While all the real-world quarterbacks are fading into the background, it is worth noting that they have dominated the Super Bowl winners thus far. With Matthew Stafford and the Lions taking home the Lombardi Trophy last season, we now have only one fictional quarterback winning a Super Bowl in these sims: Oakland’s Cody Beasley in 2014-15. The other champs: Philip Rivers, Shaun Hill, Matt Ryan, Matt Cassel, Aaron Rodgers. And yet, Beasley, Zack Bruening, Connor Casteel, Carter Murphy and Corey Williams are taking home all of the regular season accolades. Can one of them finally upset the status quo come playoff time? Can the Lions repeat as champs or will it be business as usual in Detroit?
We find out next with the 2019-20 NFL season.
2019-20 NFL Results
|Sim Result||Real Life Result|
|NFL MVP||Carter Murphy||Lamar Jackson|
|OPOY||Connor Casteel||Michael Thomas|
|DPOY||Tahj Chance||Stephon Gilmore|
|OROY||Sean Wessling||Kyler Murray|
|DROY||Ali Keys||Nick Bosa|
|Coach of Year||Jerry Ellis (Vikings)||John Harbaugh|
|Best Record||Vikings (14-2)||Ravens (14-2)|
|Top Passer||Connor Casteel (4,522)||Jameis Winston (5,109)|
|Top Rusher||Mark Ingram (1,934)||Derrick Henry (1,540)|
|Top Receiver||Acey Sumler (1,879)||Michael Thomas (1,725)|
|Sack Leader||Lamarr Houston (22.5)||Shaquil Barrett (19.5)|
|Int. Leader||Justin Arrendondo (10)||3-Way Tie (6)|
The Sim Season
The inexplicable bounce-around of coaches continues with a couple veterans retiring or quitting, hard to tell which.
CHI: Love Smith replaces John Fox (WTF is happening in Chicago?)
DAL: Eugene Hales replaces Mike Munchak
DET: Rex Ryan replaces Jim Schwartz (I guess Schwartz retired after winning a Super Bowl?)
OAK: Mike Munchak replaces Mike Smith
PHI: Mike Smith replaces Andy Reid
- Jason Witten
- Donald Penn
- Marques Colston
- DeMarcus Ware
- Santonio Holmes,
- Joe Staley
- Pierre Garcon
- Robert Mathis
- DREW BREES
- Arian Foster
- Adrian Peterson
It was a pretty uneventful offseason for free agency with only the usual suspects, Romo and Roethlisberger, switching teams for the 100th time.
- Broncos sign Jamaal Charles
- Chargers sign Jahri Evans, Michael Oher
- Dolphins sign Jared Allen, Justin Tuck
- 49ers sign B.J. Raji
- Giants sign Lamarr Houston
- Giants sign Kevin Kolb
- Jets sign Ben Roethlisberger, Eric Weddle
- Packers sign Jake Long, Josh Sitton, Marcus McNeill
- Panthers sign Griffin Austin (DT, 82 overall), Cliff Avril, Elvis Dumervil
- Patriots sign Anthony Castonzo
- Raiders sign Trent Williams, Sebastian Vollmer
- Rams sign Zak Stout (OT, 81), Russell Okung
- Washington signs Ray Rice
- Steelers sign Stevie Johnson
- Texans sign Tony Romo
- Vikings sign Terrell Suggs, LaRon Landry
Top Five Picks
The Broncos swapped pick 11 for pick three, moving up in exchange for a second-rounder. The Rams moved from six to four, picking up the Packers pick for a third.
- Panthers select WR Benjamin Bledsoe, Penn State (78 overall)
- Texans select CB Jarvaris Hendrickson, Miami (76)
- Broncos select LB Ali Keys, Georgia (85)
- Rams select OT Aundre Sparks, Notre Dame (75)
- Eagles select S Couri Durham, Missouri (74)
A quarterback wasn’t taken until No. 7 — Sean Wessling out of Stanford, going to the Bears. Titarius Waters from Cal went 19 to Buffalo and Chaquil Bailey went 25 to the Saints. All three won starting jobs out of camp with Wessling and Waters starting at 77 overall and Bailey at 74. The Chiefs are starting Brock Bradburn in year 1 after selecting him in the second round (74 overall). Patriots second-rounder Blaine Eveld also earned the starting job, surprisingly beating out Benton Gordon who the Pats acquired in free agency.
High-Profile Free Agents Entering Season
No players rated 80 or higher are without roster spot.
- Anthony Green, 2014 first-rounder released by Patriots
- Conner Clark, 2017 first-rounder with zero career snaps
- Jay Cutler
- Matt Cassel
A lot more this year. As always, fictional players are labeled with their credentials.
- DT Tyre Myrick, Falcons (three Pro Bowls, hasn’t made since 2015)
- LB Justice Bland, Colts (one Pro Bowl)
- C Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
- DT Nkadukong Suh, Lions
- FS Jamarkus Cline, Chiefs (zero Pro Bowls)
- TE Wes Butrico, Washington (three Pro Bowls)
- C Bryce Degner, Lions (four straight Pro Bowls, 2018 lineman of the year)
- SS Churphy Bledsoe, Texans (zero Pro Bowls)
- FB Sean Hayes, Vikings (one Pro Bowl)
The Minnesota Vikings came out on top this year, marking their first truly transcendent season since taking Corey Williams in the first round in 2012. Williams led a decent enough offense, but the Vikings really rode the strength of their defense, which allowed the fourth-fewest points in football. Cincinnati and Oakland continued their decade of dominant regular seasons, while Washington behind MVP Carter Murphy leapt up into the top two seeds as well.
The intriguing teams here are the Dolphins and Broncos, two teams that have not at all factored into the championship picture, but both sported elite offenses.
Oakland and Cincinnati at the top is no surprise, but Miami and Denver shocked the world this year. The Broncos are quarterbacked by Colt McCoy, and he led a potent attack, while the Dolphins have second-year stud Benjamin Walker, who was a backup at LSU.
Five of the top six defenses in the league were playoff teams, including Atlanta who supplemented one of the worst offenses in football with their defense. They went 10-6 despite a point differential of just +10 and averaging under 18 points a game. Make sense of that.
The Ravens were the class of awful. They actually had a decent enough offense, ranking middle of the pack there. But a team cannot count on winning games when they allow two more points a game than any other team in the league. Now they get to draft a WR No. 1 overall in the draft because that’s what teams do in today’s NFL. And holy cow, Chargers. Two years removed from a Super Bowl and now they finish with the second-worst record in the NFL.
Denver, interestingly enough, also had a terrible defense, but their offense was so good they went 10-6 anyway. Also, the Browns snuck into the playoffs with an 8-8 record despite just a +5 point differential.
Keep in mind, Cam Newton is still the Panthers’ QB in this universe, and they cannot score points. Matt Ryan QBs the Falcons and they cannot score points. But perhaps most disappointing is the Colts who made an AFC Championship Game run with rookie Lary Crawford a year ago. Crawford struggled in year 2, leading the league with 20 interceptions.
Atlanta was the only bottom-tier offense to make the playoffs, and they had the benefit of a top-one defense.
Truth be told, the best quarterback in the NFL this year was Connor Casteel. He led the NFL comfortably in rating, yards and touchdowns (97.1, 4,522 and 39) with just 12 picks. However, the 9-7 Seahawks missed the playoffs thanks to a terrible defense (and Casteel getting sacks 48 times, second-most in the league), so the league determined he was pragmatically ineligible. They still awarded him Offensive Player of the Year, however, the first time that award has deservedly gone to a non-MVP quarterback.
Murphy took home MVP instead, thanks to a ridiculous 5:1 touchdown-interception ratio and 4,000 yards. Plus, Washington won 12 games, so the choice was reasonable. Tim Alston, the 2013 No. 3 pick, also had a huge season, his first legitimately great one in what has been a mostly disappointing career. This year was actually littered with surprising stardom: Rookie Sean Wessling, Miami’s Benjamin Walker, Colt McCoy and his 32 and 10 (and the second-best passer rating in the league). It was all in all a fascinating quarterback season.
With Drew Brees retired, the Saints put a lot on Mark Ingram, and he delivered with a crazy season. He just missed 2,000 yards rushing while averaging over six per carry, while also leading the league in touchdowns. In fact, he put up that yard total without even finishing in the top 10 for touches. And the Saints made the playoffs riding him, so these were not empty calories.
The lead workhorse was Oakland’s Lamont Hopkins who tied Ingram in touchdowns but did so on almost 50 more carries. With him, Ingram, rookie Davius Locke and others putting up crazy numbers, plus the Chargers falling to the NFL basement, it’s safe to say LaCraig Calloway is no longer the NFL’s best back. The Chargers got a Super Bowl out of taking him No. 1, though, so they probably aren’t too broken up about it.
Is it fair to say Acey Sumler had the best statistical receiver season ever? That yardage total was the most in single-season history, and his 22 touchdowns placed him just one behind 2007 Randy Moss. He was a big reason why Casteel put up the huge numbers he did. It’s just a shame their mediocre defense will keep that connection out of the playoffs.
A.J. Green maintained his ridiculous run, setting career highs for catches and yards and making his ninth straight Pro Bowl. Mike Williams is also having a Hall of Fame run for Tampa, making Pro Bowl No. 6 and finishing second in both yards and touchdowns.
Year by year, however, the best receiver in football remains Oakland’s Parker Dunkley. He is a home run threat, finishing fifth in yards on far fewer catches and also ranking second in touchdowns. He has made the Pro Bowl every year since 2014 and has only twice in that span not been named either conference or NFL Receiver of the Year.
These sack numbers remain crazy. While not as preposterous as Mike DeVito‘s 28 last year, Lamarr Houston still kept the Giants pass rushing legacy alive. He matched Michael Strahan’s previous record of 22 1/2 sacks in this, his first year as a Giant. He fell, however, to the Rams’ Tahj Chance for Defensive Player of the Year. Chance had 16 1/2 sacks himself but also led the NFL in tackles and tackles for loss.
Colts veteran corner Justin Arredondo led the league with 10 picks, three more than second place Rahim Moore. Though, Moore led the NFL with two defensive touchdowns.
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Bears quarterback Sean Wessling took Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, and his numbers were better than a lot of rookie QBs in these sims. He threw a lot of picks (16) but also threw for over 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and had the Bears over .500. That said, Jaguars running back Davius Locke had an extremely strong case as well. He went one pick after Wessling in the draft, and ended up running for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns, adding another two through the air. Neither team made the playoffs so team success couldn’t break this tie. In the end, it went to the quarterback as it always does, but at least this time Wessling had a strong argument.
Defensively, Rookie of the Year was an easy choice. No. 3 pick Ali Keys had 12 sacks and 135 tackles, the lone bright spot on a terrible Broncos defense. The other top-five finishers in voting were also linebackers, and none could match his combination of tackling volume and pass rushing.
Outside of Keys, the top five picks were pretty lackluster. No. 1 pick Benjamin Bledsoe had only 400 yards receiver and three touchdowns. No. 2 pick Jarvaris Hendrickson played just 101 snaps. The fourth and fifth picks, Aundre Sparks and Couri Durham, started every game, but both had mixed results. All in all, not a great rookie class with three exceptions.
|1||Bengals (12-4)||Vikings (14-2)|
|2||Raiders (11-5)||Washington (12-4)|
|3||Dolphins (11-5)||49ers (10-6)|
|4||Titans (9-7)||Falcons (10-6)|
|5||Broncos (10-6)||Cardinals (10-6)|
|6||Browns (8-8)||Saints (10-6)|
Wild Card Round
The Browns are in the playoffs? What on earth? Full disclosure, I’ve technically been in control of the Browns for these sims because I had to pick a team to start the franchise, but I’ve simmed every business and personnel decision. This is the first time they’ve made the playoffs under my control.
Browns defeat Dolphins 31-27
Broncos defeat Titans 19-3
Cardinals defeat Falcons 14-6
Saints defeat 49ers 26-24
And what’s crazier is that they freaking won a playoff game against an 11-win team. In a shootout, no less. What is happening? Down three with two minutes left, Tim Alston led a long drive that capped off with a Tevyn Lucious touchdown, Lucious’ third of the game. Really, Alston wasn’t even that good, averaging six yards per attempt on 47 passes. Benjamin Walker was far better with three touchdowns and 315 yards. But Lucious was dominant and that allowed the Browns to own possessions and convert third-and-shorts.
The Falcons game was exactly what we expected, terrible offense and good defense producing a low score. There was no scoring after halftime. Snore. Denver-Tennessee was similarly boring with neither team eclipsing 300 total yards. After the first quarter, all scoring came on field goals. At least the Saints-49ers game, while not dramatic (last score came five minutes into fourth quarter), had a lot of points, especially in the second quarter. Chaquil Bailey and Shane Joseph traded picks and bad throws (five combined interceptions, 53% completion) and then lucked into some long drives for one of the more potent showings by two bad offenses we’ve seen. Are the Browns the only good team in football?
Bengals defeat Browns 37-7
Washington defeats Cardinals 45-31
Raiders defeat Broncos 38-17
Saints defeat Vikings 27-17
Well, that’s a firm no. 37-7 was a somewhat lopsided outcome to say the least. Simply put, Zack Bruening wrecked Tim Alson, throwing for 100 more yards and three more touchdowns while keeping a clean interception sheet. Alston struggled with accuracy, threw a pick and fumbled once. Truth be told, the final score isn’t even a proper indicator of the thrashing. The Bengals went up 37-0 before Lucious took a handoff 84 yards for Cleveland’s only touchdown.
And yet, Cincinnati’s wasn’t even the best offensive showing of the week. Washington and Oakland both scored more points in wins. Lamont Hopkins ran for 206 and two touchdowns for the Raiders, while Cody Beasley offered a pedestrian 236 yards and two touchdowns. Brody Cemento severely outdueled MVP Carter Murphy in Washington, throwing for 306 to Murphy’s 140, and Arizona outgained Washington 464 to 287. But Washington came away with three non-offensive touchdowns (one fumble, one kick return, one punt returns) to supplement a weak offense. 45 points on less than 300 total yards is a shocking, unsustainable outcome. It also has to concern Washington that Murphy, now an NFL MVP, continues to have absolutely god-awful performances every time he steps on a playoff field, even though they keep winning.
The most disappointing performance, however, came from 14-win Minnesota. They have yet to find playoff success with Corey Williams, and even the No. 1 seed could not help them avoid being one-and-done. Williams was lackluster, throwing for 214 and two touchdowns. Rookie Chaquil Bailey was slightly better with 230 and two scores, but one Minnesota turnover made all the difference in a game that was statistically even across the board.
Bengals defeat Raiders 27-13
Washington defeats Saints 20-9
Cody Beasley and Zack Bruening have been the defining QBs of the sim era, their generation’s Brady and Manning, only with just one Super Bowl win between them. Beasley has come out on top most of the time in the playoffs, while Bruening has the better regular-season resume. Well, Bruening got the better of Beasley this time, and convincingly so. Neither quarterback played well, but Bruening was mediocre (62% completion, 234 yards, two TDs) and Beasley was flat-out bad, completing under 50% with two picks. That allowed the Bengals to get up 20-3 at halftime and the Raiders offense couldn’t recover enough to stage a comeback.
In the NFC, it’s become clear that as long as Murphy plays better than terribly in the playoffs, Washington is unbeatable. Murphy had his best performance in years with 223 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and that game managing was enough to push Washington over the top. Their defense held Bailey to 158 yards and two interceptions, and overall Washington more than doubled the Saints’ yardage total. It wasn’t a fun game to watch with the score 13-9 in the fourth quarter, but Murphy got over the hump enough to possibly cap off his MVP season.
Lo and behold, Murphy’s postseason monkey remains firmly attached to his back. Three interceptions, 171 yards and zero points in the second half is exactly what we have come to expect from the league MVP, and it allowed Bruening and the Bengals to demolish Washington in the third quarter. Bruening actually struggled early and Washington was up 13-9 at halftime, but the disastrous third quarter (24-0) put the game away quickly. Washington turned the ball over four times to Cincinnati’s none and had just 228 yards of total offense. Really, this game came off as Washington losing it rather than the Bengals winning it.
Still, Bruening was lights out in the 24-point third quarter, Irvin Terry had 52 of his 61 rushing yards on one touchdown run and Murphy threw a pick-six to swing all momentum the Bengals’ way. There was no obvious MVP, so the award went to safety Tyerrl Coleman (not a typo) who got the game-changing interception return. So Bruening did not pick up Super Bowl MVP, but he did finish his 2006 Peyton Manning-esque season, validating a lucrative career with his first ring.
Bengals defeat Washington 33-13