suspend A LOT of disbelief for how much Steve Carell pulls. But I can’t deny how much I love this movie. The twists are amazing, and every Gosling/Stone scene is rom-com gold. DAVID LINDHAGEN!

47. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)

Directed by Martin McDonagh

Shocking, controversial, and somehow still hilarious, Three Billboards is an absolute tornado of an experience. A lot of people were turned off by it, but I was sure as hell not one of them. It constantly verges on falling apart with its countless “what the hell did I just watch” moments, but Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell keep it on track with their Oscar-winning performances.

46. TRUE GRIT (2010)

Directed by The Coen Brothers

A straightforward Western remake is antithetical to almost everything about The Coen Brothers, but it comes through so clearly watching True Grit how much of a blast they must have had making it. With a starmaking performance from Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon at perhaps his most outrageously fun, we are all better off for this movie existing.

45. 1917 (2019)

Directed by Sam Mendes

The first thing anyone wants to talk about with 1917 is the one-long-shot approach, and for good reason. It takes you right inside the horror of World War 1, and it might become the defining work of the greatest cinematographer of a generation, Roger Deakins. But the camerawork is almost too good, because it leaves the screenplay and lead performances as completely underrated. Although this movie intentionally feels like a sprint, there are so many amazing things going on within it.

44. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Manchester By The Sea often comes up in conversation for how goddamn sad it is, and that’s valid. It’s devastating. But leaving it at that shortchanges this screenplay, of which you can count on one hand how many might have topped it this decade. And then there is Casey Affleck’s performance in the lead…good lord. I almost never think to revisit this movie, but that doesn’t make it any less of a masterpiece.

43. THE OTHER GUYS (2010)

Directed by Adam McKay

The Other Guys is oft quoted, from “Dirty Mike and the Boys” to the TLC references. But I still feel like it doesn’t have the legacy it deserves? I mean, Ferrell and Wahlberg pair PERFECTLY, and killing off The Rock and Samuel L. Jackson in the first 10 minutes remains one of the funniest things ever. Most people would tell me I’m crazy for saying this is my favorite McKay/Ferrell vehicle…but I think it is?

42. ARGO (2012)

Directed by Ben Affleck

Argo strangely feels like it happened 20 years ago, and it’s even stranger that a movie like this won Best Picture. Still, Argo-fuck yourself if you’re a hater. You know how it’s gonna end the whole time, but that doesn’t make the final act even a little bit less thrilling. Also, thanks again Canada!

41. STEVE JOBS (2015)

Directed by Danny Boyle

A criminally overlooked movie, thanks in part to bombing at the box office and the shitty Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher that came out right beforehand. I love the pace, look, and dialogue of this movie – even if it comes dangerously close to Sorkin overload. But more than anything, Michael Fassbander CRUSHES in the title role. He got hosed at the Oscars with Leo getting his lifetime achievement award that year, and the really sad part is that Fassbender’s career today probably looks a lot different for the better had he won.

40. THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017)

Directed by James Franco

The really good movie about the really bad movie, James Franco pulled off something amazing here. You can convince me that it’s the funniest movie of the decade, but even without any jokes The Disaster Artist would be moving. In retrospect the Oscar buzz surrounding Franco’s performance was silly, and I wish they had gone a bit deeper into the dark side of being involved in the production of The Room. Still, I cackled, cried, and cheered in these 103 minutes.

39. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

If you had polled me midway through the decade, I would have told you that The Dark Knight Rises was a lock to finish in the Top 10 for this blog. It somehow lived up to the hype, Bane was instantly iconic, and it spurred a real debate over whether it was even better than The Dark Knight. Now you should be embarrassed to have that debate in public, and I’d agree that TDKR hasn’t aged all too well. But the fact that that debate actually did happen speaks to how awesome this movie was and still is.

38. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

Directed by David O. Russell

I’m not sure how well Silver Linings Playbook would be received if it were released in 2019 instead of 2012, but that’s not how it went, so I’ll disregard that hypothetical. Bradley Cooper became more than the guy from The Hangover, Jennifer Lawrence immediately became a star (and do not pretend like she wasn’t AWESOME in this), and De Niro hit a homer in a bold role. David O. Russell has had his fair share of whiffs since Silver Linings, but he really connected with this contradiction of a movie. It’s a rom-com that’s also a sports movie, and you’re laughing the whole time while the whole time you feel like you aren’t supposed to be laughing.

37. THE BIG SICK (2017)

Directed by Michael Showalter

Kumail Nanjiani’s passion project could not have been released at a more perfect time. Hysterical and important, The Big Sick was a sleeper hit behind its Oscar-nominated screenplay and insanely good performances – especially from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. While I hope that everyone eventually sees this movie, its better legacy would be as a trailblazer for more original projects like it.

36. BLINDSPOTTING (2018)

Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada

Similar in nature to The Big Sick, some of my favorite movies are the ones where it’s painfully obvious that the people involved have been fighting for years to bring it to the big screen. And whew boy, that is the case for Blindspotting. It’s not the first movie to tackle police violence or gentrification, but it has such a genuine style that I can’t really find a comparison. Just take my word for it.

35. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

Directed by Wes Anderson

I am by NO means a Wes Anderson fan, so The Grand Budapest Hotel’s placement on this list should tell you all you need to know about it. Visually stunning, actually funny, and anchored by an all-time turn from Ralph Fiennes, I can’t think of another movie from this decade that surprised me more with its sheer entertainment.

34. DRIVE (2011)

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

There might be some detractors out there now that Drive is approaching its tenth birthday, but I don’t care what they have to say. Drive is still so fucking cool. Almost no modern films look or sound better, and you know it right from the opening credits. The 2010s flat-out belonged to Ryan Gosling, and this still might be his most iconic performance even though he barely speaks.

33. TOY STORY 4 (2019)

Directed by Josh Cooley

This franchise, man. EVERYONE, myself included, had agreed that Toy Story 3 (more on that later) was the perfect culmination to this saga. It was more than fair to have concern over whether Pixar was going to milk another good-not-great sequel for a billion dollars like Monsters University and Finding Dory. But then, through a villainous 1950s pullstring doll and a spork having an existential crisis, you realize that they never actually wrapped up Woody and Buzz’s mutual arc? Toy Story 4 certainly didn’t flop, but I think time will be extremely kind to its legacy.

32. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

Directed by George Miller 

I’ll admit it: I didn’t get the hype when I saw Fury Road in theaters. Maybe I was just shell-shocked, but it took until about my fifth viewing on HBO to realize what George Miller pulled off. There are multiple action scenes that are among the best ever put to the big screen, and you can feel the realness behind each stunt and crash and explosion. I maintain that Tom Hardy is bad in this movie, but who cares? Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is one of the best characters of the decade, and I’m literally out of breath by the time they decide to go back on the road.

31. PHANTOM THREAD (2017)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

My name is PJ, and I freaking love this movie about a 1950s idiosyncratic dressmaker and his muse. I hesitate to divulge any plot points or one-liners because they all hit so hard upon first watch. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, so you really shouldn’t be too surprised, but seriously go watch Phantom Thread.

30. I, TONYA (2017)

Directed by Craig Gillespie 

I rolled my eyes at the “Goodfellas on ice” marketing behind this movie, but that’s actually a pretty perfect description of I,Tonya! With a script that completely runs with the insanity of the whole situation and Margot Robbie and Allison Janney absolutely going for it, I, Tonya is almost impossibly fun. Sure, you might find yourself sympathizing a little too much for Harding at times, but there is enough to remind you that she’s a liar and overall shitty person. But damn, she could skate!

29. DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

A movie about slavery that is…cathartic and cool? Only Tarantino. I wouldn’t say that Django Unchained is a perfect movie, but it very well might be perfectly acted. Everyone involved is hitting the right notes, nobody more than Mr. DiCaprio in a rare supporting role. It’s a performance that isn’t any less jaw-dropping over seven years later. Honestly, it’s probably my favorite of his filmography, and that alone justifies a high ranking.

28. MOONLIGHT (2016)

Directed by Barry Jenkins

Bar none, there is not another movie on this list that rivals Moonlight in its pure beauty. Barry Jenkins grants you VIP access to Chiron’s heartbreaking self-discovery through three separate acts in his life. Moonlight is MUCH more than just an educational look into the life of an underrepresented protagonist. For my money, the scene above with Mahershala Ali (in a Hall of Fame performance) is the single best scene of the decade.

27a. PADDINGTON (2014)

27b. PADDINGTON 2 (2017)

Directed by Paul King 

These movies are TREASURES. I love that polite bear from Darkest Peru more than anything. These are both family films to their cores, but the Paddington movies have transcended age because of their undeniable wholesomeness. I think I prefer the original while I can acknowledge that the sequel is probably a bit better, but I’m cheating here because picking against either of them would break my heart.

26. EX MACHINA (2014)

Directed by Alex Garland 

More than any other movie that I can remember, I sat in my bed in silence for a LONG time after watching Ex Machina for the first time. It is indescribably unsettling, and I mean that in the best way possible. The movie looks and sounds incredible, and it will scare the ever-living shit out of you in non-traditional ways. A sharp screenplay from Alex Garland and a crazy good performance from Alicia Vikander elevate Ex Machina far beyond its basic questions about mankind.

25. THE AVENGERS (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon 

There have been some truly great entries among the 23 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the project that probably defines this decade in film more than anything. And yet, it is the entry that kickstarted the massive scale of these movies that we’ve come to love that remains the best of the MCU. You have to go back to 2012 logic to properly appreciate The Avengers. Marvel movies weren’t THAT popular yet, and people REALLY didn’t think all of these characters on screen at the same time would work. Um, it did, on its way to becoming one of only three movies released before 2015 to crack $1.5 billion at the box office.

24. THIS IS THE END (2013)

Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

This trailer blew up the Internet, and deservedly so behind a premise that is truly one of the most inventive of the decade. People are STILL quoting this movie, often without realizing it. (We were collectively not saying “tight” a lot before this came out.) You get cokehead Michael Cera, pretentious Jonah Hill, axe-wielding Emma Watson…the list keeps going. It’s the best pure comedy of the 2010s to me.

23. THE NICE GUYS (2016)

Directed by Shane Black

The Nice Guys is the type of movie that rarely gets made anymore, which is a shame because it’s my favorite kind of movie. Shane Black was given $50 million by Warner Bros. to bring his script – which fits into three separate genres according to Wikipedia – to life behind Russell Crowe and Gos-God in the leads. Unfortunately, I don’t see more movies like it being made in the future, since The Nice Guys didn’t land at the box office or win awards. But it is fucking hilarious, thrilling, and has way more heart than you’d suspect.

22. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

I had not for the life of me been able to pick which of Tarantino’s films I liked more between Django and Once Upon a Time. But I’m giving the more recent of the two the nod because it has already started to age incredibly well. I really liked Once Upon a Time upon my first viewing a few months ago in theaters, but I have revered this movie ever since my first rewatch. EVERY scene is worth searching on YouTube. And Brad Pitt…just unfairly cool.

21. HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016)

Directed by David Mackenzie

A couple things are certain when it comes to Hell or High Water. This would be a ton of people’s single favorite movie if it gains the exposure it deserves, and if not for No Country For Old Men it might be the greatest neo-western of all time. Extremely badass with an extremely important social statement to boot, this movie is ferocious from start to finish. ESPECIALLY to finish…good lord, Ben Foster.

20. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (2011)

Directed by David Yates

It would be disingenuous to suggest that Deathly Hallows was split up into two parts purely for cinematic reasons…but man it worked out for the best. Part 2 is a rush from the get-go, loaded with action and awesome visuals. But there is never any distraction from the emotional stakes of the culmination of this pop culture phenomenon. With the amount of franchises that have botched their landings in recent years, Harry Potter going out with its best entry is only more magical in hindsight.

19. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016)

Directed by Richard Linklater

A near lock to become a cult classic, Everybody Wants Some!! is Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused that largely went unseen. But that description is accurate, because this movie is truly just as good. A hangout movie with a cast that you genuinely would want to hangout with, there wasn’t a movie released this decade that I have more fun revisiting.

18. CREED (2015)

Directed by Ryan Coogler 

Maybe the most pleasant surprise of the decade, Creed was released on the heels of multiple mediocre Rocky movies and went on to become one of the greatest sports movies of all time in the process. Ryan Coogler rejuvenated this franchise with amazing boxing scenes and a brilliant story that allowed Sylvester Stallone to be in the movie as way more than just a cameo. It’s a bummer that Coogler was one-and-done in the franchise, but at least we can revisit Creed and still feel those thrills we got the first time.

17. GONE GIRL (2014)

Directed by David Fincher 

The movie that I just assume is better than the book, Gone Girl is a popcorn thriller that still gets two thumbs up from even the most pretentious Fincher fanatic. Rosamund Pike is obviously and rightfully the star here – she should have won the Oscar. But Affleck is AWESOME in this movie too! It’s troubling, scary, and will sure as hell mess with your mind. But it’s still so cool.

16. THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

The Edge of Seventeen is my personal pick as the most underrated movie of the decade, and I say that as someone who was late to discovering it. But ever since my first time with it, I’ve watched it again as much as any other movie. I’m of the belief that Hailee Steinfeld should be the most famous person on the planet, and if you think that’s crazy then watch her performance in this and get back to me. Affecting and funny for any viewer at any age, The Edge of Seventeen belongs in that Mean Girls tier of coming-of-age films.

15. SPOTLIGHT (2015)

Directed by Tom McCarthy 

Normally a biographical newspaper movie is one that comes off as Oscar-bait, but Spotlight is legitimately gripping. Perfectly written, acted, and directed, everyone involved does their part to present you the facts without any greater agenda. It’s one of the more disturbing movies of the decade, yet one that’s strangely rewatchable. The silence that hit my theater during the final credits was my most chilling movie moment of the decade, maybe ever.

14. MONEYBALL (2011)

Directed by Bennett Miller

I’ll admit: I didn’t take to Moneyball back when it came out, and yes that is entirely because I am a baseball snob. Although I do still think it’s a bit weird how the movie makes zero mention of the A’s having the MVP and Cy Young winner on their team, I can look past that now because the rest of Moneyball is a cinematic achievement. Scouting meetings and trade negotiations for relievers play out like gunfights, and Brad Pitt has never been better. I can proudly admit that this story makes me emotional just thinking about it. It revolutionized sports, and all business to a degree, with the simple concept of playing to human beings’ strengths. How can you not be romantic about baseball? 

13. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (2018)

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Perhaps my most rewarding film experience of the decade was binging the first five Mission: Impossible movies in advance of Fallout hitting theaters. I figured it would be good with its dope trailer and strong early buzz. I didn’t realize that I’d be walking into one of the greatest action movies ever made. You get Henry Cavill as a villain. You get the return of Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust. You get the club bathroom fight. You get the HALO jump. I hesitate to say Tom Cruise’s daredevil approach to these movies is worth it because I’m afraid he’s going to kill himself in one of these stunts, but damn they are spectacular. 

12. THE BIG SHORT (2015)

Directed by Adam McKay 

Simultaneously one of the best comedies and horror movies of the decade, The Big Short managed to make us laugh while successfully simplifying the events that led to the financial crisis. The invention behind the storytelling and editing of this movie will likely be lost on people as time goes on, but The Big Short was a game changer. Just think about it: the most historically accurate movie about the financial crisis is the same one with Margot Robbie (as herself) in a bathtub.

11. WHIPLASH (2014)

Directed by Damien Chazelle

A movie about a jazz drummer is also one of the most intense movies of the decade. Whiplash is about letting nothing get in the way of your dream, and it is exhilarating to watch it all unfold. J.K. Simmons puts forward one of the truly iconic performances…of the decade? Of all time? It’s that elite. Whiplash has a perfect ending and only runs for 107 minutes, but it could have gone on forever and I’d be satisfied.

10. BIRDMAN (2014)

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu 

The most dazzling movie of the decade, Birdman is a goddamn trip. Filmed to make it look like the entire movie is one shot, this is a breakthrough from a cinematography standpoint. And that score with the drums! Holy shit! Birdman is more than its aesthetics and technicality though. You find yourself desperately rooting for Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, who really could have won an Oscar for this fairly meta performance as a washed up superhero actor. It did win Best Picture, one of the few times this decade the Academy made a good call there. 

9. LA LA LAND (2016)

Directed by Damien Chazelle

It was really a bummer that La La Land got swept up in the Best Picture race against Moonlight, because so many people still hold a grudge against it despite it being a masterpiece. It’s inspiring, funny, beautifully shot, and has songs that you’ll listen to in your free time. But none of those things are what separates it for me. Emma Stone earned her Oscar too, but that’s not it either. It’s the ending, which is long and unexpected and not “happy,” but it is PERFECT. My favorite ending of the decade. 

8. INCEPTION (2010)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

I’m not ranking Inception this high to get your take on whether or not the top is going to stop spinning at the end of the movie. I’m ranking it this high because it’s one of the most inventive movies I’ve ever seen, from visual and musical and storytelling standpoints. The movie is almost ten years old now and it still feels like you’re in an experiment when you’re watching it. I don’t side with Chris Nolan critics who roll their eyes at how heady his movies can be, although I do at least understand it in a case like Interstellar. I don’t think that argument applies to Inception whatsoever though. Whenever the characters go deeper into another dream, the deeper I get sucked into the movie.

7. PARASITE (2019)

Directed by Bong Joon-ho 

Believe the hype. Parasite is stunning. It’s addicting too, as I’ve already seen it twice when there are so many 2019 movies still out there that I need to see. It’s metaphoric in a fairly simple way, but it is so brilliant and clever with its twists, dialogue, visuals, etc. Even without the subtitles, I think I could have understood and been rocked by what transpires in the movie, which hopefully speaks to what Bong Joon-ho pulled off here.

6. SICARIO (2015)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Sicario is somehow that movie that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but also the movie that I don’t think I can be friends with you if you haven’t seen it. It’s impeccable, but holy hell is it an uncomfortable watch. It’s script, which is extremely gritty but also ambitious with its content, put Taylor Sheridan on the map. It’s an absolutely loaded cast with Emily Blunt, Benecio del Toro, Josh Brolin and Daniel Kaluuya, yet you don’t really care what any of their characters’ names are. You’re too dialed in to care. It’s maybe the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget the feeling of being stapled to my theater chair as the final credits rolled.

5. TOY STORY 3 (2010)

Directed by Lee Unkrich

The most emotionally resonant movie of the decade, of course, was the one that introduced us to characters such as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear and Mr. Pricklepants. Toy Story 3 WRECKED everyone back in 2010, with themes of loss and goodbyes cooked in with the nostalgia of seeing these beloved characters on the big screen for the first time since the 90s. Think about how unlikely of a success story this was. How often is the decade-too-late sequel even a little bit good? And to become arguably the best Pixar movie ever made? Miracle.

4. BOYHOOD (2014)

Directed by Richard Linklater 

boyhood

I’m sure other directors have had the idea to film a movie in pieces over an elongated period of time, but thank goodness we got Richard Linklater as the one who actually pulled it off. As intimate as a movie possibly can be, Boyhood is a masterpiece. Plain and simple. Even though Boyhood operates essentially without a plot, it’s the most relatable movie that I’ve experienced, and I know I say that as a white kid who grew up in suburban New Jersey. But I think people from all different walks of life feel this way about Boyhood, and that’s kinda its point.

3. ARRIVAL (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

If you unfortunately missed Arrival when it came out, let me give you the brief synopsis: extraterrestrial seven-limbed creatures called heptapods have arrived on Earth in giant bean-like vessels. Interested?! I get if that description or sci-fi movies in general don’t do it for you, but Arrival also happens to offer beautiful and necessary insight into humanity and how we talk to one another. Denis Villeneuve’s work here had me itching to give him a standing ovation from the movie theater. The movie looks and sounds UNREAL, and it features a twist that is so captivating and heartbreaking that you don’t even realize is critical to the outcome of the movie until it hits you over the head and heart.

2. GET OUT (2017)

Directed by Jordan Peele

Quick preface: the final two movies on my list were my two 10/10 grades of the decade. To hit that perfect score, I’m looking for a movie that is a game-changer, culturally significant, stylish, thrilling, funny, and a time capsule of its era. That’s all! But somehow, Get Out meets those standards. Honestly I have no interest in writing about the importance of Get Out; I’ll let its “I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could” line speak for itself. But what does interest me is the feeling that all moviegoers crave: the feeling midway through a movie that you are watching something truly special. That feeling coming on a $4.5 million budget from one of the Key & Peele guys? One of the greatest Hollywood achievements EVER.

1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

Directed by David Fincher

The Social Network is the movie of the decade for all of the reasons that I just listed above for Get Out. But there are even more factors in play here. The onset and growth of the Internet is one of the few paradigm shifts of the past century or so, and The Social Network is the best Internet movie ever made. In that sense, it’s All the President’s Men for computer nerds. But it’s entirely different in another sense, because the protagonist of this movie is no hero. In fact, part of what makes The Social Network so fascinating is how it’s aging into more and more into a villain origin story by the day. Remember when people thought that Fincher, Sorkin, and Jesse Eisenberg were too harsh in their portrayal of Zuck? While now we all wish they had actually gone in harder, it’s still astonishing how much those three truly understood this landscape and its perils all the way back in 2010. Nothing defines the 2010s more than the rise and fall of Facebook. The Social Network shows you the rise, but dig deeper and you can see that it’s also previewing the fall.

 

Honorable Mentions

Looper (2012)

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Prisoners (2013)

Snowpiercer (2013)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

The Imitation Game (2014)

Interstellar (2014)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Top Five (2014)

The Martian (2015)

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Coco (2017)

Lady Bird (2017)

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Black Panther (2018)

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

First Man (2018)

First Reformed (2018)

Marriage Story (2019)

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2019 NFL Season Preview

You know the drill. Here is my 2019 NFL Preview with a couple of notes on each team, my Over/Under win total pick (with odds according to Action Network as of 9/1), and postseason and awards predictions.

3/3 CONFIDENCE = Lock

2/3 CONFIDENCE = Bet It

1/3 CONFIDENCE = Push or Close To Push

 

AFC EAST 

  1. New England Patriots
  • The reigning champs have won 15 of the last 16 AFC East titles, and this year is just as much of a lock as ever to make that 16 of 17. Seriously, don’t think twice about this.
  • Tom Brady isn’t the same Tom Brady who threw for 50 touchdowns in a single season and likely won’t be near the top of the yardage leaders by the end of the season…but he’s absolutely still Tom Brady. But perhaps more importantly, he has more talent around him than he has in years – even with Gronk’s retirement. The receiving corps is deep and versatile and they have at least two good running backs in James White and Sony Michel, and even with David Andrews’ serious injury the offensive line is one of the 10 best in the league. If Isaiah Wynn plays up to his first-round grade at left tackle – which a lot of smart people think he will – then you can probably bump this unit up to Top 5.
  • The Pats raised a lot of eyebrows when they handed Stephon Gilmore a $65 million contract before the 2017 season, but through two years it’s looking like one of the savvier free agency moves of the last decade. A true shutdown corner, Gilmore was pretty clearly the best at his position across the league last year – a claim that PFF would verify. He also had a rightful claim as Super Bowl MVP, but even if he didn’t win that, he’s without a doubt the most valuable player on a defense that once again his Super Bowl aspirations.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 11 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. New York Jets
  • I like Sam Darnold a lot too. He has an amazing skillset and was one of the better QBs in the league over the final few weeks of the season, and massive jumps in performance have become the norm for second-year quarterbacks. But let’s temper expectations here. While I’d be optimistic about his pairing with Adam Gase as a Jets fan, Gase is still in his first year with the team – and he comes over from Miami with a shaky-at-best reputation. Darnold is also playing behind a shoddy offensive line and without a true #1 receiver, so I’m thinking that the Pro Bowl nods that are in his future won’t start with the 2019 season.
  • The Jets offseason was certainly entertaining, but one that I wasn’t a huge fan of. I liked the moves to swoop in on Kelechi Osemele and Jamison Crowder at low stock value, but they negated that and more with the contracts given to Le’Veon Bell and CJ Mosley. Bell and Mosley should both be good players for at least this season, but I don’t see the Jets as a win-now team and they went all-in on two guys who I’m not confident will either be superstars in their new digs. Gang Green spent a ton of money this offseason to still be weak on the offensive line, at edge rush, and in the secondary.
  • That all being said, it’s tough to be too critical of the Jets offseason when they landed Quinnen Williams. It’s weird to call the third overall pick the “steal of the draft,” but that might be the case considering it already seems like a foregone conclusion that Williams is the best player in this rookie class.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 7.5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Buffalo Bills
  • One of my favorite fades of the season, I’d rank the Bills last in just about any other division in the league. My pessimism here is pretty much all linked to Josh Allen, who I don’t think people realize how bad he was last season. I know that rookie struggles happen and that he had an excruciatingly bad supporting cast, but he was inaccurate throwing the football to an unprecedented degree. People are high on him – and the Bills altogether – coming into his second season, but basically all of his value was linked to his scrambling and I can guarantee that was a total mirage.
  • I mostly liked the Bills offseason. To their credit, they are doing what they can to help out Allen. The Mitch Morse signing was one of the best of free agency, and I think Ty Nsekhe is a good player who could thrive in a starting role. And I like the idea of bringing in a variety of running backs and cutting LeSean McCoy. But I hesitate on the offseason as a whole because I hated what they did at receiver in giving pretty big money to both John Brown and Cole Beasley. I’m not sure that Robert Foster isn’t already a better deep threat than Brown and he was already on the Bills roster for next to nothing, and you can’t convince me that ANY third-round slot receiver would’ve returned more value than Beasley. It would’ve been cool to see Buffalo go all-in on an actual playmaker.
  • I keep the Bills at third in the division solely because of their defense. Coming off an amazing 2018 where they finished SECOND in Defense DVOA, they return basically the same group with Ed Oliver in the fold now too. I’m not sure they’ll be the league’s second best defense again, but they do have elite upside with a fairly high floor as well.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 7 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Miami Dolphins
  • I’d like to reward this team for going about a rebuild in a genuine manner, but man they are going to STINK in 2019. It’s just a bad, bad roster from top to bottom – but that’s kinda the point!
  • Even if the Dolphins do take a quarterback with one of the first picks of the 2020 Draft, I loved the move to swipe Josh Rosen from the Cardinals. But that kid cannot catch a break. He has gone from 2018’s worst offensive line under a defensive-minded rookie head coach to potentially 2019’s worst offensive line under another defensive-minded rookie head coach. At some point the excuses will fade and he’ll just need to play better, but for now the excuses are very real and valid.
  • Honestly though, Miami could be a sneaky fun team and I’d expect them to steal a couple of wins. You can bank on some FitzMagic, and the secondary has what it takes the force some opposing QBs into really bad days.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 4.5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Patriots – 12-4
  2. Jets – 8-8
  3. Bills – 5-11
  4. Dolphins – 4-12

 

NFC EAST 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  • I’m not as high on the Eagles as a lot of people are, but there is no denying that they have the best top-to-bottom roster in what is likely the worst division in the conference. Assuming that Fletcher Cox is OK, the Eagles have a fair claim at both the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL, and that recipe almost always bodes well. (Cox, by the way, is well on the path towards becoming one of the most underrated players in NFL history, and that’s not an exaggeration.)
  • I think it’s pretty naïve to just assume that Carson Wentz is going to return to his 2017 MVP-level form. No doubt he was spectacular that season, but he played with an “organized chaos” style that we’ve also seen from the likes of Andrew Luck. It’s both what made Wentz so good and what got him seriously injured. Considering the contract the front office just handed to Wentz and the consequences that physical QBs like Luck have faced, I fully expect the coaching staff to put a leash on Wentz. He can definitely still be effective, but I don’t think he’ll be the same guy from two seasons ago. (His 11 mostly average starts from last year are also being strangely overlooked.)
  • I lean more towards the “running backs don’t matter” side of the debate than, say, taking one with the second overall pick, but it would have been wise for the Eagles to go bigger at that position. Miles Sanders could very well be the solution, but for a team with a dominant offensive line and an extremely ready-to-win roster, they would’ve been justified in going for one of the Melvin Gordon’s of the world instead of rolling into 2019 with Jordan Howard/Sanders/Darren Sproles/Corey Clement.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 10 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  • For a team that is so in the spotlight, I really don’t have all that much to say about the Cowboys going into 2019. They are one of the select few teams in the league without any real weaknesses (besides Jason Witten), but they also don’t have too much that generates excitement. I’d be pretty stunned to see Dallas finish below .500, but I’d also be pretty stunned to see them go better than 10-6.
  • Took them long enough, but Dallas finally realized that they do need Ezekiel Elliott in the picture. (I don’t think the Cowboys align with the general running back shift throughout the league.) But even with Zeke at full strength, I hesitate to pencil them in as more than a Wild Card team. I do think Dak Prescott is good and Kellen Moore calling the plays could be a godsend for this offense, but at the end of the day this is still a Jason Garrett coached team with a capped-upside quarterback.
  • I wrote this in this blog last year too…but remind me why Earl Thomas isn’t on this team?

OVER/UNDER – OVER 9 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. New York Giants
  • As anyone who has listened to me talk about the Giants this offseason would know, I am NOT high on their hopes for 2019, so don’t interpret this 3/4 ranking as optimism. The Giants had a bad defense last year, and they open this season without the three best defenders from that team’s roster. Is that good? There are a lot of exciting prospects within this unit, but they are going to suck all over in 2019. It’s a worthwhile bet that the Giants will finish last in the league in sacks.
  • The Giants also have a Bottom 5 quarterback situation, and one that won’t offer any upside whatsoever until the Week 11 bye at the earliest. You might have heard, but they are also replacing ODELL BECKHAM with a suspended and “clearly past-his-prime to everyone besides Dave Gettleman” Golden Tate.
  • Fine, I’ll do some nice words. Saquon Barkley is amazing, and he should have repeat success in 2019. I do think there is real potential for a 2016 Todd Gurley or 2018 David Johnson season given the aforementioned lack of competence, but I’m not expecting it. Despite still having arguably the worst right tackle situation in the league with Mike Remmers now as the Week 1 starter there – and that claim should not be taken lightly – this offensive line actually looks pretty good now.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 6 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Washington Redskins
  • I cannot believe that more people aren’t talking about this team heading into 2019, and NOT for good reasons. The R-Words are going to STINK. Jay Gruden as the first coach fired odds, 2020 Draft first overall pick odds, you name it: take them all while they still have this value.
  • I’m really not trying to be dramatic here, but has anyone else seen this offensive depth chart? Case Keenum, on his fourth team in four years, is the starting quarterback. 34 year-old Adrian Peterson is the starting running back. The wide receivers are…and I’m not kidding…Paul Richardson, Terry McLaurin, and Trey Quinn. The offensive line on paper would be the saving grace, but I’m fairly positive that Trent Williams isn’t suiting up this year, so they’ll be rolling out a left side tandem of DONALD PENN AND ERECK FLOWERS to start the season. Make no mistake about it. This is the worst offense in the NFL.
  • The Redskins defense is absolutely better than the offense…but I also don’t think it’s going to be any good this year. After a couple of years as an underrated unit, the Skins D was quietly pretty mediocre last year, finishing 20th in Defense DVOA. And I’m pretty sure they’ll be worse this year. Landon Collins is a great player who will make this team better, but he’s really at his best within the box and that’s not where this unit desperately needs help. This secondary is going to be truly dreadful. Josh Norman played up to his contract in DC but has major potential to fall off an absolute cliff in the final year of it. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who quit football midway through last season, is in line to see a lot of snaps. And Montae Nicholson, who the Redskins tried to replace during the trade deadline last season since he is not a good football player, is still slated to be their main guy over the top. The defensive line is good, but not nearly good enough to bail out this unit.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 6 (3/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Eagles – 10-6
  2. Cowboys – 10-6
  3. Giants – 5-11
  4. Redskins – 3-13

  

AFC NORTH 

  1. Cleveland Browns
  • Ohhh you better believe that I am buying the Browns hype. I mean, have you seen this roster? Cleveland has a realistic shot at 7-8 Pro Bowlers. This team has real talent at every level with good depth too. A tough division and a new coaching staff could work against them, but I’m not counting on it. The Browns are extremely real Super Bowl contenders this year.
  • I do think we’ve all been a litttttttle quick to coronate Baker Mayfield, but the truth of the matter is that he’s already a good quarterback who has a chance to take a massive jump in his second season. Nick Chubb is already one of the best running backs in the NFL. Odell Beckham is going to go for 1,500 yards and 15+ touchdowns if he plays the full season. There is some cause for concern regarding the offensive line, but I don’t think it’ll be bad enough to derail what should be a dynamite offense.
  • And guess what…the defense should be really good too! It doesn’t get much better than Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon rushing the quarterback from the edges. With the amount of talent in that front four now, I’d be more surprised to see Garrett not be an All-Pro by the end of the year than him making that team. And the secondary anchored by budding star Denzel Ward should be quite good too. There are nitpicks with the Browns, but I just really think this is all finally going to work out for them.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 9 (3/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Baltimore Ravens
  • And that glowing review of the Browns takes me directly into another team that I’m extremely high on. The Ravens won 10 games last year despite a midseason quarterback change to a rookie with a completely different style. They also had one of my favorite offseasons, letting other teams break the bank for some of their free agents while Baltimore simultaneously got better. I acknowledge the real chance that Lamar Jackson doesn’t work out over the course of a full season, but I believe in him and the work that the Ravens have done around him.
  • As I was saying, I think people are evaluating Lamar Jackson too much based off the first three quarters of his playoff game. But people are forgetting that the kid did a ton of good things last year and that he’s not some sort of gimmick. He also has a good offensive line in front of him, some intriguing weapons in the passing game including a potential up-and-coming stud in Mark Andrews, and a running game that should be excellent with Mark Ingram now in the picture. I think it’s slept on that Ingram is still a really physical and really good runner…I think he could finish Top 3 in the league in rushing yards.
  • The Ravens defense was elite as always last year, and you should expect more of the same in 2019. C.J. Mosley and Za’Darius Smith got handed $151 million worth of total contracts this offseason, and yet I don’t expect the Ravens production to fall off much – if at all – with Matthew Judon and Patrick Onwuasor filling in. Oh yeah, and they also added Earl Thomas, just one of the best safeties of all-time who only just turned 30 years old. This group is gonna absolutely dominate.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 8.5 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • The Steelers have an above-average roster on paper, but there’s probably gotta be an odd team out in this division, and I don’t think Pittsburgh did as much to improve as the first two teams this offseason and they already might have been the third best team in the division by the 2018 season’s end.
  • I really don’t care that Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 5,100 yards last year. He’s not all that great. He’ll put the ball in the air 50 times a game and make some big-time throws, but he also doesn’t take care of the ball and will have one less stud receiver to consistently bail him out this year. He still has a ton of help with a great offensive line, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner, but I’m not gonna put my eggs in any Big Ben basket.
  • The Steelers defense should be solid if healthy. They could use another edge rusher and some more reinforcements in the secondary, but they have good players all over and brought in one of my favorite Draft prospects in Devin Bush. He should be able to contribute right away, but even if he’s Jack Lambert I don’t think this defense is slowing down the Chiefs and the rest of the AFC’s elite.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 9 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals
  • Man, it’s hard to find a less noteworthy team going into 2019 than the Bengals. Can we just pencil them in for like the 6th pick in the Draft now?
  • In what could possibly be the final year of the Andy Dalton era in stripes, this offense is not going to be a fun one to watch. Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd are good players, but they’re legit it. The offensive line is seriously bad enough to tank the entire team. I also have no reason for confidence in Zac Taylor as a head coach, and I’m doubtful that AJ Green plays a single snap for this team this season.
  • The defense actually has enough good players to not look so bad on paper, but this is largely the same unit that finished 27th in Defense DVOA last year. There isn’t a single linebacker corps across the league worse than this one. The Bengals will be extremely easy to run against, and teams will be running against them…a lot.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 6 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Browns – 11-5
  2. Ravens – 10-6
  3. Steelers – 9-7
  4. Bengals – 4-12

  

NFC NORTH 

  1. Minnesota Vikings
  • This has gotta be the hardest division to peg in football. There should be three good teams, but I don’t feel confident about any of them being great For the sake of that rule about how multiple division winners don’t repeat the following year, I’m not picking the Bears here. (I also think they’re flawed.) And then I just have too many doubts about the Packers. So that leaves the Vikings. I’m sure Kirk Cousins won’t let me down at all!
  • In fairness towards the Vikings, I do like them as a post-hype team following a season where they were commonly predicted to make it to the Super Bowl. Cousins is what he is at this point. No QB is more dependent on his supporting cast, but the Vikings did make a real effort to improve things on that side of the ball. They already had likely the best receiver duo in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, they shouldn’t repeat last year’s identity crisis with Gary Kubiak now in the mix, and the offensive line shouldn’t be as disastrous.
  • The Vikings defense should really be admired. They had a lot go wrong last year: Everson Griffen dealt with scary mental health issues, Xavier Rhodes completely lost his way, and more…and they still finished fourth in DVOA. Mike Zimmer and Co. seem to just have it figured out. This group could even take a step up if Harrison Smith rediscovers his insane 2017 form.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 9 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Green Bay Packers
  • Well, you can’t knock the Packers for staying put following their disastrous 2018 season! This team is going to have a completely different look, starting at the top with new coach Matt LaFleur. On one hand he gets points for simply not being Mike McCarthy…but on the other hand I just don’t think LaFleur is a good coach? I mean, what did the Packers see here to pounce on him so quickly with one of the most desired coaching vacancies of the last decade? He has limited experience and was kinda a big disappointment in his one season in Tennessee. Aaron Rodgers detractors are idiots, but there’s no doubt that the guy is tough to work with. I can just see this playing out where it doesn’t work at all.
  • For at least 2019 though, I do think the offense will be really effective. And that has way more to do with Rodgers than LaFleur. He played injured and in a 1970’s offense for the entire 2018 season and threw for 25 touchdowns with 2 interceptions and nearly 4,500 yards. He’s a freak. It’s agonizing that Green Bay didn’t bring in a legit second receiving option during their offseason bonanza. But at least Davante Adams is an established star, the offensive line is one of the best in the league behind David Bakhtiara, and it sounds like Aaron “Actually Good” Jones will finally get the bulk of the carries.
  • The Packers defense was terrible in 2018 (finished 29th in DVOA), and boy they went IN this offseason. Aaaaand I still don’t think they’re going to be that good. The front seven might be better with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith subbed in and Mike Daniels subbed out, but if you’re going to put $118 million and the 12th overall pick (Rashan Gary) towards this unit, I’d want to feel a lot better about their ability to get after the quarterback. And I feel the same way about the secondary! In theory they should be improved behind Jaire Alexander, who is already good and could make the jump to a Pro Bowler in his second season. Adrian Amos was one of my favorite singings of the offseason too, and his stability will be especially huge with rookie Darnell Savage starting at free safety. Even with all of that, I still think this group could get burnt a lot.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 9 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Chicago Bears
  • The Bears were my favorite 2018 play. I sniped them as a 12 win team, not a big deal. And with that, they are one of my more confident 2019 fades. I definitely don’t think they’ll be bad this year, but I just see a lot of concerning reasons for regression.
  • Can we talk about Mitch Trubisky? Because I’m pretty positive that he isn’t good and that 2019 could very well be the year where everyone catches on. So much of his value – both in reality and fantasy – is inflated by his running ability, which is fine but not exactly comforting when discussing his progression as a quarterback. He plays extremely recklessly and is due for a rise in turnovers, especially with a full year of tape now in existence with him in Matt Nagy’s offense. The line is good and the rest of the offense is solid enough, but I just bet that Trubisky tanks this thing.
  • The Bears defense is still amazing. Anyone who says otherwise is just wrong. But finishing as the best defense year over year is really difficult, especially when your Hall of Fame defensive coordinator leaves and you are due for some worse injury luck. Like I said, this group is still scary, and Roquan Smith can definitely make the Pro Bowl jump this year. If I’m wrong about the Bears it will be because of this defense, but I just see too much working against Chicago.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 9 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Detroit Lions
  • The Lions have been one of the more boring teams in the league for years now. In fairness, I actually liked a lot of what they did to change things up. But they still just have too many things working against them that I think can’t be overcome, so I’m still just not feeling it. Matt Patricia did nothing to shut everyone up – myself including – who thought he was a terrible hire. They hired Darrell Bevell to call the plays on offensive, who was too conservative for the Seattle Seahawks. And they are still paying top dollar to a quarterback who is mired in averageness.
  • The frustrating part of the Bevell hire and Stafford’s gradual decline is that the Lions suddenly have a ton of talent on offense! Kerryon Johnson could be great, and Kenny Golladay/Marvin Jones/Danny Amendola is an exciting receiving corps. They have a good pair of tackles on the offensive line and a potential stud center in Frank Ragnow if he can get healthy, and TJ Hockensen – while he mayyyyybe shouldn’t have been the eighth overall pick – should represent a massive upgrade at tight end. It all falls back on Stafford and the playcalling, but this offense could actually be sneaky good in 2019.
  • The defensive situation is funny. The Detroit Lions – yes, the Detroit Lions – might have the best defensive line in football. They supplemented an already strong group with a pair of studs in Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels. But after the front four, it gets bad pretty quick. The Lions finally did something to get Darius Slay help in the secondary by adding Rashaan Melvin and Justin Coleman – both of whom have been good players within the past two years. Still, even if they’re not as bad as last year that secondary doesn’t inspire too much confidence, especially with a terrible group of safeties. The linebackers are also among the worst in the league, and have I mentioned Matt Patricia?

OVER/UNDER – OVER 6.5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Vikings – 9-7
  2. Packers – 9-7
  3. Bears – 8-8
  4. Lions – 7-9

  

AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans
  • If you want to read in-depth on the insanity that was the Texans offseason, go to…literally any football publication. It was madness and definitely stupid, but this blog is about 2019, and the fact of the matter is that the Texans are a much better football team in 2019 now. I still have zero clue why they had to move on from Jadaveon Clowney, but the Texans’ offensive line was the single biggest NFL roster flaw heading into this season, and it’s now been addressed in a major way. Laremy Tunsil is simultaneously good and ascendant, and he single-handedly makes that unit and this team altogether more reputable.
  • The offense has a ton going for them. Deshaun Watson feels ready to make that final jump into the elite QB tier. DeAndre Hopkins has established himself as the true king of pass-catchers, and the receiving corps behind him is really good too. This isn’t a finished product though. Even with Tunsil in the fold, the offensive line as a whole still isn’t good. I also don’t expect them to run the ball very well, and I’m sorry but Bill O’Brien does not do it for me.
  • I don’t have much to say about the defense. They’re good! Pretty firmly entrenched in that second tier of NFL defenses, and that’s essentially where I land on the Texans…a second tier team. They are one of the easiest division winners to predict, but I also really don’t see this team making it to the Super Bowl. I’m not sure they can handle the league’s elite teams at rushing the quarterback or airing it out, and they are a few teams that can do both well.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 8.5 (2/3 CONFIDENCE) ((Deshaun Watson Injury Insurance))

  1. Indianapolis Colts
  • I’m pretty sure the Colts would have been a playoff team with Andrew Luck under center, and I’m pretty sure they won’t be with Jacoby Brissett in his place. I get that Brissett had been one of the better backup QBs in the league and that he’s ready for this, but come on guys. The “Colts actually might not be worse” argument that’s gone trendy is a dumb one. I definitely think they’ll remain competitive, but they’re much worse off without Luck.
  • As I’m getting at, Brissett could be solid. He definitely has a good enough situation around him as a backup QB could hope to inherit. Frank Reich is a great playcaller, the offensive line is awesome, and TY Hilton and Marlon Mack lead a good group of skill players. It won’t be as electric, but the Colts will still score some points.
  • The Colts defense was one of the bigger overachieving units in the NFL last year, and they should be fine this year. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is probably a head coach in waiting, and they have an All-Pro in Darius Leonard in the middle. It’s not as dependable everywhere around him, so yeah I think this defense will be extremely middle-of-the-road.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 7.5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars
  • No team screams “meh” this year more than the Jags. I just don’t like the upside at all. I understand that the Jaguars needed to do something at quarterback and that the Nick Foles contract was a last gasp by the current front office, but it’s just not gonna go well. Foles is incredibly mediocre, and his supporting cast is so much worse than it was in Philly.
  • The offensive line could actually grow into a good unit this year, but this offense still isn’t going to scare anyone. Leonard Fournette should be better but I just don’t think he’s an explosive player, and HOW do the Jaguars still not have one legit receiver all these years later?
  • The defense will lead this team again, and there is still so much going for them. Calais Campbell is at his peak for what’s becoming a low-key Hall of Fame career, Jalen Ramsey feels ready to grab hold onto the NFL’s cornerback belt and not let go for a couple of years, and Josh Allen might immediately step in and record 10+ sacks with good coverage. But when you look up and down the depth chart, there are way more holes on defense than there were two years ago. That’s what happens when you spend all of your money in free agency and it catches up with you!

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 8 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Tennessee Titans
  • This one feels like a slam dunk. The Titans overachieved to 9 wins last year, finishing 22nd in Offense DVOA and 18th in Defense DVOA. They reek with mediocrity and I think are pretty clearly the fourth dog in this division…and they’re supposed to go .500? I don’t see it at all.
  • If you’ve read these blogs of mine over the past few years, you’ll know that it pains me to say that Marcus Mariota is finally, officially, not good. By midseason I think the Titans will be going back and forth between him and Ryan Tannehill, and two quarterback offenses always go well! Their offensive coordinator is their former tight ends assistant. This is gonna be ugly.
  • The defense should be fine. Jurrell Casey and Kevin Byard are studs and among the NFL’s most underrated players, and there are good pieces elsewhere too. Maybe Cameron Wake can keep defying time, but I just don’t think this defense will do anything in particular exceptionally well. They’ll keep the Titans in games, but they won’t win them.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 8 (3/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Texans – 10-6
  2. Colts – 8-8
  3. Jaguars – 7-9
  4. Titans – 4-12

 

NFC SOUTH

  1. Carolina Panthers
  • I went back and forth on this one more than any other division. I think all four teams could be good and at least two teams could be really good, which strangely works against their records predictions. I just see it playing out where they’re all stealing wins from one another. And I usually don’t like looking into specific schedules during this exercise, but the Panthers are hosting the Saints in Week 17. Calling it months in advance that it’s flexed into the Sunday Night spot and that the Panthers clinch the division at home.
  • I’m all in on a bounce-back season for Cam Newton, not that his level of play even dropped off that much. I’m just hopeful that he’ll stay upright with a much better offensive line in front of him and the most skill around him that he’s probably ever had. It all falls back on Cam’s health, but this offense is going to be physical as hell up front and they are going to fly downfield.
  • The Panthers defense took a step back in 2018, but I like them to rebound as an upper-half unit this season. The defensive line is excellent with Gerald McCoy now in the picture. Luke Kuechly truly makes everyone around him better, but there are real questions surrounding the pass rush and the secondary. I’m a fan of both Donte Jackson and rookie Brian Burns though, so I don’t think either will be major issues.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 7.5 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. New Orleans Saints
  • Don’t get me wrong…I think the Saints should be good again! I just see them as a team that has probably already peaked in what should be a more competitive division and conference. The Superdome remains the best homefield advantage in football, and the Saints will need to dominate there once again to repeat as division champs. If they lose one or two extra games there – the Saints only lost one game at home all last season (and in Week 1) – then that could be all it takes to lose the crown.
  • I do buy into the notion that we’ve begun to see the decline of Drew Brees. He should remain crazy efficient and won’t dramatically fall off a cliff this season, but the Saints offense really slowed down towards the end of the 2018 regular season and into the playoffs. He could not have more help around him, with potentially the league’s best offensive line, running back, and wide receiver. They’re absolutely loaded, but it all goes through Brees’ right arm. (Speaking of the league’s best running back, I think Alvin Kamara could go for 20+ touchdowns this season.)
  • We’re long past the days of the Saints defense dragging them down, as they were once again good in 2018 (11th in DVOA). They have a superstar in Cameron Jordan and have been propped up by breakout years over the past two seasons. The expectation is that Marcus Davenport – the 2018 first-rounder – joins that breakout club, but if not then this group could be due for some regression.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 10.5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  • The Falcons were my pick to win the goddamn Super Bowl last year – how things have changed. It’s true that no team had worse injury luck than Atlanta last year, but it’s also true that they had flaws exposed that weren’t fully addressed this offseason.
  • The Atlanta defense is pretty terrible, even with the players who got hurt last year back in the fold. Deion Jones is one of the rare linebackers who actually makes the whole defense better when he’s on his game, but I’m nervous about him with foot issues still lingering coming into the season. Outside of Grady Jarrett from the interior, they have absolutely no pass rush, and the secondary isn’t nearly special enough to make up for that.
  • I do think the Falcons could be quite good though, because their offense rules. Matt Ryan really has gotten better with age, and I think he’s good for another huge season this year. Julio Jones is a threat for 2,000 yards over any fully healthy season, and it would be nice to see Calvin Ridley take the next step up across the field. (Ridley struggled a lot more than let on as a rookie.) The offensive line has concerns despite two first-round picks being used on it, and it’s scary that they are depending on a healthy Devonta Freeman, but I think the Falcons will still put up a ton of points this year.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 8.5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • This last place ranking is much more a reflection of the division than my thoughts on the Bucs. I think they’ll be improved, and maybe even much improved! The differences between Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles over Dirk Koetter and Mike Smith cannot be overstated whatsoever. Things are going to change for the better in Tampa, but fans might have to express some patience.
  • The Bucs might be the most fun RedZone team in the league. They are going to throw, then throw, then throw some more. With nothing even resembling a running game and an awesome group of pass-catchers, no joke they might average 50 attempts per game. Jameis Winston’s arm might fall off, but it’s going to be fun as hell to watch!
  • I’m not sure the defense is going to be the league’s worst again…but they sure as shit aren’t going to be good. Bowles calling the shots and Devin White making plays sideline to sideline will make matters better, but the secondary has been and still is a complete disaster. The pass rush won’t be any good either, so start all of your fantasy WR’s against this team.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 6.5 (2/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Panthers – 9-7
  2. Saints – 9-7
  3. Falcons – 8-8
  4. Buccaneers – 8-8 

 

AFC WEST 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  • I was all in on the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes before last season, so you better believe that I’m running it back for 2019. This team is absolutely awesome and they weren’t complacent this offseason either. I’ll put it simply: the Chiefs are the best team in football.
  • The Chiefs offense was the best in football last year – kinda by a lot – and that shouldn’t change. They have the league’s brightest offensive mind in Andy Reid, the best tight end in Travis Kelce, and maybe the best pair of tackles in Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher. Oh, and have I mentioned Pat Mahomes? He threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in his MVP campaign…and I strangely think he could be even better? If this is any reason for concern, I could see it playing out where the running game takes a step or two back. I think Kareem Hunt’s skill was taken for granted and the interior of the offensive line isn’t any good. I’m nitpicking though; this is gonna be a weekly fireworks show again.
  • The Chiefs absolutely could’ve won it all last year, but their defense didn’t do them any favors at the end of the day. With how good the coaching and the offense will be, all the Chiefs defense needs to do is be mediocre instead of bad. That should be enough for them to win it all, and I think they accomplished that mission this offseason. Frank Clark is an upgrade over Dee Ford and should pair with Chris Jones perfectly, and Tyrann Mathieu should provide more stability to the secondary than they had last year. Again, average is the goal here.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 10.5 (3/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Denver Broncos
  • What an absolutely confounding offseason for the Broncos. They made probably the single worst move of the spring by dedicating draft capital and a huge chunk of their cap towards Joe Flacco, who has a very strong claim to be the worst starting quarterback in the league. Flacco can probably throw the ball a mile in that Colorado air, but he’s old with a body that’s taken a massive beating, and he’s becoming less efficient by the year as every other team is completing more passes annually. But at the same time, the hiring of Vic Fangio was probably my single favorite move of the offseason. The defensive mastermind is long overdue for this chance, and I think this roster is perfect for the identity that he’s aiming to institute.
  • Even with Flacco under center, I think the Broncos offense can avoid being a total disaster. They can run the ball with the best of them, and they’re going to run it A LOT this season. Phillip Lindsay is really legit, and he could have a Thunder & Lightning backfield going on with Royce Freeman. Behind a solid-if-healthy (big if) offensive line, they are both threats to push 200 carries this year.
  • I’m extremely bullish on the Broncos this year – especially relative to projections – and it’s all because of Fangio and this defense. I think there is a really strong chance that this is the best defense in the NFL this season. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb coming off the edges are going to wreak havoc on every…single…play. I think the expectation for the duo is 30 combined sacks. I also think Chris Harris is good for at least one more elite season, and even if the Broncos overpaid for both Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan, both will be contributors towards a really strong secondary.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 7 (2/3 CONFIDENCE) ((I REALLY want to make this 3/3 but…Flacco.))

  1. Los Angeles Chargers
  • The Chargers currently have the sixth highest Over/Under total and I don’t see that at allllll. I know they’re coming off a 12 win season, but I just think this team couldn’t have more bad energy going into the season. Derwin James being out indefinitely is a total backbreaker, Melvin Gordon has probably played his last snap for the team, and Keenan Allen and Russell Okung have been banged up. They also just so happen to not have any fans. I wrote this last year about the Chargers too, but they essentially play 16 road games and it’s such a bigger disadvantage than people let on.
  • I know that Philip Rivers is really good, as was the offense as a whole last year (3rd in DVOA). I just think they’ve been playing with fire for a while now and that they’re overdue on getting burnt. The offensive line even with a healthy Okung is bad, and without him it will absolutely be one of the worst units in the league. I know that Keenan Allen rocks and that Mike Williams is crazy underrated and that Hunter Henry is back and that Austin Ekeler is probably good. But every year there is a talented offense that is completely derailed by its offensive line, and I’m banking on that being the Chargers in 2019. And if they can’t keep Rivers in one piece, then you’re looking at a team that could finish 5+ wins under projections.
  • The Chargers defense should be one of the league’s elite units, but they can’t seem to have everyone at the field at one time. Last year it was Joey Bosa who missed a ton of time, and this year it’s James already on the sideline. It’s still a good group with a high floor as is, but it’s a bit frustrating that we’ll have to wait even longer to see them at their best.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 9.5 (2/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Oakland Raiders
  • Will the Raiders be better this season? They almost have to be. But will they be good? I know a lot of smart football people are answering yes to that question but I…don’t see it. The pressure is on with their offseason spending spree, Hard Knocks spotlight, and it being their last season in Oakland, but I just think they have too many core problems that couldn’t be fixed overnight.
  • The Raiders offense is a total mixed bag. Even if the Antonio Brown trade has already gone up in flames, that was a trade I make 100/100 times if I’m running the Raiders. Josh Jacobs could be a stud for all I know, and the offensive line is more formidable now with Trent Brown in silver and black (even if his contract is tough). But like I said, all of these shiny new toys don’t fix the existing problems. I’m fairly confident at this point that Derek Carr is just flat-out mediocre without the talent to keep your hopes up. And left tackle Kolten Miller did absolutely nothing to persuade people the Raiders knew what they were doing when they reached for him in the 2018 Draft. And now he gets Joey Bosa, Bradley Chubb, and Frank Clark six times this year!
  • The Raiders defense is baaaaad too. They finished 30th in DVOA last year and their plan to change things up was…signing Lamarcus Joyner? He’s a good enough player, but he’s also a 30 year-old safety leaving a Wade Phillips defense to join one coached by…*looks up Raiders defensive coordinator*…Paul Guenther. Unless the Raiders know something about Clelin Ferrell that everybody else doesn’t – which better be true considering they drafted him fourth overall – then yeah this group is going to royally suck again.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 6 (1/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Chiefs – 13-3
  2. Broncos – 10-6
  3. Chargers – 7-9
  4. Raiders – 5-11 

 

NFC WEST

  1. Los Angeles Rams
  • If the 24 wins over the past two seasons and a Super Bowl appearance didn’t give it away, the Rams are really, really good. And they’re going to be really, really good again in 2019. Even if Sean McVay got outclassed in the Super Bowl and has kinda become the butt of a joke now that all of his disciples are getting head coaching jobs, the dude is still an offensive mastermind who knows his personnel better than their own mothers. This was the second best offense in football last year, and I see that happening again.
  • The Rams offense on the surface has a couple of things going against them. Todd Gurley might not be at 100% ever again and is in line for fewer touches. And I think the offensive line with its two new starters will slip a bit. And…I’m not sure any of that matters much. Jared Goff has ascended to one of the best pure throwers of the football in the league, and his receivers are going to be running open all over the field. And those receivers are…awesome. Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and Cooper Kupp could legitimately each be Pro Bowlers by the end of the season.
  • The Rams defense wasn’t any good last year, but they finished about league-average in metrics singlehandedly because of Aaron Donald. I can’t write anything about Donald in here that hasn’t been written before, but we’ve reached the territory where he’s an annual threat to break the single-season sack record. And considering that he’s doing this all from the defensive interior – where before Donald 10 sacks constituted an amazing season – he’s truthfully on his way towards becoming the Lawrence Taylor of a football generation. As long as he’s on the field, this defense will manage.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 10.5 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  • The Seahawks were a trendy pick to be one of the worst teams in football going into last season, and I didn’t see it because this was still a team with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. They went 10-6 and made the playoffs. And now this roster looks better than last year and they’re…supposed to go around .500? Yup, makes complete sense to me!
  • Even though the Seahawks run the ball an agonizing amount and lost the perennially underrated Doug Baldwin to retirement, I think this offense will be good. Russell Wilson has transformed from a dual-threat into the best deep ball thrower in the league, and the Chris Carson/Rashaad Penny duo should efficiently pound the ball. But what gets me excited is Tyler Lockett stepping into the spotlight. The Cinderella of football analytics, Lockett finished first in the NFL in DVOA and Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement among wide receivers last year. This is the same guy who runs a 4.3 and has become a red zone menace, scoring 10 touchdowns last year. He’s not only going to fill Baldwin’s shoes; he’s going to become one of the premier receivers in the league.
  • Guess what? I think the Seahawks defense will be good too! That’s not saying too much with Bobby Wagner in the middle of the field, who you can make a convincing argument around being the best player in football. And then Pete Carroll is a wizard of the secondary so I’m not worried about that group, and now Seattle has Jadaveon Clowney on the edge to balance out a pass rush that was only full of lottery tickets before he got to town.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 8.5 (3/3 CONFIDENCE) 

  1. Arizona Cardinals
  • Would I have made the Kliff Kingsbury hire? No, I would not have hired the guy who got fired midseason from Texas Tech and then bailed on USC a month into his gig. But you know what? I get it, and I think it could work. The Cardinals really hit rock bottom and I respect them going for a complete 180 behind Kingsbury and Kyler Murray. It could blow up horribly, but I do think there’s a chance they hit the jackpot. For Year 1 though, I think it turns out somewhere in the middle.
  • I don’t like pretending that I know how rookie QBs are going to perform, but I do expect a positive year out of Kyler. Assuming he stays healthy – and I know that is a HUGE if — I think it plays out like Cam Newton’s rookie year. Absolute stat stuffing in both the air and on the ground with a lot of mistakes and team losses mixed in. Maybe I’m being too optimistic though, because his offensive line and receivers are both bad.
  • The Cardinals defense really quietly finished league-average last year, a fairly impressive feat for the worst team in the league. Patrick Peterson’s six-game suspension hurts, but this team drafted first-round talent Byron Murphy and signed Terrell Suggs and Jordan Hicks to go alongside an already solid pass defense. Teams might run down their throat, but overall I wouldn’t worry about this group.

OVER/UNDER – OVER 5 (1/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  • I can at least see the logic behind the 49ers being good this year, but I just don’t agree with it. It’s just asking for a lot of faith in a bunch of people who haven’t given us much reason for faith outside of reputation. I know Kyle Shanahan hasn’t had the most talent to work with and has had to deal with more injuries than the usual head coach, but the guy is 10-22 going into Year 3. There is no way of spinning any positives around that.
  • Not only am I out on the head coach, I’m out on the quarterback. Good recipe for success! It’s weird that Jimmy G is still viewed as all potential even though he had three pretty bad starts before tearing his ACL last season. And even though I put almost no stock in preseason, all the talk is that Garoppolo has looked terrible. He also has a receiving corps with Dante Pettis as the main wideout. Even with George Kittle, a good offensive line, and the awesome-when-healthy Matt Breida in the picture, I don’t trust the core of this offense whatsoever.
  • The defense doesn’t do much for me either even though they put a ton of work into it this offseason. There are a few good players spread throughout – including a stud in DeForest Buckner and a potential stud in Nick Bosa – but there are just still weak links. San Fran also overpaid out the ass on both Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, who could both completely crap out.

OVER/UNDER – UNDER 8 (2/3 CONFIDENCE)

  1. Rams – 12-4
  2. Seahawks – 11-5
  3. Cardinals – 6-10
  4. 49ers – 5-11

 

PLAYOFFS PREDICTIONS 

AFC 1 Seed: Chiefs

AFC 2 Seed: Patriots

AFC 3 Seed: Browns

AFC 4 Seed: Texans

AFC Wild Card 1: Ravens

AFC Wild Card 2: Broncos

 

NFC 1 Seed: Rams

NFC 2 Seed: Eagles

NFC 3 Seed: Panthers

NFC 4 Seed: Vikings

NFC Wild Card 1: Seahawks

NFC Wild Card 2: Cowboys

 

AFC Championship Game: Chiefs over Ravens

NFC Championship Game: Seahawks over Rams

Super Bowl: Chiefs over Seahawks

Chiefs

AWARDS PREDICTIONS 

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

Offensive Player of the Year: Jared Goff

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kyler Murray

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Quinnen Williams

Coach of the Year: Vic Fangio

Comeback Player of the Year: Earl Thomas

Walter Payton Man of the Year: Andrew Whitworth

 

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej

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Should, Could, Will, Why, and Where: The 2019 Oscars

The Academy can’t make up their minds about anything, but for now the Oscars are scheduled for Sunday, so I’m back with Connor Stambaugh to break down everything we want to happen and everything that will happen instead.

oscars 2019

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born

PJ

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Could Win: A Star Is Born

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Why…Nothing!

Where is…First Man?

It’s funny that we’re leading off with this category, because you’ll quickly realize that I am NOT fond of the Academy’s overall choices this year…but this is good! This honestly might be the best category of the night, and there were a few other adapted screenplays that could’ve made the cut. The hilarious yet smart screenplays of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians come to mind, but I especially wish there could have been room for First Man’s slow burn. I guess it could have taken Buster Scruggs’ spot, especially since that stretches the definition of an adapted screenplay, but I actually really liked that movie and the Coen Brothers kinda have to try to not to get nominated.

Despite decent odds for both Can You Ever Forgive Me and If Beale Street Could Talk, I think this comes down to BlacKkKlansman vs. A Star Is Born, and either would be a fantastic choice. The buildup of A Star Is Born is just so, so good, as is the writing behind the addiction storyline. And the dialogue is probably the best of the year. Was there a more repeated 2018 movie line than “I just wanted take another look at ya”? Still, I can’t shake how steep the drop-off is over the second half of the movie. So I give the slightest of personal edges to the hilarious, brutal, and timely screenplay of BlacKkKlansman. I’m pretty confident it wins out too. It’s deserving of the honor, and like I wrote in this blog last year about Jordan Peele, there’s just no way that the Academy lets Spike Lee go home empty handed. I don’t feel great about his chances in the bigger categories, so Spike gets his long overdue Oscar here.

Connor

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Could Win: If Beale Street Could Talk

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Why… The Ballad of Buster Scruggs?

Where is…Widows?

Academy Award winner Spike Lee. Sounds pretty good, right? Get ready for it. This is a pretty exceptional category, and I really enjoyed Buster Scruggs so that kinda hurts but thems the rules. Beale Street is knocking on the door but this one is pretty much locked. Gillian Flynn took a complex heist narrative, fleshed out each character, and (along with Steve McQueen and a baddest cast) created a rousing and thoughtful piece of popcorn entertainment with Widows. Would’ve been nice to see.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, Vice

Connor

Should Win: The Favourite or First Reformed

Could Win: Green Book

Will Win: The Favourite

Why…Green Book?

Where is…Eighth Grade? Sorry To Bother You?

This is a wild one, where a different film has won every major precursor. The Favourite *should* score here for its devilish wit, and it’s nice to see Paul Schrader recognized with his first career nod for the incredible First Reformed. (Seriously, go watch it. It’s streaming on Prime). Green Book somehow won the Globe and cannot be ignored. Bo Burnham? More like No Burnham. I’ll show myself out. But seriously, his WGA-winning script is so fucking good and should’ve been here. Special shoutout to Boots Riley for his imaginative and daring Sorry To Bother You script.

PJ

Should Win: First Reformed

Could Win: Green Book

Will Win: The Favourite

Why…Vice?

Where is…Blindspotting?

YUCK. They botched my favorite category this time around. This is usually where the more original and creative movies of the year that are too bold for other categories get their due, but instead the Academy pretty much teed off with an 8 iron on a Par 5. I personally didn’t care for a majority of these screenplays, but even objectively the Vice screenplay is straight up not good. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see it nominated since Adam McKay is a genius, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s sloppy, largely uninteresting, and has no bite. As for the others, Green Book’s feel-good vibes don’t make up for its cheese factor and messy racial dynamics in my book, and Roma was just so sprawling. I don’t have enough fingers to list off the more deserving options here, but I’ll shout out Blindspotting since it was super underrated and had a script with more energy than any other movie I saw in 2018.

Still, it’s hard for me to get too upset here, because the First Reformed screenplay got a bit of a surprising nomination, and it was my favorite of the year. It was so goddamn brilliant and thought provoking and daring. Paul Schrader, who got his first ever Oscar nomination for this screenplay EVEN THOUGH HE WROTE TAXI DRIVER AND RAGING BULL, should be getting his first statuette as well, but it’s going to Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara instead. And I’d actually be fine with that – The Favourite was extremely original with A++ insults to boot.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali for Green Book, Adam Driver for BlacKkKlansman, Sam Elliott for A Star Is Born, Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Sam Rockwell for Vice

PJ

Should Win: Adam Driver

Could Win: Mahershala Ali or Sam Elliott

Will Win: Richard E. Grant

Why…Sam Rockwell?

Where is…Jason Isaacs for The Death of Stalin?

Each of these next two categories is going to be FUN. Since four of these nominees are hugely deserving and at least three stand a good chance of winning, I’m going to trim the fat now: Sam Rockwell has absolutely no business being here. He was actually one of the few things I liked about Vice, but that’s just because he offered like five minutes of pure comic relief with his Dubya impression. If we’re giving that final spot to whoever served up the most laughs per scene, then it should have gone to Isaacs.

Anyway, a lot of people have this category as a runaway for Ali. Not only do I not see it that way, I have a weird feeling that he’s not going to win. His performance as Don Shirley was undoubtedly great, but he’s got a few things working against him. First and foremost, the Shirley Family was apparently less than pleased with the characterization and the movie as a whole. But Ali also won this very award just two years ago for Moonlight, and that performance dwarfs this one. (I would remove him from the category altogether just because he’s a goddamn lead in this movie, but nobody else seems to care about that.) The other three nominees each delivered one of my ten favorite performances of the year. I loved Driver’s the most, but I just don’t think there’s any way the Academy would risk the optics of the white guy winning the only Oscar for BlacKkKlansman. Elliott might have given the best pound-for-pound performance of ANY actor, but he just wasn’t in the movie that much and I’m not sure he can overcome that. (Seriously you morons, the category is for SUPPORTING performances. This is what that is supposed to mean!) So that leaves Grant, a popular actor who is impossible to look away from in Can You Ever Forgive Me? His speech would be a highlight of the night.

Connor

Should Win: Sam Elliott

Could Win: Richard E. Grant

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Why…Sam Rockwell?

Where is…Everyone?

Sam Elliott backing out of the driveway. Nuff said. Anyone with a close relationship to a sibling would be absolutely gutted right there. I was ready to hand this to him back in October, but who are we kidding? Mahershala is taking this home. It’s a walk. Richard E. Grant, however charming he may be, doesn’t have as close of a shot as some pundits are predicting. Going with the stats here. It should be noted that this category was so strong all year that you could have an incredible field of five that weren’t even nominated – Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Michael B. Jordan, Nicholas Hoult, Alex Wolff.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams for Vice, Marina de Tavira for Roma, Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk, Emma Stone for The Favourite, Rachel Weisz for The Favourite

Connor

Should Win: Rachel Weisz

Could Win: Regina King

Will Win: Rachel Weisz

Why…Nothing!

Where is…Claire Foy for First Man?

Here is my ballsy pick. Hear me out: Regina King has long been considered the frontrunner for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk, but missing out on SAG (the actor’s branch that makes up the majority of Academy voters) and BAFTA nominations hurt. Weisz has won before and is *incredible* as Lady Sarah in The Favourite. Beale Street’s three nominations vs. The Favourite’s ten. Coming off the BAFTA win, I’m feeling the love for Weisz. Claire Foy was stellar in First Man, and I think her missing out on a nom is more of a knock against the film than it is for her performance. Other than that, de Tavira is the best part of Roma and this is a very strong category.

PJ

Should Win: Rachel Weisz

Could Win: Regina King

Will Win: Rachel Weisz

Why…Amy Adams?

Where is…Claire Foy for First Man?

SERIOUSLY THOUGH…WHERE IS CLAIRE FOY?!?! I thought she was going to win the damn thing! Did every single Academy voter get up to take a piss during the “BUNCH OF BOYS” scene? Christ.

I swear I’m not copying here. The Academy clearly didn’t love If Beale Street Could Talk. Ironically enough, I did, but I don’t get the hype surrounding King. She was definitely good, but it’s a mostly dialed-back performance and she doesn’t have THAT scene that you usually look for from supporting actors. If I were to bet on Oscars, I’d put money on both nominees from The Favourite. The fact that both already have Oscars could work against them, but Weisz won all the way back in 2006. Also, mildly important, she outdoes Stone in the movie.

(Don’t even float the idea of Adams winning to me. I LOVE me some Amy Adams, but she was not very good in this role.)

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio for Roma, Glenn Close for The Wife, Olivia Colman for The Favourite, Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born, Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

PJ

Should Win: Lady Gaga

Could Win: Olivia Colman

Will Win: Glenn Close

Why…Yalitza Aparicio?

Where is…Toni Collette for Hereditary?

I’ve had a really last-second change of heart here. I’m confident that Close will finally lose her distinction of being the most nominated actor ever without a win, and I was all aboard that train. I still think she was incredible and that this wouldn’t be a bad case of lifetime achievement recognition, but my rule in the acting categories is that performances from bad movies shouldn’t win. I actually kinda liked The Wife almost solely due to Close’s performance, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not a particularly good movie. A Star Is Born, on the other hand, is very good. I had a few minor issues with Gaga’s performance, but her singing scenes was instantly legendary and I’m still amazed by how convincingly she played a grounded character.

As for Aparicio, I love the “can you BELIEVE it was her first time acting” reviews. Yes. Yes I can. (I’ll let Connor talk Collette.)

Connor

Should Win: Olivia Colman

Could Win: Olivia Colman

Will Win: Glenn Close

Why…Yalitza Aparicio?

Where is…Toni Collette for Hereditary?

Toni Collette gave, in my opinion, one of the greatest performances of the decade in Hereditary. I just don’t understand the miss. Yalitza was solid but unremarkable. I didn’t buy in emotionally and I don’t see her having a long career in film. Of all people not named Toni Collette, Olivia Colman should win here. She’s at once tragic and hilarious and I want to hear another Olivia Colman speech. (Check out her BAFTA win). She’s in for a dogfight against Close and her “career award.” I haven’t seen The Wife & will have to let PJ speak to her performance, but the idea of awarding someone based on her career instead of a single performance is annoying. Give her an honorary Oscar and give the queen her hardware.

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale for Vice, Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born, Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate, Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody, Viggo Mortensen for Green Book

Connor

Should Win: Bradley Cooper

Could Win: Christian Bale

Will Win: Rami Malek

Why…Willem Dafoe? Viggo Mortensen?

Where is…Ethan Hawke for First Reformed?

Like Collette, 2018 belonged to Ethan Hawke. His perfect role in the perfect First Reformed was, well, perfect. This award doesn’t count. Cancel the show. Luckily, the second best male performance of the year is Bradley Cooper’s. It is *insane* to me that he will lose to anyone in this category. He is the only one not playing a real life figure, and to build up such a believable, tragic character from the ground up (not to mention the live singing, piano, guitar, directing, writing, producing, etc.) is remarkable. Bale is the Gary Oldman of this year and the Academy loves rewarding actors who transform, but at this point I don’t think there is any stopping Rami Malek and the behemoth that is Bohemian Rhapsody.

PJ

Should Win: Bradley Cooper

Could Win: Rami Malek or Bradley Cooper

Will Win: Christian Bale

Why…Willem Dafoe?

Where is…Ethan Hawke for First Reformed?

Connor already covered how ass backwards this category has been from the start, from Hawke’s snub all the way to Malek dominating the awards circuit for an impression from a shit movie that is honestly more problematic than uncanny. So instead, I want to focus on what really matters: At Eternity’s Gate. I know almost nobody saw this movie…but did ANYONE see this movie besides me? Because it is bad. Like SOOOOO bad. It’s a drama about van Gogh that uses more shaky cam than Cloverfield. And Dafoe isn’t even good in it! Half of his performance is sprinting through the countryside for no particular reason! All right, now that that’s off my chest, Bradley Cooper should win in a landslide. Thank you.

Best Director

Nominees: Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman, Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War, Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite, Alfonso Cuaron for Roma, Adam McKay for Vice

PJ

Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron

Could Win: Not Happening

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron

Why…Adam McKay?

Where is…Ryan Coogler for Black Panther?

This is the only lock of the night among the major awards. Cuaron turned an extremely personal story about his upbringing in Mexico City into a technical and visual masterpiece. He deserves his second Oscar.

I obviously didn’t like Vice, but I didn’t hate it either. I just think it’s mind-boggling that it got Oscar nominations, let alone EIGHT of them. So that pretty much speaks to what I thought of McKay’s direction, which never deviated past “Dick Cheney was bad.” I would have so much rather seen Bradley Cooper, Christopher McQuarrie, Damien Chazelle, or Ryan Coogler, who turned the 18th Marvel movie into way more than a superhero movie, in that spot.

Connor

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón or Yorgos Lanthimos

Could Win: Spike Lee

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón

Why…Adam McKay?

Where is…Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born?

This is Cuarón’s to lose after sweeping all relevant precursors. One of the safest bets of the night, but I know there is a groundswell of support for Spike here as he is long overdue for a nom (and because BlacKkKlansman rules pretty damn hard). I’ve long been a Lanthimos fan and he turns in an obscenely lavish & wonderful film while directing the best ensemble of the year. Much has been said about Bradley Cooper’s snub and while I think his greatest contribution to A Star Is Born is in front of the camera, there’s no denying he is also a born director. I’m not losing sleep—he’ll be back.

Best Picture

Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice

Connor

Should Win: The Favourite

Could Win: Roma or The Favourite

Will Win: Green Book

Why…Bohemian Rhapsody?

Where are…The ‘Firsts’? (First Reformed, First Man)

This is one of the more wide-open Best Picture races in recent memory (and probably history). That said, only four have a reasonable shot at winning – Roma, Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, and The Favourite. Roma has been the critics champ all year long, but I think it has too much working against it. I don’t think the Academy is ready for a Netflix film to win the big one, and no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture. Roma is going to have a huge night, but I think it comes up empty-handed in the end. That leaves Academy-friendly, controversy riddled Green Book in prime position after riding a wave of solid box office and a strong showing at the Globes and other precursors. That said, neither Roma nor Green Book nabbed an Editing nom, which is a key indicator of Best Pic momentum and could spell trouble for both. If The Favourite takes Editing, watch out. The Favourite is my personal, ahem, favourite of the bunch and I would love to see a sweep. If Editing goes to either Vice or Bohemian Rhapsody, my money is on Green Book. Bohemian Rhapsody was incredibly entertaining (how could it not be with that music?) and Rami Malek does very well, but I don’t think it belongs here. I don’t understand how First Man got shafted across the board (that score!), and I need to plug First Reformed (my favorite of 2018) as another snub.

PJ

Should Win: Black Panther

Could Win: A Star Is Born

Will Win: Roma

Why…Bohemian Rhapsody?

Where is…Mission: Impossible – Fallout?

I don’t think 2018 was a standout movie year by any means, but man, these nominees make it seem like the worst movie year ever when that was certainly not the case. It’s gotta be the worst Best Picture class since when? 2011? This is all headlined by Bohemian Rhapsody, a generic yet terrible sing-a-long biopic that was half-made by known creep Bryan Singer and half-made WITHOUT A DIRECTOR. Just about any 2018 film could have justifiably taken its place, or, ya know, one of the two spaces that the Academy just opted not to use? We’re clearly still far away from a time when action movies will receive fair consideration for Oscars, because Mission: Impossible – Fallout is one of the finest ever made. It was the best movie I saw all year.

As for the winner, I’m not gonna overthink this one. Roma landed the most nominations, has arguably the most respected director in the world attached to it, and has supporters in just about every guild. I know it’s a Netflix movie and that a foreign film has never won Best Picture, but I just think too many voters are in love with it. If we’re talking upsets, I think A Star Is Born has WAY more of a chance than people are giving it. The Academy is clearly preoccupied by box office and winning over millennials, so yeah, I think the Lady Gaga movie that made over $400mil is in the hunt. I really don’t have a ride-or-die in this race, but I’d give my vote to Black Panther, which was undoubtedly the movie of the year and changed the game for an entire genre.

Nominee From Another Category That Needs To Win

PJ

Best Film Editing

Barry Alexander Brown for BlacKkKlansman

Despite the numerous problems that I have with both Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, both of those movies are actually really well edited. And The Favourite was crazy innovative from a technical standpoint. But BlacKkKlansman was a PERFECTLY paced movie, and without pinpoint editing the tonal mashup probably doesn’t work.

Connor

Best Animated Feature Film

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Best Picture Ballot

Connor PJ
1. The Favourite 1. Black Panther
2t. A Star Is Born 2. BlacKkKlansman
2t. BlacKkKlansman 3. A Star Is Born
4. Roma 4. Roma
5. Black Panther 5. The Favourite
6. Bohemian Rhapsody 6. Green Book
Green Book (Haven’t Seen) 7. Vice
Vice (Haven’t Seen) 8. Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Top 10 of 2018

Connor PJ
1. First Reformed 1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
2. The Favourite 2. Blindspotting
3. Paddington 2 3. Crazy Rich Asians
4. Eighth Grade 4. First Reformed
5. Sorry To Bother You 5. First Man
6. Mandy 6. Black Panther
7. A Star Is Born 7. BlacKkKlansman
8. Widows 8. Destroyer
9. Annihilation 9. Avengers: Infinity War
10. Hereditary 10. If Beale Street Could Talk
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My 2018 in Movies

Another year come, another year gone in movies. More than anything, 2018 in cinema was…weird. We started the year with MoviePass as the Wild Wild West, and we ended the year with MoviePass as the app that allows you to see the 10am showing of Instant Family and only that. It was a year where rom-coms returned and superhero movies became fun again! And by all accounts, this was a monster year for documentaries and foreign films too. (The only one I checked out in either category was Roma.) But overall this felt like a mostly down year for traditional, narrative-driven, English-language films. Your Oscars guesses are as good as mine. Still, there was a lot to really like in movies this year, and even some stuff to love. I’m headlining this blog with my obligatory, movie-critic-wannabe Top 10 of the Year. (I used to rank movies both objectively and subjectively, but that got confusing even for me, so now I’ve lumped them together.) But I’m also including the best and worst of other categories – some of the awards show variety, others made up by yours truly. I saw about fifty 2018 releases, and here’s what I thought about them.

(Haven’t-Yet-Seen Notables: Bad Times At The El Royale, Blindspotting, Burning, Halloween, If Beale Street Could Talk, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Ocean’s 8, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Support the Girls, The Rider)

 

TEN BEST MOVIES

 

10. Ready Player One

ready player one

No, I haven’t read the book. I haven’t read most books, if you’re asking. So I went into this movie completely blind, and two hours later I emerged with possibly my favorite theater experience of the year. A meditation on how CGI action can actually be awesome, Ready Player One is an absolute visual delight. Are the characters underdeveloped and is the story far too reliant on exposition? Sure. But this movie is proof that Steven Spielberg can still capture our imaginations, and that’s worth a whole lot.

 

9. BlacKkKlansman

 blackkklansman-poster

I’m not sure if Spike Lee ever lost it, but if he did, well then he’s found it. A tonal mashup like no other in 2018, BlacKkKlansman tries to be a ton of different things at once, and it succeeds on most levels. And that’s including a tie-in to reality at the credits that hits devastatingly hard. Occasionally Spike swings and misses and a few scenes bothered me, but this is an incredibly well acted movie that manages to be haunting and hilarious at the same time. (Responsible for my loudest laugh in a theater this year.)

8. Paddington 2

 paddington 2

Yup, I’m eating the marmalade too. I was late to the game, but these movies are just as wonderful as everyone says they are. I slightly prefer the original to the sequel, but Paddington 2 is still the best Wes Anderson movie that Wes Anderson movie didn’t actually make. You know in the back of your heart that nothing harmful can actually happen to Paddington, but that doesn’t stop you from worrying sick at all times about the well being of this polite bear from Darkest Peru. And DO NOT even get me going on the ending. Good lord, I still can barely handle it.

 

7. A Star Is Born

 a star is born

After an onslaught of a marketing campaign and Oscar buzz for Lady Gaga that feels like it started in 2017, A Star Is Born annoyed me before I even saw it. But then about halfway through the movie after that scene (more on it later), I thought to myself, “oh, so this might be the best movie ever.” That ended up definitely not being the case after a flawed second half, but I was still blown away by the final product. The soundtrack, the acting, the direction – I still can’t believe that Bradley Cooper actually delivered.

 

6. Avengers: Infinity War

 infinity war

For about 95% of the movie, I was properly satisfied with Infinity War. The Russo Brothers balanced all of the characters really well, there were some great fight scenes, Thor’s arrival on Wakanda was electric – it all did the job. Then that ending happened. The one that probably didn’t change the game but still feels like it changed the game. It was so bold and unexpected, and it instantly vaulted Thanos into elite villain territory. Who cares if its sequel is already being promoted? Let’s enjoy Infinity War as long as we can.

 

5. Black Panther

 black panther

For as much as I obviously liked Infinity War, sometimes the Marvel Cinematic Universe can feel too big. So for a self-contained story like this to debut right beforehand while being the most original and thought-provoking entry in the MCU yet…yeah I’m a big fan. Undoubtedly the movie event of the year, Black Panther deserves all of its hype. Cool and funny with a great cast of characters and maybe the best world building…ever? More of this, please.

 

4. First Man

first man

I’m not sure how this happened, but Damian Chazelle managed to make the most underrated movie of 2018. I think it was overlooked because it’s not an Apollo 13-style adventure or Americana propaganda, but it’s all the better for it. Instead focusing deeply on the private life of one of our lesser-known American heroes, Ryan Gosling plays a subtle yet strong Neil Armstrong with Claire Foy knocking it out of the park as his wife. The cinematography is a work of art and the score is my favorite of the year. I’m not sure that First Man reaches Chazelle’s heights of Whiplash and La La Land, but it’s definitely not far off.

 

3. First Reformed

 first reformed

Best performance of Ethan Hawke’s illustrious career? Check. A screenplay with genuinely profound themes and the best dialogue of the year? Check. Gorgeous camera work? Check. An ending that is so surreal that you’ll have no clue what the hell you just watched? Check. To some, First Reformed and its dearth of action might be too slow. But for others like me, this movie is mesmerizing and has been on the mind since the summer.

 

2. Crazy Rich Asians

 crazy rich asians

About 30 minutes into Crazy Rich Asians, I was surprised by how much fun I was having. But everything that I had come to learn about movies told me that there was no way the fun could last. But then, something happened. The movie got…even better? Seriously, in addition to simply being a blast of a movie, Crazy Rich Asians is absolutely terrific. The characters and the performances are excellent, the screenplay is sharp and hilarious, the production and costume designs are beautiful, the music is perfect…I could keep going. With multiple starmaking performances and the foundation established for sequels, Crazy Rich Asians feels like the start of something huge. And I am HERE for it.

 

1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

fallout

Despite all of my glowing words for the previous nine movies, there was only one film in 2018 that will probably go down as an all-timer for me, and that movie is Fallout. One of my personal highlights of 2018 was binging the first five Mission: Impossible movies in anticipation of Fallout, and then having it exceed all of my wildest expectations. Forget the stunts and the action scenes being the best of the franchise. They are some of the best the genre has ever seen. Even the characters are great! Henry Cavill’s August Walker was an excellent addition, and Ilsa Faust continues to be the best non-Ethan character in the franchise. I’m not sure if Fallout is perfect, but it was as close as we got to perfection in 2018.

 

Just Missed The Cut: Widows, A Quiet Place, Leave No Trace, Searching

 

FIVE MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIES

I don’t see the appeal in going out of my way to pay for then spend two hours watching a bad movie, so these are definitely not the five absolute worst movies of the year. These are just the five worst movies that were either intriguing in some way or I thought could be good.

 

5. Borg vs McEnroe

I was really amped about this movie, being a huge tennis fan and someone who thinks Bjorn Borg’s story needs to reach a bigger audience. But Borg vs McEnroe has a ton of problems, starting with its title. Shia LaBeouf plays a good John McEnroe, but he’s in the movie for maybe 15 minutes. It’s all about Borg, which could have been a good thing but they don’t do anything interesting or provide any new information. Between that and the subpar tennis scenes, I couldn’t help but think the entire time how it would have been better as a 30 for 30. Maybe next time actually consult the subjects of the film?

 

4. Bohemian Rhapsody

I’m trying to decide on the scene that best encapsulates this movie. Is it when Freddie Mercury watches a trucker go into a rest stop bathroom, then all of a sudden he’s gay? Or when his friend sees some white dust on his living room table, then all of a sudden he has a drug problem? Or maybe when Freddie decides the band should go disco, then all of a sudden the “Another One Bites The Dust” bass riff is written? It’s an absolutely preposterous script that takes so many liberties, yet it somehow still manages to be a cookie-cutter take on one of the wildest rock bands ever. An admirable performance from Rami Malek and the impressive Live Aid recreation don’t save this from being one of the dumbest blockbusters in recent memory.

 

3. Isle of Dogs

The stop-motion animation is cool. I liked the score a lot. That’s where my compliments end. It’s the most painfully Wes Anderson movie in years. The story is quirky in the most boring way and his stupid humor falls completely flat. I honestly wanted to punch him in the face by the end of this movie.

 

2. Venom 

I can’t really remember what convinced me to see Venom, since the reviews were terrible and I thought the trailers looked like garbage. And boy, was I right! This movie did practically nothing well. Tom Hardy gives a truly bizarre performance that I’m still unsure about, and his screen chemistry with Michelle Williams is some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Throw that on top of one of the least compelling villains ever, bad action, and a PG-13 screenplay that tried its hardest to be edgy, and you have this dumpster fire of a film.

 

1. Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Of all the movies that I saw in 2018, there was only one that I truly resented, and that was Sicario: Day of the Soldado. Sicario is one of my favorite movies of the last decade, and it’s quite possibly the single last movie that I desired a sequel for. All of the tension, emotion, and ambiguity of the original is essentially replaced with, “what if we made the border seem…cooler?” Characters are developed in ways that actually make them far less compelling, the stakes are almost always unclear, and the movie ends with a scene that has the subtext of “we’re going to milk every single cent out of this franchise.” When Denis Villeneuve and Emily Blunt, possibly the hottest director and actor going in Hollywood right now, both pass on your sequel…then maybe don’t make one?

 

Just Missed The Cut: Ant-Man and the Wasp, Vice

 

TWENTY BEST PERFORMANCES

 

20. Ike Barinholtz (Blockers)

Barinholtz rolling up to his daughter’s pre-prom party while standing out of a limo sunroof, holding sparklers, and yelling “Taio Cruz!” was nothing short of movie magic.

 

19. Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Great to see McCarthy finally get a lead role that doesn’t ask her to just do slapstick. (She’s still really funny in this movie.) Hoping to see her get an Oscar nomination.

 

18. Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians)

You’re lying if you say you weren’t terrified of Yeoh in this movie. Even thinking about that mahjong scene makes me nervous. Perfect casting here.

 

17. Jason Isaacs (The Death of Stalin)

Isaacs doesn’t appear in The Death of Stalin until about an hour into the movie, but he comes in like a wrecking ball. He takes over every scene that he’s a part of.

 

16. John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

I think we can stop calling him “Denzel’s kid” now.

 

15. Blake Lively (A Simple Favor)

As someone who watched all of Gossip Girl in 2018, I saw a lot of Blake Lively this year. Let’s just say her acting this time around is…much better.

 

14. Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

I wasn’t nearly as high on The Favourite as most, but the acting is great across the board. My favorite performance of the bunch was from Weisz, who nails the publicly steely, privately vulnerable act.

 

13. Tom Cruise (Mission: Impossible – Fallout)

The guy is 56 years old and doing helicopter stunts and jumping out of airplanes from extremely unsafe altitudes. I don’t care that it’s not traditional acting. It’s incredible.

 

12. Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace)

No one born in the 21st century has any business being this good at acting already. She’s going to be around for a looooong time.

 

11. Elizabeth Debicki (Widows)

I didn’t even know Debicki’s name before seeing Widows, and now I want her cast in everything. Definition of a scene-stealer.

 

10. Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)

All right, let’s talk about Gaga’s performance, because she’s going to win a trillion awards. Would I give them all to her? Probably not. I think her newness to the screen is evident during some intimate, conversation-driven scenes. But that doesn’t mean that she’s not goddamn amazing in this movie. Her vocal performances are the stuff of icon status. She was already a legend, but this just added to it.

 

9. Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

We’ve reached the territory of names that I will be actively rooting for at the Oscars. Grant is so insanely good and funny in this movie, and he compliments Melissa McCarthy perfectly. My favorite chemistry of the year.

 

8. Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)

God bless Elsie Fisher for taking on this role. In one of the more awkward movies in recent memory, Fisher doesn’t shy away during the tough scenes and manages to win over everyone in the process. Casting actual young teens to play young teens…actually good!

 

7. John Cho (Searching)

This movie has such a batshit premise that I don’t even think it works with an average lead performance. But Cho goes so far beyond average that the movie doesn’t only work, but it became one of the year’s best. For a longtime actor who is still perhaps most famous for a character literally named “MILF Guy #2,” I hope Cho gets the recognition he deserves here.

 

6. Toni Collette (Hereditary)

I wasn’t crazy about Hereditary as a whole, mainly because of how far it goes off the deep end with its ending. So having Colette ranked this high, and as the top lead female performance of the year, should speak to how transcendently good she is in this role. Simply put, it’s one of the best performances ever within the horror genre.

 

5. Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)

Elliott is only in a handful of scenes in A Star Is Born, but my god does he make all of them count. In what might be the best pound-for-pound performance of the year, Elliott is devastating as Bradley Cooper’s much older brother. If he wins some hardware during awards season, don’t frame it as a lifetime achievement thing. He deserves everything he gets for this performance.

 

4. Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)

What Driver does in this movie is insane. He’s basically playing two characters: one is a cop who’s trying to take down the local chapter of the KKK while understanding the hardships faced by his African-American partner, and the other is a buffoon who joins that chapter of the Klan. AKA, polar opposites. And not only does Driver make it work, but he’s hilarious in the process without the performance ever feeling insensitive. Even with a Best Supporting Actor class as loaded as this year’s is, Driver stands out.

 

3. Claire Foy (First Man)

There are a lot of things that make First Man work as well as it does, but nothing more than the dynamic between Ryan Gosling and Foy. As Gosling’s Neil Armstrong remains stoic throughout the movie to an unnerving degree, Foy’s Janet Armstrong slowly breaks down, and it is captivating to watch. From her accent to her delivery, everything about this performance works. Let’s hope the Academy agrees.

 

2. Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)

There’s commitment, and then there’s what Bradley Cooper did for A Star Is Born. He learned and mastered multiple instruments, became a legitimately good singer, nailed that deep drawl, and transformed himself to look like a member of Kings Of Leon after a weeklong bender. And I haven’t even mentioned his acting yet. We always knew he could do that, but his breakdown in rehab scene might be the pinnacle of his career so far. Rami Malek might edge Cooper for awards for a performance where he wore fake teeth and lip-synced to Queen hits. Please don’t do that.

 

1. Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)

Narrowing this list to twenty performances and ranking 2-20 was tough, but this part was easy. Undoubtedly the top performance of the year, Hawke is this movie. Playing a priest who is in the midst of both a physical and a mental crisis, Hawke claws you in and doesn’t let go. Even though you know that things can’t end well for his character, it never stops being hypnotizing. It’s dumb that Ethan Hawke has never won an Oscar. It will be a crime if he still doesn’t have one after this year.

 

Just Missed The Cut: Ben Foster (Leave No Trace), Sunny Suljic (Mid90s), Jesse Plemons (Game Night), Olivia Cooke (Thoroughbreds), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You), Armie Hammer (Sorry To Bother You), Josh Hamilton (Eighth Grade), Michael B. Jordan (Creed 2), Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Tim Blake Nelson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Na-kel Smith (Mid90s), Hugh Grant (Paddington 2), Ronny Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians), Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War), Jude Law (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald)

 

FIVE WORST CHARACTERS

It’s usually tough to separate a performance from a hopeless role, so these are the characters that sucked the most in 2018.

 

5. i-R0k (T.J. Miller, Ready Player One)

It’s a miracle that Ready Player One turned out as good as it did after spending so long in production hell. But they didn’t completely avoid problems during that time, because T.J. Miller fell out of favor with just about everybody by the time the movie was released. Playing a character who barely serves a purpose beyond comic relief becomes an issue when the actor just isn’t very funny.

 

4. Rez Gavron (Rafi Gavron, A Star Is Born)

If you are asking yourself who this is, he is Ally’s manager. Not only is this character random and poorly acted, but it’s pretty evident that he only exists to push Jackson Maine to his inevitable conclusion.

 

3. Topsy (Meryl Streep, Mary Poppins Returns)

Man…I HATED this character. I’m not sure if Meryl inserted herself into the movie or if Disney demanded it, but I figure it has to be something like that because this character’s existence just makes no sense. It’s such an unnecessary ten-minute detour to meet Topsy, who has a stupid accent for some reason and is the center of one of the more forgettable numbers of the movie. If Topsy was in more than one scene, then she probably would have been at the top of this list.

 

2. Martin Addison (Logan Miller, Love, Simon)

I really liked Love, Simon, but I did have a few problems with the movie, and they basically all regard Martin. He’d probably be on this list just for being so unfunny and cringy, but he ranks second because he also VINDICTIVELY OUTS SIMON AND KINDA TOTALLY GETS AWAY WITH IT. Like, one of the meaner things you can possibly do to a person, and the only consequence was that he got yelled at a little bit.

 

1. Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed, Venom)

I’m not sure what’s the worst part about Carlton Drake: the lifeless writing of the character, the bizarre decision to cast Riz Ahmed for it, or Ahmed’s completely unconvincing performance. As uncool and unimposing as a villain can possibly be, it’s fitting that it happened in a Venom movie, because this performance joins Topher Grace’s portrayal of Venom from Spider-Man 3 as one of the worst ever.

 

Just Missed The Cut: Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins, Ant-Man and the Wasp), Goh Wye Mun (Ken Jeong, Crazy Rich Asians), Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy, Venom), Paul Prenter (Allen Leech, Bohemian Rhapsody), Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy, Unsane)

 

TEN BEST SCENES

(SPOILERS AHEAD, OBVIOUSLY)

 

10. X-Force Takes Flight, Deadpool 2

 

9. Charlie Leans Out The Window, Hereditary 

 

8. The Ending, Paddington 2

 

7. The Opening, A Quiet Place 

 

6. The Beach Rescue, Roma

 

5. The Drive Through The Neighborhood, Widows

 

4. Thanos Snaps His Fingers, Avengers: Infinity War

 

3. The Bathroom Fight, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

 

2. The Moon Landing, First Man 

 

1. “Shallow,” A Star Is Born

(Not the actual scene, but closest I could find.)

 

Just Missed The Cut: Cash Raps For The Room (Sorry To Bother You), The Race (Ready Player One), The Wedding (Crazy Rich Asians), “BROTHER FUCKER!” (A Simple Favor), Tom Says Goodbye (Leave No Trace), Toller Talks To Michael (First Reformed), Elastigirl Saves The Train (Incredibles 2), “Always Remember Us This Way” (A Star Is Born), Prom Party Arrival (Blockers), Killmonger Robs The Museum (Black Panther), Stevie Goes For The Jump (Mid90s), Thor Arrives On Wakanda (Avengers: Infinity War), The Screaming Bear (Annihilation), Sharing A Pizza (Set It Up), The Pool Party (Eighth Grade), Blaming Beria (The Death Of Stalin), “Can You Imagine That?” (Mary Poppins Returns)

 

 

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej

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Your Preseason Guide to The Bachelor, 2019 Edition

The Bachelor is basically a sport now. There are different seasons, you gather with friends to watch for 2-3 hours, you complain about how many commercials there are, hell – the franchise has its own Adam Schefter in Reality Steve. And while fantasy Bachelor leagues used to be something you’d have to explain to your coworkers, now your coworkers are asking you if you want to be a part of their league. (The answer is NO, Jennifer.)

Thursday marked my favorite Internet day of the year: the public release of the contestants. This year we have 30 (!!!) girls vying for Colton Underwood’s heart and flower. (The guy is a virgin, as I’m sure even your grandparents have heard by now.) ABC used to grace us with questionnaires from each contestant that 90% of the time only told us that they like avocados and Crazy, Stupid, Love, but they were still fun and led us to believe that we knew something about these women before they stepped out of the limo. Now all we get is a tweet-length summary of each contestant and a few words on them directly from the mouth of Chris Harrison. Still, as someone who has been a fan of this franchise for over a decade and a drafter of Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants for years, I’d like to think I have a good sense of who’s a TOTAL CONTENDER and who’s a TOTAL PRETENDER solely based off pictures, ages, and occupations. (Important note: comments will not reflect my personal opinions of these women/women in general. It’s The Bachelor, so it’s about to get really superficial in here.)

I actively avoid spoilers, but all public information is fair game by me. So all we have to work with is the official cast page on ABC’s website, Chris Harrison’s Facebook livestream, and Colton’s appearance on Ellen. That’s it. I’ll go in descending order from who has zero chance of winning the final rose to who I think will get the proposal. (So to clarify, I might think a girl that I rank in the 20’s will advance a few episodes, but she’s ranked there because she won’t win.) Here we go.

the-bachelor-abc-jpo-181206_hpMain_12x5_992

NOT IN THE AGE RANGE

This is the most crucial component of Bachelor drafting. Even more so than looks. (ABC used to tell us height too, which we desperately need back.) With The Bachelorette, anyone older than the girl in power is fair game, so it makes it harder to draft. With The Bachelor, you’re pretty much toast if you’re not between 24-28. But considering that Colton is only 26, we’re going to adjust our scale to 23-27. I’ll allow for the occasional exception to this rule (don’t make me remind you that 36 year-old Arie seriously considered 22 year-old Bekah), but this is pretty much gospel.

 

30. Elyse, 31, Alaska

elyse

Let me get this straight: Elyse has a negative percent chance of winning. Being 31 on The Bachelor is like being 93 on Hinge. Colton also has an obvious type, and “redheaded Alaskan” ain’t it. But she’s a lock to advance past Night One. Chris Harrison says that she “becomes the mom of the group.” In case I needed to remind you that 31 is ancient in this world.

 

29. Tracy, 31, Los Angeles

tracy

31 and apparently the center of drama on Night One. AKA, she’s gonna get trashed, sent home, and then bawl her eyes out because she can never find love.

 

28. Angelique, 28, New Jersey

angelique

The reveal of the contestants via Facebook Live is actually pretty fun, because it allows Chris Harrison to go off script for once. But the downside is that he inadvertently let a few minor details slip. One of them is that Angelique is 99% a goner on Night One.

 

27. Nina, 30, Raleigh

nina

Nina is 30, originally from Croatia, and “fled the conflict there amidst bullets and bombs.” Colton is 26, from Illinois, and likes puppies. This isn’t going to work out.

 

26. Heather, 22, California

heather

Heather is going to be a main character this season. Apparently she has never kissed a boy before…you think the producers are going to bludgeon that joke to death or just casually let it go? But Heather will not win. SHE IS TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD. I can already tell you that my favorite moment of the season will be when a bunch of 23 year-olds lecture Heather about immaturity.

 

25. Alex B, 29, Vancouver

alex b

In other seasons, Alex B would potentially rank fairly high. But Colton isn’t proposing to someone three years his elder regardless of how much she talks about her dogs.

 

NOT BASIC ENOUGH

The Bachelor isn’t where we turn to see progressive stuff. There is a pretty clear formula to winning this show that basically boils down to “the cuter, the blonder, the better.” I mean, two of the past three winners were 25 year-old blonde girls named Lauren B who clearly came from wealthy upbringings. Now that’s not to say that brunettes or girls with more originality don’t stand a chance. But considering that half of the contestant pool this year is 23 year-olds from either California or SEC country, let’s just say it’s definitely a benefit if she uses “like” five times per sentence.

 

24. Revian, 24, California

revian

Despite having a name that rhymes with elitist water, Revian does not meet our criteria.

 

23. Tahjzuan, 25, Colorado

tahjzuan

Last season there were FOUR contestants named Lauren. Tahjzuan is not winning this show.

 

22. Kirpa, 26, California

kirpa

Neither is Kirpa.

 

21. Onyeka, 24, Dallas

onyeka

Nor Onyeka.

 

20. Alex D, 23, Boston

alex d

This is one area where I’m pretty sure I differ from the majority of Bachelor Nation: I don’t find the fake job titles amusing whatsoever. Fortunately we don’t have as many this year as we usually do, but we still have Alex D who works as a “sloth.” And she dresses up as a sloth on Night One, because apparently the costumed contestant is something we need every season now. (Even though they never do well.) And she’s a Red Sox fan. I will be fervently rooting against Alex D this season.

 

19. Erika, 25, California

erika

Self-described as “The Nut,” I’m annoyed by Erika already. I’m going to need her sent home ASAP. Note to all blonde Californians going on The Bachelor: you can just not say anything and advance very, very far on this show. Do less, Erika.

 

18. Courtney, 23, Atlanta

courtney

Every season, we have a contestant who is way too good for this show yet doesn’t make it very far. I’m banking on that being Courtney this go-around. Courtney is an attractive, family-oriented 23 year-old originally from Germany who now runs her own catering business. Trust us, Courtney. When Colton inevitably doesn’t pick you, it will be the biggest blessing in disguise.

 

17. Laura, 26, Dallas

laura

Black hair?!?! An accountant?!?! Um, are you lost sweetheart?!?!

 

16. Nicole, 25, Miami

nicole

Chris Harrison made it seem like Nicole is a factor this season, which surprised me. But I’m going to stick to my guns here and declare that Nicole is not basic enough to win The Bachelor. Prediction though: she becomes a superstar in Bachelor in Paradise.

 

THE VILLAIN

We’ve seen villains win this show and we’ve seen villains only last two episodes. Who knows what her fate will be this time around, but you know that I will be rooting for her.

 

15. Catherine, 26, Florida

catherine

I am already captivated by Catherine. She’s magnificent. You could tell that she’s going to be the villain of the season just by her headshot, and all of the marketing has already confirmed as much. Chris Harrison said that she probably broke the record for the most “can I steal you’s?” on Night One. And then add in the fact that she’s a DJ FROM FORT LAUDERDALE. This is Jason Mendoza’s dream woman. The Joker. Cruella de Vil. Hannibal Lecter. Regina George. Catherine.

 

WILD CARDS

These women could either play themselves out of the competition on Night One or they could go on to win it all. Either I can’t get a good read on them, or they’re just plain crazy.

 

14. Sydney, 27, New York

sydney

The first of the three women who appeared on Ellen that I’ve mentioned so far, Sydney just doesn’t stand out in any way to me. She also completely butchered her pickup line to Colton, which makes it a lot less surprising that she’s never had a boyfriend before. I’d give her crap for quitting her job to finish like twelfth on this show, but she’ll 100% make more money as a Flat Tummy Tea sponsor than as a NBA dancer.

 

13. Devin, 23, Oregon

devin

Devin seems cool and is definitely hot, but I just don’t see it happening. She’ll probably be the one to bring a football to the mansion and pull the ol’ “no way, I like sports too!”

 

12. Cassie, 23, California

cassie

I am SO confident that Cassie will be the one to make it pretty far and then the audience simultaneously says to themselves, “wait, has that girl spoken a single word this entire season?”

 

11. Jane, 26, Los Angeles

jane

More than any other contestant this season, I’m having an impossible time pegging Jane. Her real name is Adrianne but she goes by Jane. That’s like me telling people to call me Daniel. Just can’t trust someone like that.

 

10. Erin, 28, Texas

erin

Erin has a trillion red flags. She’s 28. Her job title is “Cinderella.” She mentions her love of pumpkin spice lattes in her bio. The only thing is…she’s super hot. I’m not sure what will win out with Colton. (The hotness will, who am I kidding.)

 

9. Tayshia, 28, California

tayshia

Tayshia also has a lot going against her right out of the gate. She’s 28 too, and a black contestant has never won The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. But considering that she’s gorgeous and possibly the most impressive woman in the group, none of that could matter. Here’s to hoping that this is the season where things change! (It won’t be.)

 

8. Demi, 23, Texas

demi

RUN AWAY, COLTON! RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!! I get some major Isla Fisher in Wedding Crashers vibes with Demi. Chris Harrison basically confirmed that she’s totally off the wall. Is she going to be fun to watch? Definitely. Could she advance really far in this show? You bet. Might Colton be afraid of her by the end of the show? Absolutely. “Don’t ever leave me! Because I’d find you!

 

CONTENDERS

Any of these women could realistically win the show, and each of them stands a solid chance to make it to Hometown Dates and Fantasy Suites. Where I guess this season they’ll just…watch Netflix and maybe do some hand stuff? God, why couldn’t they have just picked a guy who has had sex before?

 

7. Hannah B, 23, Alabama

hannah b

Hannah’s entire bio is about Alabama. She’s Miss Alabama 2018, she went to the University of Alabama, she never misses an Alabama football game…you get the point. We’re all going to be diehard Auburn fans by the end of this season because of Hannah B. But she’s 23, hot, and blonde, so she’ll do well.

 

6. Caitlin, 25, Toronto

caitlin

Chris Harrison didn’t seem too enthused about Caitlin during the livestream, which is odd because she’s stunning, successful, Canadian (they do VERY well in this franchise), and the perfect Bachelor age of 25. I’m going to guess that Chris Harrison was just up to his sneaky old tricks and that Caitlin will make it far. If she doesn’t, well, then she should expect to hear from every male Bachelor fan on Twitter.

 

5. Katie, 26, California

katie

I promise you that Katie will be on the show for most of the season. The pretty, bubbly, California girl always does well. She came off as really basic but really fun on her Ellen appearance, and Chris Harrison said that she “changes the course of the entire season.” The first “I love you,” perhaps? I’d guess that we get to see Katie’s hometown, but I’d be surprised if she wins due to shitty reasons that I’ve already mentioned.

 

4. Caelynn, 23, Charlotte

caelynn

Caelynn has the genuinely impressive point on her resume of being the 2018 Miss America runner-up (collect $10 from Community Chest)…which I think has to mean that she beat Hannah B in that competition? Ipso facto, I neeeeeeeeeed that drama. But anyway, she’s really hot and will go really far. If she gets eliminated, then expect one of the “I need a moment, get the cameras away from me” breakups. If she wins, well, then Colton and Caelynn will probably name their kids something like Jax and Paisley.

 

3. Hannah G, 23, Birmingham

hannah g

Chris Harrison’s worst moment of the livestream happened here, so if you want to go into this season totally blind then you might want to skip to the next contestant. *Gives readers time to scroll* I’m 95% sure he revealed that Hannah G wins the first impression rose. C’mon, Chris! That’s a major prop bet that we’re talking about! Honestly, Hannah G sounds like she kinda sucks. She loves glamping and is a “Content Creator,” which just means that she’s better at picking Instagram filters than I am. But she’s beautiful, and if my first impression rose hypothesis is correct, then history tells us she will advance very far…or win the show.

 

2. Annie, 23, New York

annie

Annie is my personal favorite, and I’m scared that Colton will feel the same way. She murdered her Ellen appearance, making the best impression of the three girls by a mile. She’s 23 yet successful, and she has both a farm girl and city girl thing going on. If she doesn’t win the show, then she’s a prime Bachelorette candidate. (Yes, I am aware that I’m getting completely ahead of myself.)

 

THE FAVORITE

My prediction to win the final rose. I don’t have the best record on this subject, but I have a feeling that this is the year!!!

 

1. Bri, 24, Los Angeles

bri

I mean…scroll through these 30 women and tell me with a straight face that Bri doesn’t stand out. She looks like all of the former Bachelor winners meshed into one person for god’s sake. Models historically don’t do well on this show, but Bri’s bio and Chris Harrison both went out of their way to let us know that Bri is more than just a pretty face! She’s the only contestant who managed to screw up her short bio – she wants us all to know that her biggest dating fear is farting too loudly. That’s such a painfully Jennifer Lawrence thing to say, but at least it tells us that Bri has a personality. We’ll take it, and Colton probably will too.

 

Follow me on Twitter @Real_Peej as I live tweet all of The Bachelor drama starting Monday, January 7.

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A Wish List for the Yankees’ Offseason

Dear Cashman Claus,

My name is PJ, I’m 25 and one-quarter years old, and I’ve been a very good Yankee fan this year. I spend just about all of my free time watching, writing, or reading about the Yankees. Some would say I’m “obsessed.” Anyway, there’s a lot of pressure on you this offseason. The Red Sox just won the World Series, as I’m sure you heard, and we have not been since 2009, as I’m sure you know. So I’ve decided to write you with an extremely well organized wish list for the Yankees’ 2018-19 offseason. If you don’t do literally every single one of these moves, I will freak out.

(OK, I’ll stop writing from the perspective of a man/boy with clear confusion about his actual age, but hopefully you get the premise of the blog now. This is my dream offseason for the Yankees.)

THE GAME AND THE RULES

I genuinely believe that a reinforced yet similarly structured roster to last season can win it all in 2019. Given the Yankees are coming off back-to-back postseason appearances and a 100-win season, they don’t have as many holes as the average team. They already patched up some of those holes by bringing back CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner on cheap one-year deals. Yeah, both of those guys are way past their primes, but they’re the two best veteran presences on the team and both provide valuable depth. They’re gladly welcomed back. But there’s still work to be done in those two areas, especially the starting pitching. The front office isn’t being coy about their intentions to bring in multiple starters, hopefully at least one of the ace variety. (Note: I wrote this part before the James Paxton trade. I still expect the Yankees to pursue one more big-name starter.) With Didi Gregorius sidelined for most or all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery, there’s a necessity for infield help too. And considering these are the modern Yankees we’re talking about, bullpen reinforcements are always on the table as well.

I’m aiming to stay grounded here. I’ll try to make every trade a win-win and as balanced as possible, and every free agent signing will be something I could actually see the Yankees doing and will fall within a reasonable dollar range. And while the Yankees achieved their goal of getting under the luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season, therefore resetting their penalty rate moving forward, I’m not going to conduct this exercise as if Hal Steinbrenner presented Brian Cashman with a blank checkbook. There’s a chance the payroll will increase by a considerable amount, but I think the luxury tax threat is still in play and I know that the Steinbrenners don’t want to return to the days of having the highest payroll just for the sake of having the highest payroll. I’m going to observe the 40-man roster too. So for every addition to the roster, I’ll remove one of the current occupants.

FREE AGENCY 

  • The Prize: Patrick Corbin for 5 years/$100 million

corbin

For casual fans, Corbin might feel underwhelming as the Yankees’ jewel from a free agent class that has been hyped up for years now. But man, I think he is a PERFECT fit. As heralded as this class has been, it was never particularly strong in the starting pitching department after Clayton Kershaw, who’s already off the market. It really comes down to Corbin and Dallas Keuchel. Figuring that the two southpaws are in line to receive similar contracts, this is an easy decision for me. Keuchel is probably the best groundball and defensive pitcher in baseball, has an amazing track record at Yankee Stadium, and offers less risk than almost any pitcher you’ll find on the free agent market. But he’s been trending in the wrong direction ever since winning the Cy Young in 2015. He doesn’t need to strike guys out to be good, but a K/9 of 6.73 is just absurdly low. He’ll likely get you 200 competitive innings, but I don’t really see him topping out his 2018 WAR of 3.6 by too much over any year on his next contract.

Corbin, on the other hand, posted a WAR of 6.3 in 2018 and couldn’t be trending in a better direction. A surprising All Star in 2013, Corbin had Tommy John surgery the following offseason and missed all of 2014 and half of 2015. He was then one of the worst pitchers in baseball in 2016, a solid pitcher in 2017, and then an elite pitcher this most recent season. There’s no two ways around it: Corbin was an ace, and I’m bullish on his chances of repeating that. I absolutely love his style of pitching, and the Yankees surely do too. He throws a four-seam fastball less than 20% of the time, yet he led ALL of baseball in swing-and-miss percentage. So he throws gas, right? Nope! Corbin’s average fastball sits around 91 MPH, already proving that he doesn’t need heat to succeed. So then by getting batters to chase a lot, surely he has issues with walks? Nope, Corbin only walked slightly over 2 batters per 9 innings and finished with the fifth best K:BB% in baseball. So if he doesn’t throw hard or walk a lot of guys, he must give up a ton of homers? Negative, my man keeps the ball in the park. He had the third best HR/9 rate in baseball, and was the only starter to finish in the Top 10 in strikeout percentage and groundball percentage.

I’m framing Corbin like he’s Sandy Koufax 2.0 here. There are some red flags. As referenced, his track record isn’t nearly as stable as you’d like for a guy you’re handing nine figures to. But I’m pretty confident his 2018 wasn’t a fluke. Chase Field is no pitchers’ park, and his fielding independent numbers show that he was even better last year than his standard stats would indicate. There’s also some fear associated with investing in Tommy John recipients, but Corbin is now four years removed from his procedure and has logged nearly 400 innings over the past two years. I’m not worried there. My biggest concern with him is that while he misses more bats than anyone, he gives up a ton of hard contact when batters connect. His hard hit percentage was the second highest in baseball per FanGraphs, and keeping his groundball percentage in mind, he might need a personal third baseman if he comes to New York.

I think my contract estimate is fairly overaggressive, but that’s likely how the Yankees need to play this one. They have such a glaring need for another top-of-the-rotation arm, and in this case they wouldn’t need to move more top prospects to get one. Yu Darvish, the top arm on the market last year, got a sixth year and slightly more average annual value, but his track record was far better than Corbin’s. I’m all in on Corbin at this price.

  • The Bargain: Daniel Murphy for 2 years/$15 million

USP MLB: CINCINNATI REDS AT CHICAGO CUBS S BBN CHC CIN USA IL

I know, I know. I don’t like the guy off the field either. But before we talk about Murphy as a baseball player, let’s make an important distinction. He has some unpopular viewpoints that I’d argue are unacceptable, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are…viewpoints. The Yankees paid top dollar for a player who actually did this, and we’ve been cheering for him for three years now. Just want to get out in front of some fans inevitably jumping ship if the Yankees do in fact sign Murphy.

Anyway, you might say that contract seems low for a player who was an MVP runner-up in 2016. I’d say you are correct, but I think that’s the ballpark Murphy is looking at. The free agent market infamously “froze over” last offseason, and while I do think there were some fishy factors in play, I think the main reason behind it was a league-wide understanding that you can often get similar or better production from young, cheap players than over-the-hill players on big contracts. And guess what? The teams were largely correct. There’s a reason that Lorenzo Cain flew off the market for big money but that power-hitting corner infielders with no defensive ability signed disappointing deals. And while that second group doesn’t exactly describe Murphy, that’s likely how teams will view him too. Murphy will be 34 on Opening Day, is one year removed from major knee surgery, and struggles defensively without a true position. But this dude was born to rake. Despite coming off that surgery and effectively having his Spring Training during the actual season, Murphy still managed to bat .299 in 2018. There’s almost no scenario in the near future where Murphy doesn’t bat between .290-.310. He’s shift proof…it’s freaky how evenly he hits the ball to all fields. With a sure bat and a low strikeout percentage, I think he makes for the perfect platoon to Luke Voit. (There’s a decent chance Murphy would end up as the everyday first baseman. I think Voit’s 2018 was a bit fluky, but he was so good that he at least bought himself some playing time at the start of the season.) Add in that he can play a somewhat serviceable second base until Didi returns and Gleyber Torres moves back, and Murphy makes for an exceptional short-term play for the Yanks.

  • The Familiar Face: David Robertson for 3 years/$27 million

david robertson

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Robertson is great and one of the most consistent relievers…ever? I’m not really kidding. Besides a 2016 season when he was merely “pretty good” rather than “really good,” his numbers during each season from 2012-2018 are virtually identical. (I’m leaving out his 2011 for the sake of this exercise, because it’s one of the best reliever seasons ever that nobody talks about.) He’ll offer some walks and give up some homers, but he’s a high strikeout guy who you can bank on getting the job done 60 times a year. It’s an expensive contract for a 7th inning pitcher, but that’s the cost of reliability.

TRADES

  • The Blockbuster: It Already Happened… Justus Sheffield/Erik Swanson/Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners for James Paxton

paxton

I didn’t get into the details about the Gardner and Sabathia signings because I want to focus more on prospective moves, but I’ll write about this one because Paxton is less of a known commodity for Yankee fans and he cost the organization’s top prospect in Justus Sheffield. For starters, the Yankees were going to trade for a top-of-the-rotation arm in 100% of offseason scenarios. There weren’t many options, and I don’t think most of them stood a chance. I never bought into the Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco rumors for a second. They are both in their primes and have two years left on their contracts for below-market rates. Not to mention the Indians have the best staff in baseball, arguably the sport’s two best contracts in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and play in the worst division by a mile. To get them to voluntarily close their contention window would cost an absolute fortune. I’m fairly certain Gleyber would have to be involved for Kluber, and count me the hell out on that. The same applies to Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard, but they’d probably cost even more, so scratch them off too. That leaves Paxton and Zack Greinke.

I mapped out this blog before I actually started writing it, and in my original plan I had Greinke as the blockbuster. There were a few reasons why I went this route. I think you know what you’re getting more with Greinke than Paxton, and I think he potentially fits better into the “beat the Red Sox and the Astros in the playoffs” formula. Still, I’m burying the lede here. The major reason I pegged Greinke was because I planned to include Jacoby Ellsbury in the package for him. I’ll write more about Ellsbury later, but almost more than anything this offseason, I dream of the Yankees getting someone to take his contract. Moving Ellsbury will require the Yankees taking on another awful contract, and Greinke’s league-leading $34 million/year contract constitutes as awful for a Diamondbacks team about to embark upon a rebuild. I thought the Yankees would have to include two top pitching prospects in that scenario, and I thought that Paxton would cost the same. Knowing beforehand that Paxton would only cost Justus Sheffield likely would have changed my entire thought process.

Let me get this out there: I’m excited that Paxton is in pinstripes. There’s so much to love here. He’s a tall lefty who throws gas and pounds the strike zone, and he’s the darling of the analytics community too. Just about every forward-thinking baseball outlet already views Paxton as an ace and Top 10 pitcher in the league. Just watch the highlights of his no-hitter and it’s not hard to see why. His K% since becoming a regular starter in 2016 is among the best of the best, his walk rate is low, and his FIP is elite and substantially better than his ERA. But that’s also the thing with Paxton. I feel like people are constantly coming up with reasons to explain why his production isn’t better than it is. Don’t get me wrong; he’s been a really good pitcher over the past three years. But he has not been an ace. He has not once qualified for the ERA title, as his 160 innings from this past season represent a career high. And while the Mariners of late have never been known for their team defense, two of his three season ERAs of 3.79 (2016) and 3.76 (2018) aren’t awe inspiring. Throw in the fact that he had a DL stint for a back problem this past season, one of the highest hard-hit percentages in the league, road stats worse than his Safeco Field stats, and a home run rate that skyrocketed in 2018…and yeah, there’s some reason for concern here. But let’s focus on the positives. Again, he misses bats like the Scherzers of the world. Everything points to him being a 5.0-7.0 WAR pitcher if he can go 200+ innings. And the home run rate from 2018 was so much higher than his 2016-2017 figures that I think it’s safe to assume it’ll regress towards the mean. It’s a misnomer to label Paxton an ace now. But there’s a good chance it won’t be 365 days from now.

In one sense, Paxton is actually extremely similar to J.A. Happ, who is heavily linked to return to the Yankees in the rumor mill. They’re both tall lefties with easy velocity who basically only throw fastballs. But in another and more important sense, Paxton is WAY better than Happ. The two arbitration years remaining on Paxton’s contract should equate nearly identically to the deal that Happ is forecasted to land in free agency, so the financials are a wash. If the cost of upgrading from Happ to Paxton for no additional charge is one top pitching prospect and two fringe major leaguers, then I think you have to take that deal every time. (And I’m saying that as someone who seemingly likes Sheffield more than most. Sure, the kid has shown some command issues and didn’t pitch well in his 2.2 MLB innings – it is BANANAS some people actually care about that. But even with those increased walk rates in the minors, Sheffield still excelled for the most part in both Double-A and Triple-A. Plus…he’s 22 for god’s sake! He’s got a ton of talent, and that wins out a lot of the time.)

  • The Ellsbury Dump: Jacoby Ellsbury/Domingo German/Greg Bird to the Marlins for Wei-Yin Chen/Adam Conley

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins

I teased it earlier, but let’s talk some Jacoby Ellsbury. Believe it or not, it’s already been five years since Ellsbury signed that ill-fated contract. In those five years, Ellsbury had one solid debut season, one bad full season, two pedestrian injury-riddled seasons, and one completely missed season. For all of Brian Cashman’s sorcery, this move was an all-time misfire. As if Ellsbury’s health and ineptitude wouldn’t make him tough enough to trade, he also has a full no-trade clause. So yeah, I don’t think he’s actually going anywhere. But still, this is a blog of hypotheticals, so you better believe I’m shipping his ass.

Like I said earlier, in order to trade Ellsbury, the Yankees would have to receive another bad contract in return AND include another piece(s) to gauge interest. Ellsbury is essentially on a 2 year/$47 million contract (there’s a third year with a $5 million buyout option that will 99.99% be exercised). Since the Yankees would aim to save some money with this trade, we’ll explore other short-term contracts in that $15-20 million/year ballpark. And while the two centerpieces of this trade will be salary dumps, we’ll still trade them to teams that theoretically could use their services. So for the Yankees…we’re eying starters.

Believe it or not, there are actually a few different starters who fit this extremely specific bill. (The 2014-2016 offseasons were the damn Wild West.) Here are the barf-inducing choices: Jeff Samardzija, Homer Bailey, Wei-Yin Chen, and Ian Kennedy. The Giants as a trade partner would actually make some sense, given their dismal outfield situation and likelihood of a total roster teardown. I just really dislike Samardzija, and I get the sense that his camp would have an expectation for Shark to be a full-time member of the rotation. Bailey is truly horrendous and one of the select few contracts in baseball that might be even worse than Ellsbury, so easy pass on him. Kennedy would actually work on the Yankees’ end, but there’s just no chance that the Royals would take on another huge contract for a bad corner outfielder.

So that only leaves Chen, which is good because this fit makes sense for both sides. Chen has never really been a good pitcher and definitely is not one now…I seriously have no idea what the Marlins were thinking with this contract. He’s owed $42 million over the next two seasons and has major injury issues too. But still, Chen is more mediocre than bad, which the Yankees would gladly take in this situation. He threw 133.1 innings last year with a 4.43 FIP. If he could duplicate that, Chen would make for a fine Opening Day #6 starter and mop-up man. Think Jaime Garcia in 2017. And for the Marlins, a healthy Ellsbury (a big if, I know) would probably crack the Opening Day lineup. Given that they are likely to trade their only great player in J.T. Realmuto this offseason and that the only other famous player on the roster is Starlin Castro, a little name recognition honestly might not be a bad thing for an organization that draws fewer fans than some minor league teams.

Now let’s talk the pot sweeteners. There’s no incentive for the Marlins to bring in Ellsbury for Chen straight up. The Yankees need to offer more, but probably not a whole lot more. I think any cheap starter with some talent and multiple years of team control would get the job done, and Domingo German has more than some talent. He has command issues and gave up a lot of runs in his 14 starts in 2018, but German’s stuff is absolutely nasty. He gets batters to swing at pitches out of the zone as well as anyone, and his curveball has the potential to be one of the majors’ best. So why the hell would the Yankees trade him and his five years of cheap team control? There are a few reasons, the first being that German is out of minor league options. While German would almost certainly crack the 2019 Yankees’ Opening Day roster, I can’t see him being anything more than a swingman for this team. So his biggest value to the Yankees might be as a trade chip. For a rebuilding team, he could crack an Opening Day rotation with the upside to be much more than that. Seems like more than a throw-in piece then, right? Correct, but the Yankees aren’t only getting Chen in this trade.

Adam Conley isn’t a big name yet even within baseball circles, but I’d bank on him being one by season’s end. A failed starter who was one of the league’s worst in 2017, Conley was converted into a reliever and became one of the more intriguing bullpen lefties in baseball. His standard stats don’t jump off the page, but his strong K:BB ratio and FIP indicate that even better things are ahead for him. With a fastball that sits around 96 MPH paired with a changeup that is already an elite pitch, I think the odds of Conley developing into 2016 Andrew Miller are higher than 2019 Andrew Miller reverting back to 2016 Andrew Miller. And with three years of cheap team control, Conley would cost WAY less. There’s a reason that the Marlins didn’t move him before the last trade deadline despite interest from around the league. It’s going to take a lot to pry him from Miami, so we’re throwing in Greg Bird too. Bird’s 2018 was such a disaster that I think it would be best for everyone involved for him to get a fresh start with a new team. He still has solid power, a good walk rate, and should be a good defender. But even if Bird never pieces it all together, he would still represent an upgrade at first base for the Marlins. They were the only team in baseball to have their first basemen combine for negative WAR in 2018. Even Bird didn’t sink that low.

  • The Three-Way:

Yankees receive: Jurickson Profar from Rangers, Chad Pinder from Athletics

Rangers receive: Jharel Cotton from Athletics, Luis Cessa from Yankees

Athletics receive: Sonny Gray from Yankees

Giants versus Athletics

(Quick note at the top here: I swear, I’m not plagiarizing from River Ave Blues. In his offseason blog, he also suggested an Ellsbury-for-Chen swap and a three-way deal that brings Profar to the Yankees. As already mentioned, my original plan for Ellsbury involved Zack Greinke, but I don’t think there’s any chance the Yankees trade for another big-name pitcher now. And as for Profar, I’ve loved him as a trade target for a while now. I’d mock a trade for him that’s solely between the Yankees and Rangers, but a goal here is to trade Sonny Gray and I don’t think his one-year deal makes any sense for Texas.)

Sonny Gray is going to get traded. Brian Cashman isn’t beating around the bush about it. He didn’t work out in the Bronx, but he’s still an interesting trade chip for the Yankees. His road numbers were significantly better than his Yankee Stadium numbers, and he has other peripherals that suggest he could return to his 2016 form. I’m not exactly sure how valuable of a trade chip Sonny is, but considering a few teams are already aggressively pursuing him, I think his value might be higher than most Yankee fans would guess. All teams with good/great offenses but no starting pitching like the Brewers and Reds would work as partners, but Oakland fits that mold too and I think a trade-back is in play here. The A’s had back luck with multiple injuries to starters last year, but this is still a team that was forced to resort to bullpenning in the Wild Card Game. I’m sure the A’s plan to stay aggressive this offseason while retooling a 97-win roster, and Sonny fills such a need for them that he would probably be the Opening Day starter.

The player coming back to the Bronx from Oakland is both the one who I am most excited to write about and the least known by the baseball community: Chad Pinder. I admittedly haven’t watched Pinder play a ton, but I’m familiar with his skillset and his stats, and he could not be a more ideal fit for the 2019 Yankees. Pinder, who is going to be 27 on Opening Day and is under team control for four years, is a good athlete who functioned as Oakland’s super utility man last season. He made starts at seven (!!!) different positions in 2018, yet most of them occurred at his best position in left field. Pinder is a capable second baseman, but he is a truly excellent left fielder. He ranked fifth among all leftfielders in Defensive Runs Saved, and he ranked first in UZR/150 among those with 400+ innings. The Yankees are obviously open to the idea of at least platooning Brett Gardner, as evidenced by last season’s trade for Andrew McCutchen. But the roadblock in replacing Gardner is that he’s a master of patrolling the tricky Yankee Stadium left field. Gardner is not a good hitter anymore, but his defense is clearly a priority for the Yankees’ brass because he continued to start in left over Giancarlo Stanton last year even as his offense dissipated. Pinder isn’t simply a right-handed left field specialist though…there is major offensive potential here too. Behind his solid walk rate and power, Pinder posted an eye-opening 113 wRC+ last year. (For reference, that’s equal to Eddie Rosario and Starling Marte.) But the real cause for excitement is that Pinder squares up the ball as well as anyone in baseball, and that’s not an exaggeration. He ranked 13th last year in both FanGraphs’ hard hit percentage and Statcast’s barrels per plate appearance. An adopter of the launch angle revolution, those stats make sense, as does his high strikeout rate unfortunately. Still, there is potential here to trade for a plus offensive and defensive player whose role would be a left field split at an absolute minimum…and he’s currently buried on the Oakland depth chart. Most of these “moves” are total hypotheticals that I could live without, but I adamantly want Cashman to trade for Pinder. Even if that entails a straight-up swap for Sonny because, again, I have zero clue what his true trade value actually is.

Jurickson Profar

The other player coming to the Yankees in this trade is far better known than Pinder, albeit not for the best reasons. Jurickson Profar debuted in the majors as a 19 year-old and spent years as the top prospect in baseball. Yet here we are years later, and Profar just logged his first season with over 100 games played in his career. Plenty of that lack of playing time can be attributed to injuries, but the full story includes Profar not playing near his lofty expectations. But just because didn’t develop into a perennial All Star doesn’t mean that Profar still doesn’t have a ton of talent. His standard stats from 2018 won’t blow anyone away, but they show that he was an above-average hitter. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Profar might be more than that, and with a skillset that the Yankees could desperately use. On top of being a switch-hitter with dead even lefty/righty splits, Profar has an incredibly rare combination of balance at the plate and power. Just listen to this. Profar was one of only eight players in MLB last year with a walk rate higher than 9%, a strikeout rate lower than 15%, and an ISO rating north of .200. The other seven? Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman, Justin Turner, Jose Ramirez, Manny Machado, Anthony Rendon, and Francisco Lindor. So yeah, the guy can deliver some offense. The same cannot exactly be said about Profar’s defense. Like Pinder, Profar was utilized as a super utility man in 2018, making at least 9 starts from every position in the infield. The majority of those starts came on the left side of the infield, which is strange, because he’s bad there. I guess he could offer a slight upgrade at third over Miguel Andujar late in games, but Profar is actually solid at second base and that’s where he’d provide the most defensive value if the Yankees choose to slide Gleyber to shortstop for the season. Profar is currently slated to start at third for Texas on Opening Day now that Adrian Beltre has retired, but Joey Gallo is better than him there and the Rangers could move Gallo back to the infield to make room for Willie Calhoun. So without a firm grasp on a position and with only two years remaining on his contract for a bad team, Profar should be attainable via trade.

Like I just said…the Rangers really suck. They stand no chance of competing for the AL West in the near future, so they should be thinking 3-4 years down the line. And ALL of their attention should center on pitching. Their projected rotation for 2019 is truly nauseating, and right now they have no help on the way either. The Rangers need a couple of arms who provide some immediate upside and multiple years of team control. Luis Cessa fits that description. Yankee fans don’t hold a high opinion of Cessa after years of spot starts from him, but he would be a valuable trade chip. Somehow still just 26 years old, Cessa’s fastball sits around 95 MPH and he posted a respectable 3.74 FIP in 2018. Texas would hold four years of control over Cessa, and honestly he’d probably make 25 starts for them next season. Completing the trade is Jharel Cotton moving from Oakland to Texas. Cotton really struggled in his first full season in 2017 and missed all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery, but he’s still an asset. A former Top 100 prospect with a filthy changeup, Texas could buy low on Cotton and take advantage of Oakland’s pipeline of younger arms. Also under team control for four years, it would be a worthwhile bet by the Rangers on Cotton becoming a top-end starter for them for 2020 and beyond.

THE GOODBYES

  • Ronald Torreyes

I know, I know. We all love Toe. But the Yankees have World Series aspirations, and the fact of the matter is that Torreyes isn’t very good. He has absolutely no offensive upside and his defense isn’t as good as we like to pretend. In this scenario I’m bringing in three other guys who can play the infield, so Ronnie T wouldn’t have a role beyond clubhouse mascot. Ideally he clears waivers in this situation so we could bring him back on a minor league deal (he’s out of minor league options), but anything more than that is sentimentality winning out.

  • A.J. Cole

A.J. Cole is horrific. I still can’t get over how long he survived on the active roster last year. The Yankees could miss out on every single free agent, and I’d still want them releasing Cole.

THE “WHAT IFS?”

I’ll be brief with these, because I have some self-awareness over how long I’ve gone already. But I want to at least address the names linked to the Yankees this offseason that I don’t have them bringing in.

  • Bryce Harper

I guess I shouldn’t be referring to this exercise as my “dream offseason,” because in my dream Bryce is wearing pinstripes. I just really can’t see it happening. Immediately following the Giancarlo trade last offseason, I wrote about how it was the big move that the Yankees spent years preparing for. I still think there is some truth to that, despite the Yankees kicking the tires on Bryce and the opening for a better corner outfielder. Inking Bryce to a deal in the ballpark that he’s expecting would have the Yankees paying around $90 million annually to three slugging outfielders (Judge is going to get PAID) for at least five seasons. I’m a total believer in Bryce and think he could win multiple MVPs for whatever team lands him, but even for the Yankees I’m not sure the financials make sense here.

  • Manny Machado

I don’t view Machado in the same light as I view Harper, but he’s still another potential MVP who might just be entering his prime. But unlike Harper, Machado would provide a better immediate fit. An actual third baseman who views himself as a shortstop, Manny could fill in for Didi for 2019 then kick over to the hot corner if Andujar’s defense doesn’t improve. It’s more complicated than that though. Again, he’s going to be crazy expensive. I also think Machado’s issues with effort and dirty play are valid and totally worth consideration when handing out a lifetime contract. But most importantly, I believe in Miguel Andujar, and to a greater extent the entire young core. Voluntarily breaking that up for one star player with a bad attitude would be reminiscent of mid-2000s Yankee teams that weren’t nearly as fun as some people act like they were. (They didn’t win either.)

  • Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco

I already touched on these guys, but again, their contracts are way too team-friendly and the Indians are way too good to trade either of them to the Yankees without getting at least Gleyber or Andujar in return.

  • Dallas Keuchel

Already wrote about him too…I prefer Corbin.

  • Nathan Eovaldi

For the contract that he’s about to pull, I’m perfectly content letting someone else invest in Nasty Nate. Best of luck.

  • Andrew McCutchen

Cutch played really well in his half season for the Yankees, but Cashman knew he was trading for a rental. Don’t think this would be a good long-term fit.

  • Zach Britton

Britton was shaky but good enough for the Yankees. It would be nice to have him back, but some team is going to pay him closer money, and that’s just not an option for the Yanks.

  • Michael Brantley

I’ve seen a lot of people pencil Brantley into left field for the Yankees, and I do not want them to do this. It’s a really bad fit to me. Brantley is a good player, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and will command a contract for at least three years around $15 million a year. I’d love to have his high-contact bat in the lineup, but with his awful injury history, bad defense, and limited power, I can live without it.

  • J.A. Happ

Another commonly predicted 2019 Yankee, another free agent that I don’t want the Yankees targeting. Happ was excellent after coming over at the trade deadline, and then he was terrible in the playoffs. You shouldn’t use postseason performance as an indicator of a pitcher’s “guts” or any shit like that, but it should open your eyes to the pitcher that Happ has been for the majority of his career. I’ve already called James Paxton a better version of Happ in this blog, but in that case then Paxton is like Happ 4.0. He’s old and is going to cost a lot, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he posts ERAs in the high 4’s over each year of his contract.

  • Yusei Kikuchi

I don’t know anything about his game, but Kikuchi is a 27 year-old lefty starter and the top Japanese free agent this offseason. If the Yankees lose the bidding war for Corbin, then expect them to be active here.

  • Andrew Miller

Fading reliever who’s going to be expensive and is suddenly getting old. Let someone else take this one.

  • Adam Warren

Ugh, I’d LOVE Warren back. I just don’t think that’s on the table after the Yankees traded him for international signing bonus pool space during the heat of a playoff run.

  • Charlie Morton

This one is tough. Morton has been excellent the past two seasons and will probably only sign for a one-year deal. It would be a major high risk, high reward move. I’d be fine with it, but I could also see it playing out where Morton gets paid just short of $20 million just to throw 50 innings.

  • Jose Iglesias

I would be all about bringing in Iglesias on a one-year deal to fill in for Didi. He can’t really hit, but he is an absolute wizard at short. I would love if the Yankees could continue Gleyber’s development at second base, but Iglesias is the only affordable shortstop in free agency who could justifiably start every day. And I wouldn’t bank on a 28 year-old this good at defense taking a one-year deal.

  • Josh Harrison

I kinda expect the Yankees to sign Harrison. They’ve publicly liked him for a while now and he has that 2B/3B versatility the team is searching for this offseason. He’s been solid offensively as recently as 2017, but I’m bearish on his future with the bat. I definitely wouldn’t hate this move; I just think there are better and cheaper options out there for infield versatility.

  • Neil Walker

What am I missing here? A lot of Yankees writers whose work I respect are hopeful that Walker will return on a one-year deal. Um, he was terrible last year? I know he had some big hits and improved in the second half, but this is still a guy who batted .219 (including .164 as a right-handed hitter) and played suspect defense. Let’s aim higher, people.

OPENING DAY ROSTER

Catchers

Gary Sanchez

Austin Romine

Infielders

Daniel Murphy

Luke Voit

Jurickson Profar

Gleyber Torres

Miguel Andujar

Outfielders

Brett Gardner

Chad Pinder

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Judge

Giancarlo Stanton

Starters

Luis Severino

Patrick Corbin

James Paxton

Masahiro Tanaka

CC Sabathia

Bullpen

Aroldis Chapman

Dellin Betances

David Robertson

Chad Green

Jonathan Holder

Tommy Kahnle

Adam Conley

Wei-Yin Chen

OPENING DAY LINEUP

  1. Gleyber Torres SS
  2. Aaron Judge RF
  3. Aaron Hicks CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton DH
  5. Miguel Andujar 3B
  6. Daniel Murphy 1B
  7. Gary Sanchez C
  8. Jurickson Profar 2B
  9. Brett Gardner LF

 

Follow me on Twitter @Real_Peej as we journey towards Ring No. 28!

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A Performance Review for the Giants’ Offseason (Dave Gettleman Might Be Bad)

The New York Giants are…bad. They’re really bad. The 1-7 record probably gives that away. As does Eli Manning ranking 28th in QBR, the team ranking 24th in DVOA, and the fact that the team is currently slated to pick first in the 2019 Draft. So yeah, the Giants STINK.

But still, I’m going to do my best to avoid getting overly negative here. You can do a simple Twitter search or turn on WFAN for that. What I’d rather do is reassess the past offseason, which was supposed to signify a new chapter for the Giants organization following the worst season in franchise history. The team went 3-13, Ben McAdoo lost the locker room and threw the best quarterback in franchise history under the bus, Jerry Reese seemingly blew another draft…I could keep going. It sucked so bad.

John Mara pegged Dave Gettleman as the man to lead the turnaround, and I was cool with the decision despite considerable blowback from the fanbase. Yeah he’s 67, but I was willing to look past his age because I was a fan of his time with the Panthers. He took them out of salary cap hell, made tough decisions, and was instrumental in building a 15-1 team that went to the Super Bowl. Turns out I, uh, might have given too much credit to his past. Gettleman’s first non-transactional moves as GM included: trashing analytics, saying Jonathan Stewart hasn’t lost a step, and repeatedly bringing up Eli Manning’s 2017 game at Philadelphia…to the point where it’s becoming increasingly transparent that that was probably the only Giants game he watched last season. He insisted and proved with some moves that he believed the team was in “win-now” mode, the same team that is now 1-7 and sold at the trade deadline. (We’ll talk more about what “win-now” actually means as we progress through this.) To put it delicately, he hasn’t inspired a ton of confidence.

Gettleman definitely had some misguided faith, but I don’t mean to insinuate that he believed too much in what was clearly the worst team in the league. A lot of people who are paid to talk about football bought the Giants as contenders this season. I did…not. When I wrote about them prior to the season, I saw them as a deeply flawed team with reasons for cautious optimism. My brain pegged the Giants as a 7-9 team, but my heart convinced me to write down 9-7 in a post that I would like to go back and edit. Still, I thought there was no chance the Giants would be a playoff team, and turns out I was way too correct on that front.

So take that as my performance review of Gettleman’s work so far, but in this article we’re going to look at the notable moves Gettleman made this offseason and during this season. We’ll ignore most of the minor moves and the moves that were fairly obvious, like cutting Brandon Marshall. I’ll include some prospective moves that didn’t happen, but I’m going to avoid writing about moves that were never close to fruition. For example, it would have been nice if the Giants had done more to address the crater at right tackle in the offseason, but with the team strapped for cash and willing to experiment with Ereck Flowers at a new position, that wasn’t discussed nearly as much as our hindsight would like us to believe. So here we go, starting with the best, because we’re trying hard to stay positive in Giants Country:

DEFINITELY GOOD

  • The Players That Gettleman Actually Drafted

If that wording seems strange and unnecessary, just keep reading. Saquon Barkley has been everything as advertised. He’s already one of the five best running backs in the NFL and is a lock to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. His highlight tape after just eight weeks is as loaded as some decent backs would put together over their careers. My fears of him having multiple duds on the ground have been justified (5 of his 8 games have been under 50 yards rushing) and he still has work to do confidently running between the tackles. But c’mon, he’s amazing. He’s breaking tackles at a mind-blowing rate and catches everything thrown his way. He’s special.

As for the rest of the draft class, Will Hernandez looks like a steal at the 34th pick. I think his performance thus far has been a bit overblown (Pro Football Focus has him as the eight best guard in football this year…I wouldn’t go nearly that far), but he still should be a building block for the offensive line. BJ Hill has arguably been the most consistent pass rusher on the team, and Lorenzo Carter has shown some explosiveness on the edge. Looking like Gettleman went 4/4 on his top picks. (We won’t talk about Kyle Lauletta.)

  • Extending Odell Beckham

I can’t believe I have to put this in writing, but paying a hefty price to keep the 25 year-old star of the franchise in town was a good decision. Amidst the offensive chaos this season, OBJ ranks third in receptions and fourth in yards across the league. I have to crunch some more numbers, but that might be good. Yeah, the ESPN interview was bad, but I’d prefer that John Mara get his own shit together instead of constantly reprimanding Odell for plenty of hypothetical shit. He’s our future and I’m 100% content with that.

  • Signing Kerry Wynn

Wynn has probably been the best defensive player (still) on the team this season, so I’d say keeping him around for $500K guaranteed was a good move. Only bummer is that he’s probably going to get paid a lot more than that by a contender this upcoming offseason.

  • Releasing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Hand up, I was dead wrong here. DRC was a Giants fan favorite and only two years removed from an All-Pro selection, so releasing him before the final year on his contract to save $6.5 million pissed a lot of people off. Especially considering DRC’s flexibility when the Giants had an obvious lack of depth in the secondary. But Gettleman was brought in to rip off some Band-Aids, and that’s precisely what he did here. DRC struggled in Oakland before abruptly retiring just a few days ago, so it’s safe to say Gettleman got out in front of this one.

  • Releasing Ereck Flowers

You might think this one qualifies as an obvious move, but taking on nearly $5 million of dead money to flat-out cut a former 9th overall pick is bold, regardless of how bad Flowers was is. But after this season, he’s off the Giants’ books forever. This was a giant middle finger to Jerry Reese’s last few years in charge.

  • Not Trading Landon Collins

I have no proof of this, but I assume a trade of Collins would have fetched a second-round pick at worst, potentially a first-round pick. And that’s hard not to salivate over for a safety on a rebuilding team without any future contract stability beyond the franchise tag. But you can’t just trade everyone. There is still a fan base. There are still games that can be won. And while Collins isn’t playing at his 2016 peak level, he’s still an excellent 24 year-old playmaker who vocally loves being a Giant. He’s the type of guy you want to build around.

LOOKING GOOD

  • Trading Jason Pierre-Paul

The only reason this trade isn’t in the above section is because JPP has been really good for the Bucs so far. His 8 sacks are tied for second in the league. Still, that figure is a bit deceptive. He’s not playing anywhere near his 2011 peak, and it’s pretty obvious that he’ll never get his explosiveness fully back. The same could have been said last year, but that didn’t stop Jerry Reese from handing him a $62 million contract that was preposterous the second it was signed. It’s a miracle the Giants got out of this albatross of a contract, and an even bigger miracle that they got a solid draft pick out of it too that became BJ Hill.

I mentioned before that I’d talk more about what a “win-now” mentality actually means. There were a few moves that absolutely fit into that category, like drafting Saquon and trading for Ogletree. But trading away JPP was as much of a rebuilding move as there is. The Giants clearly could have used JPP’s services this year, but Gettleman pounced at the opportunity to get out of a contract that made no sense for the player. But most importantly, the Giants took on FIFTEEN MIL of dead money doing so. That’s roughly 10% of the cap just gone! For reference to those who don’t closely monitor NFL salary caps (AKA normal people), most TEAMS don’t have that much dead money over a given season, let alone for one player. The front office was clearly looking towards the future with this move, with zero future commitments to JPP now. So I hesitate to say that Gettleman’s biggest issue was going “all in” on 2018. I think the more accurate problem was the lack of any clear vision. The Giants tried to have the best of both worlds, and instead got neither.

  • Trading Eli Apple

Apple actually played fairly well for the Giants this season, much to the surprise and delight of the fanbase. So I was fairly disappointed at first upon learning that the Giants only got back fourth and seventh round picks for a talented CB on his rookie deal. But as some time passed and the more I thought about it, my thoughts on the trade swung. Apple was such a nuisance last season that you could have convinced me at the time to release him for nothing. So getting back some draft currency for him is nice. It also tells me that Apple didn’t do nearly enough behind the scenes to change the brass’ opinion of him. Plus, it’s not like we’re talking about Champ Bailey here. Apple was AWFUL in his first game with the Saints.

  • Trading for Riley Dixon

This is the first of the next few moves in this category that could definitely qualify as “too minor to write about,” but I picked some worth quickly mentioning. The Giants’ special teams had been a complete disaster over the past couple of seasons, especially at the punter position. Dixon only cost a seventh round pick, and he ranks fifth in the league with a 42.0 net punt average. Definitely worth it.

  • Signing Cody Latimer

Latimer didn’t produce too much before landing on the IR, but I think in an alternate scenario this move could have played out like a bargain. Gettleman took a cheap flier on a veteran who never really got a chance to shine on his prior team, something he excelled at while running the Panthers. WR3 was (and is) a definite need for the Giants, and Latimer made some nice catches and stretched the field when he played. It’s tough to say this worked out, but I like where Gettleman’s head was.

  • Signing Michael Thomas

Another move that probably would be getting more praise had it happened for a better team. Thomas has been instrumental in stabilizing the special teams, and he’s played admirably in spot duty in the secondary. His kind of leadership and attitude is well worth it for $2 million.

TOO SOON TO TELL

  • Signing Nate Solder

Ah, the move everybody wants to talk about. And the move that almost nobody would agree belongs in this section. And take this: I’d lean closer to putting him in “looking good” than “looking bad.” But I’ll start with some concessions to the peanut gallery. Solder has been less than optimal in pass protection. It certainly didn’t help that his worst performance happened in the spotlight on a Monday night against the Falcons. It’s somewhat fair to have expected Solder to up his level after receiving the contract that he did.

But that’s the thing: this is close to the level Solder was at last year with the Patriots. He allowed 51 total pressures last season. That’s a lot. Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels just made 51 pressures look a lot better than Eli Manning and Pat Shurmur are. But you know what? Nate Solder does not suck. He has not been a disaster for the Giants. Mario Addison and Preston Smith are both good pass rushers, and Solder had his way against both of them. And he’s still shining in the running game, as evidenced by his good PFF grade of 71.3 so far. I’ll say it again: PFF isn’t gospel, but I’ll take the work of analysts paid to watch every snap over the comments from a few Twitter eggs.

What I truly can’t wrap my head around with all of the Solder criticism though is how fans apparently can’t remember the 2015-17 seasons. Nate Solder is SO much better than Ereck Flowers. And when you make as colossal of a mistake as the Flowers pick was, you’re going to have to pay the price to fix it. $62 million is a ton of money, but it’s not like Solder is a kicker. He plays the second highest in-demand position in football. Solid left tackles almost never hit free agency. Taylor Lewan is no Orlando Pace, and Tennessee made him the highest paid lineman ever just to avoid the open market. You can bitch about the Giants not signing the superior yet cheaper player in Andrew Whitworth prior to last season, but Jerry Reese chose not to invest in a 35 year-old. Turns out that was a bad call, but the logic at least makes sense. Get over it.

And one last thing: this wasn’t a “win-now” move either. You need a left tackle under all circumstances, ESPECIALLY if you’re developing a rookie quarterback. Ironically, this move actually convinced me the Giants were going QB in the first round. Whoops.

  • Trading for Alec Ogletree

Another move that most fans would slot into one of the below sections. But I’ll defend Ogletree…to a degree. Ogletree is one of the favorite targets of football analysts, as he consistently grades out terribly by the PFFs of the world. And that makes some sense. He’s not a sure tackler, and he chooses the wrong lanes against the run too often. But while “natural athleticism” and “leadership” are traits normally used to characterize players who just don’t produce, Ogletree excels in those departments, and they’re both something that Giants’ inside linebackers have been desperately missing for the last decade. Tight ends and third-down running backs had TORTURED the Giants over the past couple of seasons, but that hasn’t been the case whatsoever this year. The only tight end to catch 5+ passes with Ogletree on the field this year has been Zach Ertz, and that was only for 43 yards with most of that damage done outside against Janoris Jenkins. It’s not a coincidence.

There are some parallels between this move and the Nate Solder move. Both were clearly overpays to good-not-great players to fill positions that had been total black holes for the Giants. Do fans not remember UANI UNGA as the Giants’ 2015 Week 1 middle linebacker?! But there are some major differences too. First and foremost, the Giants traded for Ogletree’s bad contract and gave up a fourth-round pick to do so. Definitely fits the “win-now” bill, and I’m doubtful that Ogletree would have even received his contract in the open market. And that’s largely because solid inside linebackers are often available for bargains in free agency. I’m of the opinion that the inside linebacker position has actually become undervalued in recent years, but it’s still tough to justify bringing in Ogletree on a top-of-market contract when he obviously doesn’t belong in the Kuechly/Wagner tier. So while I’d say Ogletree has been a better 2018 Giant than Solder, they both land in this same category because of positional value.

  • Drafting Sam Beal

The casual Giants fan might not even recognize this name, because he was taken in the Supplemental Draft and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the preseason. But he’s the reason the Giants don’t have a third-round pick in this upcoming draft. They clearly believe in his talent, which is good because he’s a surefire starter next season.

  • Signing B.W. Webb

A few weeks ago, I would have punched myself in the face for putting Webb in this category. He looked like another castoff corner brought in by the Giants who had no business being on a professional football field. But Webb has actually been solid lately. And with the lack of future secondary depth that I’ve referenced numerous times, the Giants could use all of the capable bodies that they can find.

  • Not Trading Olivier Vernon

 I’m not sure whether or not this was actually on the table, so I’ll keep it brief here. Olivier Vernon is a stud. He’s only played three games this season, and in that time he’s obliterated Jason Peters and Trent Williams. I think he’s one of the ten best edge rushers in football…when he’s on the field. His health is just that big of a mystery. As great as he is, I’d have to concede that I’d understand if the Giants chose to forego nearly $20 million cap hits over the next two seasons. He’s that quality of player, but it’s a lot of money for a guy who gets injured often on what should be bad teams.

LOOKING BAD 

  • Hiring Pat Shurmur

Outside of Mike Francesa, why do I feel like I haven’t heard much noise from the New York media about Shurmur? The team is 1-7 and came into the season with plenty of premier talent on the roster (albeit a deeply flawed roster). He’s supposed to be an offensive guru, yet the offense has been stagnant all season and rarely seems to be on the same page. It’s definitely reasonable to place most of the blame for that on Eli Manning or the offensive line, but Shurmur was extremely successful last year in Minnesota with Case Keenum, Latavius Murray, and a line that might have had less talent than the 2018 Giants. We haven’t seen anything close to the creativity that that offense had, and this is a team with Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley that we’re talking about. I’m pretty sure that most of the notable offensive minds around the league would be able to scheme up something better than Shurmur has. Some proven coordinators just can’t handle head coaching duties, and that’s my fear with Shurmur.

Still, I’m not completely out on Shurmur yet. Again, I was so impressed with what he did in Minnesota, and I think he could replicate that with a young quarterback to develop. I also think it’s safe to say that Mike Shula wasn’t exactly his first choice for offensive coordinator. And no, this is NOWHERE near McAdoo levels of dysfunction yet. So I think he’s earned his fair chance with better surroundings, but it’s safe to say that his ice is definitely thinner.

  • Trading Brett Jones

The Giants traded Jones for a seventh-round pick, essentially just getting rid of him, right before Week 1 of the season. Jones hasn’t been good for the Vikings so far, but he was solid at both center and guard for the 2017 Giants. We’ll never know if he would have played poorly for the Giants this season too, but basically cutting a guy with his versatility and decent track record made little sense for a team that has already rolled out three different centers and two different right guards.

  • Trading Damon Harrison

This one is tough. I’ve really tried to remove all sentimentality when evaluating this trade, because I love me some Snacks. This definitely qualifies as one of Gettleman’s trademark “tough decisions” that’s designed to set the Giants up for the future. But I still don’t like it. I know Snacks is about to turn 30. I know he’s expensive. I know he plays a position that becomes less relevant by the day. I just can’t accept that the returns are worth it for losing a player of his caliber and presence. Snacks is an elite player by every definition, and he was the single best player on the Giants in a lost 2017 season. He plays hard every down, is beloved by teammates and coaches, and has shown no signs of slowing down. I’d like to believe the Giants wouldn’t voluntarily leave a better offer on the table, but I can’t wrap my head around the best run stopper in the league netting only a fifth-round pick regardless of the current state of the NFL. The fifth round is where teams start buying lottery tickets. And about his contract. It’s not THAT bad. The Giants are still on the hook for over $8 million of it even with him in Detroit, so he’s playing on a 2 year/$16 million deal. That’s a nice chunk of change the Giants will (hopefully) save, but I don’t care if my team is 16-0 or 0-16: I want Damon Harrison on my team for that contract.

  • Not Trading Janoris Jenkins

I still think Jackrabbit is a pretty good player. He’s lost some game since his 2016 All-Pro peak and definitely struggles against speed receivers, but he’s still a guy who did this and managed to shut down Michael Thomas this year. With that being said, he’s one of the last players I’d want around on a rebuilding team. He’s expensive for the next two seasons, and his Achilles’ heel is effort when things aren’t going well. You don’t have to look too far past the Eagles game this year to prove that. And yeah…I don’t expect things to go well too often over the next two years. I have to imagine the Giants were actively shopping him before the trade deadline, so it’s a bit stunning that they couldn’t put something together considering the amount of CB-needy contenders and the front office’s clear penchant for mid-round picks.

DEFINITELY BAD 

  • Not Drafting A Quarterback Second Overall

I mean…I’m sorry I waited this long to mention this, because it’s what it all comes down to. It’s arguably the most win-now move…ever? Saquon is obviously a tremendous player, but this is shaping up as an all-time bad decision on so many levels. So many levels to the point where this will probably be more efficient and I’ll drive myself less insane if I just list them:

  • Eli Manning is bad. He’s REALLY bad. He’s lost a lot of arm talent, refuses to take hits, and might literally be the least mobile QB I’ve ever seen. I desperately wanted the Giants to draft a QB, but I understood the gamble to name Eli the starter again for this season with supposedly better surroundings. It was a really bad bet.
  • I think most Giants fans are underestimating the chances that Eli is the Week 1 starter next year too. It’s his last year under contract, and he hasn’t shown me anything that would indicate his ineptitude is pushing him towards retirement. You might think Kyle Lauletta is the favorite to supersede him, but he can’t even pass Alex Tanney on the depth chart. (His recent arrest definitely didn’t do him any favors either.) So just get a free agent, you say. Well, quarterbacks of Kirk Cousins’ caliber almost never hit the open market, and when they do, they are well beyond the Giants’ price range for the near future. What about Teddy Bridgewater? I’d be on board, but I think he’s going to get paid a lot more than people expect, potentially to stay in New Orleans as Drew Brees’ successor. That leaves us with the Sam Bradfords of the world, and I wouldn’t blame the Giants for just sucking it up with Eli for a year instead. Bypassing a QB in this draft was not a one-year decision.
  • The Giants should have been licking their lips that they managed to go 3-13 in the year that they did. They stumbled into a quarterback class that had been heralded for years by scouts and draft experts as one of the best in recent memory. Instead, they panicked. They searched for something wrong with every top prospect instead of falling in love with certain attributes. And no, I am absolutely not writing off Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen because they’ve experienced rookie struggles. They’ve both shown enough promise to get fans of those teams excited about the future.
  • Now, the Giants are getting ready to pick near the top of another draft, but one that almost everyone agrees only has one first-round talent at QB in Oregon’s Justin Herbert. And he might even stay in school for his senior year. Brace yourself for Gettleman trying to sell us on how Will Grier is actually Andrew Luck 2.0.
  • Say Herbert does enter the draft. Perfect, right? I still don’t think the Giants will be in the front of the line for him. For starters, I don’t think the Giants are the worst team in football. I expect them to finish better than Oakland and Buffalo, and maybe Arizona and San Francisco too. Well three of those four teams definitely don’t need a QB, right? True, but I’m not buying Jon Gruden’s faith in Derek Carr and am definitely buying that he wants his guy under center when the team moves to Vegas. But they might take Nick Bosa or another pass rusher instead, right? Definitely, but John Elway makes the football decisions for a team without many holes but with a gaping one at quarterback. He’s already scouted Herbert in person. Connect the dots.
  • Running backs just aren’t that valuable. I’m sorry, but that’s not some new-age thinking. It’s just the way it is now. That’s not to say that great backs can’t push your team over the top and that all first-round running backs are foregone conclusions as busts. Obviously the Rams would take Todd Gurley at #10 overall again. But so much of Gurley’s recent success has to do with scheme and blocking. And other running backs in Gurley and Barkley’s company, like Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt, were selected in the third round just two drafts ago. Look at what’s gone on in Pittsburgh this year. One of the best running backs in football decided pretty much on a whim to not play this season, and their back-up third-rounder has filled his shoes without missing a beat. Saquon Barkley is already a Pro Bowler. He can improve, but there’s not too much room for growth. The Giants are 1-7.
  • Saquon is already really expensive. He’s only going to get more expensive. Running backs generally don’t get paid much anymore. The Giants are 1-7.
  • Saquon is going to get hurt at some point during his rookie deal. That’s not pessimism or some sick self-fulfilling prophecy. It just happens to running backs.
  • Even great running backs can’t fully function in broken offenses, particularly behind broken offensive lines. Just think Todd Gurley in 2016 or David Johnson this year. Saquon’s done an admirable job this season, but the Giants still have three massive question marks on the offensive line moving forward.

 

  • Restructuring Contracts

The ultimate sign of a win-now team, and something that NO team that isn’t one of the best in the league should be doing. First grade explanation of restructuring is that the Giants took some of the future money owed to Alec Ogletree and Janoris Jenkins, gave it to them now, but it counts against the salary cap over the next two years instead of this year. Yup, the 2018 Giants actually did that.

  • Signing Patrick Omameh

The Giants made more significant bad decisions than this one (check the essay I just wrote about the second overall pick), but this was Gettleman’s dumbest bad decision. Just inexplicably stupid. Omameh is next-level bad. Like, he’s already been benched for a few weeks levels of bad. And he’s in the first year of a 3 year/$15 million deal. That is serious money for a right guard. And if you’re wondering how the Giants didn’t see this coming, I have no answer for you. The Jaguars spent $66.5 million to replace him for god’s sake. (That replacement – Andrew Norwell, who was linked to the Giants all offseason – has been far from great for the Jags, by the way.) To add insult to injury, DJ Fluker has been a bulldozer in the running game for Seattle after the Giants let him leave town despite his decent audition in 2017. Fluker is flawed too, but he’s on a 1 year/$1.5 million contract.

  • Signing Jonathan Stewart

The runner-up in the dumbest bad decision contest! I mean, this move was D.O.A., and it still turned out worse than we expected. The Giants paid Stewart $4 million this season to run the ball 6 times for 17 yards. Who could have seen that coming from a 31 year-old running back who hasn’t been good since 2015?

  • Signing Kareem Martin

Martin hasn’t been a total disaster overall (he was in the first few weeks of the season), but he’s a mediocre player who also signed a 3 year/$15 million deal. The Giants can’t just be handing out contracts of that magnitude to players who would be backups on better teams.

  • Signing Curtis Riley

Arguably the worst player on the team over the full course of the season, Curtis Riley looks every bit the part of an undrafted player who had never made a start prior to this season. He’s just not a very good athlete and consistently takes terrible angles. I’m not sure what convinced the Giants to pick him over Andrew Adams, who played fairly well as a rookie in 2016 and completely balled out in the preseason this year.

  • Signing Connor Barwin

He’s old. He doesn’t do anything. Next.

  • Waiving Romeo Okwara

This one is truly infuriating. Okwara entered this offseason as a third-year player who had shown glimpses of potential during his first two seasons, yet the Giants surprisingly waived him. He signed with Detroit and has already posted 5 sacks for them this season. This is emblematic of a bigger problem with Gettleman. In multiple cases, it seems like his best reason for moving on from a guy is because he wasn’t one of his guys. You can call that selfish, petty, etc. They all apply.

odell saquon

So yeah, that’s basically the State of the Meadowlands. Gettleman has clearly made more bad decisions than good ones, with most of the major decisions being of the negative variety. It’s hard to trust him heading into another offseason, but at least this go-around he shouldn’t have free reign to spend away. So while next season will almost certainly be miserable, I hope you read this and took away some hope for the Giants. They’re going to have great draft picks again, and even if the top one doesn’t end up as a QB, this front office has shown they can crush a draft. And hey, Odell is around forever!

If you don’t follow me on Twitter, I’ve been keeping track of the Five Best and Five Worst players from each Giants game this season. It’s an evaluation system that’s flawed by design, but it’s useful to keep track of who has shown up and who has bogged down the team on a weekly basis. Here are those overall standings through midseason (5 points for the best player, 4 for the second best…). Players still on the active roster are in bold. There is a disappointing lack of bold:

BEST

T1. Saquon Barkley (+15)

T1. Odell Beckham (+15)

3. Kerry Wynn (+9)

4. Olivier Vernon (+8)

T5. Alec Ogletree (+7)

T5. Sterling Shepard (+7)

T7. Damon Harrison (+6)

T7. Landon Collins (+6)

9. BJ Hill (+5)

T10. Will Hernandez (+4)

T10. Cody Latimer (+4)

T12. BJ Goodson (+3)

T12. Eli Apple (+3)

T14. Dalvin Tomlinson (+1)

T14. Janoris Jenkins (+1)

T14. Lorenzo Carter (+1)

WORST

1. Eli Manning (-16)

2. Curtis Riley (-15)

T3. Patrick Omameh (-10)

T3. Chad Wheeler (-10)

5. Kareem Martin (-9)

6. John Greco (-8)

7. Ereck Flowers (-5)

T8. Evan Engram (-4)

T8. Ray-Ray Armstrong (-4)

T8. Wayne Gallman (-4)

11. Kaelin Clay (-3)

T12. Connor Barwin (-2)

T12. Nate Solder (-2)

T12. Russell Shepard (-2)

T12. Nate Stupar (-2)

T16. Jon Halapio (-1)

T16. BW Webb (-1)

T16. Stacy Coley (-1)