It could be a big week for terrible football; fans will be treated to matchups between several of the league's worst teams -- Broncos-Cardinals, Bills-Colts and Giants-Falcons. They've combined for an 8-28 record though only two of the six teams will be in the market for a quarterback this spring.
Today we're going to focus on the Giants, who look to be coming apart at the seams, mostly because Eli Manning has been terrible. In case you don't trust your eyes, advanced stats confirm as much; the 37-year-old ranks 27th in value per play among all quarterbacks, which is worst than Josh Rosen and Blake Bortles.
Not surprisingly, in our Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 1 pick. And while Herbert may be the best passer in the 2019 NFL Draft, a) it's no guarantee he'll declare for the draft instead of returning to school, and b) there's an argument to be made that the Giants would be better off drafting, say, Nick Bosa, widely considered the top draft-eligible prospect in the country -- despite the fact that .we have the Giants drafting
This may prompt you to ask, "So, does this mean the Giants would bring Manning back for another season?"
Instead, the Giants would look for a short-term solution through free agency.
Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and Josh McCown headline the top quarterbacks whose contracts expire after the 2018 season. Neither Taylor nor McCown would be a viable option but Bridgewater, who had a strong preseason with the Jets before he was traded to the Saints, would be interesting. Questions about his durability would be the biggest reason not to sign him though other names could find their way to the free-agency list once the season ends.
We're speculating here, but one of those names might be Joe Flacco. Yes, the Ravens' veteran, now in his 11th season, is having a resurgence of sorts. He's in the top 10 in both total value and value per play, and he's the beneficiary of a balanced offense that not only includes a solid running game but depth at wide receiver and tight end. But Flacco is scheduled to count $28.3 million against the salary cap in 2019 and $24.3 million in 2020 according to Spotrac. Given that he's 33, hasn't been good in recent seasons before this one, and that the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round last April, it's reasonable to think that the club might be willing to move on from Flacco after the season, particularly if he's not interested in taking a substantial pay cut.
Remember: Flacco ranked no higher than 26th in value per play among all passers from 2015-17, but he still has one of the league's best arms, is surprisingly mobile for his size, and has proven this season that if he's surrounded by talented skill-position players he can flourish. Guess what: The Giants have Odell Beckham, Jr., Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. The offensive line desperately needs to be retooled (again), but that can be addressed in free agency and the later rounds of the draft.
Look, it's mid-October. Free agency is nearly five months away, the draft is another six weeks after that, and there's no guarantee the Ravens and Flacco go their separate ways -- or even that the Giants end up with the NFL's worst record. But we'll end with this: if they did, and the Giants could get him on a two or three-year deal at around $20 million (hey, that's what the Broncos gave Sam Bradford on his one-year deal in the offseason), and take Bosa with the top pick, we can't imagine too many beleaguered Giants fans would be upset.
(Note: In the table below, the teams are sorted from "most likely to have the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft" to "least likely" using two different methods. The "Current record weighted by 2017 record" column does what the name suggests: Teams are first sorted by their '18 records, then by their '17 records. The other column is sorted by the "SportsLine's preseason projected draft order." Finally, here's if you'd like to see who we have each team taking.)
Current record weighted by 2017 record
SportsLine preseason projected draft order
New York Giants (1-5)
San Francisco (1-5)
Tampa Bay (2-3)
New York Jets (3-3)
Green Bay (3-2-1)
Chicago (to Oakland) (3-2)*
Los Angeles Chargers (4-2)
New England (4-2)
New Orleans (to Green Bay) (4-1)**
Kansas City (4-1)
Los Angeles Rams (4-0)
N.Y. Giants at Atlanta
The Giants are coming apart at the seams, mostly due to the fact that their 37-year-old quarterback looks and plays like he doesn't want to be on the field. But there is no Plan B, at least at quarterback, because the team used the No. 2 overall pick on transcendent talent, running back Saquon Barkley. But Eli Manning isn't the only problem; the defense has actually been worse than the offense, and Odell Beckham Jr. has been more distraction than game-changer. The Falcons, meanwhile, feature a top-10 offense that spends its Sundays trying to compensate for an injury-ravaged defense that, understandably, isn't very good. Atlanta's struggling defense could get a pick-me-up this week, however, because New York can't figure out how to get into the end zone.
Buffalo at Indianapolis
The Bills are without their rookie first-round pick, Josh Allen, who could be sidelined several weeks with an arm injury. It seems cruel and unusual to put Nathan Peterman back on the field, so just-signed journeyman Derek Anderson is in line for the start. Sean McDermott legitimately deserves Coach of the Year consideration; yes, the offense is unwatchable but the defense ranks third in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, and that unit has everything to do with their two improbable wins this season. The Colts, meanwhile, are slowly improving under Frank Reich, but those improvements come in fits and starts.
L.A. Rams at San Francisco
C.J. Beathard looked pretty good against the Packers, and there are certainly reasons for optimism in San Francisco after scoring 30 points in Lambeau. But Green Bay is a middle-of-the-road team, according to Football Outsiders, ranking 14th. The Rams are undefeated and feature the NFL's most potent offense. The 49ers' defense? It ranks 25th.
Denver at Arizona
This game looked a lot more interesting six weeks ago, back when we had no idea the Broncos' defense stunk or that new Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks would misuse David Johnson in such a way that he morphed into one of the league's least-effective running backs. If you're looking for a bright spot, Arizona rookie Josh Rosen has been pleasantly surprising amid a sea of a lot of unwatchable football. Meanwhile, the Broncos are currently on a four-game losing streak, and general manager John Elway, for the second year in a row, has used the word "soft" to describe a once-dominant defense. Not helping: Offseason signee Case Keenum looks nothing like the quarterback who had a career year with the Vikings in 2017 and more closely resembles the cast of characters he's succeeded in Denver. Through the first six games, Keenum's eight interceptions is tied for the most in the league with the beleaguered Derek Carr. This feels like a race to the bottom but the Broncos squeak out the win on the road.
Mercifully, it's the Raiders' bye week.