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The dollar standard and how the Fed itself created the perfect setup for a stock market crash
Disclaimer: This is neither financial nor trading advice and everyone should trade based on their own risk tolerance. Please leverage yourself accordingly. When you're done, ask yourself: "Am I jacked to the tits?". If the answer is "yes", you're good to go. We're probably experiencing the wildest markets in our lifetime. After doing some research and listening to opinions by several people, I wanted to share my own view on what happened in the market and what could happen in the future. There's no guarantee that the future plays out as I describe it or otherwise I'd become very rich. If you just want tickers and strikes...I don't know if this is going to help you. But anyways, scroll way down to the end. My current position is TLT 171c 8/21, opened on Friday 7/31 when TLT was at 170.50. This is a post trying to describe what it means that we've entered the "dollar standard" decades ago after leaving the gold standard. Furthermore I'll try to explain how the "dollar standard" is the biggest reason behind the 2008 and 2020 financial crisis, stock market crashes and how the Coronavirus pandemic was probably the best catalyst for the global dollar system to blow up.
Tackling the Dollar problem
Throughout the month of July we've seen the "death of the Dollar". At least that's what WSB thinks. It's easy to think that especially since it gets reiterated in most media outlets. I will take the contrarian view. This is a short-term "downturn" in the Dollar and very soon the Dollar will rise a lot against the Euro - supported by the Federal Reserve itself.US dollar Index (DXY)If you zoom out to the 3Y chart you'll see what everyone is being hysterical about. The dollar is dying! It was that low in 2018! This is the end! The Fed has done too much money printing! Zimbabwe and Weimar are coming to the US. There is more to it though. The DXY is dominated by two currency rates and the most important one by far is EURUSD.EURUSD makes up 57.6% of the DXY And we've seen EURUSD rise from 1.14 to 1.18 since July 21st, 2020. Why that date? On that date the European Commission (basically the "government" of the EU) announced that there was an agreement for the historical rescue package for the EU. That showed the markets that the EU seems to be strong and resilient, it seemed to be united (we're not really united, trust me as an European) and therefore there are more chances in the EU, the Euro and more chances taking risks in the EU.Meanwhile the US continued to struggle with the Coronavirus and some states like California went back to restricting public life. The US economy looked weaker and therefore the Euro rose a lot against the USD. From a technical point of view the DXY failed to break the 97.5 resistance in June three times - DXY bulls became exhausted and sellers gained control resulting in a pretty big selloff in the DXY.
Why the DXY is pretty useless
Considering that EURUSD is the dominant force in the DXY I have to say it's pretty useless as a measurement of the US dollar. Why? Well, the economy is a global economy. Global trade is not dominated by trade between the EU and the USA. There are a lot of big exporting nations besides Germany, many of them in Asia. We know about China, Japan, South Korea etc. Depending on the business sector there are a lot of big exporters in so-called "emerging markets". For example, Brazil and India are two of the biggest exporters of beef. Now, what does that mean? It means that we need to look at the US dollar from a broader perspective. Thankfully, the Fed itself provides a more accurate Dollar index. It's called the "Trade Weighted U.S. Dollar Index: Broad, Goods and Services". When you look at that index you will see that it didn't really collapse like the DXY. In fact, it still is as high as it was on March 10, 2020! You know, only two weeks before the stock market bottomed out. How can that be explained?
Global trade, emerging markets and global dollar shortage
Emerging markets are found in countries which have been shifting away from their traditional way of living towards being an industrial nation. Of course, Americans and most of the Europeans don't know how life was 300 years ago.China already completed that transition. Countries like Brazil and India are on its way. The MSCI Emerging Market Index lists 26 countries. Even South Korea is included. However there is a big problem for Emerging Markets: the Coronavirus and US Imports.The good thing about import and export data is that you can't fake it. Those numbers speak the truth. You can see that imports into the US haven't recovered to pre-Corona levels yet. It will be interesting to see the July data coming out on August 5th.Also you can look at exports from Emerging Market economies. Let's take South Korean exports YoY. You can see that South Korean exports are still heavily depressed compared to a year ago. Global trade hasn't really recovered.For July the data still has to be updated that's why you see a "0.0%" change right now.Less US imports mean less US dollars going into foreign countries including Emerging Markets.Those currency pairs are pretty unimpressed by the rising Euro. Let's look at a few examples. Use the 1Y chart to see what I mean. Indian Rupee to USDBrazilian Real to USDSouth Korean Won to USD What do you see if you look at the 1Y chart of those currency pairs? There's no recovery to pre-COVID levels. And this is pretty bad for the global financial system. Why? According to the Bank of International Settlements there is $12.6 trillion of dollar-denominated debt outside of the United States. Now the Coronavirus comes into play where economies around the world are struggling to go back to their previous levels while the currencies of Emerging Markets continue to be WEAK against the US dollar. This is very bad. We've already seen the IMF receiving requests for emergency loans from 80 countries on March 23th. What are we going to see? We know Argentina has defaulted on their debt more than once and make jokes about it. But what happens if we see 5 Argentinas? 10? 20? Even 80? Add to that that global travel is still depressed, especially for US citizens going anywhere. US citizens traveling to other countries is also a situation in which the precious US dollars would enter Emerging Market economies. But it's not happening right now and it won't happen unless we actually get a miracle treatment or the virus simply disappears. This is where the treasury market comes into play. But before that, let's quickly look at what QE (rising Fed balance sheet) does to the USD. Take a look at the Trade-Weighted US dollar Index. Look at it at max timeframe - you'll see what happened in 2008. The dollar went up (shocker).Now let's look at the Fed balance sheet at max timeframe. You will see: as soon as the Fed starts the QE engine, the USD goes UP, not down! September 2008 (Fed first buys MBS), March 2009, March 2020. Is it just a coincidence? No, as I'll explain below. They're correlated and probably even in causation.Oh and in all of those scenarios the stock market crashed...compared to February 2020, the Fed balance sheet grew by ONE TRILLION until March 25th, but the stock market had just finished crashing...can you please prove to me that QE makes stock prices go up? I think I've just proven the opposite correlation.
Bonds, bills, Gold and "inflation"
People laugh at bond bulls or at people buying bonds due to the dropping yields. "Haha you're stupid you're buying an asset which matures in 10 years and yields 5.3% STONKS go up way more!".Let me stop you right there. Why do you buy stocks? Will you hold those stocks until you die so that you regain your initial investment through dividends? No. You buy them because you expect them to go up based on fundamental analysis, news like earnings or other things. Then you sell them when you see your price target reached. The assets appreciated.Why do you buy options? You don't want to hold them until expiration unless they're -90% (what happens most of the time in WSB). You wait until the underlying asset does what you expect it does and then you sell the options to collect the premium. Again, the assets appreciated. It's the exact same thing with treasury securities. The people who've been buying bonds for the past years or even decades didn't want to wait until they mature. Those people want to sell the bonds as they appreciate. Bond prices have an inverse relationship with their yields which is logical when you think about it. Someone who desperately wants and needs the bonds for various reasons will accept to pay a higher price (supply and demand, ya know) and therefore accept a lower yield. By the way, both JP Morgan and Goldmans Sachs posted an unexpected profit this quarter, why? They made a killing trading bonds. US treasury securities are the most liquid asset in the world and they're also the safest asset you can hold. After all, if the US default on their debt you know that the world is doomed. So if US treasuries become worthless anything else has already become worthless. Now why is there so much demand for the safest and most liquid asset in the world? That demand isn't new but it's caused by the situation the global economy is in. Trade and travel are down and probably won't recover anytime soon, emerging markets are struggling both with the virus and their dollar-denominated debt and central banks around the world struggle to find solutions for the problems in the financial markets. How do we now that the markets aren't trusting central banks? Well, bonds tell us that and actually Gold tells us the same! TLT chartGold spot price chart TLT is an ETF which reflects the price of US treasuries with 20 or more years left until maturity. Basically the inverse of the 30 year treasury yield. As you can see from the 5Y chart bonds haven't been doing much from 2016 to mid-2019. Then the repo crisis of September 2019took place and TLT actually rallied in August 2019 before the repo crisis finally occurred!So the bond market signaled that something is wrong in the financial markets and that "something" manifested itself in the repo crisis. After the repo market crisis ended (the Fed didn't really do much to help it, before you ask), bonds again were quiet for three months and started rallying in January (!) while most of the world was sitting on their asses and downplaying the Coronavirus threat. But wait, how does Gold come into play? The Gold chart basically follows the same pattern as the TLT chart. Doing basically nothing from 2016 to mid-2019. From June until August Gold rose a staggering 200 dollars and then again stayed flat until December 2019. After that, Gold had another rally until March when it finally collapsed. Many people think rising Gold prices are a sign of inflation. But where is the inflation? We saw PCE price indices on Friday July 31st and they're at roughly 1%. We've seen CPIs from European countries and the EU itself. France and the EU (July 31st) as a whole had a very slight uptick in CPI while Germany (July 30th), Italy (July 31st) and Spain (July 30th) saw deflationary prints.There is no inflation, nowhere in the world. I'm sorry to burst that bubble. Yet, Gold prices still go up even when the Dollar rallies through the DXY (sadly I have to measure it that way now since the trade-weighted index isn't updated daily) and we know that there is no inflation from a monetary perspective. In fact, Fed chairman JPow, apparently the final boss for all bears, said on Wednesday July 29th that the Coronavirus pandemic is a deflationarydisinflationary event. Someone correct me there, thank you. But deflationary forces are still in place even if JPow wouldn't admit it. To conclude this rather long section: Both bonds and Gold are indicators for an upcoming financial crisis. Bond prices should fall and yields should go up to signal an economic recovery. But the opposite is happening. in that regard heavily rising Gold prices are a very bad signal for the future. Both bonds and Gold are screaming: "The central banks haven't solved the problems". By the way, Gold is also a very liquid asset if you want quick cash, that's why we saw it sell off in March because people needed dollars thanks to repo problems and margin calls.When the deflationary shock happens and another liquidity event occurs there will be another big price drop in precious metals and that's the dip which you could use to load up on metals by the way.
Dismantling the money printer
But the Fed! The M2 money stock is SHOOTING THROUGH THE ROOF! The printers are real!By the way, velocity of M2 was updated on July 30th and saw another sharp decline. If you take a closer look at the M2 stock you see three parts absolutely skyrocketing: savings, demand deposits and institutional money funds. Inflationary? No. So, the printers aren't real. I'm sorry.Quantitative easing (QE) is the biggest part of the Fed's operations to help the economy get back on its feet. What is QE?Upon doing QE the Fed "purchases" treasury and mortgage-backed securities from the commercial banks. The Fed forces the commercial banks to hand over those securities and in return the commercial banks reserve additional bank reserves at an account in the Federal Reserve. This may sound very confusing to everyone so let's make it simple by an analogy.I want to borrow a camera from you, I need it for my road trip. You agree but only if I give you some kind of security - for example 100 bucks as collateral.You keep the 100 bucks safe in your house and wait for me to return safely. You just wait and wait. You can't do anything else in this situation. Maybe my road trip takes a year. Maybe I come back earlier. But as long as I have your camera, the 100 bucks need to stay with you. In this analogy, I am the Fed. You = commercial banks. Camera = treasuries/MBS. 100 bucks = additional bank reserves held at the Fed.
Revisiting 2008 briefly: the true money printers
The true money printers are the commercial banks, not the central banks. The commercial banks give out loans and demand interest payments. Through those interest payments they create money out of thin air! At the end they'll have more money than before giving out the loan. That additional money can be used to give out more loans, buy more treasury/MBS Securities or gain more money through investing and trading. Before the global financial crisis commercial banks were really loose with their policy. You know, the whole "Big Short" story, housing bubble, NINJA loans and so on. The reckless handling of money by the commercial banks led to actual money printing and inflation, until the music suddenly stopped. Bear Stearns went tits up. Lehman went tits up. The banks learned from those years and completely changed, forever. They became very strict with their lending resulting in the Fed and the ECB not being able to raise their rates. By keeping the Fed funds rate low the Federal Reserve wants to encourage commercial banks to give out loans to stimulate the economy. But commercial banks are not playing along. They even accept negative rates in Europe rather than taking risks in the actual economy. The GFC of 2008 completely changed the financial landscape and the central banks have struggled to understand that. The system wasn't working anymore because the main players (the commercial banks) stopped playing with each other. That's also the reason why we see repeated problems in the repo market.
How QE actually decreases liquidity before it's effective
The funny thing about QE is that it achieves the complete opposite of what it's supposed to achieve before actually leading to an economic recovery. What does that mean? Let's go back to my analogy with the camera. Before I take away your camera, you can do several things with it. If you need cash, you can sell it or go to a pawn shop. You can even lend your camera to someone for a daily fee and collect money through that.But then I come along and just take away your camera for a road trip for 100 bucks in collateral. What can you do with those 100 bucks? Basically nothing. You can't buy something else with those. You can't lend the money to someone else. It's basically dead capital. You can just look at it and wait until I come back. And this is what is happening with QE. Commercial banks buy treasuries and MBS due to many reasons, of course they're legally obliged to hold some treasuries, but they also need them to make business.When a commercial bank has a treasury security, they can do the following things with it:- Sell it to get cash- Give out loans against the treasury security- Lend the security to a short seller who wants to short bonds Now the commercial banks received a cash reserve account at the Fed in exchange for their treasury security. What can they do with that?- Give out loans against the reserve account That's it. The bank had to give away a very liquid and flexible asset and received an illiquid asset for it. Well done, Fed. The goal of the Fed is to encourage lending and borrowing through suppressing yields via QE. But it's not happening and we can see that in the H.8 data (assets and liabilities of the commercial banks).There is no recovery to be seen in the credit sector while the commercial banks continue to collect treasury securities and MBS. On one hand, they need to sell a portion of them to the Fed on the other hand they profit off those securities by trading them - remember JPM's earnings. So we see that while the Fed is actually decreasing liquidity in the markets by collecting all the treasuries it has collected in the past, interest rates are still too high. People are scared, and commercial banks don't want to give out loans. This means that as the economic recovery is stalling (another whopping 1.4M jobless claims on Thursday July 30th) the Fed needs to suppress interest rates even more. That means: more QE. that means: the liquidity dries up even more, thanks to the Fed. We heard JPow saying on Wednesday that the Fed will keep their minimum of 120 billion QE per month, but, and this is important, they can increase that amount anytime they see an emergency.And that's exactly what he will do. He will ramp up the QE machine again, removing more bond supply from the market and therefore decreasing the liquidity in financial markets even more. That's his Hail Mary play to force Americans back to taking on debt again.All of that while the government is taking on record debt due to "stimulus" (which is apparently only going to Apple, Amazon and Robinhood). Who pays for the government debt? The taxpayers. The wealthy people. The people who create jobs and opportunities. But in the future they have to pay more taxes to pay down the government debt (or at least pay for the interest). This means that they can't create opportunities right now due to the government going insane with their debt - and of course, there's still the Coronavirus.
"Without the Fed, yields would skyrocket"
This is wrong. The Fed has been keeping their basic level QE of 120 billion per month for months now. But ignoring the fake breakout in the beginning of June (thanks to reopening hopes), yields have been on a steady decline. Let's take a look at the Fed's balance sheet. The Fed has thankfully stayed away from purchasing more treasury bills (short term treasury securities). Bills are important for the repo market as collateral. They're the best collateral you can have and the Fed has already done enough damage by buying those treasury bills in March, destroying even more liquidity than usual. More interesting is the point "notes and bonds, nominal". The Fed added 13.691 billion worth of US treasury notes and bonds to their balance sheet. Luckily for us, the US Department of Treasury releases the results of treasury auctions when they occur. On July 28th there was an auction for the 7 year treasury note. You can find the results under "Note -> Term: 7-year -> Auction Date 07/28/2020 -> Competitive Results PDF". Or here's a link. What do we see? Indirect bidders, which are foreigners by the way, took 28 billion out of the total 44 billion. That's roughly 64% of the entire auction. Primary dealers are the ones which sell the securities to the commercial banks. Direct bidders are domestic buyers of treasuries. The conclusion is: There's insane demand for US treasury notes and bonds by foreigners. Those US treasuries are basically equivalent to US dollars. Now dollar bears should ask themselves this question: If the dollar is close to a collapse and the world wants to get rid fo the US dollar, why do foreigners (i.e. foreign central banks) continue to take 60-70% of every bond auction? They do it because they desperately need dollars and hope to drive prices up, supported by the Federal Reserve itself, in an attempt to have the dollar reserves when the next liquidity event occurs. So foreigners are buying way more treasuries than the Fed does. Final conclusion: the bond market has adjusted to the Fed being a player long time ago. It isn't the first time the Fed has messed around in the bond market.
How market participants are positioned
We know that commercial banks made good money trading bonds and stocks in the past quarter. Besides big tech the stock market is being stagnant, plain and simple. All the stimulus, stimulus#2, vaccinetalksgoingwell.exe, public appearances by Trump, Powell and their friends, the "money printing" (which isn't money printing) by the Fed couldn't push SPY back to ATH which is 339.08 btw. Who can we look at? Several people but let's take Bill Ackman. The one who made a killing with Credit Default Swaps in March and then went LONG (he said it live on TV). Well, there's an update about him:Bill Ackman saying he's effectively 100% longHe says that around the 2 minute mark. Of course, we shouldn't just believe what he says. After all he is a hedge fund manager and wants to make money. But we have to assume that he's long at a significant percentage - it doesn't even make sense to get rid of positions like Hilton when they haven't even recovered yet. Then again, there are sources to get a peek into the positions of hedge funds, let's take Hedgopia.We see: Hedge funds are starting to go long on the 10 year bond. They are very short the 30 year bond. They are very long the Euro, very short on VIX futures and short on the Dollar.
This is the perfect setup for a market meltdown. If hedge funds are really positioned like Ackman and Hedgopia describes, the situation could unwind after a liquidity event:The Fed increases QE to bring down the 30 year yield because the economy isn't recovering yet. We've already seen the correlation of QE and USD and QE and bond prices.That causes a giant short squeeze of hedge funds who are very short the 30 year bond. They need to cover their short positions. But Ackman said they're basically 100% long the stock market and nothing else. So what do they do? They need to sell stocks. Quickly. And what happens when there is a rapid sell-off in stocks? People start to hedge via put options. The VIX rises. But wait, hedge funds are short VIX futures, long Euro and short DXY. To cover their short positions on VIX futures, they need to go long there. VIX continues to go up and the prices of options go suborbital (as far as I can see).Also they need to get rid of Euro futures and cover their short DXY positions. That causes the USD to go up even more. And the Fed will sit there and do their things again: more QE, infinity QE^2, dollar swap lines, repo operations, TARP and whatever. The Fed will be helpless against the forces of the market and have to watch the stock market burn down and they won't even realize that they created the circumstances for it to happen - by their programs to "help the economy" and their talking on TV. Do you remember JPow on 60minutes talking about how they flooded the world with dollars and print it digitally? He wanted us poor people to believe that the Fed is causing hyperinflation and we should take on debt and invest into the stock market. After all, the Fed has it covered. But the Fed hasn't got it covered. And Powell knows it. That's why he's being a bear in the FOMC statements. He knows what's going on. But he can't do anything about it except what's apparently proven to be correct - QE, QE and more QE.
A final note about "stock market is not the economy"
It's true. The stock market doesn't reflect the current state of the economy. The current economy is in complete shambles. But a wise man told me that the stock market is the reflection of the first and second derivatives of the economy. That means: velocity and acceleration of the economy. In retrospect this makes sense. The economy was basically halted all around the world in March. Of course it's easy to have an insane acceleration of the economy when the economy is at 0 and the stock market reflected that. The peak of that accelerating economy ("max velocity" if you want to look at it like that) was in the beginning of June. All countries were reopening, vaccine hopes, JPow injecting confidence into the markets. Since then, SPY is stagnant, IWM/RUT, which is probably the most accurate reflection of the actual economy, has slightly gone down and people have bid up tech stocks in absolute panic mode. Even JPow admitted it. The economic recovery has slowed down and if we look at economic data, the recovery has already stopped completely. The economy is rolling over as we can see in the continued high initial unemployment claims. Another fact to factor into the stock market.
TLDR and positions or ban?
TLDR: global economy bad and dollar shortage. economy not recovering, JPow back to doing QE Infinity. QE Infinity will cause the final squeeze in both the bond and stock market and will force the unwinding of the whole system. Positions: idk. I'll throw in TLT 190c 12/18, SPY 220p 12/18, UUP 26c 12/18.That UUP call had 12.5k volume on Friday 7/31 btw.
Edit about positions and hedge funds
My current positions. You can laugh at my ZEN calls I completely failed with those.I personally will be entering one of the positions mentioned in the end - or similar ones. My personal opinion is that the SPY puts are the weakest try because you have to pay a lot of premium. Also I forgot talking about why hedge funds are shorting the 30 year bond. Someone asked me in the comments and here's my reply: "If you look at treasury yields and stock prices they're pretty much positively correlated. Yields go up, then stocks go up. Yields go down (like in March), then stocks go down. What hedge funds are doing is extremely risky but then again, "hedge funds" is just a name and the hedgies are known for doing extremely risky stuff. They're shorting the 30 year bond because they needs 30y yields to go UP to validate their long positions in the equity market. 30y yields going up means that people are welcoming risk again, taking on debt, spending in the economy. Milton Friedman labeled this the "interest rate fallacy". People usually think that low interest rates mean "easy money" but it's the opposite. Low interest rates mean that money is really tight and hard to get. Rising interest rates on the other hand signal an economic recovery, an increase in economic activity. So hedge funds try to fight the Fed - the Fed is buying the 30 year bonds! - to try to validate their stock market positions. They also short VIX futures to do the same thing. Equity bulls don't want to see VIX higher than 15. They're also short the dollar because it would also validate their position: if the economic recovery happens and the global US dollar cycle gets restored then it will be easy to get dollars and the USD will continue to go down. Then again, they're also fighting against the Fed in this situation because QE and the USD are correlated in my opinion. Another Redditor told me that people who shorted Japanese government bonds completely blew up because the Japanese central bank bought the bonds and the "widow maker trade" was born:https://www.investopedia.com/terms/w/widow-maker.asp"
Since I've mentioned him a lot in the comments, I recommend you check out Steven van Metre's YouTube channel. Especially the bottom passages of my post are based on the knowledge I received from watching his videos. Even if didn't agree with him on the fundamental issues (there are some things like Gold which I view differently than him) I took it as an inspiration to dig deeper. I think he's a great person and even if you're bullish on stocks you can learn something from Steven!
DDDD - Retail Investors, Bankruptcies, Dark Pools and Beauty Contests
For this week's edition of DDDD (Data-Driven DD), we're going to look in-depth at some of the interesting things that have been doing on in the market over the past few weeks; I've had a lot more free time this week to write something new up, so you'll want to sit down and grab a cup of coffee for this because it will be a long one. We'll be looking into bankruptcies, how they work, and what some companies currently going through bankruptcies are doing. We'll also be looking at some data on retail and institutional investors, and take a closer look at how retail investors in particular are affecting the markets. Finally, we'll look at some data and magic markers to figure out what the market sentiment, the thing that's currently driving the market, looks like to help figure out if you should be buying calls or puts, as well as my personal strategy. Disclaimer - This is not financial advice, and a lot of the content below is my personal opinion. In fact, the numbers, facts, or explanations presented below could be wrong and be made up. Don't buy random options because some person on the internet says so; look at what happened to all the SPY 220p 4/17 bag holders. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions on what you should do with your own money, and how levered you want to be based on your personal risk tolerance.
How Bankruptcies Work
First, what is a bankruptcy? In a broad sense, a bankruptcy is a legal process an individual or corporation (debtor) who owes money to some other entity (creditor) can use to seek relief from the debt owed to their creditors if they’re unable to pay back this debt. In the United States, they are defined by Title 11 of the United States Code, with 9 different Chapters that govern different processes of bankruptcies depending on the circumstances, and the entity declaring bankruptcy. For most publicly traded companies, they have two options - Chapter 11 (Reorganization), and Chapter 7 (Liquidation). Let’s start with Chapter 11 since it’s the most common form of bankruptcy for them. A Chapter 11 case begins with a petition to the local Bankruptcy court, usually voluntarily by the debtor, although sometimes it can also be initiated by the creditors involuntarily. Once the process has been initiated, the corporation may continue their regular operations, overseen by a trustee, but with certain restrictions on what can be done with their assets during the process without court approval. Once a company has declared bankruptcy, an automatic stay is invoked to all creditors to stop any attempts for them to collect on their debt. The trustee would then appoint a Creditor’s Committee, consisting of the largest unsecured creditors to the company, which would represent the interests creditors in the bankruptcy case. The debtor will then have a 120 day exclusive right after the petition date to file a Plan of Reorganization, which details how the corporation’s assets will be reorganized after the bankruptcy which they think the creditors may agree to; this is usually some sort of restructuring of the capital structure such that the creditors will forgive the corporation’s debt in exchange for some or all of the re-organized entity’s equity, wiping out the existing stockholders. In general, there’s a capital structure pecking order on who gets first dibs on a company’s assets - secured creditors, unsecured senior bond holders, unsecured general bond holders, priority / preferred equity holders, and then finally common equity holders - these are the classes of claims on the company’s assets. After the exclusive period expires, the Creditor’s Committee or an individual creditor can themselves propose their own, possibly competing, Restructuring Plan, to the court. A Restructuring Plan will also be accompanied by a Disclosure Statement, which will contain all the financial information about the bankrupt company’s state of affairs needed for creditors and equity holders to make an informed decision about how to proceed. The court will then hold a hearing to approve the Restructuring Plan and Disclosure Statement before the plan can be voted on by creditors and equity holders. In some cases, these are prepared and negotiated with creditors before bankruptcy is even declared to speed things up and have more favorable terms - a prepackaged bankruptcy. Once the Restructuring Plan and Disclosure Statement receives court approval, the plan is voted on by the classes of impaired (i.e. debt will not be paid back) creditors to be confirmed. The legal requirement for a bankruptcy court to confirm a Restructuring Plan is to have at least one entire class of impaired creditors vote to accept the plan. A class of creditors is deemed to have accepted a Restructuring Plan when creditors that hold at least 2/3 of the dollar amount and at least half of the number of creditors vote to accept the plan. After another hearing, and listening to any potential objections to the proposed Restructuring Plan, such as other impaired classes that don't like the plan, the court may then confirm the plan, putting it to effect. This is one potential ending to a Chapter 11 case. A case can also end with a conversion to a Chapter 7 (Liquidation) case, if one of the parties involved file a motion to do so for a cause that is deemed by the courts to be in the best interest of the creditors. In Chapter 7, the company ceases operating and a trustee is appointed to begin liquidating (i.e. selling) the company’s assets. The proceeds from the liquidation process are then paid out to creditors, with the most senior levels of the capital structure being paid out first, and the equity holders are usually left with nothing. Finally, a party can file a motion to dismiss the case for some cause deemed to be in the best interest of the creditors.
The Tale of Two Bankruptcies - WLL and HTZ
Hertz (HTZ) has come into news recently, with the stock surging up to $6, or 1500% off its lows, for no apparent fundamental reason, despite the fact that they’re currently in bankruptcy and their stock is likely worthless. We’ll get around to what might have caused this later, for now, we’ll go over what’s going on with Hertz in its bankruptcy proceedings. To get a clearer picture, let’s start with a stock that I’ve been following since April - Whiting Petroleum (WLL). WLL is a stock I’ve covered pretty extensively, especially with it’s complete price dislocation between the implied value of the restructured company by their old, currently trading, stock being over 10x the implied value of the bonds, which are entitled to 97% of the new equity. Usually, capital structure arbitrage, a strategy to profit off this spread by going long on bonds and shorting the equity, prevents this, but retail investors have started pumping the stock a few days after WLL’s bankruptcy to “buy the dip” and make a quick buck. Institutions, seeing this irrational behavior, are probably avoiding touching at risk of being blown out by some unpredictable and irrational retail investor pump for no apparent reason. We’re now seeing this exact thing play out a few months later, but at a much larger scale with Hertz. So, how is WLL's bankruptcy process going? For anyone curious, you can follow the court case in Stretto. Luckily for Whiting, they’ve entered into a prepackaged bankruptcy process and filed their case with a Restructuring Plan already in mind to be able to have existing equity holders receive a mere 3% of new equity to be distributed among them, with creditors receiving 97% of new equity. For the past few months, they’ve quickly gone through all the hearings and motions and now have a hearing to receive approval of the Disclosure Statement scheduled for June 22nd. This hearing has been pushed back a few times, so this may not be the actual date. Another pretty significant document was just filed by the Committee of Creditors on Friday - an objection to the Disclosure Statement’s approval. Among other arguments about omissions and errors the creditor’s found in the Disclosure Statement, the most significant thing here is that Litigation and Rejection Damage claims holders were treated in the same class as a bond holders, and hence would be receiving part of their class’ share of the 97% of new equity. The creditors claim that this was misleading as the Restructuring Plan originally led them to believe that the 97% would be distributed exclusively to bond holders, and the claims for Litigation and Rejection Damage would be paid in full and hence be unimpaired. This objection argues that the debtors did this gerrymandering to prevent the Litigation and Rejection Damage claims be represented as their own class and able to reject the Restructuring Plan, requiring either payment in full of the claims or existing equity holders not receiving 3% of new equity, and be completely wiped out to respect the capital structure. I’d recommend people read this document if they have time because whoever wrote this sounds legitimately salty on behalf of the bond holders; here’s some interesting excerpts: Moreover, despite the holders of Litigation and Rejection Damage Claims being impaired, existing equity holders will still receive 3% of the reorganized company’s new equity, without having to contribute any new value. The only way for the Debtors to achieve this remarkable outcome was to engage in blatant classification gerrymandering. If the Debtors had classified the Litigation and Rejection Damage Claims separately from the Noteholder claims and the go-forward Trade Claims – as they should have – then presumably that class would reject a plan that provides Litigation and Rejection Damage Claims with a pro rata share of minority equity. The Debtors have placed the Rejection Damage and Litigation Claims in the same class as Noteholder Claims to achieve a particular result, namely the disenfranchisement of the Rejection Damage and Litigation Claimants who, if separately classified, may likely vote to reject the Plan. In that event, the Debtor would be required to comply with the cramdown requirements, including compliance with the absolute priority rule, which in turn would require payment of those claims in full, or else old equity would not be entitled to receive 3% of the new equity. Without their inclusion in a consenting impaired class, the Debtors cannot give 3% of the reorganized equity to existing equity holders without such holders having to contribute any new value or without paying the holders of Litigation and Rejection Damage Claims in full. The Committee submits that the Plan was not proposed in good faith. As discussed herein, the Debtors have proposed an unconfirmable Plan – flawed in various important respects. Under the circumstances discussed above, in the Committee’s view, the Debtors will not be able to demonstrate that they acted with “honesty and good intentions” and that the Plan’s results will not be consistent with the Bankruptcy Code’s goal of ratable distribution to creditors. They’re even trying to have the court stop the debtor from paying the lawyers who wrote the restructuring agreement. However, as discussed herein, the value and benefit of the Consenting Creditors’ agreements with the Debtors –set forth in the RSA– to the Estates is illusory, and authorizing the payment of the Consenting Creditor Professionals would be tantamount to approving the RSA, something this Court has stated that it refuses to do.20 The RSA -- which has not been approved by the Court, and indeed no such approval has been sought -- is the predicate for a defective Plan that was not proposed in good faith, and that gives existing equity holders an equity stake in the reorganized enterprise even though Litigation and Rejection Damage Creditors will (presumably) not be made whole under the Plan and the existing interest holders will not be contributing requisite new value. As a disclaimer, I have absolutely zero knowledge nor experience in law, let alone bankruptcy law. However, from reading this document, if what the objection indicates to be true, could mean that we end up having the court force the Restructuring agreement to completely wipe out the current equity holders. Even worse, entering a prepackaged bankruptcy in bad faith, which the objection argues, might be grounds to convert the bankruptcy to Chapter 7; again, I’m no lawyer so I’m not sure if this is true, but this is my best understanding from my research. So what’s going on with Hertz? Most analysts expect that based on Hertz’s current balance sheet, existing equity holders will most likely be completely wiped out in the restructuring. You can keep track of Hertz’s bankruptcy process here, but it looks like this is going to take a few months, with the first meeting of creditors scheduled for July 1. An interesting 8-K got filed today for HTZ, and it looks like they’re trying to throw a hail Mary for their case by taking advantage of dumb retail investors pumping up their stock. They’ve just been approved by the bankruptcy court to issue and sell up to $1B (double their current market cap) of new shares in the stock market. If they somehow pull this off, they might have enough money raised to dismiss the bankruptcy case and remain in business, or at very least pay off their creditors even more at the expense of Robinhood users.
The Rise of Retail Investors - An Update
A few weeks ago, I talked about data that suggested a sudden surge in retail investor money flooding the market, based on Google Trends and broker data. Although this wasn’t a big topic back when I wrote about it, it’s now one of the most popular topics in mainstream finance news, like CNBC, since it’s now the only rational explanation for the stock market to have pumped this far, and for bankrupt stocks like HTZ and WLL to have surges far above their pre-bankruptcy prices. Let’s look at some interesting Google Trends that I found that illustrates what retail investors are doing. Google Trends - Margin Calls Google Trends - Robinhood Google Trends - What stock should I buy Google Trends - How to day trade Google Trends - Pattern Day Trader Google Trends - Penny Stock The conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that in the past two weeks, we are seeing a second wave of new retail investor interest, similar to the first influx we saw in March. In particular, these new retail investors seem to be particularly interested in day trading penny stocks, including bankrupt stocks. In fact, data from Citadel shows that penny stocks have surged on average 80% in the previous week. Why Retail Investors Matter A common question that’s usually brought up when retail investors are brought up is how much they really matter. The portfolio size of retail investors are extremely small compared to institutional investors. Anecdotally and historically, retail investors don’t move the market, outside of some select stocks like TSLA and cannabis stocks in the past few years. However when they do, shit gets crazy; the last time retail investors drove the stock market was in the dot com bubble. There’s a few papers that look into this with similar conclusions, I’ll go briefly into this one, which looks at almost 20 years of data to look for correlations between retail investor behavior and stock market movements. The conclusion was that behaviors of individual retail investors tend to be correlated and are not random and independent of each other. The aggregate effect of retail investors can then drive prices of equities far away from fundamentals (bubbles), which risk-averse smart money will then stay away from rather than try taking advantage of the mispricing (i.e. never short a bubble). The movement in the prices are typically short-term, and usually see some sort of reversal back to fundamentals in the long-term, for small (i.e. < $5000) trades. Apparently, the opposite is true for large trades; here’s an excerpt from the paper to explain. Stocks recently sold by small traders perform poorly (−64 bps per month, t = −5.16), while stocks recently bought by small traders perform well (73 bps per month, t = 5.22). Note this return predictability represents a short-run continuation rather than reversal of returns; stocks with a high weekly proportion of buys perform well both in the week of strong buying and the subsequent week. This runs counter to the well-documented presence of short-term reversals in weekly returns.14,15 Portfolios based on the proportion of buys using large trades yield precisely the opposite result. Stocks bought by large traders perform poorly in the subsequent week (−36 bps per month, t = −3.96), while those sold perform well (42 bps per month, t = 3.57). We find a positive relationship between the weekly proportion of buyers initiated small trades in a stock and contemporaneous returns. Kaniel, Saar, and Titman (forthcoming) find retail investors to be contrarians over one-week horizons, tending to sell more than buy stocks with strong performance. Like us, they find that stocks bought by individual investors one week outperform the subsequent week. They suggest that individual investors profit in the short run by supplying liquidity to institutional investors whose aggressive trades drive prices away from fundamental value and benefiting when prices bounce back. Barber et al. (2005) document that individual investors can earn short term profits by supplying liquidity. This story is consistent with the one-week reversals we see in stocks bought and sold with large trades. Aggressive large purchases may drive prices temporarily too high while aggressive large sells drive them too low both leading to reversals the subsequent week. Thus, using a one-week time horizon, following the trend can make you tendies for a few days, as long as you don’t play the game for too long, and end up being the bag holder when the music stops.
The Keynesian Beauty Contest
The economic basis for what’s going on in the stock market recently - retail investors driving up stocks, especially bankrupt stocks, past fundamental levels can be explained by the Keynesian Beauty Contest, a concept developed by Keynes himself to help rationalize price movements in the stock market, especially during the 1920s stock market bubble. A quote by him on the topic of this concept, that “the market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent”, is possibly the most famous finance quote of all time. The idea is to imagine a fictional newspaper beauty contest that asks the reader to pick the six most attractive faces of 100 photos, and you win if you pick the most popular face. The naive strategy would be to pick the faces that you think are the most attractive. A smarter strategy is to figure out what the most common public perception of attractiveness would be, and to select based on that. Or better yet, figure out what most people believe is the most common public perception of what’s attractive. You end up having the winners not actually be the faces people think are the prettiest, but the average opinion of what people think the average opinion would be on the prettiest faces. Now, replace pretty faces with fundamental values, and you have the stock market. What we have today is the extreme of this. We’re seeing a sudden influx of dumb retail money into the market, who don’t know or care about fundamentals, like trading penny stocks, and are buying beaten down stocks (i.e. “buy the dip”). The stocks that best fit all three of these are in fact companies that have just gone bankrupt, like HTZ and WLL. This slowly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as people start seeing bankrupt stocks go up 100% in one day, they stop caring about what stocks have the best fundamentals and instead buy the stocks that people think will shoot up, which are apparently bankrupt stocks. Now, it gets to the point where even if a trader knows a stock is bankrupt, and understands what bankruptcy means, they’ll buy the stock regardless expecting it to skyrocket and hope that they’ll be able to sell the stock at a 100% profit in a few days to an even greater fool. The phenomenon is well known in finance, and it even has a name - The Greater Fool Theory. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next stock to go bankrupt now has their stock price go up 100% the next day because of this.
What is the smart money doing - DIX & GEX
Alright that’s enough talk about dumb money. What’s all the smart money (institutions) been doing all this time? For that, you’ll want to look at what’s been going on with dark pools. These are private exchanges for institutions to make trades. Why? Because if you’re about to buy a $1B block of SPY, you’re going to cause a sudden spike in prices on a normal, public exchange, and probably end up paying a much higher cost basis because of it. These off-exchange trades account for about one third of all stock volume. You can then use data of market maker activity in these dark pools to figure out what institutions have been doing, the most notable indicators being DIX by SqueezeMetrics. Another metric they offer is GEX, or gamma exposure. The idea behind this is that market markets who sell option contracts, typically don’t want to (or can’t legally) take an actual position in the market; they can only provide liquidity. Hence, they have to hedge their exposure from the contracts they wrote by going long or short on the stocks they wrote contracts to. This is called delta-hedging, with delta representing exposure to the movement of a stock. With options, there’s gamma, which represents the change in delta as the stock price moves. So as stock prices move, the market maker needs to re-hedge their positions by buying or selling more shares to remain delta-neutral. GEX is a way to show the total exposure these market makers have to gamma from contracts to predict stock price movements based on what market makers must do to re-hedge their positions. Now, let’s look at what these indicators have been doing the past week or so. DIX & GEX In the graph above, an increasing DIX means that institutions are buying stocks in the S&P500, and an increasing GEX means that market makers have increasing gamma exposure. The DIX whitepaper, it has shown that a high DIX is often correlated with increased near-term returns, and in the GEX whitepaper, it shows that a decreased GEX is correlated with increased volatility due to re-hedging. It looks like from last week’s crash, we had institutions buy the dip and add to their current positions. There was also a sudden drop in GEX, but it looks like it’s quickly recovered, and we’ll see volatility decreased next week. Overall, we’re getting bullish signals from institutional activity.
Bubbles and Market Sentiment
I’ve long held that the stock market and the economy has been in a decade-long bubble caused by liquidity pumping from the Fed. Recently, the bubble has been accelerated and it’s becoming clearer to people that we are in a bubble. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t short the bubble, but play along with it until it bursts. Bubbles are driven by pure sentiment, and this can be a great contrarian indicator to what stage of the bubble we are in. You want to be a bear when the market is overly greedy and a bull when the market is overly bearish. One of the best tools to measure this is the equity put / call ratio. Put / Call Ratio The put/call ratio dropped below 0.4 last week, something that’s almost never happened and has almost always been immediately followed up by a correction - which it did this time as well. A low put / call ratio is usually indicative of an overly-greedy market, and a contrarian indicator that a drop is imminent. However, right after the crash, the put/call ratio absolutely skyrocketed, closing right above 0.71 on Friday, above the mean put / call ratio for the entire rally since March’s lows. In other words, a ton of money has just been poured into SPY puts expecting to profit off of a downtrend. In fact, it’s possible that the Wednesday correction itself has been exasperated by delta hedging from SPY put writers. However, this sudden spike above the mean for put/call ratio is a contrarian indicator that we will now see a continued rally.
1D RSI on SPY was definitely overbought last week, and I should have taken this as a sign to GTFO from all my long positions. The correction has since brought it back down, and now SPY has even more room to go further up before it becomes overbought again
1D MACD crossed over on Wednesday to bearish - a very strong bearish indicator, however 1W MACD is still bullish
For the bulls, there’s very little price levels above 300, with a small possible resistance at 313, which is the 79% fib retracement. SPY has never actually hit this price level, and has gapped up and down past this price. Below 300, there’s plenty of levels of support, especially between 274 and 293, which is the range where SPY consolidated and traded at for April and May. This means that a movement up will be met with very little resistance, while a movement down will be met with plenty of support
The candles above 313 form an island top pattern, a pretty rare and strong bearish indicator.
The first line of defense of the bulls is 300, which has historically been a key support / resistance level, and is also the 200D SMA. So far, this price level has held up as a solid support last week and is where all downwards price action in SPY stopped. Overall, there’s very mixed signals coming from technical indicators, although there’s more bearish signals than bullish. My Strategy for Next Week While technicals are pretty bearish, retail and institutional activity and market sentiment is indicating that the market still continue to rally. My strategy for next week will depend on whether or not the market opens above or below 300. I’m currently mostly holding long volatility positions, that I’ve started existing on Friday. The Bullish case If 300 proves to be a strong support level, I’ll start entering bullish positions, following my previous strategy of going long on weak sectors such as airlines, cruises, retail, and financials, once they break above the 24% retracement and exit at the 50% retracement. This is because there’s very little price levels and resistance above 300, so any movements above this level will be very parabolic up to ATHs, as we saw in the beginning of 2020 and again the past two weeks. If SPY moves parabolic, the biggest winners will likely be the weakest stocks since they have the most room to go up, with most of the strongest stocks already near or above their ATHs. During this time, I’ll be rolling over half of my profits to VIX calls of various expiry dates as a hedge, and in anticipation of any sort of rug pull for when this bubble does eventually pop. The Bearish case For me to start taking bearish positions, I’ll need to see SPY open below 300, re-test 300 and fail to break above it, proving it to be a resistance level. If this happens, I’ll start entering short positions against SPY to play the price levels. There’s a lot of price levels between 300 and 274, and we’d likely see a lot of consolidation instead of a big crash in this region, similar to the way up through this area. Key levels will be 300, 293, 285, 278, and finally 274, which is the levels I’d be entering and exiting my short positions in. I’ve also been playing with WLL for the past few months, but that has been a losing trade - I forgot that a market can remain irrational longer than I can remain solvent. I’ll probably keep a small position on WLL puts in anticipation of the court hearing for the disclosure statement, but I’ve sold most of my existing positions.
As always, I'll be posting live thoughts related to my personal strategy here for people asking. 6/15 2AM - /ES looking like SPY is going to gap down tomorrow. Unless there's some overnight pump, we'll probably see a trading range of 293-300. 6/15 10AM - Exited any remaining long positions I've had and entered short positions on SPY @ 299.50, stop loss at 301. Bearish case looking like it's going to play out 6/15 10:15AM - Stopped out of 50% of my short positions @ 301. Will stop out of the rest @ 302. Hoping this wasn't a stop loss raid. Also closed out more VIX longer-dated (Sept / Oct) calls. 6/15 Noon - No longer holding any short positions. Gap down today might be a fake out, and 300 is starting to look like solid support again, and 1H MACD is crossing over, with 15M remaining bullish. Starting to slowly add to long positions throughout the day, starting with CCL, since technicals look nice on it. Also profit-took most of my VIX calls that I bought two weeks ago 6/15 2:30PM - Bounced up pretty hard from the 300 support - bull case looks pretty good, especially if today's 1D candle completely engulphs the Friday candle. Also sold another half of my remaining long-dated VIX calls - still holding on to a substantial amount (~10% of portfolio). Will start looking to re-buy them when VIX falls back below 30. Going long on DAL as well 6/15 11:30PM - /ES looking good hovering right above 310 right now. Not many price levels above 300 so it's hard to predict trading ranges since there's no price levels and SPY will just go parabolic above this level. Massive gap between 313 and 317. If /ES is able to get above 313, which is where the momentum is going to right now, we might see a massive gap up and open at 317 again. If it opens below 313, we might see the stock price fade like last week. 6/15 Noon - SPY filled some of the gap, but then broke below 313. 15M MACD is now bearish. We might see gains from today slowly fade, but hard to predict this since we don't have strong price levels. Will buy more longs near EOD if this happens. Still believe we'll be overall bullish this week. GE is looking good. 6/16 2PM - Getting worried about 313 acting as a solid resistance; we'll either probably gap up past it to 317 tomorrow, or we might go all the way back down to 300. Considering taking profit for some of my calls right now, since you'll usually want to sell into resistance. I might alternatively buy some 0DTE SPY puts as a hedge against my long positions. Will decide by 3:30 depending on what momentum looks like 6/16 3PM - Got some 1DTE SPY puts as a hedge against my long positions. We're either headed to 317 tomorrow or go down as low as 300. Going to not take the risk because I'm unsure which one it'll be. Also profit-took 25% of my long positions. Definitely seeing the 313 + gains fade scenario I mentioned yesterday 6/17 1:30AM - /ES still flat struggling to break through 213. If we don't break through by tomorrow I might sell all my longs. Norwegian announced some bad news AH about cancelling Sept cruises. If we move below $18.20 I'll probably sell all my remaining positions; luckily I took profit on CCL today so if options do go to shit, it'll be a relatively small loss or even small gain. 6/17 9:45AM - SPY not being able to break through 313/314 (79% retracement) is scaring me. Sold all my longs, and now sitting on cash. Not confident enough that we're actually going back down to 300, but no longer confident enough on the bullish story if we can't break 313 to hold positions 6/17 1PM - Holding cash and long-term VIX calls now. Some interesting things I've noticed
1H MACD will be testing a crossover by EOD
Equity put/call ratio has plummeted. It's back down to 0.45, which is more than 1 S.D. below the mean. We reached all the way down to 0.4 last time. Will be keeping a close eye on this and start buying for VIX again + SPY puts we this continues falling tomorrow
6/17 3PM - Bought back some of my longer-dated VIX calls. Currently slightly bearish, but still uncertain, so most of my portfolio is cash right now. 6/17 3:50PM - SPY 15M MACD is now very bearish, and 1H is about to crossover. I'd give it a 50% chance we'll see it dump tomorrow, possibly towards 300 again. Entered into a very small position on NTM SPY puts, expiring Friday 6/18 10AM - 1H MACD is about to crossover. Unless we see a pump in the next hour or so, medium-term momentum will be bearish and we might see a dump later today or tomorrow. 6/18 12PM - Every MACD from 5M to 1D is now bearish, making me believe we'd even more likely see a drop today or tomorrow to 300. Bought short-dates June VIX calls. Stop loss for this and SPY puts @ 314 and 315 6/18 2PM - Something worth noting: opex is tomorrow and max pain is 310, which is the level we're gravitating towards right now. Also quad witching, so should expect some big market movements tomorrow as well. Might consider rolling my SPY puts forward 1 week since theoretically, this should cause us to gravitate towards 310 until 3PM on Friday. 6/18 3PM - Rolled my SPY puts forward 1W in case theory about max pain + quad witching end up having it's theoretical effect. Also GEX is really high coming towards options expiry tomorrow, meaning any significant price movements will be damped by MM hedging. Might not see significant price movements until quad witching hour tomorrow 3PM 6/18 10PM - DIX is very high right now, at 51%, which is very bullish. put/call ratio is still very low though. Very mixed signals. Will be holding positions until Monday or SPY 317 before reconsidering them. 6/18 2PM - No position changes. Coming into witching hour we're seeing increased volatility towards the downside. Looking good so far
[OC] Other "Coach of the Year" ballots may have more legitimacy or accuracy, but this is the only one that ranks the candidates from # 1 all the way to # 30
The NBA league office announced that all awards will be officially based on play PRIOR to the bubble. With that, the cases are locked, the campaigns are closed, and the voting will begin. Rather than give a traditional "Coach of the Year" ballot that ranks from 1-3, I thought it may be an interesting (and indulgent) exercise to go all the way from 1-30. Some caveats: --- We're ranking coaches based on their performance THIS SEASON only. Obviously, Billy Donovan isn't as good of a coach as Gregg Popovich. However, if you were only ranking their "Coach of the Year" candidacy for this particular season, Donovan has a better campaign argument. --- Since I don't watch every game for every team, I'm going to have to resort to a bigger picture analysis. If you're a diehard fan of your team who watches every game, you'd have a lot better insight into a coach's game management and situational adjustments. Let us know how you feel about that -- is your coach underrated? Overrated? --- Personally, I'm going to rank coaches that started the year (as opposed to interim replacements.) That’s important to mention off the bat, because it applies right away —
(30) David Fizdale, N.Y. Knicks: 4-18 record David Fizdale became a head coach with so much fanfare and media approval that his fall from grace has been more dramatic than Icarus. This year, he got fired 22 games into his second season on the job. Amazingly, this isn't the first time that's happened to him. Back in Memphis, he also got fired 19 games into his second season on the job. We don't know exactly what goes on behind the scenes, but it can't be good. Do you know how bad things must be going to get fired 20 games into a season? That's like being halfway through sex with someone and saying: ya know, I think I need to leave... Something seriously FUNKY must have going on in there. Raging herpes. Oozing puss. Rotten vagina. I don't want to call David Fizdale the rotten vagina of coaches, but his tenure with the Knicks did smell pretty funky. The team (right or wrong) signed a bunch of veterans with the intention to strive for the 8th seed, but they flopped. Ultimately, the real goal was giving their young prospects an environment to grow, but that didn't happen either. Dennis Smith and Kevin Knox are somehow getting worse and worse. The Knicks did a full house cleaning, but it may be some time before the smell is out of the building. (29) John Beilein, Cleveland: 14-40 record If you think it's difficult to get fired 20 games into a season, imagine getting fired halfway through your first year on the job right after you've signed a lucrative FIVE-YEAR contract. With John Beilein, we know more clearly what went wrong. In hindsight, it was a mistake to think that the 67-year-old Beilein could make the transition to the NBA after a lifetime in college. He simply didn't mesh with the "thugs/slugs" in the NBA, causing the Cavs to pull the plug before a full-out mutiny. Given this disaster, how can we rank Beilein higher than Fizdale? We're splitting hairs, but there are a few more positives. Beilein's Cavs had a better record than Fizdale's Knicks despite lower expectations (based on oveunder.) Beilein also "resigned," meaning the decision to part was at least somewhat mutual. He realized the error of his ways, and handed things over to an experienced assistant in J.B. Bickerstaff. As embarrassing and costly as the Beilein era may have been, it's hard to see much long-term damage for the franchise. (28) Scottie Brooks, Washington: 24-40 record With John Wall injured, the Washington Wizards would have a hard time competing for the playoffs. Still, Scottie Brooks didn't help matters. The team ranked dead last in defensive rating by a good margin, indicating some serious issues with the system and the effort level. Even Bradley Beal looked disengaged on that end, ranking as one of the worst defenders in the league. More than anything, Brooks' crime is a slow adjustment to that problem. Despite their defensive issues, he continued to start league LVP Isaiah Thomas for 37 games. Brooks seems like a likable guy, but his slow trigger has defined and tarnished his coaching career so far. (27) Jim Boylen, Chicago: 22-43 record Even his defenders would say Jim Boylen is about as cuddly as a cactus and charming as an eel. His players' support for him ranges behind tepid indifference and downright annoyance. Still, sometimes it takes a Grinch to get young players locked in on defense. To his credit, Boylen did improve the Bulls on that end. Their defensive rating leapt up from 25th to 14th this season. But at the end of the day, the overall results simply aren't here. Despite offensive-minded youngsters like Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen (marginalized this year), the Bulls ranked 27th in offensive rating. Largely as a result, they were on pace to win 27.7 games, well short of their 33.5 oveunder. Being "likable" and being "successful" don't go hand in hand, but NBA coaches need to check 1 of those 2 boxes to survive. So far, Boylen has gone 0 for 2. (26) Lloyd Pierce, Atlanta: 20-47 record The Atlanta Hawks hired Lloyd Pierce on the basis of his defensive reputation, but we've seen little evidence of that on the court so far. In his first year on the job, the Hawks ranked 27th in defensive rating. After a full year of training and development in his system, they climbed all the way up to... 28th. Through it all, franchise player Trae Young looks completely lost, grading as a worse defender than our LVP Isaiah Thomas. There's not much evidence that Pierce is a BAD coach, but there's not much evidence that he's going to be able to cure what ails them either. He'll probably get another season or two on the job from the patient franchise, but he needs to make some improvements eventually. Young is an albatross on defense, sure, but one little guard shouldn't be enough to sink you like this. (For evidence, consider Boston ranked 4th in defense during lil' Isaiah Thomas' near-MVP season.) (25) Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn: 28-34 record Our third coach who got fired midseason actually ranks higher than others. On the court, it's hard to find much fault in Kenny Atkinson's performance. Despite having two max players on the shelf, he still had his Nets in the playoff race. They weren't any great shakes, but they were competitive. However, we have to acknowledge that the job of an NBA coach goes beyond offensive and defensive ratings. It's also about managing a locker room, and managing egos. The Nets had built a good culture before this, but that culture presumably got rocked by the arrival of their new stars. It's up to Atkinson to bridge that gap, and instead it swallowed him whole. (24) Ryan Saunders, Minnesota: 19-45 record The Minnesota Timberwolves will fall well short of their preseason expectations (35.5 oveunder), and will continue to waste Karl-Anthony Towns' historically good offensive talent. It's still unclear if young pup Ryan Saunders should have been handed this job at such a young age; he hasn't proven that he deserves it yet. If there's any consolation, it's that Saunders appears in lock step with executive Gersson Rosas in terms of preferred playing style. Rosas came over from Houston with a desire to create more of a Morey-Ball approach. Saunders is doing his part, cranking up the gas to keep the team 3rd in pace, 3rd in three-point attempts, 3rd in free-throw attempts. The results don't match up yet, but at least they're on the same page. For now. Time will tell whether a new ownership group will come in and rip up that playbook. (23) Gregg Popovich, San Antonio: 27-36 record I imagine this low ranking will be among the least popular picks on the board. After all, Gregg Popovich is a legend. Even at this age, he's still a top 10 coach overall. That said, legends aren't bullet proof or immune from criticism. Popovich needs to take some blame for an underwhelming year in San Antonio. The unconventional mid-range offense actually works better than you'd expect (11th in rating), but the problems come on the other end. The Spurs have struggled mightily on D this year, ranking all the way down at 25th. The rotations have been an issue there, with too much Bryn Forbes and Marco Bellinelli and probably too little Jakob Poeltl. It still may feel weird to rank Pop in the bottom half for his performance this year, but I'd ask you: if this team was coached by a random dude named "Joe Schmo," where would you put him? (22) Brett Brown, Philadelphia: 39-26 record This hasn't been a banner year for Gregg Popovich, and it hasn't been a banner year for his protege Brett Brown either. The Sixers made some head-scratching decisions this offseason. They grabbed the biggest pieces they could find, and jammed them together without much regard for "fit." Still, there's a lot of talent here. There's enough talent to justify their 54.5 preseason oveunder, and there's enough talent to compete with everyone in the East (outside of Milwaukee, perhaps.) Instead, the Sixers stumbled along on a 49-win pace, on track for the 6th seed. If this was a normal year without the COVID-bubble, then that would be a much bigger problem. The team is starting to make some adjustments and add more shooters like Shake Milton into the lineup, but it may be too little, too late. (21) Dwane Casey, Detroit: 20-46 record It's hard to judge veteran Dwane Casey either way based on the returns this season so far. The Pistons will fall well short of preseason expectations (37.5 oveunder), but there are obvious reasons why. Star Blake Griffin got injured again, and pseudo-star Andre Drummond got traded away. To Dwane Casey's credit, he's tried to make a meal with the leftovers in the cupboard. Derrick Rose continues to be a fan favorite (if not an analytical darling), and PF Christian Wood appears to be a breakout success. Overall, there's no real identity or grand plan in place here, but perhaps that will change if the lottery balls go their way. (20) Terry Stotts, Portland: 29-37 record Terry Stotts and Dwane Casey may have a few beers after the season and commiserate together about their challenges this year. Like Casey, Stotts has been overwhelmed by injuries -- to Jusuf Nurkic -- to Zach Collins -- to Rodney Hood -- to Trevor Ariza -- etc. All this from a team that didn't have much depth to start. Stotts and the Blazers drew a stroke of good luck with this bubble format. They'll be in the 9th spot right now, and well within range to sneak into the playoffs. If it wasn't for that, Stotts may be drawing more fire. The team's defense has slipped to 27th overall, which is hard to excuse no matter what roster problems you have. Stotts is a good and respected coach in general, but there's a chance his message may have run stale here. If they bomb out in the bubble, I wouldn't be surprised if they look for a fresh voice like assistant Nate Tibbetts for next year. (19) Luke Walton, Sacramento: 28-36 record Luke Walton and the Kings got off to a disastrous start given their expectations. It's never a good sign when your fanbase grumbles, he's no Dave Joerger. But after weathering the storm, there are some signs of hope on the horizon. A bold decision to bring Buddy Hield off the bench has worked out, with the team rattling off a 13-7 stretch before the shutdown. They had a slim chance to rally and make the playoffs if we played a full schedule, and they'll have some chance to do the same in the bubble. Overall, a disappointing start for Walton, but not a complete disaster. (18) James Borrego, Charlotte: 23-42 record It's very difficult to judge James Borrego, because it's difficult to judge exactly what was going on in the twisted minds of the Charlotte front office. On paper, Borrego did an admirable job to take a bad roster and lead them to a decent mark of 23 wins. In fact, their oveunder coming into this year was only 23.5 over a full 82 games (lowest in the NBA). P.J. Washington's had a nice rookie year, and PG Devonte' Graham has been better than expected (although he's cooled off.) At the same time, is this what the Hornets wanted? A "not THAT bad" team? As a result, they'll end up in the 8th slot prior to the NBA Draft lottery, in that dreaded middle ground. In a sense, Borrego did too good of a job squeezing out a few extra wins. I'm inclined to give him props for that because the franchise must have given him a mandate to compete (why else sign Terry Rozier to a big contract?). As a franchise, the team gets poor grades, but as a coach, it's hard to fault him here. (17) Alvin Gentry, New Orleans: 28-36 record James Borrego hasn't had much talent to work with in Charlotte. Down in Nawlins, Alvin Gentry may have too much. Earlier in the season, he appeared overwhelmed by all the pieces on the roster and struggled to develop a consistent rotation for the team. If it wasn't for Brandon Ingram's breakout, the Pelicans could have been in too deep of a whole to dig their way out. Of course, some stocky rookie waddled in, and looked pretty darn good. Zion Williamson gives this team an entirely new ceiling, and has been worked into the lineup in a smart, prudent fashion. For that, Gentry deserves credit. He also deserves credit for having a consistent philosophy. His team is going to run, run, run like Forrest Gump. They've finished in the top 3 in pace each season for the past three years. It hasn't worked like a charm overall, as Gentry will be on track to finish with a losing record for the 4th time in his 5 years, but perhaps they'll finally hit their stride in the bubble. (16) Steve Clifford, Orlando: 30-35 record By this point, what you see is what you get with coach Steve Clifford. We've come to expect a top 10 defense (# 9 this year), but a record around the .500 mark. In his defense, the offensive talent is limited, and Jon Isaac (arguably their best overall player) missed significant time. Still, for Clifford to jump in these yearly rankings, we need to see more of an offensive system in place. (15) Steve Kerr, Golden State: 15-50 record WTF? Why is the coach with the worst record in the league doing all the way up here? Allow me to explain. Being a head coach is like being a jockey. You need to know when to trot, when to stay with the pack, and when to crack the whip and turn up the gas down the stretch. And, sadly, you need to know when your horse is lame and needs to be shot and put out of its misery. Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors realized they had a wobbly, broken-down horse early on, and put the breaks on sooner than later. As a result, they'll be locked into the # 1 spot among their NBA lottery odds. In theory that doesn't matter much because the top three teams (GS, CLE, MIN) all have the same odds at # 1 overall. However, if they slide down, Golden State will remain ahead of the others; the worst pick they can get is # 5. That type of patience is rare and admirable for a veteran coach like Kerr; after years of being in "win now" mode, he's showing a long-term vision as well. (14) Nate McMillan, Indiana: 39-26 record The Indiana Pacers continued to chug along with another playoff appearance despite Victor Oladipo missing more time. Coach Nate McMillan (and assistant Dan Burke) deserve a lot of credit for their strength defensively; they finished in the top 10 in defense for the second season in a row. Their scheme works well, and covers for some limited players along the way. If there's any criticism of McMillan, it'd be on the offensive end. The Pacers found a little something with Domatas Sabonis as a playmaker (5.0 assists per game), but it's still not enough to make the team formidable offensively. Their "MoreyBall" rating is the worst in the league -- they finished last in both free-throw attempts and three-point attempts. Some teams can overcome that playing style, but the Pacers haven't been one of them; their offensive rating is # 18 for the second straight year. Given that need, I'd be curious to see if the team could develop Doug McDermott into a Bojan Bogdanovic - type player for them -- he hit 44.5% of his threes, but got only 20.0 minutes a game. (13) Monty Williams, Phoenix: 26-39 record This ranking may seem too high for the coach of a 26-39 team, but we need to consider some context here. The Phoenix Suns had finished with an average record of 20-62 over the last two seasons, so this 33-win pace is a marked step up for them. They've also gotten into the top 20 in offensive and defensive rating. That may sound like mediocrity to you, but again it's a big jump up from the previous year (28th offensive, 29th defense.) Better still, we're seeing some strong player development from this club. Deandre Ayton still looked strong post PED suspension, and Mikal Bridges played well in the second half of the year. After all the mess and goat stink in Phoenix, there are actual good vibes here, and Monty Williams deserves credit for that. (12) Quin Snyder, Utah: 41-23 record Quin Snyder is an awesome coach, only penalized here by his own lofty expectations. Coming into the season, a few pundits though the Jazz may have what it took to be the top seed in the West, but they're going to fall short of that and even fall short of their preseason oveunder (of 53.5 wins). Of course, it didn't help that Mike Conley forgot how to shoot for the few month or two of the season. Still, Snyder's bunch continues to be well coached on both ends, with ball movement on offense and discipline on defense. They'd have been an interesting playoff darkhorse if not for the bad corona-vibes and the unfortunate Bojan Bogdanovic injury. (11) Mike Malone, Denver: 43-22 record Denver's Mike Malone is in the same boat as Quin Snyder; he did a good job, but he's expected to do a good job. I'm going to rank him slightly higher because the Nuggets were slightly ahead, and were also set to slightly exceed their preseason win total (on track to win 54, 1 game better than their 53.0 estimate.) Going forward, it'll be interesting to see if Malone can take his offense up a notch. They play at a very slow pace (29th) and don't shoot many threes (26th). To actually win the title, their shooters will need to step it up. If Gary Harris won't break out of his prolonged slump, then it's imperative that Michael Porter Jr. fulfills his potential and provides that third scoring punch. (10) Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers: 44-20 record Stars and shooting aren't a problem for the Los Angeles Clippers. It's fair to say they're the most talented roster in the entire NBA. Given that, is their 44-20 record a disappointment? Eh. Maybe. But I'd counter that it doesn't really matter. Doc Rivers' primary mission this regular season was to make it to the playoffs healthy, and the team appears on track to do just that. If there's any criticism here (of a team with a top 5 offense and defense) it's that their best players may not have gotten enough reps together. Do the new kids on the block Kawhi Leonard and Paul George fit with the old guard in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell? What's the best starting lineup? Best closing lineup? There are still some unanswered questions here that need to be addressed in a hurry if they're going to fulfill their title aspirations in the bubble. (9) Taylor Jenkins, Memphis: 32-33 record Personally, I expected the Memphis Grizzlies to have the worst in the Western Conference, so it's downright shocking that they're in the 8th spot at the moment. The NBA may be trying to steal that playoff berth away from them, but that won't change the great job that rookie coach Taylor Jenkins has done this year. Are the Grizzlies actually this good? Probably not. Their advanced stats are worse than their record, and Jaren Jackson Jr. hasn't taken the expected leap on defense yet. Still, wins are wins, and a coach shouldn't be penalized for collecting more than he should. (8) Mike D'Antoni, Houston: 40-24 record Based on the simple matter of wins versus preseason expectations (and an oveunder of 54.0), the Houston Rockets have been slightly underwhelming this year. Still, veteran Mike D'Antoni deserves a lot of credit for remaking the team on the fly. Changing from Chris Paul to Russell Westbrook may not be a huge difference in quality, but it's a huge difference in playing style. As a result, the Rockets leapt up from the 26th fastest pace last year all the way up to 4th this season. They'll looking like a proper D'Antoni and Morey team right now. In fact, they've taken that bold experiment up another notch this year by ditching Clint Capela and emulating Rick Moranis. So far, so good. These Smallball Rockets still have some lingering question marks about their defense and their rebounding, but they're extremely dangerous right now nonetheless. It's hard to imagine too many older coaches understanding and embracing this like D'Antoni has. (7) Brad Stevens, Boston: 43-21 record Brad Stevens has always been a media darling, and he's justifying that reputation this year. The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, but are still top 5 in offense and top 5 in defense. Life without Kyrie has gone swimmingly, opening up some air for young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to breathe; they're both in the running for Most Improved Player. As with Mike D'Antoni, Stevens also deserves credit for working with a limited hand at center. But rather than force the issue and overplay some stiffs, he's understood that the team just may be better off with 6'8" Daniel Theis manning the fort instead. (6) Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers: 49-14 record It's never a good sign when you sign a new contract with a team, and are immediately placed among the favorites for "First Coach Fired" in Vegas. Frank Vogel walked that tightrope this season, with plenty of spectators expecting him to fail and fall to his demise. Instead, Vogel has kept his head down, and kept his focus, and helped this Lakers team grab the # 1 seed out West. Obviously it's an easier task when you have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but this isn't a loaded roster otherwise. Moreover, there are a lot of moving parts and new pieces to work in. The fact that Vogel has this largely-old team ranked # 3 in defensive rating is a true testament to his success this year. (5) Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee: 53-12 record Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to win his second consecutive MVP award. While we tend to think the media likes new "narratives," but we've seen repeat winners before. Since 2000, Tim Duncan repeated as MVP, Steve Nash repeated as MVP, LeBron James repeated as MVP (on two separate occasions), and Steph Curry repeated as MVP as well. Coaches don't get the same luxury. In fact, since the award was created in 1962, the Coach of the Year winner has NEVER repeated the following season. You win once, you get to the back of the line. That tendency has really hurt Mike Budenholzer's candidacy this year. On paper, he should absolutely be in the running. The Bucks are once again # 1 in defense, # 1 in overall rating, # 1 in W-L record. They're on a better pace than last year's team, despite losing Malcolm Brogdon over the summer. If Giannis can repeat for the same feat twice, why shouldn't Budenholzer be allowed to do the same? (4) Rick Carlisle, Dallas: 40-27 record Everyone expected the Milwaukee Bucks to be dominant, but no one expected the Dallas Mavericks to be this good, this early. They've jumped the line and arrived in the playoffs earlier than schedule. They're only 1 win away from beating their preseason oveunder of 40.5 despite all the missed games. Like Mike Budenholzer, Rick Carlisle has benefited in that endeavor from a transcendent player in Luka Doncic. At the same time, this Mavs' machine has been rolling with and without Doncic. They rank # 1 in offensive efficiency this year, and depending on whether you want to factor in pace and league trends or not, they may have one of the best offenses we've ever seen from a statistical standpoint. It's quite an achievement from a coach who cut his stripes as a defensive specialist, and indicates the type of attitude that coaches need to adapt and evolve over time. (3) Erik Spoelstra, Miami: 41-24 record The Miami Heat pulled a free agency coup by signing Jimmy Butler away from Philadelphia. Still, it's not like people expected that to vault them to the top of the East. Butler was a good player, but a difficult one to manage. He blended into the crowd as well as a skinhead at a Bar Mitzvah. Overall, adding Butler only boosted the team's preseason oveunder win total to a modest 43.5. Turns out, Butler fit in better with the Heat than anyone expected, on and off the court. Butler hasn't shot well from the field, but his attacking and playmaking helped open up the offense (6th in the league) and propelled the team to a 51.7-win pace. He's fit in like a glove in terms of their tough-dude culture as well. Erik Spoelstra should get huge props for developing that culture and that system. But more than anything, he deserves credit for their player development system. Sure, Jimmy Butler is a star, and Bam Adebayo had star talent. At the same time, no one had ever heard of players like Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson at this time last year. These are complete randos who will make a combined $3M this season -- just half of Cristiano Felicio's salary. Having a coach who can grow talent like that in his backyard is a huge advantage for any franchise. (2) Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City: 41-24 record After Oklahoma City blew it up this summer by trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George, coach Billy Donovan felt like a dead man walking. Instead, Donovan and those fireproof zombie hordes in OKC sieged to a 41-24 record. How good is that? Hell, it's an even better winning percentage than the team had last year with Westbrook and George (in a career year.) Given all this surprising success, Donovan would be a fair winner of this award. He's managed to take in a bunch of new bodies and form a cohesive team. He's even had success playing three point guards together (CP3, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder.) If you want to nitpick his candidacy, you could point out that the hodgepodge roster has a lot of talent scattered throughout. Chris Paul had become underrated, and Danilo Gallinari has always been underrated as well. The team's low preseason oveunder total (32.5) was largely based on the uncertainty about further trades. Everyone knew that this team had the talent to be competitive if they stayed together. Still, no one expected them to be this good. (1) Nick Nurse, Toronto: 46-18 record Last season, Nick Nurse finally got his first chance as an NBA head coach. He ended up having as good of a rookie year as anyone since Henry Rowengartner. Nurse coached circles around some of the best in the business en route to a championship season. Amazingly, he may have been even more impressive this year. Without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the Toronto Raptors held steady and didn't miss much of a beat. In fact, they're on pace to win 58.9 games, over a dozen more than their preseason oveunder of 46.5. Technically, Nurse still has limited experience as an NBA head coach, but he's already proven to be one of the masters. If we were to judge based on the results of this (semi-)season only, he'd be my personal "Coach of the Year."
Activision ($ATVI) is releasing their quarterly earnings on August 4th (8/4). They're up about 30% from their pre-Covid highs, and are currently valued around 10x annual revenue. They crushed their last earnings revenue by 15.30% and EPS by 53.28% which helped them on their run-up to their current levels. I am now going to convince you why they will smash their earnings again despite their already-inflated revenue projections that price in a coronavirus boost and why you should bet big on them and not miss out on a potential huge play. Me and one of my friends from school (who is very intelligent) used to roast the shit out of people who buy cosmetic items in-game, like in Call of Duty, and talk about how dumb it is to pay for in-game clout. But during the pandemic, like many people, he's been so fucking bored that he's been playing Call of Duty all day unlocking a bunch of gun camos. The other day, he (embarrassingly) admitted to me that in his pursuit of gun camo unlocking he (shamefully) bought a $10 "battle pass" that would help him unlock more cosmetics. Why not, he is getting paid unemployment + stimulus to sit home on his ass and play Call of Duty, so might as well put a little of that into the game because there's nothing else to buy right now. (Last time I had a moment like this? In early April when one of my much dumber friends asked me with help setting up a Shopify store. I was dumbfounded that he would even be trying to set one up. Since then Shopify is up more than 120%) Call of Duty Warzone and Call of Duty Modern Warfare are very popular, and just like all those nerds that played Fortnite and forked over tons for skins, there are a plethora of microtransactions that come with it and man do the people that play Warzone specifically everyday take it seriously. This got me thinking. How many people who never bought microtransactions before have now spent money on them, especially when somebody as resilient to them as my friend have now purchased them? What kind of assumptions can we make about how much bigger the microtransaction market got during the pandemic? The answer I believe is that because people are playing these games so frequently when they had never done so before, they start to assign more value to their in-game character and want to appear to have more "clout" and seem good at the game. It is this value that somebody assigns to their in-game experience that when high enough drives the user to purchase content for their character and spend real dollars. That coupled with the fact that they get free money from the government while doing nothing makes the target market for these games especially excited to start spending. But it isn't just that the existing users are spending more - the microtransaction market size is expanding, so much so that my friend who once considered himself way out of the microtransactions market and laughed about ever spending money on shit for a video game decided to spend money on it for the first time. This isn't just a one-off thing I'm noticing with a stupid friend, because he is in fact not stupid, rather it's a psychological effect caused by having way too much time to play video games and stimulus money that Activision's target market doesn't want to spend elsewhere. According to surveys, in Call of Duty 60% of people purchase downloadable content. In Overwatch, it's 62%. In Hearthstone, it's 71%. In StarCraft, it's 42%. Source: https://venturebeat.com/2019/11/19/arm-treasure-data-the-most-popular-games-arent-necessarily-using-lots-of-microtransactions/ What if in all these games, which are owned by Activision, that percent has risen substantially because so many people have been playing them so often during the pandemic and as a result of the effect I previously described that my friend was victim to? This survey was conducted using people that consider themselves to play video games regularly, meaning people that play pretty much daily. So we have to keep in mind that the population of people that play daily is ALSO increasing because of the pandemic, while the raw % of people that will spend on microtransactions is also increasing. Well what's the big deal, it's just a few in-game purchases right? Wrong. In 2019 Activision pulled in $6.49 billion in revenue. Of this $6.49 billion in revenue, a whopping 50.85% or $3.3 billion came from in-game microtransactions. $3.3 billion in a year for some pixels what the fuck right? And the kicker? There's nearly a 100% profit margin on these microtransactions, which is why last earnings (which ended March 31 and contained what is a decent increase in microtransactions because people hadn't been sitting on their ass for too long yet) Activision reported a 28.24% net margin, up 15.31% YoY. Last quarter they came in at $1.52 billion in revenue versus the $1.32 billion expected revenue. This earnings report, the consensus revenue estimate is $1.68 billion (representing a whopping 39% YoY growth) which is set nice and high - but I'm going to tell you why this is still going to be beat. For Q2 of last year, Activision reported $1.21 billion in revenue. Ok, now we're going to do some conservative math, estimate the lower bounds of the earnings, and show why this quarter's earnings will be beat. Let's assume 0% YoY growth, ignoring the addition to the revenue that games like CoD Warzone had, so they'll be making $1.21 billion as a base like they did in Q2 of last year. Last quarter, microtransactions made up an astounding $956 million of the $1.522 billion in revenue, equaling about 63%, and that was just at the beginning of the pandemic when the I'm-staying-home-so-now-I-value-this-game-more effect that I am describing was just coming into fruition. AND THAT WAS BEFORE STIMULUS CHECKS WERE RECEIVED. Let's be conserative and assume that of that baseline $1.21 billion that we will use to come up with earnings for this quarter, $726 million or about 60% is from microtransactions, even though this % is most likely rising on track with the previous quarter's trend which had 63% of revenue from microtransactions. Now let's try to estimate what the increase in volume of microtransactions is like if even my friend who was sworn against them played enough to care about cosmetics because he had played the game for long enough. So, not only are we increasing the number of people that want cosmetics and other in-game purchasable items, but also accounting for the fact that the people who already spent a lot on them will now spend more because they play more. This is inclusive of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and the Candy Crush Saga which are their big three microtransaction earners. I'm convinced that the volume on these things has to at least have doubled YoY. But for the sake of argument, we'll say they have only increased 75%. Why is this a fair estimate? Last quarter, microtransactions for Modern Warfare were up 100% compared to Black Ops 4 in the same quarter the previous year. We don't want to over-estimate and get our hopes up, we want to make sure this very ballpark math that we are doing can beat revenue estimates even on a considerably lower bound, giving us a high % chance of being right about the actual figure. To further justify this kind of growth in microtransactions, we're going to look at a few things. This report is for months April, May, and June, meaning last quarter's results ended with March. Here are the latest active player count statistics for Warzone: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1110000/call-of-duty-warzone-players/ As of May, there are 60 million Warzone players - this is where there will be a large number of microtransactions which were barely included in the previous quarter because they had less than 40 million players by the end of March. A large part of last quarter's revenue came from CoD Modern Warfare's (not Warzone) season 1 and 2 in-game purchasable content. According to Google Trends, Season 4, released in June, garnered more interest than any other season: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=modern%20warfare%20season&geo=US Also since last quarter, interest in buying CoD points (their currency) has gone up tremendously: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=US&q=buy%20cod%20points So let's take our baseline $1.21 billion assuming 0% YoY growth, and increase the revenue generated by microtransactions by 75%. $1.21 billion + ($726 million * 0.75) = $1.754 billion, beating the $1.68 billion consensus only by factoring in a growth in microtransactions and absolutely nothing else, when in reality up-front game sales (purchasing games online for full price), subscriptions, merchandise, and other revenue streams have also increased. This way, even if we've over-estimated our microtransactions boost, there is more than enough room to still trounce earnings from the added revenue from other streams. And if we were very accurate about the microtransactions boost, then that additional revenue will send us way over. Activision already killed earnings last quarter with barely any money coming in from Warzone. l would not be at all surprised if they reach $2 billion in earnings, representing almost a 20% beat of expectations. At $2 billion per quarter and a 10x revenue valuation, Activision would be valued at $80 billion representing a 30% move. ACTIVISION IS GOING TO BEAT AN EARNINGS ESTIMATE THAT IS ALREADY HEAVILY ACCOUNTING FOR THEIR CORONA BUMP. The options are cheap for Activision, so I am loaded up. I think realistically it will have a pre-earnings run up as more people realize that they're going to do very well on earnings and then go up even more on beat earnings. The downside risk on a stock like this is low considering it is a stay-at-home that has had its value increased REASONABLY by the pandemic and is not trading at a ridiculously high tech revenue multiple. At peak rona season, the stock fell roughly 20% and has since rebounded about 56%. Positions: ATVI 8/21 90C ATVI 8/21 100C My positions: https://imgur.com/a/CobyxYe TLDR: Microtransactions made up 63% of Activision's earnings last quarter when they beat revenue estimates by 15.30%. This quarter not only are microtransactions going to make up a larger percentage of the revenue, but the revenue will be much larger with help from the pandemic and the 60m+ new Call of Duty Warzone players. I've also bolded the more important information if you don't want to read through everything. EDIT: Warzone, like Fortnite, is a free download. A comparable game is Fortnite, which at its peak popularity had a revenue per user of a shocking $96 (Source: https://fortniteintel.com/report-fortnite-is-earning-double-the-revenue-of-google-twitter-snap-and-facebook-per-use9265/ ). If we assume that Warzone has just 1/20th of this revenue per user, we're already at an additional $288 million in revenue from Warzone alone.
How to not get ruined with Options - Part 3a of 4 - Simple Strategies
Post 1: Basics: CALL, PUT, exercise, ITM, ATM, OTM Post 2: Basics: Buying and Selling, the Greeks Post 3a: Simple Strategies Post 3b: Advanced Strategies Post 4a: Example of trades (short puts, covered calls, and verticals) Post 4b: Example of trades (calendars and hedges) --- Ok. So I lied. This post was getting way too long, so I had to split in two (3a and 3b) In the previous posts 1 and 2, I explained how to buy and sell options, and how their price is calculated and evolves over time depending on the share price, volatility, and days to expiration. In this post 3a (and the next 3b), I am going to explain in more detail how and when you can use multiple contracts together to create more profitable trades in various market conditions. Just a reminder of the building blocks: You expect that, by expiration, the stock price will … ... go up more than the premium you paid → Buy a call … go down more than the premium you paid → Buy a put ... not go up more than the premium you got paid → Sell a call ... not go down more than the premium you got paid → Sell a put Buying Straight Calls: But why would you buy calls to begin with? Why not just buy the underlying shares? Conversely, why would you buy puts? Why not just short the underlying shares? Let’s take long shares and long calls as an example, but this applies with puts as well. If you were to buy 100 shares of the company ABC currently trading at $20. You would have to spend $2000. Now imagine that the share price goes up to $25, you would now have $2500 worth of shares. Or a 25% profit. If you were convinced that the price would go up, you could instead buy call options ATM or OTM. For example, an ATM call with a strike of $20 might be worth $2 per share, so $200 per contract. You buy 10 contracts for $2000, so the same cost as buying 100 shares. Except that this time, if the share price hits $25 at expiration, each contract is now worth $500, and you now have $5000, for a $3000 gain, or a 150% profit. You could even have bought an OTM call with a strike of $22.50 for a lower premium and an even higher profit. But it is fairly obvious that this method of buying calls is a good way to lose money quickly. When you own shares, the price goes up and down, but as long as the company does not get bankrupt or never recovers, you will always have your shares. Sometimes you just have to be very patient for the shares to come back (buying an index ETF increases your chances there). But by buying $2000 worth of calls, if you are wrong on the direction, the amplitude, or the time, those options become worthless, and it’s a 100% loss, which rarely happens when you buy shares. Now, you could buy only one contract for $200. Except for the premium that you paid, you would have a similar profit curve as buying the shares outright. You have the advantage though that if the stock price dropped to $15, instead of losing $500 by owning the shares, you would only lose the $200 you paid for the premium. However, if you lose these $200 the first month, what about the next month? Are you going to bet $200 again, and again… You can see that buying calls outright is not scalable long term. You need a very strong conviction over a specific period of time. How to buy cheaper shares? Sell Cash Covered Put. Let’s continue on the example above with the company ABC trading at $20. You may think that it is a bit expensive, and you consider that $18 is a more acceptable price for you to own that company. You could sell a put ATM with a $20 strike, for $2. Your break-even point would be $18, i.e. you would start losing money if the share price dropped below $18. But also remember that if you did buy the shares outright, you would have lost more money in case of a price drop, because you did not get a premium to offset that loss. If the price stays above $20, your return for the month will be 11% ($200 / $1800). Note that in this example, we picked the ATM strike of $20, but you could have picked a lower strike for your short put, like an OTM strike of $17.50. Sure, the premium would be lower, maybe $1 per share, but your break-even point would drop from $18 to $16.50 (only 6% return then per month, not too shabby). The option trade will usually be written like this: SELL -1 ABC 100 17 JUL 20 17.5 PUT @ 1.00 This means we sold 1 PUT on ABC, 100 shares per contract, the expiration date is July 17, 2020, and the strike is $17.5, and we sold it for $1 per share (so $100 credit minus fees). With your $20 short put, you will get assigned the shares if the price drops below $20 and you keep it until expiration, however, you will have paid them the equivalent of $18 each (we’ll actually talk more about the assignment later). If your short put expires worthless, you keep the premium, and you may decide to redo the same trade again. The share price may have gone up so much that the new ATM strike does not make you comfortable, and that’s fine as you were not willing to spend more than $18 per share, to begin with, anyway. You will have to wait for some better conditions. This strategy is called a cash covered put. In a taxable account, depending on your broker, you can have it on margin with no cash needed (you will need to have some other positions to provide the buying power). Beware that if you don’t have the cash to cover the shares, it is adding some leverage to your overall position. Make sure you account for all your potential risks at all times. The nice thing about this position is that as long as you are not assigned, you don’t actually need to borrow some money, it won’t cost you anything. In an IRA account, you will need to have the cash available for the assignment (remember in this example, you only need $1800, plus trading fees). Let’s roll! Now one month later, the share price is between $18 and $22, there are few days of expiration left, and you don’t want to be assigned, but you want to continue the same process for next month. You could close the current position, and reopen a new short put, or you could in one single transaction buy back your current short put, and sell another put for next month. Doing one trade instead of two is usually cheaper because you reduce the slippage cost. The closing of the old position and re-opening of a new short position for the next expiration is called rolling the short option (from month to month, but you can also do this with weekly options). The croll can be done a week or even a few days before expiration. Remember to avoid expiration days, and be careful being short an option on ex-dividend dates. When you roll month to month with the same strike, for most cases, you will get some money out of it. However, the farther your strike is from the current share price, the less additional premium you will get (due to the lower extrinsic value on the new option), and it can end up being close to $0. At that point, given the risk incurred, you may prefer to close the trade altogether or just be assigned. During the roll, depending on if the share price moved a bit, you can adjust the roll up or down. For example, you buy back your short put at $18, and you sell a new short put at $17 or $19, or whatever value makes the most sense. Assignment Now, let’s say that the share price finally dropped below $20, and you decided not to roll, or it dropped so much that the roll would not make sense. You ended up getting your shares assigned at a strike price of $18 per share. Note that the assigned share may have a current price much lower than $18 though. If that’s the case, remember that you earned more money than if you bought the shares outright at $20 (at least, you got to keep the $2 premium). And if you rolled multiple times, every premium that you got is additional money in your account. Want to sell at a premium? Sell Covered Calls. You could decide to hold onto the shares that you got at a discount, or you may decide that the stock price is going to go sideways, and you are fine collecting more theta. For example, you could sell a call at a strike of $20, for example for $1 (as it is OTM now given the stock price dropped). SELL -1 ABC 100 17 JUL 20 20 CALL @ 1.00 When close to the expiration time, you can either roll your calls again, the same way that you rolled your puts, as much as you can, or just get assigned if the share price went up. As you get assigned, your shares are called away, and you receive $2000 from the 100 shares at $20 each. Except that you accumulated more money due to all the premiums you got along the way. This sequence of the short put, roll, roll, roll, assignment, the short call, roll, roll, roll, is called the wheel. It is a great strategy to use when the market is trading sideways and volatility is high (like currently). It is a low-risk trade provided that the share you pick is not a risky one (pick a market ETF to start) perfect to get create some income with options. There are two drawbacks though:
If the share dropped too much, you are stuck with it.
You will have to be patient for the share to go back up, but often you can end up with many shares at a loss if the market has been tanking. As a rule of thumb, if I get assigned, I never ever sell a call below my assignment strike minus the premium. In case the market jumps back up, I can get back to my original position, with an additional premium on the way. Market and shares can drop like a stone and bounce back up very quickly (you remember this March and April?), and you really don’t want to lock a loss. Here is a very quick example of something to not do: Assigned at $18, current price is $15, sell a call at $16 for $1, share goes back up to $22. I get assigned at $16. In summary, I bought a share at $18, and sold it at $17 ($16 + $1 premium), I lost $1 between the two assignments. That’s bad.
If the share goes up too fast, you missed some opportunity for gain, potentially big gains.
You will have to find some other companies to do the wheel on. If it softens the blow a bit, your retirement account may be purely long, so you’ll not have totally missed the upside anyway. A short put is a bullish position. A short call is a bearish position. Alternating between the two gives you a strategy looking for a reversion to the mean. Both of these positions are positive theta, and negative vega (see part 2). Now that I explained the advantage of the long calls and puts, and how to use short calls and puts, we can explore a combination of both. Verticals Most option beginners are going to use long calls (or even puts). They are going to gain some money here and there, but for most parts, they will lose money. It is worse if they profited a bit at the beginning, they became confident, bet a bigger amount, and ended up losing a lot. They either buy too much (50% of my account on this call trade that can’t fail), too high of a volatility (got to buy those NKLA calls or puts), or too short / too long of an expiration (I don’t want to lose theta, or I overspent on theta). As we discussed earlier, a straight long call or put is one of the worst positions to be in. You are significantly negative theta and positive vega. But if you take a step back, you will realize that not accounting for the premium, buying a call gives you the upside of stock up to the infinity (and buying a put gives you the upside of the stock going to $0). But in reality, you rarely are betting that the stock will go to infinity (or to $0). You are often just betting that the stock will go up (or down) by X%. Although the stock could go up (or down) by more than X%, you intuitively understand that there is a smaller chance for this to happen. Options are giving you leverage already, you don’t need to target even more gain. More importantly, you probably should not pay for a profit/risk profile that you don’t think is going to happen. Enter verticals. It is a combination of long and short calls (or puts). Say, the company ABC trades at $20, you want to take a bullish position, and the ATM call is $2. You probably would be happy if the stock reaches $25, and you don’t think that it will go much higher than that. You can buy a $20 call for $2, and sell a $25 call for $0.65. You will get the upside from $20 to $25, and you let someone else take the $25 to infinity range (highly improbable). The cost is $1.35 per share ($2.00 - $0.65). BUY +1 VERTICAL ABC 100 17 JUL 20 20/25 CALL @ 1.35 This position is interesting for multiple reasons. First, you still get the most probable range for profitability ($20 to $25). Your cost is $1.35 so 33% cheaper than the long call, and your max profit is $5 - $1.35 = $3.65. So your max gain is 270% of the risked amount, and this is for only a 25% increase in the stock price. This is really good already. You reduced your dependency on theta and vega, because the short side of the vertical is reducing your long side’s. You let someone else pay for it. Another advantage is that it limits your max profit, and it is not a bad thing. Why is it a good thing? Because it is too easy to be greedy and always wanting and hoping for more profit. The share reached $25. What about $30? It reached $30, what about $35? Dang it dropped back to $20, I should have sold everything at the top, now my call expires worthless. But with a vertical, you know the max gain, and you paid a premium for an exact profit/risk profile. As soon as you enter the vertical, you could enter a close order at 90% of the max value (buy at $1.35, sell at $4.50), good till to cancel, and you hope that the trade will eventually be executed. It can only hit 100% profit at expiration, so you have to target a bit less to get out as soon as you can once you have a good enough profit. This way you lock your profit, and you have no risk anymore in case the market drops afterwards. These verticals (also called spreads) can be bullish or bearish and constructed as debit (you pay some money) or credit (you get paid some money). The debit or credit versions are equivalent, the credit version has a bit of a higher chance to get assigned sooner, but as long as you check the extrinsic value, ex-dividend date, and are not too deep ITM you will be fine. I personally prefer getting paid some money, I like having a bigger balance and never have to pay for margin. :) Here are the 4 trades for a $20 share price: CALL BUY 20 ATM / SELL 25 OTM - Bullish spread - Debit CALL BUY 25 OTM / SELL 20 ATM - Bearish spread - Credit PUT BUY 20 ATM / SELL 25 ITM - Bullish spread - Credit PUT BUY 25 ITM / SELL 20 ATM - Bearish spread - Debit Because both bullish trades are equivalent, you will notice that they both have the same profit/risk profile (despite having different debit and credit prices due to the OTM/ITM differences). Same for the bearish trades. Remember that the cost of an ITM option is greater than ATM, which in turn is greater than an OTM. And that relationship is what makes a vertical a credit or a debit. I understand that it can be a lot to take in. Let’s take a step back here. I picked a $20/$25 vertical, but with the share price at $20, I could have a similar $5 spread with $15/$20 (with the same 4 constructs). Or instead of 1 vertical $20/$25, I could have bought 5 verticals $20/$21. This is a $5 range as well, except that it has a higher probability for the share to be above $21. However, it also means that the spread will be more expensive (you’ll have to play with your broker tool to understand this better), and it also increases the trading fees and potentially overall slippage, as you have 5 times more contracts. Or you could even decide to pick OTM $25/$30, which would be even cheaper. In this case, you don’t need the share to reach $30 to get a lot of profit. The contracts will be much cheaper (for example, like $0.40 per share), and if the share price goes up to $25 quickly long before expiration, the vertical could be worth $1.00, and you would have 150% of profit without the share having to reach $30. If you decide to trade these verticals the first few times, look a lot at the numbers before you trade to make sure you are not making a mistake. With a debit vertical, the most you can lose per contract is the premium you paid. With a credit vertical, the most you can lose is the difference between your strikes, minus the premium you received. One last but important note about verticals: If your short side is too deep ITM, you may be assigned. It happens. If you bought some vertical with a high strike value, for example: SELL +20 VERTICAL SPY 100 17 JUL 20 350/351 PUT @ 0.95 Here, not accounting for trading fees and slippage, you paid $0.95 per share for 20 contracts that will be worth $1 per share if SPY is less than $350 by mid-July, which is pretty certain. That’s a 5% return in 4 weeks (in reality, the trading fees are going to reduce most of that). Your actual risk on this trade is $1900 (20 contracts * 100 shares * $0.95) plus trading fees. That’s a small trade, however the underlying instrument you are controlling is much more than that. Let’s see this in more detail: You enter the trade with a $1900 potential max loss, and you get assigned on the short put side (strike of $350) after a few weeks. Someone paid expensive puts and exercised 20 puts with a strike of $350 on their existing SPY shares (2000 of them, 20 contracts * 100 shares). You will suddenly receive 2000 shares on your account, that you paid $350 each. Thus your balance is going to show -$700,000 (you have 2000 shares to balance that). If that happens to you: DON’T PANIC. BREATHE. YOU ARE FINE. You owe $700k to your broker, but you have roughly the same amount in shares anyway. You are STILL protected by your long $351 puts. If the share price goes up by $1, you gain $2000 from the shares, but your long $351 put will lose $2000. Nothing changed. If the share price goes down by $1, you lose $2000 from the shares, but your long $350 put will gain $2000. Nothing changed. Just close your position nicely by selling your shares first, and just after selling your puts. Some brokers can do that in one single trade (put based covered stock). Don’t let the panic set in. Remember that you are hedged. Don’t forget about the slippage, don’t let the market makers take advantage of your panic. Worst case scenario, if you use a quality broker with good customer service, call them, and they will close your position for you, especially if this happens in an IRA. The reason I am insisting so much on this is because of last week’s event. Yes, the RH platform may have shown incorrect numbers for a while, but before you trade options you need to understand the various edge cases. Again if this happens to you, don’t panic, breathe, and please be safe. This concludes my post 3a. We talked about the trade-offs between buying shares, buying calls instead, selling puts to get some premium to buy some shares at a cheaper price, rolling your short puts, getting your puts assigned, selling calls to get some additional money in sideways markets, rolling your short calls, having your calls assigned too. We talked about the wheel, being this whole sequence spanning multiple months. After that, we discussed the concept of verticals, with bullish and bearish spreads that can be either built as a debit or a credit. And if there is one thing you need to learn from this, avoid buying straight calls or puts but use verticals instead, especially if the volatility is very high. And do not ever sell naked calls, again use verticals. The next post will explain more advanced and interesting option strategies. --- Post 1: Basics: CALL, PUT, exercise, ITM, ATM, OTM Post 2: Basics: Buying and Selling, the greeks Post 3a: Simple Strategies Post 3b: Advanced Strategies Post 4a: Example of trades (short puts, covered calls, and verticals) Post 4b: Example of trades (calendars and hedges)
https://preview.redd.it/it6vqxvxzci51.jpg?width=900&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d5ba4c7f80a1439c4283f4b30e3514629fcf504b Now that we have passed the opt-out deadline and are only about three weeks away from the Chiefs and Texans kicking off the 2020 NFL season, I wanted to put together my pre-season power rankings and put all 32 teams in separate tiers, to give you an idea of where I see them at this point. When putting together this list, I considered the talent on the roster, coaching staff and what will be a more important factor coming into this season than it has been in previous – the continuity as a franchise, since the COVID situation has limited the amount of preparation and ability to build chemistry as a team. That will be especially tough for new head coaches and inexperienced teams. With that being said, this is how I would group them:
Super Bowl contenders:
This group of four represents what I think are the four elite teams in the NFL. They all feature complete rosters, excellent coaching and continuity as a franchise. I think these are the franchises that will most likely square up against each other in the conference championship games on either side of the bracket. 1. Kansas City Chiefs We have heard this many times over the course of the offseason – the reigning Super Bowl champs bring back 20 of 22 starters (actually 19 now) on offense and defense combined. They have the best player in the league, the most dangerous receiving corp, above-average O-line play and a still improving defense, that just added some much-needed speed at the second level, which will allow DC Steve Spagnuolo to even more versatile. So at this point I can not have anybody unseat them. I think Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU) will be a star in that offense, they get a couple of guys back that missed their playoff run and there are plenty of young, developing players on that roster. What general manager Brett Veach has done this offseason in terms of securing Patrick Mahomes for the next decade and still opening up cap room to also sign their best defensive player in Chris Jones is amazing to me. My only two concerns for Kansas City at this point are a lack of depth in the secondary and the fact they will have to go on the road when they face the four best teams on their schedule – Baltimore, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, which has me favoring the second team on my list for the number one seed in the AFC and which this year means having one more game in the playoffs on their road to another Super Bowl for Andy Reid’s troops. 2. Baltimore Ravens Right behind the Chiefs, as the biggest competitor for the AFC is Baltimore. They were the best team in the regular season from this past year, but the Titans handed them only their third loss of the season in the Divisional Round at home. While they did lose what to me is a first-ballot Hall of Fame guard in Marshal Yanda, outside of that the Ravens to me have an even better roster. The reigning MVP Lamar Jackson is only entering his third season in the league, the Ravens just added a top prospect in J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State) to a backfield that set a league-record in rushing yards and some of these young receivers will continue to develop. On defense, they addressed the two areas that needed some help, when they brought in Calais Campbell to boost their pass-rush and two top-six linebackers on my board in the draft (Patrick Queen & Malik Harrison). They may not have as many superstar names as some other teams, but without a full offseason to prepare for it, that Greg Roman offense could be even tougher to stop if Marquise Brown becomes a more dependable deep threat (now fully healthy) and I love how multiple Wink Martindale is with his defense, combining the different pressure looks to go along with more versatile pieces up front and one of the elite secondaries in the game. You combine that with a rising young special teams coordinator in Chris Horton and a great motivator and in-game decision-maker in John Harbaugh – I just can’t find a lot of L’s on their schedule. 3. San Francisco 49ers Obviously the Super Bowl hangover will be brought up a lot of times with the loser of that contest, but unlike a lot of these teams coming off the big game – yet similar to the actual winners in the Chiefs – John Lynch did a great job re-tooling for the few losses they did have and didn’t overspend on some of their talented guys. Kyle Shanahan to me is the best offensive play-caller and game-designer in football, with a diverse rushing attack and the type of personnel to match it, while Jimmy G, despite some issues, is coming off his first 16-game season in his career. Defensively, they are losing what I thought was their best player in DeForest Buckner, but they did replace him with a top ten prospect in Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) and Fred Warner is an emerging superstar. Their Seattle-based scheme under Robert Salah may not be very complex, but the Niners have a ferocious pass-rush, fast-flowing linebackers and a great safety tandem to be very sound in their execution. The Deebo Samuel injury is definitely a concern for me and if he doesn’t get back a few weeks into the season, I might drop San Fran a spot or two, plus I don’t love what they have at that second cornerback spot, but as for now I see the recipe that made me predict them winning the NFC West ahead of 2019 and what allowed them to be up double-digits in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. 4. New Orleans Saints One of the themes this offseason for me has been how loaded this Saints roster is and that they just need to win this year. This is the final season with Drew Brees at the helm, they are already in a horrible place with the cap – before that even goes down in 2021 – and to be honest, a lot of their key contributors are getting pretty old now. While I have seen a significant drop-off in the arm-strength of Brees, other than that I don’t see any offense with this Sean Payton-led offense – the front-five is elite, Alvin Kamara should be back to 100 percent as a dynamic dual-threat back and they finally found a number two receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. When healthy, that defensive line is a dominant unit, I think third-round pick Zack Baun (Wisconsin) gives that linebacker group some versatility and they have a lot of experience in the secondary, including a guy I thought would be a future star on the outside in Marshon Lattimore. Before anything else, they need to take care of divisional-rival Tampa Bay – which is a very tough challenge already – but if they can do that, they are fairly in the hunt for the NFC’s top seed. There’s a lot of pressure on this group because of the cap situation, their all-time great QB having his “Last Dance” and brutal playoff losses in recent years, but they have all it takes to finally break through all the way.
This second tier consists of eight teams that to me have only or two holes on their roster, while their coaching gives them an advantage over the majority of teams in the league and they bring back most of their pieces from a year or at least improved in those areas. I expect all but one of these squads to make the playoffs in 2020, as long as they don’t suffer significant injuries along the way. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Number five in the entire league seems pretty high for a team that finished below .500 last season, but this is not just about Tom Brady coming in, but rather the roster Tampa Bay has built around him. To me Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are the top receiver duo in the league, the Bucs arguably have the best tight-end room in the league and the offensive line only got better with superhuman Tristan Wirfs (Iowa) playing one of those spots on the right side. I have talked about this a lot over the offseason, looking at the match between Bruce Arians’ vertical-based passing attack and what Brady is used to, in terms of spreading the field and getting the ball out of his hands quickly. My bet is they go to a bit of hybrid and figure things out. Maybe more importantly, I don’t think people realize what they have put together on defense. Last season the Bucs finished number one against the run, they forced the fifth-most turnovers (28) and tied for sixth with yards per play (5.1) in the league. Todd Bowles is excellent defensive mind, who now enters his second season with as much talent as he has had since his Arizona days. Jameis turned it over 35 times last year (12 more than any other player in the league), while Tom didn’t even crack double-digits once again, and he immediately improves their situational football awareness and overall execution. This is a very dangerous squad. 6. Dallas Cowboys When you talk about some of the most talented rosters in the league, the Dallas Cowboys come to mind right away – especially on the offensive side of the ball. Dak Prescott now has one of the premiere receiver trios with the selection of Ceedee Lamb (Oklahoma) in the draft, still probably a top-five offensive line and Zeke looking to re-establish himself as a top-tier back, after looking a step slow for most of last season. Defensively they are getting back Leighton Vander Esch, whose energy they desperately missed for stretches last season, and they have a very deep rotation at the defensive line (even though nobody knows what we’ll get from a couple of guys that were out of the league), while Mike Nolan will change things up a little more and get his guys into the face of opposing receivers. We have yet to see how much Mike McCarthy will want to have say in the offensive play-calling, but I like that they retained a young and creative OC in Kellen Moore, and as far as in-game control and CEO duties go, I certainly believe McCarthy is an upgrade. There are some questions with the secondary after the loss of Byron Jones and losing Travis Frederick to retirement hurts, but I think those are things that can be overcome. Something that I think should not be overlooked is the signing of former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein and his special teams coordinator John Fassel, after converting only 75 percent of their field goal attempts last season (6th-lowest in the league) and missing a couple of crucial kicks. 7. Philadelphia Eagles Right behind the Cowboys, I have their division rivals from Philadelphia. I think the Eagles actually have a better quarterback, the best defensive player among the two teams in Fletcher Cox and a more experienced secondary. However, with Brandon Brooks out for the season and maybe the worst group of linebackers in the NFL, I could not put this group ahead of Dallas, even though they have come up victorious against them in the big games recently. Last year Carson Wentz carried a group of skill-position players from the practice squad and a banged-up O-line to a division title. This upcoming season he will go from already wasn’t an overly dynamic receiving crew to a group of track stars, most notably with first-round pick Jalen Reagor (TCU) and a hopefully healthy DeSean Jackson, plus Miles Sanders I think is ready to emerge as a star back for Philly. The defense did lose some long-time stalwarts like Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham, but I loved the addition of Javon Hargreave in the middle to free up the other guys to attack upfield and with Darius Slay as their new CB1, not only does that move everybody one spot lower on the depth chart, but it also finally makes more sense for Jim Schwartz to be as aggressive with those zero-blitzes, since he has the guys to cover. Those two newcomers also fit perfectly when matching up against Dallas, because of an improvement interior run defense and having a guy who can match up with Amari Cooper, after the other guys got toasted for the most part. 8. Buffalo Bills For the first time in about twenty years, a team not named the Patriots will enter a season as favorites in the AFC East – and it’s actually not that close for me. Buffalo made a switch last season offensively to more 11 personnel and quick-tempo with Brian Daboll moving to the booth. This offseason they finally got the big-armed Josh Allen a dependable deep threat in Stefon Diggs, who averaged 12.0 yards per target last season (second-highest in the league), which – similar to what I just talked about with the corners in Philadelphia – moves everybody else down one spot in the food chain. And I love what they do defensively, with Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s game-plan specific zone pattern coverages, with a versatile secondary to execute those, to go with a deep D-line and two super-rangy linebackers. Even outside the Diggs trade, Buffalo has made some sneaky-good deals since losing that Wildcard game at Houston in such heart-breaking fashion. Whether that is Mario Addison as double-digit sack guy in four straight years, added depth on the O-line or a really solid draft class to complement what they already had. I don’t want to crown them at this point, but to me they are the favorites for the AFC’s number three seed as for right now, since I think the South doesn’t have that clear front-runner to win the majority of their divisional games. 9. Seattle Seahawks I would have probably had the Hawks as the final team of this group or right at the top of the next one a couple of weeks ago, but after acquiring Jamal Adams, I think they have re-established themselves as that second team in the NFC West, since I had them very close with Arizona originally, I did not love what they did in the first two days of the draft (somewhat of a trend with them), they lost their second-best defensive player at that point in Jadeveon Clowney, I’m not sure if they upgraded on the offensive line and we don’t even if know if Quinton Dunbar will be suspended at this point. With that being said, Seattle has finished above .500 every single year with Russell Wilson under center and while I’m not a fan of their conservative approach offensively, where they don’t allow Russ to throw the ball on first downs and push the tempo a little at times, they are one of the most effective rushing teams and they have two lethal weapons to catch those trademark rainbow balls from the Seahawks QB. Defensively there are still some questions about the edge rush and at second corner spot, but Pete Carroll at least has what he wants most in a team at those positions – competition – and you already saw them go to more two-high looks in coverage than we are used to, telling me they utilize Jamal’s versatile skill-set more than what that strong safety mostly does in that system. 10. Green Bay Packers The whole Aaron Rodgers-Jordan Love drama has been looming large over the offseason and that has brought us some interesting discussions, but let’s not allow this to take away from the fact Green Bay just had a first-round bye in the playoffs and made it to the NFC title game. While they were 8-1 in one-score games and should regress more towards the mean in terms of the success rate in those close games, the North is still wide open and they have a few things going for themselves – they have the best quarterback in the division, the best offensive line, the most versatile and effective pass rush and a lot of young talent in the secondary. The first-round selection of a future signal-caller aside, I wasn’t too fond of what they did in the draft. Even though I liked Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara and can see what they want to do with him as H-back/move guy in this offense, I thought they did not get Aaron Rodgers help in the receiving corp, which has no proven commodity outside of Davante Adams. Their defense got absolutely steamrolled in two games against the eventual conference champion 49ers, but I hope to see Rashan Gary develop in his second season and I think Christian Kirksey was a very under-the-radar signing as a run-stopping linebacker. I think schematically with Matt LaFleur’s offense based on what they did under Sean McVay and Mike Pettine being very creative himself they are one of the better coaching staffs in the NFC, but I would like to see them open up the offense more for Rodgers and break tendencies more often with their coverage calls. 11. Pittsburgh Steelers Another very dangerous squad for me is the Steelers. I have talked many times about how bad the Steelers quarterback situations was last season, as both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges finished near the bottom in air yards per attempt, percentage of throws beyond the marker and many others. We have only seen Big Ben throw in some short clips on the internet, but if he is just 70-80 percent of what he was in 2018, this team is bound for a playoff berth. There are some question marks with this group of skill-position players, but I expect Juju to bounce back in a major way with a capable QB and being healthy himself, I have already picked Diontae Johnson as a breakout candidate for this season and I like the diversity of this group of backs. Pittsburgh’s defense was already elite last year, finishing top five in both yards and points allowed, tied for first in yards per play (4.7), the most takeaways (38) and sacks (54). If former Raven Chris Wormley can replace Javon Hargreave as a two-down run-stopper at least and rookie Antoine Brooks Jr. (Maryland) can fill a very specific role as their second sub-package linebacker in place of Mark Barron, I think they will one of the scariest units in the NFL once again. So the best all-around defense for my money and an offense who I would say has top ten potential at the very least is a tough match-up. Maybe not quite battling with the Ravens for the North, but the top Wildcard spot for sure. 12. Indianapolis Colts If there is one team in the AFC that could go from finishing sub-.500 to making it all the way to the conference championship game, the Colts would be my pick. I thought Philip Rivers had a really rough 2019 campaign, in which his arm looked rather weak and his decision-making hurt the Chargers on multiple occasions, but he will play behind by far the best offensive line he has ever had and they will run the heck out of the ball. Indy already had a pretty good back in Marlon Mack, but Wisconsin superstar Jonathan Taylor, who they selected in the second round, will be one of the front-runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year if given the chances in combination with what I believe is the best front-five in the entire league, plus their other second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. (USC) will be that Vincent Jackson/Mike Williams type target for Rivers. More importantly, with the trade for a top 50 player in the league in DeForest Buckner, this entire Colts D immediately takes a step forward, since he is a perfect fit as that 3-technique in their front and help them disrupt plays at a much higher rate, to go with range in zone coverage behind that, including the “Maniac” Darius Leonard chasing people down. I’m a big fan of Frank Reich and the coaching staff he is has put together, in terms of in-game decision-making, offensive gameplans and just the intensity his team plays him.
Fringe playoff teams:
This middle tier is made up from all those teams who I expect to be at .500 or above, firmly in contention for a Wildcard spot at least. They can be some areas of concern, but overall they have the roster ready to compete with the big dogs and/or feature above-average coaching. With a couple of these there is a change at quarterback and head coach respectively, but they have enough around those to overcome that. 13. Tennessee Titans This definitely seems a little low for a team that is coming off an AFC Championship game appearance, but people seem to forget the Titans were 8-7 ahead of week 17 and if it wasn’t for the Steelers losing their final three games, this group wouldn’t have even been in position to lock down the six seed. Things were also made a lot easier by their division rival Texans, who sat most of their starters after beating Tennessee two weeks prior. So as impressive as their playoff run was, you have to think of what happened before that and put it into perspective a little. With one more playoff spot in each conference, their chances of making it to the tournament should be at least equally as good, but I believe the Colts are the favorites to win the South and for me the Steelers are the favorites for the fifth seed. With all that being said, there is plenty to like about this team still – they can pound you with the Derrick Henry and the run game, Ryan Tannehill at least gives them the threat of pulling the ball and going deep off play-action, they have some young weapons catching the ball and defensively they are very versatile in how they set up gameplans. I also like the mind-set Mike Vrabel installs in these guys and I was impressed with what OC Arthur Smith did in 2019. If there are two spots that could decide if this group is fighting for a division title or that final playoff berth, it will be their rookie right tackle Isaiah Wilson (Georgia) and recently signed edge rusher Vic Beasley. 14. Cleveland Browns While I don’t see them competing for the AFC North – just because of how loaded the Ravens are – the Browns are pretty clearly the most talented team that is considered to be third in their division. In terms of their group of starting skill-position players at least, they are near the top of the NFL, the O-line to me already just made my top ten ranking with room to move up, if healthy they are at least in the conversation for that with the D-line as well, with a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Myles Garrett, and I like how they have assembled their secondary. Now, they have some unproven guys at the linebacker level and Cleveland’s potential is largely dependent on which Baker Mayfield we will get. With Kevin Stefanski coming and installing an offense that will be built on the zone run game and bootlegs off that, where his quarterback is put on the move, I could see much more efficient play and more comfort in that system. Something that really jumped out to me on tape was how many times Baker seemed to not be “on the same page” with his receivers, expecting routes to break off differently and unfortunate drops in certain situations. Even though the preparation for the season does look a lot different and QB & WRs haven’t been able to spend too much time together, I expect this to improve and more suitable roles for those pass-catchers overall. And if they are ahead in more games, that pass rush will be a problem. 15. Arizona Cardinals There are certainly still some issues here, but the Cardinals are probably the most exciting young team in all of the NFL. Kyler Murray was a one-man show last season and is due for a big jump, with DeAndre Hopkins being added to a receiving corp that severely lacked dependable weapons, to go with some other youngsters fully healthy, Kenyan Drake looked like a different player once he came over from Miami and the O-line should at least be marginally better. Defensively they transitioned a little up front, with big gap-pluggers on the line and Isaiah Simmons being that ultra-rangy player on the second level, who can run guys down on the edges, if those ball-carriers forced to bounce outside, plus they have maybe the most underappreciated edge rusher over the last four years in Chandler Jones. I don’t think they are very deep in the secondary, but Budda Baker is an absolute baller, Jalen Thompson emerged late last season and I already predicted Byron Murphy would have a breakout second season. With Kliff Kingsbury and Vance Joseph, Arizona has creative play-calling on both sides of the ball and they now have the personnel to execute at the needed level as well. Like I mentioned, I was ready to have the Cardinals at least go toe-to-toe with Seattle for a playoff spot, but the addition of Jamal Adams has shifted the balance again to some degree. And if you just go based off my rankings, two NFC Wildcard spots already go to teams from five to seven. 16. Denver Broncos A team that has been getting a lot of love this offseason is the Broncos. They have pretty much all the pieces that you usually see with those rising squads – a promising second-year quarterback with a lot of weapons surrounding him, a ferocious defensive front and having shown signs late last season. My belief in them has taken a bit of a dump unfortunately since I thought they did well to improve the offensive line, with Garrett Bolles on the left end being the only weak-spot, but now that Ja’Wuan James won’t be available at right tackle for the second straight year (injury last season and now opting out), their duo of OTs is a concern for me. Defensively you have to love what they have in the front seven, with Von Miller and now again Bradley Chubb coming off the edges, Jurrell Casey added to the interior to go with Shelby Harris and Alexander Johnson being an under-the-radar standout at linebacker. I’ve always been a big fan of Justin Simmons, but that second corner spot is still up in the air. I like Vic Fangio and that coaching staff they have put together in Denver, with Pat Shurmur providing a QB-friendly offense, the game’s best O-line coach in Mike Munchak and most of the people that have helped Fangio put out elite defenses at multiple stops before. So the Broncos are still the most dangerous opponent of the Chiefs in the AFC West, but now I’m not sure if they can add some drama over the fourth quarter of the season. 17. Minnesota Vikings At the same time, a team that has been a little overhyped to me this offseason is Minnesota. While I don’t love how the Packers have operated since February, what have the Vikings done to really improve? They traded away the best deep threat in the league last season in Stefon Diggs, stalwarts on the D-line in Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph are now gone, their entire group of corners has combined for less than 1500 career snaps and their offensive coordinator is now in Cleveland. I’m intrigued by the combination of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, who could be pretty interchangeable in their roles and I like their 12 and 21 personnel groupings, but they lack depth at the receiver position. And the defense will be relying on several inexperienced pieces to step in. I mean their three starting corners from last year are off the team now. So I don’t really get how most people all of a sudden put them ahead of the Packers. With that being said, I like the offensive scheme and always thought Gary Kubiak was a huge factor in their success on the ground at least. On defense there are certainly question marks – especially in the secondary – but Minnesota could easily have a top five player at their respective position at all three levels, with Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Harris, plus they still have some promising young guys like Ifeadi Odenigbo, Mike Hughes and a deep rookie class. Their only true shade nose Michael Pierce opting out hurts though. 18. New England Patriots This offseason must have been a rollercoaster for Patriots fans. First, Tom Brady leaves and everybody goes crazy. Then people start getting onto the Jarrett Stidham hype train and talk about how good the rest of this team still is. Out of nowhere they sign Cam Newton for the veteran minimum basically and they are back in the conversation for the top teams in the AFC all of sudden. And now, they lead the league in players opting out of the season, with key defensive pieces like Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung, to go with a couple of role players on offense at least. So now they are right at the bottom of these fringe playoff teams for me, because purely based on the roster, they are not even in the top 20 league-wide, but they still have maybe the greatest defensive mind in NFL history in Bill Belichick and one of the best offensive play-callers right now in Josh McDaniels. Obviously a lot of this will come down to what version of Cam Newton we will get and even if he is and can stay totally healthy. Not only is New England the most adaptable team in terms of how they can adjust to personnel and how flexible they are with their game-plans, but Cam is a great fit in that offense, where he can spread the field and make decisions based on defenses adjusting. The one area that took the biggest bump – outside of quarterback I’m guessing – is the offensive line, because they lost a legendary position coach in Dante Scarnecchia and their probable starter at right tackle in Marcus Cannon. While the Pats do have some young players, who can replace part of the losses, they were already more in plan for the pieces that left before there was any virus outbreak.
This broad group of seven teams represents all those franchises who will be dancing around .500 mark in the win-loss column. A couple of teams have the potential to win nine or ten games, while others could see those numbers on the wrong side of the column as well. There are obvious question marks in certain areas, even though they might feature top-tier players and/or coaches. 19. Houston Texans It’s kind of tough to put a team here that has won its division the last two years, but I think the Texans are pretty clearly number three in the South now. I love Deshaun Watson and I think he has fairly established himself as a top five quarterback in the NFL, but Bill O’Brien just took away an elite wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and replaced him with an injury-prone Brandin Cooks to go with another always banged up Will Fuller and a declining Randall Cobb, to go with a David Johnson in the backfield, who was unrecognizable last season. I think the O-line is improving, but outside of Laremy Tunsil maybe, they don’t have anybody other than Deshaun who is clearly above-average in their role. And defensively they finished in the bottom five in yards allowed and tied with Cincinnati (who picked first overall in the draft) for an NFL-high 6.1 yards allowed per play. Hopefully having J.J. Watt back for a full season should help, I like the selection of Ross Blacklock (TCU) on the inside and there are some talented young corners on this roster, who could be better much in 2020. I would not be surprised if they are that .500 team at heart and their quarterback carried them to a couple of wins that they weren’t supposed to get – which we have seen him do many times before – but it’s more likely to me that they are fighting for one of the two bottom Wildcard spots. 20. Atlanta Falcons Very rarely do you have a team that was among the worst over the first half of the season and among the best over the second half. The Falcons started out 2019 with a 1-7 record, but would go on to win six of the final eight games. Their defense was absolutely atrocious early on last season, with no pass-rush impacting the opposing quarterback and several miscues in coverage. With Raheem Morris taking over the defensive play-calling, they showed a lot of improvement already and there are signs that trend will continue. While there are some questions about the back-end and if they can get consistent production from their rush outside the top two guys, I think Dante Fowler is an upgrade over Vic Beasley, I like Marlon Davidson (Auburn) as a guy with inside-out flexibility on sub-packages and Keanu Neal is back healthy, as that Kam Chancellor-type, who can be that extra defender in the box in their system and punish receivers when catching the ball over the middle or in the flats. Offensively I believe this is still a team that can move the ball – they just have to start doing so earlier in games. While the top NFL receiver duo is in their own division with the guys in Tampa Bay, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley could easily be that next one. They lost a very productive tight-end in Austin Hooper, but I believe Hayden Hurst can replace at least 80 percent of that production, and while we have no idea what we get from Todd Gurley and his knees at this point, last year the Falcons had one of the least effective per-touch backs in Devonta Freeman. Plus, the O-line should take a step forward with former first-round pick Chris Lindstrom returning from injury. 21. Las Vegas Raiders To me the Raiders are still in transition, not only moving to Las Vegas, but also in terms of roster construction and the culture Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are trying to establish. Outside of Tyrell Williams, that entire group of receivers was overhauled, they have a lot of young pieces on the defensive line and the secondary, plus they will have at least two new starters on the second level of their defense. By far the biggest thing they have going for them is the offensive line and second-year back Josh Jacobs running behind it. When I did my top ten offensive lines in the NFL a couple of weeks ago, I had the Silver & Black at number five, and Jacobs was already a top 100 player in the league for me, with how physical and elusive a runner as he is. I could easily see the Raiders finish near the top in terms of ground production, and I also like the young guys they brought in around that, with Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) keeping the defense honest with his speed, Bryan Edwards (South Carolina) as a physical receiver, who will get hands after the catch, and Lynn Bowden Jr. (Kentucky) as that chess-piece potentially, that you can use in a multitude of way. My bigger question here is if Derek Carr is willing to push the ball down the field. Defensively I like the rotation they have on the interior D-line and the two linebackers they brought in via free agency, most notably Corey Littleton. There are still some questions about how snaps will be split between their corner group, but I’m excited to see a full season of Jonathan Abram hopefully. These guys have some attitude and an energetic head coach. 22. Los Angeles Rams Oh, how far we have come. Just one-and-a-half years ago the Rams were officially 20 spots higher basically, when they lost the Super Bowl to New England. Ahead of last season, I predicted them to miss the playoffs and while they made a bit of a run at it late, that’s what ended up happening. Now I see them as the fourth team in their own division – even though that says more about the competition they face rather than them. I still believe in Sean McVay and his ability to win on paper with play-design and game-planning, but Jared Goff has turned out to be an average quarterback, they don’t have a prime Todd Gurley setting the table anymore and the offensive line had some major issues, for large stretches of last season, especially in the run game. I was very high on Cam Akers, who they selected in the second round out of Florida State, but he will obviously be a rookie with shortened preparation, rather than an Offensive Player of the Year like Gurley was for them. Defensively, they have two elite players in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and I like some of the other guys in their roles, but overall the high-end talent beyond the two biggest names isn’t overly impressive. Leonard Floyd might be their top edge rusher and he has always been more of a Robin, they have no proven commodity as stand-up linebacker and I have yet to see if Brandon Staley can actually be an upgrade over Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator. 23. Detroit Lions While I was going back and forth with putting the Lions third or fourth in the NFC North, I recently said they are among the top two teams that could go from worst to first in their division and I would not be surprised if they were in the hunt for a Wildcard spot in the last couple of weeks of the season. His second year in a system under Darrell Bevell – where he wasn’t just going in shotgun 40 times a game and asked to make magic happen – Matthew Stafford looked like an MVP candidate as long as he was healthy in 2019. That duo of Kerryon Johnson and my top-ranked running back in the draft D’Andre Swift (Georgia) could be one of the most dynamic ones in the league, the receiving corp is highly underrated and I like those rookies competing for the two guard spots. Defensively, they seem to finally look like what Matt Patricia wanted, when he came over from New England, in terms being versatile with their fronts and having guys who can take on receivers in man-coverage. With that being said, there is also a good chance that the Patricia experiment could go to shambles, if some of the veterans get turned off by his style of coaching without having established that winning culture, and this team has simply been dealing with too many injuries to key players. I don’t think there is much of a gap between the Lions and Vikings for example, but Detroit has not shown the stability of some other organizations. 24. Chicago Bears A franchise that I don’t really hear anybody talk about – unless it’s their quarterback competition – is that team from the Windy City. I understand that the Bears aren’t really sexy because they lack those superstars on offense that people will recognize, but I’m higher on some of the guys they do have on that side of the ball and on defense they could be much closer to 2018, when they led the league in points allowed and turnovers forced, rather than being just inside the top in most categories last season. A guy I already predicted to break out for Chicago this upcoming season with a bigger workload is running back David Montgomery, to go with Anthony Miller as a gadget player and developing young pass-catcher and one of the more underappreciated receivers out there in Allen Robinson. Defensively, I thought the biggest issue last season was Akiem Hicks missing double-digit games, as a table-setter with his ability to disrupt plays from the interior, and Leonard Floyd didn’t provide much on the opposite side of Khalil Mack, who they upgrade from with Robert Quinn, who just had his best season since the Rams were still in St. Louis. Now, I don’t love what they have at that second safety spot to complement Eddie Jackson, someone will have to fill that second corner spot – even though I’m a fan of second-round pick Jaylon Johnson (Utah) – and nose tackle Eddie Goldman opting out is a huge loss. If the quarterback position can just complement the rushing attack and the defense plays up to their potential, this group could be competing for second in the North, but Foles or Trubisky could still hold them back. https://preview.redd.it/aep6uj385di51.png?width=1060&format=png&auto=webp&s=07674898e4de7d73699c065907983e69612c56a4 The final tier is in the comments!! If you enjoyed this breakdown, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/08/18/ranking-all-32-nfl-teams-in-tiers-pre-season/ You can also listen to my analysis on the Youtube channel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz7WE0epZw8
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