The Vikings trade defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Ravens

Photo via Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings acquired defensive end Yannick Ngakoue from the Jacksonville Jaguars back in August for a second-round pick and a conditional fifth. Two months later, they give him back up as they trade Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for a third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick.

“We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” said Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta . “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass-rusher who makes us better. Yannick grew up here. He’s the type of person we welcome in our building. Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals.”

Ngakoue joins a Ravens defense which is 10th overall in total defense, 13th in pass defense and 12th in pass defense. The Ravens pass rush is one of the best in NFL as they are tied for second with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in team sacks with 22. Ngakoue this season has been productive was five sacks and two forced fumbles, so adding Ngakoue only helps to bolster their pass rush as they look to have as strong of defense as possible when they play big games against the Pittsburgh Steelers twice this season, their strongest competition for the AFC North division title. Ngakoue is reunited with Calais Campbell, whom the Ravens got from the Jaguars this offseason, as the two were teammates on the 2017 Jaguars team that made it to the AFC Championship game. Like when they acquired Marcus Peters and Kenny Young last year to the defense at the trade deadline, the Ravens are adding more weapons to their defense midseason.

For the Vikings, this is a puzzling situation. They added Ngakoue for a second-round pick back in August and they trade him two months later. They lose $6.8 million in cap for six games of production and essentially trade down in the draft a round for six games. They wanted to pair him with Danielle Hunter but with his injury, they decided to move on from Ngakoue and boost their draft capital. The Vikings are 1-5 and with the Jaguars owning their second-round pick, they needed to increase their draft capital and this was a step in the right direction in doing so. This has been a disappointing season for the Vikings, showing they need to make significant roster changes. Expect more players from Minnesota to be sold by the deadline.

Both teams are in the midst of their bye week. The Vikings will face the Green Bay Packers and the Ravens will play the Steelers in two weeks.

NFL Week 6 Takeaways

Photo via Andy Lyons

Week 6 of the NFL season saw positive COVID-19 cases affecting the schedule once again as the Buffalo Bills hosted the Kansas City Chiefs in the first game of a Monday night doubleheader. Also, contenders and pretenders were starting to emerge as the season standings begin to take shape. Here are my four takeaways from this weekend’s action.

  1. Tee Higgins and Joe Burrow looks to be a future elite combination

The Cincinnati Bengals suffered a heartbreaking loss on Sunday at Indianapolis as they lost a 21-0 lead to the Colts and a late interception by Joe Burrow sealed the Bengals’ 31-27 loss to the Colts. The Bengals drop to 1-4-1, an expected record for a team rebuilding (aside from the tie of course).

However, one thing teams look for when rebuilding is signs of promise for the future and on Sunday, the Bengals found it as rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins broke out with 125 yards on six catches. He burned Colts defenders, showing he has the speed and size to have profound success in this league. As the Bengals rebuild and Burrow develops, expect Higgins, the 33rd pick in this year’s draft, to be a vital piece going forward as he will be Burrow’s main target.

2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire should be the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year

There have been several rookies bursting onto the scene through the first few weeks of the season. Justin Jefferson has been a very explosive wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings and Justin Herbert has already showcased his elite arm, showing why the Los Angeles Chargers selected him with the sixth-overall pick. However, after an impressive performance on Monday, Chiefs’ running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should be the current Rookie of the Year favorite.

Edwards-Helaire is second in the NFL in rushing with 505 yards, trailing only Derrick Henry in the rushing title chase. He has given the Chiefs’ offense a whole other dimension that they lacked last season, the ability to rely on the running game instead of always relying on Patrick Mahomes to carry the offense. He ran for 161 yards on 26 carries at Buffalo, guiding the Chiefs to the 26-17 win. His stellar production has made a tremendous impact on the defending Super Bowl champions and combined with his amazing statline, he should be given the Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today.

3. The Texans look much more loose without Bill O’Brien

After finally firing general manager and head coach Bill O’Brien, the Houston Texans look much improved after an abysmal 0-4 start. They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars last week 30-14 and this week, they went toe-to-toe with the undefeated Tennessee Titans, losing 42-36 in overtime. The Texans led for most of the fourth quarter and was a two-point conversion away from sealing the win.

Not only did firing O’Brien allow the Texans to start cleaning up the mess he left, but also the players started playing hard again. It is now well-documented how he lost control of the team after a dispute with franchise icon J.J. Watt and now that he’s gone, the Texans are playing much more loose and with more vigour. This is a good sign going forward as if the Texans can hire the right coach (Eric Bieniemy) and be patient in rebuilding the roster, the Texans may be strong contenders again during Deshaun Watson’s prime.

4. Green Bay needs to develop toughness

Last season, the Packers made it to the NFC Championship game despite winning most games ugly and looking unimpressive for most of the season. When they faced a team more talented than them that punched them in the mouth early, they faded away, not putting up any resistance. This was highlighted in all three trips to California as they were blown out at the Chargers and twice at San Francisco.

2020 was looking much different as the Packers dominated their way to a 4-0 start. They looked like a well-oiled machine and much improved from last year. After their bye week, they reverted back to their 2019 selves as they were thrashed by the Tampa Buccaneers, losing 38-10 after jumping out to a 10-0 lead. They were emphatically defeated and seemed to fold under pressure like they did last year. If the Packers continue to do this, they will not get farther than they did last season and will need a culture change to get over the hump.

2020 World Series preview

The 2020 World Series is about to begin. 

The two teams squaring off for the Commissioner’s Trophy will be none other than the Tampa Bay Rays from the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers from the National League. 

With the first pitch of Game 1 scheduled to begin Oct. 20 at 8:09 p.m. EST, both teams will look to cap off their strong seasons on a high note. To get to the World Series, both teams underwent different strategies. For the Dodgers, it was all about maintaining momentum and coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Atlanta Braves. For the Rays, it was about halting momentum from the Houston Astros, who almost came back to win the series despite falling into a 3-0 series hole. 

No matter the circumstance, both teams are now looking ahead to bigger and better feats. What team holds the edge over the other in terms of positions, though? Within this preview I break down each position and determine who holds the edge. I reckon a prediction is in order, too. Well, let’s check it out. 

Starting Pitching: 

Both teams bring the star power in terms of traditional starters. For the Dodgers, it is all about Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, in addition to their flame throwing sinker-baller in Dustin May. The Rays, meanwhile, bring Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow to the fold. At this stage of the postseason, all of the starters listed have excelled even scuffled to varying degrees. It is not taboo to really call this position a wash, given the fact that both teams relied on a strong rotation to get to the postseason anyway. Cliché, perhaps? It is possible, but both teams are just that good when it comes to traditional starting pitching. 

Edge: Even

Bullpen:

I mentioned the term “traditional starter” for a reason. After all, Tampa Bay’s bullpen has been revolutionary in using the “opener” strategy, which revolves around starting a reliever to begin the game. The Dodgers, although more traditional in the usage of their relievers, have even experiment with the strategy. Regardless, Tampa Bay is fearless when it comes to their bullpen usage, and who would blame them – through the likes of Diego Castillo, Ryan Thompson and company, Tampa had the third best relief ERA during the regular season (3.37). The Dodgers, ironically enough, had the second-best relief ERA during the regular season (2.74). Despite the success on paper, Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers has been spotty at times. Although the Dodgers do bring nice relievers to the mound, Tampa Bay’s relief core is better equipped to take on any role or matchup on a game-to-game basis. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

Catcher:

The Dodgers have utilized 25-year-old Will Smith as their primary postseason catcher, whereas Tampa Bay has gone with their 29-year-old veteran in Mike Zunino. While both do not bring a consistent offensive presence with the lumber, they provide invaluable defense, framing and pitch-calling for their respective pitching units. While Smith has been slightly flashier with the bat (he did pick up a five-hit game earlier in the postseason, after all), Zunino’s power is needed for Tampa Bay, as their lineup is not as deep when compared to the lineup of Los Angeles. Make no mistake – offensive production from Smith is nice to have, but it is not as much of a necessity when compared to Zunino. Zunino gets the edge here, even by a technicality. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

1st Base: 

In case it needs to be said, both teams are extremely versatile on defense. As a result, both teams have mixed and matched different players at this position. When delving through the roster flexibility, Ji-Man Choi has been Tampa Bay’s primary first baseman, while Los Angeles has rolled with Max Muncy. Both have shown to be productive this postseason, as Muncy possesses an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .881, while Choi has an OPS of .952. At a glance, it looks like Choi has the edge, as he does hold the advantage in terms of batting average (.290 vs. .211). Muncy, however, brings more postseason experience and a slightly better eye, as he has 15 walks compared to Choi’s seven. It is a close race between the two, and while Muncy brings more postseason experience, Choi has been a slightly steadier presence in the lineup. It is close, but give credit where credit is due. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

2nd Base: 

Enrique Hernandez for Los Angeles started 30 games at second base during the regular season, while Brandon Lowe of Tampa Bay started 44 times there. Combined with five games played in last season’s postseason, Lowe has only played in 19 postseason games. Hernandez, on the other hand, has played in 52. Coupled with Lowe slashing .115/.193/.173, it comes to no one’s surprise that Hernandez takes the cake from an experience standpoint. It also helps Hernandez’s case that he is hitting for power during the playoffs (the 29-year-old is slugging .556 in 2020 postseason play). 

Edge: Los Angeles 

3rd Base: 

Joey Wendle for the Rays, nor the hot-corner tandem of Justin Turner and Edwin Rios for the Dodgers, have been consistent producers this postseason. Wendle is certainly an intriguing piece for Tampa Bay at the bottom of order. No doubt about that. The duo of Turner and Rios, though, provides more veteran experience and youthful upside. Should there be a choice of one team over the other, give me the balance of veteran experience and youthful upside every time. Los Angeles, that means you. 

Edge: Los Angeles

Shortstop:

Willy Adames for Tampa Bay does bring a nice eye to the plate, as the 25-year-old has 13 walks during the 2020 postseason. While a nice sight to see, his .132 batting average and 17 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances leaves a lot to be desired. Corey Seager for Los Angeles, meanwhile, is slashing .298/.358/.766 this postseason and has mashed six home runs to boot. To top it all off, he won the NLCS MVP Award. I am not saying this is a lopsided comparison, but, well, you get the idea at this point. 

Edge: Los Angeles 

Left Field: 

Do not misinterpret things, now – A.J. Pollock in left field for the Dodgers, coupled with Joc Pederson, have combined to provide a steady diet of nice hits, decent defense and big-time bombs. On the flipside of the coin, you have the 25-year-old Cuban phenom in Randy Arozarena that has captured the infatuation of the baseball community, as he almost literally carried Tampa Bay’s offense during the ALCS. Luckily for Arozarena, his services were rewarded with the honor of claiming MVP honors for the series. At some point, you have to ride with the hot hand with a high ceiling over the certainty of a serviceable floor. 

Edge: Tampa Bay

Center Field: 

Cody Bellinger for the Dodgers faces off against the defensive wizard in Kevin Kiermaier for Tampa Bay. It is true that Bellinger’s postseason could be going a little bit better (he is currently hitting below the Mendoza Line), but then again, his go-ahead home run in Game 7 against the Braves could be a sign of wonderful things to come. Kiermaier’s defensive prowess, despite being Platinum Glove-caliber, will not be able to offset Bellinger’s potential should he heat up to the level he can crank up to. While it might seem like a tough choice on the surface, the upside for Bellinger (despite a shoulder injury) is too much to overlook. Although Bellinger has traditionally been positioned in center field, another outfielder for Los Angeles can take the position to heart as well, too…

Edge: Los Angeles 

Right Field: 

Manuel Margot has been a nice power addition in what has amounted to a double down of power output in regard to Tampa Bay’s offensive philosophy. On the Dodgers’ side of things is a five-tool player who almost single-handedly kept the Dodgers’ postseason hopes alive with his defensive catches all over the outfield. Mookie Betts, through his contact, defense and speed, has time and time again proved his worth as one of the better players in all of MLB. There is no contest when it comes to who takes the edge in this matchup. 

Edge: Los Angeles

Designated Hitter/Bench: 

Both teams bring deep benches. Tampa Bay’s roster on defense, coupled with the bats of Austin Meadows and Mike Brosseau, creates a plethora of pinch-hitting opportunities as the games get into the latter innings. Los Angeles, with the likes of Chris Taylor, Hernandez, Turner, Pederson and company, also has a deep bench that could almost be a lineup on its own accord. Although the Dodgers’ bench on paper carries more talent, the matchup-savviness of Tampa Bay makes this closer than the eye can identify. Until games happen on the field and situations unfold, this looks like another draw, although either could take the advantage should their team gain the upper hand.

Edge: Even

The Verdict: 

Coming into this series, both teams have had to accomplish a ton. No matter the payroll obligations (or the lack thereof), homegrown talent, external additions or coaching staff, this fact holds true for Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. The good news for both is that their roster makeup will likely see both in the postseason again next season and possibly the season after as well. Regardless of the future outlook, the Dodgers bring more star power and depth than Tampa Bay does for this current bout. Tampa Bay should be able to steal a game at the minimum, but at the end of the day, this World Series is the Dodgers’ to lose. After years of anguish, the wait for Los Angeles fans will pay off. 

Prediction: Los Angeles in 6