We are The Pulling Linemen: dedicated to bringing you stories and opinions from the guys at the centre of football - Linemen!

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Sunday, 8 December 2013

TPL Picks: Week 14 + Spread Bets

We've hit the three quarters mark of the season now. The night seems to last forever and for 20 teams there are just 3 or 4 games left.  How depressing.

So to brighten your day here are Toby's terrible spread picks and our weekly winners!!!

December Power Rankings

Another month, another power ranking!!! We're three quarters (and one game) through the NFL regular season now, and most of the playoff picture is set. The home stretch will see a couple of very tight division races and the awfulness that is the battle for the AFC's 6th seed.

We also have a clear front runner for most disappointing team of the year and the leader in the Battle for Bridgewater. We start with them, after the jump!!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

TPL Picks: Week 13 + Spread Picks

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers! Happy Week 13 to the rest of you!!!

As the nights draw in and the temperature drops every game becomes more intense, even for those fighting at the bottom for draft position. Last week saw some truly amazing football, from a comeback for the ages that nearly killed Toby, to a shootout in San Diego and even the years first tie.

This week sees Denver Vs. Kansas pt. II, but this time without Justin Houston. Speaking of Houston, they're now in prime position for the first overall pick this year which is something no one saw coming. They host a buoyant New England team who's offense looks as deadly as ever. Meanwhile Buffalo and Atlanta play in Toronto, with the Bills still in with a chance of a playoff spot.

You can find our picks, Toby's spread picks and the best player battles of the week after the jump. Enjoy!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Cameron Jordan: The Latest Monster From 2011

By the end of last year, people were already hailing the 2011 draft class as potentially the best defensive class in NFL history. You had Von Miller & Aldon Smith terrorising QB's, JJ Watt had just submitted one of the best seasons by a defensive player ever. And it wasn't just pass rushers, both Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman came out of the 2011 draft.

This year's defensive studs include those 5 players but they've been joined by 4 more of their draft mates; the Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is dominating every offensive line he plays, St. Louis' defensive end Robert Quinn trails only JJ Watt in QB Hits this year, Kansas City's outside linebacker Justin Houston lead the NFL in sacks until recently, and then there's the focus of this piece, New Orleans' 3-4 defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

TPL Picks: Week 12 & Spread Bets

Week 12 sees the marquee match-up of any NFL season, Tom Brady against Peyton Manning. It will be their 14th game against each other (Brady leads by a staggering 9-4 margin). Thousands of words have been added to the library of Manning-Brady debates this week in the run up to it, but we won't be adding many more here. It's not our game of the week due to the sheer gulf in talent between the two teams at the moment. Just sit back, enjoy the game and know that Toby will be yelling and breaking things as Manning bounces untouched in the pocket before finding Wes Welker over and over and over again.

Instead of our normal weekly picks column which features a look at one game, we're going to go over some of the more interesting head to head battles that will take part across the field, be they pass rushers vs. tackles, corners vs. receivers or what have you. We realise not everyone has the ability to put 3 or 4 games on at once, but hopefully by highlighting some of these match-ups you might watch some teams you'd never normally consider.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

TPL Picks: Week 11 - Game of the Week + Spread Bets

While the real world continues to meddle and prevent us putting out pieces during the week we can at least still provide our readers with our weekly picks piece, this time including a game preview!

Last week didn't exactly go to plan with out picks, none of us went over .500 as the Jags and Bucs claimed their first wins of the year while Toby's No. 1 team Indianapolis were embarrassed by St. Louis. But as least Toby was once again 2-1 in his spread bets!

This week sees three monster games, and all at different times so we can sit and enjoy them all (well, apart from Monday Night where Jon Gruden will once again ruin it for everyone). The 49ers return to the scene of their Superbowl loss as they take on the Saints at 4.25pm ET while New England travel to Carolina to face the best defense in the NFL. But our game of the week is in Denver where the Broncos will host the AFC West leading and undefeated Kansas City Chiefs...

Saturday, 9 November 2013

TPL Picks: Week 10 + Spread Bets

Welcome to an upsettingly brief Picks piece. Sometimes real life commitments get in the way of talking football, even for us. So there's no Game of the Week this time around, but rest assured that we're very excited to watch Carolina's fantastic front 7 go against the 49ers O-Line, which still holds the title of best line in football.

Elsewhere there are NFC North honours up for grabs as the 5-3 Lions travel to the 5-3 Maybe-Cutlerless Bears. As well as Josh McCown has played since stepping in there's no doubt that a healthy Jay Cutler is a better option, it's just whether he's fully recovered from his groin injury or not.

We also have our No. 1 team, Denver, back in action this week on the road in San Diego. It's a good slate of games, and you can see our picks, as well as Toby's improving spread picks, after the jump!

TD's Spread Picks (Last week: 2-1, Overall: 8-15):

I'm clawing my way back toward respectability!

Seattle (-4) over Atlanta

The Falcons are completely banged up in their passing game. There's a real chance that Seahawks would be best served by putting Richard Sherman on Tony Gonzalez rather than Harry Douglas or a banged up Roddy White. The Seahawks are vulnerable to teams with a good ground game and good pass rush, the Falcons have neither of these.

Oakland (+7) over New York

The Raiders aren't as bad as they played against the Eagles, and importantly the Giants don't have it in them to be that good on offense. It looks like Terrell Pryor will play, so I feel good about this one.

Titans (-13) over Jacksonville

Even for the Titans, you can't make this line high enough. No Blackmon means even fewer options for a struggling offense.

Toby Durant 
Phil Gaskin 
Gur Samuel 
Redskins @ Vikings

Seahawks @ Falcons

Lions @ Bears

Eagles @ Packers

Jaguars @ Titans

Rams @ Colts

Raiders @ Giants

Bills @ Steelers

Bengals @ Ravens

Panthers @ 49ers

Texans @ Cardinals

Broncos @ Chargers

Cowboys @ Saints

Dolphins @ Bucs

Last Week:


Thursday, 7 November 2013

November Power Rankings

A new month, a new set of power rankings. That's the TPL way.

Through 9 weeks we still have one undefeated team and two who are yet to taste victory. There have been key injuries, surprise defeats and runs of form both fantastic and horrible. So who tops our latest power rankings? Who are the big risers and fallers? You can find out after the jump!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

TPL Picks: Week 9, spread picks & Game of the week

Firstly our apologies for not getting our picks piece out last week. The NFL Fan Rally in Trafalgar Square and all the other pre-game coverage for the Wembley game kept us busier than we thought.

Week 9 sees the Kansas City Chiefs maintain their spot as the NFL's lone unbeaten team (Congratulations if you saw that coming!) while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars remain winless, but for different reasons. All the stories coming out of Tampa are hilarious to watch as an outside (they're not so hilarious for Gur though), the most recent one was coaches trying to tell Gerald McCoy for helping an opposing player up of the ground after a play. Because gentlemanly conduct seems to have no place in Greg Schiano's system. That guy will be lucky to get a Division III co-ordinators job next year.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

TPL Interviews... Roy Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars DT

When the Jaguars came over to London last week for their International Series game against the 49ers, the Jags' PR staff granted us some exclusive one-on-one time with defensive tackle Roy Miller, who, along with his team mate Geno Hayes, became the first players in NFL history to play three 'home' games at Wembley
Stadium, having both been members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009 and 2011. While we talked about playing in London, the conversation soon shifted to Miller's time with the Bucs - I'm a Bucs fan, what do you expect? - and Roy was very open and forthcoming about his time in Tampa. Among the topics we talked about were Roy's opinion of the NFL's London project and the city itself, being reunited with a former Bucs coach at Jacksonville, Josh Freeman, Greg Schiano and the perceived turbulence at his former team, and even some Xs and Os. Hit the jump for our exclusive interview with Roy Miller.

Photo courtesy of SBMedia. Special thanks to Ryan Robinson and Mike Farnham of the Jaguars' PR department.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Trading Places:- Who Should Move Where

The NFL trade deadline is tomorrow and traditionally very little happens on deadline day due to the difficulties of players picking up a new system mid-season. But if this were a "Madden" league there are more than a few players that would be getting talked about very seriously. So who could, and maybe should, go where?

If you agree, disagree or think we missed out a trade you'd like to see your team make before the deadline tomorrow let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Waiting For the Hurricane: the hidden factor in Sunday's International Series game

There are iconic moments in television history, clips that live not only in the collective consciousness of those who watched such moments live, but so too in the minds of subsequent generations, so strongly can they be woven into the cultural fabric of a society. In the minds of the British public, there is arguably no more infamous moment than that broadcast twenty-six years ago, when veteran weather reporter Michael Fish, on national television, laughed off a tip from "a woman that rung the BBC [who] said that she heard there was a hurricane on the way." Fish smiled at the camera and assured the British public that "if you're watching, don't worry - there isn't". A few short hours later, what would retrospectively be called the Great Storm of 1987 hit the shores of Britain, killing 18 and causing over a billion pounds of damage.

For those of you who aren't up to date with current climatological events pertaining to the British Isles: a hurricane that is predicted to be the most severe storm to hit Britain since 1987 is expected to hit the South-East of England this Sunday evening. The Meteorological Office cannot yet be certain when the storm will make landfall, but based on the Met Office's data, the more severe weather should begin to show its face between 7pm and 8pm.

Or, in NFL terms: right around halfway through the third quarter of this Sunday's International Series game at Wembley.

The Sights of the NFL Fan Rally

On saturday 26th October the NFL once again took over Trafalgar Square in the heart of London. Thousands of fans turned up for an afternoon of interviews, cheerleaders and drum lines.

The atmosphere was fantastic all day despite the on and off showers and grey skies. Here are some of our photos and videos from the day. Enjoy.

- All photos courtesy of Toby Durant

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Restoring the Roar Starts With Fixing Red Zone Woes

Thursday in Surrey saw the Jaguars players and coaches face the media with one thing on their lips. Finishing off drives and scoring touchdowns.

The Jaguars have scored just 6 offensive touchdowns this year and are the lowest scoring team in the NFL and everyone who follows the NFL is acutely aware of the Jacksonville Jaguars issues scoring points. And this week so are the Jaguars; almost single-mindedly. The message all week, from Brad Meester during Tuesday’s Play60 event to Thursday’s press conference, was about scoring touchdowns, particularly once they get into the red zone.

  - All photos courtesy of Tim Wainwright

Like Any Other Road Game: Wednesday notes from the Jaguars

For a team that had crossed the Atlantic twenty four hours earlier, getting ready to play a 'home' game on a different continent in front of an audience that will in the main be fans of other NFL teams, and travelling without its head coach, it's perhaps not surprising that a key theme among many of the Jaguars players who
spoke to the media yesterday was attempting to establish normalcy.

All photos courtesy of SBMedia

"We always set our clock for that time to try to get ourselves on that week’s schedule by the time we make it into [a] city and the same thing happened for this trip," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks explained about the team's usual preparation for away games in other time zones, "I think we’ll be pretty good and we’ll flow right into it. I don’t think it should be that big of a difference." Chad Henne, who Gus Bradley announced later in the day would be the starting quarterback for Sunday's game despite Blaine Gabbert being fully cleared for practice, also tried to sell the 'business as usual' message, stating "it's just football really. Once we get out on the playing field, it's still the same field out there that we've been playing on, just go do our jobs", though he admitted "I don't know if everybody is accustomed to the time change yet".

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Jags Bring the Meow, Not the Roar: Notes from the Jaguars' Play60 Event

Tuesday represented the first real opportunity for the Jacksonville Jaguars to embrace the city that they'll be calling home for at least one week of the next four NFL seasons - a chance to establish the tone of the relationship the team wants to have with the London community for the coming years.

The Jaguars' involvement in their Play60 event consisted of their mascot, a handful of cheerleaders, and all of six players.

All photos courtesy of SBMedia

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Golden Goals: not your usual Play60

The NFL's Play60 initiative has been a part of the International Series for several years now, ostensibly helping the league to push its promotion of an active lifestyle to curb obesity to international borders while introducing British schoolchildren to American football - and providing ample photo ops in the process, of
course. All Play60 events, however, are not created equal; for years, there were only a small contingent of NFL players at each event, more often than relegated to having the presence of a handful of rookies and backups guiding the children of London over step-over bags and through tackle dummies - until last year.

All photographs courtesy of SBMedia

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Bad Day For Quarterbacks

The modern NFL is an extremely quarterback friendly environment. Defenders can't hit you below the knee in the pocket. A slight graze of your helmet is a 15 yard penalty and safeties can no longer blast receivers over the middle. But sunday 20th October was dark day for signal callers around the league.

Two serious injuries have teams reeling while other minor ones have created openings for backups to stake their claim to starting jobs.

We got to see two rookies take to the field this week thanks to injuries and have varying levels of success while two wildly successful veterans had very disappointing days. But let's begin with the clearest of all these murky QB situations.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

TPL Picks: Week 7 + Spread picks & GOTW

A big 13-win week from Phil saw him roar back into contention while Gur's 11-wins pulled him level with Toby.

This week sees the Saints and Raiders take their byes, Peyton's return to Denver and a start for home town hero Case Keenum, the NCAA's record holder for most passing yards and passing TD's, in Houston.

There's also the exciting prospect of seeing the two teams that will be coming over to London next week as Jacksonville host San Diego and the 49ers travel to Tennessee. We will once again be at all the build-up events next week so keep a keen eye out for news, stories and transcripts from both teams practices and press conferences.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

TPL Picks: Week 6 + spread picks & Game of the Week

And then there were 3. Last week both Seattle and New England were handed their first loss of the season, leaving New Orleans, Denver and Kansas City as our last remaining unbeaten teams. In 2009 the Saints started the season with 13 straight wins on their way to a Super Bowl triumph over Peyton Manning's Colts who had won their first 14 games. Are we going to see another such show down between Manning and Brees? Both are leading seemingly unstoppable offenses and have defenses that are more than capable. There's a long way to go, but it's looking good for Manning-Brees II.

Past the jump you can find our Week 6 winners, Toby's weekly 1-out-of-3 spread picks and our game of the week. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

TPL Picks: Week 5 + spread picks & Game of the Week

Week 5 sees a bevy of good match-ups. Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck square off in Indy which will give us a good idea of how good the 3-1 Colts really are. Drew Brees takes his resurgent Saints to Soldier Field and Matthew Stafford heads to Lambeau to take on a Green Bay team that he has never beaten.

After the jump you can see our picks, Toby's 3 weekly spread picks and our game of the week. Enjoy.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

October Power Rankings

4 weeks into the season and the start of another month can only mean one thing: POWER RANKINGS! This is our first set of power rankings for the year, and as every they're an average taken from each of our own set of rankings.

So sit back and enjoy them, and as ever if you disagree or would like to argue that your team should be higher or lower then you can leave a comment or get in touch with us via Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

TPL Picks: Week 4 + spread picks & Game of the Week

Week 3 had a fair dose of craziness scattered through it. Cleveland flipped Trent Richardson to Indy, benched Brandon Weeden and then went out and won a thriller in Minnesota just when everyone thought they were running up the white flag at the Factory of Sadness. Then there was the 7-sack beat down the Carolina Panthers put on the Giants.

So what do we get this week? Well if you haven't been paying attention, the Vikings and Steelers have made their way across the pond for the first of two "International Series" games this week, as the NFL continue to dip their toes deeper into the UK sports market. Is it a precursor to a permanent franchise being based here? Maybe. After all they are upping the schedule again to 3 games next year, but we'll have to wait and see how that next litmus test goes.

For our picks, Toby's increasingly dodgy spread picks and our game of the week, you'll have to go to the other side of the jump!

Friday, 27 September 2013

A Very Important Day: Notes from Thursday's Vikings Practice

Coming off an early-morning walk through with the team, Coach Frazier opened his Thursday press conference with a short statement declaring it to be a "very important day for our team", a day which the Vikings would use to focus on the fundamentals of the game, and to practice some of the situational football that has let them down over the first three weeks of the season - and, of course, to see if QB Christian Ponder's rib injury would prevent him from starting on Sunday.

TPL Weekly Awards - Week 3

Week 3 in the NFL saw a number of outstanding games, some shocking results, and a few teams started to show their true colours. Amongst the headline makers, we've again picked out the best and worst performances from the week's action, as well as hailing an unsung OL hero. Our week 3 MVP, LVP and O-lineman of the Week are after the jump.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Minnesota Vikings versus Big Ben

Ask your average British person to describe "Big Ben" and the picture they'll paint you is one of a large clock tower on the bank of the river Thames. Well this weekend the British public will be exposed to a completely different Big Ben. A 6 foot 5, 240lb quarterback who had cornered the market on frustrating pass rushers long before Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and the Class of 2012 joined the NFL.

We've all seen the plays that have been common place since Ben Roethlisberger came to Pittsburgh in 2004, the big #7 moving around the pocket, staying up despite taking hit after hit and then some how getting the ball down field to his receivers when he's got pass rushers hanging off him.

Sure, Ben's style of play has lead to him taking some unnecessary hits which have resulted in missing games through injury, but he's also lead the Steelers to 3 Super Bowls since 2004, a feat matched only by Tom Brady.

So how do the Vikings feel about facing off against this Big Ben? Well we found out today....

Just a Normal Week: notes from Wednesday's practice

After their photo and publicity op with London schoolchildren on Tuesday, Wednesday was business as usual for the Vikings at their adopted home for the week, The Grove Hotel in Watford.

A full sized grass football field (complete with Y-shaped goal posts), a Portakabin-style mobile fully-equipped weight room, cold tubs, video platforms atop cranes - if it weren't for meticulous green lawns that surrounded the area, you could be forgiven for thinking you were at an NFL training facility, rather than one of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the vicinity of London. Various people at the Vikings organisation, for the ownership down to the players, have stressed that the team have tried to make this as normal a week as possible, and from the facilities we were shown at the Grove, it's an aim the Vikes have pulled out all the stops to try and achieve.

Running Back Into Contention?

3 games into the season and a return to the playoffs looks like a long shot for the Minnesota Vikings. They've already lost to 2 divisional rivals, first on the road in Detroit and then in a heart-breaker at Soldier Field to the undefeated Chicago Bears. Then there's the 1-2 Green Bay Packers who already have two of their tougher out of division games behind them. So how does a 0-3 team make it to January football?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Sights and Sounds of the Vikings at the London Play 60

A collection of photos from today's Play 60 event

Viking Invasion: Minnesota kicks off Game 7 of the International Series at today's Play 60 in London.

The seventh International Series game may take place this Sunday, but the events surrounding the match began today, with the Minnesota Vikings holding a Play 60 event in the shadow of Wembley Stadium for children from some local schools. The Pulling Linemen spoke with some of the Vikings players to find out their thoughts on the International Series, the state of their season so far, and the importance of their game against the Steelers under the Wembley Arch.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

TPL Picks: Week 3 - Winners, Spread picks & Game of the Week

After two weeks the pressure is already on for the 8 0-2 teams, two of whom made the playoffs last season. Some may feel that a tough opening schedule is the reason (Minnsota), or that bad luck has played its part (Tampa Bay). Others, like the Jaguars, are right where we expected them to be.

Meanwhile our 2-0 teams (including the now 3-0 Chiefs) are hardly all happy with themselves. New England have scratched out a pair of divisional wins and will need a greatly improved offensive performance against Revis and his new team this week, while Houston have had to fight tooth and nail for their wins and over-come a very iffy start to the season from Arian Foster.

So who are we picking for some crucial week 3 match-ups? Find out after the jump!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What We've Learned So Far

2 games into the 2013 season and some teams are looking like a shoe-in for Super Bowl XLVIII, while others should already be planning for the draft in April. Some perennial contenders look to be falling back but others have come out of re-building phases looking strong.

So, what conclusions are we making after 2 games? Find out after the jump!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

TPL Picks: Week 2 - Winners, Spread picks & Game of the Week

Week 2!! Football is firmly back, we saw surprises, both good and bad, unbelievable performances and heartbreaking losses in week 1. This week we've already had possibly the worst game of the year on thursday in Foxboro which saw the Patriots very nearly drop what should have been an easy win.

After last week's straight win picks, this week we're hitting you with a couple of spread picks courtesy of Toby and his "expertise" as well as a break down of our Game of the Week. Check them all out after the jump, and as ever if you disagree feel free to let us know!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

TPL Weekly Awards - Week 1

That warm, fuzzy feeling inside is thanks to the NFL being back. Setting your fantasy lineups, making your eliminator picks, then settling down to a Sunday of action - it doesn't get much better than that. And with the start of the new season, here at TPL towers we've decided to launch some weekly awards, for the MVP, LVP (yeah, least valuable), and Offensive Lineman of the Week!

There were some great candidates for each award in Week 1, so take a look after the jump at the nominees and winners!

Friday, 6 September 2013

TPL Picks: Week 1

At last week one is here! It's been a long summer and a teasing pre-season, but finally it's time to get to serious football and put our money where our mouth is when it comes to picking winners. The great thing about week one is that everyone thinks their opinions are right. You can spin pre-season performance any way you want, and start every discussion with "well on paper...". The great thing is that now the debates come off the paper and onto the grass (or field turf) and get decided in the best way possible: 60 minutes of arse-kicking football!

So here are our week one picks, dive right in...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Best Offensive Lines in Football

Just what makes a great offensive line? We've all heard about guys like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady making their offensive lines better simply by making the right decisions and getting the ball out quickly. We know that
players like Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy can get yards by themselves if need be, but which unit stands out as the very best in football? And which others will give them a run for their money?

If you've not guessed already, we here at The Pulling Linemen love linemen. We're perfectly happy to sit down on a sunday night and ignore the "skill" guys in favour of a good battle in the trenches. So just who do we rank as the top offensive line in football? And who are their biggest challengers in 2013? Find out after the jump

TPL Picks 2013

So here we are, September is upon us and so too at long, long last is the NFL season. Which means, we need to pick some winners!!

Our picks can be found after the jump, everything from division winners to the Super Bowl and player awards is covered, as well as our pick in the Battle for Bridgewater. We've each taken a moment to explain some of the riskier and more controversial picks. If you agree with us or fancy debating your side you can leave a comment or get hold of us on Twitter or join our Facebook group.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

TPL100 2013: The Top 10

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

So, after weeks of counting down our list of the one hundred best players in the NFL for the 2013 season, we come to the final leg: the top ten. As always, let us know what you think not just of these ten names, but the whole list, on Twitter, Facebook or e-mail.

The best ten players in the NFL are revealed after the jump...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

TPL 2013: 20-11

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

Top 20. Now we really reach the meat of the TPL100 for 2013. Within the next ten names we find the two best DBs in the NFL, two WRs who've long been considered as elite, two RBs who can still be considered "feature backs" in a league that rushes by committee, two pass rushers, one of whom may be a little lucky to find himself so high based on recent troubles, and finally two big guys, one on each side of the ball.

And it's with one of those big guys that the top 20 kicks off... 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

TPL 2013: 30 - 21

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

Football's back! Actual football in pads with people hitting each other and everything! Sure, it's only the preseason, but after so many long months without the NFL on our screens, we'll happily gulp down every morsel of football there is. With the Hall of Fame game now played, in which our friend George Selvie absolutely killed it (well, he follows us on Twitter - that means we're friends, right? Why not be our friend to and give us a follow), the other 30 teams will get their first taste of full-speed on-field action starting on Thursday. Yes, the starters don't really get much time until the third game of the pre-season, but even this opening salvo of games will excite the diehards, as it's the first time you get a feel for who might stick on the roster come September - and who is quickly playing their way out of a roster spot and into unemployment. Most importantly, it means there's just one month left before regular season kicks off - and just one month left of the TPL100 countdown. We begin the next instalment with #30...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Fantasy Football Season Is Almost Here

It might be the height of summer, but some of us are dreaming of the dark nights in winter when fantasy football titles will be won and lost.

If you play for fun or big bucks, are in one league or 20 then you need to look at our rankings! All my rankings are based on ESPN standard scoring (so no points per reception or any of that extra stuff). And all these rankings are based on a mixture of off-season changes to team and circumstance, some of my own statistical analysis and good old fashioned gut instinct.

They'll be no overall ranking or general strategy guides here, mostly due to me wanting to keep my cards close to my chest so I can get back to winning ways this year! Nor will there be any D/ST or Kicker rankings, they're so unpredictable year to year and you shouldn't be drafting them until the end anyway. So have a look at my rankings and use them as a guide and I guarantee* you'll be dominating your league all season.

As ever, we're interested in any disagreement you might have with these rankings. If you think someone is too high or too low feel free to leave a comment, or contact us via Twitter or Facebook.

* - Not really.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

TPL100 2013: 40 - 31

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11#10-#1

Training camps are open around America, key injuries are already happening and suspensions have been handed out. It can only mean one thing... Football season is upon us!
The annual Hall of Fame game is just over a week away, HBO's "Hard Knocks" crew are gearing up to give us another behind the scenes look at the Cincinnati Bengals and we here at TPL are planning out our pre-season coverage and picks.
But during all that we will continue with our countdown of the best players in 2013, with the number 1 player being revealed on opening day.
Here you can see players 40 to 31, with the links to everyone else above. Sit back and enjoy!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

TPL100 2013: 50 - 41

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

The Buccaneers rookies are already in camp, and the first whole-team camps are just three days away. Three days! And there's only 18 days until the Hall of Fame game kicks off on August 4th. Can you feel the excitement starting to build!?

Finally we'll have something to discuss other than which mediocre QB will guide the Jets to a losing season, and just how many people have had Aaron Hernandez's name laser-removed from tattoos in the greater Boston area.

Perhaps more importantly, we mark the half way point in our TPL100 countdown with #50, and as we get into the real meat of our list we'll start to show our true colours, with all the players from here-on-in receiving consensus top 100 nominations. Who made it? Take a look after the jump.

Monday, 8 July 2013

TPL100 2013: 60 - 51

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

The calendar has turned to July, and that only means one thing - training camp is right around the corner. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we're only a few weeks away from football returning into our lives until February - happy days indeed! Only a few more weeks before sporting media can stop having to fill airtime and column inches with ridiculous stories only loosely related to the NFL and can focus on actual football - less of Sapp/Strahan feuding and of Mark Sanchez's bare ass, more of coaches and players discussing how their schemes are coming together, of rosters being constantly re-shaped as general managers look for that one hidden gem buried deep in the remnants of the free agency market, and of depth charts being finalised as grizzled veterans are replaced by young studs and highly-touted former first rounders battle free agent signings as they try to shake the 'bust' label before they find themselves a washed up cautionary tale for incoming rookies. It's almost back, my friends. Almost.

But not quite yet. The first rookies to report to camp will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers', who report on the 17th; the first full-team camps to report belong to the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys, the two teams who will play in the Hall of Fame game on August 4th, which open up on the 20th. With the return of the NFL so tantalizingly close, we all need a football fix to get us over the final hump. Luckily, with the TPL100 closing in on the halfway point of our countdown, you can find your fix after the jump...

Thursday, 27 June 2013

TPL 100 2013: 70 - 61

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

Welcome back! We continue our march towards the regular season with one name from out Top 100 coming out every day. As we hit the top 70 we're coming into elite territory with perennial Pro Bowlers and mutliple All-Pros at almost every spot.

As ever, if you disagree with our ranking, think a player is too high or too low please do leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and we'll answer in full in our mailbag section.

So let's get into it again, starting with our 70th ranked player.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

First Sound: Patriots cut Aaron Hernandez

(Our sympathies are with the family of Odin Lloyd, but please remember we're here to talk about the footballing ramifications of Hernandez being released, not the morality of Hernandez's accused actions or the Patriots decision to cut him before formal charges were laid down or before he has a trial)

The average NFL career is just over 3 years. For a 4th round pick it's even less. To get 175 receptions, 2,053 total yards and 18 touchdowns in the first 3 years from a 4th round tight end is an excellent return for a small investment.

For it to end in release after that tight end was taken away in handcuffs during a murder investigation, less than a year after signing him to a 5 year, $40 million extension is terrible.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

TPL100 2013: 80-71

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

Twenty down, just eighty to go in this year's TPL100 rankings! We've already seen a plethora of rookies, but only 3 offensive lineman (what's wrong with us...!?). Here's hoping we redress the balance with players 80-71 below.

Remember to keeping checking back daily as we reveal one player per day in a countdown to the start of the 2013 NFL season, and then shout at us if you think we've taken our eye off the ball with one of our nominations! Hit us up in the comments below, on twitter @PullingLinemen, or on Facebook.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

First Sound: Tebowmania heads to New England

Last year I did one of these for Tebow's move to the Jets, and after they cut him in April I sincerely hoped I wouldn't have to write another. But with tonight's news that my beloved New England Patriots decided to sign "The Circus" (yes, I did just come up with a nickname for him) I have to do it again.

The first thing I did when I saw the news, other than register my displeasure on social media, was fix a very large, very strong drink. I disagree with Tebow's politics and preaching, but that's not the reason I hate this move. It's what he can and can't offer on the field, and what happens around him off the field.

Friday, 7 June 2013

TPL100 2013: 90 - 81

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

We're only ten players into this year's TPL100 and already there's been debates and arguments tweeted at us over the names already revealed! If players #100-#91 brought out some strong opinions, we can only imagine how you'll react to seeing which players were ranked in the next group of ten...

But don't just keep it to yourself! If you agree or disagree with where the players already reveal were placed, if you've got an opinion on the list so far, we want to hear it! Leave a comment below, tweet us @PullingLinemen or join our Facebook group - like last year, we'll reply to the best comments at the end of the countdown. So speak up and tell us why you think we're right or wrong!

And with that said, it's now time to reveal #90 on the 2013 edition of the TPL100...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

TPL 100 2013: 100 - 91

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

So here we go! Another summer, another run down of The Pulling Linemen's top 100 players in the NFL.

Sure, you could go to NFL.com and see where the players voted one another, but why would you do that when your 3 favourite UK linemen have put together a far superior list?!

Over the next 100 days, running right up until opening night, we'll be revealing a new player every day. So make sure you check back regularly to see where your favourite player comes in. And as ever, if you agree or disagree, or just want to have a debate, leave a comment or hit us up on twitter, @PullingLinemen.

Monday, 27 May 2013

TPL100 2013: Introduction

Introduction | #100-#91 | #90-#81 | #80-#71 | #70-#61 | #60-51 | #50-41 | #40-#31 | #30-21 | #20-#11 | #10-#1

If the 2013 season started tomorrow, who would you want on your team?


It's that time of year, when the sun is in the sky, summer's just around the corner, there just over 100 days until the 2013 season opener, and Gur decided to re-use the same introduction almost word for word as last year. Yes, it's almost time for your favourite linemen to reveal who we judge to be the one hundred best players in the NFL right now - the one hundred players we would want on our team if the 2013 season started tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Re-Drafting The 2010 Class

We're now a week removed from the 2013 draft, and even before Jonathan Cyprien was taken to open up the 2nd round every analyst had "draft grades" for the teams. Players who still hadn't put pen to paper on contracts were being graded? the word "premature" doesn't even come close to describing that situation.

Draft analysis has never been a bigger industry, with every major sports network in the US having their own "experts" as well as a plethora of independent draft evaluators, and there's a huge audience for such work. This is why we can sit at home and laugh at Dallas for "reaching" on Wisconsin's Travis Frederick at 31, or be stunned when Sharrif Floyd is only taken at 23 because for months everyone's been telling us he should be going in the top 10. We're calling out hits and misses on whole draft classes before a down has been played, and that's just not fair on the players or the teams who pick them.

The old mantra was that you don't evaluate a draft class until they've been in the league for 3 years. Which means rather than evaluating the 2013 class all week, the experts should have been telling us about the 2010 class. But they haven't so it's been left to your favourite UK Linemen to get down to the nitty gritty of assessing who came out ahead or behind 3 years ago, and who's surprised everyone with great or terrible performances. So, it's re-draft time!!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Round Table Mock - Day 2

Our round table is more of a head-to-head this time round as Phil's had to duck out due to work overload. But there are no such restrictions for Gur or Toby today which means that we can bring you up to date with our inaccurate musings (Just the 1 1st round pick from our mock was on the nose last night!) about who could go where when Roger Goodell steps out onto the stage once again.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

TPL Roundtable Mock Draft

For this mock draft we've decided to go in a different direction. Rather than doing one individually we decided to split the 1st round between us, adding a little bit of spice to a normally bland affair.

Toby will be taking picks 1, 4, 7 etc while Gur handles selections 2, 5, 8 etc and Phil presides over 3, 6, 9 etc.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Toby Durant's Mock Draft 1.0

It's April, which to an NFL fan can only mean one thing. Time to get serious about the draft! Everyone likes to think they would be great in their teams "war room", sifting through a big board, debating prospects and where they might fit on your team and then negotiating trades to try and get the best value. Thanks to the availability of information on college players these days, from full games on youtube to scouting reports and network "experts",  even idiots like us can put together mock drafts. So here's mine!

Before getting into it let me just say that I won't be mocking any trades this season. The rookie wage scale that has been bought in has made trading up far more appealing to teams now and as such we saw a flurry of unexpected and influential trades. Trying to predict which teams will dive up the board for a player is even more difficult than a straight forward mock! So let's get into it. There are a few surprises, including 2 Quarterbacks in the top 10....

Monday, 18 March 2013

Free Agency So Far: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

We're almost a week through free agency and while we haven't seen any contract nearing the $96 million mark that was given to Mario Williams last season there have been some staggering signings.

From Miami's spending spree and a flood of players leaving Baltimore it's been a fast-paced, action packed week that's had us glued to twitter (which was surely invented for NFL Free Agency!). There are still plenty of quality players out there for teams to pick up, but with the top of the market starting to thin out it's a good time to go over what I think were some of the best and worst signings of the first week of free agency.

Agree or disagree with what I've said? Or just have an opinion about who your team should go after next? Leave a comment or get on twitter (@PullingLinemen) and tell us!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Filling The Holes: NFC West

We finish up our series with a look at the NFC West.

For the majority of this century the NFC West has been the weakest division in football, and yet they are the only division to send every team to a Superbowl since 2000 which is mightily impressive despite their 0-4 record in those Superbowls.

In recent seasons the NFC West has gone from having a 7-9 winner to something of a powerhouse as the Seahawks joined the 49ers as serious contenders in 2012. So what do they have to do to take that next step and win the divisions first Superbowl of the 21st century?

Filling the Holes: NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Notable Free Agents: Tony Gonzalez (TE), Brent Grimes (CB), Sam Baker (LT)

Holes: Cornerback, Defensive End, Running Back

The Falcons were not far away at all from their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history last season, and unfortunately for them, the main reason for them falling short is not able to be fixed through free agency or the draft, but through a change at the top – the conservative decision making of head coach Mike Smith, which let the 49ers back into the NFC Championship game and would have let the Seahawks snatch victory over Atlanta a round earlier if not for a miracle drive from Matt Ryan. Still, Smith is unlikely to change his ways – and owner Arthur Blank unlikely to change his head coach – any time soon, so we may as well focus on what holes can be filled through FA and the draft.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three holes I see in the roster correspond to three veteran players who the Falcons cut to save cap room: Dunta Robinson, John Abraham and Michael Turner. Robinson was definitely over paid, but with the team unable to reach a deal with free agent Brent Grimes, the Falcons have been left very thin at corner, with Asante Samuel now the only starting-calibre corner on the roster; the situation would have been even worse if the team hadn't been able to re-sign safety William Moore. If Atlanta can't come to an agreement with Grimes in the few hours before FA kicks off, expect them to go after a corner aggressively this offseason.

Cutting their best pass rusher in John Abraham, who has averaged 11 sacks a year over the past three seasons and was responsible for a third of their sacks in 2012, was always going to be a difficult decision, as there was little behind him to bring heat to opposing quarterbacks. Defensive end is a position that is sorely in need of upgrade if Atlanta hope to take the next step in the post-season – unless, of course, there was more to the hiring of Mike Nolan last offseason (a 3-4 guru) than initially met the eye?

On the other side of the ball, the Falcons will need to find a new running back – Jacquizz Rodgers is simply not built to tote the rock down-in, down-out. Still, running backs are a dime a dozen, so I imagine Atlanta will wait to draft a ball carrier in the mid rounds rather than look to free agency to fill this hole. Assuming Tony Gonzalez comes back, though, the Falcons merely need to fill those self-inflicted holes to be in with a real shot at post-season glory – as long as Mike Smith doesn't get in the way of Mike Smith.

Carolina Panthers

Notable Free Agents: None, really

Holes: Cornerback, Defensive Tackle, Wide Receiver

The fact that Carolina have no notable free agents is not a testament to the front office's shrewdness in locking up any potential notable FAs that might have left the team; quite the opposite, in fact. It actually reflects how poor the talent on this team is, with only three or four units that could really be said to have both talent and depth (one of which is that criminally underused backfield). Defensively, they have a very good pair of defensive ends, and two great middle linebackers – which means playing one of their best defensive talents out of position in a 4-3. Outside of those four players, though, their defense is a shambles, and they need to both seriously improve their entire secondary in a pass-happy NFC South, and find some decent defensive tackles to prevent offensive linemen just heading straight up into the secondary to deal with Kuechly and Beason – something offenses can afford to do while the DT situation remains as poor as it does.

Offensively, the biggest improvement that can be made is if new offensive co-ordinator Mike Shula actually uses the running backs the team paid so much for in order to make life easier for Cam Newton. Newton would also greatly benefit from the addition of a second receiving threat on the outside, as, right now, opposing defensive co-ordinators can afford to rely on a strategy of “double Steve Smith, keep an eye on Greg Olsen in the middle, and otherwise sell out to stop the run”. The Panthers will struggle on offense if they can't open up the entire field for Newton to do what he does best, and that will simply not happen until defenses are given something else to worry about in the passing game besides an ageing receiver and a decent tight end.

New Orleans Saints

Notable Free Agents: Jermon Bushrod (LT), Chris Ivory (RB, RFA), Sedrick Ellis (DT)

Holes: Outside Linebacker, Defensive Backs, 3-4 Defensive End, Tackle

Unsurprisingly, the team with the worst defense in NFL history has most of it's holes on the defensive side of the ball – that much was patently true even before the team announced they will be switching to a 3-4 under Rob Ryan. Taking into account the change in base defense, it's clear that there needs to be some major retooling in the front seven. They have a potential nose tackle in Brodrick Bunkley, but with bust Sedrick Ellis a free agent, they will need to find someone to play the 3-4 end position. More importantly, however, is the need for a outside 3-4 linebackers to pair with Cameron Jordan, with (presumably) Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma both manning the middle. Will Smith is on the decline, and is not a good fit to move to the 'rush' linebacker position, so an upgrade here is a must if the shift to the 3-4 is to be successful.

Of course, even if they hadn't made the switch in base defense, the secondary needed a massive overhaul. Both safeties struggled in deep coverage, and the Saints were forced too often to play bad corners in nickel and dime packages – unfortunately, they are in such poor shape cap-wise, fixing both the front seven and the back end in one season is not going to happen. If I were advising the Saints, I'd work on the front seven first – with Drew Brees under center, outscoring the opposition is always a valid strategy, so it's more important to shore up the front seven (to stop opponents controlling the clock on the ground) and then just putting their faith in Breesus. Speaking of which, Jermon Bushrod was hardly a good tackle, but he was solid (even though he clearly missed the safety blanket of having Carl Nicks inside of him) – if they don't re-sign him, the Saints need to do something to make sure Brees stays up right, because without him, the Saints have pretty much nothing right now.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notable Free Agents: Michael Bennett (DE), Ronde Barber (FS), Roy Miller (DT)

Holes: Corner, Free Safety, Defensive Tackle, Tight End

As noted above, the Saints gave up more yards last season than any defense in history. It speaks volumes, therefore, about how bad the Bucs' secondary was that Tampa Bay actually gave up more receiving yards than the Saints. There is no question that the number one hole that needs to be filled in the Bucs' roster is a corner... or that the number two hole that needs to be filled is a second corner. Or that, also in the top five holes that need to be filled, is free safety, with it looking like Ronde Barber will be hanging up the #20 jersey after 16 years of service in the red & pewter. While the offense went through huge peaks and huge troughs over the season, nonetheless the Bucs secondary actively lost the team three games on game winning drives – an improved cornerback corps would have seen the 2012 Bucs into the playoffs, instead of their third losing season in four years. Finding new (better) starters at both CB spots instantly would fix a lot of what ails the Bucs, as would a deep safety to cover the back end and allow Mark Barron to do what he does best – playing in the box, covering tight ends and laying huge hits in run support.

On the other side of the ball, there is absolutely a need for a pass-catching tight end, with Dallas Clark unlikely to return after an average-at-best season, and Luke Stocker appearing to fail to develop into anything more than a decent run blocker with a tendency to come down with a case of the 'dropsies'. The Bucs have two legitimate stud receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, but have failed to find a tight end who can consistently take advantage of the underneath routes cleared out by VJax and MWill (as I have chosen to christen him). In a similar vein, a solid and reliable slot receiver would be a great compliment to the aerial attack, with Tiquan Underwood having a few highlight reel catches but fading far too often when he his number was called. While we're at it, the Bucs could undoubtedly use a long-term fix at right tackle – or better yet, a right tackle who can, in a season or so, take over from the far-too-overhyped Donald Penn at left tackle.

Finally, for all that the Bucs' passing defense was more porous than a sponge in a blender, they did boast the best run defense in the league last year. Unfortunately, two major, major cogs in that top-ranked run D – defensive end Michael Bennett (who is truly an elite run-stuffing DE, as well as an ever-improving asset in brining pressure on quarterbacks) and 1-tech Roy Miller (a two-down tackle only, but absolutely beastly last season versus the run) – are both free agents, and the Bucs have made no real concerted effort to retain either at this point. Bennett will be hugely, hugely missed – but the front office claim that they believe a now-healthy (for the moment) Da'Quan Bowers can step into Bennett's role without a drop off. Miller, however, will be harder to replace, as he did a fantastic job out of the 'cocked nose' (YOU made that dirty, not me) DT spot, forcing interior offensive linemen to double team on him and freeing Gerald McCoy up to wreak havoc in the backfield. Without Miller, the Bucs will need a solid defensive tackle if they want to get the best out of McCoy, and the defensive line as a whole.

- Gur Samuel (@FredTheGur)
- The Pulling Linemen