Defending Champs Watch: Pats Win Comfortably vs Struggling Broncos

Positives

Special Teams

It’s hard to take much away from great special teams play because it only really shows against bad teams. Isaiah McKenzie’s muffed punt against the Pats to begin the game was his fifth punt return fumble of the season. I don’t put too much into Bill Belichick’s left-footed punter philosophy (Belichick favors lefty punters because the ball spins a different way, confusing some returners), but the Broncos’ special teams coach should have benched McKenzie against a lefty punter when he clearly can’t even catch righties. A win on special teams speaks to the overall ineptitude of the opponent, and the consistency and preparation of Coach Belichick.

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Sunday night was a win on special teams. By the time the Patriots had jumped out to a 20-6 lead with 8:47 remaining in the second quarter, New England had scored 17 of their points off of special teams. Their first touchdown was a 14-yard pass to running back Rex Burkhead, which capitalized on starting at the Denver 24-yard-line as the result of McKenzie’s muffed punt. After a Denver field goal, Dion Lewis returned the kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Burkhead’s blocked punt at the Denver 30-yard-line set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 28-yard-field goal to take a 20-6 lead. Early special teams highlights helped the Patriots jump out to an early lead, and they didn’t look back.

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Congratulations to tight end Dwayne Allen for making his first catch of the 2016 season. Allen, who was acquired from the Colts for a fourth round draft pick, registered his first reception with a 11-yard touchdown catch.

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Tight Ends and Running Backs

The Patriots have seemed to find a new way to preserve Brady as he continues to age. Tight ends and running backs have been integral to the offensive scheme since Rob Gronkowski was drafted in 2010. This year, Brady has preferred targeting running backs and tight ends over targeting wide receivers. This may be the result of injuries to Malcolm Mitchell and, most notably, Julian Edelman. During Sunday’s game, 16 out of 28 of Brady’s completions were to tight ends, running backs, and fullbacks (57.14%). Competitively, out of Brock Osweiler’s 18 completions, just four were to running backs, tight ends, and fullbacks (22.22%).

Negatives

Malcolm Butler

Sunday night was likely Malcolm Butler’s worst outing this season. So far, Butler has had a subpar season in the last year of his contract, but showed improvement in the three games that Stephon Gilmore missed due to injury. Butler was mostly matched up in one-on-one coverage with Emmanuel Sanders, who is not very easy to cover. Sanders made six catches for 137 yards, including a 38-yard completion on Denver’s first play of the game. Butler was in position to make a play on most of Sanders’ receptions, but he was burnt several times. He must play more consistently in man coverage for the remainder of the season, and if he does improve, maybe the Patriots could resign him (unlikely, though).

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Run Defense

The New England run defense on Sunday night demonstrated the importance of Dont’a Hightower in the middle of the group. Denver rushed for 118 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per attempt. Hightower’s season-ending injury will force the Patriots to piece it together against the run, something that they have been having a difficulties with when he isn’t in the lineup. The Patriots currently rank 26th in the NFL in running yards allowed per game with 121.1 yards, ranking last in yards per attempt with 5.0 yards per attempt. Despite missing Hightower on Sunday, the Patriots held Denver to 16 points. However, like Julian Edelman, Hightower’s absence seemingly impacts the game at the worst possible time. For instance, in Week 15 the Patriots play the Steelers in a game that will likely decide home field advantage in the playoffs. With an aged Ben Roethlisberger and a prolific Le’Veon Bell, the Patriots will probably be forced to stop the run if they want the AFC Championship Game to be at Gillette.

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Challenge Flag

Bill Belichick’s mismanagement of the throwing the challenge flag during a catch by Rob Gronkowski was the worst in-game mistake that he has made in a while. It definitely was not as bad as his mismanagement of Jimmy Garoppolo (who he traded for the 49ers’ second round pick, when Cleveland was likely offering at least a first round pick over the offseason), but Coach Belichick is different than GM Belichick. On the Patriots’ field goal drive following Burkhead’s blocked punt, Rob Gronkowski appeared to make a diving touchdown catch that the officials ruled incomplete. Belichick called a timeout before throwing the challenge flag and have the call stand on replay. On a conference call with reporters Monday, Belichick admitted his mistake saying, “I could have just challenged it in the first place. I didn’t do that, I probably should have,” seeming as though he hadn’t thought about it until that very moment. I can’t remember Belichick admitting fault for a miscue on the football field. His acknowledgement of the blunder speaks to the magnitude of his mistake. That being said, first half timeouts are not as meaningful as second half timeouts, and the game was almost over at that point.

Next Game in Mexico City vs. Oakland

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The Raiders are too inconsistent to get a read on. After beating the Chiefs 31-30, they have lost 34-14 to the Bills and beaten the Dolphins 27-24. The secondary should have its hands full between covering Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, especially if Derek Carr is on his game. This is a streaky team and this game will really depend on what the Raiders are able to do on offense. Tom Brady could be in for a long day going up against Khalil Mack, unless the offensive line plays as well as they did this week.

Prediction: Patriots 34, Raiders 17

Moving On: USA’s World Cup Qualifying Catastrophe

Whether you think that the United States got unlucky in their 2-1 defeat to Trinidad or whether you think that they simply got outworked and were lazy on the pitch, one thing is certain: it’s time to move on. It’s time to move on from the old way of doing things. The old coaches, the old players, the old tactics – everything old needs to go and it couldn’t be any more obvious. The excuses are aggravating and the fans deserve more from the team. Nobody wants to hear that it’s tough to get points in Trinidad, Costa Rica or Mexico; if the United States wants to be a top international team someday, it shouldn’t matter where they play.

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“Hotshot teams from Europe” (Bruce Arena) like Germany and Spain don’t care where they play, because if they’re truly good enough, they’ll get results no matter what, and if they did play in the CONCACAF division, we all know that they would finish at the top of the group with a sizable goal differential. Millions of dollars go into the program, and the United States was simply not prepared enough and didn’t show up to play in the qualifying round. The United States could only pull out 12 points in 10 matches and at best played at a mediocre level away from home. It was shameful and they let down an entire nation. The younger generation will not be able to watch them this summer and be inspired by the glory and happiness that the World Cup can bring a country.

Bruce Arena coached the national team from 1998 until 2006, when he was fired because the United States’ failure to make it out of the group stage in the World Cup. Hiring him back after letting go of Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t make any sense at that time. It’s the equivalent of taking your ex back after getting cheated on. It didn’t work out the first time, so why would it work now? What kind of epiphany could he possibly have had that convinced US Soccer that he was the man for the job? Sometimes you need to leave the past in the past, and the USMNT simply could not do so.

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One can’t simply point fingers at the coaching staff, though. The players looked like they wished they were somewhere else Tuesday night, the complete opposite to that of the team that was on the field in Orlando just four days prior. In the first half, the United States looked jet-lagged and created minimal opportunities.

A wise man once said, “If your play isn’t entertaining for the fans, then you aren’t playing the game right.” That couldn’t have been any more true Tuesday night. The first half was a bore, and they tried to fix their mistakes too late. The United States didn’t come to play and they got what they deserved, and now it’s time to move forward.

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This all starts with the youth teams. Ever since the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, the game of soccer has expanded exponentially in this country and kids from New York to California want to get involved. The cost, however, if you’re playing for a team outside of high school can get to be a bit expensive depending on what route is taken. MLS academy teams are fully funded, but with other academy and premier teams, that isn’t always the case. To be apart of the Dallas Texans U14 and U18 academy teams, the cost will run you around $2,000. The price is equivalent for many academy and premier teams across the country. Youth coaches also need to teach tactics earlier on that kids will take into the high school level where they truly learn to hone their skills. They need to stop teaching the kids perfection based on endurance and how to act like robots, and start teaching creativity. When the United States go to the World Cup, fans of other countries compliment the team, not necessarily on their skills, but rather on their work ethic. It’s time for that to change, and it all starts with building skills during a player’s youth.

As fans and supporters of the US national team, we all have different perspectives and ideas pertaining to how to improve the team. Whether your philosophy differs from your neighbor, one thing is evident: change needs to be made and it needs to be made now.

Joe Flacco is NOT Elite and the Ravens Should Sign Colin Kaepernick because Who Fucking Cares

The Ravens suck, Joe Flacco sucks, and our season is over. This may not sound very substantial considering they beat the Dolphins 40-0 just three nights ago, but this is not nearly the same team that won the Super Bowl five years ago. 4-4 is not a bad record at this point in the season by any means. We’ll most likely end up going 7-9, barely missing the playoffs, only to repeat the whole process over again in 2018. Our lack of success right now, in my objective opinion, can 100% be placed on Joe Flacco. Luckily for the Ravens, I have devised a way for them to get rid of Flacco, avoid the cap hit, and escape the eternal limbo of being a fringe playoff team. Listen up, Ozzie*:

*Disclaimer: This article contains little to no actual football analysis. I have never played football in my life, but I got a 3 on my Statistics AP exam, so I’m basically qualified to be the GM of an NFL team.

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Step 1: Addressing the Issue

In 2017, Joe Flacco is not an elite quarterback. Watch him lob a screen pass to Mike Wallace on 3rd and 12 for the 8437th time and you’ll understand. Flacco has only played one season in which he accumulated more than 4,000 passing yards, Our defense carried him to a Superbowl, and he hasn’t been able to bring the Ravens to the playoffs since 2014. Pretty impressive, right? Couple all of that information with the fact that he has one of the worst contracts in the NFL, and you get a player that has stunted the Ravens’ growth for the past five years. Realistically, a 32-year old Joe Flacco is not getting any better. And let’s be honest, the Ravens’ real best weapon on offense right now is the GOAT Justin Tucker. Might as well accept that our best case scenario as a team right now is an early-round playoff exit with him at the helm.

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After watching this dirty hit made by Kiko Alonso a few nights ago, I think it’s safe to say that Flacco joins the old Taylor and Gordon Hayward on the list of celebrities who have died in 2017. Our defense may be one of the best in the league (scoring 20 points yesterday off of turnovers is no joke), but Ryan Mallett is not going to win us any football games. Which leads me to step 2:

Step 2: Signing Colin Kaepernick

I don’t give a shit about Colin Kaepernick, but not in a, “how dare Colin Kaepernick kneel for the national anthem #alllivesmatter” kind of way. It’s absolute horseshit that he hasn’t been signed yet. He’s no Tom Brady, but he is definitely one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL and would be a great replacement for Flacco for at the least the next few weeks.

The Ravens are no strangers to controversy; just look at Ray Rice and Ray Lewis. One of them was a face of the franchise when he beat his fiancee in an elevator, and the latter pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a DOUBLE HOMICIDE. That’s some Aaron Hernandez shit. Regardless, Ray Lewis is still regarded as one of the greatest Ravens of all time. This goes to show that people have no issue forgetting about controversy when it’s convenient, A.K.A. when the perpetrator can really play.

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Obviously, Colin Kaepernick has the potential to be a PR nightmare. However, if he leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he would be regarded as a hero. Considering the fact that half of the team knelt for the week three game against Jacksonville, I am sure that he would be welcomed to the Ravens organization with open arms, by the players at least. You and I both know that whoever the Ravens sign would be signed to eventually replace Flacco, but for the time being, Ozzie can just say that he is on a tryout until Flacco gets healthy.

If he plays well, then we can keep him and let him play for the starting spot. If not, we can cut him after a week or two and everyone will understand. But for the sake of this article, let’s just say he plays well.

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Step 3: Trading Flacco

Joe Flacco’s contract sucks. But why pay him $20 million a year when we can let someone else pay him their entire salary cap? If the Texans can get rid of Brock Osweiler, we can definitely find suitors for a quarterback with a Super Bowl under his belt. Unfortunately, I doubt that the Browns would bite, but another team like that would be perfect. Once we trade Flacco away, we will have all of that cap room to sign some big name free agents. Guys like Alshon Jeffery, LeVeon Bell, and Larry Fitzgerald are all Unrestricted Free Agents in 2018 and could propel the Ravens offense to where it needs to be. We will never be an offense-first type of team, but if we can put a few offensive touchdowns on the board each game, then our defense should put us in a position to win football games.

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Alshon Jeffery (pictured) would figure to be the perfect signing for the Ravens in the 2018 offseason.

So there you have it. It’s not a perfect plan, but I would rather watch the Ravens make an actual attempt at solving their problems than wait until 2020 to try and win football games. Best case scenario, we can be a Super Bowl contender in a few years. Worst case scenario, we gave it a shot. Trust the process, baby.

 

Defending Champs Watch: Pats Win the Super Bowl Rematch

Sunday night’s fog-filled Super Bowl rematch doubled as the Patriots’ best win of the season. Most importantly, the defense was able to shut down the Falcons, a team with a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. That being said, this was far from a statement win. The 3-2 Falcons have been sputtering after winning three in a row to begin the season. In week five, Atlanta blew a 17-0 halftime lead at home to the Miami Dolphins, who outscored them 20-0 in the second half. Given the way that the Falcons played on Sunday, I have a hard time giving the Patriots too much credit. It was a good win because the Falcons are a good team on paper, and the Patriots defense has struggled greatly up to this point, but they will have to play just as well against far better competition if the Patriots have true Super Bowl aspirations.

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Strengths

Malcolm Butler

There is no doubt that Butler’s play this season has been impacted by the big offseason acquisition of cornerback Stephon Gilmore. After the undrafted Super Bowl XLIX hero played himself into being one of the top cornerbacks in NFL, it must have shaken his confidence to see $65 million given to a Buffalo Bill. Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels acknowledged this in the broadcast booth during Sunday night’s game as matter of fact, despite being mere speculation up to this point in the season. It comes as no coincidence that Butler has played much better in the two weeks that Gilmore has missed with a concussion. On Sunday, he was very effective in man coverage, breaking up a pass in the end zone on third and goal early on in the fourth quarter, and recording six tackles including a big hit in the backfield to break up a Tevin Coleman rush. Butler’s play has been encouraging for two straight weeks, and hopefully this trend continues as Stephon Gilmore likely makes his return to the lineup this Sunday.

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Third Down Offense

The Patriots offense was extremely effective on third down on Sunday, converting seven of thirteen attempts. Third down efficiency was one of my biggest concerns following the Edelman injury in the preseason. Thus far, Brady and the offense have proven me wrong, converting on 45.65% of their third down attempts, good for third best in the league. While converting on third down has been an issue at times this season (5-15 against the Chiefs in week one and 4-12 against the Buccaneers in week five), they have been effective for most of the season and especially in the last few weeks. Brady and his group of receivers have really stepped it up on third down. Brady’s statistics in situations of third and six or more have been best that they have been in the post-Garoppolo era (since 2014). He currently has a 65.1% completion percentage and a 124.0 quarterback rating on third and long. The offense has truly stepped it up on third down to help mitigate Julian Edelman.

Offensive Line/Running Game/Dion Lewis

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The offensive line has played well for a second straight week, allowing two sacks for just eight yards and giving the Patriots the opportunity to run the ball effectively. On Sunday, New England rushers combined for 162 yards, the most all season, on an average of 4.5 yards per rush. The running game has been indicative of the improvement in offensive line play, as the Patriots have rushed for at least 100 yards in the last three games. This only happened once last year, excluding the four games that Brady missed due to suspension, and it was in the last three games of the season when the Patriots may have been looking to take some heat off of their then-39 year old quarterback. It is also not a coincidence that in the three weeks, Dion Lewis has been given a larger role and has emerged as the lead back, for now. Lewis has the capacity to be electric, and has the ability to jumpstart the offense. Last year’s AFC divisional game against Houston could have been a much different game if it weren’t for Lewis’ kickoff return touchdown. On a team that is so reliant on the passing attack, Lewis should remain the Patriots’ primary back, unless he needs to be preserved to avoid injury.

Negatives

Stephon Gilmore

The defense has shown improvement over the course of the last two weeks, as Gilmore has been sitting out with a concussion. Butler’s aforementioned recent success is almost certainly a product of Gilmore missing time. It is never a good sign when commentators are debating starting Johnson Bademosi over a healthy Stephon Gilmore. However, Gilmore should be in the starting lineup this Sunday, and should be in man coverage against Tyrell Williams, the bigger receiver in the Chargers’ group of wideouts.

Containing Opposing Offenses

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The defense has had some uncharacteristic issues so far this season. They are currently last in yards allowed per game and yards per play. While it is not surprising that the Patriots are giving up a lot of yards, they typically do not allow big plays. Even though New England finished 25th in yards allowed in 2016, they were tied for eighth in yards per play. Similarly to allowing big plays, the Patriots have failed to contain quarterbacks this year, unlike their history of handily being able to do so. On Sunday, Matt Ryan rushed for 37 yards on three attempts. Allowing rushing first downs to Matt Ryan is extremely problematic for a defense that hangs its hat on discipline. The amount of big plays and lack of containing lead me to question the players’ reaction to coaching on the defensive side of the ball. These are not issues of talent, but rather issues of executing defensive schemes coached up by Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. If the defense is unable to do that, there are bigger issues than just Stephon Gilmore and problems in coverage at hand.

Next Week: Home vs. Chargers

The Chargers have won three straight after beginning the season 0-4. Three of their four losses have been by three or fewer points, and two were lost on missed last second field goals. On defense, they have the formula to beat the Patriots; they are able to pressure the quarterback without blitzing. The Chargers are currently tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks with 23. Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram both rank in the top six in sacks with 7.5 and 8.5 respectively. This will be a big game for the offensive line, especially for center David Andrews and guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. If the Chargers are able to get pressure up front, it will be a long and painful game for Tom Brady.

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Prediction: Patriots 27, Chargers 24

The Favorites to Win the 2017-2018 English Premier League

Manchester United has started out strong in the current EPL season by signing Romelu Lukaku from Everton in July. Lukaku snubbed Chelsea, his former club, and instead signed with United for £75 million. The 24-year old has shown his worth by tallying seven goals and one assist in eight matches in the Premier League, while scoring three goals in two Champions League appearances. Manchester United found a real striker in the Belgian, and he has proven to be lethal in front of goal. His strength and shot power almost reminds us of a young Adriano in his Inter Milan days.

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Manchester United has been a bully to the opposition so far by scoring 24 goals and only conceding four. It seems as though the Red Devils are really starting to shine again, as many of the starting 11 have consistently been featured on team of the week selections. Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Marcus Rashford, and to everyone’s surprise, Marouane Fellaini, was featured last week.

Fellaini has been criticized by teammates such as Zlatan Ibrahmovic, and slammed by fans on twitter in the past for horrid mistakes and performances. Recently though, the 6’4” Afro-sporting Belgian has been a huge contributor to United’s recent success. With the injury of Paul Pogba looking to be a long-term concern, Jose Mourinho may have found a steady replacement in Marouane Fellaini this year. Unfortunately for United, Fellaini has been sidelined due to a knee sprain on international duty, which means that United needs immediate backup. A possible solution is to call back Andreas Pereira who is currently on loan with Valencia. Another option may be 19-year old Timothy Fosu-Mensah who was loaned out to Crystal Palace. Despite these choices, Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera would be the most logical solution to be placed alongside Matic.

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Manchester City

Manchester City has arguably been the most fun team to watch this season in the English Premier League. With a goal differential of +25 after eight matches, one could argue that City is the strongest team and favorites to lift the trophy in May. The Citizens have four players on the top-ten scorer sheet (Aguero, Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sané) thus far and their chemistry looks better than it did last season.

Kevin de Bruyne has had a great start that included a world-class finish against Chelsea. He has truly earned his Ballon d’Or nomination in the way that he controls City’s midfield game in and game out. Another key player for City has been the 21-year old German, Leroy Sané. His pace and foot skills have earned the youngster praise from manager Pep Guardiola on numerous occasions.

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Gabriel Jesus is another young player who is constantly proving doubters wrong. The Brazilian won the Brazil Serie A with Palmerias and the Olympics with Brazil in 2016. His accomplishments on the pitch earned him several transfer requests from European giants, but Manchester City would eventually earn his signature. Fans were concerned with how much playing time the 20-year old would get, but he has capitalized on every chance he has gotten, scoring seven goals and assisting four times in just 11 games in the 2016-17 EPL season. This year, he has already done enough to score 6 goals, and tally an assist.

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Experts questioned if the partnership with Sergio Agüero in 2017-2018 would actually help the team. Two major strikers playing at once sometimes causes controversy, and many argued that the two would not be able to compliment each other. The duo proved the nonbelievers wrong once again as the goals kept pouring on for City. With Agüero out injured due to a car accident for a short stint, City will look to the young guns to provide precious points to stay top of the Premier League.

 

The Giants Need to Make a Coaching Change

The New York Football Giants have started their 2017-2018 NFL season, which was supposed to build upon their 11-5 playoff season last year, at a dreadful 0-4. For the second time in two games, the Giants lost on a last-second field goal, something t reminiscent of Tom Coughlin’s last season in charge, in which the Giants lost eight times in one-possession games. For the second time in two games, Ben McAdoo’s play calling and decision making have directly led to the Giants losing. Following the aforementioned 6-10 season, Coughlin was relieved of his duties as the Head Coach. He was replaced by McAdoo, who had contributed a few bright spots to an otherwise bleak season as Offensive Coordinator. However, I believe that most of the problems plaguing the Giants currently have still not been resurrected from that 6-10 season, and I believe that in order to fix those mistakes, McAdoo must either be fired, or at the very least, be relieved of play-calling duties.

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In that last season in charge, there was a lack of quality decision-making coming from Coughlin, which led to his firing. Yet, not even two full seasons later, the same poor decision making is rearing its head. The Giants have left points on the field time and time again in back-to-back games, and this has directly led to their 0-4 start. Take for example, last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Midway through the first quarter, the Giants started a drive with rather good field position, starting on their own 37, when a third down and short came up. On a third and one, McAdoo dials up a toss play for a loss of four. Not very many coaches in the NFL are going to be calling for a toss play to the side of your offensive line that is subpar on a third and short. Furthermore, this play would bring the Giants back from Philly’s 34 to the 38, effectively knocking them out of field goal range, with McAdoo opting to punt rather than attempting a 55-yard field goal. With the game continuing as a low scoring affair in the first half, the Giants found themselves having their game-tying touchdown reversed and facing a third and one from the Eagles’ one yard line. Eli Manning fails to find his target and the Giants have fourth and one, and once again we have a fatal faux pas from McAdoo. Rather than taking some form of points from the drive and going into the half down 7-3, the decision was made to attempt to go over the top of the pile, and, needless to say, things did not go according to plan.

While a 55-yard field goal with an inexperienced kicker is somewhat understandable to not attempt, not taking three points at the half and giving your offense some semblance of confidence is absolutely inexcusable. This play-calling that has exhibited cases of being passive at the wrong times and uber-aggressive at the wrong times led to at a minimum of six points being left on the field in a game which would be lost by two. An inexperienced Philadelphia kicker, Jake Elliot, kicked the longest field goal in the history of Lincoln Financial Field, a 61-yarder which left Odell Beckham Jr. and all of the Giants faithful watching with nothing that could be done. It is worth noting that one could put nearly as much blame on punter Brad Wing in this loss, as he shanked his final punt of the game, only 28 yards, leaving the Eagles with the time and the field position to eventually win the game.

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By some unbelievable stretch of the imagination, things would pick up right where they left off very early in the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the Buccaneers taking an early 7-0 lead at home, the Giants began their drive downfield, which stalled on fourth and four at the Tampa Bay 30. Now, most, if not all coaches in this situation would gladly take three points and answer back to the opposition taking the lead on the next drive. McAdoo does not think like most coaches. So, naturally, instead of taking the field goal, McAdoo leaves the offense on the field, resulting in a turnover on downs for the Giants offense, and a huge stop for the Bucs’ defense. This would again directly lead to the Giants losing the game, as the Buccaneers kicked a field goal as time expired to win the game, courtesy of ex-Jet Nick Folk.

There was one more decision that I could not fathom near the end of the game, and that one revolved around the use of the Giants’ third and final timeout. Going into Tampa Bay’s final drive, the Giants did not have all of their timeouts, so their only option was to hope for a stop and play off of the two minute warning. A stop never came, and facing a third and one with 90 seconds remaining, Jameis Winston found his man in Cameron Brate for 26 yards, effectively ending the game. The Giants did still have one timeout remaining, and instead of saving it to potentially ice Nick Folk prior to his eventual field goal attempt, McAdoo called a timeout with 34 seconds remaining following a Jameis Winston kneel on first down. It is also worth noting that the Giants finally managed to get a rushing touchdown in this game (their first of the season), a 14-yard scramble from none other than Eli Manning, who, despite his team being 0-4, should not be shouldering anywhere near the blame that he is currently being given. Manning is sporting a near 70% completion rate on the season, which is good for third amongst qualified quarterbacks, while also having attempted the second most passes in the league to date. Needless to say, Eli is doing just fine. However, the extreme lack of a running game, along with injuries and struggles with the offensive line, and the offense managing to not stay on the field and exhausting their stout defense is what is ailing the Giants this season.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-New York Giants at Green Bay Packers

While I personally did not agree with Coughlin being fired after coaching the team to two super bowl victories, I do feel that something needs to change this season, and there are no more second chances for McAdoo. That needs to start in week five with McAdoo being relieved of his play-calling duties, and if it seems that this was not the problem, the Giants should bring in a new offensive coordinator. There are simply no excuses for a team led by Eli Manning, with weapons in the passing game such as Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall, to be averaging a meager 15 points per game. Had the Giants been 2-2 at this moment, then many people including myself, would not be calling for changes in the coaching hierarchy. However, with the season looking all but over sitting at 0-4 in a year in which 9-7 is more than likely not going to win the division, things are not looking good.

Serie A Summer 2017 Transfer Window Grades

Atalanta

Key Acquisitions (Players they obtained) Key Losses (Players sold / let go / sent on loan / retired) Important Players that Stayed (stayed despite heavy links to leave)
Cornelius (Copenhaghen) Migliaccio (Fine Carriera) Papu Gomez
Ilicic (Fiorentina) Grassi (Spa via Napoli) Andrea Petagna
Castagne (Genk) Zukanovic (Genoa via Roma) Spinazzola
Osolini (Ascoli via Juventus) Frank Kessie (Milan)
De Roon (Middlesbrough) Conti (Milan)
Paloschi (Spal)
D’Alessandro (Benevento)

Antonio’s Grade: B-

Atalanta lost key players to bigger clubs, but that was always going to happen after their incredible display last season, culminating in a fourth place finish. The loss of Kessie might hurt the most as he absolutely dominated the midfield for them. Ilicic and Orsolini should bring creativity to the attack and bringing De Roon back after a season in the Premier League should help patch up the wound of losing Kessie. Holding onto the likes of Petagna, Spinazzola and Gomez means that the transfer market wasn’t necessarily poor, as Atalanta also made good profit which will help them long-term. They also avoided losing enough players to put them in danger of the relegation zone.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: C

When the highlight of your transfer window is keeping a 29-year-old winger, it’s not a great off-season. With the Europa League closing in, the Bergamaschi will have to do without star center midfielder Kessie, who was sold to AC Milan early on in the transfer window. Unfortunately, Atalanta did not re–invest much of the funds received from the Kessie deal and now find themselves falling back into Serie A mediocrity. The key signing for them this season will be Ilicic from Fiorentina, who could be set for a breakout season.

Benevento

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Belec (Carpi) Cragno (Cagliari) Ciciretti
Letizia (Carpi) Pajac (Cagliari) Venuti
A. Costa (Empoli) Falco (Bologna) Chibsah
Cataldi (Genoa via Lazio) Bagadur (Brescia via Fiorentina)
D’Alessandro (Atalanta) Camporese (Foggia)
Lemmello (Sassuolo) Ceravolo (Parma)
Antei (Sassuolo)
Lazaar (Newcastle)
Lombardi (Lazio)

Antonio’s Grade: C+

It wasn’t a bad mercato for Benevento when you look at some of the players they bought. They brought in some players with Serie A experience, loaned in some young talent, and kept hold of some talents. I couldn’t imagine them doing much more given their budget and considering that this is their first ever season in Serie A. However, I do not believe that they have done enough to get them away from the relegation zone. The other teams that would normally finish near the relegation zone have seemingly done enough to stay up. Bringing in Letizia and Costa definitely gives some defensive strength, and Cataldi can improve their midfield considerably, but I don’t think it’s enough. Losing Cragno and Ceravolo could prove costly in the long run. Lemmello is the only player that seems capable of scoring more than a few goals. Since their goal is to stay in Serie A, I can’t give them a high grade because they have not done enough to remain there.

Pietro-Iemmello

Sebastiano’s Grade: B+

Bringing in Serie A veterans such as Antei, Lazaar, and Lemmello are all crucial signings for a team that few have staying up. Cataldi from Lazio could also prove to be a revelation, but at the moment, it seems like they greatly overpaid for him. It is hard to imagine Benevento doing more than they have, and yet salvation still seems far away.

Bologna

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
De Maio (Fiorentina) Dzemaili (Montreal Impact) Verdi
G. Gonzalez (Palermo) Viviani (Spal via Verona) Di Francesco
Andrea Poli (Milan) Oikonomou (Spal) Masina
Palacio (Inter) Gastaldello (Brescia)

Antonio’s Grade: C-

It was a very dull transfer market for Bologna, and coming immediately after a terrible season has got to be painful for any Bologna fan. They didn’t bring in many names that I can see improving this side. The only good signing I can think of is De Maio, who is just a solid center back. They lost Dzemaili, who was one of their best goal scorers, and both of their starting center backs in Oikonomou and Gastaldello. Dzemaili needed to be replaced and their answer to bring in Andrea Poli is not nearly enough. Keeping Masina and Di Francesco could have positive long-term effects, but this was a poor mercato overall. I don’t think everyone’s least favorite cold-cut improved at all and they will likely finish around the same place as last season.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Bologna’s back line has been upgraded with De Maio and Gonzalez, and the midfield is set to showcase former AC Milan veteran Poli, who is not a signing that will change much, and might actually take minutes away from younger players like Donsah and Pulgar. Bologna will have to be weary this year as they may fall back to where they ended last season, which would be crushing for the city and the team.

Cagliari

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Cragno (Benevento) Di Gennaro (Lazio) Joao Pedro
Cop (Gijon) Gabriel (Milan) Barella
Cigarini (Sampdoria) Bruno Alves (Glasgow Rangers)
Andreolli (Inter) Murru (Sampdoria)
Romagna (Brescia via Juventus) Tachtsidis (Olympiacos via Torino)
Gregory Van der Wiel (Fenerbahce) Mauricio Isla (Fenerbahce)
Pavoletti (Napoli) Salamon (Spal)
Borriello (Spal)

Antonio’s Grade: A-

It was just an average mercato for Cagliari until the news that Borriello would be leaving was heard. This could have been disastrous, given that there wasn’t much time to find a suitable replacement. However, Cagliari managed to make not one, but two fantastic signings in the last day or two of the mercato, in Pavoletti and Van der Wiel. They also brought in young talents like Romagna and Cragno. Cigarini should help bring balance to the midfield, while the only losses that may have hurt them were Tachtsidis and Murru as all the other players that left have been properly replaced. Overall, this was a very impressive mercato from Cagliari and they should finish closer to mid table now.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B+

It’s a good thing that the transfer window doesn’t end in July because a month ago, Cagliari’s window looked gloomy. A month later, the Sardinian giants brought in a steady right back in Van der Wiel and a proven goal scorer in Pavoletti as a replacement for Borriello. Andreolli will also shore up the back as Cagliari look to establish themselves as a mid-table Serie A team.

Chievo Verona

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Rodriguez (Cesena) Sardo (Fine Carriera) Birsa
Pucciarelli (Empoli) De Guzman (Eintracht Francoforte via Napoli) Inglese (sold but loaned back)
Tomovic (Fiorentina) Spolli (Genoa)
Stepinski (Nantes) Gakpe (Genoa)
Mpoku (Standard Liege)
Izco (Crotene)

Antonio’s Grade: D

Surely this is the season that Chievo fails. They have finished way too high in the table for the talent their squad possesses. This mercato was a disaster in my opinion. Pucciarelli was brought in to score goals, but he has never been very good at that. Tomovic could end up being decent, but center back was not their biggest problem that needed fixing. Their goalkeeper is seemingly too past his prime to continue as a starting goalkeeper. Their midfield lacks creativity, and their attack doesn’t look very potent. Losing Izco and De Guzman with no replacements will likely cost them. Holding on to Inglese might be enough to keep them out of the relegation zone, but it’s not looking like this will be a positive season for Chievo.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Every year, Chievo seems to be on the brink of failing apart and every year, they prove the doubters wrong. This year’s window was no different than the past few windows, spending very little and relying on experience. It’s hard to see this team surviving an ever more competitive league with the signings that they made.

Crotone

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Budimir (Sampdoria) Mesbah (Losanna) Ceccherini
Faraoni (Udinese) Rosi (Genoa) Martella
Kragl (Frosinone) Crisetig (Bologna)
Izco (Chievo) G. Gerrari (Sassuolo)
Ajeti (Torino) Falcinelli (Sassuolo)
Crociata (Milan) Capezzi (Sampdoria)
Mandragora (Juventus)
Tumminello (Roma)
Pavlovic (Sampdoria)

Antonio’s Grade: C-

Crotone pulled off somewhat of a miracle to stay up last season. Half-way through the season, they looked like they were probably finishing in last place, but somehow managed to stay up. A good amount of their success was due to Falcinelli’s ability to score goals, and now they can’t rely on him. He has not been replaced at all. Trotta and Budimir have extremely low chances of scoring 10 or more goals individually and possibly even combined. Mandragora and Izco are solid additions that actually make their midfield stronger than it was last season, while Crociata and Tumminello are interesting young talents that could end up making a difference. However, their goalkeeper isn’t that solid, they have no identifiable goal-scorer and their wingers really shouldn’t be on any Serie A team. Crotone didn’t do enough and will almost surely get relegated.

budimir

Sebastiano’s Grade: C+

“Quantity over Quality” was the motto for Crotone this year after their improbable salvation last season. Having lost key players like Falcinelli and Ferrari, the arrivals of Budimir and Tumminello will need to be in-form if they are to stay up. Perhaps the January window will give Crotone another chance to add the last piece that would put them over the hump.

Fiorentina

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
V. Hugo (Palmeiras) Cristian Tello (Betis Siviglia via Barca) Chiesa
Gaspar (Vitoria) Gonzalo Rodriguez (San Lorenzo) Badelj
Veretout (Aston Villa) De Maio (Bologna via Anderlecht)
Benassi (Torino) Ilicic (Atalanta)
Eysseric (Nizza) Valero (Inter)
Giovanni Simeone (Genoa) Vecino (Inter)
Pezzella (Betis) Bernardeschi (Juventus)
Thereau (Udinese) Tatarusanu (Nantes)
Gil (Monaco) Kalinic (Milan)
Tomovic (Chievo)

Antonio’s Grade: B-

As seen above, Fiorentina have had a very busy summer in the transfer market, as they basically have a completely new team from that of last season. However, even though I believe they have lost key players that will hurt them, they have made up for it in some way by bringing in some good talent. On defense, they can no longer count on former captain Rodriguez, De Maio, or Tomovic, players who have not been properly replaced. The loss of rising star Bernardeschi might end up hurting the most as he was Fiorentina’s best player last season. Chiesa is another rising star and can partially replace Bernardeschi, but he still has some time to go before he reaches that level. Fiorentina have replaced Kalinic, their top goal-scorer for the past two seasons, with Simeone. Simeone is the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone and looks to have a bright future, although I don’t think he is quite at the level of Kalanic just yet. Eysseric can replace the creativity lost from Valero going to Inter. Gil, Gaspar, and Benassi are all promising young talents that are positive additions for Fiorentina. Overall, Fiorentina are not as strong as they were just a few months ago, but this team is building for the future.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Fiorentina may have a very difficult season ahead, as they lost most of their centerpieces with Vecino, Kalinic, Bernardeschi and Valero all going to greener pastures. Now it will be up to Simeone and Thereau to carry the load left by those that have gone. Overall, there is little doubt that the team was far more talented a year ago.

Genoa

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Zukanovic (Atalanta via Roma) Orban (Racing Club) Laxalt
Bertolacci (Milan) Burdisso (Torino)
Lapadula (Milan) Pinilla (Univ. de Chile)
Rodriguez (Banfield) Cataldi (Benevento)
Centurion (Boca Juniors via San Paolo) Ntcham (Celtic Glasgow via Manchester City)
Rossettini (Torino) Simeone (Fiorentina)
Ricci (Sassuolo) Hiljemark (Panathinaikos)

Antonio’s Grade: B

Last season was one of the worst seasons that Genoa have had in recent memory. They barely avoided relegation even though their team usually finishes comfortably mid-table. They clearly needed a tune-up and that’s what they got to some degree. Zukanovic and Rossettini are pretty good additions to the defense and are upgrades over the likes of Munoz and Orban. Bertolacci, if he stays healthy, can add creativity and goals. Lapadula will guarantee hard work and I reckon, quite a few goals. Centurion seems like a positive purchase as many top sides were after him this summer. Genoa didn’t lose many key players besides Simeone and Burdisso, so they shouldn’t be too worried. If Perin can stay healthy, Genoa will likely go back to finishing comfortably mid-table.

lapadula

Sebastiano’s Grade: B

Genoa covered all of the bases this summer by bringing in Rossettini and Zukanovic for the defense, Bertolacci in the midfield, and Lapadula in attack. With Simeone being the only star player leaving, Genoa should improve upon last season’s record. While the signings will not blow anyone away, they are enough to be competitive in this league.

Inter Milan

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Skriniar (Sampdoria) Ever Banega (Sevilla) Ivan Perisic
Borja Valero (Fiorentina) Medel (Besiktas) Antonio Candreva
Vecino (Fiorentina) Murillo e Kondogia (Valencia)
Dalbert (Nice) Stevan Jovetic (Monaco)
Cancelo (Valencia) Gabigol (Benfica)
Karamoh (Caen) Ansaldi (Torino)

Antonio’s Grade: B-

Inter remained fairly active in the August transfer market. They got rid of some deadweight and brought in some impressive acquisitions. However, Inter fans were promised top players from all over Europe and they didn’t really get that. This most definitely has to do with them not finishing in a European position and the fact that their big-money signings last season largely failed. I do think that Spalletti will figure out how to get the best from the players he has, which is still a strong squad. Skriniar isn’t the center back most Inter fans wanted, but he is solid nonetheless. Borja Valero could be that link that was missing from Inter last season and his midfield passing and movement is much needed. Dalbert and Cancelo are improvements over Nagatomo, Santon, and D’Ambrosio even though they didn’t get Ricardo Rodriguez or Serge Aurier. The failure to pick up a truly top-class midfielder may end up costing them in the end. Losing Murillo and Medel may actually hurt them as Inter look extremely low on center backs and defensive midfielders even if those two weren’t great in the first place.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: C+

New ownership often brings high expectations – expectations that are not always met as we can see here with the Nerazzuri. The additions of Valero and Vecino will certainly strengthen the midfield, especially after selling former Monaco man, Kondogbia. Skriniar will be an upgrade over Murillo, but with Ranocchia as the only other option to Miranda, the back line is thin. Perhaps Inter was overshadowed by its crosstown rivals, but this is not a window that will see them compete for a champions league spot just yet.

Juventus

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Bentancur (Boca) Dani Alves (Paris St. Germain) Paulo Dybala
Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich) Neto (Valencia) Alex Sandro
Mattia De Sciglio (Milan) Leonardo Bonucci (Milan)
Wojciech Szczesny (Roma via Arsenal) Mandragora (Crotone)
Bernardeschi (Fiorentina) Lemina (Southampton)
Blaise Matuidi (Paris St. Germain) Rincon (Torino)
Benedikt Howedes (Schalke)

Antonio’s Grade: B+

The major news this summer coming out of Juventus was Bonucci’s decision to leave for AC Milan. It seemed insane that Bonucci would want to leave Juventus, who have won the league six times in a row, for a team that finished in sixth place last season. People saw this as a sign of a disastrous mercato for Juve and maybe a changing of the guard. However, I believe that, in general, Juventus have done some good business this summer. They acquired a fantastic winger in Costa for a minimum price. They also made great deals by getting Szczesny, Matuidi and Howedes for very little cost. Szczesny is a great addition and gives Juventus two great goalkeepers in the squad. Matuidi fixes a lot of the midfield problems given how injury-prone Marchisio can be, and with Khedira out of steam. Howedes probably isn’t on Bonucci’s level, but he is a proven center back and adds needed depth. However, there are a few problems that they didn’t properly address. The purchase of De Sciglio to be their starting right back (and replace) Dani Alves is truly baffling. Also, I think that Juventus should have gotten rid of Sturaro and added another defensive midfielder to compensate for the aforementioned Marchisio and Khedira. Lastly, they were supposed to get Schick, but failed to do so which means that they don’t have much striker depth. Still, the likes of Bernardeschi and Bentancur are very promising youngsters, and the absence of Bonucci frees up more playing time for Daniele Rugani this season. Also, none of the purchases were very expensive, barring Bernardeschi, who deserved the price tag.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B

How do you defend your Serie A title? You do so through buying proven winners in Matuidi, Howedes, and Costa. This is how the Bianconeri answered that question this summer. Add on some utility players like De Sciglio and Szczesny and it seems like an excellent transfer roundup. On the other hand, Juve could have easily acquired Keita Balde, Spinazzola and Shick, and failed to do so. Balde in particular was up for pennies on the dollar and Juve will surely regret not picking him up. Finally, Bonucci’s departure will be a blessing in disguise as Rugani will see more minutes and improve the squad with his presence from the start.

 Lazio

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Marusic (Ostenda) Biglia (Milan) Milinkovic-Savic
Lucas Leiva (Liverpool) Hoedt ( Southampton) De Vrij
Di Gennaro (Cagliari) Keita (Monaco)
Felipe Caicedo (Espanyol) Cataldi (Benevento)
Nani (Sporting Lisbon)  

 Antonio’s Grade: B

As usual, Lazio have had a largely inactive mercato. They sold well with Hoedt, Biglia and Keita and brought in some cheap replacements. Nani was the replacement brought in for Keita, but he definitely isn’t quite at the same level and that’s ignoring the fact that he is on the decline. Lucas Leiva is a decent replacement for Biglia, but once again, he isn’t quite on the same level. They did well to hold onto Milinkovic-Savic, who was one of the best midfielders in the league last season. They somehow managed to beat Juventus in the Supercoppa, so maybe they are better than they seem. Overall, it wasn’t a very exciting mercato and the team hasn’t really improved – but Lazio held onto most of their talents, and their squad looks good enough to finish in one of the Europa League spots.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: C+

Another perplexing transfer season for the capital’s first team, as they lose Keita Balde at a discounted price, their captain, Biglia, and promising young defender Hoedt. When one sells the center pieces of a team as is the case here, the appropriate signings must be made. Unfortunately, Lazio brought in injury prone Lucas Leiva, a winger that is past his prime in Nani, and two promising but unproven youngsters from the Braga young team – for 30 million euros. With all of the funds at their disposal, it would have been nice to see Lazio make the jump into champions league placement.

A.C. Milan

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Musacchio (Villarreal) Pasalic (Spartak Moscow) Gianluigi Donnarumma
R. Rodriguez (Wolfsburg) Mati Fernandez (Fiorentina) Suso
Kessie (Atalanta) Deulofeu (Barcelona via Everton)
Conti (Atalanta) Honda (Pachuca)
André Silva (Porto) Kucka (Trabzonspor)
Borini (Sunderland) Bertolacci (Genoa)
Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) Lapadula (Genoa)  
Bonucci (Juventus) De Sciglio (Juventus)  
Biglia (Lazio) Vangioni ( Monterrey)  
Kalinic (Fiorentina) Bacca (Villarreal)  
  Niang (Torino)  

Antonio’s Grade: A

Milan had one of the best transfer markets in all of Europe. Fassone and Mirabelli were in charge of the mercato and they completely revolutionized the team to the point where only two or three starters from last season will continue to be in the starting lineup this season. Milan brought in Rodriguez, who is one of the best left backs in the world. They signed Conti who was the highest scoring defender in all of Europe last season and is an improvement over Abate or Calabria. Calhanoglu is one of the world’s best free kick takers and is versatile. Biglia is a top midfielder and a huge improvement over Montolivo. Kalanic and Andre Silva will provide a lot of goals between them (as will Cutrone). Both strikers are much more suitable to Montella’s playing style than Bacca was. Musacchio has been one of the best center backs in all of La Liga for the past few seasons and is a much better player than Paletta or Zapata.

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The biggest signing, however, must be Bonucci. Milan were able to sign him for only around €40 million, which is a steal when you compare it to the overall market. The fact that he wanted to leave Juventus and join Milan shows that top players are interested in Milan’s project. Bonucci is considered to be one of the world’s best center backs and will be important for Milan’s goal of Champions League qualification. It was also incredibly important that Gianluigi Donnarumma stayed because he is already one of the best goalkeepers in the league and will likely be one of the best that Italy has ever had. It must also be mentioned that Milan bought almost every one of these players for a fairly cheap price and beat out other competitors (Roma and Inter) to get some of these players. Lastly, Milan did a fine job getting rid of players that shouldn’t be on the team like Bertolacci, Poli, Honda, Bacca, and Vangioni. The only missing piece is that they didn’t get another winger to replace Deulofeu and Niang, which could hurt them in the long run. Overall, it was a fantastic Mercato for Milan as they will likely finish in a Champions League spot.

Sebastiano’s Grade: A+

After years of enduring subpar players and performances, it finally seems like the return of the Milan giants is eminent. Kessie, Biglia, Bonucci, Rodriguez, Musacchio and Silva are but a few of the plethora of top level additions Milan made this offseason. It may still be early to tell just how far this team can go, but the potential is there. From the performances we have seen to date, this team may well be contending for the Scudetto as early as this season. A transfer window for the ages.

Napoli

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Ounas (Bordeaux) Pavoletti (Cagliari) Insigne
Mario Rui (Roma) D. Zapata (Sampdoria) Koulibaly
  Strinic (Sampdoria) Hysaj

Antonio’s Grade: B+

The main story for Napoli this summer is that they barely changed their team. But is this a bad thing? They kept a fantastic team together and even made a few good deals. Insigne and Koulibaly are hitting the peak of their career now and it is so important that they stayed. This Napoli side can push hard for the Scudetto this season as Juve and Roma are slightly weaker. The fact that not one of their starting players left is impressive and shows that the team is committed to their goal. The only problem I see is that Reina is getting old and is starting to make a few too many mistakes. If they had gotten Rulli, it would have been an important purchase. Also, Koulibaly probably needs a better partner than Albiol, Maksimovic and Chiriches if they want to push deep into the Champions League. However, Ounas is a solid addition, as is Mario Rui. This team looks set to do great things this season, including mounting a title challenge.

hamsik-mertens

Sebastiano’s Grade: D

There is no question that retaining your team identity and most valuable players is important in mounting a serious run in to the top. However, for a team like Napoli, bringing in one or two big names would have undoubtedly put them above most of the other teams with the exception of Juventus. With one of the most exciting teams in Europe, we would have liked to see more investments being made to better the team now and possibly to even have Napoli be a contender in the Champions League. In an age where money reigns supreme, Napoli were left behind and we will see the consequences both in the present and in the future.

Roma

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Moreno (PSV) Totti (retired) Nainggolan
Pellegrini (Sassuolo) Szczesny (Juventus via Arsenal) Manolas
Karsdorp (Feyenoord) Vermaelen (Barcelona)
Gonalons (Lyon) Salah (Liverpool)
Under (Istanbul Başakşehir) Paredes (Zenit)
Defrel (Sassuolo) Rudiger (Chelsea)
Kolarov (Manchester City)  
Schick (Sampdoria)    

Antonio’s Grade: B-

Roma brought in famous sporting director Monchi to revolutionize the team in the upcoming season. How did he do? Well, he came to a club that was in debt because of Roma’s failure to qualify for the Champions League the previous season. Monchi did a decent job at making money back with sales for decently high prices for Salah, Rudiger and Paredes. He was able to get a few players for cheap like Pellegrini, Moreno, Under and Gonalons, although none of these are top signings. Kolarov could prove to be a good purchase at left back as Roma relied far too much on Emerson last season. Towards the end of the transfer market, Roma were able to capture Schick, who may well prove to be a fantastic long term signing. However, it seems that Roma overpaid for Defrel and they never signed a true right winger to replace Salah after they failed to land Mahrez. This means that players will have to play out of position to cover for this failure. Under could end up being a player that flourishes in that role but isn’t at the level of Salah yet. This will be the first season in over 25 years that Roma can no longer rely upon the magic of Francesco Totti, so their failure to pick up multiple quality signings will hurt their chances of fighting for the Scudetto and possibly even finishing top four.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B-

The sporting director Monchi did a decent job in his effort to mix young talent with experienced veterans, but nothing spectacular occurred in Roma’s window. Numerous key players have left, and their replacements are questionable. Defrel for 20 million still leaves us speechless as does the addition of Gonalons, while Kolarov, Pellegrini and Shick seem to be the ideal signings for a Roma team that will be battling at the top of the table for a Champions League spot.

Sampdoria

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Capezzi (Crotone) Skriniar (Inter) Torreira
Caprari (Pescara via Inter) Bruno Fernandes (Sporting) Linetty
Murru (Cagliari) Cigarini (Cagliari),
Kownacki (Lech Poznan) Muriel (Sevilla),
G. Ferrari (Crotone) Schick (Roma)
Ramirez (Middlesbrough)  
Andersen (Twente)  
Strinic (Napoli)    
D. Zapata (Napoli)    

Antonio’s Grade: B+

It looked like it was going to be another difficult season for Sampdoria after they started selling a number of their starters from last season including the center back Skriniar, attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes and striker Luis Muriel. Not too long after, Sampdoria started making important new signings. Caprari could be an interesting buy to replace the dribbling skills of Fernandes and Muriel. Gaston Ramirez is a top signing from the Premier League who improves the squad without a doubt. Anderson and Ferrari will be important in defense as Sampdoria incredibly only had two true center backs last season, which caused them problems. There probably should have been another center back brought in considering they sold Skriniar. New signings Murru and Strinic will compete for the starting left back spot. Duvan Zapata is a positive signing for the attack as well. However, losing promising young star Schick will cost them some goals even though they ended up getting a large sum of money in his sale. Keeping hold of Torreira and Linetty will be important for them. I think Sampdoria could aim slightly higher this season since they added much needed depth to the squad this season.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B+

A couple of years ago when we saw Samuel Eto’o wear the Sampdoria shirt, we were perhaps tricked into thinking this was the start of a new Sampdoria. Instead, today we have come to realize the Genovese giants remain the same – good without being great, making astute signings without blowing anyone away. Zapata, Murru, Ferrari and Gaston Ramirez will improve the team from last season and while I would not expect anything spectacular, a top-ten finish seems almost assured.

Sassuolo

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Falcinelli (Crotone) Aquilani (Pescara) Domenico Berardi
Cassata (Ascoli via Juventus) Pellegrini (Roma) Acerbi
Goldaniga (Palermo) Defrel (Roma)
  Iemmello (Benevento)
  Ricci (Genoa)

Antonio’s Grade: C-

Sassuolo’s season was a failure. They got knocked out of the Europa League in the group stages and finished close to the relegation zone. They needed a strong mercato to make sure that they can finish in the top ten, but it doesn’t look like they have improved at all. They do have Falcinelli back who should add goals and Goldaniga is a solid defender, but they really haven’t done much. Losing Pellegrini to Roma could do a lot of damage as he might have been their best player last season. Defrel and Iemmello scored most of the goals last season, so it’s strange how they let them both go. They have to hope that Berardi has a fantastic season or it will be another failure of a season. Sassuolo needed more depth and they really didn’t get that.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: F

Having lost Defrel, Pellegrini and Antei, we expected Sassuolo to buy young exciting replacements. Instead Sassuolo failed to reinvest and are now looking like relegation contenders. Furthermore, the neroverdi have lost long-time manager Di Francesco, and this too will add to the difficulties of the upcoming season. Berardi and Duncan, the two star players of the team that stayed, will have to be in form if Sassuolo has any chance of surviving.

SPAL

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Mattiello (Juventus) Bonifazi (Torino) Meret
Oikonomou (Bologna) Del Grosso (Atalanta) Vicari
Rizzo (Bologna) Ghiglione (Pro Vercelli via Genoa)
Viviani (Bologna via Verona) Zigoni (Milan)
Felipe (Udinese) Castagnetti (Empoli)
A. Gomis (Salernitana via Torino) Giani (Spezia)
Paloschi (Atalanta)  
Konate (Malmoe)    
Grassi (Atalanta via Napoli)    
Borriello (Cagliari)    
Bonazzoli (Sampdoria)    

Antonio’s Grade: A

SPAL had a fantastic season as they won Serie B to make it into Serie A. They have also had a fantastic mercato in that their already strong squad became a lot stronger by bringing in talents from all over Serie A. The players they brought in aren’t just rejects but truly talented players. Oikonomou and Felipe are pretty good defenders. Bringing in Rizzo, Viviani, and Grassi improves their midfield considerably. Gomis and Meret will fight for the starting goalkeeper spot but Meret looks like he will have the brighter future of the two, especially after his performances last season. Most impressive of all is that they were able to bring in two proven goalscorers in Paloschi and Borriello. Borriello had a great season and scored 20 goals in 37 competitive games last season and his abilities will be important. It looks like SPAL have done more than enough to stay up, meaning this mercato has been fantastic. Still, losing players like Giani, Zigoni, and especially Bonifazi could end up costing them as they were very important for SPAL last season. Still, I think the additions brought in are good enough to get them to safety.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: A-

An excellent summer for the novel Serie A squad! Essentially revamping the entire team, SPAL managed to add young talent with many proven Serie A players. Greece star-man Oikonomou will be a pivotal addition to the defense as marquee signings, Borriello and Paloschi will take care of the goalscoring up front. There will also be competition for the starting goalkeeper spot as Meret and Gomis look like two promising Italian shot stoppers. For the funds at their disposal and their inexperience in the top flight, SPAL have enough to be the surprise of the season.

Torino

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Bonifazi (Spal) Joe Hart (West Ham) Belotti
Lyanco (San Paolo) Castan (Roma) Baselli
Sirigu (PSG) Iturbe (Roma)
Berenguer (Osasuna) Benassi (Fiorentina)
N’Koulou (Lyon) Rossettini (Genoa)
Rincon (Juventus) Zappacosta (Chelsea)
Burdisso (Genoa)  
Niang (Milan)    
Ansaldi (Inter)    

Antonio’s Grade: A

Torino had a decent season, but it looks like they have all of the right pieces to improve. Bonifazi was a beast last season for SPAL and looks to be a bright star in the future of their defense. Sirigu should be an improvement over a very poor Joe Hart. Berenguer was linked to Napoli, but the fact that Torino was able to get him is positive for them. N’Koulou is a top defender and will bring stability to the defense, which was Torino’s biggest problem last season along with mistakes from Hart. Rincon is a good replacement for the departed Benassi. Niang should add more depth to the attack and Ansaldi can play at left or right back and is also a positive signing. Torino addressed their defensive weakness and added some overall depth. Losing Zappacosta might be the only negative as he did very well for the Granata. They also don’t have a solid backup for Belotti, but Boye should be decent enough. Possibly the most important thing is that Belotti stayed with them and is guaranteed to score a lot of goals.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: A

One of the most efficient and effective transfer windows in all of Europe. This year, Torino managed to keep up with the big money spenders in Juve, Roma, Milan and Inter by purchasing numerous proven players in the likes of, Sirigu, former Cameroon captain N’Koulou, Rincon, Niang and Ansaldi. Not only this, but they were also able to keep star striker Belotti for at least another six months. Iturbe and Benassi have moved away, but Toro replaced them magnificently. Expect Toro to finish in the top seven this year.

Udinese

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Lasagna (Carpi) Kums (Gent) Jankto
Mallé (Granada) D. Zapata (Napoli) Fofana
Bizzarri (Pescara) Felipe (SPAL)
Pezzella (Palermo) Heurtaux (Verona)
Nuytinck (Anderlecht) Badu (Bursaspor)
Bajic (Koniaspor) Thereau (Fiorentina)
Behrami (Watford) Karnezis (Watford)  
Maxi Lopez (Torino) Kone (AEK Atene)  
  Wague (Watford)  

Antonio’s Grade: C+

Udinese had a disappointing season overall and their mercato is slightly disappointing as well. Udinese’s goal should be to get back into Europe, but they haven’t done nearly enough to finish among the top seven. Losing their main strikers in Thereau and Zapata will likely prove costly as Lasagna and Perica don’t seem like they will score as many goals. Felipe and Heurtaux are gone, which isn’t much of a problem, but losing Karnezis to Watford seemed like a bad decision. Maybe Scuffet can finally live up to the hype that surrounded a few seasons back, but they probably shouldn’t have made that gamble. Keeping Jankto and Fofana is important for their midfield as both are promising players. Nuytinck was a positive purchase for their defense and Behrami will bring strength to the team. Maxi Lopez was a good signing for cheap as he might be able to make a difference from the bench, as will Bajic. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think they have done enough to considerably improve upon last season.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: D

Could this be the year that Udinese go down? With the window that they had, it may very well. With Thereau going to Fiorentina and Badu to Bursaspor, Udinese brought in Maxi Lopez and Behrami as replacements. Perhaps five years ago, these players could have been starters in Serie A, but now they are merely old and unable to be what they once were. Udinese are in trouble if they fail to splash the cash in January.

Hellas Verona

Key Acquisitions Key Losses Important Players that Stayed
Verde (Avellino) Boldor (Montreal Impact via Bologna) Fossati
Cerci (Atletico Madrid) Ganz (Pescara via Juventus) Bessa
Heurtaux (Udinese) Troianiello (Roma) Zaccagni
Silvestri (Leeds United) Pisano (Bristol)
Buchel (Empoli) Siligardi (Parma)
Caceres (Southampton) Bertolacci (Genoa)
Fossati (Cagliari) Lapadula (Genoa)  
Ferrari (Bologna) De Sciglio (Juventus)  

Antonio’s Grade: B+

Hellas Verona are back in Serie A where they should be. The mercato was decent enough to have many people saying that they will avoid relegation. They did a good job to keep some of their young talent like Bessa, Fossati, and Ferrari. Verde and Cerci add width and dribbling ability. Their defense has been improved by solid additions like former Juventus center back Caceres. Heurtaux was also brought in to solidify the defense. Kean could end up being the best signing, having shown so much promise in his youth career, and if they can hold on to him for a few seasons before he returns to Juventus, it will be a great deal for Hellas. Losing Siligardi may end up as a negative sale but they have added enough players that his loss won’t likely be felt. Still, they probably should have brought in some midfielders to add creativity as they are mainly relying on youngsters. If their goal is just to stay up, then I think they have done enough, but I don’t expect them near the top 10.

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Sebastiano’s Grade: B-

With the Cassano debacle finally done, Verona have settled what is for them a solid transfer season. Cerci and Caceres will hope to revive their careers as young prospect Kean will surely add some aggression and desire upfront. It is still too soon to tell how far this team can go, but with the pazzo Pazzini leading the front line, anything is possible.