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The truth about the dbrand Grip...
Grips. Let's talk about 'em. If you've spent any amount of time on this subreddit, you've likely seen at least one post about a Grip case that has fallen apart. Most of you have seen several. We know this because we've seen every single one. We’d like to see less of them. Ideally, none. Over the past 18 months, we’ve been on an odyssey to fix the underlying problem. What follows is a chronicle of that journey. Our objectives in writing this post are three-fold. There will be a tl;dr version at the end of this post, summarizing each of the three:
Offer an in-depth technical explanation as to why Grip cases fall apart.
Outline the improvements we've made to the Grip case to mitigate and eventually solve the issue.
Provide some much-needed context as to how widespread the issue truly is, and what our next steps are for affected Grip SKUs.
Since you're still here, you must be in it for the long haul. Assuming an average reading speed of 250 words per minute, this is going to take you nearly 24 minutes to get through. We'll try to make it the most informative 24 minutes of your life. Let's get started.
Why Do Grips Fall Apart? Most phone cases are made out of a single material. The material itself varies from case to case, though the most common is Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU). The Grip case, as a point of comparison, is made of two different materials: an elastomer and a polycarbonate. The word elastomer is a combination of the words elastic and polymer. That's because it describes polymers that have elastic properties - like the one that forms the outer rim of your Grip case. The elastomer that we use is responsible for two critical properties of the Grip case: impact protection and grip. If you fell off of a rooftop, would you rather land on a hard plastic surface, or a rubber surface? If you value your life at all, you'd choose the rubber - its elastic properties would absorb much more force from the impact. Guess what rubber is? First one to answer "an elastomer" wins a prize! Next, imagine you’re a pervert, gently running your finger across every surface of a No. 2 Pencil. Which part of the pencil do you think would provide the most resistance to the tracing of your finger? If you guessed "the eraser," congratulations: you possess a basic understanding of coefficients of friction. Erasers are made of rubber. Rubber has a high coefficient of friction because of its elastic properties. The Grip case's elastomer isn't rubber - it's our own specially-formulated compound. It's still a useful comparison, as all elastomers share similar properties - provided they have the same degree of Shore Hardness. One person reading this is asking: “Shore Hardness?” The next section is their fault. A Beginner's Guide to Material Science The Shore Hardness scale gauges the hardness of various elastomers. It can be measured with a device called a durometer. You probably don't have one.
Low Shore Hardness = softer, more malleable, less dense, more rubber-like.
High Shore Hardness = harder, less malleable, more dense, more plastic-like.
If you fell out of a building and landed on a rubber surface with a high Shore Hardness, injury or death would be much more likely. If you used an eraser with a high Shore Hardness, you'd find it wouldn't actually do much erasing. Now, what if you made a phone case out of an elastomer with a high Shore Hardness? It wouldn't offer much grip or impact protection. The Grip's outer rim is made from an elastomer with a low Shore Hardness. As a result, the material is grippy and impact-resistant, but much more malleable and thus more likely to deform. That's why we bond the elastomer to a polycarbonate skeleton. Polycarbonates don't require as much explanation as elastomers: they're a category of plastic. On your Grip case, the back plate is made of polycarbonate. The elastomer rim is bonded to the polycarbonate plate on all sides of the Grip, providing structural rigidity to the elastomer, fighting to keep it from deforming. At least, that's the idea. As we've all seen, it hasn't worked out that way. Bonding two distinct materials together is much more complicated than gluing them together. Instead, we rely on a thermal bonding process. Basically, that means we heat both of our polymers to a degree which would turn you from “rare” to “well done” in moments. This heat melts the polymers, which we then inject at a pressure which would turn you from “solid” to “paste” even faster. Once injected, these two materials get fused together along the seams. To further reinforce the bonds, we use a series of interlocking "teeth" to provide a greater surface area on which the bonding process can occur. Consider these teeth the mechanical bond, which exists to strengthen the thermal bond. Pictured: Bonding mechanic between the elastomer and polycarbonate. With that out of the way: why do Grips fall apart? The elastomer rim around the edge of the Grip case is naturally inclined to deform and stretch. The bonding mechanisms we described above are designed to keep that from happening, but it often isn’t strong enough. As soon as the bond fails at any point, it's only a matter of time until a total structural failure occurs.
How Are We Stopping Grips From Falling Apart? Philosophically, there are two approaches to take:
We can investigate why, exactly, the bond between the elastomer and the polycarbonate is failing.
We can tweak and iterate the thermal and mechanical bond - strengthening it to the point where it's statistically improbable that your case will fall apart.
We tried the first approach - it's the road to madness. The number of variables is irrationally large. What's the temperature like where you live? The altitude? The humidity? Do you bring your phone into environments that deviate from the ambient temperature of your location? Does your school or workplace have extremely dry air? Do you bring your phone into a sauna? What sort of soap do you wash your hands with? Do you have oily hands? What sort of food do you cook? Do you smoke? How hard do you press on the buttons? What's your angle of approach when you actuate a button? How big are your hands? How often do you take your phone out of the case? Do you remove it from the top, the bottom, the sides? We could follow all of these roads, find out exactly which factors are causing the bond to fail, then implement preventative measures to keep it from happening - but that would take a decade. We don't have that long. Much like you, we want this fixed yesterday. So, from the moment we received our first complaint about a Grip deforming around the buttons, we've been making structural, thermal, and mechanical improvements to the design and production process of the Grip case - some visible, some not. Every new phone release has brought a new iteration on the core Grip design, with each one reducing the failure rate, incrementally. We'll bring the receipts in the next chapter. For now, let's highlight the most noteworthy improvements. The Most Noteworthy Improvements The first signs of trouble were the buttons. Months before we'd received our first report of a Grip case de-bonding, we saw the first examples of buttons that had bent out of shape. Pictured: Button deformation. Why the buttons? Because you press down on them. The force from button actuation puts strain on the elastomer, causing displacement of the material in the surrounding area. Through a combination of time, repeated button actuations and the above-mentioned force, the case would permanently deform around the buttons. This concept is called the "compression set" of the elastomer - Google it. The solution to this problem was two-fold:
First, we increased the compression set of the elastomer. Essentially, we made it as dense as we could, without compromising on the elastic properties of the material.
Second, we added relief slits surrounding the buttons - they're plainly visible on any newer Grip case model. These relief slits are an escape route for the force generated by button actuation. They also had the positive effect of making button actuation significantly more satisfying (read: clicky).
Pictured: Relief slits to improve button tactility and durability. Another early issue, pre-dating the first reports of total de-bonding, was a deformation of the elastomer along the bottom of the case - where the charging port and speakers are. Since we've covered the basics on how the interlock between the elastomer and the polycarbonate creates a bond, this is how the interlocking teeth along the top edge of the polycarbonate skeleton of the Grip used to look. Pictured: First-gen interlocking teeth on the top of the Grip. ...and here's the bottom of that very same Grip case. Pictured: First-gen interlocking teeth on the bottom of the Grip. Notice anything? Around the charging port, there is absolutely nothing keeping the elastomer in place. No teeth, no structural reinforcements... it's no coincidence that an overwhelming majority of early Grip deformations happened along the bottom. Since then, we’ve added a reinforced polycarbonate structure around the bottom of the Grip case. You'll see what that looks like in a bit. So, why didn't the launch portfolio of Grip cases have mechanical interlocks or a polycarbonate support structure along the bottom? The answer may or may not be complicated, depending on how much you know about plastic injection molding. We'll assume the worst and explain the concept of "undercut" to you with a ridiculous metaphor. The Ridiculous Metaphor Imagine you had a tube full of melted cheese. Next, imagine you emptied that entire tube into your mouth. Rather than swallowing the cheese, you decide to let it sit in your mouth and harden. Why are you doing this? We don't know. Let's just say you want a brick of cheese that's perfectly molded to the contours of your mouth - a very normal thing to want. So, your mouth is completely filled with cheese. It hardens. You reach into your mouth to remove the brick of cheese. As you're removing it, you encounter a problem: your teeth are in the way. This wasn't a problem when you were putting the cheese into your mouth, but that was because the cheese was melted and could flow around your teeth. Now that the cheese has hardened, this is no longer the case. In the world of plastic injection molding, this is an undercut. Our concern was that, by molding a structurally rigid piece of polycarbonate around the charging port and speaker holes, we'd find ourselves unable to remove the Grip Case from the mold once hardened. Imagine spending $30,000 on industrial tooling only to get a $30 phone case stuck inside of it. Once we saw Grip cases deforming along the bottom cutouts, we knew we'd need to find a way to remove the cheese from your mouth without breaking your teeth. To make a long story short: we did it. The cheese is out of your mouth, and you get to keep your teeth. Congratulations! Now, keep reading. On newer models of the Grip case, the result is a polycarbonate bridge extending around the bottom cutouts, adding both structural reinforcement and interlock mechanisms to promote mechanical bond, much like the ones which line the perimeter of the rest of the Grip case. Pictured: Newest-gen structural reinforcement on the bottom of the Grip. On the subject of structural reinforcements, this design revision was around the time we flanked the buttons with some fins, working in tandem with the heightened compression set and button relief slits, detailed above, to further guarantee that button actuation would have no impact on the overall durability of the Grip case. Pictured: Lack of button fins on the first-gen Grip. Pictured: Button fins on the newest-gen Grip. As an aside: Unrelated to the de-bonding issues, we've also made a number of smaller improvements to the Grip case with each new iteration. For instance, we chamfered the front lip of the case to make edge-swiping more pleasant and reduce dust accumulation along the rim. Those raised parallelogram shapes along the sides of your Grip case that create its distinctive handfeel? We made those way bigger for a better in-hand experience. In short: product development is a complex and multifaceted process. Each new iteration of the Grip case is better than the one that came before, and that applies to more than just failure rates. Speaking of failure rates: all of these improvements were in place by the time we launched iPhone 11-series Grip cases. The failure rate for these cases decreased exponentially... but didn't disappear entirely. The Even More Ridiculous Metaphor With these improvements, we achieved our desired outcome: the case was no longer deforming around the buttons or the charging port. Instead, the structure of the case began to fail literally anywhere else around the perimeter of the phone. Think of it this way… you’re a roof carpenter. The greatest roof carpenter of all time. Like the son of God, but if he was a carpenter. Unfortunately, you’ve been paired with the Donald Trump of wall-builders. You're tasked with building a house. You spend all of your time and energy perfecting your roofcraft. You've designed a roof that's so durable, it may as well have been made of Nokia 3310s. Nothing's getting through that bad boy. The wall guy? Instead of building that wall he said Mexico would pay for, he's been tweeting about the miraculous medicinal properties of bleach while a plague kills hundreds of thousands of Americans. The point here is that you can build the greatest roof of all time, but the walls need to be strong enough to match. To strengthen the Grip case's metaphorical walls, we needed to re-design the inside of the Grip case from scratch. More specifically, the mechanical interlock between the springy elastomer and rigid polycarbonate skeleton. We took every tooth at the bonding point between the two materials and made them as large as we possibly could. Then, we added more teeth. Pictured: Polycarbonate teeth on the newest-gen Grip. To jog your memory: this is how the teeth used to look... Pictured: Polycarbonate teeth on the first-gen Grip. If time proves that these changes aren’t enough, our engineers still have a number of ideas on how to improve the bond between the elastomer and polycarbonate. Will we ever need to implement those ideas? Again - that’s a question only time can answer. Each change might be the silver bullet that puts this problem to bed for good... but there's only one way to find out: it involves real-world testing and, with each iteration, months of careful observation.
So, Where Are We Now? Have the improvements we've made to the Grip case been successful? You bet. For the sake of comparison: we began shipping iPhone 11 series Grips on September 30th, 2019. Within six months of that date, we had received 52 reports of structural failures - a big improvement over the early days, but still not good enough. Fast forward two months. We began shipping Note 10 Plus Grip cases on November 21st, 2019. In the first six months of availability, we received exactly eight reports of Note 10 Plus Grips falling apart. Again, a major improvement over the iPhone series in the same stretch of time. If we'd launched the first Grip cases with a failure rate that low, we wouldn't be writing this post right now and you’d have nothing to read while pretending to do work. How about the Galaxy S20 series, which began shipping on February 10th, 2020? They're the most recent and improved set of SKUs we’ve made to date, leveraging everything we've learned and making further improvements over the Note 10 Plus. No reports so far. Same goes for the iPhone SE and OnePlus 8 series - these SKUs share all the improvements we've made to the underlying design of the Grip case thus far. Does that mean these numbers will hold forever? Who knows. That's the thing: every improvement we make, we need to wait several months to see how effective it's been. No amount of internal testing can replace the real-world data of shipping cases to hundreds of thousands of users across nearly 200 countries. We could always just throw in the towel, make the entire case out of rigid plastic, and call it a solved issue... but that would be the easy way out. The Grip case and its unique design properties can't reach their full potential unless we make incremental improvements - then wait and see how they pan out in the real world. All of which is to say: it's far too early to say the newest set of improvements have officially solved the problem. While the failure rate is still zero, we need to keep watching. We've made a ton of progress, but we're not going to rest until we've killed this issue for good - without sacrificing the unique properties that make the Grip case stand out in a sea of derivative hard plastic and TPU phone cases. That's probably enough to inspire confidence in someone who's on the fence about buying an S20 Ultra Grip, an iPhone SE Grip, or any Grip we release in the future. But what if you're one of the people who bought an older Grip model? "I'm One Of The People Who Bought An Older Grip Model!" We won't sugarcoat it. The failure rates for older Grip models is way higher than we deem acceptable. Why has it taken us this long to publicly address the issue, then? Easy: it's not as widespread as you might think. Some humans reading this might be looking at their iPhone X Grip, purchased in 2019 and still intact, wondering what all the fuss is about. That's an important consideration: most people who have functioning, still-bonded Grip cases aren't posting on /dbrand about how unbroken it is. The people who've had issues around total product failure are in the minority. We're not using the word "minority" as a get-out-of-jail-free card here. It's still a way larger number than we'd ever be comfortable with. We simply don't want our transparency and candor in writing this to be misinterpreted as an admission that every single Grip case we've made for older devices is going to fall apart. Statistically speaking, this is an issue for a minority of Grip owners. Our philosophy at first was that, while it was unfortunate and frustrating that Grip cases were falling apart, dramatic PR action wasn't necessary. Instead, we resolved to:
Quietly and diligently work in the background to improve the underlying design of the Grip case.
Ship free replacements to anyone whose Grip case had failed.
To date, we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on shipping fees alone for replacement Grips. As you can imagine, that number gets a lot higher once you add in the cost of actually making the thing. We've been fine with writing these costs off as sort of an R&D expense, since every example of a deformed or de-bonded Grip provides invaluable data on how to improve the product. Where our strategy backfired was in the narrative that began to take root as Grip cases continued to fall apart. Look at it this way: the failure rate of older Grip case SKUs is anywhere between 1% and 20%, depending on how early we released the SKU. Since the improvements we've already made to the underlying design were rolled out incrementally with each new phone release, that number has been on a steady downward trend. For the purpose of this thought experiment, we'll go with the earliest, shittiest Grip cases - putting us at a long-term failure rate of 20%. So, 20% of customers for this device have a Grip case fall apart at some point in the product's lifespan. Every single one of those people writes in to our Customer Experience team about the issue. They all receive a replacement, free of charge. Since this replacement is identical to the first Grip case they'd received, it also has a 20% failure rate. We're now dealing with percentages of percentages. Stop panicking, we'll do the math for you: that means 4% of these hypothetical Grip owners will have a second Grip case fail on them in the long run. Four percent is a lot better than twenty… but it's also a lot of people who've been burned twice. These people are going to be extra vocal about how shitty the Grip case is. To be fair, they've got every right. So, we've got four groups of customers for this SKU:
Group A: Has had two or more Grip cases fail (4%).
Group B: Has had exactly one Grip case fail (16%).
Group C: Bought a Grip which has not failed (80%).
Group D: Has not purchased a Grip case (NA%).
Group A is livid about the repeated issues they've had - rightfully so. Group B, having been burned before, reads about Group A's experience. They take it to mean their replacement will inevitably fail on them as well, and they'll one day get the dubious honor of joining Group A. Group C, despite not having had any issues yet, reads the experiences of Groups A and B. Then, a significant portion of this group begins to operate under the assumption that it's only a matter of time before their Grip falls apart as well. Group D reads all of the above and decides they don't have enough confidence in the Grip case to ever purchase one. A narrative begins to form that this hypothetical failure rate is close to 100%. Worse yet: people with newer phones, unaware that each new iteration of the Grip case has a dramatically reduced failure rate over the last, start to assume their case also has a 100% failure rate. That's where our original strategy - the one where we quietly improved the product in the background while offering replacements for defective units - backfired on us. This narrative only exists because we've continued to leverage existing stock with too high a failure rate, which, in hindsight, was like pouring gasoline on a gender reveal forest fire of disappointment and regret. This brings us to our next chapter. Mass Destruction At this point, you're probably aware that a number of Grip SKUs for older phones have been listed as "Sold Out" on our website, and haven't been restocked since. We stopped production on these cases because we knew they'd have all the same issues as the original production runs. See, it's not as simple as pushing a "make the Grip not fall apart" button at the factory - we'd need to redesign the case from scratch, implementing all of the design improvements we've made up to this point, then re-tool our existing machinery to produce this new version. We'll have more to say about re-tooling a bit later - for now, focus on the fact that some Grips have been listed as "Sold Out". If someone's Grip case falls apart while listed as "Sold Out", we don't have any replacements to send them. Instead, dbrand's Customer Experience team has been issuing refunds wherever possible, and store credit otherwise. Just in case you're wondering what we mean by "where possible": PayPal doesn't allow refunds on transactions that are more than six months old. Store credit, on the other hand, can be offered indefinitely. What we've come to realize is that we're never going to be able to escape this downward spiral until we rip the band-aid off and stop stocking these old, flawed SKUs. Today, we're ripping the bandaid off. As you're reading this, we're disposing of all of our old stock. All of the flawed Grip SKUs are now listed as "Sold Out". Head over to our Grip listing and take a look at what's available. Everything that you can currently buy is up to spec with the improvements we've made over the past year - meeting or exceeding the standard of quality set by the Galaxy S20 series, the iPhone SE, and the OnePlus 8 series. In some cases - take, for instance, the iPhone 11 series - this means we've already re-tooled our production lines to meet that quality benchmark. If a Grip case is listed on "Backorder", it means we've begun the process of re-tooling the SKU to match the improved quality standard you've spent the last five hours reading about. However, if a Grip case is now listed as "Sold Out", that means no more reshipments. If you own a sold out Grip case that hasn't fallen apart yet: that's great! Don't assume that your Grip is doomed to fail just because we devoted 5661 words to explaining why it might fall apart. You've still got better odds than you would at a casino. As always, if you run into any issues with your case, sold out or not, shoot an email to one of our Robots. They'll still take care of you - it just won't be with a replacement case… for now. Mass Production Remember when we said we'd talk more about re-tooling a bit later? That's right now. So, why are so many Grip models not being fixed? Why haven't we re-tooled these old SKUs with all of the quality improvements made to the case's build quality? It's a little complicated. Taking the improvements we've made to the most recent suite of Grip models and retroactively applying those changes to older SKUs isn't a simple task - it would require us to throw out our existing production tools and create new ones, from scratch. Suffice it to say that doing so is a wildly expensive endeavor. To recoup that cost, we'd need to produce more Grips than we're likely to ever sell for aging, irrelevant hardware. Let's use the Pixel 3 as an example. If we replaced every single de-bonded Pixel 3 Grip, that would account for about 3% of the MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) on a re-tooled Pixel 3 Grip case. Now we're sitting on 97% of that MOQ as overstock. Pixel 3 owners have had their phone for nearly two years now. If they want a phone case, they already have one. They're not looking for new Pixel 3 cases, they're getting ready to buy a new phone. Simply put, it’s no longer a viable market. Now, say the Pixel 3 was a significantly more popular phone - enough that we'd be shipping out, say, 50% of the MOQ as replacements on day one. Now, that's a lot more tempting to us - we'd still lose boatloads of money, but at least it would go towards some consumer goodwill. To figure out how much money we'd lose on re-tooling, we gave our bean-counting Robots a giant jar of beans and told them to get to work. They emerged three days later. When asked how many beans were in the jar, they gave us a blank stare. When asked if it was possible to re-tool any of our production lines for old Grip SKUs without losing obscene amounts of money, they said: "Absolutely not." Still, we're no strangers to throwing away obscene amounts of money to make the internet happy. Remember Amazon gift cards? Those were the days. The only question that remains is "How much money are we willing to set on fire?" We can't tell you yet. Why? Because we're currently running a detailed cost-benefit analysis on the subject of re-tooling old production lines, on a SKU-by-SKU basis. That's business talk for "the bean-counting Robots have been given more beans to count." The objective is to determine the viability of producing new-and-improved Grip stock for older phones: how many units would be tied up in replacements for that model, how many we could reasonably expect to sell to new customers, and how much overstock would be left from the MOQ. From there, we can determine what the financial impact of re-tooling would be and make the final decision on how much cash we're dumping into the ocean somewhere off the coast of the Seychelles. We'll have our results by early next week. These re-tooled models, if produced, would feature every improvement we’ve made thus far to the Grip case line, plus a few that have yet to be released. Remember how the S20s, the iPhone SE and the OnePlus 8s haven't had any reported failures yet? Picture that, but for the phone you've got. If we go ahead with re-tooling production lines for your phone, a few things will happen:
The Grip case for your phone will go from "Sold Out" to "Backorder".
Our Customer Experience Robots will shift their communication strategy from "we no longer support your phone," to "we'll get you a replacement once we've got improved units in stock."
None of these things will happen until we've run the simulations on which phones are getting restocked. Why are we posting this today, then? We could have waited a week and had concrete answers to offer about the future of our out-of-stock Grip cases. Well… Take Our Survey This is it: your chance to have some say in how much money we set on fire as a goodwill exercise for this whole R&D clusterfuck. Those simulations we're running? They'll be great for telling us how much money we'regoingto lose on each Grip SKU, but it won't tell us anything about how much money our customerswantus to lose on each Grip SKU. To that end, we've prepared a survey for people who have purchased a Grip case. We'll be taking your feedback into consideration during our decision-making process. We have only one request: don't be a jackass. Answer the questions honestly. Click here to take the survey. In Closing... We're sharing a special moment right now. We're all seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. For us, that light is "we're almost done with a year-long R&D effort to stop the Grip case from falling apart." For you, the light is "the end of a 5661-word marathon of a Reddit post." We just want to take a minute to recognize that we couldn't have gotten this far without your collective support. At any point in the past year, we might have pulled the plug on the Grip project entirely if we'd reached a critical mass of negative sentiment from our customers. Instead, we've got an army of devotees who have no problem paying us for the privilege of being our guinea pigs. Product development isn't a one-and-done process. It's easy to forget, but our skins weren't always to the world-class, record-setting, Michael-Jordan-in-his-prime standard you expect from us today. If you happen to have an iPhone 4 skin lying around, apply it and let us know how it goes. You'll immediately appreciate how many process improvements we've made. We weren’t born as the greatest skin manufacturer in history. We got there through a process of methodical improvement. Each jump in quality was driven by a bottomless well of user feedback, sourced from millions upon millions of customers. That, and the competition was comically inept. It's the same story for the Grip case. Your continued support has enabled us to make huge strides in developing a product that's on the cusp of blowing everyone else out of the water. We're going to keep working until it gets there.
Please note that by reading this tl;dr, you’re missing out on several outlandish metaphors, including classics such as:
Plastic injection molding melted cheese into your face hole.
What if Jesus and Donald Trump built a house?
How to turn yourself from “rare to well done” and “solid to paste”.
WHY DOES THE GRIP FALL APART?
The Grip case is made from two materials: a polycarbonate skeleton and an elastomer frame.
The elastomer frame provides the majority of the case's impact protection and grip, but is prone to deformation.
We prevent deformation by bonding the material to a polycarbonate skeleton (i.e. the rigid back plate on the Grip case).
The bond between the two materials was not as strong as we'd originally anticipated, causing the elastomer to de-bond from the polycarbonate skeleton and the case to sometimes fall apart.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO FIX IT?
Through a series of design revisions, we've made countless improvements to promote a stronger bond between the two materials.
These changes have incrementally reduced the failure rate of Grip cases. Our most recent SKUs are yielding extremely promising results.
Each time we improve the Grip case, we need to play a months-long waiting game to observe the real-world effects.
HOW ABOUT THE GRIPS YOU'VE ALREADY SOLD?
Since we're using you as guinea pigs for the purposes of product development, we've been uncharacteristically generous with our warranty policy.
However, that warranty policy only lasts as long as we have stock. Once we're out of Grips, we're out of replacements.
We've finally reached the point where we need to rip off the bandaid and dispose of all of our Grip stock produced during 2019.
If your Grip for any of these older phones falls apart, you can no longer get a replacement.
You should still write in to our Customer Experience team if it happens to you - we'll work something out.
On the bright side, our Grip SKUs from 2020 onwards have dramatically reduced, if not outright eliminated, the failure rate of previous models. We have no reported cases to date.
It's not economically viable to re-tool production lines to apply our improved industrial designs to any of the Grip cases that are currently marked as "Sold Out".
We're probably going to do it anyways.
We're running the simulations right now to determine which older devices will be re-tooled.
Take our survey to help determine which devices we'll be re-tooling.
First time viewing The Challenge as a Big Brother/Survivor fan, Part 10(Battle of the Bloodlines)
So my run through of the seasons continues, this time with Battle of the Bloodlines. I put a TL:DR or overall thoughts down at the bottom if you don't want to go through each episode. Check my posting history if you want to check out the past seasons I've been through so far. Thanks for reading these, they're fun to make and make going through the seasons more enjoyable. EP 1: I thought Camila was short, but she seems a head taller than her sister. Damn Not surprised Jenna is back. I feel like if they were going for a season of bloodlines they could have tried for more vets or big names from the challenge to at least use it as an excuse to get some people back. It seems like they went the easiest route possible and got half of the previous season and some rookies and a whole bunch of pointless add ons. I'm really worried I'm not going to like how this show changes moving forward... lol Fucking Johnny and his god damn speeches Oh, I didn't even recognize Kellyanne. Damn, the son is coming up and they're still just drinking and hanging out "Expect the most maniacal twists" after literally the first thing resembling a twist ever happens Why were we robbed of Cohutta and Kellyanne, or even Nany on Exes 2, rather than fucking Bananas Caught a weird angle on Christina and really thought they snuck Casey on the season for a second. I really never understand the people that come on here and literally think they can openly cheat. Like God damn, how do you have anyone trust you if you think you can get away with it on a show let alone real life? Guy who is cheating says they didn't hook up, girl who doesn't care says they did lol Coming in and throwing out shit like "typical woman move" is definitely the way to come in as rookies lol He literally has nothing to say Angry drunk casting strikes again Imagine coming in this game with a family member as a teammate and going out for fighting with the same family member lmao Wait...is this the house from Seasons? Or another season? I recognize those stairs that Sam got pushed down right beside of! He didn't hit you Shane, but I'm preeeetty sure you hit him a few times. THEY get the clear? Pffft production is so damn wishy washy So you thought Jenna being worthless was so entertaining you thought it a great idea to bring her just as useless cousin on with her. Great. Rules must be stopping them from collecting water from the moat that has collected around the hill lol Just fall over and go "Oops, I must have picked up a little extra." Leroy even mad at his damn sibling! God damn, Johnny is murdering this. Oh no people may be trying to come for Johnny? Unfair! lol I seriously can't take the cartoon drawing on Nicole that she calls makeup. Seems weird to have male and female days when there is multiple teams with both male or both female. If it's a female day do the all guy teams not even try because it doesn't matter? I'm confused? This seems dumb. Having the rookie make a speech about putting someone up because they're a rookie? lol seems smart Vince starting shit lol EP 2: I'm only just starting episode 2 and I think I hate this season. This may be my least favorite cast from the jump. Uhhhh, did Cara just give a Hand Job to some RUTO random, WHILE SHE'S DATING ABRAM?!?! What in the shit Cara?!?! Cara just plummeted in my mind. Eeeesh Every time I see Jenna and Brianna I suddenly get struck with a wave disgruntlement. I hate this cast. Starting off early with the eating challenges. I'm ok with this. Interesting that they chose to do this role/position aspect randomly. Doesn't usually seem like their thing. It'd be weird to have the snake cuddling around with you, but I honestly can't see being all that freaked out about it. The bugs definitely has the worst end of the bargain. How are they possibly going to determine the worse out of this lmao first to give up? Eh, some people didn't do near as bad as I thought. Kellyanne seemed to struggle going in but looked to blow it away. Jenna and Brianna continue to prove their worthlessness. Again, don't understand the discrepency between the girl/guy days. Could the girls literally have just not tried because they assumed it was a guy's day? This seems so dumb. Wow, Kelleyanne looked like she killed it. Shocked she was at the bottom of guy teams. With the way Cara was orchestrating the helping of Cohutta last episode I'm assuming Johnny is going in against Cohutta? Maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up. Oh, I guess she's just going to Cohutta and seeing who they want. Ugh, I hate this fuckin' cast. These twins just seem like all talk. Notice they get all snappy with Cara, but even though it was Cohutta that called them out they don't go to him at all? Awe, Cara has Diem on her arm. Nany just blowing up Cara's spot. So I'm assuming Cara was thinking there was no cameras in the bus and then suddenly Johnny has a gopro and suddenly Thomas needs to go? God damn. Nany's sister looks like a damn cartoon character with her makeup. I feel like Aneesa is trying to get Jenna/Brianna to quit lol "She's not even cute!" Again, why. Why the fuck was Jenna brought back and why the fuck did they think her trainwreck cousin was worth bringing on with her? I agree with Cohutta, these people are insanely crazy. Fucking hell. I feel like Cohutta is doing terribely with this Elim. He's not even trying for the ball. Once he tackles him he just wraps him up and sits there. Wait wait wait wait. Someone just talked about wanting to quit and only staying for their cousin and you're going to switch up teams to where she has no motivation to stay? What?! EP 3: Ok, so they're doing Survivor style swaps. Teams of two now swapping to two big teams. I'm ok with this. As much as I hate Johnny, Cara is smart to grab Johnny first. Cara's cousin is looking at this much smarter. It's more about saddling your team with the worse people than it is about picking the best. Cara's team is getting fucked right now with these picks lmao Candice, Brianna, AND Aneesa's family member. That team is fucked. Was Johnny not trying to help with the picks at all? I can't imagine he'd be quiet. I'm loving the recycling of challenges from the last couple seasons. I was about to ask why Cara looked like the least secure person to jump but then I remembered she has a height fear. Did they literally get Candice to walk off the challenge and directly in to a confessional? lol They wanted to get the shot with the blood. I like this voting mechanic. That's gonna be rough. Nany just randomly voting Aneesa just to be a bitch lol Camila don't fuck around with her politics. You wanna throw out her name you better Nany, you didn't vote for Larissa, but you also threw away your vote instead of voting for Jenna. I feel like you took some notes from Johnny. Also, I again bring up the fact that Nany and Johnny were kissing Jenna's ass at the last reunion. These fuckin' throwaway votes lol Aneesa and Nany are playing bitchy. Not voting against Camila doesn't do shit if you could have voted for the next closest person. Ok, at least the team came around to their senses. I don't know what they were thinking. The way it was being determined I thought maybe they were done with the representing aspect in the elim, but calling Camila and Briana up makes me wonder if it will be Camila vs Jenna. Jenna wins one elimination and wants to be cocky lmao Hope this Tony dude is ok, but I'm perfectly fine with Shane/Tony going. Bye. EP 4: Shocked by Candice and Leroy. The big toe stops you from competing?! I would think it'd be more out of fear of the lip busting open again and getting worse. Guess I was wrong about the representation aspect in the Elims. Makes it a lot easier to get rid of strong players with just voting in their weaker partner. I really wish they didn't make so many elims dependant on body weight and size. Bye Camila. You got screwed. I would have actually liked seeing Camila vs Jenna in the same elim. "We're going to be here to the final." "Yup, probably." Good enthusiasm Brianna lmao Oh no, Johnny lost two of his numbers in one night. :c Eeeeeeesh, Every time I see this Cara/Thomas shit I just cringe super fucking hard. Jesus. So many damn people cheating on this show. God damn! I love when people are completely opposite what they show from their confessionals lmao Cory, all over Aneesa, gets told by his partner to shape up. Gets in confessional "She's showing me she's more childish then I thought. I'm gonna put an end to that." -Jennifer Lawrence ok.gif Nany and Johnny are definitely the cheifs of hooking up and not really letting it effect their games lol Damn, another pair gone. Oh shit. Oh SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT Huge fucking eye emoji. HOLY FUCKING SHIT. Abram, coming in to this house right now is fucking hilarious. Cara, just straight awkward.... Oh fuck hahaha This season JUST GOT INTERSTING! Oh god the awkwardness. I love it! Johnny and Nany fucking loving it! Abram doesn't look like he's in the best of shape though... Cara shockingly doesn't look happy or excited. AND Trivia? Best episode ever?! I feel like they've asked this 60/60/60 angle questions multiple times now. I wonder if it's a trivia staple. I also don't think anyone's gotten it right. God, I hate so much of this cast. But hey Abram is here and I am so ready for this drama. 5 sides on a stop sign? What?! Fake face girl of all people winning it for the red team? Shocked. Damn, I thought trivia was going long but that's the end of the episode? EP 5: What a weird place to pick up on an episode. It's like the old half hour episode days. "I wouldn't lose a day of sleep if Banana's fell off a cliff." I knew I liked Abram. What....just happened? Did Abram's brother volunteer to go in to Elim? Like...why? The crazy gene is strong with this family. Cara STILL hanging around with Thomas. What is in this chick's head?! Kellyanne... "I don't want to talk to that bitch(aneesa) either." Cory going downhill fast. You think Aneesa is dumb enough to fall for this obvious politicking kiss ass? You dumb rookies. Aneesa, don't be stupid. I'd usually be all for newbies coming in and fucking shit up, but most of these rookies are just annoying as hell. "You're showing your true colors." Cory, you literally only even talked to Aneesa to get a vote. Who's true colors were seen? "Nobodies afraid ladies." These twins are nothing but mouth. I don't even know who this Anthony guy is... lol Mitch looks like he's about to cry when this Anthony guy votes for him. It sucks that so many people went home so quicky because I feel like the format didn't get to play out as well as it could have. They're basically forced now to vote for alliances rather than trying to weaken or strengthen teams. Which I think is the best part of the teams/pair aspect of this system. Johnny is a douchebag, but Dario and Raphy are really not ones to talk lol TJ just smiling and nodding watching it all. I love TJ lmao Throwing off his mic. Isn't that like a big no no? I remember everyone jumping in and trying to help Jasmine when she almost did that. Like they didn't care before that, but as soon as she went for her mic everyone jumped on her to stop her. Them being mad at Aneesa is fucking hilarious. You guys basically dogged her and only talked to her for her vote. Ya'll are idiots. They're saying the vote was in Aneesas hands, but are they going on the assumption that Mike would have voted for himself? Because even with Aneesa's vote the decision was off by 2? "Did they ask you if you saw them come out of the bathroom?" God damn Cara. What the shit. This isn't even like the Paula situation, where Yes Paula was shit for what she did, but Ty was pressing that shit constantly and it was weeks of it. Cara was hooking up with this dude like a week in. God damn chick. I remember thinking early on that Kellyanne seemed more mature and stable than a lot of people on the cast, from seasons like The Island or Ruins, but I feel like she's just gotten more childish and insecure as seasons go on? Aneesa's acting just as stupid in this episode, but Kellyanne just seems kind of like the desperate girl trying to get attention from all the popular guys or something. It's a weird energy. Jenna not considering things racist? Color me shocked. "2020's in hindsight." That's definitely not the saying, but god do I wish Kellyanne. I can't express how hilarious it would be for the twins to lose this lmao Using only his arms lol, what a dumbass Oh fuck. His damn foot slips! He fucking had it! Hahahahaha the bitch twins gave up and tried to wine about the yellow hitting the line lmao What idiots. All mouth, and then they're mouths get them the loss. Wow Aneesa, wise the fuck up. Cory just wants your vote at this point. EP 6: Oh shit, A Dirty little secret. Ominous episode title!!!!! Johnny at yoga is pretty funny, not gonna lie I love Abram's hate for Johnny. He calls it true! "False friendships, selling people up river, just false to your face." So true! Love the Johnny hate Abram, but you're definitely letting emotion effect the game my dude. People can't stop talking about Cara/Thom. lol How is she not walking around this house with an ulser with worry of who's going to say something. I would love nothign more than the guys get to a challenge and TJ just saying "First thing first, Cara we have to address something." I would love nothing more than for TJ just to put the drama out there RIGHT before a challenge. Its challenges like this that really shows the benefit of vets and experience. Kellyanne offering to go in? Saves time I guess. Johnny, I understand not wasting the time in fighting for Nany in deliberations, but to vote for her is just stupid and pointless. You're not gaining any face with people already gunning for you by voting for someone who everyone knows you're aligned with. You're doing yourself a diservice voting for Nany. You're just being stupid. Like Nany says, throwing his vote away would just back up what he's said for years. He's so loyal isn't he?! I had genuinely no idea who Anthony was lol "No matter what I do is the wrong thing." Well yeah, when you do shit that makes no sense but is some weird veiled attempt at supporting your team or garnering favor. You're a dumbass and just as much talk as Raphy and Dario Who the hell is Cara talking to? Who is Jamie?!? It's been two seasons of Nany crying over Johnny, yes she still has feelings for him. He didn't want to make his girlfriend mad hahahahahahaha Johnny's been the one to talk up in the reunions how people hide from cameras to fuck and all this shit. Not voting for a friend is the most hilarious copout that is so empty. Fuuuuuck, 50 times?! This is a better test of endurance. Damn. I think Nany has this one easily. Oh god, AND Kellyanne has some kind of chest cold? Good luck chick. Kellyanne actually won. I'm shocked. The comp having a bell on each side actually made it easier than I thought. I was thinking it was only on one end. I'm happy to have Nany's sister out of the house lol Hahaha I love Johnny basically saying "come at me" with this Cara secret. Let this alliance see if it can stick shit out. You have a crazy guy on your house just waiting to blow up lol It's dirty, but I love it. EP 7: Cara continuing to just call it flirtation is great. Wait wait wait. Is Johnny really just having his Cousin go out there and blow it up? You giant pussy! Johnny wanting to keep his hands clean and leaving it up to someone with no fucking sense of even how to talk. Cara, you suck ass. Cara just trying to pass it off as trying to get further in the game is really a shit way to handle this lol What a way to try and pass your shitty behavior off as "gameplay" "I did say that, Johnny." "It's cool Abe!" Johnny not in power is so much better than Johnny in power. Abram is straight chaos and I love it. It has saved this season. Aneesa how the hell long have you done these. What weak shit. Cara needing stuff to be easier for her is hilariously sad. Abram is insane, and I fucking love it. I feel like Abram came in with the entire mindset of wanting Cara to win. Him and his partner wanting to go in to elim as soon as they got there, him wanting to get Johnny out and not wanting Cara to team with him. I think his whole mindset was to go in and just help Cara. Of all the things to NOT have Abram himself being in the elim?! Destroying shit! That would have been hilarious to see. Fucking "Home wrecker" Wooooooooooow This elim is fucking awesome. Abram causes himself to get a bloody nose lmao Can we just talk about Abram barking like a dog and quietly in the back ground Jenna and Briana are spinning in circles? What?! Stephen literally can't even get through the tiniest table hahaha This is not even close. This is so damn sad. Motivational crazy Abram is my favorite Abram Oh Cara, come on. You're just now going to talk all about this breaking up shit and saying Abram there is harder for you in the game. Just be real, you're upset your new cuddle buddy left and you're upset Abram came in to make it awkward for you on tv. That being said though, why were you even still with him? lol dude is crazy. But you don't cheat on the dude! EP 8: Throwing it for Kellyanne? Johnny wouldn't even talk during deliberation for Nany lmao At least everyone is clearly talking about how shitty Johnny is with his game. He's dirty, but he talks like he's a damn saint lol I am continually shocked everytime this Jamie dude shows up on the screen lmao Wait wait wait wait. CT and Diem's sister are joining the game? I'm about to fucking cry! It seems stupid late in the game to impliment a new team, but it's CT! I don't care! No colored shirts, probably just an audible on the specific challenge. I'm going to cry! "Do it for D!" I love CT! Faith seems more interesting and has more screen presence in like one confessional than half this bloodlines cast lol I'm pretty sure they just gave Aneesa the "Complete" but she looked like she fell a whole square before the yellow line... Johnny "helping" lol This is my issue with Johnny. He can't just do shit in the open. He talks so much shit about Wes throwing shit, but he had a reason to and he owned it. You couldn't even talk during deliberations to help Nany and pass it off as saving face with a team, then not wanting to upset your girlfriend. But here you are throwing a competition and sabotaging other players to help a different girl. You're fake as hell and you just hide from it so plainly. It's disgusting. I never remember who this Jamie guy is but at least he's calling Kellyanne rightfully out. Hahahah Johnny's face when they get announced the winner. I love it. Kellyanne fucked up talking shit lol There's only 3 people that can go in and only one is going to be safe. There's no real reason to be angry at this point. Jenna and Brianna getting screwed by Johnny too haha Only now realizing it. Johnny promises everyone everything and just watches as they all go out one by one. Vince out of nowhere with "I have to go by performance today" haha yeah that sounds like Johnny, not owning up to the reason behind their choices. Had an alliance from the jump with Aneesa/Jenna/Nany and basically two of those are getting screwed over and Kellyanne is moved up the pecking order over everyone because of Anthony lmao You people are so damn dumb. Kellyanne literally can't even defend Anthony hahaha Oh here we go, Johnny voting against his alliance people to "save face" haha I'm happy to see everything is finally coming to head for Johnny. Just wish these people weren't so stupid to believe it in the first place. CT and Faith!!!!! Kellyanne came back on the show because of Diem passing? That's actually really sweet. Not sure how true it actually is but I'd give her the benefit of the doubt and find it really touching. Kellyanne comes off more authentic than Cara does with her writing Diem on her arm and saying Diem for a trivia answer. Vince wanting to start shit with CT? lol Dumbass "I heard me and you would have been competition in the past." "In the past you would have already been knocked out." I love CT Please tell me Jenna and Brianna are finally gone. What in the holy hell is Kellyanne doing? lol She blows a huge lead by trying to flip the blocks and worry about their sizes? Jenna just comes in and throws them all up like it's nothing. Anyone falling for Johnny and his bullshit has no one to blame but themselves. Kellyanne and Anthony just watched Johnny fuck over Nany, why did you think you'd be any different? EP 9: Of course Johnny wouldn't like Abram. He's too honest and not willing to believe his bullshit. "Creepy uncle Vince" This show has a weird track record with Vince's This is a cool scary challenge lol Brianna didn't even try. Jesus. Oh my god these people. Four in a row not trying! What in the hell?! You can't go under fucking water?! Did I miss the description of the task? Were people throwing it to have the fastest swimmers do it? Abe getting in the box and cracking up. Abram is insane and amazing tv. Everyone joking about Abram taking the chance to kill Johnny is reallllllly weird? Some of these comps, I wonder if TJ hates that he even has to be there for them lol They're under water the whole time and TJ just announces when they're out. I'm surprised he's not sitting in a chair under shade having to be reminded to blow the horn. If you told me at the drawing of teams that Red team would not lose a challenge I would seriously not believe you. Vince saying he's not worried about it when he's been letting the team down constantly lol Of course he isn't. Yes! Get rid of Johnny before it goes back to pairs! Johnny running off to shore up his easy votes like easy. Doesn't give a shit about them, throws them in, but oh wait I can get their vote! "I just hope you're not just sweet talking me." Jenna, you're a dumbass. He's only talking to you when it comes down to your vote lol Good thing it's Brianna with the vote and not you. She seems to buy less of Johnny's shit. It's funny how Johnny doesn't play the "rookie" card and "earning stripes" when the rookie and person who's been terrible is tied to his fate. Fucking Brianna and Jenna. Ya'll are so dumb. You are going to instantly get screwed right after this. Call em out Abram! Call em out! I have a feeling Mike is just going to throw this for Cara. Like I said, Abram just seems like he's had the mentality of helping Cara along since he's gotten here. I get CT again, he was already there....but why Zach? Is it just to show off that he cut his hair off? Comparing Zach and CT is laughable. Could you imagine if Johnny was in the pit and was taken out by CT again?! CT looked like he came in to kill someone in Cutthroat. He looks a lot more relaxed coming in here. Hahaha Jamie looks like a child in this competition. His head just constantly being pulled against the wall. Jamie, no matter how often being told, just refuses to use his legs. "I think I'm nicer than CT" Oh Zach... that's funny. You have two full seasons of screaming at your female team members. I'm with Aneesa. Hearing "Cuz" and "cousin" this often is just weird. Of all the eliminations to bring in ringers for, this is kind of a boring one. There was basically the only real risk left for Cara. I would say they're chalked in for the final at this point if not the win. EP 10: (With absolutely zero people paying attention) Vince: "Stupid bar tricks." and tries to blow a ping pong ball in the air, for no apparent reason or directed at anyone? What even is this dude? Yes, a mini final! I hope this is a new trend of having a mini final every season. This basically is a final with only 3 teams having any kind of chance at this lmao Aneesa and Jenna and their pairs have jack shit of a chance. Brianna carrying this weight that looks bigger and heavier than she is! Lmao "There's rocks on the ground!" Jenna... You say some of the funniest shit unintentionally. I really wouldn't call struggling with the first leg "gassing out" it's more like they're suddenly struck with the struggle and just need to adjust and get on track. It's not like they're to the point of not being able to walk. They just aren't used to climbing an incline with a bag of weight on their backs. I'm actually shocked by Cory and Mitch being so far behind everyone. Ok, I spoke too soon. Vince legit looks gassed lmao The two teams I didn't think even had a chance are leading hahahha If I was in some kind of pool or betting for this show Cory would have me so pissed. He is being pathetic for how much you would just be looking at him and thinking he'd be better. This monkey bar checkpoint would be terrible if you can't do it on first try. If you can't do it the first time, why would you be able to do it a second or third time? Weird spot to have a girl/guy differential in the comp. Cara just fucking booking past Bananas lol The puzzle going to be the equalizer? Aneesa going from first to last? It's a credit to editing that they somehow turned 15 minutes of Aneesa and Rianna struggling on the monkey bars in to like two whole segments. Last to first? Holy shit! Wow The challenge was actually surprising as hell in just about every way. Wow "It's going to be a hard decision to make." What? How?! Johnny just doing anything to keep himself out of Elim lol "Jamie sucks, he'd be easy to beat." Definitely not Vince, who's been terrible throughout the season. Not at all! Good god, if Bananas and Vince scraped by again I would have flipped my shit. "Knock these egos down." Vince, I didn't expect you to be so self aware...oh you weren't talking about yourself. Nevermind, carry on. Johnny saying "If I go in and beat Cara, this could be considered one of my best wins I've every had." rings to me like Bananas trying to excuse a coming loss after the fact. Like he loses this elim and then wants to preemptively talk about the competition of Cara as being some huge win knowing damn well he loses. Fucking Johnny, I hate you if this happens. This is such a fucking Johnny move to belittle his loss like it was a big competitor. If you lose it will one hundred percent be because Vince is godawful at everything. STOP SAYING COUSIN!!!! It sounds like Johnny is thinking this is a color related puzzle, but I think it's more about the pattern of the lines. I don't think they have it. Johnny is gone! The Challenge is starting to get that Survivor problem where some big competitor leaves just short of the final and they started to put in the fire making challenge. Stuff like CT leaving before Free Agents, Johnny/Nany in Exes 2. There's an aspect of lesser competition getting to the end simply because the two big competitors face off leading to the end. Cara vs Johnny in the final would be more interesting than Jenna being in another damn final, or Aneesa and her partner having no chance. EP 11: Location change! This seems like a standard at this point... Oh we checked off someone having to ask where it is. Even for Berlin. Aneesa talking about getting this far and then failing, and then immediately sabotaging and tearing down her cousin. They walk in to this hotel and it looks like it'd be the location of an older Real World season lol the weird furniture and colors everywhere. Aneesa seems completely uninterested in even trying to care about her family member she brought in to this lol Aneesa's like I'm just here for the money, and Rianna actually seemed to want to get to know her family member and have a good time. All Aneesa talks about in these confessionals is needing Rianna in the game and to get her head in to it. Rianna's just talking about Aneesa being standoffish and rude. Maybe one of those things would kind of help the other? Like, give Rianna a reason to care to help you win money, or want to work harder for you. You might as well be Zach screaming at the girl. Another cool competition. This season's cast has been lackluster, but the challenges have been on point. Aneesa just seems so angry and bitter at this point. Cory/Mitch blowing it away. Aneesa sees her final fall away before her eyes. Oh god. Cara says "Fustrated"... "Then go to another country!" Aneesa says as if she has a choice... Wait wait...it's come full circle. Now Aneesa is yelling at someone else to figure out who they are and who they wanna be. I've heard that argument thrown at Aneesa way too much. Is..Is Aneesa talking about Cara right in front of her, like she's not there and not even a human? lol Aneesa, are you getting to Robin and Katie levels at this point? My brunette crazy drunk crush squad is closed up, sorry. I definitely think there is a quality of fakeness to Cara, but Aneesa, I think you're a bit off the mark with her accent and how she approaches the game. Bar Wrestle back, if there was anything Cara could come up short on. I love that they try to act like an elbow or knee during the bar wrestle is dirty, but continue to keep bar wrestle in the game because of this exact aspect of it. Saying Jamie won against CT is definitely stretching it lol Jenna two for two in finals? Underrated great competitor? lol yeah right. EP 12: Jenna being the one to talk shit about being in a final... What reality is this? Franz! A tailor? City Final!!!! A part of me would actually love Jenna and Brianna winning this lol Oh yeah predictions: Cara/Jamie > Cory/Mitch > Jenna/Brianna Cory and Mitch having to sit on only the second lap lol Only the guys seem to have issues with this. Maybe 120 is a little much compared to the girls' 60? "Janky carnival games" Oh Cara come on. Literally crying from just fake beer? Cara, you have rookies talking shit about your whining! THIS is how you handle drinking liquid? Jenna and Brianna are just killing this. At this point I purely think Aneesa lost her mind with Cara because of how much she had to hear "Cus" and "Cousin". Jenna and Brianna blowing it away, just waiting for them to blow it away just in time to hear it's only day 1. Part 1 ughhh. I miss marathon one day style finals. I don't care if it makes the final less suspenseful, or if one team blows it out of the water. I'd rather see people have to fight to not give up entirely. Oh, is it still one day, just two parts? EP 13: I hope they have to swim in these suits. You can just not eat them and get a 5 minute pinulty? Is that enough time? Oh no Cara's worst enemy! Liquid! Good god, Jamie seems like he's about to fill up that damn bucket. Oh I see, it seems you have to eat everything, there is just a time limit for how long you have to get them done. Jenna, also with no gag reflex. Zach seems to have a type. TJ, amazing actor. This city final has been a complete disappointment. Just a random 2 mile jog around a track to end it. Did they just run out of ideas for finals? These number puzzles and tangrams are again just like fire making in survivor. If you come in to these games not practicing these puzzles and learning basic strategies for them, then what are you even doing here? They come up just about every single season. Especially with the likelihood of people coming back multiple times. There's players of Survivor that will practice every single TYPE of puzzle they use and they have a much lower chance of ever even coming back let alone seeing the puzzle again. This show you're likely to come back on and likely to see these puzzle types. Do your damn homework! I came around on Jenna/Brianna a lot. Happy to see them finish it. Cara winning just seems tainted lol Like, I wasn't necessarily rooting for her so much as rooting against Johnny and then against the rookies and Jenna. Reunion: I hate when any show or episode starts with random teasers for the episode. Just get to it. Vince starting the episode looking like an idiot. Nicole looks less like a cartoon character. At least Jenna is looking at all the elim's positively. Saying she had to make up for the previous season and never going in. Bananas kissing ass of Jenna again, she must be coming back again... Rianna looking good on this reunion. She looks a lot different than she was on the show. Zach has a way of just cutting people off... geesh. Seems like a child that doesn't know how to handle a break up and just cuts, runs and hides. Cara already crying, and they haven't even gotten to her yet. Ugh...watching Abram's face while watching this. Ugh this is hard to watch. Cara sit there and try to be mad or cry. You made your bed. Abram about to cry. Quit giving the fucking out that she did this because she was caught up in wanting to win. Fuck that noise. At least she owns up and goes straight to Abram and says something. Abram's tattoos just get worse and worse. What the fuck is she trying to talk about with this being seven seasons about Abram and wanting the season. Way to take a fucking nose dive after starting off great. This is just gross. Cara started off great, but damn it took a dive. It just sounds a lot like fucking up and trying to find a lot of reasons to excuse it. Didn't Thom himself say there was a handjob? lmao Cara, now you're just lying. I hate Johnny, but I'm with him. Fuck this trying to bring up other peoples shit. Just be honest. Quit giving her the fucking out that this has any fucking thing to do with the game. Cara, wow. "Let me count my money. Who sent you home?" Well, that is definitely the way to address it lol I loathe Johnny, but I agree with him when he says Cara saw she had an added number to her alliance and that was a huge factor of not telling him. She evne said it herself that she knew how he would react. She didn't want him to get DQ'd or possibly get Thom DQ'd. That's why she was upset when Abram wanted her to vote Thom in elim. At that point I do think she was just thinking about numbers and was trying to not talk about it. I don't think her getting with Thom had anything to do with thinking about the game, I hate that that is even suggested, but it definitely changed how she handled her decisions. Can we literally not even talk about the fact that Johnny wasn't even willing to TRY to talk his team out of voting in Nany, but he was willing to throw an entire challenge to save Anthony/Kellyanne. Seriously not going to talk about that? It was a game vote, what were you gaining? Everyone knew you were in an alliance with her and no one would care? You gained nothing, quit trying to squirm your way out of it. Literally holding a trailer hostage to get a hashtag trending lmao I feel like these reunions completely ignore the more pressing or interesting questions to just go for the direct and simple questions that might spark the most drama. Like not bringing up that Johnny tried to throw a challenge for Kellyanne and didn't mind not saying her name, but wouldn't even speak in defense of Nany at fucking all. At least we're bringing up how god awful Vince was. Jesus. I'll just say it, Vince is more of a hindrance to the team than Big Easy. "He purposely threw half of those." Fuuuuuuck out of here Johnny lmao Good god, don't curse us with that Johnny, I never want to see Vince again. Cory is probably the only person from this season I could bet we see again. Maybe Jamie, but I doubt it. Johnny, who has won finals with two other partners "This is the best partner I've ever had" haha this dude will literally say anything. Why torture me at this point with hearing "cousin" more. Why?! Overall thoughts: I ended up coming around on this season quite a bit. The first two episodes I had absolutely zero investment. It brought in the worst parts of the previous season and then added half the cast being pointless or throwaways. The season ended up coming around, I think, due to the editing and the building of stories and drama. There wasn't a ton, but what was there was put together pretty well. Not only just the Cara and Abram situation, but also the individual elims, even though I never cared about any of these people, actually had interest and swings. I think the biggest disappointment of the season was the final. I was actually coming along and enjoying the season finally, you give me a "city" final and then it's so boring and bland and has almost nothing to do with the city other than kayaking down a river in the middle of the city and one part being in an abandoned subway. This final was an absolute bummer. It could have had the most interesting and athletic players in it and it would have still been a stail boring ass final. It's sad that the last couple seasons the mini final that they have within the season has been a better race or show of endurance than the actual finals have been. I miss the long marathon exhaustion inducing finals. These finals are getting really lame. Fuck the winners coming down to times on the combined parts. Make the shit a race. Between the casting as of late, the group of players to continuously return, and the final going more and more down hill I'm really worried my interest and trust in the show is waning. I really hope it isn't so. I know I've heard some good about some seasons coming up, but I just don't see some issues being all that addressed.
Fair warning, this will be a long post and I won’t be throwing down any rocket emojis. If you’re looking for that turn back. This post is me seeking some legit discussion about whether or not Next DC (NXT) is a buy at the current price. For those not in the know, NXT (Next DC) builds and operates data centers Australia wide. I’m looking at it as a potential multi-year buy and hold. It's currently sitting at $12.77 a share or about 5.88B on market cap, and made minor losses in FY19 and FY20 (more on why later). I’m going to talk about it at ~around $12 because $12.77 is a short term high and it could probably be picked up for less if you were patient. Another thing to keep in mind is that it has come up off $6 a year ago, with a capital raise in 2020, so it has more than doubled in market cap. Since I’m considering this as a long term hold my decision to go in has to be based on fundamentals, not price sentiment. I’m aware that this is a foreign concept to most denizens of ASX_Bets, but you retards are the closest thing to ASX stock analysts (*) I have on reddit. I consider myself to be a beginner at this kind of thing, so I welcome all kinds of feedback (good and bad) on my analysis. One of the first things I do when I’m trying to put a valuation on a company is a dive into the consolidated financials of the last few annual reports. This approach isn’t the be all and all of DD, but I like it as a starting point because it provides quick insight into how the company does or does not generate earnings, and trends in that behaviour. So, I tabulated the consolidated profit and loss statements of NXT’s 2017-2020 annual reports, and it only raised more questions for me. You can find my table at this imgur link. The numbers are rounded figures in millions, and the ‘scaling’ rows at the bottom are my own addition (sum of the ‘blue’ rows in the actual statements). https://imgur.com/nSYNdeI This table tells an interesting story, but before I get to that the number one thing to know about these figures is that the D&A Cost is Depreciation and Amortisation and it represents the continual loss in useful life of the company’s buildings, plant and equipment. So, when the company invests truckloads of cash into building a new data center the cost does not all appear on these statements in one lump, it gets spread out over the entire ‘useful life’ of the assets. This means it would be wrong to assume that the P&L statement looks bad just because the company is growing. Those growth costs simply don’t hit the P&L that way. You will observe that I’ve highlighted figures in blue that I consider to scale with the size of the company’s core business of building and running data centres, including lifetime D&A of those assets. These figures show a very nice underlying profitability to that business. Secondly, you will observe that the company made a profit in 2017 and 2018, and only made a loss in 2019 and 2020 because of the arrival of large financing expenses. If you dig through the 2020 annual report, you will find that this financing is mostly in the form of short term corporate bonds, about $800M worth. Some of the bonds mature in 2021 and some further out, at rates of 4% to over 7% per annum. Now, with the cash from the recent capital raising NXT could technically just pay out the bonds when they mature and be debt free, but they don’t really want to do that. The company has been growing at about 20% YOY by investing capital into new data center capacity, it needs cash on hand to continue this strategy. If the management of a company thinks that they can get a return on investment greater than the cost of capital then it makes perfect sense to take on some form of debt. NXT used that bond financing to fuel growth in the last couple of years. Read the section titled ‘Funding’ on page 23 of the 2020 report for confirmation that the company will seek continued financing. On page 73 of the annual report you will find a summary which shows a debt gearing ratio of 35% in 2019 and no gearing in 2020. However, they have used a Debt-to-Capital ratio there, which makes the debt cancel with the cash for technical reasons. To get a different view of gearing I worked out the Debt-to-Assets ratio (still factors in cash) and got 47% in 2019 and 32% in 2020. I don’t think the company will go back to shareholders for more cash again soon, so they will either need to draw down on their $300M debt facility or issue new bonds to roll over the old ones (hopefully at lower rates). The important take-away from this is that in order to keep growing (as shareholders will expect) the company will have to carry debt, and should carry debt if they can get a return on investment. They only need to hold cash temporarily while they set up the next expansion project. What this means for earning figures is that ‘financing expense’ scales with size of the annual growth for now, and will only later morph into an annual asset replacement cost proportional to the size of the business. This will never go away and it will eat into that ‘underlying profitability’ I mentioned earlier. It will also be a bit patchy and unpredictable from year to year as the company gets funding from different sources. Note that (the way I think it works is that) the financing impact on the profit and loss statement is the interest coupon on the bonds. I.e the -$57.7M in 2020 is about 6.5% of the total outstanding bond amount, equal to the average coupon which gets vaporised and forever disappears from shareholder value. The repayment of the principal on bond expiry will not appear on P&L, just like the initial funding injection did not appear as revenue. I know that was a lot to take on, but understanding the capital structure is a necessary foundation to valuation in this instance because the business model is so capital intensive. Company management is happy to blow past year’s ‘profit’ on next year’s financing if it will allow continuation of growth. You can expect the company to keep doing this until it hits some kind of growth ceiling or slowdown, at which point financing would drop to an asset turnover rate and the company would start paying dividends. The share price of the company, or I prefer to use total market value of the company (5.88B), should reflect earnings potential once the company stops growing, discounted depending on how many years in the future that point is, and should also count book value of assets at that time. The problem for me attempting a valuation is that the assumptions going into that method are all guesswork. Can the company continue to grow at +20% revenues for the next however many years? What about the growth rate in asset value? What if there is a significant shift in finance cost? Basically it is one of those situations where you can make present value come out at whatever number you choose, just by tweaking the assumptions. What’s worse, it looks to me like almost all of the present value is counted in the future value of assets. I won’t bother showing you the discounted cash flow because the numbers are meaningless, but in summary the annual profits generated are small in comparison to the value of assets, and once growth slows down the growth in profit is eaten by inflation and risk anyway. Even now (in 2020) the ‘scaling profit’ in my my original imgur link is less than 10% of net current asset value in each year (50M vs 1700M in 2020), which supports the view that a large portion of any debt fuelled infrastructure valuation is just book value of the assets. NXT will grow until management does the maths one day on return on capital and decides it is not worth it to keep growing at that cost or at that rate of return. In this way NXT is very much like an airport, a port or or a toll road company, just with data instead of physical goods. Valuation will trend towards nominal replacement cost or purchase price plus a return rate only slightly better than cost of capital (very low right now). Conclusions and Questions On the one hand, the rapid growth in net asset value looks likely to eclipse current market cap in a few years. Net assets (inclusive of debt) have grown at an average x1.6 for the last three years. 2017 506M > 2018 893M > 2019 875M > 2020 1683M (includes 862M cap raise). Now while that includes a capital raise, i.e. shareholder money, Net Current Assets (mostly just property, plant and equipment) have been growing at a similar rate. So, just project that rate out a few years, throw in reasonable revenue (beating cost of capital as a ROI) on top of that and you might consider it a buy at $5.88B today. It certainly would have been at $6. As far as risks go, I think the data center business is probably resistant if not immune to most foreseeable economic disruptions. The black swan stuff is not a reason not to invest, if you are diversifying properly. Direct threats would be mismanagement or competition. A near term (<3y) increase in cost of capital would also be problematic because it would put the brakes on growth. However, that would also affect competitors and would allow NXT to set prices. For upside risks, if the company can access cheaper debt it would be a great boost to shareholder value because it would slash the annual financing costs. On the other hand, I have difficulty making my preferred discounted cash flow model arrive at a $5.88B valuation. I figure that the company will return in the order of 10-15% of revenue as profit after the rapid growth phase is over (e.g. Replacing 5% of current assets value each year at a cost of 5-7% debt finance.), or a smaller percentage as return on assets. So, if it grows revenue at +20% for another 5 years it might make 75M in profit in 5 years time. If you run that into a cash flow model you get nothing like $5.88B present value (more like 2-2.5B). However in that model the present value is clearly dominated by underlying asset value (which I always count in total valuation) and that has been growing much faster as noted above. It would be silly of me to say that NAV will still be $1700M odd in 5 years time, which is what is happening in that 2-2.5B calculation. Some of you might be saying ‘but ASisko, you can’t use a DCF to value a growing, capital intensive business!’. Well, I think you can still make some ballpark guestimates, especially if you take the company’s depreciation and amortisation of capex at face value. However, this still leaves me wondering how to reconcile the rapid expansion in net asset value with the relatively paltry free cash flow. I can just project NAV at x1.6 (or a lower multiple for risk) and it comes out much higher than accumulated free cash. I guess my first open question to you guys is what the f**k to do with this weird NAV growth in a discounted cash flow? Or alternatively, is the DCF right and the NAV figures are wrong? Secondly, does anyone know of a superior fundamental analysis model for this type of business? Thirdly, would you invest or are you already invested in NXT, and why? Lastly, any other comments on my analysis or on NXT itself? Cheers guys and if you read all the way here instead of looking for the TLDR; I appreciate it.
🚨🚨🚨 Incoming rug pull and how to play it for maximum tendies.
Yes I know what you're thinking Autist, as you sit on your gaming chair sipping your choccy milk. "I've seen all these 🐻 posts before and stonks kept going up, printer goes BRRRRRR" Fundamentals haven't mattered for months, and except for some sharp pullbacks, NQ and SPY have all been on an absolute tear being instabid on every dip. That's all about the change. Tldr - bond market/ PM pricing in no deal on stimulus. - Bifurcation of NQ and SPY reached major tipping points. - DXY likely to bounce back strongly on risk off sentiment and foreign central bank action. - macro long term positioning for Inflation playing out across asset class correlations ( RUSSELL and value stocks starting to gain traction ) 1. Priced In has become a retarded meme at this point but what does it actually mean? It means basically that the market, chiefly big 💰 / institutions are expecting a future outcome ( or probability of one) and have allocated money appropriately. Historically Fixed Income due to its relative size has been a fairly reliable indicator. Previous crashes this year such as Feb/March crash and the mini NQ/SPY crash in June and July were both foreshadowed by majo high Vol shifts downwards in 10 year bond prices . Currently 10 year are plumbing new lows at the bottom end of 0.50 percent ( discounting the March flash crash ). This coupled with the meteoric rise in GLD and SLV last night IS NOT A GOOD SIGN. The sharp changes occured directly after stimulus news. What this means is that Institutions are signalling a chance the package will not be passed on time or in its entirety . BUT BUT VIX IS DOWN AND EQUITIES ARE UPPIES! yes little autismo, they are but that doesn't mean what you think it does. it's a poorly kept secret that this market is being kept afloat by hedge funds , institutional buying and retail fomo. I don't have the crayons or time to explain it to you but just look at news releases, support level buying and virus/ trade talks pumps. Vix being low doesn't necessarily mean what you think it does either. To oversimplify VIX goes up when more people buy puts. This is typically done to hedge against market drops. Big players don't need to hedge if they SOLD all/ most of their equity holdings and moved it into Bonds/ Gold / Foreign equity. Hedge funds are also notorious for shorting VIX as part of the 'Fed Put " trade . The fact that FI/PM are up while VIX is down makes me more certain of a drop not less as it means Big boys are trying to pass as many bags as they can to retail without spooking them.
There's been a lot of articles on this already so I'll keep it short, you all know how to use Google. SPY since March lows has been split in two like a sociopathic Solomon. There is the big 5 tech and everything else. Currently Big 5 is sitting at 25 percent of all market cap with huge returns over the last few months. This coupled with the performance differential of the other 495 has surpassed levels not seen since the dot com boom. THIS IS NOT SIGN OF A HEALTHY BULL MARKET. Major Bifurcation is the second best signifier of a 🐻 after the technical 20 percent drop level ( which doesn't really mean much) . 🍏 Has now become the largest company in the world surpassing Saudi Aramco. THIS TECH BOOM IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. Most of the apple gains have been from a one of WFH structural shift and Fiscal stimulus ( that now accounts for 25 percent of all disposable income ). If the stimulus bill doesn't pass, Apple is fucked. Just look at the AAPL gains from the last week, do you think this is sustainable?
The common retort on this sub is, " we all know it's a bubble but it will pop in few months, I'm getting my TENDIES while they're hot! " This sentiment has been thrown around for months all through April to July. Well what if months later is now? What better catalyst for a bubble pop than a Stimulus not going through as planned?
There's been a lot of posts about DXY dying and a lot of it is half true. Currencies are a hard thing to predict but I do want to point out two very key factors that are bullish for DXY. 3a- The entire world, especially emerging markets rely on Dollar inflows from exports to fund imports for key goods, especially commodities (oil etc). Global trade fell off a cliff in March and has barely recovered so where are countries getting dollars? By buying bonds . This was the reason behind the DXY spike to over 100 in March and the reason why the FX central bank swap program was instituted by JPOW. So unless you see global trade rebounding strongly in the very near term ( pigs will fly ) bonds will continue to be bid extremely strongly at auction, supporting DXY.
3b) DXY as has been pointed out is primarily dropping due to Euro strength ( which makes up about 65 percent of the Index). When DXY is compared to the Bloomberg trade weighted dollar index you'll see it hasn't dropped far at all and this makes sense (see 3a above). The Euro bullish trend, along with AUD/USD,GBP/USD and JPY/USD is unlikely to continue much further. Foreign central banks and governments for that matter will not allow the dollar to crater. We've already seen rumblings from the EU and JPY on this front as exports are already in a tenuous position. The last thing foreign companies need is a strong currency to hamper export sales. So I wouldn't bet against the FED, but I sure as shit wouldn't be getting against the ECB. Summary: I don't see this stimulus playing out on time or in full. Big money is pricing in either a delay or being scaled back substantially to meet Republican demands. I won't go into the specifics of the political theatre because quite frankly it doesn't matter. PM/ BONDS are are all the signalling device you need. How I see this playing out: The stimulus bill will pass on few weeks after a substantial Rug pull, similar to the 2008 TARP fiasco. I would strongly recommend either holding cash or going long DXY while this plays out. Either buy the dip on GLD/SLV with leaps or go long TLT at like 180c. Positions : short MNQ 3 units at 10530 and 1 ES at 3220. Yeah got in a little early, wasn't expecting the tech earnings blowout but have the margin to hold. Looking at GLD leaps for 06/21 300c when we get a pullback ( due to margin calls ). Thankyou for coming to my TED talk
Hi, I’m u/CokeZ3ro and welcome to the Falcons’ 2020 Offseason review
2019 Record 7-9 (4-2 in division); 2nd Place in the NFC South I’ll be starting off with a quick tl;dr for those who can’t read the whole post Coaching Changes: Officially promoting the 2 Defensive coaches that saved the season, new TE Coach, and some minor stuff. Free Agency: Todd Gurley and Dante Fowler were the biggest splashes. Otherwise we filled depth. Draft: Filled a CB need with A.J. Terrell, supplied the DT pass rush with Marlon Davidson, filled depth. Quick Roster Evaluation:
QB: We got Matty Ice and Matty Schaub, we good
RB: Gurley and his friends run a committee. Likely nobody will stick out as great, but let’s just hope it gets the job done.
WR: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and a boat load of depth. It’s great here.
TE: We’re betting on Hayden Hurst being better than the Ravens showed.
OL: Last year’s rookies fill their roles. Let’s hope for no injuries and pray that they don’t try to kill Matt Ryan again.
DE: Please get sacks Dante Fowler, and hopefully Takk McKinely will play for money. Big question mark here.
DT: Grady Jarret and friends Tyeler Davison (good against run) and Marlon Davidson (good at pass rush)
LB: Deion Jones continues to play well, and he has good company, it’s a strong unit.
S: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, and Damontae Kazee are back together. If Neal’s ACL doesn’t explode again, they should be really good.
CB: A bunch of hopeful younglings (two 2nd years and a rookie). This is the team’s greatest question mark.
Specialists: Younghoe Koo is back and we have a punter fight.
Now for the in-depth breakdown
Defensive Coordinator: Raheem Morris Would you believe it, Morris started the season coaching offense? The once Head Coach of the Buccaneers served as an assistant coach & wide receivers’ coach for the first half of the 2019 season. After the disastrous start to the season, one of the changes made was to move Morris over to Secondary Coach, where he shared defensive calling responsibility with Ben Ulrich. The benefits of that change (and others) were immediate. Over the final eight games, the team went 6-2 and the defense went from having the lowest amount of takeaways in the first half of the season (4) to finishing with the second-most in the NFL (16) after Week 9. The defense also vaulted from the bottom of the league rankings to the top 10 in sacks (32nd to 10th), scoring efficiency (32nd to 9th), and red zone efficiency (31st to 6th) over the final eight weeks of the season. As such, Quinn is keeping the coaching changes he made in place, with the hope we’ll see similar results for the whole season this year. Why Morris instead of Ulbrich? Morris was in charge of the potentially more difficult 3rd downplay calls this past season, and he has a long resume of defensive coaching that will enable him to naturally fill the role. Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers: Jeff Ulbrich While Ulbrich didn’t get DC, his efforts during the 2019 season were not unrewarded. Taking play calling responsibilities for a majority of defensive plays after the bye week, Ulbrich showed he was more than capable as a coach and strategist. The accolades that I gave to Morris earlier can just as well go to Ulbrich as well. This will be Ulbrich’s 6th year as Linebackers Coach, a stint that has provided the Falcons’ most consistent defensive unit in recent years. Tight Ends Coach: Ben Steele After the retirement of Mike Mularkey in January, Steele was promoted up from Offensive Assistant. Steele is a veteran of Dirk Koetter’s offense, having worked under him as the Buccaneers’ Tight End Coach during the 2017 season. Credited as a contributing factor in Austin Hooper’s great season, Steele will now have the important responsibility of coaching a vastly different tight end group. Defensive Line (Des)/Run Game Coordinator: Tosh Lupoi Last season Lupoi served as the Browns’ Defensive Line Coach. On the falcons he will specifically focus on defensive ends (Jess Simpson will coach Defensive Tackles more specifically this year). Secondary/Defensive Pass Game Coordinator: Joe Whitt Jr. Another Cleveland coach, Whitt served in the same role last season at Cleveland. Minor Changes: Aden Durde to Outside Linebacker Coach ; Chad Walker to Safeties Coach ; Danny Beyer as offensive assistant. Overall Thoughts: The two biggest coaching “moves” basically happened during the season, the titles are just official now. The hope is that Quinn, Morris, and Ulbrich can once again find whatever defensive magic came to them in the 2nd half of the season. It was this change in the defense that “saved” the season, and prevented the whole structure from being torn down, so the pressure is certainly there. If the defense carries any similarity to last year’s finish, it will be one of the better defenses in the NFL. But if I’ve learned anything over the past couple of seasons, it’s that nobody can predict how the Falcons’ defense will play. Beyond defense, tight end is the most important coaching to watch. With Hooper’s departure, the position is an unknown, with the hope that Hayden Hurst will live up to his draft potential. Steele will hopefully play an important role in improving and integrating the group into the offense. Overall, it’s a much calmer coaching offseason than last year, with the hope that the energy from the end of last year will continue.
1-yr / $750,000
3 yr / $4,300,000 / $1,950,000 Gtd
3 yr / $12,000,000 / $4,550,00 Gtd
5th Round Tender / $2,133,000
1 yr / $950,000
1 yr. / $1,187,500 / $137,500 Gtd
1 yr Extension / $4,500,000 / $3,250,000 Gtd
Re-sign Thoughts: Nothing too major or risky here. If Koo can keep up the highs of what he did last year, we should be in good shape (more onsides would be cool too). The others serve helpful depth roles that we’ll need this year. My one issue is with the size of Keith Smith’s contract, it feels pretty large for how much he contributed last season. But fullbacks are a dying commodity, so maybe there’s bigger plans for him.
Hurst + 2020 4th for 2020 2nd + 2020 5th
Harris for 2021 7th
Trade Thoughts: With Austin Hooper’s departure, the Falcons were left with a greatly depleted group, and a huge question mark at the position. Hurst’s trade hoped to solve that question and profit off of the 1st round pick. Hurst is still an unknown however, since he did not see ample playing time in Baltimore thanks to the likes of Mark Andrews. If Hurst lives up to the potential that Baltimore drafted him for, the cost will have been well worth it, but the jury is still out. Harris is a low-cost attempt to put some depth into one of the teams most worrying positions. Nice if it pans out well, not too painful if it doesn’t. Free Agent Signings
San Francisco 49ers
1 yr / $1,050,000
1 yr / $910,000
Dante Fowler Jr.
Los Angeles Rams
3 yr / $45,000,000 / $23,000,000 Gtd
Buffalo Bills (2018)
1 yr / $910,000
New York Jets (2018)
1 yr / $750,000
Los Angeles Rams
1 yr / $5,500,000 / $5,500,000 Gtd
1 yr / $860,000
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1yr / $910,000
Free Agency Addition Thoughts: I would like to thank the Los Angeles Rams for our two splashiest signings. Both Gurley and Fowler will likely be the best players at their positions, and the team desperately needs them to at least perform averagely. If Fowler is able to put up the same numbers he did last season it would be a godsend to a struggling Falcons’ D-Line. While it’s likely that the Falcons will employ an RB Committee this year, Gurley’s skills will be vital in tough situations. Even a shadow of his former self would be the best RB on the team. If you hadn’t heard, Gurley and Treadwell’s signing complete an offense potentially composed entirely of 1st Round draft picks. I don’t expect the other signees to see the field much, but any depth is always appreciated.
Departures Thoughts: Per usual this list features a mix of blown expectations, too expensive, and free agent losses. Hooper is probably the most painful loss, but he was going to be too expensive to re sign after his explosive season. Trufant’s release was inevitable sadly, he hasn’t played up to his 2015 level and the contract he earned. Unfortunately it leaves the cornerbacks without a veteran presence. Freeman was way too expensive for the pitiful numbers he’s put up recently. He has an intense injury bug, and hasn’t been that great when he was able to play. Campbell also sucks some since he was pretty decent at LB, he played a big role when Deion Jones was injured. The terror of Vic Beasley is finally over, but our DE position is still desperately weak.
A.J. Terrell: While many fans were pining for a Defensive Tackle, Cornerback was a huge need after the release of Desmond Trufant. In typical Falcon’s fashion they drafted someone nobody had mocked them to. In Terrell Atlanta will gain a large, physical outside corner, capable of playing both man and zone. Terrell is great at both reading the quarterback, and being physically present over the receivers he covers. While he only faced 30 targets before the playoffs last year, he still earned First Team All-ACC. I’ll acknowledge his LSU game before someone else does. It wasn’t great, but nobody played well against Jamar Chase last season, and it was ultimately one day. If there are doubts on how he’ll play against good competition on the big stage, look no further than the previous national championship where he scored a Pick-6 against Tua. Somethings Terrell can improve on include improvements at the catch, and more physicality for NFL level play. Ultimately, while picking Terrell left questions on the D-Line, it filled a depleted cornerback group with a starting presence, and was debatably the best option available for them without a trade up. B Marlon Davidson: While Derrick Brown attracted all the hype coming into the draft, it was actually Davidson who led the team in sacks (6.5-7.5 source dependent). Roughly a fourth of his tackles were for loss, as he and Brown dominated opposing lines. Ideally, Davidson will form a similar DT partnership with stalwart Grady Jarrett and give some bite to a lacking Falcons D-line. Davidson posses a great ability to penetrate opposing lines to disrupt the play, with tackles and sacks to boot. Furthermore, he also serves well to stand tall to halt runningbacks in their tracks. One worry of note is that Davidson played a decent amount of snaps as an edge player at Auburn. With Atlanta he’ll predominantly be lined up at tackle, especially given the defenses leaning towards 4-3, so he’ll need to adjust to that. This past draft was one deep at Defensive Tackle, and the Falcons have found a great partner for Jarrett. A Matt Hennessey: Finally I can expand my gameday drinking options. But in all seriousness Hennessy serves to fill a need that doesn’t exist quite yet. This year is Alex Mack’s last season on contract with the Falcons, so the position is an unknown next year. Hennessey will train to potentially fill his role come next year and will compete for and play at Left Guard in the meantime (he played guard some in college). It may seem dubious with our commitment to the O-line through FA and the Draft last season, but Matt Ryan was sacked for a career high 48 times last season. More help is needed. Hennessey excels at moving quickly to his one or two assignments and will commit to extending the play beyond that point. He needs to work on his strength and size if he is to maintain a spot on the starting lineup. Ultimately, he’s a solid investment for the future, with benefits this season. And I really hope he pans out because his name is great. A- Mykal Walker: After departures in the past season, Linebacker has become a thin position behind Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun. Walker has the size and strength to be good at the position. He displays position flexibility, playing both edge and inside linebacker in college. His movements remain somewhat stiff in comparison to what is needed, but there’s time to work on that. Walker will likely see both rotation at LB and special teams play. B Jaylinn Hawkins: Speaking of position flexibility, Hawkins started at wide receiver, moved to cornerback, before finishing college at safety. Hawkins as good speed and does well to create turnovers, something the Falcons have been lacking. While he’s considered a reach in the 4th, he’ll fill in some much-needed safety depth, considering the injury history of Allen and Neal. Otherwise he’ll serve well on special teams. C+ Sterling Hofrichter: Hofrichter was brought in to give punter Ryan Allen some competition going into the season. Hofrichter was a 4-time Ray Guy award nominee, so he’s no schmuck himself, and was great at giving airtime. It’s low risk but begs the question why it couldn’t have been an UFDA signing. Oh well. C
Undrafted Free Agent Signings
CB Tyler Hall, DE Austin Edwards, DT Hinwa Allieu, FB Mikey Daniel, LB Jordan Williams, LB Ray Wilborn, DE Bryson Young, DT Sailosi Latu, C Austin Capps, CB Delrick Abrams, LT Hunter Atkinson, TE Caleb Repp, WR Jalen McCleskey, RT Scottie Dill, WR Chris Rowland, TE Jared Pinkney, CB Rojesterman Farris, OT Evin Ksiezarczyk, WR Juwan Green and OG Justin Gooseberry.
Training Camp Battles
RB2*: I put an apostrophe here because a lot will depend on who Gurley shapes up. While Gurley is presumed to be the important situation and 3rd down back, it’s less clear who will be the primary back to relieve him. And that of course is assuming there will be someone who stands out. The two primary candidates are Ito Smith and Brian Hill, who both performed serviceably last season behind Freeman. Quadree Ollison and UDFA Mikey Daniel serve as candidates for short yardage situations. WR3&4: We have a lot of receivers. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are the obvious 1&2, but there’s less certainty after that. Russell Gage will most likely play as WR3, he was the best of the group last season. Behind him is an extensive list including: Laquon Treadwell, Olamide Zacchaeus, Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, Devin Gray, and Chris Roland; to name a few. It’s easily the deepest group on the team. TE2: Unless things go terribly; Hayden Hurst will be the starting tight end. Jaeden Graham leads the charge of potential candidates for the backup spot. Graham was a UDFA who made the 53-man roster last season, so he has the most experience of any of the candidate. Graham’s competition includes Carson Meier, Jared Pinkey, and Caleb Repp. LG: James Carpenter started 11 games at guard last year, which he played serviceably, but Quinn has indicated that there will be competition for the position. Hennessey is the main competition for the spot, even though center will be his long-term position. I would imagine they DT2: This competition will be to determine the how often and the roles in which either Tyeler Davison or Marlon Davidson will play. Wow those last names will be confusing to hear. Davison has proven himself to be an asset to halting the run game, while Davidson provides a more potent pass rush. If Davidson is able to adapt to increased play as a run blocking DT, I could see him taking the starting spot later on in the season, but it’ll take some time. LB Depth: Behind Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun the position is very untested. It’s likely rookie Mykal Walker will see playing time, but the 4th spot will be contentious. Contenders include LaRoy Reynolds, Ahmad Thomas, Edmond Robinson, and Jordan Williams. Punter: Hell yeah, we have a punter fight. Ryan Allen started 8 games last year after Matt Bosher bit the bullet, but we’ve spent a draft pick on Sterling Hofrichter to challenge him. Supposedly, the ability to pin punts within the red zone will be a key factor in determining the starter. May the better punter win and do it for the culture.
Likely Starting Lineup
QB: Matt Ryan Even coming off a lesser season, Ryan remains one of the better Quarterbacks in the league. No issue here as long as the O-line doesn’t conspire to kill him again. RB: Todd Gurley, kind of . Given the uncertainty around Gurley’s knee, he will be receiving a limited workload this season. So, while he may be the RB1 by all indications, he’s unlikely to put up any RB1 numbers, and the RB position will be committee based on most downs. Now if he found some of Russell Wilson’s magic water and is suddenly fine, then you could easily count him as RB1. FB: Keith Smith I’ll say the same thing I said for Ricky Ortiz last year. It’s a hard life for Fullbacks in today’s NFL, and Smith is no Patrick DiMarco, he’s going to have to prove his worth. TE: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Smith You don’t spend the draft capital we did on Hurst and not start him, and he’s likely the best TE regardless. My bet is on Smith to earn the TE position, but his use will be limited. WR: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage Above the smorgasbord that is our WR depth, these three are set nicely within their roles. While Sanu is missed personally, his role is well filled by Gage, and Ridley continues to improve. LT: Jake Matthews Last year Matthews was one of the best players on the line last year. He will continue to hold up the vital position. LG: James Carpenter Carpenter has done decent in the past but he’s definitely facing pressure for his spot this year. Matt Hennessey may take the start later on, but I would bet on Carpenter starting with it, due to experience if anything. C: Alex Mack Even after a down season last year, Mack is one of the most important players on the offense. Hopefully, his intelligent play will bring the offense back to glory. RG: Chris Lindstrom When he was healthy Lindstrom proved he was more than capable of playing the position well. Now we can only hope he stays healthy this season. RT: Kaleb McGary Last season McGary proved himself capable as an NFL tackle, winning the spot and performing decently enough with it, for the most part. However, McGary had an issue with giving up sacks (13, 1st according to PFF), a trend which must be nipped quickly. DE: Dante Fowler, Takk McKinley This group will have to step up this year as the team has had poor sack numbers in recent years. This year is a contract year for McKinley, so hopefully that will drive some results. Fowler’s performance last year gives some hope, but ultimately, it’s unknown if he can sustain those numbers. DT: Grady Jarret, Tyeler Davison I have no doubt in both Grady’s run stopping ability and his pass rush. I think at the start of the season Tyeler Davison will see play more often as Davidson works to improve. Especially with how unsure practice will be this season, Davison is the safer pick. LB: Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun 2 great recent draft successes, Oluokun especially has risen and proven his worth in recent seasons. This should be a pretty good group if the injury bug leaves Deion alone. CB: Kendall Sheffield, A.J. Terrell, Isiah Oliver Christ this is a young group. Sheffield and Oliver are both on their sophomore year, and Terrell is the shiny 1st round pick. As such, this is probably the greatest unknown on the entire team. Sheffield was surprisingly good last year (Those OSU corners are something else), Oliver had good flashes, and Terrell offer hopeful potential. Alternatively, they may all crumble to the harsh challenges of being a CB in the LOADED NFC South. Who knows? S: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Demontae Kazee Allen is the brain of the defense and was vital to saving our secondary last season. Keanu would be great as a Strong Safety if his ACL didn’t fucking hate him. Furthermore, this is a contract year for him, so one would hope that he’ll try his ass off to make up for 2 lost seasons. Last time Kazee was at Safety he led the NFL in interceptions, which was pretty cool. I expect that Kazee will play corner roles (he played corner last year) occasionally in order to help out the younglings at CB. P: Ryan Allen I expect Allen’s experience to help him win out the job, but it could easily go the other way. K: Younghoe Koo Koo was pretty good as a place kicker when he came in last season, and his onside kicks are the stuff of legend . Unrelated, but at 2:37 in that video look at the top right of the screen and you’ll see my favorite thing from last season. KR: Brandon Powell He returned kicks a few times for the lions. Long Snapper: Josh HarrisHe’ll steal your girl if you aren’t careful.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin Bosses SL1 Tier List - Who is Objectively Worst? [Very Long Post with Naughty Language]
Many moons have there been since this accursed, low-level wanderer sat by the OneBro bonfire and spun a yarn about the objective baddery of Dark Souls bosses, and now he has returned. So following my somewhat successful (I think...Relatively) post ranking DS1 bosses by objective badness here is the follow up. All bosses, from DS2:SotFS, ranked, objectively, by objective badness as rated by the Board of Official Objective Baddery (BOOB), in ascending order, 1 being least objectively bad and eightmillionandtwelve being most objectively bad. * So put on your reading glasses, strap in, relax and prepare for a long list because mathematicians are still unsure as to whether to classify the number of bosses in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin as an infinity. \Note: For clarity it should be specified early that there is little objective about any of this, it's a bit. Go with the bit.* 1. Dragonrider – He usually throws himself off the ledge in embarrassment at the fact that you can slay him with about ten taps of a rotting hardware store hammer. He’s also built like Brock Lesnar’s fatter, more muscular uncle, and wearing heavy armour, making you wonder about the enormous strength of the dragons he used to ride. 2. Old Iron King – He can’t navigate doorways. You can avoid all but one attack by using the best shield in the game – ‘The Threshold’. Given that he’s supposed to be a Great Lord on par with DS1s Gwyn he’s a massive disappointment and easy as piss. That hole in the ground on the back wall of the arena probably accounts for more deaths. 3. The Last Giant – Then who and/or what the fuck is Yhorm? Or does ‘Time is convoluted’ just mean you can ret-con bollocks? Either way he beats Iron King because you can’t just stand under a lintel and not get hit. He also pulls him arm off to beat you with it and that’s pretty metal, but he does die from you tickling his feet, so possibly not so much. 4. Skeleton Lords – Do you remember The Catacombs-Tomb of Giants from DS1? It’s that - the boss fight, which weirdly makes it easier. A bunch of skeletons come at you and you grind them to bonedust with a mace whilst running in circles. 5. Prowling Magus and Congregation – Do you remember that gank in DS1 on the way to the Gargoyles? It’s that – the boss fight! Scholar is absolutely chock full of standard enemy ganks that are all harder than this, or the previous entry. 6. Covetous Demon – Ever wanted to fight Jabba the Hutt’s sperm in a windmill that is apparently milling depleted uranium into a toxic poison powder? Who hasn’t, right!? Well now’s your chance and he’s about as agile as you expect. His main attacks are being fat and fucking stupid, the second one is more effective. 7. Flexile Sentry – The boss that looks cooler than it is effective. Carrying four amazing weapons and somehow finding no way to make up for the fact that its weird conjoined middle is there for an attacking. 8. Demon of Song – Froggy’d be lower if not for the fact than he can hit quite hard, especially at SL1. Otherwise, Damon of Snog is a roll and a few stabs away from being trivial. His strong love of face-hiding turtleneck sweaters is also a saving grace. 9. The Pursuer – He’s ‘Baby’s First Training Fight’, let’s be honest. Probably the first of the non-trivial bosses on this list but also at the bottom because even if you don’t take the route of parry-ballista-ballista, he’s just parry-smash-roll-hit-roll-hit-parry-smash. If you had trouble with him on your first regular playthrough, an SL1 of this guy will make you ashamed of your past self! 10. Royal Rat Vanguard – The last of the non-troubling ganks, but it’s still a shit-ton of rats. That’s what this fight is. It’s a room full of rats. Kill some rats and a special rat with a hairstyle comes out and that rat has more HP than the other rats, presumably because of his cool hair, and gets a red bar. You can tear through them all with a rapier and chomp on some gems if you find yourself in trouble because they don’t do a lot of damage. 11. Executioner’s Conjoined Horse – The chariot is not a boss, I refuse to acknowledge it as such. There are some skeletons and there’s a horse, that’s the boss. That said, it can and will hurt you if you’re not careful. Bow-cheese doesn’t even make this trivial because it takes ages, but it’s still relatively simple. 12. Dragonriders – No I said “…riders”! It’s plural! Second verse very similar to the first but with an echo that carries a bow and arrow. That can make this fight tricky until you realise Mr. Bow and Arrow is wearing eggshell armour, cracks with a light tap, and once you’ve taken one out, the rest is as easy as beating a Dragonrider. So far three of them have been spotted, no dragons with them. What the hell are they riding? That’s like meeting up with Lewis Hamilton in the post-fossil fuel future and calling him ‘Cardriver’. 13. Ruin Sentinels – This lower-mid pack gets tough. I put the ruin sentinels here because they’re not bad, but they do have some tricky range and jumps. Add in the fact that they are a bit of a gank, and they can prove troublesome. They get shredded by the mace, though, and if you can get some lightning lube on it they’re stripped of HP quick. 14. Mytha, the Baneful Queen – Poison mistress and head-carrying Medusa rip-off, this is a boss you can be forgiven for summoning for because Jester Thomas is a straight-up SuperBro. Even if you don’t summon, though, the poison moat is more annoying than she is. With few, if any, non-telegraphed attacks the most annoying of which is her crazy-range spear thrust. You’ll take her out in no-time, even at SL1. 15. Old Dragonslayer – If you try to take him on when you can first reach him he falls about here on the list. Go back with a further upgraded mace and you’ll grind his meat faster than Maneater Mildred with a hankering for Ornstein Pie. It’s fake Ornstein, with less oomph and less impressive moves. 16. Scorpioness Najka – Is it Naj-ka, is it Nay-ka or is it Na-ka? Who knows!? All I know is attack while her stingers are underground, except when the rest of her is. She gets a few points of objective baddery for soul spears, the range of her thrust, and definitely that rangey tail whip. They will all hurt at SL1. Of the arachnid waifus she’s no Quelaag. 17. The Rotten – Another disappointing Great Lord, but at least he’s not stumped by a door. He’s basically Mildred, Nito and Quelag rolled up and smoked. This lava-surrounded, butcher knife wielding amalgam of dead junk is so easy he is often bonfire asceticked (I’m verbing it. That and the verb ‘to verb’ are getting verbed) to get early access to Drangleic Castle. Beat him four times and you’ve got the souls to proceed. 18. Belfry Gargoyles – It’s the Belfry Gargoyles from DS1, only more of them. Just like how Dark Souls II is basically Dark Souls but more of them. This is a real pain in the perineum. The gargoyles go down relatively quickly, but a tricky moveset and the fact that there can be 4 of them out at once means you can, and will, get swamped. 19. Smelter Demon – If this were based on personal experience he’d be in the single digits. My first ever DS2 run Smelter was a nightmare, so I had a feeling of dread when I came back for him at SL1. Only when I got there it wasn’t a snorting, orange-glowing, bull-headed demon wielding a frightening sword. It was a small ginger tabby kitten with tickle-scratchy claws. That said - heavy weapon, awkward moveset and an obnoxious AoE effect on his body. Definitely in the realm of bullshit. 20. Giant Lord – It is tough to know where to put this one. He can be as easy as tickle his tootsies until he falls. Every now and then, though, you’ll have a hard time. He is one of those DS2 bosses for whom the run up is more frustrating than he is. Smelty above is just the same. 21. The Duke’s Dear Freja – What happens when you have a spider for a pet and feed it growth hormones and magical pebbles? Freja. At SL1, being accidentally in the way of its leg moving can kill you. At the same time, it’s so pattern based that the most annoying aspect of the fight becomes managing the smaller spiders when you’d rather be two handing your weapon instead of carrying a torch. 22. Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin – He’s a fire tree. Since when were trees scholars? They’re made of wood, how do they cope being permanently on fire? What is the first sin? Is it lust? So many questions and yet, no answers. Why? Because as far as big challenges at the end of the main story go, he isn’t one. Basically just don’t walk into his fire and you’re fine. 23. Guardian Dragon – 22 to 25 is a quadrilogy that, for me, are interchangeable and I place them in the order I do based upon my own experience. Guardian Dragon is exactly the same guy you have to beat to get to Old Dragonslayer just as an actual boss. The annoying fire-breaths stop this being a trivial fight but to me the least objectively bad of this group. 24. Velstadt, the Royal Aegis – He carries a giant metal acorn on a stick with a bell in it. That scares the hell out of me, and it should because he has a couple of annoying swings that can hit you in weird places. That said, he also spends a decent amount of time doing stuff you can just walk around, while stabbing him. It seems inefficient. 25. The Lost Sinner – Dark room, fast moves and a distinct lack of ADP boosting gear before doing this fight make it a real tough point. Anyone used to fighting her earlier will have a distinct advantage but otherwise she is a challenge. Rumour has it she spends all her time in darkness so you can’t see how hot she is, rawr! 26. Looking Glass Knight – Absolutely not the worst of this quadrilogy by any subjective measure but objectively it’s a minor gank and a pain in the dick. Any time there are multiple targets it increases chaos and decreases predictability, thus making it more objectively bad for the SL1 player. That’s what happens here. I, subjectively, would put Guardian Dragon at 25. Objectively, though, Guardian Dragon doesn’t randomly summon a potential human player halfway through the boss fight just to fuck with you. 27. Vendrick – I suppose he can fall somewhere between “Objectively as hard as cellular respiration” and “I’d rather masturbate with rusty nails!” depending on your Giant Souls but his moveset is sluggish and predictable and he’s deliberately intended to be a grim spectre of a potential final boss, so he’s not so bullshit unless you get caught on the tip of that 320 degree swing. 28. Elana, the Squalid Queen – I’ll level with you, this might be here because of subjective reasons but I am not going back to re-do this part just to find it if I’m gud, flukey or plain lucky. Basically I didn’t find Pooshandra all that tough or bullshit, especially if you don’t get a Velshidt summon. It took me around a handful of tries and I was expecting more from a DLC boss. 29. Nashandra’s Curse Orbs – Nashandra herself is an utter disappointment as a final boss. To make up for her shortcomings as a challenging fight the developers decided they should surround her in a circle of orbs that can curse you. Curse in DS2 works by just being damage. They’re take-care-ofable but they caused me a decent amount of trouble. 30. Sir Alonne – One of my criteria for objective baddery is enjoyability. This should put Sir Alonne lower down this list but for one thing. He has a sword thrust that turns the middle of his blade into a vacuum cleaner that sucks you onto it even if you’re thousands of miles away. That is objectively bad. Alonne is an excellent fight, a fantastic tussle but that one little thing ruins it. 31. Fume Knight – Very similar to Sir Alonne. In my experience a very satisfying fight, a two-way tussle where you have to learn when is safe and when is not safe to stab. Honestly, stick by his side, learn your roll timing and you can pretty much stab away! Definitely high up the objective baddery for his magic swords that hit you with the air trail behind them as if you just got run over by a monster truck, though. 32. Ancient Dragon – Objectively bad because it’s like fighting a brick wall that sometimes drops a brick down on you that knocks you out. It is the easiest method for the hardest fight in the game and a true test of patience. Tickle his toes and he’ll (eventually, sometime next century) fall. 33. Sinh the Schleepy Dragon – He’s so sweet. He got a little sick, so he took a nap and then he’s grouchy when you wake him up. Not too tanky to seem like a chore at SL1, but has a few juggernaut-hits and sometimes he decides to rack up the frequent flier miles rather than fight. 34. Blue Smelter Demon – Same as the orange one except for two things, magic passive AoE and delayed hits. Nowhere near as bad as I remembered from my levelled run on the SL1, though. A bit of a disappointment actually. 35. Royal Rat Authority – Yeah, this objectively bad. One of the worst damn bosses in all Soulsborne. A decent aim on an upgraded bow will turn this fight from ridiculous gank twattery into mere hitbox hell. It’s not even a rat! Have you seen a rat that looks like that!? It’s a damn mangey mutt gank! 36. Lud and Zallen – Perhaps a surprise but despite the difficulty of the snowcats, these two are HP scaled to suit their gank and the time in which you may have to deal with two at once is minimal because you’ll either kill or be killed. They’re bad, but they’re not that bad. 37. Throne Watcher and Throne Defender – The real final boss of Scholar. Nashandra is less worrying than her curse orbs and Aldia is only as effective as you are actually stupid. These two, though – wow, what a shitty gimmick for the SL1. Requiring you not only manage your health, your stamina, any buffs you may have but also manage their HPs so you can kill them within about 15-20 seconds of each other to prevent the rez. If you refuse to use Brightbugs through your run these are the guys who will waver your conviction. 38. Darklurker – Half of this fight is like slapping an infant. There’s a danger you might get slapped back, but you’ll probably stop it, or it won’t hurt and you can just keep on slappin’. Then Darklurker decides to split into two and at that point you’re entirely at the mercy of your own capacity to actually split your vision and keep a conscious eye on two things at once, as well as multitasking by controlling a virtual avatar avoiding the things the two things you are watching are doing. This fight is so objectively bad it turned me into a pyromancer! Not kidding, this was the fight where I learned that DS2 has possibly the richest assortment of paths you can take as an SL1 character and I went full pyro build for him. Trying to get in close to one, watch the other and get stabs, slashes or smashes in did not work, but dancing around and dropping Flame Swathes? That changed the game for me. 39. The Shulva Sanctum Super Squad – aka The Gank Squad, aka Cerah the Old Explorer, Ancient Soldier Varg and the Afflicted Graverobber. It takes a lot to be considered objectively worse than this in my opinion. A lot. How a fight against three cosplayers is more tedious than giving a giant dressed as a dragon a mani-pedi is beyond me. How a fight against three pseudo-PvPers is more irritating than a poison dograt gank is beyond me. If you were to ask for my subjective worst, here it is. You want the subjective baddery, the subjective bullshit, this fight has it all. Try and take them on fairly and you’ll last seconds before a dragon tooth squashes you so your options are cheese or Benny Hill and neither of those feel in any way satisfying. You can’t even make fun of this fight, it’s like being invaded by a squad of ten year olds who think they’re being clever. Everybody loses in the end. Are they, objectively, the worst though? 40. Burnt Ivory King – You thought that previous gank was bad? How about a gank that makes you do more of a DLC to make it even remotely tolerable, and even then it will still throw a curveball at you for that gank by making your army of buddies about as potent as a fart in a hurricane! Add to that the fact that those buddies sacrifice themselves to make the gank stop and then act like total tools as the real boss comes out and does that boss have a weapon with lingering hitboxes? That bane of SL1? YOU BET HE DOES! Put a bonfire between the gank and the King and you’ve got a fan of this setup, as it is it’s objectively bad for SL1, SL100 or even SL-damn-1000! It’s a needless annoyance that at SL1 becomes a literal barrier. I said to my partner, who was watching as I did this fight, that once I got passed the gangwar section I’d have the boss beat within five attempts. It took me two. It took me many, many more than that to hold off a bunch of immolated imbeciles and stop my own Sid-from-Ice-Age’s in armour from dancing around in circles as they got whacked. Dull structure that ruins a good fight. 41. Aava the King’s Jank – It’s paws are actually twice the size they appear on screen and they are made of a special type of rubber that stretches physically without doing so visually. Combine that with a tongue made up of inescapable black holes and you have, objectively, the worst fight for SL1 in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. My DS1 and DS3 lists for objective baddery have a tendency towards ranking via difficulty but DS2 really bucks that trend by ruining its bosses with –ank factors. Jank and Gank. Sometimes you can see what they were going for, but it was executed badly, sometimes you’re just left scratching your head and sometimes it is apparent that the Souls community shot itself in the foot with all its elitist nonsense and ‘git gud’ attitudes. There is a definite element in Scholar that while in other DS game you rage and call objective baddery because of the way fights are deliberately designed (e.g. Friede – who is still, objectively, the worst designed SL1 boss but only because she was never ‘designed’ with that in mind) but in DS2 a lot of the most objectively bad bosses are there because of accidents of design. Aava is number 1 not because of difficulty, length, moveset or anything like that. It’s because she’s a Dark Souls 3 speed boss in a Dark Souls 2 paced game with hitboxes that are nothing remotely like the limbs being used to hit and a grab attack that can literally suck you in from distance. Sir Alonne has a vacuum blade that ruins a fight that I would otherwise put somewhere 1-10 on the list because of how damn enjoyable it is, even if it is difficult! With that said I thoroughly enjoyed every boss challenge on my scholar all-bosses run, but there were things that were objectively bad that I raged against and hated. Welcome to the true most objectively bad bosses in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin – Environment Edition! 1. Huntsman’s Copse – This area killed my CoC challenge. My SL1 run was paused here for a very long time and only after a couple of hours of perseverance on returning did I realise I still had CoC on. The bridge approach to Executioner’s Chariot is a pain in the arse when one of those dark whip guys can knock you down so easily, and those narrow runs up to the bonelords are a thrown dagger to the dick. 2. Iron Keep/Run to Smelter Demon – Apparently Alonne knights have the anime power of doubling the speed and framerate of your game when running at you from far away, and there’re TONS of them. Think you can dodge and make it to that fogdoor? So did I, THEN I TOOK AN ARROW TO THE EVERYTHING! One of the most frustrating design elements for the SL1 runner is the ability to get stunlocked out of entering a damn door! Add in an uninspired design that feels most ‘gamey’ of all DS2s environments and it’s…it’s not good. 3. Shrine of Amana – Really? This is a shrine? A shrine to what? I reckon the only reason they think it’s a shrine is because every adventurer who goes there is like “HOLY FUCKING SHIT WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS PLACE!?” It’s a lake of dickbags, some of whom angrily throw magic at your face, some of whom are weird priests and what the hell even is a milfanito? A tiny Spanish milf!? Get outta here. 4. Black Gulch – Oh so you like exploring? Screw you, here’s a crossfire of poison spit, a potential Dark Spirit Forlorn hotspot with creepy hand monsters that jump out of the puddles you run by. It’d be higher up if it was more a marathon than a sprint. 5. Iron Passage – More like back passage. 6. Dark Chasm – How about we make you use a resource to repeat an area we filled with deliberately bullshit enemies so you can face that tough boss. How about we make that area about as visually inspired as “shit cave” too, while we’re at it. 7. Memory of the Old Iron King – You might not remember this area because the human brain has a great capacity for selective amnesia when it comes to traumatic events so my apologies for reminding you it’s that bit where Alonne Knights violate you in all your holes (including lachrymal ducts) whilst giant salamanders shoot fire so you can try and make it to a boss. 8. Majula – IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY, YOU CAN SEE THE WATER, BUT YOU CAN’T GET TO THE GOD DAMN BEACH! 9. Undead Crypt – One reason…DING DING, DING DING, DING DING, DING DING. 10. The Frigid Outskirts – Absolutely, positively, objectively the worst thing in any souls game ever. If I wanted to spend my time running away from giant, death-dealing horse-deer hybrids in a snowy hellhole I’d stick on my moosebait suit and move to fucking Sweden! Yeah you can carry a big stick and some repair powders so that you can fail to the boss and do it all over again. The worst. Scholar is a weird one. I can see the faults in the game, but I'll also defend it. DS3 was such a rehash of DS1 that was itself very derivative of Demon's Souls that the amount of things 2 does different is worthy of applause in my book. That said, it's a difficult second album and it hits a lot of bum notes. The environments thing is not just a bit, it truly has some of the worst environmental design not just for SL1, but in general, of any soulsborne title. Some of those environments are a legitimate chore and the reason I would recommend savescumming to anyone doing all bosses. What's sad is I think if they had had a visionary behind the game who could tell them what to cut, what to highlight, what to emphasise and what to minimise DS2 had some major potential. That's that, then. DS3 to go and then I suppose I'll have to do some kind of overall top objectively bad Souls moments or something. For now, peace, love and bonfires.
https://preview.redd.it/it6vqxvxzci51.jpg?width=900&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d5ba4c7f80a1439c4283f4b30e3514629fcf504b Now that we have passed the opt-out deadline and are only about three weeks away from the Chiefs and Texans kicking off the 2020 NFL season, I wanted to put together my pre-season power rankings and put all 32 teams in separate tiers, to give you an idea of where I see them at this point. When putting together this list, I considered the talent on the roster, coaching staff and what will be a more important factor coming into this season than it has been in previous – the continuity as a franchise, since the COVID situation has limited the amount of preparation and ability to build chemistry as a team. That will be especially tough for new head coaches and inexperienced teams. With that being said, this is how I would group them:
Super Bowl contenders:
This group of four represents what I think are the four elite teams in the NFL. They all feature complete rosters, excellent coaching and continuity as a franchise. I think these are the franchises that will most likely square up against each other in the conference championship games on either side of the bracket. 1. Kansas City Chiefs We have heard this many times over the course of the offseason – the reigning Super Bowl champs bring back 20 of 22 starters (actually 19 now) on offense and defense combined. They have the best player in the league, the most dangerous receiving corp, above-average O-line play and a still improving defense, that just added some much-needed speed at the second level, which will allow DC Steve Spagnuolo to even more versatile. So at this point I can not have anybody unseat them. I think Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU) will be a star in that offense, they get a couple of guys back that missed their playoff run and there are plenty of young, developing players on that roster. What general manager Brett Veach has done this offseason in terms of securing Patrick Mahomes for the next decade and still opening up cap room to also sign their best defensive player in Chris Jones is amazing to me. My only two concerns for Kansas City at this point are a lack of depth in the secondary and the fact they will have to go on the road when they face the four best teams on their schedule – Baltimore, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, which has me favoring the second team on my list for the number one seed in the AFC and which this year means having one more game in the playoffs on their road to another Super Bowl for Andy Reid’s troops. 2. Baltimore Ravens Right behind the Chiefs, as the biggest competitor for the AFC is Baltimore. They were the best team in the regular season from this past year, but the Titans handed them only their third loss of the season in the Divisional Round at home. While they did lose what to me is a first-ballot Hall of Fame guard in Marshal Yanda, outside of that the Ravens to me have an even better roster. The reigning MVP Lamar Jackson is only entering his third season in the league, the Ravens just added a top prospect in J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) to a backfield that set a league-record in rushing yards and some of these young receivers will continue to develop. On defense, they addressed the two areas that needed some help, when they brought in Calais Campbell to boost their pass-rush and two top-six linebackers on my board in the draft (Patrick Queen & Malik Harrison). They may not have as many superstar names as some other teams, but without a full offseason to prepare for it, that Greg Roman offense could be even tougher to stop if Marquise Brown becomes a more dependable deep threat (now fully healthy) and I love how multiple Wink Martindale is with his defense, combining the different pressure looks to go along with more versatile pieces up front and one of the elite secondaries in the game. You combine that with a rising young special teams coordinator in Chris Horton and a great motivator and in-game decision-maker in John Harbaugh – I just can’t find a lot of L’s on their schedule. 3. San Francisco 49ers Obviously the Super Bowl hangover will be brought up a lot of times with the loser of that contest, but unlike a lot of these teams coming off the big game – yet similar to the actual winners in the Chiefs – John Lynch did a great job re-tooling for the few losses they did have and didn’t overspend on some of their talented guys. Kyle Shanahan to me is the best offensive play-caller and game-designer in football, with a diverse rushing attack and the type of personnel to match it, while Jimmy G, despite some issues, is coming off his first 16-game season in his career. Defensively, they are losing what I thought was their best player in DeForest Buckner, but they did replace him with a top ten prospect in Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) and Fred Warner is an emerging superstar. Their Seattle-based scheme under Robert Salah may not be very complex, but the Niners have a ferocious pass-rush, fast-flowing linebackers and a great safety tandem to be very sound in their execution. The Deebo Samuel injury is definitely a concern for me and if he doesn’t get back a few weeks into the season, I might drop San Fran a spot or two, plus I don’t love what they have at that second cornerback spot, but as for now I see the recipe that made me predict them winning the NFC West ahead of 2019 and what allowed them to be up double-digits in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. 4. New Orleans Saints One of the themes this offseason for me has been how loaded this Saints roster is and that they just need to win this year. This is the final season with Drew Brees at the helm, they are already in a horrible place with the cap – before that even goes down in 2021 – and to be honest, a lot of their key contributors are getting pretty old now. While I have seen a significant drop-off in the arm-strength of Brees, other than that I don’t see any offense with this Sean Payton-led offense – the front-five is elite, Alvin Kamara should be back to 100 percent as a dynamic dual-threat back and they finally found a number two receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. When healthy, that defensive line is a dominant unit, I think third-round pick Zack Baun (Wisconsin) gives that linebacker group some versatility and they have a lot of experience in the secondary, including a guy I thought would be a future star on the outside in Marshon Lattimore. Before anything else, they need to take care of divisional-rival Tampa Bay – which is a very tough challenge already – but if they can do that, they are fairly in the hunt for the NFC’s top seed. There’s a lot of pressure on this group because of the cap situation, their all-time great QB having his “Last Dance” and brutal playoff losses in recent years, but they have all it takes to finally break through all the way.
This second tier consists of eight teams that to me have only or two holes on their roster, while their coaching gives them an advantage over the majority of teams in the league and they bring back most of their pieces from a year or at least improved in those areas. I expect all but one of these squads to make the playoffs in 2020, as long as they don’t suffer significant injuries along the way. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Number five in the entire league seems pretty high for a team that finished below .500 last season, but this is not just about Tom Brady coming in, but rather the roster Tampa Bay has built around him. To me Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are the top receiver duo in the league, the Bucs arguably have the best tight-end room in the league and the offensive line only got better with superhuman Tristan Wirfs (Iowa) playing one of those spots on the right side. I have talked about this a lot over the offseason, looking at the match between Bruce Arians’ vertical-based passing attack and what Brady is used to, in terms of spreading the field and getting the ball out of his hands quickly. My bet is they go to a bit of hybrid and figure things out. Maybe more importantly, I don’t think people realize what they have put together on defense. Last season the Bucs finished number one against the run, they forced the fifth-most turnovers (28) and tied for sixth with yards per play (5.1) in the league. Todd Bowles is excellent defensive mind, who now enters his second season with as much talent as he has had since his Arizona days. Jameis turned it over 35 times last year (12 more than any other player in the league), while Tom didn’t even crack double-digits once again, and he immediately improves their situational football awareness and overall execution. This is a very dangerous squad. 6. Dallas Cowboys When you talk about some of the most talented rosters in the league, the Dallas Cowboys come to mind right away – especially on the offensive side of the ball. Dak Prescott now has one of the premiere receiver trios with the selection of Ceedee Lamb (Oklahoma) in the draft, still probably a top-five offensive line and Zeke looking to re-establish himself as a top-tier back, after looking a step slow for most of last season. Defensively they are getting back Leighton Vander Esch, whose energy they desperately missed for stretches last season, and they have a very deep rotation at the defensive line (even though nobody knows what we’ll get from a couple of guys that were out of the league), while Mike Nolan will change things up a little more and get his guys into the face of opposing receivers. We have yet to see how much Mike McCarthy will want to have say in the offensive play-calling, but I like that they retained a young and creative OC in Kellen Moore, and as far as in-game control and CEO duties go, I certainly believe McCarthy is an upgrade. There are some questions with the secondary after the loss of Byron Jones and losing Travis Frederick to retirement hurts, but I think those are things that can be overcome. Something that I think should not be overlooked is the signing of former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein and his special teams coordinator John Fassel, after converting only 75 percent of their field goal attempts last season (6th-lowest in the league) and missing a couple of crucial kicks. 7. Philadelphia Eagles Right behind the Cowboys, I have their division rivals from Philadelphia. I think the Eagles actually have a better quarterback, the best defensive player among the two teams in Fletcher Cox and a more experienced secondary. However, with Brandon Brooks out for the season and maybe the worst group of linebackers in the NFL, I could not put this group ahead of Dallas, even though they have come up victorious against them in the big games recently. Last year Carson Wentz carried a group of skill-position players from the practice squad and a banged-up O-line to a division title. This upcoming season he will go from already wasn’t an overly dynamic receiving crew to a group of track stars, most notably with first-round pick Jalen Reagor (TCU) and a hopefully healthy DeSean Jackson, plus Miles Sanders I think is ready to emerge as a star back for Philly. The defense did lose some long-time stalwarts like Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham, but I loved the addition of Javon Hargreave in the middle to free up the other guys to attack upfield and with Darius Slay as their new CB1, not only does that move everybody one spot lower on the depth chart, but it also finally makes more sense for Jim Schwartz to be as aggressive with those zero-blitzes, since he has the guys to cover. Those two newcomers also fit perfectly when matching up against Dallas, because of an improvement interior run defense and having a guy who can match up with Amari Cooper, after the other guys got toasted for the most part. 8. Buffalo Bills For the first time in about twenty years, a team not named the Patriots will enter a season as favorites in the AFC East – and it’s actually not that close for me. Buffalo made a switch last season offensively to more 11 personnel and quick-tempo with Brian Daboll moving to the booth. This offseason they finally got the big-armed Josh Allen a dependable deep threat in Stefon Diggs, who averaged 12.0 yards per target last season (second-highest in the league), which – similar to what I just talked about with the corners in Philadelphia – moves everybody else down one spot in the food chain. And I love what they do defensively, with Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s game-plan specific zone pattern coverages, with a versatile secondary to execute those, to go with a deep D-line and two super-rangy linebackers. Even outside the Diggs trade, Buffalo has made some sneaky-good deals since losing that Wildcard game at Houston in such heart-breaking fashion. Whether that is Mario Addison as double-digit sack guy in four straight years, added depth on the O-line or a really solid draft class to complement what they already had. I don’t want to crown them at this point, but to me they are the favorites for the AFC’s number three seed as for right now, since I think the South doesn’t have that clear front-runner to win the majority of their divisional games. 9. Seattle Seahawks I would have probably had the Hawks as the final team of this group or right at the top of the next one a couple of weeks ago, but after acquiring Jamal Adams, I think they have re-established themselves as that second team in the NFC West, since I had them very close with Arizona originally, I did not love what they did in the first two days of the draft (somewhat of a trend with them), they lost their second-best defensive player at that point in Jadeveon Clowney, I’m not sure if they upgraded on the offensive line and we don’t even if know if Quinton Dunbar will be suspended at this point. With that being said, Seattle has finished above .500 every single year with Russell Wilson under center and while I’m not a fan of their conservative approach offensively, where they don’t allow Russ to throw the ball on first downs and push the tempo a little at times, they are one of the most effective rushing teams and they have two lethal weapons to catch those trademark rainbow balls from the Seahawks QB. Defensively there are still some questions about the edge rush and at second corner spot, but Pete Carroll at least has what he wants most in a team at those positions – competition – and you already saw them go to more two-high looks in coverage than we are used to, telling me they utilize Jamal’s versatile skill-set more than what that strong safety mostly does in that system. 10. Green Bay Packers The whole Aaron Rodgers-Jordan Love drama has been looming large over the offseason and that has brought us some interesting discussions, but let’s not allow this to take away from the fact Green Bay just had a first-round bye in the playoffs and made it to the NFC title game. While they were 8-1 in one-score games and should regress more towards the mean in terms of the success rate in those close games, the North is still wide open and they have a few things going for themselves – they have the best quarterback in the division, the best offensive line, the most versatile and effective pass rush and a lot of young talent in the secondary. The first-round selection of a future signal-caller aside, I wasn’t too fond of what they did in the draft. Even though I liked Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara and can see what they want to do with him as H-back/move guy in this offense, I thought they did not get Aaron Rodgers help in the receiving corp, which has no proven commodity outside of Davante Adams. Their defense got absolutely steamrolled in two games against the eventual conference champion 49ers, but I hope to see Rashan Gary develop in his second season and I think Christian Kirksey was a very under-the-radar signing as a run-stopping linebacker. I think schematically with Matt LaFleur’s offense based on what they did under Sean McVay and Mike Pettine being very creative himself they are one of the better coaching staffs in the NFC, but I would like to see them open up the offense more for Rodgers and break tendencies more often with their coverage calls. 11. Pittsburgh Steelers Another very dangerous squad for me is the Steelers. I have talked many times about how bad the Steelers quarterback situations was last season, as both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges finished near the bottom in air yards per attempt, percentage of throws beyond the marker and many others. We have only seen Big Ben throw in some short clips on the internet, but if he is just 70-80 percent of what he was in 2018, this team is bound for a playoff berth. There are some question marks with this group of skill-position players, but I expect Juju to bounce back in a major way with a capable QB and being healthy himself, I have already picked Diontae Johnson as a breakout candidate for this season and I like the diversity of this group of backs. Pittsburgh’s defense was already elite last year, finishing top five in both yards and points allowed, tied for first in yards per play (4.7), the most takeaways (38) and sacks (54). If former Raven Chris Wormley can replace Javon Hargreave as a two-down run-stopper at least and rookie Antoine Brooks Jr. (Maryland) can fill a very specific role as their second sub-package linebacker in place of Mark Barron, I think they will one of the scariest units in the NFL once again. So the best all-around defense for my money and an offense who I would say has top ten potential at the very least is a tough match-up. Maybe not quite battling with the Ravens for the North, but the top Wildcard spot for sure. 12. Indianapolis Colts If there is one team in the AFC that could go from finishing sub-.500 to making it all the way to the conference championship game, the Colts would be my pick. I thought Philip Rivers had a really rough 2019 campaign, in which his arm looked rather weak and his decision-making hurt the Chargers on multiple occasions, but he will play behind by far the best offensive line he has ever had and they will run the heck out of the ball. Indy already had a pretty good back in Marlon Mack, but Wisconsin superstar Jonathan Taylor, who they selected in the second round, will be one of the front-runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year if given the chances in combination with what I believe is the best front-five in the entire league, plus their other second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. (USC) will be that Vincent Jackson/Mike Williams type target for Rivers. More importantly, with the trade for a top 50 player in the league in DeForest Buckner, this entire Colts D immediately takes a step forward, since he is a perfect fit as that 3-technique in their front and help them disrupt plays at a much higher rate, to go with range in zone coverage behind that, including the “Maniac” Darius Leonard chasing people down. I’m a big fan of Frank Reich and the coaching staff he is has put together, in terms of in-game decision-making, offensive gameplans and just the intensity his team plays him.
Fringe playoff teams:
This middle tier is made up from all those teams who I expect to be at .500 or above, firmly in contention for a Wildcard spot at least. They can be some areas of concern, but overall they have the roster ready to compete with the big dogs and/or feature above-average coaching. With a couple of these there is a change at quarterback and head coach respectively, but they have enough around those to overcome that. 13. Tennessee Titans This definitely seems a little low for a team that is coming off an AFC Championship game appearance, but people seem to forget the Titans were 8-7 ahead of week 17 and if it wasn’t for the Steelers losing their final three games, this group wouldn’t have even been in position to lock down the six seed. Things were also made a lot easier by their division rival Texans, who sat most of their starters after beating Tennessee two weeks prior. So as impressive as their playoff run was, you have to think of what happened before that and put it into perspective a little. With one more playoff spot in each conference, their chances of making it to the tournament should be at least equally as good, but I believe the Colts are the favorites to win the South and for me the Steelers are the favorites for the fifth seed. With all that being said, there is plenty to like about this team still – they can pound you with the Derrick Henry and the run game, Ryan Tannehill at least gives them the threat of pulling the ball and going deep off play-action, they have some young weapons catching the ball and defensively they are very versatile in how they set up gameplans. I also like the mind-set Mike Vrabel installs in these guys and I was impressed with what OC Arthur Smith did in 2019. If there are two spots that could decide if this group is fighting for a division title or that final playoff berth, it will be their rookie right tackle Isaiah Wilson (Georgia) and recently signed edge rusher Vic Beasley. 14. Cleveland Browns While I don’t see them competing for the AFC North – just because of how loaded the Ravens are – the Browns are pretty clearly the most talented team that is considered to be third in their division. In terms of their group of starting skill-position players at least, they are near the top of the NFL, the O-line to me already just made my top ten ranking with room to move up, if healthy they are at least in the conversation for that with the D-line as well, with a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Myles Garrett, and I like how they have assembled their secondary. Now, they have some unproven guys at the linebacker level and Cleveland’s potential is largely dependent on which Baker Mayfield we will get. With Kevin Stefanski coming and installing an offense that will be built on the zone run game and bootlegs off that, where his quarterback is put on the move, I could see much more efficient play and more comfort in that system. Something that really jumped out to me on tape was how many times Baker seemed to not be “on the same page” with his receivers, expecting routes to break off differently and unfortunate drops in certain situations. Even though the preparation for the season does look a lot different and QB & WRs haven’t been able to spend too much time together, I expect this to improve and more suitable roles for those pass-catchers overall. And if they are ahead in more games, that pass rush will be a problem. 15. Arizona Cardinals There are certainly still some issues here, but the Cardinals are probably the most exciting young team in all of the NFL. Kyler Murray was a one-man show last season and is due for a big jump, with DeAndre Hopkins being added to a receiving corp that severely lacked dependable weapons, to go with some other youngsters fully healthy, Kenyan Drake looked like a different player once he came over from Miami and the O-line should at least be marginally better. Defensively they transitioned a little up front, with big gap-pluggers on the line and Isaiah Simmons being that ultra-rangy player on the second level, who can run guys down on the edges, if those ball-carriers forced to bounce outside, plus they have maybe the most underappreciated edge rusher over the last four years in Chandler Jones. I don’t think they are very deep in the secondary, but Budda Baker is an absolute baller, Jalen Thompson emerged late last season and I already predicted Byron Murphy would have a breakout second season. With Kliff Kingsbury and Vance Joseph, Arizona has creative play-calling on both sides of the ball and they now have the personnel to execute at the needed level as well. Like I mentioned, I was ready to have the Cardinals at least go toe-to-toe with Seattle for a playoff spot, but the addition of Jamal Adams has shifted the balance again to some degree. And if you just go based off my rankings, two NFC Wildcard spots already go to teams from five to seven. 16. Denver Broncos A team that has been getting a lot of love this offseason is the Broncos. They have pretty much all the pieces that you usually see with those rising squads – a promising second-year quarterback with a lot of weapons surrounding him, a ferocious defensive front and having shown signs late last season. My belief in them has taken a bit of a dump unfortunately since I thought they did well to improve the offensive line, with Garrett Bolles on the left end being the only weak-spot, but now that Ja’Wuan James won’t be available at right tackle for the second straight year (injury last season and now opting out), their duo of OTs is a concern for me. Defensively you have to love what they have in the front seven, with Von Miller and now again Bradley Chubb coming off the edges, Jurrell Casey added to the interior to go with Shelby Harris and Alexander Johnson being an under-the-radar standout at linebacker. I’ve always been a big fan of Justin Simmons, but that second corner spot is still up in the air. I like Vic Fangio and that coaching staff they have put together in Denver, with Pat Shurmur providing a QB-friendly offense, the game’s best O-line coach in Mike Munchak and most of the people that have helped Fangio put out elite defenses at multiple stops before. So the Broncos are still the most dangerous opponent of the Chiefs in the AFC West, but now I’m not sure if they can add some drama over the fourth quarter of the season. 17. Minnesota Vikings At the same time, a team that has been a little overhyped to me this offseason is Minnesota. While I don’t love how the Packers have operated since February, what have the Vikings done to really improve? They traded away the best deep threat in the league last season in Stefon Diggs, stalwarts on the D-line in Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph are now gone, their entire group of corners has combined for less than 1500 career snaps and their offensive coordinator is now in Cleveland. I’m intrigued by the combination of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, who could be pretty interchangeable in their roles and I like their 12 and 21 personnel groupings, but they lack depth at the receiver position. And the defense will be relying on several inexperienced pieces to step in. I mean their three starting corners from last year are off the team now. So I don’t really get how most people all of a sudden put them ahead of the Packers. With that being said, I like the offensive scheme and always thought Gary Kubiak was a huge factor in their success on the ground at least. On defense there are certainly question marks – especially in the secondary – but Minnesota could easily have a top five player at their respective position at all three levels, with Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Harris, plus they still have some promising young guys like Ifeadi Odenigbo, Mike Hughes and a deep rookie class. Their only true shade nose Michael Pierce opting out hurts though. 18. New England Patriots This offseason must have been a rollercoaster for Patriots fans. First, Tom Brady leaves and everybody goes crazy. Then people start getting onto the Jarrett Stidham hype train and talk about how good the rest of this team still is. Out of nowhere they sign Cam Newton for the veteran minimum basically and they are back in the conversation for the top teams in the AFC all of sudden. And now, they lead the league in players opting out of the season, with key defensive pieces like Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung, to go with a couple of role players on offense at least. So now they are right at the bottom of these fringe playoff teams for me, because purely based on the roster, they are not even in the top 20 league-wide, but they still have maybe the greatest defensive mind in NFL history in Bill Belichick and one of the best offensive play-callers right now in Josh McDaniels. Obviously a lot of this will come down to what version of Cam Newton we will get and even if he is and can stay totally healthy. Not only is New England the most adaptable team in terms of how they can adjust to personnel and how flexible they are with their game-plans, but Cam is a great fit in that offense, where he can spread the field and make decisions based on defenses adjusting. The one area that took the biggest bump – outside of quarterback I’m guessing – is the offensive line, because they lost a legendary position coach in Dante Scarnecchia and their probable starter at right tackle in Marcus Cannon. While the Pats do have some young players, who can replace part of the losses, they were already more in plan for the pieces that left before there was any virus outbreak.
This broad group of seven teams represents all those franchises who will be dancing around .500 mark in the win-loss column. A couple of teams have the potential to win nine or ten games, while others could see those numbers on the wrong side of the column as well. There are obvious question marks in certain areas, even though they might feature top-tier players and/or coaches. 19. Houston Texans It’s kind of tough to put a team here that has won its division the last two years, but I think the Texans are pretty clearly number three in the South now. I love Deshaun Watson and I think he has fairly established himself as a top five quarterback in the NFL, but Bill O’Brien just took away an elite wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and replaced him with an injury-prone Brandin Cooks to go with another always banged up Will Fuller and a declining Randall Cobb, to go with a David Johnson in the backfield, who was unrecognizable last season. I think the O-line is improving, but outside of Laremy Tunsil maybe, they don’t have anybody other than Deshaun who is clearly above-average in their role. And defensively they finished in the bottom five in yards allowed and tied with Cincinnati (who picked first overall in the draft) for an NFL-high 6.1 yards allowed per play. Hopefully having J.J. Watt back for a full season should help, I like the selection of Ross Blacklock (TCU) on the inside and there are some talented young corners on this roster, who could be better much in 2020. I would not be surprised if they are that .500 team at heart and their quarterback carried them to a couple of wins that they weren’t supposed to get – which we have seen him do many times before – but it’s more likely to me that they are fighting for one of the two bottom Wildcard spots. 20. Atlanta Falcons Very rarely do you have a team that was among the worst over the first half of the season and among the best over the second half. The Falcons started out 2019 with a 1-7 record, but would go on to win six of the final eight games. Their defense was absolutely atrocious early on last season, with no pass-rush impacting the opposing quarterback and several miscues in coverage. With Raheem Morris taking over the defensive play-calling, they showed a lot of improvement already and there are signs that trend will continue. While there are some questions about the back-end and if they can get consistent production from their rush outside the top two guys, I think Dante Fowler is an upgrade over Vic Beasley, I like Marlon Davidson (Auburn) as a guy with inside-out flexibility on sub-packages and Keanu Neal is back healthy, as that Kam Chancellor-type, who can be that extra defender in the box in their system and punish receivers when catching the ball over the middle or in the flats. Offensively I believe this is still a team that can move the ball – they just have to start doing so earlier in games. While the top NFL receiver duo is in their own division with the guys in Tampa Bay, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley could easily be that next one. They lost a very productive tight-end in Austin Hooper, but I believe Hayden Hurst can replace at least 80 percent of that production, and while we have no idea what we get from Todd Gurley and his knees at this point, last year the Falcons had one of the least effective per-touch backs in Devonta Freeman. Plus, the O-line should take a step forward with former first-round pick Chris Lindstrom returning from injury. 21. Las Vegas Raiders To me the Raiders are still in transition, not only moving to Las Vegas, but also in terms of roster construction and the culture Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are trying to establish. Outside of Tyrell Williams, that entire group of receivers was overhauled, they have a lot of young pieces on the defensive line and the secondary, plus they will have at least two new starters on the second level of their defense. By far the biggest thing they have going for them is the offensive line and second-year back Josh Jacobs running behind it. When I did my top ten offensive lines in the NFL a couple of weeks ago, I had the Silver & Black at number five, and Jacobs was already a top 100 player in the league for me, with how physical and elusive a runner as he is. I could easily see the Raiders finish near the top in terms of ground production, and I also like the young guys they brought in around that, with Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) keeping the defense honest with his speed, Bryan Edwards (South Carolina) as a physical receiver, who will get hands after the catch, and Lynn Bowden Jr. (Kentucky) as that chess-piece potentially, that you can use in a multitude of way. My bigger question here is if Derek Carr is willing to push the ball down the field. Defensively I like the rotation they have on the interior D-line and the two linebackers they brought in via free agency, most notably Corey Littleton. There are still some questions about how snaps will be split between their corner group, but I’m excited to see a full season of Jonathan Abram hopefully. These guys have some attitude and an energetic head coach. 22. Los Angeles Rams Oh, how far we have come. Just one-and-a-half years ago the Rams were officially 20 spots higher basically, when they lost the Super Bowl to New England. Ahead of last season, I predicted them to miss the playoffs and while they made a bit of a run at it late, that’s what ended up happening. Now I see them as the fourth team in their own division – even though that says more about the competition they face rather than them. I still believe in Sean McVay and his ability to win on paper with play-design and game-planning, but Jared Goff has turned out to be an average quarterback, they don’t have a prime Todd Gurley setting the table anymore and the offensive line had some major issues, for large stretches of last season, especially in the run game. I was very high on Cam Akers, who they selected in the second round out of Florida State, but he will obviously be a rookie with shortened preparation, rather than an Offensive Player of the Year like Gurley was for them. Defensively, they have two elite players in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and I like some of the other guys in their roles, but overall the high-end talent beyond the two biggest names isn’t overly impressive. Leonard Floyd might be their top edge rusher and he has always been more of a Robin, they have no proven commodity as stand-up linebacker and I have yet to see if Brandon Staley can actually be an upgrade over Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator. 23. Detroit Lions While I was going back and forth with putting the Lions third or fourth in the NFC North, I recently said they are among the top two teams that could go from worst to first in their division and I would not be surprised if they were in the hunt for a Wildcard spot in the last couple of weeks of the season. His second year in a system under Darrell Bevell – where he wasn’t just going in shotgun 40 times a game and asked to make magic happen – Matthew Stafford looked like an MVP candidate as long as he was healthy in 2019. That duo of Kerryon Johnson and my top-ranked running back in the draft D’Andre Swift (Georgia) could be one of the most dynamic ones in the league, the receiving corp is highly underrated and I like those rookies competing for the two guard spots. Defensively, they seem to finally look like what Matt Patricia wanted, when he came over from New England, in terms being versatile with their fronts and having guys who can take on receivers in man-coverage. With that being said, there is also a good chance that the Patricia experiment could go to shambles, if some of the veterans get turned off by his style of coaching without having established that winning culture, and this team has simply been dealing with too many injuries to key players. I don’t think there is much of a gap between the Lions and Vikings for example, but Detroit has not shown the stability of some other organizations. 24. Chicago Bears A franchise that I don’t really hear anybody talk about – unless it’s their quarterback competition – is that team from the Windy City. I understand that the Bears aren’t really sexy because they lack those superstars on offense that people will recognize, but I’m higher on some of the guys they do have on that side of the ball and on defense they could be much closer to 2018, when they led the league in points allowed and turnovers forced, rather than being just inside the top in most categories last season. A guy I already predicted to break out for Chicago this upcoming season with a bigger workload is running back David Montgomery, to go with Anthony Miller as a gadget player and developing young pass-catcher and one of the more underappreciated receivers out there in Allen Robinson. Defensively, I thought the biggest issue last season was Akiem Hicks missing double-digit games, as a table-setter with his ability to disrupt plays from the interior, and Leonard Floyd didn’t provide much on the opposite side of Khalil Mack, who they upgrade from with Robert Quinn, who just had his best season since the Rams were still in St. Louis. Now, I don’t love what they have at that second safety spot to complement Eddie Jackson, someone will have to fill that second corner spot – even though I’m a fan of second-round pick Jaylon Johnson (Utah) – and nose tackle Eddie Goldman opting out is a huge loss. If the quarterback position can just complement the rushing attack and the defense plays up to their potential, this group could be competing for second in the North, but Foles or Trubisky could still hold them back. https://preview.redd.it/aep6uj385di51.png?width=1060&format=png&auto=webp&s=07674898e4de7d73699c065907983e69612c56a4 The final tier is in the comments!! If you enjoyed this breakdown, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/08/18/ranking-all-32-nfl-teams-in-tiers-pre-season/ You can also listen to my analysis on the Youtube channel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz7WE0epZw8
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